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Charcutepalooza Project #5 – Grinding

May 15, 2011

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!

Cheers,

Vivek

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2011 6:37 PM

    The sausage looks fantastic and I think a tandoori chicken sausage sounds divine!

  2. May 15, 2011 8:16 PM

    What a coinsidence -making sausage is on my to do list for this summer. I’m going to get that attachment this week. My mom had a grinder and used it for years. I could kick myself for not bringing it to Nashville.

    P.S I’m pretty sure I law lamb shoulder at Whole Foods in Franklin ( maybe Publix too).

    • May 15, 2011 8:34 PM

      Ooh..good to know about lamb shoulder in Franklin – I rarely venture that way! Good seeing you today, as well, Janet!

  3. May 16, 2011 2:56 PM

    My my, you do have a talent for plating. Or do you have a style assistant?

    • May 16, 2011 3:13 PM

      Thank you!! No style assistant, I just watch too much Top Chef🙂

  4. May 16, 2011 4:55 PM

    I’d like to go ahead and cast my vote for the tandoori chicken sausage now. I’d love to see how it turns out.

    Also, the photos on the pancetta wrapped pork are outstanding.

  5. May 16, 2011 5:23 PM

    Yet again, I am amazed!

  6. May 16, 2011 6:23 PM

    vivek, is this the same merguez that we had at supper club? if so, i can vouch that it is insanely delicious! i have the same attachment for my kitchenaid mixer + love it. you can really make some wonderfully tender meatballs, sausages, etc. with its help. thanks for the recipe!

    • May 16, 2011 7:09 PM

      It is the same, except these pieces were not put in casings.

  7. May 17, 2011 11:50 AM

    man, whoever edited these photos must be some sort of genius!

Trackbacks

  1. Charcutepalooza Project #12 – The Grand Finale « Vivek's Epicurean Adventures

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