Monday, November 21, 2011

Homemade Coppa / Capicola

Homemade Coppa

It goes by a number of names - Coppa, Capicola, Capocollo... Whatever you call it, it might just be my favorite cured meat. We first had this tasty cured pork treat from Boccalone Salumeria in San Francisco, and have been big fans ever since.

Given our love of Coppa, I am overjoyed that we have now been able to successfully make it ourselves. Seeing the entire process whereby a humble piece of pork shoulder is transformed into a beautiful piece of cured meat was a very satisfying experience.

Homemade Coppa

As I mentioned above, coppa is made from pork shoulder. More specifically - and where the name comes from - it uses the coppa muscle of the shoulder.

Here is the shoulder that we started with:

Homemade Coppa

The coppa muscle is on the left, on the side of the shoulder away from the bone. Here you can see it after it has been removed from the rest of the shoulder:

Homemade Coppa

The first step is a dry brining process - much like you would do for pancetta or homemade bacon. The dry brine is a simple mixture of kosher salt, cracked white peppercorns and curing salt #2:

Homemade Coppa

which gets rubbed onto the coppa:

Homemade Coppa

Then it gets wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for about two weeks, or until the meat feels a bit more firm (this one took 16 days). The dry-brine is then rinsed off:

Homemade Coppa

After drying at room temperature a couple hours, the surface is evenly coated with a mild blend of ground chile: Piment d'Espelette, sweet Hungarian paprika and a little cayenne.

Homemade Coppa

Then the meat is ready to hang. We encased ours #10 elastic netting from Butcher&Packer. This helps keep its shape and makes hanging easier.

Homemade Coppa

Nicely trussed up, it went into our curing chamber / beer fridge set at 52-55 degrees fahrenheit.

Homemade Coppa

The biggest challenge was keeping the humidity where it needed to be.

We used a Sunpentown Mini-Humidifier (the white plastic doo-dad in the upper right), which was helpful, but not problem-free. It would probably work well in a large space, but even at the lowest setting it put the humidity at 90%. It would also run out of water very quickly at which point the humidity dropped to less than 50%.

We solved the problem by plugging the unit into an appliance timer and setting it to turn off and on every 15 minutes.This way we were able to start at about 80% humidity for the first couple weeks, then slowly drop it down to 65-70% over the remainder of the curing period.

After 7 weeks, the coppa had dropped from a starting weight of 2 pounds, 13 ounces to a final weight of just over two pounds - a loss of just under 30%.

Homemade Coppa

It wasn't quite ready yet, though. We put it back in the fridge for another two weeks (patience is a necessary virtue in meat curing!) to let the moisture content even out.

Then, finally, it was time! From the outside it was hard to tell how we had done, but once we cut into it we knew we had something special on our hands:

Homemade Coppa

Ruby red meat. Clean, white fat. And it tastes as good as it looks. Incredible aroma and depth of flavor.

Thinly sliced using our EdgeCraft Food Slicer, it makes a great snack on crackers or a slice of bread.

Homemade Coppa

We'll pull together our notes and write up a detailed recipe soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

This past weekend, the folks at the Baja California Secretary of Tourism were nice enough to whisk us down to San Felipe for the annual Shrimp Festival. Accompanying us on this adventure were fellow bloggers from 52 Perfect Days, Cuvee Corner and My Burning Kitchen.

San Felipe is a small fishing town about two hours drive south of the US/Mexico border. To get there, we crossed over from San Diego into Tijuana and drove east past Tecate, over the Rumorosa mountain pass into Mexicali, and down to San Felipe. If we were doing the drive ourselves, we would probably go out on Interstate 8 to El Centro and cross at the Calexico/Mexicali border. The distance is about the same either way, but I8 has the distinct advantage of having Alpine Beer Company on the way...

Speaking of beer, we were relaxing with one and enjoying the warm, sunny afternoon within minutes of our arrival:

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

The festival was set up along the Malecón - San Felipe's coastal boardwalk - with a stage in the center, and vendors stretching out both sides.

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

The first evening, we were invited to a six course dinner at the Hacienda Coral Restaurant, the highlights of which were a clam ceviche tlacoyo and a stingray cake in a black bean sauce. Unfortunately the lighting was too low to get good pictures of the food.

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

The next day we headed a few miles south of town to the "Valley of the Giants" - so named for its giant cacti.

And giant they were:

The huge Cardón cacti are relatives of the Saguaro. In 1992, one was airlifted to Seville, Spain to represent Mexico at the World's Fair.

We also stopped in at the marina:

Most of the larger shrimp boats were out fishing, but some smaller day boats were unloading their nets, and there was no shortage of fresh shrimp for sale.

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

Both lunches we had in San Felipe consisted of communal seafood "Parrilladas" - an assortment of grilled fish and shellfish. This one, at Mariscos La Vaquita, was particularly nice - shrimp, clams, several kinds of fish (one stuffed with squid), and their version of tacos gobernadores.

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

Overall, it was a great weekend. Getting across the border made it seem like much more of a getaway than you would normally get from just a few days.

San Felipe Shrimp Festival

We will definitely be back to San Felipe.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Some Dishes with Fishes - Round Four

We've been overdue for a "Dishes with Fishes" post for a while now, so here is a look at some of the fish and seafood we've been eating. Previous posts can be found here, here and here.

Pad Kra Praw with Mexican White Shrimp

Pad Kra Praw? Pad Kra Pao? Pad Krapow? However you spell it, this staple of American Thai restaurants is a big favorite of mine. I love the mingled intense flavors of chile, fish sauce and basil. We usually make it with chicken, but it this shrimp version was great. It is also really good with sea scallops...

Grilled Mako Shark with Black Kale and Black Beans

One day, with a bounty of Mako Shark from Catalina Offshore, we did it up two ways. This first one was grilled very simply.

Teriyaki Mako Shark with Shaved Brussels Sprouts

For the second dish, we used a teriyaki-style marinade, and served it with shaved brussels sprouts from our garden.

Pan-seared Cabrilla Grouper with "Pil-Pil" Potatoes and Green Beans

"Pil-Pil" potatoes have become a favorite of ours. We call them that because we first made them after we saw them as a side in a video about making salt cod in the Portuguese "Pil-Pil" style. They went very nicely with this Cabrilla Grouper.

Whole Cardinal Snapper with Chard and Black Beans

We have been really happy with the whole Cardinal Snappers we've been getting from Catalina Offshore and have been experimenting with different ways to cook and serve them.

Whole Roasted Cardinal Snapper Stuffed with Rosemary and Thyme

This version was super moist and flavorful, and the beautiful color of the skin still really came through after cooking.

Tacos Gobernadores with Mexican White Shrimp and Sea Scallops

Tacos Gobernadores, which I think of as shrimp tacos with peppers, onions and cheese, are a staple at local mariscos trucks. This was our take - with some sea scallop thrown in for good measure.

Smoked Bay Scallops and Assorted Fish

Smoked bay scallops are an awesome treat that we first started making this year. They definitely have an "I'll just eat one more" quality to them. Good stuff. This time we also smoked an assortment of fish - we often have pieces left over, and smoking is a great way to use them up.