Thursday, July 19, 2012

Head Cheese, Turkey Tails and D.C.'s Eastern Market

The Setting: An apartment beginning to take on the smell of smoked and cured meat products...not its worst scent this week.

The Soundtrack: Duck Dynasty. Hoosband got me hooked.

Steaming up the Oven: Bread.

The Scenario: After several weeks in the nearby Virginia suburbs, last weekend Hoosband, Oia, and I finally made it to our nation's capital to check out D.C.'s Eastern Market.

We didn't have much of a purchasing plan in mind, but it seemed a good bet we'd bring home some fresh produce...

Freshly caught seafood....


Or perhaps some freshly made pasta.

But for some reason, when we arrived at the market, all we seemed to notice were the meats.

There were rib-eyes, pork chops, sausages, bacon--all the usual suspects.


But these were not the meats that called to us today.

Today, we determined, would be a day of peculiarity.



Thus, we loaded down the bottom of Oia's stroller with souse, headcheese, smoked turkey tails, smoked hog jowl, jamon Iberico, and, to accompany it all, an admittedly less peculiar, but much needed, crusty rustic baguette.

By the time we got home we smelled a little like a BBQ joint...or a butcher shop...but either way, the fragrance of lunch was upon us.

We quickly assembled a plate of our spoils, complete with a little cultured goat butter from the fridge.

If you've never tried goat butter, try swapping it for the cow's milk variety the next time you need something to slather on some crusty bread. Rich and velvety like regular butter, it has a little more depth and intensity of flavor that I find irresistibly addictive.

And paired with jamon Iberico de bellota and a warm baguette, there are very, very few things better.


Though strangely illegal for import into the U.S. until recent years, Spain's prized Iberian ham is becoming more and more available in the States--incredible news for stateside cured-meat enthusiasts.

Iberian pigs are a special breed of black-hoofed hogs that range freely through oak forests, foraging for the fatty acorns that give the top-quality Spanish ham its signature marbling and flavor.


If referred to as "terrine," or even "meatloaf in aspic," the sliceable meat product we sampled next sounds rather gourmet.

But call it head cheese, and you're likely to send people running.

Tell them what it's made of, and they'll be gone for good--unless, that is, the concept of a cold cut made from the head and various other discardable calf or pig parts held together with gelatin appeals to them, as it does Hoosband.

Of course, if head cheese is a little too tame for your tastes, there's always souse: head cheese that's been pickled in vinegar and spices. It often contains pimentos to help visually distinguish it from plain old head cheese.

The flavor of the souse isn't as aggressive as you'd think, and it pairs nicely with spicy mustard and bread...but somehow I like the regular head cheese a wee bit more.


I LOVE holidays. Hoosband and I start planning the Thanksgiving meal months in advance, but no matter what festive sides we come up with or what pies we perfect, our favorite part of the feast is always sharing the crispy, meaty, fatty, flavorful turkey tail as soon as we pull the bird out of the oven.

We're a little cultish about our love of poultry tails--turkey in particular. We've considered making a bulk purchase over the Internet (never did find a good source), and we always keep our eyes peeled for them at the meat counter, but the butchers usually balk at our requests.

So when we saw the smoked turkey tails at the Eastern Market, it was a no-brainer.

If you're lucky enough to find some near you, crisp them in a 400-degree-F oven for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through for even crisping.

They will be hot, greasy, messy, and a bit of a challenge to gnaw on. But if all that sounds like your kind of party, you won't be disappointed.


If you were paying extra-close attention, you may have noticed one of our Eastern Market purchases was missing from today's tasting plate.

Stay tuned to find out the fate of our giant smoked pork jowl!

Thanks for reading. Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life!

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