Charcutepalooza Project #5 – Grinding
This past month, Charcutepaloozians from across the world have been purchasing large cuts of meat, grinding them down, and adding flavors to make delectable sausages, patties, and meatballs. Of all the challenges so far, besides making my own bacon, I have to say I was really looking forward to this.
Grinding your own meat yields amazing quality. Most of the time when you buy ground meat at the store, chances are that you are eating the trimmings of multiple cuts, and sometimes multiple cows. Don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound too appetizing to me. When you buy a big roast, say a pork shoulder or beef brisket, and grind it yourself, you can exert quality control over the animal and the specific muscle. You know where your meat comes from and you can grind it fresh. That’s pretty good if you are interested in knowing where your food comes from – and if you are a reader of this blog, I’m pretty sure you lean in that direction.
Once the challenge was posted, I quickly purchased a meat grinder attachment to my KitchenAid mixer off Amazon. I wanted to make some merguez sausage – a delicious combination of lamb, roasted red peppers, and North African spices. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to find lamb shoulder in a grocery store in Nashville. Lucky for me, I ran into Chef Jeremy Barlow (of one of my favorite restaurants – Tayst) at the Nashville Scene‘s Iron Fork competition. We got to talking and he told me about how he had just butchered 3 whole lambs that morning. I asked him if I could snag a shoulder and he was more than happy to share the wealth. Once I applied some of my limited butchery knowledge, I broke down the lamb shoulder and got ready to make some sausage!
I really love grilled sausage, so I shaped them into small kabobs and grilled them until they were nicely charred and cooked through. By the way, according to Ruhlman, you should cook your sausages to exactly 150 degrees – that is the perfect temperature where the meat and fat come together in perfect meat harmony. I used a probe thermometer and it resulted in perfect sausage after perfect sausage!
To serve, I decided to keep it simple and make some lettuce wraps. I had some amazing butter lettuce (which is awesome for wraps) and then added some sliced onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The sauce is harissa, which is made from roasted red bell peppers, echoing the flavors in the merguez. It was a perfect combination and a great summer dinner.
But grinding isn’t just for sausage – it’s also for making your hamburgers, or your own custom blend for bolognese sauce, or even meatballs! The possibilities are endless – but what is key is that now you can know exactly where it comes from and season it to your liking. Every cook/chef loves control over flavors and trust me when I tell you that when you do it your way, it blows all those supermarket products away. You’ll never go back!
For me, this is just the first in a lot of future kitchen endeavors requiring grinding. Next month’s challenge is to make stuffed sausages (which I can’t wait to make!) And I’m really excited, because right in the heat of summer, this is the food that I want to grill. And I think we can start playing with some really awesome combinations – I’m already thinking about making a tandoori chicken sausage – how cool would that be?!
Until then, happy grinding, Charcutepalooza!