Christmas Dinner Part 3

OK, I admit it – a day or two has turned into a week or three! And I really don’t have an excuse: Christmas dinner happened, and I had all the pictures to post – I just didn’t do it. Maybe I was exhausted and burnt out after an intense week of 4 major dinners, parties, packages arriving daily with ice cream, cookies, candies, chocolates and other edible things that this still-fit and trim (but barely) body needed like a whole in the head. So I just stopped. After Christmas dinner I didn’t cook, write, or anything.

Well it’s been almost three weeks and now I’m back, and ready to really get Devour going for 2011. First task: finish off Christmas. I think where I left all’y’all hanging is the pig’s feet. And I KNOW you are wondering with a perfect mixture of fascination, and yes, horror, what the hell is he going to do with those squelchy icky things we last saw simmering in a stock pot? Read on and you’ll find out!

The boned feet were ground in a meat grinder first

Since my goal was to ultimately make a sausage I needed to grind the feet to ‘chair a saucisse’, or sausage meat. I boned the feet then forced them through a hand cranked meat grinder. The result was sausage meat with the consistency of hamburger.

The sausages contain about 40% pork belly as well

The next step is to cut a 1lb piece of pork belly into 1″ cubes. Those are then frozen which makes the grinding process much easier.

Grinding the pork belly

Now that I have my ground ‘chair a saucisse’, I’m ready to finish up my meat mixture with herbs, spices, and booze.

The ground feet and pork belly are combined in a bowl...

I’m using nutmeg, allspice, salt, pepper, garlic, fennel seeds, and cinnamon. To bind in goes eggs and maybe a little heavy cream.

All the ingredients are added to the bowl and combined thoroughly

Now I’d like to offer a very special welcome to my first crises in making this recipe! This is a little package of pork based sausage casings. Unfortunately I can’t find my sausage funnel, the device you pipe your meat-mixture through into the casings, anywhere! So I’m stuck stuck stuck in the mud with no way to get out until I think of something….wait! WAIT! Cheesecloth! YAY!!! Julia Child mentions in one of her videos that one can replace casings with cheese cloth and poach a sausage with excellent and very similar results. So I measure out cylinders of my ‘chair a saucisse’ onto squares of cheesecloth, and roll them up into sausage shapes.

Place an elongated amount of chair a saucisse in the center of a section of cheesecloth, then roll it into a sausage shape

After tying off the ends, they are ready for poaching. In the case my poaching liquid is about 50% water and 50% white wine (you know, the bottle that was opened weeks ago and has been sitting in the fridge ever since).

Pig's Feet Sausages ready for poaching

Since this is a post about Christmas dinner and not just the unlucky foot of a pig, lets go back to some other stuff I’m doing. While the sausage simmer, I combine a whole shredded red cabbage with some salt pork, vinegar, red wine, garlic, sugar and spices and wilt on top of the stove in a pot. This simple side will be perfect with the fresh ham.

Red Cabbage, simmering on the stove

Speaking of the ham, its time to get it in the oven actually, this is the first thing I did Christmas day when I began to cook for the dinner. It needed a good 4+ hours in the oven.

Roast the ham high on a rack over a roaster. This ensure even circulation of heat

At service time, we eat the watercress salad garnished with blood orange slices while the poached sausages are sliced into coins and sauteed in lots of butter

Sauteeing the sausages to crisp them up

After our salads we serve the soup in little cups. Just little ladles of soup that are spiked with a generous dash of truffle oil and shaving of parmesan. I wish I had a picture to show you other than this one, but by now I’m in full service-get-dinner-served-before-I-go-crazy-and-our-guests-get-restless mode. So I didn’t have a chance to take a picture as planned..waaaaaaaa! Here’s the soup in production though. Like I mentioned before, the soup was forced through this food mill three times to ensure a silken almost cream like texture.

Acorn squash soup; before (on the right), and after (on the left, being forced through the food mill

Dinner is served! Sliced fresh ham is mounded on a two section platter with braised cabbage on one side. Everything was excellent! The sausages were rich, creamy, porky, and luxuriant. A slice of ham, a coin or two of the sausages with a big spoonful of braised cabbage really brought Christmas home to all who generously attended our dinner. Starting with the salad and soup was a good way to transition from fall (squash) to winter (bitter greens, citrus). I need to give a shout out to the friend who brought homemade pepper mint stick ice cream, and another one who made a delicious pumpkin cake. All were devoured with gusto.


Christmas Dinner Part 2

We’re back. It’s two days later (though I’m posting a day after that).  Today I need to get the Pig’s Feet going for the sausages, make the soup, as well as pick up the fresh ham leg and brine it. There is this place in San Francisco’s mission district that is more or less a meat market, but different than what you can expect in the ‘western’ or ‘american’ sense. This is an ethnic meat and seafood market (called the Fresh Meat Market) where one can find things you would never see at Safeway or Whole Foods: whole sides of fatback, pork belly, offal of every kind including tripe, tongue, liver, feet, heart, kidney, and even blood. The proprietor and staff are usually chinese or maybe latin american, supplying ‘those-in-the-know’ as well as those craving dishes from other cultures items not found elsewhere. You often spy folks like me in there too, local chefs, and the adventurous. If you have ever read a cookbook where the author advises you to seek out an ‘ethnic market’ to obtain hard to find ingredients, this is what they are talking about.

After getting home from Fresh Meat, I get to work: the feet are rinsed then blanched quickly in boiling salted water before being rinsed again in cold water. This removes a lot of impurities before the feet go back in the pot for their four-hour braise. Into the same pot also go stock, water, dry vermouth, and a bouquet garni. This is allowed to come to a bare simmer and stay there until the meat is done and falling off the bones. After the feet are done they are carefully boned. You might be asking, ‘what the hell?’, I don’t wanna eat no stupid pig’s feet! But if you were european, latin, or asian, in fact from anywhere but the U.S., you would know that pig’s feet yield intensely flavorful meat, a pleasing texture, and is often thought of as a luxury. I was once in a restaurant in Paris, called Chez Denise, near the old Les Halles market neighborhood, where I spied a french couple, he in a tux and she dressed to the nines in a gown and very high heels. I looked over when their entrees came and was intrigued to see that while he had some sort of steak, she was served a whole grilled giant pig’s foot with all the trimmings. Now THATS something that made me take notice! My preparation will combine the shredded meat from the feet with ground pork belly and then be made into sausage links. They are going to be great!

There’s not much to be said about the soup: just some stock, aromatics, diced squash and voila! It gets blendered with my immersion blender first, then forced through a food mill, which is a technique that restaurants use to make soups that are velvety smooth, with no hint of fiber whatsoever. The fresh ham gets scored then put into my biggest pot for a four day brining.

In Part Three we’ll continue with this, but for now I’m done. See you in a day or two!

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Christmas Dinner Part 1

Hey All,

It’s been rainy rainy rainy rainy here in San Francisco this week, dark by 5PM, sleepy brief little days, a lot of holiday cheer at night too. I’m wistfully but proudly watching as my days as a student rapidly recede into the background, and the future comes into better focus. First off, the holidays – this week we’ll enjoy a few dinners out, a few formal christmas gatherings (my friend Steve cooks a Scandinavian feast the 23rd for a holiday called Lille Julaften, or Little Christmas Eve on the 23rd, then 7 fishes at another friend on the 24th). I, of course, wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t planning a dinner of my own too.

This year it’ll be on Christmas Day itself, the 25th, and we will be expecting a party of around 8. So this post is about that, and because its still only the 20th, I’ll write this over several days. The truth is, I am still deciding on the menu. The only thing I know for sure is the identity of the beast this year: Pork. Specifically leg of pork – the exact same cut as a lovely bone-in ham, except ham that way is way to lunch-meaty tasting to me, NOT good enough. Somewhere, I can’t remember where now to my frustration, I came across an article on leg of pork served with its crackling (that half inch thick layer of fat all over the meat) in tact. It was a Danish recipe, and the fat had been criss-crossed with a knife to make a pretty waffle-iron pattern in the meat. Diners are meant to eat the crispy fat as well as the lean meat at time of service.

We considered Goose (which I love), Prime Rib, Turkey, and some sort of game bird (pheasant, grouse, wood pigeon, etc), but because we’re budget conscious, and also because I want to food featured here to be about economy as well as yumconomy, I settled on pork. I paid $2.99/LB for American Homestead natural pork at Whole Foods, which is a STEAL. Once I pick up the ham tomorrow at WF I’ll concoct a home-made, made-up brine of dried blood orange peel, whole black peppercorns, sugar, salt, bay leaves and clove a let the fresh ham ‘brine’ in the fridge for the next four days.

With the pork here’s what I’m thinking: I’ll go to the chinese meat market at 23rd & Mission and pick up some pig’s feet and Lucca at 22nd and Valencia for some blood sausages. Wednesday I’ll simmer the feat in a court-bouillon for like, all day, bone and pick over the feet, and mix the picked over  meat with some ground pork belly, cognac, spices and maybe some truffle oil. All of that I’ll put into some sausage casings I got in the freezer from an aborted sausage project that didn’t happen earlier this year. The roast will be served then with crackling, blood sausages and pig’s feet sausages. I think I’ll do a soup to begin with, a salad course, and I’m toying with a small fresh seafood platter to start. I think the menu will look like this, but please check back here for parts 2, 3 & 4 to see what actually happens. Right now, here what the menu sort of will look like:

  • Fresh Seafood Platter: raw oysters, clams, and mussels; chilled poached shrimp, cracked dungeness crab
  • Cream of Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Truffle Oil and Parmesan Crisps
  • Watercress salad with Sardine Vinaigrette
  • Roasted home-citrus-brined Leg of Pork, served with crackling, and garnished with pig’s feet sausages, blood sausages; served with Red Cabbage Braise
  • Pumpkin Spice Cake & Candy Cane Ice Cream.

The sausages will be made in advance (the pig’s feet sausages I’ll make, NO ONE, not even the French make their own blood sausage – I’ll buy those) on Wednesday. The soup, too, I’ll make Wednesday, storing in an air-tight container until needed. All the seafood, including a sardine or two for the vinaigrette, will be bought the 24th (freshness). I’ll crack the crab and set up the platter right before people arrive. The parmesan crisps are a recipe I got from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook, those I’ll make Saturday afternoon while the roast is, well, roasting. I’ll make the cabbage Saturday as well, which means that day-of (the 25th) I only need to pop the pork in the oven, set up the seafood, toss the salad, make the crisps, and the cabbage braise. All else will be done in advance.

How ’bout them apples!? So I’m signing off (for now). I’m including a picture of someone elses fresh roasted pork leg, just cause its nice, and so you can see what I’m trying to do. And I’ll see you here Wednesday for Christmas Dinner post number 2 – pig’s feet and soup day…Ta!Here, the cook and roasted a fresh ham, bone in, with crackling and bronzed the entire roast with a pretty glaze

Terrine de Foie de Porc

You might think all this blog is going to be about is charcuterie and related products, but the truth is, I’ve just now had the time to really get Devour going, and at the same time I’ve got tons of content just waiting to be published. A moist, rich, meaty pork terrine filled with excellent quality pork belly, shoulder, and liver was the subject of a cooking project I did many months ago. The pictures I took that day were carefully filed away until needed, which is today! This was inspired by a trip to Paris in the late summer of 2009. I eagerly visited as many charcuteries (stores that specialize in pate, sausage, pork based products, etc) as I could find. I’ve included some of the pictures I took in this post so you can see what my source of inspiration was…

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Chicken Stock

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As I contemplate how I am going to organize this blog it occurrs to me that in addition to all the great dishes I plan on preparing here, a whole slew of ‘basics’ or pantry items need to be included as well. Because stock is so central to so many dishes, I thought I’d start with a super simple basic recipe for stock.

Pouring through my growing library of cookbooks I’ve been hard pressed to find any of the authors who use a canned stock. There are some decent, organic options out there, yet so many authors won’t touch ’em. For years and years every time I needed stock for a risotto, braise, or soup I’d use an organic boxed stock. Took me awhile before I realized ‘what am I doing’? I mean, do I even know how this dish or that dish will taste if I made my own stock?


After careful consideration I’ve chosen to do the chicken stock offered by Judy Rogers in the Zuni Cafe cookbook. Many other versions ask you to roast chicken backs, wings, bones and/or the carcass before simmering in lots of water, herbs, and aromatics. I like Rogers recipe because of its utter simplicity. Just a chicken, a few extra wings, carrots, onion and celery. No bouquet Garni, no pepper, no roasting, no tomato paste.

First I assembled all of my ingredients.


Save the chicken breasts for another use by boning them off the bird first


My ingredients: Organic Chicken plus additional wings, carrot, onion celery

Hello fellow foodies! Fall brings shorter days, and cravings for more substantial, hearty fare. As a long time charcuterie enthusiast, I’ve recently begun to experiment with creating my own terrines. What is a terrine you ask? We’ve all heard of pate’s before – those slices

rich, meaty,livery morsels, served in restaurants with tiny pickled vegetables such as cornichons, baby onions, maybe some vinegary carrots and dollop of grainy mustard. Many cookbooks claim that terrine and pate are interchangeable terms and that they mean the exact same

thing. I don’t agree with that: in Parisian charcuteries you will find terrines which are served out of long narrow baking vessels, topped delicious, nurishing fat, but also the exact same meat mixture, cooked in the same vessel but encased in a buttery pastry, a narrow layer

of gelee (jellied cooking juices, flavorings, and some sort of wine or brandy) on top of the terrine but still enveloped by the pastry. So a terrine cooked in a terrine dish without pastry, and a pate is encased within. As for the type of meat? A good rule of thumb is to expect anywhere

up to 40% pork (including belly, fat back, and shoulder) whomever is the star of the pate, be it game, poultry, pork, or rabbit. Next comes liver, always the liver of the ‘star’, but also pork liver might be there too, especially if pork is the star of the pate (pate de campagne, de maison, pate de foie de porc, or pork liver pate).

A recent vacation weekend in Mendocino, California with family and friends prompted me to make a few dishes to go with the extensive wine we planned to both taste and serve. We made a whole salmon (dressed, filleted, then made into homemmade gravlax, filets, and tartare), excllent veal

chops, and this duck terrine, or, Terrine de Canard de Mendocino,  which I’ve named after the beautiful Mendocino coast. Please don’t be put off by the richness and fat content in this dish: remember you eat this in small thin slices at a celebratory time.

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Hey world,

It is so fun sitting here without a clue about how I want to start this blog. I mean, how do I introduce myself? What do I say? Where the hell do I start? Paul Morley’s litany of answers written on the sleeve of a long-lost electronic album from the 1980s, Who’s Afraid of the Art of Noise comes to mind as a possible template, means to break the ice. Maybe this will give y’all an idea of where I’m coming from and what I’m thinking about right now:

What to read:

French Feasts by Stephane Reynaud

The Elements of Cooking by Michael Ruhlman

Lulu’s Provencal Table by Richard Olney

The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells

What to eat:

Fava Beans


Spring Lamb

Cowgirl Creamery Inverness

What to cook by:

All American by Weekend (Mexican Summer Records)

Falling from the Sun by The Album Leaf (Sub Pop Records)

Quick Canal by Atlas Sound (Kranky Records)

Future Games by Fleetwood Mac (Reprise Records)

What to drink:

2005 Tabula Rasa (Andrew Rich, vintner)

2008 Sinister Hand (Owen Roe winery)

2008 Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc (Cakebread Cellars)

2008 Butterfield Station Chardonnay (Butterfield Station)

Where to go:

Delfina (San Francisco)

Little Owl ( New York City)

Black Salt (Washington D.C.)

Ma Cuisine (Beaune, France)

These are just a few of the things I’m into (at least this week). I think the food speaks for itself. Each of these items are in season and really, really good right now. By now you all know that eating things in season tastes better than out. Inverness is a lovely, tiny, cow’s milk cheese from local fromagerie Cowgirl Creamery. It’s about an inch and a half tall and three-quarters of an inch across.The wines are in the $20 range, except for the Butterfield Station which retails for about $6. It is good to know that good wine doesn’t have to be spendy. It just chooses to be. Lamb is delicious! More attuned to wine pairing than beef in my opinion. In fact a seared rib chop and a scattering of a few Fava beans is all you need to make a great meal in May.