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!

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Porchetta di Testa

Porchetta di Testa

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend/Little Chef Claire swung by our local favorite Di Brunos to pick me up a little treat. She didn’t know what she was going to get me, but she knew that she wanted to pick up something amazing.

She asked our usual clerk for a recommendation; knowing my fondness for organ meat and the noble swine he picked a combination of Porchetta di Desta and Pecorino Romano. Claire picked up just enough for a few sandwiches and surprised me on an already lazy day off.

The porchetta was delicious; fatty, salty and full of texture. Tongue, cheek, ears, snout, meat and fat…. Offalgood.com describes it perfectly: “Translation a pigs head that is boned out then marinated for 2 days with rosemary and garlic rolled and tied then braised for 14 hours in a sous vide bag at 200 degrees to keep it all together.”

And made a few blocks from our house? Great choice.

Thick cut sourdough bread, honey mustard, cheese and meat. Lightly grilled with a pinch of milled garlic on the crust and it made for a very welcome lunch. That’s why she’s my little Chef!