DIY charcuterie is, admittedly, not something every home cook is dying to tackle. On top of the fact that there is equipment to buy and meat to source, there is something magical about well-made sausages, terrines, and confits that makes them seem out of reach for the average kitchen weekend warrior. With the arrival of their new cookbook, In the Charcuterie, Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller, the acclaimed husband-and-wife duo from the Fatted Calf Charcuterie, aim to change that perception.
Boetticher and Miller’s book is at once a glossy showpiece, a culinary reference, and a hands-on cookbook. Like most cookbooks coming out of Ten Speed Press, it is beautifully designed and photographed; in addition, it is hard to flip through a few pages without learning something. “We wanted it to be, you know, a good reference point for people’s culinary adventures and for it to be...a way of thinking about food and how certain flavors work together,” said Boetticher.
Boetticher and Miller started the Fatted Calf back in 2003. At first, their charcuterie operation was small-scale and focused only on selling at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers' Market. Each worked part-time jobs—Boetticher at Lanesplitter Pizza in West Berkeley and Miller at Stonehouse Olive Oil in the Ferry Plaza—to support their fledgling business. Once they were admitted into the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, their business really picked up and they decided it was time to open a brick-and-mortar shop.
The pair knew they wanted to stay within a public market context. The Ferry Building was all booked up, but there was an opening at the newly emerging Oxbow Public Market in Napa. It was a “huge life change” but in the end, Boetticher said, it was the right move. The Fatted Calf store opened up at the end of January 2008, just in time for the stock market to tumble. “In hindsight, it made me stronger, but at the time it was absolutely terrifying,” he said.
Despite the hard opening, Boetticher and Miller’s store has proven to be wildly successful. Right around the time that they were opening up their Hayes Valley store, the pair started talking to Ten Speed about putting together a cookbook. “At this point we had developed enough recipes, we worked with enough good vendors, and we also had enough really good staff working with us that we would be able to step away for a day or so a week,” Boetticher said. “It was something that Toponia and I had wanted to do for a long time. We didn’t know what it was going to be [yet], but after making charcuterie for this amount of time, it seemed to make sense.”
Luckily, they had found a good team over at Ten Speed that was willing to let Boetticher and Miller shape an untraditional meat cookbook. Despite the fact that there are close to 40 pages detailing the precise method for breaking down cows, pigs, goats, lambs, rabbits, ducks, and chickens, In the Charcuterie is not a particularly masculine book. As Boetticher explained, “We didn’t want it to be a dude food, ‘Let's throw a ton of animals on the fire’ kind of thing. We wanted it to have a little bit more of a refined sensibility.”
The book, like the philosophy of the shop itself, strays away from the more modernist trends in cooking. Immersion circulators, Vitamixes, and PacoJets are not required. Instead, the recipes blend classic French technique with updated flavors.
This emphasis on traditional methods helps to keep the book accessible. Yes, some recipes, like the headcheese or blood sausage, require a great deal of work and many days of commitment. However, many of the others (like the recipes featured below) require little more than a knife, some string, and patience. Natural kitchen skills are not necessarily required. To the Fatted Calf duo, making charcuterie is “more about preparation and planning than it is about raw talent or being a natural genius at something. It’s a lot more important than having a natural palate or having a good touch with a boning knife.”
In addition, the two clearly recognize that great charcuterie takes practice. The recipes are written in great detail, with encouragement and experimentation in mind. Boetticher noted, “One of the things we try to hammer home a lot is that these things take practice, and not to get discouraged if your first efforts don’t go the way you intended them to. But also that if you pay attention and you take the time you need and you don’t take shortcuts, then your food will be phenomenal.”
But what of those complex terrines and fermented sausages, you ask? How can an ordinary home cook tackle projects that large? Boetticher recommends a charcuterie party.
“Because [charcuterie] is pretty labor intensive, it’s [a good thing] to do with friends or with family, whether it’s making a two pound batch of sausage or cutting up a whole hog for the freezer. It really fosters a sense of community.”
Saturday September 21, 3pm (Free)
Book signing at Omnivore Books, 3885a Cesar Chavez St., San Francisco, CA 94131
Sunday September 22, 11am ($50 with copy of book, $35 without book)
Tasting and book signing at Robert Sinskey Vineyards, 6320 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
Recipe: Pork Shoulder Pot Roast Stuffed with Garlic, Greens, and Walnuts
Chock-full of greens, this simple pork shoulder pot roast, made with Boston butt, makes a nourishing and comforting supper. Abundant, leafy Swiss chard tends to be available year-round and is the standard for this stuffing, but it is equally good made with spinach, mustard, kale, or other seasonal greens.
Serves 8 to 10
- 1 whole boneless, skinless pork Boston butt, about 8 pounds (3.6 kg)
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 bunches Swiss chard or other leafy greens, stemmed
- 10 cloves garlic, sliced paper-thin
- 3/4 cup (85 g) chopped toasted walnuts
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) pork, chicken, or duck broth
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) cups dry red wine
- One day in advance of cooking, season and ready the roast for stuffing. First, make the pocket for the stuffing by making a horizontal cut through the middle of the roast, following the seam where the bone was removed. Leave one of the four edges completely intact. Open the roast like a book. Season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Close the book, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow it to temper for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the chard leaves and blanch for about 2 minutes. Drain and let cool, then squeeze out any excess water. Chop the chard coarsely.
- Open the pork shoulder like a book, with the intact edge on your left. Arrange the chard in the center of the roast in a neat layer, leaving a 1-inch (2.5 cm) border uncovered surrounding it. Distribute the garlic evenly over the chard, followed by the walnuts. Fold the top part of the roast over the stuffing and tie tightly with butcher’s twine in three places, spacing the loops evenly and reinforcing the book shape.
- Outfit a large braiser with a rack. Place the pork shoulder, fatty side facing up, on the rack. (If you don’t have a rack that fits your pot, halve a few leeks lengthwise, place them on the bottom of the pot, and put the roast on the leeks; they will support the roast nicely during cooking.)
- Transfer the pot to the oven and roast for about 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully pour off the rendered fat. Reserve these pan drippings for another use. Add the broth and wine to the pot and return it to the oven. Turn down the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C) and continue to cook, basting the roast every 30 minutes, for about 21/2 hours. The roast is ready when it is a rich golden brown, fork-tender, and a bit wobbly.
- Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let it rest for 20 minutes. Snip the twine and cut the roast into thick slices. Bathe each serving with a spoonful of the cooking juices.
Recipe: Lamb Rib Chops with Ras el Hanout
Ras el hanout is a classic North African spice blend. Loosely translated it means “head of the shop,” symbolizing the best the spice merchant has to offer. Traditionally, the blend contains a panorama of different spices, usually about twenty but sometimes many more, and each merchant has his or her own recipe. Although we generally advocate toasting and grinding your own spices, we love the perfectly balanced blend available from our neighbors at Whole Spice in Napa. In their version, allspice, bay leaf, black pepper, white pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, chile, clove, cumin, ginger, mace, nutmeg, saffron, rosebuds, and more are carefully combined and ground to produce a truly aromatic mix perfect for seasoning lamb.
- Season the lamb chops on both sides with salt.
- In a large, shallow bowl, combine the garlic, bay, orange rind, and olive oil and mix well. Add the lamb chops to the bowl and turn as needed to coat evenly. Sprinkle the ras el hanout over the lamb chops and again turn as needed to coat evenly.
- To grill the chops, prepare a medium-hot fire for direct-heat grilling in a charcoal grill. Place the chops on the grill grate directly over the coals and grill, turning them once, for about 2 minutes on each side for rare or about 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare to medium. Serve at once.
- Alternatively, to cook on the stove top, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chops and cook, turning often, for about 5 to 7 minutes total. Serve at once.
Recipes reprinted with permission from In the Charcuterie by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller, copyright (c) 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.