It isn't often I walk into a restaurant kitchen and am greeted by a pig face. In fact, what greeted me at Cucina Urbana wasn't just the head but the entire broken down small pig that was the work of executive chef Joe Magnanelli and chef de cuisine of Cucina Enoteca in Newport Beach, Cesar Sarmiento.
Joe had invited me to come in while he made a batch of saucisson sec for his April Beast Feast that features pork. The dinner will feature porchetta, roast loin, bacon, headcheese, a ragu, and other dishes using almost every part of this local 130-pound Guinea Hog.
"The idea is to utilize the whole animal, to respect the animal, and not let anything go to waste," he explained.
Before getting started on the sausage, Joe spent some time working on the side of the pig, trimming one half for a roast loin and bacon. The other was for the porchetta, which he rolled up and put in the walk in.
"I want to get it below 4.9," he explained. The sausages then incubate for 24 hours in a CVap Thermalizer--a machine that controls food temperature and humidity. Joe checks them again, looking for a pH measurement below 4.0. He weighs and dates each sausage.
"Eventually you want it to weigh 30 percent less," he said.
Then he moves them into the curing chamber. Covered in a wash of bactoferm 600, the sausages develop an exterior white mold. This is important, Joe explained. "It adds a little bit of flavor, it prevents the casing from getting too dry, and protects the sausages from letting in harmful molds."
The process of making cured and fresh sausages are the same, minus the curing ingredients and curing process. Joe prepped the fat and meat, cutting them into 1-inch pieces before putting them on a tray and into the freezer until they were firm. This is hugely important. The chill keeps the protein from sticking to the grinder blades and smearing. Then he mixed together the fat and meat with the flavor ingredients--minus the wine--and began feeding them into the grinder. While he used a commercial grinder, if you have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, you can use the grinder attachment.
"The texture is the most important," he said. "You want the protein and fat to bond together into an emulsion."
Joe made me a fresh sausage to take home. His instructions were to place it uncovered on a plate in the refrigerator for a day or so until the case grew firm and tight. Then I put it in a 325-degree oven, and roasted it for 12 minutes on one side, then turned it over and continued roasting it for another 8 minutes.
Once it was cooked, I sliced some pieces and enjoyed them with mustard. The pork was sweet and just salty enough and each bite was filled with a definite flavor of wine and gentle garlic. What's next with it? Joe suggests slicing it and adding the slices to a bowl of lentils or beans. They can flavor soup or a stew. They can top a pizza or flat bread or be chopped into a tomato sauce. Or become part of a sandwich. Just enjoy it.
Joe Magnanelli's Fresh Saucisson Sec
Yield: 2 or 3 large sausages, depending on the size of the casings
4 pounds pork shoulder
1 pound pork fatback
25 grams roasted garlic
45 grams salt
7 grams finely ground black pepper
125 milliliters dry white wine
75 milliliters ice water
1. Clean the pork should of any silver skin and sinew and dice with the fatback into 1-inch pieces or what will fit into your grinder top.
2. Place the trimmed, diced meat and fatback on a tray and put in the freezer until the pieces are firm but not frozen.
3. Grind with the roasted garlic into the bowl of your Kitchen Aid.
4. Add the salt and pepper and mix using the paddle attachment on medium speed. While it's whipping, slowly add the white wine and ice water.
5. Whip for about 2 minutes or until the meat starts to have a sticky or tacky texture. When it's ready you can case the pork. If you're not going to case it, don't whip it as long after the wine is added and omit the water.
Note: If you are going to case the sausage, hog casings (scrubbed, salted pig intestines) are the best. You can find them at Sisel's or Iowa Meat Farms or ask a butcher like Heart and Trotter if they carry them. If you are in the market for a stuffer, you can buy a 5-pound sausage stuffer from Northern Tool for about $100. There are lots of videos online that demonstrate sausage stuffing technique.