Spicy Bright Birthday Balls

A plate with three Korean-inspired crepinettes, japchae, and sticky rice

Korean-inspired crepinettes, japchae, and sticky rice

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.

Slicing veggies and aromatics for japchae noodles

Slicing veggies and aromatics for japchae noodles

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
1 cracker
3 garlic cloves
1 scallion
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.

Minced garlic and scallion gently frying

Minced garlic and scallion gently frying

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.

A mix of ground beef & pork with sweated alliums & seasonings ready to stir

A mix of ground beef & pork with sweated alliums & seasonings ready to stir

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.

A soy-pickled shiso leaf positioned on caul fat

A soy-pickled shiso leaf positioned on caul fat

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.

A finished crepinette awaiting roasting

A finished crepinette awaiting roasting

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.

A baker's half-dozen Korean-inspired crepinettes ready to roast

A baker's half-dozen Korean-inspired crepinettes ready to roast

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.


About mosaica

Ugly & fabulous, warm & obsessive, brilliant & dorkmeisterish: striving to be a warrior in her little context.
This entry was posted in beef, charcutepalooza, charcuterie, nose-to-tail, pork, recipe and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Spicy Bright Birthday Balls

  1. That lacy fat is so beautiful! Happy belated birthday!

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks sister 🙂 I have a crush on this stuff, and every time I go out to butcher pigs and take all the caul home myself, well, I feel positively millionaire-ish. Recently I’ve also started harvesting lamb caul fat, and it is equally fantastic for wrapping lamby and muttony goodies. Yum!

  2. Love your posts! I am also in the Upper Valley and curious where you find caul fat locally. Hanover Coop? Village Butcher in Woodstock?

    • mosaica says:

      Thank you! I go out as an apprentice butcher, and I collect the caul as delicious barter for my contribution. I would try both the Coop and the Village Butcher; if they don’t stock it regularly, surely they can order it, right? Let me know how it works out.

  3. Janis Tester says:

    You do know that I was Korean in my other life. You also know that I love Shiso more than about anything. You also did know that Caul Fat fascinates me and I love using it (have some in my freezer). Did you know that this dish looks absolutely beautiful and I want one of these little morsels right now!

  4. birthemor says:

    What a gorgeous presentation of “frikadeller” crepinettes I mean ooh! This recipe I must try first thing in 2012, it looks so great. And your pictures sparkle, xxx birthemor

  5. So beautiful…
    I was thrilled to see you in the running for the big Charcutepalooza payola. : )
    Have a happy and well fed holiday!

    • mosaica says:

      Thank you sister Jackie 🙂 I’m pretty darn excited myself, and am grateful that there’s tons of cozy Christmas-related doings to keep me distracted or I might lose my head waiting to hear. Today my mincemeat was done, and I made these super yummy very rustic mince tarts. Wish you could come by for tea & a tart! And a mince tart too! 😉

  6. mosaica says:

    Jackie, I’ll be making a blog post about making the mincemeat soon, maybe between Christmas & the new year. Happiest merriest to you!

  7. You are such an amazing cook, chica. Seriously…

  8. vtbee says:

    i’m glad to hear you had such a lovely birthday celebration! happy belated to ye! and god jul!
    and happy new year! i may have a bit of time on my hands in early jan – shall we plan a get-together???

    • mosaica says:

      Thank you blossom! On lile jule aften (Dec 23) I came down with a gobsmacker of a head cold, and it totally flattened me over jule; today is the first day I had enough cajones to tackle the giant leaning tower of dishes which accumulated since then. Another hour and it’ll be done!

      I’m altogether down with us having a fantastic visit, and seeing as I’m in the last week or so of moving prep, let’s say we break in my new old flat, ‘kay? xoxoxo

      • vtbee says:

        It’s a done deal! I thought of you when passing your home turf last week – wondered if you’re feeling all moved in and settled. Or if you’d like a hand unpacking? Do tell!

  9. Auldo says:

    Just saw this post on Nose to Tail at Home. Looks amazing! Other posts look just as good, so I’m definitely gonna read up on them. Boy, whish you were my girlfriend with all this tasty food… Are you taken? 🙂

    By the way, is it difficult growing shiso? I love the stuff, never ever thought of growing it myself.

    • mosaica says:

      Oh, champion comment! With a bit of flirt –what is not to love. Thanks, Auldo. I just took a brief look at your amazing blog cooking Heston’s stuff. I have the book, but haven’t had a chance to look at it, much less cook from it. I can’t wait to get through my last move, next week, so I can finally unpack and get back to it. However, I did just make a beef & kidney pie based on a recipe of his from his most recent TV programme. It was an absolute winner.

      While I can’t be your girlfriend, I can fully commit to being your auntie, and will be delighted to cook for you when you come and visit Vermont. Srsly!

      Growing shiso is very, very easy, though germinating it can be a chore. Once it’s established in a corner of your perennial garden though, and you let it go to seed, you’ll have it forever.

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