Beard Award winning Boston/New York chef Jamie Bissonnette has a cookbook coming out next month: The New Charcuterie Cookbook: Exceptional Cured Meats to Make and Serve at Home. The book not only takes a look at traditional French and Italian charcuterie (pates, salumi), it also includes Bissonnette's riffs on Southeast Asian sausages, Latin American chorizos, and more.
Here now, a special Five Days of Meat preview of the book: Andrew Zimmern's foreword. Zimmern writes, "Jamie has a curious strength...He can take ordinary food, even odd bits, fifth quarter stuff (the pluck, the viscera, the nasty to some), and make angels weep. That's real cooking. And it's why this book belongs stained and used, torn and beaten in the kitchen of every human being who owns a cutting board." The New Charcuterie Cookbook comes out August 26 from Page Street Publishing (pre-order on Amazon); below, the foreword.
Andrew Zimmern's Foreword to Jamie Bissonnette's New Charcuterie Cookbook
I have been eating Jamie Bissonnette's food for a long time now. For years before I met him I had unknowingly been connected to him. Cooks cook. They plate. We eat. It's a pretty great relationship structure. Very one-sided. Non-committal. Perfect for most of us. Looking back in the rearview mirror I should have seen it coming. Love is like a fucking freight train when you don't see it coming, frozen on the rails like a deer in the headlights. I got greased. Bad.
Jamie is a brilliant young chef with decades of amazing work ahead of him. He's been in charge of, and associated with, some of the best restaurants in America. He has cooked with all the greats, donated his time, selflessly helped with events big and small, lent his name to food festivals from coast to coast, raised money, contributed to our lives with passion and is a devoted mentor and leader.
There are a lot of real bastards in our business but Jamie is one of the most beloved guys I know. Why should you care? What's that got to do with food? Well kids, you can't make great food; you can't put an experience in a bowl unless you have a gift for connecting with people on a deep level. There's a great Russian saying that translates loosely to "there aren't any generals in the bath house." I love that idea. When we're all naked sitting around in the steam room, there isn't a place to pin your medals. Comprende?
Jamie Bissonnette is a general in the bath house and we all know it. Here's the deal. He's obsessive, committed and superbly talented. He doesn't show off. He doesn't talk a lot . . . and never about himself unless you ask. He leads by example. He can cook his ass off. He is learned. He pays attention. He arrives early. He stays late. Shit, I love this guy.
Jamie has a curious strength, it's his strongest suit and it's ironically rare in our business. He can take ordinary food, even odd bits, fifth quarter stuff (the pluck, the viscera, the nasty to some), and make angels weep. That's real cooking. And it's why this book belongs stained and used, torn and beaten in the kitchen of every human being who owns a cutting board.
This guy will teach you about flavor, and composition and technique with only pork, salt and pepper if you want to learn how.
Let's not be ignorant, most cooking is eerily similar to the same dish down the street. Everyone has a Caesar salad on his or her menu. Kinda depressing. Jamie really cooks. 30 years ago, even in our best food cities, many of the great restaurants had chefs who were great shoppers, not necessarily soulful cooks. Hey, it happens! I like the chefs who get messy. Who really cook. Who are truly scratch. They can tell you the name of everyone who grows or raises their food. It's important. Buying great ham and slicing it thin is nice. Even I can do that. Making great ham? Another story. Different skill set. Boom.
For thousands of years everyone knew what to do with an animal. Muscles and bones, hoof to snout can be dealt with many ways. Hung to age, dried, cured, smoked or preserved. But the pluck, the organs, the blood has to be dealt with immediately, right away. To me that's the essence of great cooking. The original quick-fire challenge. The OG mystery basket of ingredients. I never liked the old quote about no one wanting to see laws or sausages get made. I think that's been our problem for generations. When you hide that stuff the quality suffers. Let's applaud it. Let's all see the sausage! Yup, I said that. Settle down, Jennings.
So the meat of the matter is that what got me punch-drunk sold on this kid was the first time I cut food with him, side-by-side, making some TV six years ago in Boston. Great, natural cook, who really understood food, and had a beautiful working methodology. Buttoned up in every way. I ate three meals at Toro then, day and night. Now Toro NYC is the hottest ticket in town.
Two years ago, Jamie cooked something for me to, as he put it, "check it out and tell me what you really think." It's the first recipe in this book and it reminds me of Vietnam every time I eat it. Jamie's cooked charcuterie is simple and approachable. His rabbit mortadella is a cult favorite in the chef world. I am thrilled to see it in this book so the gospel of rabbit and fat can be preached. A chapter to offal pleasure gives me goose bumps. To see hearts and chitterlings, and a trio of blood sausages in a contemporary, easy, simple to understand framework will advance the agenda of improving the family meal in homes all over America by leaps and bounds. Don't know how to cure meat? Neither did I until I was shown. I really hope you take the time to make every recipe in Chapter 3. Do one each week for 4 months and you will have a master's degree in curing. Chapter 4 is short — get on it. The Fried Bone recipe is way more than what it sounds like, and last June I tried it for the first time and embarrassed myself by eating so much of it that I had pork fat stains on my shirt and pants. Chapter 5 is for those that pass Chapter 3's culinary academy. It's all about flavor here. These dishes will provide a lesson plan in composing flavor in a dish that will make you a better cook even when you mix salad dressing. I can't talk about Chapter 6 because I stole all these recipes and plan on passing them off as my own next week.
Enjoy this book. Cook from it. See why cooks fall for each other real bad. And don't ever forget to look both ways at the train tracks.
This excerpt is published with the permission of Page Street Publishing. All rights reserved.