I’ve been buying various meats at the farmer’s market this summer: local organic natural beef from River Rock, that kind of thing. The farmers invariably have a bunch of coolers filled with ice packs and frozen packages of various items, set up in the shade, and the quality is absolutely fantastic. Really delicious meat.
Of course, being farmers who have the whole animal to sell, they have some odd bits as well as the usual steaks and ground beef and pork chops and sausage. And of course, being me, I always want to add one of the odd cuts because it sounds like a culinary adventure. And of course, being human, we eat the normal stuff first and then look in the freezer and find it full of less-common or harder-to-cook cuts.
Start with the five or ten pounds of short ribs and brisket and so forth, which just need long, slow braising. They’re great for cold weather, so we’ll hold off til then, but at least I know how to cook those things.
Then I get some weird things that don’t make a lot of sense, but which I just had to have at that moment. Like the six pounds of beef marrow bones, which you can’t really use for stock (not enough meat on them). You can really only do two things with them: roast them and serve them with toast and a very small knife (scoop out the gooey insides), or feed them to a dog. On the plus side, they were very cheap. I have no idea how to cook them, but I’ll learn, I guess. At least I have enough to try several times.
Same with the hog jowls (aka “pork cheeks”) I got this weekend. I snapped them up mostly because I remember Mario Batali using them and calling them guanciale. Well, when I got home I found out the difference: to get guanciale you have to be willing to hang your raw, salted jowls in a basement for six weeks, because it’s cured hog jowls. Basically, guanciale is to jowls as bacon is to pork belly. And all the other pork-cheek and hog-jowl recipes I can find are basically variations on using the jowls as a kind of bacon, and on them already being cured and/or smoked.
And my basement is just too damp to cure meat.
And I’m scared.
Right now, I’m thinking confit, but I’m kind of scared of that, too.
Did I say I was looking for food adventure?