Lardo Basil Mozzarella Sausage

The best way to describe tonight’s update is “calorically irresponsible”. Basil and smoked mozzarella sausage was the intended recipe, but my search for extra fat led me to the Italian Market, where I found a freshly cured sheet of lardo. Cured with salt and seasoning, lardo is pretty much a fancy word for “pig fat”. A bit excessive for a small batch sausage, but I just couldn’t resist.

The pork I bought was pretty lean, so I knew I’d need more fat to get the 40% ratio I like for my sausages. I diced 2/3 of the lardo into cubes, most of which would be ground along with the meat, but I saved a few of the cubes to be added to the paste; little bits of salty fatty goodness to the finished sausage.

Improvisation was the word of the day since every stall in the market was out of basil; which led me to pick up a baggie of thai basil in it’s place. The taste is a little more licorice than regular basil and combined with the spice mix I made added a much different dynamic than I had originally intended.

I compensated by adding more black peppercorns and coriander seeds as well as a little red wine to the white I had chilling. Trial and error has me pretty confident when it comes to spice mixtures, so once I ran everything through a round in the mortar and I was happy with the finished mix I moved on to grating cheese, mincing garlic and tidying up the increasingly messy kitchen.

With all the the ingredients prepared (which includes popping the meat into the freezer for a few minutes to partially freeze it) and at the ready, I started soaking the pork intestines and got to the task of grinding the meat/fat. The kitcheaid makes this part go by quickly; when I first started making sausage a few years ago I did everything by hand. While the artisan aspect of handmaking sausage is appealing, it gets old after the first five hours or so. The whole process took under five minutes for four pounds of meat. I could have cut that in half if I had an extra set of (Claire’s little) hands helping.

Everything goes into the mixer at this point; the spice mixture, basil, garlic, mozzarella, ice cold wine and cubed lardo get worked into the meat, making a pretty icky paste. Once it’s all worked in it’s time for the pig intestines. I could call them “casings” but that takes some of the fun out of it. They come packed in salt and have to be rehydrated and cleaned inside and out. Which is probably the most fun part of sausage making. The casings get put on the tube, knotted at the end, and then it’s time to stuff them.

This is another step that is much easier when Claire is around. The paste for this sausage was more emulsified than most of what I’ve made in the past; mainly due to the extra fat and cheese. Stuffing took twice as long as normal and I lost patience a few times, causing me to stop, swear and have a few M&Ms. Stuff, twist, stuff, twist and then you’re done. I used two intestines, which left enough of the mixture for two sausage patties.

The “cased” sausages needed to dry for a bit, so I cooked up the patties and had lunch.

Not a bad way to spend a day off!


Sakura Mandarin

Duck Tongue

Claire and I have been trying our best to accommodate her chaotic schedule; booking time with a graduate student who also works several days a week can be a difficult task, but we do our best to find little holes in her schedule and usually end up spending the found time at one of Philadelphia’s many amazing restaurants.

We’ve passed Sakura a few times with the intention of trying it out, but when we realize how close we are to one of our standards, we pass it by with a “next time” promise which we never seemed to keep. So when we found a few hours together this past Saturday, we went for broke and headed in for a quick dinner. The location itself used to be one of my favorite Chinatown noodle houses and has changed hands and concepts several time since my last visit.

I was initially leery about Sakura because it seemed to be a hodge-podge concept; Mandarin specialties, Sushi, Noodle Soup are all offered on their menu and I worried that they’d be a little too homogenized for our taste. Turns out I was totally wrong.

The menu offered quite a few “adventurous” appetizer options including tripe, jellyfish and my appetizer this visit, cooked duck tongues. Unlike the wait staff at Chinatown’s PENANG, our waitress didn’t react when I ordered the plate of tongues; I expected a “you know that the duck tongues are duck tongues, yes?” warning. But she just took the order with a smile.

They came out in no time at all, and there I was sitting in front of a plate full of them. I dove right in, popping the tongue into my mouth and biting down. Bad call. Turns out they have either a bone or a lump of cartilage at the base of the tongue, which you have to eat around. I found the best technique was to bite off the tip of the tongue and pull the meat from the bone with your teeth. Strips the meat off fairly well though it’s a bit disconcerting at first. My only complaint was a lack of a dipping sauce. The wine they were cooked in was good, but something a little salty would have been good for dipping.

For our entrees, Claire went with a Mapo Tofu and I had the Salt Baked Squid. The tofu dish was good; very spicy and well balanced. I’m not a fan of tofu that soft, but Claire loved it. My squid was good. Salty, not overcooked and plated on shrimp puffs. Claire finished her meal off with an avocado roll. The price was decent for the amount of food we got; the service was good (she forgot Claire’s diet coke, but remembered to charge us for it) and the menu had enough interesting offerings to tempt us back for a second visit.

Sakura Mandarin.
1038 Race Street

Appetizer: 9/10
Entrees: 8/10
Price: $