Day Two of Staging at The Fatted Calf
I learned several things on day two of staging at The Fatted Calf. Here they are in no particular order:
- The knife skills I learned while cutting fish in markets during college do not apply to poultry
- I move at a glacial speed cooking at home compared to the pace a real kitchen runs at
- I am not young nor am I agile
- I do not like sticking my hands in hot meat for very long
- I will likely not eat jerky for a very long time
Above all, I realized that having just a little too much wine makes kitchen work in the morning hours a little more difficult from many standpoints. I do not recommend this approach.
What I Accomplished Today
There were some repeats from day one’s greatest hits list but mostly I focused on new tasks. Also, I realized that I did not use a knife at all on the first day. Not what I expected working in a charcuterie.
The morning began with what I expect to be a daily task by now – laying out marinated, cold smoked bottom round for the dehydrator to make jerky. I was fortunate enough to do this again later in the day. I also learned that it’s very important to make sure that there are no folds in the meat at the pieces do not dehydrate properly and stick together if there’s any surface to surface contact with the meat.
Next up, picking and finely chopping 4.5 cups total of rosemary, Italian parsley and sage. This was then incorporated into a spice blend which was used to coat the 24 picnic hams we tied yesterday.
This was followed by breaking up enough roasted pork skin to fill three sheet pans. It was then put in the oven to melt off the fat and reserved for later use.
After this, I injected brine into ~25 hocks and butt roasts with a big ass medieval looking implement. Important note – cover the spot you are injecting with your hand as it tends to splash back out and brine in the eye is not a desirable condition.
Then, it was finally time to use my boning knife on actual meat. We cut the heads and feet off several chickens which were then bagged for vacuum sealing and retail sale. Then, we moved on to breaking down ducks. It was at this point I realized I had no fucking idea how to break a duck. Fortunately, one of the cooks walked me through the process and I completed one duck in the time my partners did four. That said, there’s a first time for everything. I didn’t realize how complex the bone structure on a duck was until I learned how to do this. After I finished my lone duck I was given a cleaver and shown how to break down the skeleton for roasting. I promptly nicked my finger with the cleaver, slapped on a glove and broke down the rest of the birds without incident.
I this weren’t enough, I had the good fortune to top off about 100 4oz. jars of pork and duck rillette that we worked on filling yesterday. This was followed by cleaning another 72 jars for the next task….
Making Ciccioli which is essentially an Italian version of rillette. The major variations are in the spices. No quatre epices and no brandy. Instead, we use black pepper, dry white wine and chili flake. We also add in the aforementioned pork skin which adds body and texture to the mix. The process is the same though, cook pork in lard, remove pork from lard, pull apart steaming hot pork by hand (with double latex gloves which almost make it not hurt), add melted lard back in with wine, chili flake, black pepper and salt until volume of pork is ~doubled. Then, fill up 72 jars by hand removing tiny air bubbles with a spoon.
I have spent a good deal of time watching two dynamos churn out a veritable shitload of sausage and salumi. So far, the closest I’ve come to it has been to hang about 30 of them in the drying chamber though I have been able to ask a few questions. I’ve also observed some very cool knot tying, spinning techniques and watched them poach four or five pretty massive mortadella today.
And Now We Rest
Tonight I vow to be thankful for the pupusas with chicharrones that were made for family meal today, for comfortable footwear, and for the knowledge that there are still people that work with food who love what they do despite the difficulty of the work. I also vow to have a few fewer glasses of vino before bed tonight.
For Day 3 – click here.