Thursday, June 24, 2010

Getting There

Moving isn't any fun. The process is nearly over, moving trucks picking up in Iowa City June 30 and dropping off in Decorah on July 1. In better, and more germane news, the pig (and it's chest freezer) got dropped off at the new house yesterday. Maybe when we get up there and settled I can share what little piggy happenings have gone down in the last couple months. The one I'm most happy with is the panghetta (ghetto + pancetta = panghetta.) More on that in a little while, just wanted to check in and show my face.

I also wanted to share a quote to live by from my favorite wine importer, Joe Dressner, talking about natural wine:

"Getting smashed, eating well, and laughing with good friends are key to our movement."



Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Guanciale

Guanciale. Face bacon. It's one of those things that used to only be available in Italy. Thankfully, I live in Iowa. Pig-riddled Iowa. Even more important than the number of pigs in my state, is the existance of La Quercia. The classic Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Charcoal Maker's Spaghetti) is probably the most famous dish that features guanciale. Now the logistics of a move and buying and selling of houses has kept me from doing the pork-related experimentation I've planned, but in the meantime, I had a pound of guanciale in the fridge begging to be used. So carbonara it is. I more or less followed Lynn Rosetto-Kasper's Italian Country Table recipe. First, I sliced the guanciale into roughly 1/8" inch slices and then tried to cut them crosswise into 1/4" inch pieces. Fry these up in a little olive oil on medium heat until they start to get crispy, then pull them off the heat and cover them.

Meanwhile, fire up a pot of water to boil the pasta. Crack 4 eggs into a bowl, season them with some salt and pepper. I got these eggs from my coworker Carey, and they have these beautiful dark yolks, the kind of dark yolks that only come from chickens that spend time outside. Blend in a little grated pecorino romano cheese with the eggs.

Just before the pasta is done pull out about 1/4 c of pasta water and add it to the reserved guanciale and return it to medium-low heat. Drain the pasta and add it to the guanciale and begin to stir the mixture. Turn off the heat and stir in the egg/cheese mixture until the eggs are set. Season with salt (if necessary) and lots of black pepper. At the table stir in more pecorino romano.

The verdict? Delicious. Decadent, but worth it. The kids loved it. Isaac awarding it an arbitrary (and so very Parker-y) 25 thumbs up. Speaking of wine, our wine for the evening was a rather soft and unassuming Cotes du Rhone from La Grange de Piauger. I'm no great lover of grenache, but the softness worked nicely with the pasta. As for my opinion of the pasta I loved it. It was bright, ther herbal character of the guanciale shone through and the mouthfeel was unctuous and wonderful. Apparently texture is one of the reasons that guanciale is key to carbonara. There is much more collagen in guanciale than in pork belly, and this lends a silky texture to the pasta. Wonderful. Next time I make this I hope to do it with my own guanciale.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


No, I haven't given up on this whole thing. Things have gotten in the way. Awesome, fantastic, life-changing sort of things. My wife got an academic job 2 hours from Iowa City, in lovely Decorah, IA. In the meantime we've sold a house, bought a house, had our (sold) house go back on the market due to a rescinded offer. All kinds of awesome things. I haven't been able to do any of the porky experimentation I wanted to, but soon, soon I should be able to get back to it. And when I do, I'll be blogging about it.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pig Day, Part 1

Pig day, as a coincedence, happened to also be my wife's birthday. She was in Wisconsin on a job interview, and wouldn't be back until early evening. My kids were at their Grandparents house. So I woke up, made my homemade pizza dough recipe, prepping for dinner, and got ready to go pick up the pig. A nice layer of fresh snow had covered most of eastern Iowa, so I was going to have a beautiful drive. As I was pulling out of Iowa City, I pulled behind a car displaying a bumper sticker that seemed quite appropriate.

As to "know your farmer" was really the main motivating factor in buying the pig. Sure it's economical, sure I want to make sausagey experiments, but I wanted to know more about the source of my foods. The pig that I am cooking (as much as I can of, except for head cheese, next time my friends, next time) was raised in a humane fashion by farmers that live 20 minutes from my house. Farmers named Lois and Bill.

The rest of the roughly 80 mile drive from Iowa City to Edgewood, IA was rather uneventful. The Iowa farmland and rolling hills covered in a fresh coating of dusty white snow was achingly goregous. Hazy and dreamy as I cruised by lots of rolling cornfields and Iowa farms. It went well with the dreamy Galaxie 500 I was cranking on the stereo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

1 More Day!

We are currently at P-1. 1 more day until Pig Day!

I'll sleep that Christmas eve sleep of anticpation and longing. With visions of sugar pigs dancing in my head.


That is all.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not Lazy, just waiting...

I'm not being lazy, I've just got little to blog on until I pick up my pig on Saturday. I believe that puts us at P-4. 4 days until Pig-Day!

I did make a dish for dinner this evening with Edgewood cured Lois-bacon. A simple pasta dish that I was quite happy with. I adapted a recipe in this month's Real Simple for my own devices. I fried about 4 oz of bacon, pulling it out before it got too crunchy (if it's crispy, it's overcooked!) I fried 1/3 cup sage leaves in the bacon fat for 2 minutes, then pulled it out. Then threw about a 1/2 head of cauliflower chopped into small florets into the pan with the bacon grease and a 1/4 cup of water, cooking covered for 3 minutes or so then removing the cover and cooking for another 4 or so until the cooking liquid evaporated and the cauliflower was cooked through and started to brown. Meanwhile I boiled some linguine, reserving 3/4 cup of the boiling liquid. Dumping that in with the pasta, along with a big handful of grated pecorino romano cheese, mixed it in along with the cauliflower, bacon and sage.

A pretty tasty dish. I didn't not have anything to drink with dinner tonight, though I'm currently working my way though a glass of Lopez De Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva 1998 on day 2, and even though I decanted for 2 hours yesterday before putting it back in the bottle, it was nowhere near as open and rocking as it is right now. I really wish I'd had a bit of this with dinner this evening. The perfumey-violety flavors are really singing right now, rising above the denser-tarry notes. Some of the aged-oxidative (not oxidized) notes are coming through as well. Good stuff.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pork Cut Sheet

I'm having my pig processed at the Edgewood Locker in Edgewood, IA. Here's a link to the cut sheet. The main parts of the pig are the loin, ham, belly, shoulder butt, and picnic.

I got the loin mainly cut into 3/4" bone-in chops. I got them packaged into packs of 6 chops each, which I think should be just about right, I have a family of 4 and I like to bring leftovers to work for lunch. I got a sirloin roast and prime end roast on each end of the loin.

The hams I got completely smoked and cut into 1/2" ham steaks (should be mostly close to a pound a piece.) except for 1 2-3 pound ham roast on the ends. I got the hocks smoked as well.

Shoulder butt and picnic I had packaged into 3ish pound roasts. I intend to use much of this for sausagey things, so 3 pounds a shot is a good for size sausage/salami experiments.

Now the belly, which on my pig should be I'm thinking at least in the vicinity on 10# per side, I got completely uncured. Thinking back on it, I probably did 2 things wrong. I got the bellies completely uncured and had them cut the into 1 pound pieces. I probably should have had them smoke a little bacon, because their bacon is very good, and I should have at least gotten some of the belly in slightly bigger chunks. Oh well, there's always next time.

I did have to call them back the next morning and ask them to keep the jowls separate so that I can make guacianale, and to keep the leaf lard separate.

Now the only thing I'd wished I'd done is to ask them to keep the back fat either intact or in 1-2 pound chunks.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bacon and Waiting

This past Wednesday afternoon, I got a phone call from my local purveyor of pig, Lois, telling me that the pig I had ordered was ready and on its way to the locker. Having printed out the cut sheet from the Edgewood locker website, I was more or less prepared for the questions on how I wanted my pig slaughtered and prepared. One of the things I was trying to do was to preserve as much flexibility as possible, as I don't know exactly how much sausage curing (really want to, but a bit unsure/nervous) I'll be doing. But I don't want to be limited in what I can do by how I had the pig cut. One thing I did do is got both sides of the almighty belly uncured and cut into 1 pound pieces, which I'm hoping is going to be the right size for experimenting. Early on the experimenting list is both bacon and pancetta, as they can be readily cured in the refrigerator. The pig is going to be ready on Feb 9th, but I'm not going to be able to pick it up until the 21st, so we are at P-20 days.

Since I got the phone call saying the pig was ready my mind has been racing and I've been doing plenty of pig-related reading, excited about what I'm going to be able to do when the pig arrives. So in order to appease my racing mind, this morning Kate, the boys and I went out to Mount Vernon for one of their winter farmer's markets to get some tide-me-over Pavelka Point Farm bacon. From the same kind of pig that I'm getting and cured and smoked at the very same Edgewood locker thats processing my pig. I was also able to pay Lois for my pig. So for dinner Monday night we'll be having Bucatini All' Amatricana (Lynn Rosetto-Kasper's Italian Country Table version) and I'll be thinking about the next time I'm going to be making it with my own-cured pancetta!

Friday, January 29, 2010

From the Beginning

I've been buying pork and lamb from Lois and Pavelka Point Farms at the Iowa City farmer's market for several years now, and at some point I realized I could probably save myself a little money if I were able to buy in bulk. Probably a year after figuring this out I finally talked to Lois to see if they sold half/whole pigs, at which point it took me another year to get organized enough to do anything about it. One my of my Christmas presents this year was money toward buying half a pig. After talking to Lois I determined that she did have pigs available, and that they were going to be ready within a month, I decided to go whole hog as they say and buy an entire pig. Upon her recommendation we're having it processed at Edgewood Locker, about 90 miles from Iowa City, but by all accounts worth the drive. There ends the preamble.