More talking about meat…and Andouille

February 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Last week, Chef Paul Fehribach of Big Jones restaurant in Chicago wrote a post on the restaurant’s blog regarding a new focus on using the whole hog. While his writing is very compelling, and has been for awhile – the blog is very insightful, his passion and commitment to sourcing local whole animal products, and honesty in describing the challenges of doing this in a restaurant setting, is so terribly evident in his post that it is hard not to be inspired. For me, that inspiration led me to use some local meat in an iconic recipe from the blog from Big Jones – Andouille.

As an aside, for me, the impetus for this announcement was also very exciting. The inclusion of Big Jones in the formidable Baconfest lineup moved Fehribach to announce that they have their house-made bacon recipe set. My big qualm with Baconfest was that it didn’t seem like many chefs actually cured and smoked their own bacon. It seems like making your own bacon for the competition would be step one, but it did not seem to be priority and making your own bacon has a special place in my heart.

The recipe for Andouille is pretty simple, but if you look at Big Jones’ recipe it is scaled down to include 20 lbs. of meat and fat. Even for the most staunch carnivores, 20 pounds of andouille is a lot. I scaled it down even further to 4 pounds. I had a really nice bone-in pork shoulder roast from our meat CSA, Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm and some back fat from Slagel Farms, another local farm with amazing pork.

After gathering the ingredients, the two most difficult things are to chop two pounds of pork by hand into 1/2″ cubes and then waiting for three days to cure the sausage before smoking. For hand chopping the pork, I highly suggest freezing the pork shoulder and back fat. For the waiting, consult your DVR.

I have had the Andouille from Big Jones a few times, but most memorably at the Green City Market BBQ when I finally noticed that andouille isn’t a completely ground sausage, but rather a mix of chopped and ground meats. To me, it resembled a brick sausage with the ground bits serving as the mortar. Given that I was using pork casings instead of beef middles, I was slightly concerned about a 1/2″ chop on half of the mix, so I went slightly smaller, but still kept pieces large enough to stand out from ground meat.

After three days of curing in the fridge, the sausages were far more dense and the casings had dried well. Putting the sausages over bourbon barrels instead of pecan wood definitely felt like a departure, but Logan Square’s pecan tree population has dwindled and I have a barrel and a half of amazing smoking wood. The sausages were smoked for over 6 hours and while I was looking for an opaqueness in the casing that I did not get before internal temps hit 155 degrees, I knew after a quick sample that the smoke had make it through the sausage.

We first had this andouille in jambalaya. The andouille made the dish smoky and porky, but it almost felt like the jambalaya was holding the sausage back a little. This sausage is so good that it really belongs on its own or with something simple.

In the end, I truly believe that Fehribach is really connecting some serious dots when he relates how using the whole hog, no matter how trendy, more closely resembles the cooking of our grandparents. That sort of cooking appeals to me.