I don’t attend cooking classes very often, but when I do I always come away with a fresh perspective about food and how it excites and connects people. Last Friday evening I was invited to attend a sausage workshop at Williams-Sonoma’s flagship store on Post Street in San Francisco. For cooks who love to shop, there is no better place than this tri-level mega store. From the friendly and informative customer service staff to the smells of food demos wafting throughout the store, Williams-Sonoma creates an overall food experience on par with the great food and shopping emporiums of Europe.
Though their demo kitchen lacks theater seating and hanging monitors, it makes up for it in its informal ambiance. There were beautifully dressed long dining tables set with products from the store encouraging a convivial atmosphere. And with seating reaching the edge of the demo counter, guests got an up-close view of the instructor and his craft. That evening Fatted Calf’s proprietor, Taylor Boetticher conducted a sausage workshop, turning pork butt and the like into delicate flavorful sausages. Once you’ve eaten a freshly cased, perfectly grilled sausage you will never purchase the fully cooked packaged variety again.
I haven’t prepared sausage since cooking school and was excited to get a refresher course on the subject. Chef Boetticher prepared three sausages for us: Hand-Cut Mexican-Style Chorizo, Fatted Calf Rosso Sausage, and Pork Crepinettes with Tournantes Olives, Pimenton and Orange Peel. The hand-cut sausage was a revelation, demonstrating that you don’t need fancy appliances like a meat grinder to prepare sausage. His ratio of fat to meat might shock some people, but its the only way to achieve plump juicy sausage. Chef Boetticher recommends 20% to 25% of your total weight be fat, preferably from the meat you’re using. So in the case of the chorizo, Chef Boetticher used the trimmed fat from a pork shoulder, chopped it finely, and keep it chilled until all the other ingredients were prepped and the sausage was ready to be mixed. For this recipe he used 4.5 lbs. of pork shoulder and .5 lb. of fat.
As one of the leaders of fine charcuterie in the Bay Area, Fatted Calf has created a cult following with local foodies. While chopping and mixing, Chef Boetticher spoke about his culinary background, how he met his wife at the Culinary Institute of America, and how his business was conceived. Frequent travel abroad, especially in some of the most respected charcuterie capitals of Europe, peaked his passion for salumi, sausage, and terrines. What started out as a small enterprise in a rented catering kitchen has turned into a wildly popular Ferry Plaza and Berkeley stand and permanent storefront in Napa’s Oxbow Market.
Chef Boetticher is a wealth of knowledge and freely shared tips and insights. But what I got out of the evening, besides an amazingly delicious meal and take-home recipes, was a newfound respect for the art of sausage making. Some keys to producing incredible sausage include following temperature guidelines so that the fat doesn’t melt and emulsify with the other ingredients before stuffing; marinating the meat with salt and other flavorings overnight to tenderize the meat; and only using a quality meat that will provide clean flavors.
Chef Boetticher will be conducting another class on Friday, May 28th where he will be making artisanal pates and terrines. He’ll share his secrets of making country-style pate with cognac and herbs and stovetop preparation for duck rillettes with Marsala wine and aromatic herbs. I would highly recommend taking this class for those interested in this culinary tradition, learning from a young chef who has deep respect for the craft of charcuterie while enlivening it with a renegade approach to flavors.
To find out about other upcoming Williams-Sonoma classes or to sign up for the upcoming Fatted Calf class, call the San Francisco store.
340 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Fatted calf produces a rotating list of charcuterie, often depending on the whim of the chef and what’s available and seasonal. To find out what he’s whipping up, call or check his website. You can also place an online order and have his product delivered.
644 C First Street
Napa, CA 94559