In late 2008, we splurged and picked up a couple seats at the Mulefoot Pig Dinner at Blackbird in Chicago. It was a meal that was my first large-scale nose to tail experience where a number of chefs, a few of whom I had never eaten their food, prepared dishes from something as simple as country ham to porchetta to testa ravioli in a spectacular pork, lemon, and mustard consomme (which was my favorite). It was an amazing meal that displayed so many techniques and preparations that it was literally dizzying. While expensive, it provided, with the old Mado Family Dinners and Green City Market’s BBQ, as high dollar/even higher satisfaction events that we have attended.
Another of the highlights were the Calliettes, or crepinettes, from Paul Virant from Vie in Western Springs. A crepinette is similar to a patty-like sausage, but instead of casing, it is wrapped in caul fat, the membrane that lines the internal organs. Since the dinner, I have had the crepinette logged in the back of my mind as something that I would like to try if I ever found caul fat.
After finding caul fat, I already had a recipe picked out in the newish book, Primal Cuts by Marissa Guggiana, who I met at a book signing here in Chicago not long ago. Primal Cuts features top butchers in the US, new and old, with personal features alongside a couple recipes per butcher. It is a great book for people interested in whole animal cooking (not just pork, but lamb, beef, game, poultry), getting started at home butchery, and/or the modern butcher revival. The featured butchers vary from folks that are new to me to chefs that have a good amount of notoriety.
The crepinettes recipe is from Dan Barber, a chef that I really admire, of Blue Hill and Stone Barns in NY. The recipe feature equal shares of fatty pork trimmings (for which I substituted a skin-on pork jowl) and pork offal. After grinding the jowl and offal, I added a spice mixture of salt, pepper, sugar, and nutmeg and parsley and shallots. Next, the meat rested for an hour and was rolled it into 2″ balls and covered each with the caul fat. Finally, I flattened the patties and let them rest again overnight.
The crepinettes were pan roasted and the caul fat browned up nicely. The skin and the fat of the jowl and contributed to an amazingly soft texture. I was amazed at how the caul fat kept the little bundles perfectly shaped as opposed to the more rustic hamburger than does not keep nice edges while cooking.
I initially thought that I would serve them with mustard and a pickle (pickled radishes above), but the offal flavors may be a little much for some. The better option was to serve the crepinettes over beer braised cabbage with mustard and caraway. You still know that you are eating offal, but with the cabbage, you have more balance to the minerality of the organs.