Salumi: How many Chefs have been led astray by this Book?

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Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn…  What an amazing book, absolute food porn for us Chefs and foodies alike.  The problem is two fold, first, it has me curing everything in sight.  I got five Kuni Kuni pigs from Cook Pig the other day.  I normally use them all for Porchetta but got a bug up my ass and decide to make a ton of charcuterie.  I suppose I should back up and mention that I am Chef of Figue Mediterranean in La Quinta, California…  a relatively new restaurant hopefully popping up on the national level soon.  One of the big features of our operation is a charcuterie bar reminiscent of a high end sushi bar.  The intent was always that we would make our own charcuterie but I never had much time till now.  I suppose the whole opening a restaurant thing got in the way.

Figue Training 09So today sous chef extraordinaire Alex Hernandez and myself set about curing everything in sight.  Filetto cured with Aleppo Pepper and Orange; citrus and fennel cured lonzo, pancetta, spicy guanciale and my first attempt at coppa…  I scared our sommelier Celeste because I told her that I would hang my meat in her wine box since the temperature and humidity was perfect.  I think the thought of over 100 pounds of meat hanging next to her great wine selections scared her…

 

Here are photos from the day’s work sprinkled with a few other forays into Charcuterie world:

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Lamb Mortadella made from Elysian Fields lamb…  It tastes so good!  I have been serving it with house made Fig Pickles

IMG_20130712_123929_178Truffled Veal Sausage that I featured for my Bastille Day menu…  The focus was Famous Last Meals from the Bastille.  The Marquis de Sade ate these.

IMG_20130727_160925_333 IMG_20130727_144426_338cures and a rather tattered kitchen notebook dating back to 2003

IMG_20130727_145246_158 IMG_20130727_144354_346 IMG_20130727_142702_887All in all we cured 100 pounds of freshly butchered pork.  We used the salt box method which essentially is rubbing every single crevice of meat in coarse sea salt, vacuum packing everything then letting it sit refrigerated for a few days.  The basic procedure for all whole muscle meats is the same.  What varied and will vary is the seasoning in the final curing.  Since my palate of flavors includes France, Italy Spain, Basque region, Lebanon, Greece, Morocco and anywhere else in the Mediterranean I have a lot of historical flavor combinations to pull from, not too mention the mixing of cultures.  In six weeks we will have a tasty selection of house meats for our charcuterie bar.

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Charcuterie (Char – KOOTer- REE): The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing

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One of the focal points of our new restaurant Figue will be the charcuterie bar.  This has been a hard concept for me to get my brain around.  Not hard in the sense of what to serve but more how to serve and how to approach it.

On the offerings side of the debate I want to feature the absolutely sexy Jamón Ibérico de Bellota.  This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests, called dehesas, along the border between Spain and Portugal, and eat only acorns during this last period. Bellota jamones are prized both for their smooth texture and rich, savory taste. A good ibérico ham has regular flecks of intramuscular fat, marbling. Because of the pig’s diet of acorns, much of the fat is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.  Other offerings will include a wide range of locally prepared charcuterie from salumi artisans like the Meat Men in San Diego whose cured meats are absolutely amazing (go to their site here), Paul Bertolli’s incredible handcrafted  Fra Mani line (visit Fra Mani here), Cristiano Creminelli’s amazing salumi (visit Creminelli’s here) to producing some of our own mortadellas, lonzo’s and the like.  So many great cured meats to offer so little time!

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The real debate raging in my head is how to present it in a way the guests will get.  I keep coming back to the point that I want our 10 seat “salumi bar” to be like a sushi bar in spirit.  I want interaction between the cooks manning the hand cranked slicers and the guests enjoying the show.  Meat will be displayed in small glass cases similar to sushi display cases and also hanging on hooks behind.  I hope my staff will work this station with the excitement of a child waking on Christmas morning!