This month’s Charcutepalooza task was stuffing, so I made sure to get a pork shoulder and a bunch of duck legs in addition to casings, and I froze all the meat so I could grind it in a semi-thawed state, which makes for the best results. I had a couple of ideas, and both were meant for hanging rather than fresh eating since the first batch of salami came out pretty well. I got them both ground and had the mixtures ready to go. Then, lo and behold, it was made known to me that a couple of damsels were distressed about the prospect of stuffing for the first time all by themselves. So, through the magic of Twitter, soon they both had lots of lurid pictures of my sausage.
Oh, and we arranged for them to come over and learn stuffing at the side of
a master someone who has totally done it a couple of times before.
You should go read Winnie and Julia‘s posts about the great stuff-a-thon of aught eleven, especially since Winnie took all the pictures. They made merguez and sweet Italian respectively, and brought me eggs and jam as tribute. We ate bread and cheese and duck prosciutto and bresaola and salami while we chatted and the two of them made lots of immature dick jokes.
My two mixtures were chorizo (Spanish, which I like much better than Mexican) and a made-up duck mixture seasoned with spruce tips, fresh oregano, and pink peppercorns. Both my blends had #2 pink salt and lactobacilli (in the form of kimchi brine) plus a little maple syrup to feed the bacteria so that they could hang and cure and turn into hard salami. The chorizo stuffed beautifully. The duck got a little warm, and since duck fat has such a low melting point, it got too mushy and liquid pretty fast. So I twisted up the links we had filled and put the rest of the mixture back in the freezer to cool down.
What ended up happening to the rest of the duck is kind of a useful digression. The next day, after I got all the twisted links hung up in the wine fridge (right next to all the cheese; it smells absolutely insanely great in there right now) I took the rest of the duck mixture and whacked it all into a glass baking dish sort of a thing. I really didn’t feel like breaking out the stand mixer and attachments and making a mess again, so I figured I’d just make pâté from the rest. Coincidentally, it fit perfectly. I vacuum-sealed the meat and vessel into a bag, and dropped it in the water bath at 65.5˚C (150˚F) for about five hours.
I love making terrines this way for a couple of reasons. First, there’s no messing around with a bain-marie. The principle is sound, but using a 300+˚ oven to heat a dish of water to 212˚ so your pâté doesn’t break (where the oil separates out from the meat) is just a clumsy way to cook. Here, the mixture never gets above 150˚ so there’s much less liquid fat released and the meat stays a lovely pink color (the pink salt obviously contributes to that as well). Second, because the terrine is under a vacuum, after removing it from the hot water bath and chilling it, the pressure acts the way a weight would in the fridge overnight, compressing it into a perfectly even shape with no extra effort. I added one beaten egg and a big handful of bread crumbs to help bind the mixture while it cooked.
The terrine unmolded into a lovely truncated pyramid of glistening, meaty goodness, with only a thin layer of fat surrounding it and luscious duck jelly around the bottom. I had it for lunch on a sourdough spelt-rye boule that I baked in the morning with pickled wild garlic and good hot mustard, and a just-picked salad of all the amazing lettuces we have going off right now. If you’re feeling daunted by stuffing, make pâté. It’s every bit as good as sausage, and there’s no lunch quite so luxuriously humble as pâté de campagne and crusty bread.
OK, back to the sausage. I sort of made up my own recipe, using smoked paprika, cayenne, oregano, sherry vinegar, garlic, black pepper, plus the brine, syrup, and pink salt. A couple of quenelle tests got the flavor where I wanted it. They’re not dried yet, obviously, but I took out some of the chorizo to make this dinner. The outsides have already turned that gorgeous dark red from all the pimentón I put in (I like serious seasoning) but the insides are still effectively raw. Fat sausages make for nice accessories in a big paella, but since these were neither fresh nor dried I decided to chop them fairly fine and use them in the soffrito. In they went with red pepper and shallot, followed soon by the rice, saffron, sherry, more pimentón, chopped garlic scapes, and ladles of chicken stock. As the rice began to swell, I added peas, littleneck clams and some wild shrimp. Once all the clams opened, I lowered the heat still further to develop the soccorat or crust on the bottom of the rice. (I didn’t use my paella pan for this, becasue it’s huge and we were just us three).
It’s safe to say that this was the best chorizo I’ve had in quite a while; being able to tinker with and adjust the seasonings until they really spoke to me was of course the whole point of this operation. And that flavor perfumed the entire dish, harmonizing perfectly with the saffron and shellfish. I’m quite excited for about a month from now, when they’re all dried and ready to eat. The duck should be pretty good, too, if the terrine was any indication.
Funnily enough, I made this meal specifically so I’d have paella rice as leftovers to use in an idea I had recently. Tune in tomorrow to see what got this ball rolling.