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.