I was cleaning out my iMovies and came across this quick clip my son James filmed a while ago. I’d just been to Bar Symon to break down a hog American style. Matt Harlan was the chef there (he’s now back at Lolita, front of the house) and the kitchen was huge; he had a hog ready and a big table to break it down on. I’d done it and written about it but needed to be able to teach someone else to do it.  And I needed to be sure my verbal descriptions were accurate. After we’d finished both sides, and Donna and I were packing to go, Matt, aka Chatty Matty, gave me a piece of their prepared pork skins.  His boss, Michael Symon, had picked up the technique from Paul Kahan, who Read On »

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It is time again to bring out The Chicken-Fried Pork Belly Salad, which I created in August 2007 in the midst of my fury at the chief icon of American restaurant food: The Chicken Caesar.  Today’s post was sparked by Sam Sifton’s NYTimes magazine column on the Caesar salad, which addresses the fact that few dishes are truly authentic, and he uses the Caesar salad as an example. For me putting a chicken breast on a perfectly good Caesar is an emblem of American mediocrity, a lack of imagination, and our fear of food (The Shame of the Chicken Caesar Salad). But Sifton, while he makes the unconscionable error of failing to include my Chicken Fried Pork Belly Casear in his list of famous variations, does us a service by telling us a freeing truth: Read On »

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During a recent phone call with the excellent Elise of simplyrecipes, Elise wished aloud that I would address the nitrite issue directly.  “Trader Joe’s carries it!  Go look.  Is there one near you?” Indeed there is, and indeed they sell at least two products pitching themselves as a “healthier” bacon because they don’t add sodium nitrite. This is as odious as those sugar laden granola bars trumpeting “No Fat!” on their label—food marketers preying on a confused consumer who has been taught to fear food because of harmful additives (such as the recent, apparently genuine, Red Dye 40 warnings). Full disclosure if you don’t already know: I am a vocal bacon advocate, and one of my books, Charcuterie, relies on sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate for many of its recipes to cure foods such as Read On »

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I’ve been learning from the hog all week it seems. It just keeps giving.  Making salami, curing all parts.  Tenderloin and loin and coppa.  I’ve made a lot of fresh sausage and the headcheese is underway, the last of the hams are coming off the cure. Including this one, a portion of the ham, from the culo, stuffed into the pig’s bladder, which James and I blew up to dry earlier in the week.  Once it had dried in its expanded shape, I reconstituted it in water, cut it open, and sewed up the salted ham inside.  I’ll do my best to tie it up neatly so that it will hang well. I’ll keep an eye on it, but figure it will cure in about 6 months. What a wonder the pig continues to be. Read On »

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On Saturday I picked up a hog from the North Union Farmers Market, about 330 pounds with the head and some other requested parts. “They’re big, long and slippery,” James had told us.  Just getting each half into the back of our jeep was an effort.  The first step was to break the pig down for salumi into its three main sections just so we could store the creature in a friend’s walk-in: shoulder, middle and ham.  Then back to work all day Sunday to break it all down into salumi cuts and sausage.  It took about six of us five hours to bone out the whole hog, isolate the muscles for curing, get everything on the salt and get the first of the salamis stuffed and hanging, about 20 pounds of it. And still Read On »

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