A couple of weeks ago, I attended the last class in the Cafe Pinot The Art of Charcuterie series. If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with fresh meats, intestines and heavy kitchen machinery, this is the class for you. It was a hands-on experience with interactive instruction, group participation and finally a wine and charcuterie reception. The previous classes were led by from Cafe Pinot’s Executive Chef Joe Vasiloff, but the final class had Ray’s & Stark Bar’s Executive Chef Viet Pham and Sous Chef Jake Eaton at the helm. After three hours, I felt prepared to make my own sausage at home. Well, not yet. But soon! I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert, but the charcuterie class armed me with enough information that most of the anxiety has dissipated.
Chefs Pham and Eaton introduced the class to the type of fresh charcuterie often offered at Ray’s & Stark Bar. We separated into two groups. My group worked under the tutelage of Chef Eaton who showed us how to break down a rabbit, freeze the dark meat along with chicken livers, clean the pork casings, grind and mix the meat, and finally stuff the casings. Our rabbit-chicken mixture included fresh garlic, truffle oil, shaved black truffles, pepper onion powder, pink salt, fine sea salt, egg and cream, officially categorizing this sausage as boudin blanc. As we worked, the other group froze beef hearts, duck tenders and foie gras, ground and mixed meat, then wrapped the mixture with cooked spinach and squab breasts in caul fat. While we made a version of boudin blanc, these guys were making crepinettes–flattened sausage parcels.
Once everything was prepped, we all went upstairs to the Cafe Pinot kitchen to watch both chefs cook our housemade sausages and enjoy an array of charcuterie, cheese, and other nibbles, along with a flight of white and red wines. Chef Pham mentioned the possibility of the charcuterie series coming back later in the year. If you’re interested in making sausage at home, this is the perfect class for you.
Cafe Pinot provided everyone with a goodie bag, which included a link of boudin blanc. I picked up a bag of coarse ground polenta from Grist & Toll during this weekend’s Artisanal L.A. spring show, and I knew it would pair well with the sausage. The chefs recommended mustard greens, which I’m sure means most bitter greens would be great. There were no mustard greens at my market, so I grabbed a bunch of turnip greens. Although I used boudin blanc, you could use any flavorful sausage. There is a clear Southern feel to this dish inspired by the sausage and grits breakfast my grandmother used to make on the weekends, as well as stewed okra and tomatoes that I loved, even as a kid. It may be a little fancier with homemade sausage, but the down home undertones remain.
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup coarse ground polenta
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 link boudin blanc, poached
- 3 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups torn turnip greens, packed
- Bring the vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the polenta, whisking as you pour it in. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for another 35-40 minutes, depending on your preferred texture and consistency. Remove from heat, stir in the cream and parmesan, then set aside.
- Towards the end of the polenta’s cooking, pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a medium skillet, and warm over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the boudin blanc. Sear well, approximately 1-2 minutes per side, turning as necessary. Remove from the pan.
- Toss the tomatoes into the pan, along with the last tablespoon of oil. Cook until blistered and charred, turning over as necessary, approximately 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan.
- Finally, add the mustard greens to the pan. Cook until the greens just begin to wilt, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Slice the sausage on a bias. Serve the polenta at the bottom of bowl topped with the mustard greens, boudin blanc and tomatoes.
Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the class as a media preview. All opinions are my own.