Charcuterie is a culinary specialty that originally referred to the creation of pork products such as salami, sausages, and prosciutto. It is true food craftsmanship, the art of turning preserved food into items of beauty and taste. Today the term encompasses a vast range of preparations, most of which involve salting, cooking, smoking, and drying.
In addition to providing classic recipes for sausages, terrines, and patés, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn have expanded the definition to include anything preserved or prepared ahead such as Mediterranean olive and vegetable rillettes, duck confit, pickles and sauerkraut. I’m enjoying my forays into their book, ‘Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.’ I’ve been amazed at how easy some of these processes are, especially since the results lend themselves to such stellar results!
See that beautiful brining liquid…that is the secret. Though I’ve always enjoyed corned beef; seasoning the brine yourself gives you some control over the magic and the outcome is nothing less than amazing compared to what you know. I’ve taken the liberty of using a photo of the brine taken by Michael’s wife Donna. I only wish my nails were so nicely groomed!
I’ve been a fan of Michael’s for a long time though in the spirit of full disclosure I must admit part of that was simply because he was the cute guy on Iron Chef! But I’m open to seeing beyond that pretty face and love his blog, the conversations that ensue and am enjoying, with his assistance this venture into something I would have never once considered doing before.
I made the corned beef knowing I would be making Reuben sandwiches. After ‘corning’ the beef, and making a side dish of coleslaw, I was assembling the ingredients and grilling this sandwich that was almost a week in the making. I wondered if any sandwich could be worth the time and the mess in my kitchen. I decided to take a break and watch TV for a bit and enjoy my lunch. Did you hear my response after the first bite? I’m certain I literally made a noise; not a grunt, not a yum, maybe a bit of a moan and I know anyone listening would have recognized it as the sound of absolute nirvana. ABSOLUTELY worth it!
Though I pride myself on always mixing it up a bit when I cook from a recipe, this is verbatim; why mess with success (or the complete unknown)? So I followed Michael’s recipe and directions to the letter and it was absolutely perfect.
I must note…I bought a lot of new spices for the pickling spice mixture because I had ground spices and not seeds. I did not note until later that they were all ground together. So substitute in your ground spices and don’t make the same mistake I did! Also, if you decide you don’t have the time; I’ve used a packaged brisket to make Reuben sandwiches too; that recipe is here!