Each December my family celebrates my birthday by getting our Jule-cozy on with a Sunday visit to the Solstice & Christmas revels in Hanover, and then we head over to enjoy dinner at my favorite local restaurant, West Lebanon’s Yama.
Huang and Insook, the owners, along with the lovely staff, are warm and welcoming all the year long, but for my birthday dinner they pull out all the stops and shower our table with the special treats that they know I enjoy most.
Huang always finds something in the kitchen to offer as a gift, which he presents with a giant grin and hug. This year it was two big packages of sweet-potato starch noodles, which he knows I love to make japchae with, a mound of lovely jiggling glistening noodles liberally shot through with bright veggies and drizzled with a sweet & soy-saucy dressing.
So when I was encouraged to submit a charcuterie recipe for the Charcutepalooza Final festivities over at Food52, I had Korean cuisine on the brain, and it didn’t take long to come up with these Korean-inspired crepinettes. Basically a meatball, and often made from various bits of good pork offal, crepinettes are made a little more festive by being wrapped in a delicate négligée of caul fat, also called lace lard.
If you are new to making charcuterie, crepinettes are a nice introduction to using your meat grinder, to creating a forcemeat mixture, and to dealing with caul fat, which is featured in many traditional French pâtés.
This version includes a mixture of beef chuck and lean pork belly for the forcemeat, and is brightened by typically Korean flavors: soy pickled shiso, gochujang, soy sauce, garlic, and scallions. Luckily for me (as this was to be my birthday lunch) this fusion of Korean and French turned out delicious.
If you’re not familiar with some of the ingredients in this recipe, take a look at the bottom of this post for information about the more noteworthy ingredients.
Bright Korean-Inspired Crepinettes
5 ounces lean pork belly
13 ounces beef chuck
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping tablespoon gochujang paste
1/2 pound caul fat
1/2 teaspoon peanut oil
6-7 soy-pickled or fresh shiso leaves
Mince garlic and scallion fine, and fry gently until just softened. Set aside to cool.
Chop all meat into approximately 1-inch pieces and toss with the pepper, salt, gochujang sauce, and cooled fried garlic and scallion. Process first through the large plate of your meat grinder and then once more through the fine plate. Lastly, break up your cracker and process it through your grinder; it helps to get the last bits of meat through the plate and adds a bit of binding to your forcemeat as well.
It’s helpful to fry a little bit of your meat to taste at which point you can adjust the seasoning to your preference.
Carefully spread your lacy piece of caul fat onto your clean workspace. I find it easiest to work with the delicate caul fat on a food-safe plastic cutting board just wiped with a cold wet cloth. Depending on the stretchiness and composition of your piece of caul, you may have leftovers. Caul fat freezes beautifully!
Place one shiso leaf in the center of a section of the caul fat closest to an edge.
Take an egg-sized portion of your forcemeat and shape into a slightly flattened oval patty, and place it centered over the shiso leaf. Use a sharp knife to trim away a piece of the caul just large enough to wrap your meat in, and gently wrap the edges of your little caul fat wrapper up and over your meat patty.
Roast leaf-side up in a 375°F oven on a rack over a silver-foil lined roasting pan for 20-25 minutes or until the crepinette feels firm to the touch and is nicely browned.
Serve warm with rice and japchae. I’m very fond of Maangchi’s version of japchae, though when I make it as a side I will simplify it, for instance by not adding meat or mushroooms, and with respect to the contents of my larder.
Thanks to all of you who made my birthday splendid this year!
Special Ingredient Notes:
Caul Fat: Also known as “lace lard,” this is a sweet and incredibly useful pork product for wrapping crepinettes, faggots, frikadeller, and pâtés. Ask your butcher or look online to order.
Gochujang Paste: A savory and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. Delicious, complex, and warmly spicy.
Soy Pickled Shiso Leaves: Also known as “perilla” and “beefsteak plant,” shiso has been described as an Asian version of basil, but it has its own unique and delicious flavor. I grow it and pickle it in soy in the fall. Try find it in a large Korean or Japanese market, or substitute fresh shiso leaves, which are easy to find at Asian markets.