Thursday, April 09, 2009

Milk & Fat: We had a feast and then we watched some TV

That's my mom feeding the meat into the stuffer, that's her friend Kathy easing it into the casing. Sausage was trickier than any of us had anticipated and I sense we made many errors, but it was nonetheless exciting and gratifying. The sausages -- Jennifer McLagan's lamb, red wine and rosemary sausages out of Fat -- turned out beautifully. They were leaner and more finely ground than what you buy at the market, lacking the discrete globules of fat I have come to expect, and/but were very tasty.

Making sausage definitely brings to mind indelicate subjects. Not just one, several. You can imagine, and I will let you.

The rest of the dinner was fantastic. I broke my scalloped potatoes losing streak with the help of Anne Mendelson's elegant and precise recipe. What was I doing wrong all those years? They are so easy.

I can't praise Mendelson's book Milk highly enough. Her crisply written history of dairying, which includes the most sensible analysis of the current raw milk controversy that I've encountered, is riveting. The recipes are all for simple dishes, but they have so far proven flawless.

For vegetable: McLagan's double butter salad. You make the dressing by melting butter until it begins to brown, add cider vinegar and salt, then pour it over some butter lettuce. Tastes like butter, but also like salad, and is delicious.

And for dessert: McLagan's choux paste beignets -- cream puff dough spiked with Pastis (or Pernod), fried in lard, and dusted with fennel-flavored sugar.* Served with hot chocolate

After this, the ladies went home and the children and I retired to the sofa for two episodes of Friday Night Lights. The longstanding Wednesday night DVD tradition (it began when Mark took the Wednesday night shift) may seem questionable because we stay up too late and watch shows with "mature" content. But Isabel and Owen fight so much the rest of the time, this seems to be the only way the three of us can enjoy ourselves together. It's a happy shared ritual and that feels important, more important than bedtime or going to our separate rooms to read worthy books. Plus, FNL: awesome.

*Put sugar and fennel seeds in a spice grinder until powdery 


  1. i can muster only the most delicate thoughts about those sausages. they are beautiful! so impressive! i'm not sure i like the idea of them being finely ground though- like bratwurst? i tend to like a little rougher grind with my sausage. can you control the fineness with the machine you have? do you recommend that machine, now that you've read the manual (assuming you have)?

  2. I must know what she says about the raw milk controversy--I wonder if our views are similar?

  3. Layne -- I can't really do justice to it because it is so layered and goes on for several pages. Basically, she doesn't go for the extreme arguments on either side. She says we don't actually need the nutrients and enzymes that are destroyed by pasteurization and that fresh unhomogenized, pasteurized milk from cows raised by farmers "with sane breeding and feeding priorities" can taste as good as raw. But, she's says, if you have strict supervision and inspection there should be no reason not to enjoy raw milk. It is expensive to ensure that inspection and there will be risks. But there are also risks with pasteurized milk. She is no fan of the factory dairy. I think her choice is "good, fresh, locally produced unhomogenized milk batch-pasteurized by slow methods."
    Anyway. That's the best I can do as a summary. I have no personal experience with raw milk because what is available in my town is more than $5 a quart.