I’ve gone meat mad!
In the real world I work with children with Autism. For any of you who knows anyone with Autism you will know that many people with Autism have similar personality traits. People with Autism tend to have a special interest; they often like to stick to a routine; their special interest is often a large part of their life; once they’ve started something it can be difficult to stop; they are often sticklers for rules. Sometimes I think there is a bit of Autism in all of us, and this Charcutepalooza challenge is certainly bringing out my Autism.
I have had a special interest in cooking for many years now, but more recently it has gotten to the stage whereby I can’t walk past a bookshop without looking at the cookbooks, and more often than not I end up buying one. When I started cooking, it was out of necessity, I had a new husband whom I had to feed when he arrived home from work, but once I got over the first few disasters I actually realised I quite enjoyed it. The more I cooked the better I became and the better I became the more I wanted to challenge myself. Having been given the best Christmas present EVER in 2009 (a food mixer with grinding and sausage stuffing attachments) and finding myself spending more time than is perhaps healthy reading a sausage making internet forum; charcuterie was the natural, next step.
Most sensible people undertaking this challenge (Charcutepalooza) would probably find making one cured meat product a month sufficient, but not me. Once I get an idea in my head I kind of get a little obsessed and one project turns into two, then three, then four. Thankfully with charcuterie each recipe is very different, and although I started four projects all on the same weekend, they were all completed at very different times, so the influx of meat was staggered.
I’ve already reported on the bacon, duck prosciutto and kangaroo prosciutto, but at the same time I also embarked on some pancetta, beef bresaola and kangaroo bresaola. I went off to Eveleigh Markets for the pork belly, and I found an awesome producer, but because it is essentially a farmers market you can only have what they’ve bought with them that day, and on that day their largest piece of pork belly was a kilo. They did try and sell me two bits to make up the 2.25kg I wanted, but I had to point out that two halves does not make a whole in this case. To compensate I also bought a piece from the supermarket and did a bit of a taste test and I’m not sure why I ever thought otherwise, but there really was a big difference in taste and texture with the organic, rare breed pork compared to the supermarket pork. I know the world talks about the importance of this, particularly in the world of charcuterie, but sorry guys, I had to try and test it for myself, and now I’ve done it, I’m converted.
Those of you who follow me on twitter will also know I had the same dramas with the beef for the bresaola. I spent $50 on the best piece of beef I could source from Eveleigh Markets, however, when I got it home I realised it was far fattier and sinewy than is ideal for bresaola. I tweeted my dilemma, and was reassured that bresaola is fairly straight forward, so I trimmed it to within an inch of its life at set to work on the cure. It has since also produced a dinner of stroganoff and a small roast, so it was $50 well spent. I also couldn’t resist testing it against a more appropriate cut of supermarket beef and a piece of kangaroo.
For the bresaola, the rare breed beef out shone the supermarket beef by miles, but I think the kangaroo bresaola was the quiet achiever. The intense, gamey flavour of the kangaroo was enhanced by the dry cure and the only mark it had against it was there just wasn’t enough. I desperately need to find somewhere that sells larger chunks of ‘roo.
So all in all the Charcutepalooza challenge is feeding my Autism nicely. I have a deadline to produce my meat by each month – I like to stick to a routine. I’m a stickler for the rules – my post will not be published a second earlier or a second later than the 15th of the month. I have a new cookbook, which entices me to cook more than just the monthly challenges.
And “What does one do with all this meat?” I hear you cry. Well, we’ve eaten very well over the last few weeks and here is a run down of a few of the dishes:
I couldn’t resist eating the kangaroo bresaola just as it is, but it was also sampled with rocket and shaved parmesan.
The pancetta has been served in many pasta dishes, including a summery carbonara. The usual recipe with peas and lemon zest added.
The bresaola was served simply with rocket and manchego – superb.
Pancetta sliced and wrapped around a fillet of beef and porcini.
The pancetta worked well as a stuffing for an Italian style lamb roast.
And also enhanced the roast poussin