It’s quite a selection of cookbooks I have collected over the years. My enthusiasm for great cookbooks has been a constant. I wouldn’t be surprised to know that you’ve experienced this too. For many of us, these specialized books on our kitchen shelves are some of our most cherished possessions. Aren’t they? I personally turn to them often to consult on step-by-step techniques, seek inspiration and to satisfy my constant craving for improvement.
This past October a new cookbook was released telling the extraordinary story behind the Oregon-based salumeria – Olympia Provisions, and the Greek-American family who owns it and operates it from its headquarters in Portland.
In all, the family runs two restaurants and the charcuterie, the latter serving our entire country.
Meat farmers, charcuterie connoisseurs and family business owners will identify right away with the story of a Greek immigrant, his wife, two sons, and a daughter, who brought his “ethos” and traditions with him, and passed these on to the new generation. The three children grew up in three-quarters of an acre, where they had a fully- functioning farm, including lambs, geese, chicken, pigeons, beehives, and pine trees. If they were hungry, or needed honey, glue, or just a natural remedy, everything could be procured right in their backyard. The idea of buying anything from the store that you could find out back or prepare yourself was – unthinkable.
Many of us who are part of families who crossed oceans or continents to pursue their dreams quickly identify with the Cairo family’s past and present story.
Elias Cairo, the youngest son, searching for his path, left his family and spent years in Wildhous, Switzerland, a tiny mountain village with a one-of-kind-food culture, where he arrived as an apprentice in a hotel.
He writes, “so much of what I do, and who I am, is inspired by my time in this tiny mountain village. Everyone there works so hard…This dedication fosters true craftsmanship.”
Elias Cairo continues: “I wanted to write a book at this point in the life of our business to reveal the people behind the product and to show that we are a family that cares about what we do. I have been working at realizing this dream most of my life-not to take over the world with meat, necessarily, but to live in a world where meat, and smart meat making, reign.” Spanning 269 pages, the book is organized to mirror their business.
First, the book takes us to their charcuterie recipes. It begins by teaching the simplicity of slow-cooking pâtés, fresh sausages, and more, and then moves on to more complex recipes that require diving into fermenting, smoking and curing. Many of these recipes aren’t available in any other English-language charcuterie books that I know of.
Second, Cairo wanted to showcase their two restaurants’ “feature” recipes. Open all day, the food changes throughout. They offer a brunch and lunch, happy hour and dinner. Many of the recipes, of course, include their charcuterie, which the more ambitious among us might put together at home. For those wanting to enjoy the recipes without all of the work, Cairo invites the reader to order directly from them. As I perused the different foods of the day, I arrived at Lunch, and my love for clams and chorizo (which I grew up with) grabbed my attention. I couldn’t resist the combination of the two.
Olympia Provisions‘ debut cookbook is in my view an extraordinary compilation of savoir-faire in the making of charcuterie.When we think of charcuterie, we may think of France, Italy, Germany and perhaps other European countries, but this American charcuterie is a revelation of what is possible to achieve in charcuterie products in America. Watch them, follow them and keep an eye of what Olympia Provisions creates next, because this growing family empire is here to stay.I have received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
I leave you with steamed manila clams with chorizo and an inspiration:
“To make charcuterie at home, rather than at the industrial level, is to make it simply. And when you make it simple, you cannot hide any flaws. And that’s a beautiful thing”. – Elias Cairo.
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- ¼ cup good-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 5 oz Chorizo Navarre (Olympia Provisions) I used OP Rioja Chorizo instead.
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 pounds Manila clams scrubbed and purged
- 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
- Fine sea salt and ground pepper
- Lemon juice
- 4 green onions sliced thinly on the bias
- 1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh parsley
- Warm crusty bread, for serving
- Set a pan large enough to accommodate the clams over medium heat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and saute the chorizo pieces in it. Soon you will begin to see the paprika and garlic-scented fat render out of the sausage. When the chorizo pieces have begun to crisp but are not crisped all the way, remove the pan from the heat. Let cool for 30 seconds.
- Add the red pepper flakes an garlic, return the pan to heat, and stir. The idea is to cok the garlic but not to let i brown in the slightest. After a minute or so, add the white wine and stock, and the the clams. Raise the heat to medium-high. Once the liquid is at a boil, the clams will start to open up Swirl the pan a bit so that the clams cook more evenly.
- When almost all of the clams are open, add the butter and continue to swirl the plan until it is melted. Taste and add sea salt, black pepper, and lemon juice as needed. Off the heat, add the green onion and parley. Divide among four bowls. Finish with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and serve with bread.