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,
Spanish Chili (Carcamusa) from the book Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain
In a medium saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until rippling but not smoking.
Season the meats with salt and pepper and add it to the saucepan. Sear for 4-6 minutes, until the meat is browned. You may have to brown in batches. Transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside.
Add the sausages and jamon to the saucepan.
Sauté for 10 minutes, until the sausage's fat has rendered. Transfer the sausages and the jamon to the bowl containing the meats.
Add the onion, garlic and bay leaves to the saucepan and season with the salt. Sauté for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are very soft and starting to brown. Add the Piquillo Confit (or jarred roasted Piquillo peppers) and sauté 10 minutes, until their liquid has evaporated. (I left a little liquid)
Add the tomato frito and the reserved meats. Bring the Carcamusa to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes more (I simmered for about 30 minutes) until the meat is soft and cooked through. Add the peas and warm through, then remove the stew from the heat and serve warm with crusty bread pieces.
For the Piquillo Confit Peppers
In a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade, combine 1/4 of the peppers, the oil the honey and the salt. Blend or process on high, scraping down the sides, until the confit mixture becomes liquid. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 250F (120C).
Arrange the remaining peppers in a baking dish. Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Pour the confit liquid over the top. Cover with foil.
Bake the peppers for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature. Serve Warm.
For the Tomato Frito
Make a sofrito - In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil for 4 minutes, until just rippling but not smoking. Add the onions and garlic and season with the salt. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft but have not taken on color.
Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut up the tomatoes into rough pieces. If you are using fresh tomatoes, chop them roughly.
Raise the heat to high. Add the tomatoes and season them to taste with the sugar, salt and black pepper. Fry the tomatoes in the sofrito for 5-10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring frequently for 30-40 minutes until most the water has cooked out of the tomatoes. Remove from the heat.
Process the mixture through a food mill with a fine screen (if you don't have one you can use a chinois or other fine strainer) into a large mixing bowl. If necessary, repeat until the puree is smooth. Taste the sauce and re-season as necessary with salt and black pepper.
If using the Tomato Frito immediately, transfer to a large food safe container and set aside to cool at room temperature. Cover and chill the sauce overnight. The Tomato Frito can also be canned in sterilized containers.
The Piquillo Confit is delicious with grilled meats and poultry, should you find the fresh peppers and decide to prepare the confit.