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Charcuterie: Ruhlman & Polcyn

I have starting investigating this book now that I have a blade for my meat grinder. Other mentions of this book are distributed around other threads, and I decided it might be nice to have a place to put these thoughts/comments in one place.

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  1. Pate de Campagne, page 213

    I had a 3.5 lb boston butt in the freezer, part of my old meat CSA. It had languished in the freezer, laughing at my fear of cooking 3,5 pounds of meat for 2 people. Since the meat had already been frozen, whatever I decided to make with this shoulder needed to be cooked immediately. I decided that 2 lbs would be turned into pate. The last time I made pate, I used Julia Child's Mastering the Art. Instead of trying to mix and match, I went with the Ruhlman version.

    My only substitution was cognac for brandy. First I created the pate spice. I will have enough for years to come!

    It was a little unclear about how to prepare the liver, but otherwise I thought the recipe was very clear. I didn't opt for any add-ins.

    The resulting pate was okay at 24 hrs, but at 48 the pate began to find its balance. First time we ate it, I served it with a rustic italian bread and some lovely cornichon. Second time, served with toasted French bread and a fresh cucumber salad.

    In the future, I think I would marry the Child and Ruhlman recipes. I like the mix of veal and pork over pork alone in Julia's version, but the spice mixture from Ruhlman has more character.

    Now I have to figure out how to eat 2lbs of pate before it goes bad.

    12 Replies
    1. re: smtucker

      Cognac is a brandy, from a specific place.

      1. re: paulj

        I've been using this book for years now and I love it. I've made probably a dozen or so things out of it. My favorites are the guanciale, saucisson sec, fresh kielbasa and tasso ham...

        1. re: hankstramm

          The curing stuff still scares me a little. If you are willing, please post about maintaining the correct temperature and humidity.

          1. re: smtucker

            I live in San Francisco, so the temp rarely goes about 65. Humidity is always high, but not too high. I wouldn't worry about the curing. You can tell if there's something wrong--smell or visual...

        2. re: paulj

          Really? So I didn't really substitute. Thanks for letting me know.

          1. re: paulj

            True, paulj, but don't pour me brandy if I ask for cognac.;-)

            To smtucker, pate du champagne freezes well. Since this is an older thread, your pate is probably long gone. I read through the posts here, sounds like you're having a great deal of fun and success. Love the Pastrami post.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Bushwick, I assume you're being humorous with your reference to Pate du Champagne [sic]. Pâté de Campagne has nothing to do with Champagne...

              1. re: hankstramm

                Yes, ;-) you're right, just didn't use the accent marks. Funny how omitting them changes the meaning so much. It's an older thread anyway, didn't think anyone would notice...I was riffing on the brandy/cognac remark.

                You can drink Pate du Champagne with Pâté au Chocolat avec Sabayon au Champagne.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  Actually, it is the 'h' that moves it from being paté of the countryside to Champagne the drink. But, I may start calling my Pate, Pate du Champagne just for fun!

                  1. re: smtucker

                    Yes, I was joking about the "h" too. It took a little awhile to be noticed.

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      It is not every day that an 'h' can be the butt of an ongoing joke. +3

                      :-)

          2. re: smtucker

            I did exactly that last time I made a pate de campagne--Julia's ingredients from _How to Cook_ approximately (or at least her proportions, let's say), but Ruhlman & Polcyn's technique, and it came out great--best pate I've ever made. The texture was perfect.

            I really like this book for its emphasis on techniques and proportions. I've made all-beef frankfurters, a Toulouse-style sausage, a saucisson sec, and pancetta, more or less following instructions in the book, but adjusting a bit to my own tastes and conditions. One thing I can't do is smoke.

            Regarding curing--I found it difficult to maintain high enough humidity and as low a temperature as I would have liked here in New York City over the winter for the saucisson sec and pancetta, but humidity solution was simple: just spray it once a day to keep the casing/skin from drying out. Temperature was often on the warm side but it didn't seem to be a problem. I haven't had anything go bad, and the results have generally been pretty good.

            So far, I've just used hog casings, which are about the thickness of knackwurst. For cured sausage and salami, thinner is easier than thicker, but I think I'm ready to experiment with a thicker saucisson sec or sopressata, maybe when the ambient humidity and temperature are closer to optimal. I like the idea of salami being a seasonal thing.

          3. Italian Sausage, Spicy and Sweet pg 122--124

            The local market had Boston butt on sale and I knew I would have the grinder out, so I bought one.

            Chose to take 4 lbs and divide between these two recipes. From there, I had to divide each recipe in half. Again, I stayed with the recipes with the exception of reducing the black pepper in the sweet recipe.

            Okay. This stuff is amazing!!!! I didn't make these into true sausages, instead leaving them in loose patties.

            For dinner last night, I sauteed some onions and garlic, added some Italian tomatoes and let the sauce simmer. Meanwhile, I sauteed the loose sausage in a separate pan. When the meat was a slight pink I drained off the fat, and transferred the sausage to the tomato sauce. Served over linguine. Oh yea, this was worth the time grinding fresh pork. Will I ever buy commercial sausage again? Nope.

            3 Replies
            1. re: smtucker

              Those recipes seem to have a lot of ingredients for my likes.

              Anyways,
              I like to have the sausages (or in your case, bulk sausage) spend the night in the fridge before freezing. I find it helps with flavor development.
              I'd suggest getting natural casings and make true sausage. Your satisfaction level will be cranked a few pegs.

              Also, get ahold of instacure#1. Using the proper amount (1 tsp/5lb meat), add to part of your next batch of sausages. Hang a few links in your basement while its still cold (guess it depends on where you live).
              After a week or 10 days, you'll have a taste of heaven in the form of an air-dried sausage.

              You'll also use the curing salt for bacon or maybe ham or maybe pastrami! (it won't go to waste)

              Once you get the Italian sausage down pat (my favorite as well) snoop around the net or check out Great Sausage Making and Meat Curing
              http://www.sausagemaker.com/index.asp...

              Basic techniques are the same (grind meat(s), season, stuff) but the sky is the limit to sausage types and recipes!

              1. re: porker

                I do want to make links, and have selected a sausage stuffer contraption to help me. I even have the natural casings in my fridge, given to me by my local shop. However, cash is a little tight right now, so I need to wait a bit before purchasing the stuffer. My basement is quite cool in the winter. Well, it borders on frigid actually.

                As to the ingredients, I had all of them on hand already. If I didn't, the cost of buying a container of each spice would have been prohibitive!

                Love the idea of melding flavors before freezing. Will try that with my next batch.

                1. re: smtucker

                  Can't you simply get a funnel which attaches to your grinder? Not sure what kind of grinder you have, but it can usually double as a stuffer by replacing the plate and knife with a simple (sized) funnel tube.
                  Also, its much easier if you have two people to do the suffing. One to handle the sausage as it fills, out of the funnel, and another to constantly feed the machine (and crank if its hand held).
                  I also form the ground meat into 2 inch balls on the table next to the stuffer. Makes feeding the machine easier.

            2. Merguez pg 129

              Ruhlman calls this a "spicy sausage with North African roots." We found the spicy to be in the medium range, not wildly hot. Enough to be noticed, not so bad that you will fly through glasses of water. Though the recipe called for sheep casings, I used natural hog. Next time I might increase the amount of paprika and hot peppers just to see how that tastes.

              For the first time, I stuffed sausages! Not as difficult as I had feared. Since I have a KitchenAid, I took the advice freely given all of the web and had an extra set of hands to help. By holding up the catching pan, the casing didn't want to pull off the nozzle.

              Couple of issues. I was disappointed by the amount of sausage that didn't feed at the very end. I dug out about a quarter cup of sausage after the extruder stopped pushing the meat through. Of course, I saved this, and will throw it into a soup or some beans.

              These casings were a gift. Where should I be looking for more?

              12 Replies
              1. re: smtucker

                Butcher and Packer in MI sells them online pretty cheaply. For Merguez, I'd use a slimmer casing--they benefit from a shorter cooking time--that's why the recipe called for sheep casing...

                1. re: hankstramm

                  Thanks for the butcher & packer tip. I don't understand what you are saying about the sheep casing though. Is it that you don't need to cook to pork temperatures, that the sausage should be skinny? Since Ruhlman includes pork fat as an ingredient in the sausage, I assumed that I needed to reach a certain temperature for fully cooked pork.

                  Still learning....

                  1. re: smtucker

                    Sheep casings are narrower since the intestines of sheep are narrower than those of the pig. When you cook a thin sausage, it takes less time to cook than a fat one. Merguez, being lamb, you can cook it a little less than say, chicken sausage. As for the pork fat, not really a worry.

                  2. re: hankstramm

                    actually the sheep casings are traditional because merguez sausages are traditionally halal-- so, no pork products allowed. ruhlman's recipe, containing pork fat, would obviously take the sausage into non-halal territory already, so, anything goes i guess.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      I thought that might be the case, but not an issue for me. Absolutely delicious, if not traditional.

                  3. re: smtucker

                    From your profile and posts, I see that you're from the Somerville, Mass. area. My son gets his casings at the Somerville Market Basket. He soaks them for a short time before using.If you need more local info, let me know and I'll ask him.

                    I'm hoping to try out the meat grinder/sausage stuffer he gave me for my birthday soon using those casings, so this thread is really helpful.

                    1. re: bear

                      Oh, that is totally my go-to market! Thank you so much.

                      And grind away..... the results are so much better. We just finished eating the Merguez sausage. Cooked slowly to keep the tenderness, served with sauteed broccoli rabe and some cous cous. Like nothing you can buy commercially.

                      1. re: smtucker

                        Mmmm...can't wait to try the Merguez, and so much more. Even though I'm stuffed full, my mouth is watering!

                    2. re: smtucker

                      My casings are bought at a nearby italian market. They're in salt and have to be rinsed before using. I like cutting them in about 3' lengths.
                      I make sausage maybe every 3 months or so and I've used casings that were left over from a last batch, still in salt. They weren't bad, but I didn't like their final texture when cooked. So I only buy casings when I'm going to make.
                      The market sells sheep casings, but never in the showcase, the butcher gets it from the back. It's never salted, but rather fresh. I don't know why.
                      Besides merguez, this smaller casing is nice for breakfast sausage.

                      I generally use the meat from a whole pork leg. A trick my friend showed me was to save some of the gristle, silverskin, and tendon (removing as much as you can). When you get to the end of the stuffing, drop this into the feed tube. This waste pushes the last of the meat through the stuffer. Just gotta be careful not to make a gristle/silverskin/tendon sausage.

                      I also like to lube the nozzle with a bit of vegetable oil. Makes sliding the casings on and off smooooth.

                      "...just to see how it tastes." - you hit it on the head. Thats one of the beauties of making your own, adjusting and experimenting to get something that your REALLY like. Hotter, milder, spicier, more (or less) fennel, etc etc. Recipes can be good guide, then tweak for likes and dislikes.
                      Making seasoning notes also helps me keep track of what I did.

                      1. re: smtucker

                        A nice tip from Thomas Keller. Run a bit of plastic wrap through your kitchenaid grinder. It will force that last bit of meat through without being caught up in the blade. This has alway worked well for me.

                        1. re: xcatlkd

                          That was a break through for me to. Just use a large piece of plastic wrap and put it in slowly and let the worm do its work...

                          1. re: hankstramm

                            Wow - what an idea. How big is a "large" piece?

                      2. Chicken Sausage with Basil and Tomatoes, pg 124

                        Another foray into the land of grinding and stuffing. And a very successful foray I must say. The recipe calls for fresh roma tomatoes, but I used some Marzano canned since tomatoes are not in season. The other substitution I made was for the fresh basil. Right now basil in little tiny plastic containers is wildly expensive, but my freezer is full of pesto made from last summer's garden with no cheese. So I added five tablespoons and then reduced the amount of olive oil later on. The actual stuffing process resulted in much "neater" links this time as well. Even a little experience resulted in a more uniform diameter.

                        This stuff is good. Tastes better than any chicken sausage I have ever had.

                        I chose to deboned the thighs myself saving 100% over the pre-boned thighs, and the bones turned into a lovely stock. Our freezer is now full of sausage, so it will be a few months before I make more.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: smtucker

                          A friend suggested freezing fresh basil, which we now do. We buy basil by the huge bunch load in the fall for about $2/each, clip the leaves and put in freezer bags. They turn black, but are still great good throughout the winter in sauces, sandwiches, whatever.

                          I've made basic italian chicken sausages, but the basil and tomato sounds interesting!

                        2. Pastrami

                          The week before Easter, I saw the most perfect brisket and on the spur of the moment, decided that I had to bring it home with me. In the past, I have used the pickling spice mix from Penzey's but find it too sweet. So, I started by making his pickling spice mixture. I then created the brine as instructed, let it cool, and put the meat in to brine.

                          The weather was awful on day 4-6, so the brisket was in the brine for 7 days. To smoke, we used a charcoal chimney with the smoker box set on the top. The meat was placed to the side. We were able to smoke for a full hour before the meat reached the 150º target. Lots of smoke.

                          I then used a roasting pan, with rack to steam the meat in the oven for three hours.

                          I had turned to the Bread Baker's Apprentice to make some Kaiser Rolls. I didn't want to "ruin" the brisket with squishy white rolls. A night of sponge fermenting, and then a day of creating the dough, several rises, and twisting the dough into Kaiser shapes.

                          Served with a tangy German-style mustard. OMG! Perfection. This was my NYC childhood on a roll. The next day, I made Pastrami Reubens. [Yes, I am away that there really isn't such a beast, but I wanted sauerkraut.] Again, eureka!

                          Still have half the pastrami left, so my childhood should be expanded for a few more days. One less reason to go to NYC on a regular basis.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: smtucker

                            I've had leftover montreal smoked meat and made a chunky hash with boiled potato pieces. In a teflon pan with butter and repeated mixing&flipping until crisped. Very tasty.