Jamie Bissonnette and the new charcuterie

Jamie Bissonnette and the new charcuterie
For exceptional cured meats to make and serve at home, check out Jamie Bissonnette's 'The New Charcuterie Cookbook' (Courtesy of Page St. Publishing Co.)

James Beard Foundation award winner Jamie Bissonnette (last year's Best Chef: Northeast), who owns Coppa and Toro in Boston, has just come out with "The New Charcuterie Cookbook: Exceptional Cured Meats to Make and Serve at Home" (Page Street Publishing).

Celebrating charcuterie in all its forms, the book includes more than 100 recipes for cooked charcuterie, offal, cold cuts, cured meats and confit. In his foreword, television's Andrew Zimmern says of Bissonnette: "He can take ordinary food, even odd bits, fifth quarter stuff (the pluck, the viscera, the nasty to some) and make angels weep. That's real cooking. And it's why this book belongs stained and used, torn and beaten in the kitchen of every human being who owns a cutting board."

Wouldn't we all like to make something to make angel's weep?

"You can teach anybody how to roast a chicken or saute a piece of trout," writes Bissonnette, "but it takes a lot more finesse to take something different and make it delicious. I get satisfaction cooking the kinds of things that other people might not, and using all parts of an animal. To me, this is the essence of being a chef."
Bissonnette didn't come from a food family -- far from it. "I started cooking very young because I loved food and my mom was a terrible cook. She'd always make some kind of chop suey. As a teenager, I became a vegetarian, and my mom said that was fine, but I'd have to cook for myself. So I did."
I guess he's not a vegetarian anymore, because here are his recipes for grilled lemongrass and green curry sausages wrapped in Swiss chard leaves, his landlord and neighbor's Lebanese lamb sausages, goat merguez, and chipotle turkey meatloaf. He shows you how to cure your own slab bacon, make bologna with Vietnamese flavors for a sandwich, fill casings with stuffing to make Spanish or Mexican chorizo.
Drag out that meat grinder in the garage. Pull out that scale. Sharpen those knives and get to making charcuterie from this irreverent and inspiring book. Bissonnette makes it all look doable, whether it's rabbit and pork liverwurst, whipped pork butter with truffle and honey or beef heart pastrami. He even gets into raw-cured items such as duck prosciutto, coppa, saucisson sec -- and lardo.
I'm looking at the recipe for his chicken wings with honey and za'atar or maybe the Vietnamese fried bones (with meat attached) for next weekend. But the first thing I'm going to make is this recipe: 

Lemongrass and Green Curry Sausages

(Note: not tested by The Times' Test Kitchen)

Yield: 16 sausages

"I remember eating beetle leaf sausages on a charcoal grill street side in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam — talk about a transcending dining experience! Sweet and spicy grilled sausage in Pattaya, Thailand, were just as awesome. I combined them both for the Cochon 555 competition when I returned from that trip. Needless to say, I won."

4 oz (113 grams) palm sugar (aka jaggery), grated

4 garlic cloves, rough chopped

1 ounce (30 grams) fresh ginger root, not peeled

1 red Thai (bird's eye) chile, seeds removed and minced to a paste


3 tablespoons (45 grams) green curry paste

Kosher salt to taste

2 ounces (59 ml) fish sauce

4 ounces (113 grams) mint, picked

4 ounces (113 grams) cilantro, washed but with stems intact

4 ounces (113 grams) Thai basil, washed but with stems intact

4 ounces (113 grams) lemon grass, rough cut

10 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or frozen

4 pounds (1.5 kg) pork shoulder, deboned and diced to ½-inch pieces

1 pound (450 grams) pork fatback, diced

Canola oil

2 pounds (900 grams) Swiss chard, largest leaves possible, for wrapping sausage

Day 1

1. Use a mortar and pestle large enough to contain all the fresh ingredients except the Swiss chard. Mash the palm sugar to a paste. Add the garlic and ginger and continue mashing. Add the Thai chile, curry paste and fish sauce and continue mashing.

2. Separately, roughly chop the mint, cilantro and Thai basil. The stems from the cilantro are tasty, and the stems from the basil will add flavor and texture. Don't chop the herbs too much, as it will all be going through the grinder later.

3. In a large bowl, add the paste from the mortar, the chopped herbs, the lemon grass, the whole lime leaves and the diced meat. Mix to combine. Transfer to a nonreactive (glass or plastic) container and cover tightly. Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2

1. Set up the meat grinder, all metal parts from the freezer. Dump the mixture of meat and marinade, including any liquid in the bottom of the container, into the grinder. Grind on medium-size (¼-inch) plate into a bowl sitting on ice. Mix the meat to combine.

2. Heat up a small sauté pan with a little canola oil. Pull off a ½-inch piece of the meat mixture and fry in a saucepan, then taste for seasoning. Adjust with salt, fish sauce and sugar, as needed.

3. Rest the meat in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

4. While the sausage is chilling, cut the stem out of the Swiss chard. Cut the leaves into 4- to 5-inch squares. The cuts can be mixed, and holes are okay. Save the scraps.

5. To assemble the sausage, place a square of Swiss chard, shiny side down, on a flat surface. Form about 3 ounces (85 grams) of the sausage meat into a rough link and place the Swiss chard in the center. Wrap like a loose burrito and place in a container with  the seam side down. Repeat until all sausage meat is used. If you run out of Swiss chard, try to cobble some pieces together from the scrap. If you don't have enough, form the sausage into 3-ounce (85-gram) mini burger patties, then lay some leaf scrap on the top and bottom. (These can be served like sliders.)

6. To cook the sausages, preheat a grill or cast-iron griddle pan. Brush the grill with vegetable oil, but do not season or oil the sausages. Grill until the sausages are fully cooked. The Swiss chard will blacken and shrink, but this adds flavor.

7. Serve on hot dog rolls with pickles, kimchi and mayo, or with nuoc cham and pickled oysters. Alternatively, let cool to room temperature and serve with salad.

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