Friday, March 25, 2011

Cooking with Chef Brian Alberg

Last autumn  at a Railroad Street Youth Project fundraiser, I bought a cooking class with The Red Lion chef Brian Alberg.  Today my friend Amy Rudnick and I spent several hours in the kitchen with Brian  He is well known for his devotion to pigs, so when he offered to butcher a pig for us, we enthusiastically said yes.

Amy getting ready to butcher pig

Me with half pig

Brian beginning to butcher a half pig

We met in the kitchen at The Red Lion Inn at 11 a.m. this morning, and proceeded directly to a work table where half of a small pig sat awaiting us.  We learned that the pig hadn't weighed more than a bit over 100 lbs, or about half the size Brian normally butchers.  (btw, slaughtering is bloody--butchering isn't)  This particular pig came from his own sty at home.  Butchering is actually quite graceful, at least the way Brian does it.  We watched him cut what will be a delicious ham, the shoulder (or butt, as it's popularly called for no apparent reason), the loin, the tenderloin, the chops, the baby backs and spare ribs.  Every part of the pig is used, and he threw just a few scraps away.  Below Brian proudly displays the large pork chops, one of which we ate for lunch.

The large pork chop we enjoyed for lunch over fresh greens from Ted Dobson.

When Brian turned to the second half of the pig, he suggested each of us help him cut it up.  Amy gamely took up the knife and began rather gingerly, gaining more confidence as she went along.

Then it was my turn.  I got to make a huge cut into the fat, which was tougher than I thought it would be. 

After lunch Brian cut up all the pieces to use in making sausage. 

These were then put through a grinder with a large-hole disk attached.

After the meat went through the first grinding, we added eggs and cream (yes, really).  Before the seond grinding, we had to taste the mixture to make sure it was seasoned correctly.  Brian took a scoop of the mixed meat, cooked it up for a few minutes, and then we each had a bite.  It was delicious!

So we knew the seasoned meat was ready for its second, finer, grinding that went directly into the casing, which is pig intestines.  Here Brian affixes a length of pig intestines to the spigot that churns out the ground meat.

And here goes....

Brian filled a lot of pig intestines, which were then twisted into individual sausages.

Amy and I each got six to take home as souvenirs of a splendid day in the kitchen with Chef Brian.  We not only had a great time, but we saw firsthand how much of the food served at The Red Lion is made in in-house.  Every part of the fish and animals is used for something, which is how it's supposed to be but often isn't. 

The moral of this story is that the next time you're at a charity auction and a chef is offering a few hours in his or her kitchen, bid on it!  Bid on it until you win.  You'll have the time of your life.  I promise.

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