It's the 15th of May, and you all know what comes on the 15th, right? It's this month's Charcutepalooza challenge, which happens to be grinding. Now, we're also going to make this a local affair as well, so stay with me here. Grinding meat is the start of making your own sausage. Well, technically it is making sausage, you're just not stuffing it quite yet. I'm feeling a whole lot of possible jokes here, but let's just bypass the 6th grade humor and move on, shall we?
We are making chorizo today, that spicy Mexican sausage that can spice up everything from pasta to scrambled eggs. Foraying your way into home sausage making, meat curing, grinding, etc. is one of the ultimate ways to stay local and homemade. You control what goes into your food, not some processing plant in Iowa. You've got to play by the rules and stay safe, however. You want to chill all your tools, your food processor (or grinder parts) blades, bowls, and you want to have your mise en place all set up. In other words, make sure all your ingredients are measured out and all set to dump in, you're going to work quickly.
You want to source out fresh, antibiotic and hormone-free, local pork for this event. I'm lucky enough to have the kind folks at Kellie Brook Farm in Greenland, NH nearby. I ordered up 4 pounds of pork butt from Tim, who was nice enough to drop it off at my local farm. They're also at the Newburyport Farmers' Market every Sunday. I'm lucky, I know. You want to make 1-inch cubes out of that pork, keep the fat with it, you need it. Once you've cubed it up, chill it. The colder you keep everything involved, the safer you are.
Now, I used my food processor to grind the pork. It's a great method, and you can find out more about it from Cathy over at Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen. There's a funny story here, however. I did purchase the meat grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer. I was thrilled, I've always wanted it. So, it came in the mail, I looked through it, but obviously not close enough. Last night, I pulled it all out to clean and put into the freezer and I noticed there was no blade. No blade, means no grinding. So, while I sort this all out with Amazon, I improvised with the food processor. Honestly, it worked absolutely great.
Chorizo is fabulous. It crumbles beautifully and browns up perfect. A lot goes into this, from various chiles to tequila to fresh oregano. I'm not sharing the exact recipe (against our Charcutepalooza rules), but it's a mash up of Michael Ruhlman's version in his book Charcuterie (the Charcutepalooza bible) and Cathy's version, which you can find here. I liked Cathy's idea of using whole dried chiles and I couldn't pass up Ruhlman's use of tequila.
The Lighter Side of Local, Week 3 - Sourcing Local Meat
I thought this would be a great time to chat about sourcing local meat, since it was used in his chorizo and in this recipe that follows. If you're unsure of where to start your search, ask around at your local farmers' market or farm. Often produce farmers have partnerships with those who raise cattle or pigs. Local meat has so many advantages. You know where it grazes and roams, it's fresher, and you can question the people who raise the animals. Find out what they eat; for many people, eating grass-fed beef is important because of quality and taste. Where do they live on the farm, how are they treated, are big questions for me. You probably also want to ask if the meat is organic or if any antibiotics or hormones are used (most local farms do not). It's a good idea to inquire about their processing methods. Ask if the animals butchered and processed on site (sometimes), or are they sent to a USDA processing plant (more common), and then sent back for furthering butchering at the farm before being sold to you.
I'm telling you this. Yes, it's more expensive. I'm lucky enough to have a local farm who sells something like grass-fed ground beef for maybe $2 a pound more than my grocery store, but I know not everyone is so lucky. Here's a secret though, the quality and taste is so good, you can use less of it. Less meat is better for your wallet, and it's better for your health.
What I picked up this week (let's include the local meat this week, shall we?)
4.75 pounds pork butt - $17.65 (yielded 3 pounds chorizo, I could have made various sausages or even roasted or braised half of that roast)
1 bunch leeks
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch rainbow chard (greens were a deal from Arrowhead Farm in Newburyport, 3 for $10)
3 pounds red potatoes - $4.50
Plans for meals this week include chorizo with pasta with beans, and corn frozen when it was fresh. A potato and leek soup is also on the menu as well as a quiche made with the spinach and the chard.
Arepas are made of ground corn flour, popular in Columbia and Venezuela. They're a corn griddle cake that can be filled or topped with cheese, eggs, meat, pretty much whatever you want. You'll need to find Masarepa (pre-cooked white or yellow corn flour) in order to make them. Goya makes a version that I found at my local supermarket. It's fairly easy to find. They're tasty, especially when filled with some kind of cheese, and they happen to be perfect topped with chorizo.
Spring Chorizo Arepas
2 cups masarepa
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups warm water
butter for grilling
1 1/2 cups chopped kale
1 1/2 cups chopped rainbow chard
1/2 pound chorizo
1/2 cup chopped garlic greens (or 3 cloves regular garlic)
1 cup sliced radishes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipolte chile powder (or regular or Mexican chile powder)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 avocado, sliced
queso fresco (Mexican white cheese, farmer's cheese would be similar)
First, let's make the arepas. In large bowl, combine masarepa, water, and salt and stir until combined. Allow to sit for five minutes. While you're allowing it to rest, heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat, melting enough butter to grill the cakes you're about to make. Now, form 8 small balls of the mixture, pressing each down until they make a 4-5 inch tortilla, about 1/2 an inch thick. Grill each until golden on each side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Now, get your water boiling in a large saucepan. While that's happening, fill an ice bath in a large bowl and set aside. Once your water is boiling, add kale and rainbow chard, cooking about 2 minutes before you fish it out with a slotted spoon or strainer, plunging it into the ice bath. Drain and set aside.
Begin to brown your chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat. You want it to get nice and browned, very crumbly. Once it gets to that point, transfer it to a paper-towel lined plate, cover with foil and set aside.
In that same skillet with the fat from the chorizo, add your garlic greens, radishes, kale, chard and all of your spices. Cook for 7-8 minutes until the radishes are tender.
Finally, you want to assemble these babies. Take your arepas, top with greens mixture, chorizo, queso fresco, and then top with the slices of avocado. Serve and enjoy!