Friday, September 24, 2010

Morcella Especial

Morcella (say "muh-sal-uh") is the Portuguese version of the blood puddings or blood sausages that show up in just about every major cultural cuisine. "Boudin Noir" to the French, "Black Pudding" to our British friends, "Blutwurst" to the Germans, "Soondae" to the Koreans and known by many other names to people from many other cultures. The stuff is universal.

I'm not going to pull punches here. It's made from blood and that tends to put people off. Even people who'll eat the rarest of rare meat will pass on morcella and its international kin. It is kind of an acquired taste. Most people I know that eat it started doing so as children and ended up liking it long before they learned what it was. Some, once they learned what it was, stopped eating it. Bummahs for them!

My earliest memories of morcella are the sandwiches my dad and mom used to make, or how my Portuguese grandmother used to mix it with scrambled eggs for breakfast. The latter I enjoyed again for breakfast when I was in the Azores in 2004 and it was still damn good!

Recently, the good people at Mello's Chourico in Fall River, MA asked me to come up with some recipes for their fine line of Portuguese sausage products. While anyone who reads Chop Onions, Boil Water knows, doing anything with chourico is easy because EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH CHOURICO! Morcella presents a little more of a challenge.

So I did a little research on all the different international types of blood sausage (as evidenced in the introductory paragraph of this entry) and came up with a number of recipes to work from. For my first morcella recipe on Chop Onions, Boil Water I chose a traditional French preparation but of course used Portuguese blood sausage instead of boudin noir.

The result? It is delicious! That's not just my opinion but also my wife Michelle's. Prior to eating this dish, she was NOT a fan of morcella but Morcella Especial made a believer of her. She liked it a lot. So did my mom, who proclaimed it the "Best morcella ever!"

Why is it good? It's all about the green apples. They balance and harmonize with the flavor of the morcella to create something really delicious and different. In fact, if you're a little evil, you might even serve this without telling anyone what it is and fool more than a few people. In doing so, you could make some people angry, but hey that's a risk you take. One can have too many friends!

Try it friends, you'll be surprised!

Morcella Especial

1/2 morcella link (7 or 8 ozs.)
2 large tart green apples (cored, peeled and sliced into 12ths)
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and sliced thin)
4 tablespoons sweet butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbs fresh parsley (chopped)

Place the morcella in the freezer at least an hour before you are going to need it. This allows it to harden and makes it much easier to peel and slice.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Place a cast iron (or suitable facsimile) 10" skillet on a medium-high flame. Add 1 tablespoon of the sweet butter, allow it to melt and spread it around the pan. Immediately add the apple slices and sauté, turning frequently, until the edges of the apples begin to caramelize. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until tender (about 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a second skillet melt the remaining 3 tablespoons sweet butter over medium-high heat. Add the potato slices and fry, turning frequently, until they are golden on both sides. Add salt and pepper to taste and pour them over the baking apples.

Quickly deglaze the potato pan with the 1/4 cup of wine. Stir continually until the liquid is almost completely reduced, then pour the resulting liquid over the potato and apple mixture. Place the apple and potato mixture back in the oven and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes.

While the potatoes and apples are baking, remove the frozen morcella from the freezer. Slice the link shallowly along its length and peel off and discard the skin. Slice the morcella in 1/8" slices and set aside.

When the apple and potato mixture finishes baking remove the pan from the oven and cover the entire apple and potato mixture in a layer of sliced morcella.

Place the mixture back in the oven and bake until lightly browned, crumbly and crispy on top, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve at once to surprised people.

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