I’ve dog-eared almost every recipe in this book – Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain by Chef Jeffery Weiss. It’s taken me almost two weeks to finish reading it; not due to lack of time but because every page is so fascinating I couldn’t skip a word.
When my friend Traca Savadogo asked if I’d like to review this book, I jumped at the chance. I’ve heard some words of praise for this book but I haven’t had the chance to read it and it definitely piques my interest. Chef Weiss has more than 15 years experience as a professional chef, working with some of the most well-known and celebrated chefs of our time. Chef Weiss is one of a select few Americans to earn the prestigious ICEX Culinary scholarship that allowed him to live in Spain, learn its regional cuisines and cook in the kitchens of top Spanish chefs.
When the book arrived in the mail, I got that butterfly in the stomach, thrill of excitement one feels when getting a new book. I couldn’t finish my work fast enough so I could sit on my sofa with a cup of tea and dive in. I am deeply enamored with culinary anthropology and where does this gorgeous book begin? With Spanish gastronomy and culinary history, along with a foreward by the James Beard award-winning chef, Jose Andres . I was in culinary book heaven. Lavish and comprehensive, the cookbook describes the history and evolution of various forms of Spanish charcuterie, Spanish pork butchery, charcuterie basics with recipes and photos that will make you want to eat the page.
Charcuteria not only features 100 mouth-watering recipes, it gives a detailed, informative and educational look at the traditional meat-curing and butchering techniques from the Iberian Peninsula; a spellbinding read of this unique Spanish tradition. I’m not kidding when I tell you, Spain will be on your bucket list after reading this book. And Spanish cuisine and the art of charcuterie will be your new food love.
Although I can appreciate and enjoy every charcuterie and recipe in this book, some of the ingredients may not be easy to find depending where you live; and some of us may not have a taste for a particular ingredient. Yes, I’m speaking of blood sausages. I think the two things I have never had an affinity for are blood sausages and haggis. I can prepare them, I just don’t eat them. I often wish I had the adventurous palate of Anthony Bourdain.
So which recipe to cook for this review? That was the question of the week. I couldn’t decide, so I prepared three.
Habas con Jamon – a fresh dish of fava beans, basic sofrito, jamon ham, spring onions and mint leaves.
Garbanzos con Butifarra Negra – a dish of chickpeas, onions, flat leaf parsley, mint leaves, garlic, Butifarra Negra sausages, toasted pine nuts and spinach leaves.
Carcamusa – a Spanish Chili prepared with pork loin, pork collar, chorizo, onions, jamon, garlic, piquillo confit peppers, tomato frito and peas. This gorgeous dish is served family style with fresh bread for dunking.
The flavors abound in these dishes – dancing on your palate while making one want to turn on the Spanish music and daydream of dining in Spain.
These recipes are so fantastic, two of the dishes were devoured long before I could snap a photo. I managed to reign in my hungry crew to snap a few photos before they started on the Carcamusa, a Spanish chili of sorts. It was such an impressive recipe my family has requested it several times.
Because I live in the Willamette Valley, rich in locally raised pork, I’m usually able to find most ingredients for sausage and charcuterie. I haven’t prepared any of the charcuterie recipes yet, but I did locate an authentic Spanish Cantimpalos-style chorizo that is divine. Spanish jamon is typically easy to find at most gourmet markets or your local butcher or sausage vendor. Fresh piquillo peppers are not in season here as of yet, so I substituted with jarred roasted piquillo peppers. In the Carcamusa recipe, I list the original version of the recipe with a few substitutions.
A very long list of recipes to prepare from this book remains on my desk. If I can keep my crew from diving in before photos, hopefully I’ll share a few more recipes with you. One lazy weekend in the near future I’ll be trying my hand at making chorizo – always one of my favorite charcuterie. Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain has been an immense pleasure to read. What a delightful culinary treasure to have in my library of books for generations to come.
Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,
- 1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 18 ounces (500g) pork loin, cut into large dice
- 18 ounces (500g) pork collar (I substituted with pork shoulder), cut into large dice
- Kosher salt as needed
- 4 Cantimpalos-style or Riojano-style Chorizo sausages, cut into small dice (I used 2 Cantimpalos style Chorizo, these are dry cured sausages not ground meat)
- 5 ounces (150g) diced Jamon or Lacon Cocido
- 1 medium yellow onion, small diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 fresh bay leaves (I used one dry bay leaf)
- 4 Piquillo Confit Peppers, minced (recipe follows) or (I used 4-6 jarred roasted piquillo peppers instead of making confit as I couldn't find fresh piquillo peppers)
- 1 quart (950ml) Tomato Frito (recipe follows)
- 11 ounces frozen peas
- 2.2lbs (1kg) of medium fresh piquiilo peppers
- 1/2 cup (125ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup (85g) honey, such as rosemary, thyme or orange blossom
- 2/3 ounce (20g) kosher salt
- 1 ounce (25g) sugar
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 10 springs fresh thyme
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 2.2 lbs (1kg) of fresh tomatoes or canned San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/2 cup (125ml) good Spanish extra virgin olive lil, such as piqual
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin julienne
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
- Kosher salt to taste
- Granulated sugar to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
The Piquillo Confit is delicious with grilled meats and poultry, should you find the fresh peppers and decide to prepare the confit.