The wild mushroom ragout gracing the cover of the cookbook would be at home on any Paris table, but open the book and you will find my favorite, fried chicken gizzards. Very few things in a cookbook make me happier than a recipe for gizzards!
When talking about the similarities between French cooking and Southern cooking one this stands out, seasonality. One gets a strong sense of farming seasons while reading this cookbook. The first section of the book takes us straight to the larder where putting up jams, and pickles is a way to preserve the summer bounty.
Like the title says, you will find recipes for fois gras and filed peas, and you will also find lemon chevre cheesecake and sweet potato pie, braised short ribs and smothered squirrel, and host of recipes that will seem familiar and daring and most of all tasty. Interspersed with the lively recipes are stories of home and family. Let's be clear, cooking is a family affair and Jennifer Booker is quick to include family stories in her collection of recipes.
I know you, you always say everything is better with bacon, but Booker gives you instructions on how to make it yourself. She says:
Curing meat takes time and the right ingredients, one of which is Pink Curing Salt. This curing salt, also known as Prague Powder #1 and TCM, or tinted curing mix, is not to be confused with table salt. It is a mixture of sodium, nitrates, and nitrites that inhibit the growth of microorganisms that can cause food-borne illness. It is colored pink to help distinguish it from salt or sugar, and to blend better with the meats it’s being used to cure. Curing salts can be ordered on-line or acquired from a butcher. No matter what its name, curing salt should be used sparingly, and due to its high nitrate and nitrite levels, never eaten alone.
Black Pepper BaconIf you are a true fan of bacon, go ahead, make it yourself. Grab a copy of Field Peas to Foie Gras and head into the kitchen with someone you love. I would start by making the Fried Gizzards, but that is just me.
¼ cup sea salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground bay leaf
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon ground thyme
2 teaspoons Pink Curing Salt, or Prague Powder #1
3 to 4 pounds fresh pork belly
Mix the salt, brown sugar, black pepper, bay leaf, onion, garlic, and thyme together and place in a large flat plastic container with a cover. Taste and adjust the seasoning before you add the Pink Curing Salt. Add the Pink Curing Salt and mix well.
Add the pork belly to the container and spread the cure mix over the entire pork belly, being sure to press the mix into all the cracks and crevices of the belly. Cover and refrigerate for 10 days, turning the pork belly after 5 days.
After day 10, remove the pork from the container and rinse with cold water; removing as much of the cure mix as possible. Discard the mix left in the container.
Pat the pork belly dry, place on a wire rack in a sheet pan, and refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours to form a pellicle, or sticky skin.
Preheat the grill or smoker to 300° F using a fire made of hickory wood and ?charcoal. Smoke the cured pork belly for 1 ½ hours per pound at 200° to 215° F, or until the internal temperature reaches 155° F.
Remove and let the bacon rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Refrigerate the bacon before slicing to make it easier to cut.
Fry the bacon slices in a hot cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side, or until crisp.