On Saturday night in Cambridge, on a young friend’s recommendation, we dined at The Russell House Tavern, near Harvard Square, where chef Michael Scelfo and his mischievous band of cooks put out excellent high-end tavern fare. I was delighted when my 13-year-old son perused the menu and immediately asked, “Can we get the charcuterie board?”
This question has only one correct response. I especially appreciated Scelfo’s pork rillettes, which were topped with a creamy layer of duck fat. Scelfo has a menu that would seem to be designed exactly for me, with items such as “Pig’s Head Cake” and “Crispy Pork Belly Sandwich,” but also deviled eggs and superb fried oysters.
But it was the fact that he, like so many other chefs, offered charcuterie. Indeed the charcuterie or salumi board is now ubiquitous in American restaurants. A charcuterie board even made it onto an episode of “Modern Family,” proudly created by Manny. My co-author of that book, Brian Polcyn, and I would presumptuously, perhaps, like to take at least some credit in making this centuries-old European culinary branch commonplace in America when we published Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. Certainly the timing was right, as chefs and cooks were increasingly eager to embrace whole-animal cooking and explore preservation techniques that result in exquisite food.
The book was so popular that our editor at Norton, mother of New York chef Alex Guarnaschelli, hounded us for a follow-up on the Italian version of Charcuterie, Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing, which is even more focused than the broader French discipline (which comprises pâtés, terrines, and confits). Salumi comprises mainly dry-cured meat, though there are some cooked selections (Tuscan soppressata, salami cotto, which Mrs Wheelbarrow wrote about on Food52).
As with all my books—nay, brethren, with all my culinary being!—I’ve strived to simplify what had seemed to me before I began a craft that was dizzyingly complex.
So here is what the book contains. In addition to my deathless prose on the glories of the pig, of lardo, of guanciale, generally, it also clarifies the seemingly complicated specialty by isolating its eight component parts.
The book describes and illustrates how to butcher a hog for the salumi cuts.
The masterful photography team of Gentl and Hyers photographed Brian’s craftsmanship. Here are The Big Eight on one plate (can you name them all without checking the caption?):
The book goes on to describe the recipes and techniques for dry curing The Big Eight, a hundred variations on those basics, and last—since not everyone wants to do their own dry-curing, and great salumi is available in most cities and, of course, by mail—dozens of recipes to put salumi to use in soups, salads, pastas, and of course on a proper salumi board. This simple but delicious salad is an example:
Hope you’ll have a look: Use the “Look Inside” feature to get a better sense of what’s inside the book, or download a free sample Kindle version to your iPad or Kindle device.
Brian and I are excited to be participating in a few events in the Noble Heartland (to be returned to “Flyover territory” once the elections are over). Hope you’ll join us if you’re in town!
16 (Tuesday): Wabash College Visit
12:00pm & 7:30pm
Ruhlman is traveling to Crawfordsville to visit Wasbash College where he will talk about his career and the rise of chefs to celebrity status. Ruhlman is expected to give a noon-time talk early in the day, which will be more cooking specific, probably an open question and answer session. Learn more…
Noon-1 p.m. – Q & A with Michael Ruhlman, Hays 104. Chef Ruhlman will speak briefly about his book “Twenty.” Remaining time to questions about cooking/chefs, any topic Wabash community members wish to ask.
1:45 – 3 p.m. – Local media availability.
7:30 p.m. – Baxter 101, Lecture Hall. “The Food Animal” Chef Ruhlman gives talk about his career, celebrity chefs, writing. Open to the public.
19 (Friday): Hog Breakdown Salumi Style with Ruhlman & Polcyn
Floriole Café & Bakery
1220 W Webster Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60614
On Friday, October 19, Butcher & Larder will have the honor of hosting Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn in celebration of their new book, Salumi. We will be butchering a Catalpa Grove Berkshire hog as described in Salumi and discussing the hows and whys of butchering and how it relates to the craft of salumi. Polcyn and Ruhlman will be available to sign books and answer questions.
Tickets are $95 (includes a copy of the book) and can be purchased over the phone (773-687-8280) or in person at the Butcher & Larder. Availability is extremely limited.
More info please visit Butcher & Larder.
20 (Saturday): Hog Breakdown Salumi Style with Ruhlman & Polcyn
837 West Fulton Market Chicago, IL 60607
“The Publican is pleased to announce that the highly-acclaimed Brian Polcyn (chef and proprietor of Michigan’s celebrated Forest Grill) and Michael Ruhlman (renowned culinary author of works including Ruhlman’s Twenty and The Elements of Cooking) will be offering an in-restaurant demonstration on Saturday, October 20th from 1pm-3pm to promote their latest work–Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing. Charcuterie prepared by Brian Polcyn will be complimentary to all attendants and all beverages may be purchased based upon consumption. Reservations are not required, so please mark your calendars in preparation for what is sure to be an amazing afternoon.” Again, this event is FREE and open to all!
21 (Sunday): Charcuterie Workshop
11:00 am – 2:00 pm
2419 W. 14th Street, Chicago, IL 60608
Chef Phillip Foss and his team are proud to welcome Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman into EL Ideas for a one-day workshop and book signing promoting their recently released book, Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing. During the three hour session, attendees will be able to interact with the authors and observe the techniques and insights featured in the recently released book and follow-up to their widely acclaimed Charcuterie.
Cost: $165/person—charge upon making the reservation
Please call EL Ideas at 312-226-8144 or email us at email@example.com
22–24 (Monday–Wednesday): Pigstock Traverse City
This three-day course is designed to provide you with an appreciation of what makes the Mangalitsa pig unique, from its breeding and raising practices, to the methods of processing a hog from the inside all the way out, and finally to producing world-class salumi and charcuterie products. This year for the first time ever, we will also compare Mangalitsa to Berkshire/Duroc and commercial/market hogs.
Monday, October 22: Breakfast on your own—Slaughter at Santucci Farm—Lunch onsite—Afternoon wine tour of Traverse City wineries (optional)—Dinner on your own (we plan on having suggestions).
Tuesday, October 23: Breakfast on your own—Classes at Hagerty Center all day—Lunch onsite—Six-course dinner prepared by some of the best local chefs inspired by Polcyn and Ruhlman’s new book, Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing (additional cost). This event features an interview with Polcyn and Ruhlman during the dinner.
Wednesday, October 24: Breakfast on your own—Classes at Hagerty Center all day—Lunch onsite—Program ends in the late afternoon.
Details and Payment: Attendance limited to the first 60 registrants—Payment must be paid in full at time of registration—Registration nonrefundable; registration is transferable if you are unable to attend—$750 full registration or $500 for viewing only.