Behind the Dish: Veal Sausage

Charcuterie is such an essential flavor of French life…I remember seeing people in Paris in the late 1940s standing in line with their toes sticking out of their slippers, yet willing to pay for fresh charcuterie.

—Judith Jones, book editor and friend of Julia Child

One thing Julia Child learned to do in the course of her publishing adventures was trust the instincts of her fellow Francophile and food lover Judith Jones. After all, while still at Doubleday, Judith had saved Anne Frank’s diary from the rejection pile and turned it into what has become a perpetual international best seller and a priceless tribute to the human spirit. She was the kind of person who knew a good thing when she saw it.

Her instincts about food were no less accurate. Judith persuaded Julia that her second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking needed a recipe for baking traditional French baguettes, and she also insisted that the book needed a recipe for homemade sausage because preserved meats, or charcuterie, were so central to French cuisine.

It wasn’t the last time Julia would tackle that subject. Her collaborative cookbook with Jacques Pépin includes an entire charcuterie chapter, part of which is the basic recipe we’re following when making our sausage. The recipe in Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home calls for ground pork, but we’re making it with ground veal, seasoning it with salt and pepper, sugar, chopped pecans, red wine, garlic, and a touch of sage not called for in the original recipe.

Julia and Jacques wanted a recipe that wouldn’t intimidate home cooks with the complexity and mess that might be involved in stuffing their sausage into a casing, so their version of sausage is casing-free. It requires only that the ingredients be kneaded together, formed into a cylindrical shape, sealed tightly into plastic wrap and cured for up to a week.

Our veal sausage has been curing for a few days now, and tonight it’ll be ready to slice thin and lay atop our scalloped potatoes and some vegetables gratin, topped with a mushroom demiglace.

Is this combination a winner? Try it tonight and let us know!

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