Hot Diggity
Hot Diggity

It was the best of time it was the wurst of times… That might be funny if you could read it… wurst being spelled w-u-r-s-t in this case. But I digress.

The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto reportedly had 13 pigs aboard when he arrived to the new world and docked near what is now Tampa back in 1539. And from that meager start we now have festivals featuring sausages! I also feature one in our new cookbook. It is named a “choripán” and it is popular just as a wide variety of sausages and hot dogs are all over the world! The portmanteau of choripán is easily understood as it weds the words, ‘chorizo and pan’, (pan being the Spanish word for bread). By the way… when the sausage is split down the middle it is referred to as a ‘mariposa‘ which is Spanish for ‘butterfly‘. We are fortunate to live near a boutique butcher shop named, “Proper Sausages” so we source them from there often. We outfit our Choripán with a good chimichurri, classic in many parts of the Americas …but we also ‘fuse‘ things by serving up the pickles we learned from our love of Vietnamese cookery. The great bridges in cuisine cross over even deep waters with amazing ease when they do so with the help of the most common culinary heart-throbs like sausages and burgers!

We are making our own sausages in Mount Dora restaurant. Sous Chef Jeremy Ware, just made us a black sausage made with shrimp and squid ink.

Years back I was invited to New York City for a dinner. Three great chefs; Charlie Trotter, Daniel Boulud and Charlie Palmer were lined up to cook for 35 of us for a charity dinner donated by a very wealthy and generous wine and food connoisseur. The kicker was that for one of the few times in my life I wasn’t in Chef’s whites but my wife, Janet and I were to be guests!

We were scheduled to fly up at 7 a.m. to have lunch by noon at a great restaurant in New York first and then chill until the dinner later. When we got to the airport we found out our flight was …. CANCELLED!

Airline reps finally let us know that we could maybe get to New York around 6 p.m. if we took a bus to Ft. Lauderdale, a plane to Chicago, then another plane to Philly and finally into Manhattan around 6, maybe. Considering their earlier cancellation that morning I decided to talk to a supervisor. I waited in line 2 1/2 hours and then explained what my plans were supposed to have been. To my everlasting amazement she found two first class tickets leaving non-stop in about 30 minutes on another airline. I thanked her for her creativity and we made it to what was one of the best dinners of our lives!

There were truffles, caviar and foie gras later in the meal, but there was also this sausage that Daniel made that was very much on a par as those high priced other ingredients. Warm pork, veal, and crunchy hazelnuts with just the perfect amount of fat. The robust, farmhouse flavors were perfect for the 1985 Veuve Cliquot in Magnums that we washed it down with. What can I say but this was no hot dog.

I’m Norman Van Aken and that’s…. My Word on Food


House Pork Sausage

Yields: 3 Pounds

  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound pork fat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 1/2 Tablespoons pureed Chipotles en Adobo*
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • ¼ Cup Spanish sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly minced thyme leaves

Put the meat, fat and also the grinding blade and knife into a freezer for 1/2 hour before doing the grind. It makes the meat cut more cleanly instead of getting squished as it goes through, which is texturally a much better sausage.Grind the pork meat and pork fat in a meat grinder with a 1/4-inch plate. Put back in the freezer for 15 more minutes. Grind again on the same sized blade. Mix the remaining ingredients together very well and add them to the meat. Cover and refrigerate it for one hour or more. Remove the mix from the refrigerator and form it into patties of the size you like. Cook in a bit of canola oil or bacon fat until just cooked through. Serve or set aside until ready to add to another dish.

* Chipotles en Adobo are a canned item available in most any grocery store or Latin market.

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