Archive | August, 2011

Shabalabashingo…aka Head Cheese, Brawn, Souse, Fromage de Tete, Testa in Cassetta, Coppa, etc., etc.

15 Aug

This thing needs a new name!  I told the kids and my friend Cam the day they were to be my kitchen tasters of the August Charcuterie Challenge: Head Cheese.  My son said “call it Shabalabashingo!” with eight-year-old flourish and bravado.  We all turned to look at him with amused interest and tried it on for size, hmmm.  Let’s write that down.  So in our household we now call Head Cheese or Souse, (as it is referred to here in Tennessee) Shabalabashingo.

But before we got into the tasting part there was the prep part, like brining.  Then cooking.  Luckily, I had already completed these tasks.

Initially, there was the issue of the head and 4 trotters to deal with which I had been avoiding for a while now – sitting wrapped in plastic and a white garbage bag in my kitchen freezer.  Awkward.  Awkward to move around and awkward to store.  Not to mention how awkward it was when a guest at the house opened the freezer door and rooted around it, ignorant to the contents of the giant frozen “brawn in a bag”.  I had saved it when I’d butchered a pig raised on the farm into primal cuts.  The head and trotters likely a little past due on their “use by” date but what the heck?  I do believe in using all parts of the hog even if it means there may be a little freezer burn on an item while I’m out looking for my courage to make it.

So, already thawed out, (out of sheer necessity due to limited freezer space) I was thrilled when the Head Cheese challenge was announced; my timing was perfect if not telepathic.  Here it is in the stock pot.  If you are squeamish, look really fast or simply move on.

I followed the head cheese recipe in The Ruhlman Charcuterie book.  Everything went according to plan except my “terrine” was cube shaped and I had to use a zip-lock bag instead of plastic wrap.  This made for a blocky less than smooth presentation, but did the job.

Well, it is a peasant dish, yes?  It doesn’t have to be pretty.  I thought it would be tasty with crusty bread.  So I bought a baguette and had my friend Cam slice it on the diagonal.  Then we drizzled some olive oil and spread it with seasoned goat cheese and broiled it until just crunchy and a little brown.

I didn’t really have a recipe, I was just going by what I thought would set off the “Shabalabashingo” in its best light, texture and flavor.  The tomatoes have been obscenely tasty this year – my best year growing tomatoes…EVER.  So I sliced a few heirloom Italian tomatoes over the goat cheese and then turned to my daughter  to see if she would be willing to pick some fresh flat leaf parsley from the garden.

We pulled off the parsley stems and asked over or under?  We settled with under the Shabalabashingo.  Then we took a picture of the final product:

My daughter loved it.  She has now requested it numerous times and that’s a good thing because I think this recipe could make about 100,000 little crusty goat cheese, tomato, parsley, peasanty Shabalabashingos!  I froze it.  So actually, it’s back in the freezer just in a smaller, denser less shocking and now edible format.  It really was a hit, even my friend Cam said she liked it… come to think of it though, she hasn’t been out to visit the farm since.  😦 We were all pretty brave that day, even my son, who dropped his on the floor and promptly instituted  the 5-second rule.  He liked it but only had one while the rest of us finished off the plate.  I suppose for my son, it was enough to come up with a new marketing strategy for Head Cheese by changing the name for us.  There are undoubtedly some more dishes out there that he could “modernize” in hip, eight-year-old parlance.

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