January 7, 2015

Parsleyed Ham, Part 2

After my wonderful experience with Jacky, learning his secrets about how to make the local specialty jambon persillé, I decided to make my own batch. After purchasing a 1.5 kilo hunk of pork shoulder, I went to the master's house so he could "pump" it with his pink salt mixture. The butcher had given me more couenne, the outer layer of fat on a ham, than I could possibly use for my small batch, and Jacky was all too happy to take it off my hands. I thought this was a good trade for his "pumping." He opened his fridge to store the fat. Inside the refrigerator were several trays covered in animal feet. "Pieds de mouton," he told me. Lamb's feet. Sixty-seven of them. He was going to cook them for friends the following week. I asked him how he prepared them. He looked at me and said, "Just like a calf's foot. Couldn't be easier."

Oh. Um, pause, uh...I'm American. I don't have a whole lot of experience cooking calves' feet. Laughing, he told me he would boil them in a court bouillon for a long time, low and slow.

Back home, the ham was remarkably easy, and I enjoyed making the house smell like cooking pig for several hours. I spiced and doctored, put the couenne through the blender just like he had showed me to make a slurry of fat ("it gives it amazing texture and richness"), and had two good sized containers ready for the holidays. 

Fork tender

Our family kept and enjoyed one, and, in a wave of whatthehellyouonlyliveonce courage, I brought the other to a couple who had been exceptionally kind to me over the previous year. 

On January 2, I ran into the wife in the grocery store. We exchanged new year's greetings, pecked each other's cheeks, and made small talk. As the conversation wound down, her eyes lit up for a second and she said, "Oh, le jambon persillé était très bon. We ate a portion of it here in Arnay and I brought the rest to my relatives over the new year. They loved it."

After some memorable dances with "spéciale," this was positive news. A little cloud lifted my feet off the ground. I told her I was glad they had enjoyed it, and turned to continue my shopping. Her voice called me back. "Personnellement," she started, her face betraying a little concern, "for my own taste, it wasn't salted enough."

Thump thump as my feet returned to earth. "Oh, well, OK. Noted," said I. She approached me, looking me right in the eyes, saying, "Non? You didn't remark the same thing?"

I tried to focus on the positive, thanked her for her initial compliment, muttered something like "I'll think about that next time," and wished her a good day. I had just been Franked: Thanked by the French.

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