Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tradition! (tradition!)

Not Fatted Calf. No, this is the real, historical inspiration for contemporary charcutiers like Fatted Calf, Incanto, Perbacco, Fra' Mani, and the like.
This is basic Polish meat doin's.
It's a place called Seakor, out in San Francisco's Richmond district. Out where the Russian bakeries nestle side-by-side with Thai restaurants. Indian steam-table lunch joints rub elbows with Irish pubs. A very, very, veritable melting pot. Chinese dim sum. Korean hot pots. Even an anachronistic Mexican place with killer margaritas.
Dang, I oughta wander around there more often.
Fortunately, Cranky had business in the neighborhood, and he had previously spotted this Polish place. This time he went in and bought a couple of double-smoked kielbasas and a huge, quivering tube of head cheese.
No, I don't know where they get the meat from. I'm guessing just industrial farm butchery. We winced, and gave it a try.
So, let me say the kielbasa is very nice. Smoky, but not overly so. A nice, tight texture from the extra drying. Chewy.
And the head cheese. My first taste of this ancient preparation that uses every available part of the pig. I have no idea what those bits are that look like sliced giblets. They tasted fine; a little bland but mustard to the rescue. The gelatin is very thick and — well, kinda fun to eat.
Oh, but the look of the thing. A little round aquarium of densely packed pork shrimp.
Swim! Swim for your lives, little creatures!
Too late.


Sam said...

too funny.

Brawn. you can call it brawn, i think, if you would like.

Dagny said...

When I was growing up, folks used to offer head cheese around the holiday season. I have come to think of it as synonymous with winter -- just like sweet potato pie and mincemeat pie. I never would try it. I think I'm still scarred from that time I walked into my grandmother's kitchen, around age eight, and saw a hog's head stewing in the pot on the stove. It was staring at me!

But kielbasa sounds wonderful. And thank you for reminding me of the all the wonderful food in the Richmond. I might have to head over that way during the summer.

Anna Haight said...

When I was 7, I used to cry when my mom would give me head cheese sandwiches in my school lunch.

Here's part one of making it from scratch (the other parts aren't so lively!):

"After thoroughly cleaning a hog's or a pig's head, split it in two with a sharp knife; take out the eyes, take out the brain, cut off the ears, and pour scalding water over them and the head and scrape them clean. Cut off any part of the nose which is discolored so as not to be scraped clean; then rinse all in cold water and put into a large kettle with hot (not boiling) water to cover it, and set the kettle (having covered it) over the fire; let it boil gently, taking off the scum as it rises; when boiled so that the bones leave the meat readily, take it from the water with a skimmer into a large wooden bowl or tray; take from it every particle of bone, chop the meat small and season to taste with salt and pepper, and if liked, a little chopped sage or thyme."

chilebrown said...

Ms. Goofy and I stumbled into Seakor, after leaving an interactive lecture about tequila from the infamous "Julio". We purchased a small ham from Seakor. It was the bomb. We also bought some Russian mustard. I would like to go back and try more of the sausage. I just need to stay away from Julio's classroom.

Ilva said...

CC, you have to try the soppressata made by our butcher, it's more or less the same as head cheese but anything but bland, just the smell of it makes you faint! Not to speak about the one that a friend of us makes once a year together with his male friends, delicate yet flavourful (?), it takes them ages to make but it's worth it!

ChrisB said...

I never liked 'brawn' as we call it so will give this a miss!!

Liz said...

What I would give for a good smoked kielbasa. There aren't any Polish butchers in rural Maine, so I always make sure my parents bring some up when they visit. Love it with sauerkraut (kapusta). Mmmm.

My mom really likes pig's feet (not to chomp off the hoof, more of an amalgam like the brawn). Not for me!

Ed Bruske said...

I will be making five pounds of fresh kielbasa for our (sometimes) annual James Beard add Julia Child dinner this weekend.

Good stuff...

tammy said...

Aquarium. Hee.

meathenge said...

I want some Russian mustard !!!

Stacie said...

eeeww. sorry, but i am a big wuss when it comes to organ meats. i don't think i could put it in my mouth, but am very respectful of the "old ways" that should become the "only way" of using up all the meat... i was just born in the supermarket generation. so... eeew.

cookiecrumb said...

Sam: Thanks. I kept trying to think of the British term. Nicer, somehow.

Dagny: I didn't know it had a seasonal component. Wow, you actually saw your grandmother making one. Eww, eh?
Yeah, the Richmond... it's rich!

Anna: Oh, any 7-year-old would. Cruel mommy. Your recipe is, uh, compelling! (So now, I suspect those gibletty bits are probably nose meat.)

Chilebrown: Thanks for the validation. I never know, hanging out with you mad meat geniuses, if I'm "right" in my choices. We'll try some ham next. Oh, and OF COURSE you've already discovered this place!

Ilva: How fortunate to have a butcher who makes soppressata for you. Have you read Bill Buford's book "Heat"?

ChrisB: I had never tried it before, so I thought I ought to at least once. It's interesting, once you get past the name (though brawn is less scary), and once you dare yourself to eat "other" meats. Which I have. This is way less scary.

Liz: No, I can imagine you're a little isolated, Polish-butcher-wise. Um. Fed Ex?

Ed: This weekend? But, but... My invitation must have been swept under the rug. Oh my. Happy weekend kielbasa fest.

Tammy: THANK you. This whole post wasn't about meat. It was about the aquarium line. And you're the only one to comment on it. THANK you. xx

Biggles: I'll get you some.

Stacie: I was born in a supermarket generation too (if not exactly your generation). It hasn't been until my, uh, recent years that I'm branching out into new tastes and experiences. The funny thing is, the food tastes good. Our objections to it are all psychological.

Unknown said...

I have never had head cheese, well, because I am a typical USA American who doesn't want to eat those parts. But, your photo is so gorgeous, and showing the "cheese" in a fantastic light (figuratively and literally) that it is possible that I would be interested in scooping it onto a cracker for a taste.

I am also thrilled you spent time in the Richmond district. My relatives have lived the for decades, and it has been fun to how the area has grown to embrass the different cultural and ethnic delights to eat! If I lived there, I am not sure that I would have an excuse to leave the Richmond district.

cookiecrumb said...

Lannae: I mean, just the name alone is reason enough to stay away from it! But if somebody served you a little slice of this (out of context, see), you'd probably pop it right into your mouth. It tastes just like the rest of the pig.
Yeah, the Richmond has it all. It would be hard to leave the neighborhood if you lived there (especially because you'd never find a parking space when you got back home).