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Raw, Stewed and Stuffed—The Final #Charcutepalooza Challenge

December 4th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

This year I’ve truly been immersed in the transforming power of salt. Before I knew of the likes of Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy I had finished Ruhlman’s Ratio, started reading Mark Kurlansky’s micro-history Salt: A World History, and had begun my first charcuterie project by curing a salmon filetCharcuterie was on order.

Then Charcutepalooza entered my consciousness thanks to Ruhlman’s blog, and the year of salt reached a new level. (We even watched Angelina Jolie’s Salt in January 2011, just for kicks.) Cassoulet, Sunday gravy, and ballgame brats & dawgs have become a regular part of Mary’s (wife and charcuterie partner) and my dining during this year. For the final challenge, I decided to combine my newfound love of charcuterie with an old favorite.

Now, about the dinner. I love oysters. I’ve been contemplating the ultimate dish that would bring together pork and my beloved bivalve. I arrived at what I’m calling the Oyster Rich Boy.

There used to be a place in Tampa, Florida where oysters were $1.80/dozen with your own personal shucker called DJ’s Oyster Bar. I spent way too much money there in college. They had a t-shirt showing a comic oyster steamed, stewed and nude (hot, drunk, and shy). The theme for this meal is Raw, Stewed and Stuffed. Oysters and charcuterie are great all three ways.

Trio of Raw

First course—Raw: Oysters on the half shell, saucisson sec in sheep casings (aka, meat candy), and bresaola. I’m generally a cautious person. However, I routinely visit countries with a travel advisory and I routinely eat food with a warning label. Raw is where it’s at for oysters and for charcuterie. The bresaola just might have been the star of this trio of raw. We halved Ruhlman’s recipe for bresaola as we had a small eye-of-round since we were still unsure how our meat fridge would work. It cured for the two weeks required, was rinsed, put in compression netting and hung to dry. After 12 days the 527 grams of beef and been reduced to 363 and was ready to be consumed. It made a nice addition to the oysters and saucisson sec.

Tale of two Meats

Oyster Stew with Pancetta

Second course—Stewed: Oyster Stew with Pancetta. Oyster stew has been the first course of my birthday meal for a few years now and I knew it would benefit from the addition of pancetta. I was right.

Oyster Rich Boy Meal

Main course—Stuffed: An Oyster Rich Boy, Oysters Rockefeller Sausage. I’ve been considering different ways to do an oyster sausage since the stuffing challenge earlier in the year. Oysters Rockefeller has been a favorite since childhood. When I was a grade schooler my parents would go out for dinner to a specific restaurant on Old Brownsboro Road in Louisville where they knew I would be content and quiet with an appetizer serving of Oysters Rockefeller. I was one of those odd kids who loved spinach. And even odder, I loved oysters. The combination of the two made this nine-year-old very happy, as well as my parents. Shouldn’t be too surprising, my dad raised me to be an adventurous eater. One night he got me to try frog legs by telling me they were “baby rabbit legs”. When I commented they were a bit fishy, he told me what they really were. I liked the frog legs, still do. But, it really says something that I didn’t think twice about baby rabbit legs.

Oyster Rockefeller Sausages

The oyster rock sausage was a small, 2.5 pound batch. I began with two pounds of pork shoulder cubed and seasoned with the appropriate amount of salt from Ruhlman’s Ratio App. This was ground using the small die of a KitchenAid mixer attachment. A half pint of oysters were drained (liquid reserved) and gently pulsed in a food processor. This was then mixed into the ground pork along with a quarter cup of the oyster liquor and a little over half cup of Rockefeller sauce base—equal parts sauce and oysters. (Use your favorite. I chose Emeril’s, added some Tabasco & Worcestershire and subbed Aguardiente, a Colombian anise flavored liqueur, for the Herbsaint.) After a minute of mixing with the KitchenAid we tested for seasoning, added a bit of pepper and stuffed the heavenly mixture into five feet of hog casings.

The Oyster Rich Boy

Sautéed to 150 degrees, the sausage was placed on the cheapest hot dog bun we could find (this dish is about the meat, NOT the bread <grin>) smeared with a thin layer of lemony-spinach aioli and served with sides of homemade sauerkraut and warm, fresh potato chips. The Oyster Rich Boy is born. Bursting with porky goodness, a hint of oyster brininess and the richness of the Rockefeller sauce, these sausages are a mouthful. Not for everyday, they’re for those times when you want a bit of indulgence on a bun. The condiments for this sausage needs work. The spinach aioli was nice, but I think something with a bit more acidity is needed.

Hangtown Fry

Breakfast: The next morning, with oysters and pancetta still in the fridge a postscript to the previous night’s meal was served. My father used to make a dish he called oysters and eggs. He’d lightly sauté oysters in butter then combine with eggs and crumbled crackers. Sometimes it would be served with a side of bacon. I’ve been eating and making this dish for as long as I can remember. Recently, I discovered San Francisco’s Hangtown Fry. Legend says this was a dying man’s request for his last meal before he was to be hanged. I’m not sure the Hangtown Fry was dad’s inspiration for the dish he made me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ate it in SF and decided to recreate it. The main difference between the classic Hangtown Fry and his creation is the oysters are panfried. This version subs pancetta for the bacon.

Salt, pork, and oysters. I think I’ll try to finish Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster before the year is out.

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Meat Candy

November 30th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

Hanging out

This was my first dry cure. So, I followed Ruhlman’s suggestion and used sheep casings for our saucisson sec. The idea is it’ll take less time to cure. We bought three pounds of pork shoulder from Ferguson Farms at the Greenbelt Farmers Market that had been flash frozen below -10 F for three weeks. The back fat was from Rohrer Farms and had been in our freezer for over a month. After thawing in the fridge for a couple of days we ground, seasoned and stuffed in said sheep casings from Weighed, tagged, and hung in a wine fridge, we held our breath.

Meat Candy

Well we didn’t have to hold it too long. The links had lost 30% of their weight in ten days. We sliced and ate and couldn’t believe the sensation in our mouth. OMG, this is good. Small in diameter we named these dime-sized jewels meat candy. I immediately wrapped one of the links and took it over to some very happy neighbors. There were also some happy colleagues at work the next week. We’ll be doing this and all sorts of dry cures in the future.

p.s. The wine fridge was also home this past month to flat pancetta and bresaola, but that is for another post in a few days. <grin>


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A Tale of Two Brats

October 16th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

It’s been quite a weekend. I consumed three dozen plus oysters at Tilghman Day on Saturday. Our dog went with us and was so worn out she snored for about five hours last night after we got home. Today we went to the farmers market, came home and made eight pounds of sausage, three pounds of hot Italian and five pounds of bratwurst. (Mary high-fived me as we finished stuffing the last three pounds. <grin>) We also started a pork belly curing for pancetta and cabbage is submerged in a brine for sauerkraut.

But this post is about the brats. It was our second batch. We made the first about six weeks ago. The idea is we will eat brats each Sunday during football season as we cheer on our new teams, the Redskins and the Ravens and mostly, my wife Mary’s beloved Green Bay Packers. (The Bucs will get some love, too, but their food amulet is Spanish Bean Soup.)

The first batch of brats was only a half batch and was made from Ruhman’s recipe in Ratio. That’s the one with marjoram and no veal, eggs or cream. The second batch, made today, is the richer one found in Charcuterie.

During the Ravens game we tried them both side by side. We figured the “lighter” version would be good for the late summer/early fall games and the richer one with veal, eggs and cream would be our cooler weather game food. Both are divine and both will be made again. As far as which one we prefer goes, that is still an open question and will require further testing. Since we ate the last of the first batch, we’re just gonna have to do that one again to see if one can be declared our favorite. In the meantime all I can say is, “Go Packers!”.

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Something good in the back of the fridge

October 15th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

Getting Happy

We’ve been making duck confit since March or April and there has been a jar of it ripening in the back of the fridge just about every week since. It is something I plan to make sure is there. Kind of like butter. And beer. And bacon in the freezer. And . . . well, you get the idea.

Duck in a Jar

So, when the September challenge of stretching came along and I had used the last of our duck confit in round two of the August challenge I knew that for stretching I’d be buying a duck at Eastern Market. When we make confit we not only do the legs, but the breasts as well—it all fits nicely in a single quart jar. (We use the carcass for a wonderful stock.)


I got a little behind this month and only made the confit a week ago, and I like to let it ripen a bit before using. When a couple more weeks have passed and the weather turns a wee bit cooler I’ll be making Kate Hill’s cassoulet again, as I did with our first batch of duck confit when the mother-in-law came came for the Cherry blossom festival.

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Packing with Oysters on the Side

September 14th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

We liked this challenge. I bought one of those small red terrines from Amazon and we made a couple of patés.

Paté Campagne

First up was a paté campagne. We mixed in a garnish of duck confit from the back of the fridge. A nice, rustic dish that I also ate for lunch during the week in my new bento.

Paté Campagne Bento Lunch

This was a terrific lunch treat. The CSA green bean salad was a nice accompaniment.

Next was a paté gratinée. This was not our favorite. We didn’t think the pork tenderloin inlay added much. It looked pretty, but the rustic pate campagne was our favorite.

Paté Gratinée with Oysters

However, we did enjoy it. Especially on the evening we paired it some local Maryland oysters I bought from Whole Foods. I brought them home and pan-fried them in cornmeal, some of Emeril’s essence (I know, I know) and duck fat. With the last of the duck confit from the back of the fridge in this paté as well, the meal was divine. The sides of a corn and tomato relish and a broccoli gratin were just a bit over the top.

I know we’ll be making the rustic paté campagne again, and we will certainly be pairing it with the oysters.

It’s now a sad night in our household. There are no patés in the fridge. No duck confit. No bacon. And only two kinds of sausages in the freezer: lamb and the brats we made for Packer games. I gotta get busy with the pork.

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Binding: Fresh Ingredients Matter

August 14th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

Head Cheese

Ingredients matter. They have to be fresh. We made a seafood moussseline early in the challenge with the scallops from the freezer and some processed crab. It was edible, and the potential was there, but just didn’t have the freshness needed for that type of dish.

A couple weeks later I bought some pig trotters and neck bones and made a version of head cheese (above). We used Fergus Henderson’s recipe (The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating). We had done his jellied rabbit for Easter and knew where this was going. The stock became very happy. The trotters didn’t provide much meat, but the necks made up for that. The half batch fit nicely in one of my earthenware bowls from pottery class. The gel was perfect.

Head Cheese and Gazpacho

Our first meal with this chilled porky goodness was a wonderful summer dinner with fresh gazpacho and mozzarella. It’s been the appetizer of choice all week long.

I haven’t given up on a seafood mousseline. I intend to make it with very fresh ingredients next time and stuff in casings for a seafood sausage.

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BGE Hot Dog

July 14th, 2011 · by fritzg ·


We were so excited to make some dogs for our Independence Day celebration. We’d just finished building a new screened-in porch and were eager to spend some time eating a homemade dog on it at the outskirts of our nation’s capital.

We followed Ruhlman’s recipe (the short rib one), kept things very cold and used our new vertical stuffer from Grizzly Industries with hog casings for a nice, plump half-smoke. We gave the stuffer a trial run the week before with some chicken sausage. So, we knew we ready for the dogs.

Keep reading →

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Merguez and Mash

June 15th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

Merguez and Mash

It’s been a busy month of activism and stuffing with not much time for blogging. Early on we made fresh Italian sausage and this past weekend was a fresh merguez. The spicy (not hot) lamb sausage from North Africa was a hit for Sunday dinner and will be for weeks to come.

We like our fresh sausage. Next up will be a bratwurst and then a chicken sausage. We like the idea of wonderful pre-seasoned meat ready for the grill in the hot summer.

The Kitchen Aid stuffing attachment is adequate, but I think that the next time we do five pounds of stuffing we’ll get one of those vertical stuffers.

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Grinding: My sausage comes from one pig

May 14th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

We ground some pork twice this month as part of Charcutepalooza. First off was a simple breakfast sausage out of Ruhlman’s wonderful book Charcuterie. We followed his advice and froze the grinding attachment beforehand and did not add fatback to these sausages. We also found that the grinding went much easier if the pork was frozen for about an hour after mixing and before grinding.


Two weeks later was chorizo, again from Charcuterie.IMG_0255

The dish below is the wonderful pasta seca from @patriciajinich via @MrsWheelbarrow.


Both sausages are wonderful and our freezer is full. It’s nice to know how many pigs are in my breakfast meat. Just one.

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Canadian Bacon on the BGE

April 14th, 2011 · by fritzg ·

This month’s charcutepalooza challenge was hot smoking,  Canadian Bacon. I know about hot smoking. We’ve had a Big Green Egg for years.

I brined and smoked the pork loin in time for a mother-in-law visit. We had the finished product for breakfast with eggs and grits. Put it in split pea soup and of course we made Eggs Benedict from scratch.

It’s been a busy month and I have much more to say about salt, pork and the charcuterie that’s happened in the last thirty days. Stay tuned.

Eggs Benedict, first layer

Eggs Benedict, Final Layer

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