All I wanted for my fiftieth birthday was to eat all the lobster I could, with a good white wine and a Blanton’s bourbon after. I remember when my mom turned fifty because Donna insisted on doing something special for her, while I lamely lay in bed, scratching my head (within the hour she’d marshaled friends and chartered a plane to Key West for lunch). My dad did a fifty-mile bike ride on his fiftieth with his girlfriend Pat; she was incensed by the arduous journey (“Rip,” she hissed, “you don’t need a woman, you need a machine,” to which he replied, “I just realized it’s my fiftieth birthday”). They were so much older, fifty an impossibly remote age to me, a 25-year-old. Yet here I am now, on that very day. In a wistful Read On »

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I had one of the most inspiring days of my life Monday, watching Austrian farmer/butcher Christoph Wiesner kill and dress a hog. See video below of evisceration shot by Austrian journalist Jürgen Schmücking, covering Pigstock TC and Michigan wines and beers. We met on Marc Santucci’s farm, on a warm fall day, surrounded by leaves, apple trees, and tall grass. The pigs were rooting in an open-air pen, where the slaughter took place. Christoph stunned the pig with a bolt. He explained that it was important to do this with the pig in its natural position—less stress on both animal and muscle, which can be harmed by the acidity produced by stress. He was nervous and I could see it, his own heart pounding, taking deep breaths. He petted the pig and made loving noises to Read On »

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  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 Read On »

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To celebrate this week’s publication of Salumi, my and Brian Polycn’s deeper quest into the craft of dry-curing meat, I’m giving away three copies signed by both me and Brian to three commenters on this post. For those who aren’t clear on the definition (and Italians don’t make things easy), salumi refers to Italian cured or preserved meats—mostly dry-cured, and mostly made from pig parts—everything from guanciale to mortadella to prosciutto. Salami, with an A rather than a U, are dry-cured sausages and are one of the many preparations that salumi comprises. My aim, as in much of my cookbook work, is to simplify what seems to be complicated. When I walked into my first salumeria, I was astonished by the variety available. Case upon case of salumi, whole sections devoted to different kinds of Read On »

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  Amazon is always ahead, damn them! They’d been advertising an August 27 release date for my new book, Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing, but suddenly I’m getting twitpics from people who have ordered and already received their copy! The video isn’t ready, but you folks clearly are, so here it is, Brian Polcyn’s and my Salumi, the follow-up to our previous love song to animal fat and salt. The new book focuses on dry-curing meat, both whole muscles, such as coppa and pancetta, and ground meat, such as salami. Charcuterie encompassed a broad range of preserved foods, including pâtés and confits. With a couple of exceptions (mortadella, the sopressata of Tuscany, which is the Italian version of french fromage de tête), salumi refers to salted, dried meats that are, when done well, with well-fed, well-raised pigs, Read On »

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