Do you have a Meat Club? Since last year, a loose collective of San Francisco Bay Area-based food fanatics, including myself, have been getting together periodically to play with our meat. Er, you know what I mean.
It all started at the judging for last year's Good Food Awards. We tasters were all given a copy of Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller's In The Charcuterie, and discussion flowed as we drew inspiration from it. For our first project we made the ciccioli terrine recipe, and since then have done various pâtés and sausages, including boudin blanc.
Mind you, to date, there has historically been only one other man involved in said meat club, and he has only participated once, so our sessions have been comprised of up to 10 women, and me. Insert sausage party joke here.
Anyway, when I was approached to be part of a virtual book tour for the new Charcutería: The Soul of Spain, by Jeffrey Weiss, I knew what had to be done. We were going to make meat, Spanish-style, and that's all there was to it.
The book is truly stunning, rich with imagery and containing the best and most comprehensive look at Spanish gastronomy, with a keen eye on the cured meats, conserves and pickles that comprise the country's cuisine. Having spent a month in Spain, I was instantly smitten.
We ended up going with the simplest sausage recipe, chorizo fresco, partially because it was our first foray into this book, and because many of the other sausages involve curing in special chambers, and none of us has an appropriate setup at this time. And anyway, who doesn't want chorizo?
Making chorizo fresco is the same as making most other sausage; it's the flavoring that makes the difference. Equal portions of hot and sweet smoked paprika give it the signature color and flavor, plus a touch of oregano.
The recipe calls for three different cuts of meat -- aguja (pork collar), panceta (pork belly), and papada (pork jowl). Why? Because in Spain, you can never have enough kinds of pork in anything. The meat gets chunked up and tossed with salt and garlic, and chilled. Then, it's time to grind.
And grind. This is where the idea of working as a group has its merits. Many hands -- and stand mixers -- makes light work. Well, lighter. In the end, we ground up 22 pounds of pork.
Here's where we varied from the recipe a little. The book calls for adding a slurry of white wine, water and spices to the ground meat while binding, but given our quantities, we chose to mix the slurry in by hand first, then set it in the fridge to cool before binding.
That gave us a moment to take a breather. The first rule of Meat Club is always have snacks. Everyone should bring snacks. And maybe some wine.
Right, time to bind. Just whip that meat up with the paddle attachment until it comes together and pulls away from the sides.
Fry off a little to taste test. Maybe fry a little more than you strictly need.
Time to stuff. You don't have to have a never-used 37-year-old stuffing attachment, but it couldn't hurt.
Slither on the soaked casings. Commence making lewd jokes. It only gets worse from here.
Practice your mad linking skills.
Or, feel free to just portion it out in bulk patties. After all, right in the book, it is noted that, "Note that in many parts of Spain, Chorizo Fresco is eaten without bothering to stuff it into a casing; it's just fried up as loose, ground meat. In this form, the chorizo is called picadillo, and competitions are held throughout Spain to compare the best picadillos of the land. The quality of the pork, flavors from the dierent muscles, and the texture of the meat grind leads to a competition-worthy dish."
But come on, the links look great.
And in they went to the fridge to ferment overnight before freezing or, well, eating. Our breakfast the next day comprized of a chorizo scramble. We did find that, though we followed the recipe very closely, the end result ran a little salty. That made it a pretty good pair with bland eggs, but where it really shone is in a beautiful paella. Simply perfect.
What will the Meat Club tackle next time we convene? No one knows, but somewhere there's a nervous pig shaking in its pen.
- 14 oz. (400 g.) aguja (pork collar),
- 14 oz. (400 g.) panceta (pork belly), and
- 7 oz. (200 g.) papada (pork jowl)
- ¾ ounce (20g) whole cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 ounce (25 g) kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (50 mL) dry white wine, such as a Verdejo, chilled
- 1/4 cup (50 mL) water, chilled
- 1/3 ounce (10 g) pimentón dulce (sweet smoked paprika)
- 1/3 ounce (10 g) pimentón picante (hot smoked paprika)
- 1/8 ounce (2 g) dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil, for frying, divided
- 2 feet (60 cm) 1¼–1½-inch (32–36-mm) hog casings, soaked, or more as needed
- Place the aguja, panceta, and papada meats and grinder parts in the freezer for 30 minutes to par-freeze before attempting to grind.
- Using a mortar and pestle, crush together the garlic and salt to form an ajosal. If desired, you can finish the ajosal in a food processor fitted with the "S" blade.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the meats and ajosal. Toss together and set aside as you set up the grinder.
- Fill a large bowl with ice, and place a smaller bowl inside the ice-filled bowl. Grind the meat mixture once through a medium-coarse (3/8 inch [9.5 mm]) die into the smaller bowl. Be careful: The meat mixture is wet, so it may squirt and pop out of the grinder.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the wine, water, pimentones, and oregano, making a slurry. Keep the bowl containing the slurry chilled until ready to use.
- Place the ground meats in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or you can just mix in a mixing bowl with a sturdy spoon). Begin mixing on low speed. As the mixer runs, pour the wine slurry into the bowl in a steady stream.
- Continue mixing on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until the wine slurry has been fully incorporated into the mixture, a white residue forms on the sides of the bowl, and the mixture firms up. Place the bowl containing the ground meat mixture in the refrigerator to keep it cold until you are ready to stuff the sausage into casings.
- To make a prueba, in a small skillet over medium–high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place a small piece of the meat mixture in the skillet and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
- If stuffing: Stuff the mixture into the casings and tie into 12-inch (30-cm) loops or 6-inch (15-cm) links.
- Using a sterile pin or sausage pricker, prick each sausage several times. Place in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.
- If not stuffing: Form the mixture into 8-ounce (226-g) patties. Wrap in plastic wrap or caul fat, if using.
- Place in the refrigerator to ferment overnight.
- If stuffing: If you have stueffd the sausages into links or loops, warm the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium–high heat and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, until they register an internal temperature of 150°F (65°C).
- You can also oven roast or grill the sausages at 350°F (180°C) for 20 to 25 minutes, until they reach the same internal temperature.
- If not stuffing: Warm the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium–high heat and fry the sausage patties for 8 to 10 minutes, until they register an internal temperature of 150°F (65°C).
- Remove the sausages from the heat and serve.