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Sunday, September 22, 2013

A new cookbook

A package arrived from Amazon the other day, and as I opened it I thought, "I didn't order this, but it would sure make a good present for John (my brother)." Then I saw the card--it was a birthday present from John and Cindy (my birthday was in July, but then his is in March, and I think I gave him a present in June--we wait until something jumps out at us as perfect). And this cookbook is perfect--perfectly fascinating.
It's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking  & Curing. When I called John to thank him, he said he didn't expect me to cure my own meat but thought I'd like the sections on brining, making your own corned beef, and other things. Every time I pick this book up, I find some new fascination--whiskey-glazed smoked chicken, Canadian bacon (who knew it's cured smoked pork loin?), smoked salmon, smoked scallops (still think about that one). I once had a mixer attachment for stuffing sausage casings (and used it, though the results were imperfect), and I'll have to see if I still have it. My German heritage comes out when you talk about bratwurst and weisswurst, venison sausage, even hot dogs. When my mom was in her eighties, she liked nothing better than sausages grilled with onions. Hey, at that age, we let her eat whatever she wanted. I'm not so sure about dry-cured meats but I will read up on them. I do love bresaola and salami. Blackstrap molasses country ham sounds good, but lardo and cured pork belly gives me pause.
My favorite chapter is "The Cinderella Meat Loaf" which is, of course, pate. There are recipes for smooth pates, pate en croute, country pates, a venison terrine with dried cherries, a veal terrine gratin, salmon pate in basil cornmeal crust, or how about avocado and artichoke terrine with poached chicken? I think I'll pass on headcheese, but it's there. I've never understood confits but apparently what they amount to is slow-cooking meats submerged in fat. Before you panic about fat content, you can make onion or tomato confit, and it's a great way to preserve meat..
And there's a bonus chapter on sauces and condiments, subtitled, "Not optional." An index of recipes and a list of sources complete the revised edition of this book--not sure where to get duck? The book offers the information. Line drawings clearly illustrate various techniques, such as putting a pate in a crust or making pancetta.
The dilemma here is where to begin. A lot of the recipes are complicated, and this is one of the times I want a cooking buddy, even if it's just someone to cheer me on. I'd like to start with a good pate, but I may have to work my way up to it. Meantime, I'm having fun just prowling through the book. Great birthday gift. With thanks to John and Cindy.

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