The best local food and beverage information in Rhode Island. News, events, chefs, restaurants, wine, cocktails, farms, artisanal goods, the annual Eat Drink RI Festival and coming soon the Eat Drink RI Central Market.
Charcutepalooza April: Hot Smoking: tasso ham and Canadian bacon
Another month has passed and it’s time for the fourth Charcutepalooza installment. This time we’re hot smoking (with a little bit of past months’s salt curing and brining thrown in too) and we’re back to all pork using Boston Butt (shoulder) and loin cuts. Once again I turned to Persimmon Provisions for some of my meat, buying some beautifully thick, ruddy Boston Butt from them that I then sliced up into the pieces you see on the Weber grill above.
The loin came from an animal that I saw alive on a Thursday morning, and packed it’s loin (along with a ham larger than my younger daughter) into my trunk on Friday evening. I was fortunate enough to be included in the Cochon and Charcuterie Workshop given at Claddagh Farms by Neal Foley, Kate Hill and Dominique Chapolard. At the pre-workshop workshop Foley demonstrated the slaughter and dressing of two nearly 300 pound Yorkshire pigs he had raised at Claddagh Farms in Montville, Maine.
On the next day, Chapolard demonstrated butchering of these sides of pork, and while the loin pictured below is not the one that I took home (it went home with fellow Charcutepalooz-ian Janis) that is the cut that I bought. I couldn’t help but slice off a few boneless pork chops before I put the rest aside for this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge. Here’s a couple more photos from the Cochon and Charcuterie Workshop before I get into that challenge.
So the Chartcutepalooza challenge put forth for April was hot smoking, something I enjoy often with one of the ten greatest cooking devices I could own, a Weber kettle grill. I dragged my Weber out of the garage a little early this year as I don’t usually smoke during the first two weeks of April. It’s a good thing I set up a big patio umbrella alongside my Weber because all three times I’ve smoked this month it’s taken place in the rain. In addition to the tasso ham and Canadian bacon for Charcutepalooza, I also smoked some pastrami for a cooking class I taught at Blackbird Farm.
I don’t use any smoking add-ons to the Weber for hot smoking, though I am very tempted to buy the Smokenator 1000 that I’ve been reading about. Basically I hot smoke by lighting a chimney starter about half-full with lump charcoal, dumping the hot coals on one side of the kettle and then covering the coals with wood chips that have been soaking in water. I keep the bottom and top vents of the Weber partially open (adjust as best as you see fit to manage the air flow for temperature control) and place the meat on the opposite side of the kettle from the smoldering heat. Lid up and watch the smoke pour out of the thing. When the smoke starts to thin, add more soaked wood chips. Continue this process until the meat hits its desired internal temperature (I usually also flip the meat once) and you smell like a campfire.
I learned about, and first made tasso ham (it’s ridiculously simple) in Louisiana. So to say my tasso recipe is hot would be like saying the bayou in August can get humid. I love tasso and I love making jambalaya with it. I make a lot of jambalaya, not as much as I used to since my daughters aren’t too keen on spicy food yet, but as they learn to love the burn I’ll step up production. My first choice of pork product in jambalaya is andouille sausage, if I can get real, good andouille. Here in New England, the best I can find is from D’Artagnan, which is fine, but not always easy to find. So when there is no andouille, there is tasso.
Here then is, my “standard” jambalaya recipe. I should say, I never quite make it exactly like this recipe (see note at end of recipe), sometimes adding a little more of this or trying a little bit of that, maybe you want shrimp instead of chicken. My adopted family in Louisiana swear by using stewed canned tomatoes, but I prefer plain tomatoes. Just make it with love!
1/2 lb tasso ham, diced
1 lb chicken meat, cubed
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped, seeded
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup yellow onions, chopped
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 can diced tomato
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried chervil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp paprika
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup rice
In a large pot over medium heat render diced tasso ham. Remove tasso and add some of the vegetable oil to pot (if needed, depends on how much you render out of the tasso), cook the cut up chicken. Remove chicken, add rest of the oil if needed, cook the onions, pepper & celery with kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne until softened. Add tomato, garlic and all the herbs, cook for minute more. Add chicken stock, cooked tasso ham, cooked chicken and Tabasco. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add rice. Simmer until done.
Note: in all honesty, I’ve been making this for years and don’t measure much of it. It’s about 1 bell pepper, 1 stalk of celery, 1 onion, some salt & pepper, and some herbs to taste. I’m estimating the teaspoons of the dried herbs, it’s probably more like heaping teaspoons in some cases and scant teaspoons in others.
So that’s the tasso part of the challenge, what did I do with that beautiful piece of loin that I hot smoked into Canadian bacon?
We needed something for dinner on Wednesday. I had some leftover chicken, the Canadian bacon, a chunk of really sharp Cheddar cheese and there had been a lot of Twitter chatter about English muffins that day. The chatter was around Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for English muffins, which looks excellent. I am comfortable with Alton Brown’s recipe (available online but also found in his second Good Eats cookbook) so I made that version, but plan on trying Ruhlman’s next time.
I whipped up the English muffins, split a couple after they cooled (as usual, the waiting is the hardest part), layered the chicken, Canadian bacon and Cheddar and put it under the broiler for two minutes. I would call it an Americanized Croque Monsieur with chicken, except with all the things going on I suppose it’s an American/Canadian/Anglicized Croque Monsieur, if any of the foods actually came from the countries they’re named for. Either way it was delicious.
That’s another Charcutepalooza challenge happily completed and consumed. Thank you yet again to Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy.