It’s taken a few days to absorb the incredible two days I spent in the company of Kate Hill and Dominique Chopolard. Kate is, of course, the generous sponsor of Charcutepalooza’s grand prize, a week at her butchery school in Gascony. She and I had spent plenty of time chatting on Skype, kitchen to kitchen, but nothing prepared me to meet this wonderful woman in person. She’s fabulous. Just marvelous. And Dominique? Everyone who met Dom immediately fell in love. He’s a great guy and completely owns the look – that black beret, a world-class mustache and a true, honest to goodness, twinkle in his eye.
Both Kate and Dom are engaged and thoughtful on all matters meaty – watching the collaboration of farmer, butcher and consumer in France for the last twenty five years makes Kate a fantastic ambassador – deftly interpreting, not just translating – the words of Dom as he showed a small group of us how the French tease apart the various cuts of pork.
When Dom and a pig meet up, magic starts to brew. With just a 6″ Victorinox knife he showed us how to remove trotters, tenderloin, coppa, loin roasts; to debone the shoulder; to roll up a ventreche. And in a feat of sheer brilliance, deconstructed the haunch, the cut that cures 18 months in Italy to become proscuitto, and smokes, then cures for a year in Virginia emerging salty country ham. For that day, in Rappahannock County, Virginia, this haunch of pork became several noix de jambon, the Chopolard specialty small hams, salted, cold smoked and hung for just three weeks.
What an education. I was rapt. I was moved. It was somehow emotional, artistic and sensual. Three words I never would have connected with butchery. I am so very grateful to Kate and Dom – they changed me, my brain.
I had a great time dragging Kate and Dom around Washington, DC, the morning before their workshop in Baltimore. Dom had never visited DC, so the White House (La Maison Blanche), the Capitol, the not-quite-blooming cherry trees, the US Botanical Garden and Union Station were on the tour.
I can’t wait til they come back to the States. Watch Kate’s calendar for future dates because you really want to do this once in your life. Really.
After the one day class, my mind was made up. I’ll be heading to Gascony in the Fall for a week-long course in butchery and charcuterie. I can’t wait.
Here are links to wonderful, evocative posts about the remarkable Cochon & Charcuterie workshops.
Did you attend a workshop and write a blog post about it? Please add your Cochon post using the Linking form below.
Check it out! Look what else I learned to do! Kate showed me how to Doo-Rag my crazy curls and even gave me a cool scarf to get me started! Oh la la the French. They make everything chic.