Sunday, December 4, 2011

Charcutepalooza 12: My swan song or we are the world

Where do I even begin? My hands are sweaty and my heart is beating fast. This is the last post. A year of meat has come to its end. I am feeling anxious and relieved and a little bit verklempt. So let me tell you a story...


I agonized about what I would make for my last Charcutepalooza dish. I really had a deli's worth of meat to work with. We have a freezer with a pig that we took from live to dead to butchered (as seen above. That is MY pig) to in our freezer to product.


Being exhausted from watching meat dry for weeks for our Charcutepalooza challenge 11 I fell asleep and started to dream of all that had passed through my kitchen.

Meat and more meat. What am I going to do? We did a cassoulet already. Wait... Do other cultures have the equivalent to a cassoulet? Why don't we take my favorite Paula Wolfert (from The Cooking of Southwest France) cassoulet recipe and translate it into a Mexican dish?


So I had seen a recipe by my favorite Mexican Cook (Rick Bayless) for Duck Leg Carnitas. Hey, if he can use duck for carnitas *I* can use Sous Vide duck leg carnitas. Easy! Here it is marinading happily.


We sealed them up with a little more duck schmaltz (you can never have too much duck schmaltz)


Dr Food rigged up his old crock pot (the schmutzy one that he had before we got married which he refuses to get rid of even though I have a pretty Cuisinart one...but I digress) with a regulator that kept the whole thing at an even temperature.


We made this ahead of time so that it would be ready when we went to make our dish.


So Thanksgiving night after I cooked dinner and guests had left, I started soaking Tarbis beans for the "Mexican Cassoulet in the Style of Toulouse" for Saturdays dinner. Yes, it takes 3 days to prepare this dish.


Meat was salted and left over night in the refrig.


We defrosted the Tasso ham that we had made.


Friday we made Chorizo. We were using Chorizo instead of Toulouse sausage. We made this batch of Chorizo very very mild. We didn't want this dish to be overboard on the Mexican spicy side. We wanted a delicate balance of French and Mexican to get the eater thinking.


Oh, yeah... in the middle of it all I made Pork Rillettes. We were making Rillette Tamales for appetizers. I made a standard Pork Rillette for this.


Meanwhile the meat was simmering away.


Gratuitous bacon shot. Yes, it went into the pot too! Our homemade bacon went into the Rillette mix.

BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE! It was 8:00PM and I had only been cooking all day when Dr. Food said "I think we should make the tamales tonight"

Janis: Noooooooooooo. I can't do anymorrrrreeeeeee.

Dr. Food: We have too much to do tomorrow. If we don't do it tonight we will be sorry.

Janis: Nooooooooo. I want to sit in my big girl chair and knit and watch Housewives of some city and eat a cookie.

Dr. Food: Lets just make them now, Janis.


So we made Masa and we had the Rillette that I spent the day simmering. We also had gotten the corn husks so we went ahead and started making tamales.


I loved these little guys. I am going to make these mini tamales with other fillings again.


Next morning we were up and cooking our hearts out. We started assembling our Mexican Cassoulet and the rest of the dinner had to be made. We started by lining our dish with a layer of pork skin which is traditional in a cassoulet and seems very Mexican foodish.


A layer of the beans and then a layer of carnitas confit.


While all of that was cooking I was making a Jicama and Cucumber Salad. I wanted something very light to go with the cassoulet.


Some cilantro and oil and lime juice and there ya have it.


Chorizo was being browned to cook the last hour in the Mexican Cassoulet.


I fried up some corn tortillas for chips. I also made salsa to eat the chips with.


We used crushed tortilla chips instead of bread on the top of the cassoulet.


The Mexican Cassoulet has been baking and now it is ready for the final touch. Yeah, like 3 days of messing with it isn't enough. It has to go one more hour.


The table was set and I had made a chili pepper/cranberry centerpiece that had served well for Thanksgiving and now this party. I am schmart.


It was down to the wire so I gussied up. I put on my Charcutepalooza apron.


We put together a Charcuterie plate that consisted of our homemade Breseola, Noix de Jambon, Fricandeaux of Madame Chapolard, and Pate de Foie with fresh pork liver, potatoes and pork belly


The platter was put out with chips and salsa as well as our homemade bluefish rillette and our pork rillette.


We put out the mini tamales.


We made up some Champagne Margaritas. Our time was up and the first of the guests arrived.


Drinks were handed out and the Charcuterie noshing began. I held my breathe. Guess what? They liked it. They liked the Breseola and the Noix de Jambon. They liked the Rillettes and the pates. They liked the Rillette Tamales. They liked it all.


Dinner was done. Here is what a years worth of cooking looks. Shut up it doesn't look like franks and beans.


I kept dessert really simple. I bought the dessert because I am not very good at making them. You mocking me? I could have told you I made it.


I had parting gifts of Rillets for my guest. They left happy.


MORAL OF THE STORY: It was a year of learning and sharing. It was about sharing food with family. It was about sharing with old friends and new friends and it was about the incredible people I met along the way. With a wistful grin that Charcutepalooza has come to an end, I leave you with these recipes.


Champagne Margarita
adapted from Rick Bayless

The finely grated zest (colored rind only) from 1 lime
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup Cointreau
1 cup silver tequila
Superfine sugar, if needed for added sweetness
1 lime, cut in half, for serving
Coarse (Kosher) salt, for serving
1 bottle Champagne or other sparkling wine

In a pitcher, combine the lime zest, lime juice, Cointreau, tequila and sugar if you are using it. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour).

Just before serving, strain the mixture to remove the zest, and pour enough salt into a saucer to cover the bottom. Rub a lime half over the rim of each champagne glass and upend into the salt to crust it lightly. Pour about 3 ounces of the tequila mixture into each glass, fill the rest of the way with Champagne or sparkling wine

Mini Pork Rillette Tamales

Masa for Tamales
2 cups MaSeCa Instant corn Masa Mix
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2/3 cup duck fat

Combine the MaSeCa masa mix, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Work in broth with your fingers to make a soft moist dough. In a small bowl beat duck fat until fluffy. Add masa and beat dough until it has a spongy texture. Prepare tamales with Rillette

Pork Rillette Filling

11 oz lard
2 1/4 white wine
2 onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
2 1/4 boneless fatty pork, diced
7 oz homemade smoked slab bacon, diced

Put the fat, white wine, onions and bay leaf in a pan and heat gently until the fat has melted. Add the meat and cook over very low heat, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat breaks up. Using a slotted spoon transfer the meat to a bowl of a food processor (discarding the herbs). Season with salt and pepper and pulse to break up meat. Do not over pulse.

1 package dried corn husks
masa (see above)
rillettes (see above)

1. Soak corn husks in water to cover for a few minutes and then rinse.
2. Spread a small amount of masa on wide end of husk (we made the mini version so we cut the husk in half)
3. Place a dollop of rillette in middle of masa.
4. Roll and fold top down.
5. Steam for 1 hour.

The leftover rillette was potted to give as gifts. We simply put rillette into small jars (pressing down well) and spoon melted lard on top to seal.

Mexican Cassoulet in the style of Toulousse

1 fresh ham hocks (it was from our pig and it was a large one)
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
6 ounces fresh pork skin with 1/4 inch of fat attached
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbl ground cumin
2 Tbl Mexican Oregano
2 pounds dried Tarbais Beans (you can substitute another white bean in here)
2 ounces homemade guanciale
1/3 cup duck fat
3 small carrots, thinly sliced
2 medium onions, diced
1 Tbl of tomato paste
5 oz Tasso Ham
8 oz homemade ventreche
1 head of garlic, unpeeled + 4 peeled garlic cloves
2 cups mexican beer
2 quarts chicken broth
Bouquet garni: 4 parsley sprigs, 3 small celery ribs, a handful of cilantro and 1 bay leaf, tied with string
Duck leg carnitas confit (recipe below)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound homemade chorizo
1/4 cup crushed homemade tortilla chips

Day 1
Put the ham hock, pork shoulder cubes and skin in a large dish; season lightly with salt and pepper and 1 Tbl cumin. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a bowl, cover the beans with 3 inches of water and soak overnight.

Day 2
In a medium saucepan, simmer the pork skin in water to cover until it is supple, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain and cool. Cut the pork skin into 5 long pieces, roll each piece into a bundle and tie with string.

Dry the ham hocks and pork shoulder cubes. In a large, enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the duck fat. Add the pork cubes and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned all over. Add the carrots and onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden. Add the ham hock, whole piece of ventreche, and tasso ham and brown a little. Add head of garlic and the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 2 quarts of the broth, the bouquet garni, pork skin bundles and bring to a boil. Cover the casserole and gently simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Drain the beans. In a large saucepan, cover the beans with water and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Simmer the beans for 3 minutes, then drain. Add the beans to the meat mixture and simmer until the beans are just tender, about 2 hours. Let cool, then refrigerate overnight.

Day 3
Remove as much of the solidified fat as you can from the surface of the meat and beans and reserve 1/4 cup of the fat. Let return to room temperature. Pick out the ham hocks, ventreche, and tasso. Cut the meat into bite size pieces; discard the bones, skin and gristle. Pick out the pork skin bundles and the head of garlic and reserve. Discard the bouquet garni.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Bring the meat and beans to a simmer. Cut the guanciale into small pieces. Squeeze the cooked garlic cloves into a food processor. Add raw garlic cloves and guanciale and and process to a smooth paste. Stir the paste into the meat and beans and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in all of the cooked and cured meats.

Meanwhile, arrange the duck confit legs in a baking dish and roast just until heated through, about 15 minutes. Remove the meat from the bones in large pieces. Cut the skin into strips. Discard the bones.

Turn the oven down to 325°. Untie and unroll the pork skin bundles. Line the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart earthenware casserole with the pork skin, fat side down. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer half of the ragout to the earthenware casserole. Top with the duck confit in an even layer, then cover with the rest of the ragout. Add the 2 cups of beer to the cooking liquid in the cast-iron casserole and season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour the liquid over the ragout and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the reserved skimmed fat. Bake the cassoulet for 1 1/2 hours.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet. Add the sausages and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over. Let cool, then cut the sausages into 3-inch pieces.

Reduce the oven temperature to 275°. Gently stir in the skin that has formed on the "cassoulet". Nestle in the sausages and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of reserved fat. Sprinkle with the tortilla chips. Bake the "cassoulet" for 1 hour longer, until browned. Transfer to a rack and let rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Duck Leg Carnitas Confit
adapted from Rick Bayless
4 Large Moulard Duck Legs
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 cups fresh, rich-tasting pork lard
8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
Crunchy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

1. Marinate the duck. Lay the duck legs in a 13 x 9-inch non-aluminum baking dish. Sprinkle with half the salt and oregano, then drizzle with half the lime juice. Flip them over and sprinkle with the remaining salt and oregano; drizzle with the remaining lime. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning a couple of times.


  1. All I can say is wow, you amaze me. Schmart indeed. Every time Murray says the word smart, he says it like that. The other day I asked him, are you really going to say that THAT way every time? He said yes. Guess I'm still marrying him :P But back to you, all this looks amazing, love the Mexican twist. I am still amazed at all this meat. 

  2. You are a beautiful charcutier & a lovely woman, and this post is fantastic! Well done, Janis. Those little tamales look scrumptious!

  3. I laughed at the pigs eye under the cooking liquid and I have tears in my eyes now. You're the best Janis!

  4. Wow, I have enjoyed following your meaty journey!  I am so impressed with your undertakings. 

  5. I wish we were neighbors! I absolutely get kntting and watching any RHO Wherever... You two are very disciplined. I'm wanting those mini tamales. Is this alllll the meat ir is there still some in the freezer? Your sous vide machine is the bomb...Dr Food is a real McGiver, congrats to you both job well done

  6. Absolutely beautiful.Reading every post you made on this journey has been fantastic. You're hilarious, so creative, and so dedicated! I wish I had made it to the end with you all, but watching you all get here has been fantastic!! Great job! :-)

  7. Janis, what a mouthwatering post! Reading you work and laughing along with you has been one of the greatest joys of charcutepalooza. You are a champion of meat!

  8. Hey, that's a lot of work! Nicely done Janis. BTW: I have the same PT Lard shirt. 

  9. Wow! Love the carnitas confit idea. What a spread!

  10. Nooooo!  Say it is not over......boohooohooohooohooo.....I can gravel.  Ppleeeaaasssseee!!!!!  Somebody save me.  Now she is talking about going vegit......oh, I can't even say it.  We need an intervention over here.  After a year of meat, now Janis is talking about eating healthy again.  I need help!  Quick, somebody come up with a way to keep this going for another year.  Come on, we have coverede mostly France and Italy, with a smattering of Spain.  What about Argentina?  How about the middle east?  Asia?  I know there is another years worth of tasty meat out there.  WHO IS WITH ME!!!!!!

    Dr. Food

  11. Um, so you remember you have a physical on Friday, right?  Lets see if you change your tune after the mean doctor yells at you.  Not only that but I am starting to look like an Oompah Loompah.  Remember what I looked like BEFORE I ate all that swine?

  12. Thanks Bob.  I love that shirt.  If anyone should own it, it is you.

  13. We have meat in the freezer but 90% of it is something we have made out of the pork.

  14. Thanks sweetie.  It has been great and I am so glad that we are friends.

  15. Murray is schmart!  That made me laugh.

  16. Utterly impressed. It has been a year of pleasure just reading about your Charcutepalooza adventure.


  17. You never cease to amaze me.  I don't know which is more spectacular, your cooking or your writing about it, but I love it all.  Thanks for the great read and the lovely recipes.

  18. Janet,
    Coming from you that is a wonderful compliment. Come visit. I will cook.

  19. Thanks so much Lynn. It has been fun.

  20. OMG - you are fab.

  21. Sharing with family...pffft barely. :-/

  22. You are so bad but always make me laugh.

  23. Hey I have that Praise the Lard Tshirt too! Fabulous effort as always, I am particularly taken with your mexican cassoulet -  but really, I'd love to try it all.

  24. What a great meal Janis! Congrats on a job well done, I will miss your charcutepalooza posts.

  25. Thanks hon. It has been a fun year!

  26. Bacon rillettes-filled tamales? Mexican cassoulet? Fucking brilliant! Wonderfully done, Janis. Seriously.

  27. Bravo! What an accomplishment. I think I've read every post along this journey as well and enjoyed it immensely. These dishes and the drink look absolutely amazing. I'm curious though; as it's come to a close, do you feel like I do when I finish a good, long I'm moving out of a neighborhood and leaving what I know? You're going to need a new palooza.

  28. Exactly. Sorta feel lost with not having the focus on a new challenge each month.

  29. Janis congratulations on being finalist! I'll be sending votes your way when your one of the last two standing! Leslie