Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Simple Fatty-

"Let's do a Fatty." That's what I suggested to my daughter, Beth. Since she, her husband Dave, and their three children returned to live with us once again, Beth has been in charge of the food department at our extended household.

This was my first effort in the realm of the Fatty, a thing I read about only months ago but have admired from afar. Though the concept of the Fatty is open to many interpretations, I decided to make this first one simple. Pork, lot's of pork. Cheese. Sausage.

I gave Beth a short list, and a few hours later I had what I needed to begin.

I covered my counter with a sheet of parchment paper and opened the three packages of prepared pork sausage Beth had brought me. Safeway Select. I formed the ground meat on the parchment into a rectangle of porky goodness, about an inch thick. I then laid out on it the variety of cheese slices Beth had procured. Pepper Jack, Sharp Cheddar, Swiss, and Colby Jack. I alternated the slices so that a bit of each would melt into every section of the Fatty.

Onto this foundation I set a smoked Turkey Kielbasa. It seemed a bit long, so I cut about an inch off of each end. I then rolled the whole thing using the parchment in order to form a great log of meat and cheese. I formed the ends around the exposed Kielbasa.

This meaty assembly I set aside and put down a second sheet of parchment. Onto this I began to weave a blanket of bacon. Two pounds of bacon interleaved to form a sheet of bacon goodness. I trimmed the few bits that did not form well into the bacon blanket. These bits I set aside with the Kielbasa ends. These bits provided the cook with something to quick fry and snack on while the cooking was going on.

Onto the blanket of bacon I set the prepared log of cheese and sausage. I rolled the whole thing in the parchment to wrap it in the bacon blanket. I found the bacon bound sufficiently to the pork sausage so as to need no skewers to hold it in place. I moved the parchment wrapped Fatty to a tray for transport to the Char-Broil Silver Smoker.

The smoker was prepared with a single starter chimney load of Kingsford Mesquite Charcoal. I always ignite my charcoal using a small pan of rubbing alcohol placed in the fire box and set ablaze. I put the starter chimney over this, and in very short order the charcoal lights and gets going very well. There is no residual flavor as often results from starting fluids, and no ash mess that comes with the often frustrating use of newspaper.

I seldom have newspaper, anyway. I get most of my news off of the Internet. It is hard to start a fire with the Internet.

Once the coals were going well I dumped them into the fire box and pushed them together near the cooking chamber. Once the chamber was hot I brushed the grill clean and slid the Fatty from the parchment onto the grill. I placed my thermometer probe into the end of the Fatty furthest from the fire, making sure that the probe was embedded into the Kielbasa.

Ordinarily I set a timer and return to my cooking every twenty minutes. Each visit I check the fire. If it is still going well, I add some soaked Mesquite chips. If the coals are burned past half of their original mass, I add about six briquettes. This day I had the grand kids outside with me, and remained in attendance to my fire more than I usually do.

Consequently, I was fussing excessively with the fire and got it too hot. I checked the cooking chamber and we were over 350 degrees. Way more than my usual target of around 200 degrees or so. I vented the heat back to around 200 degrees. However, I noticed that the bacon wrap was cooking nicely with the higher heat, so I let it stay a bit hotter than usual.

How to crisp the bacon wrap had been a concern. The Fatty was too large to easily move to the fire for a finishing crisping. I considered a torch to do the finish, but the outer wrap crisped rather nicely due to the higher cooking temperature.

When the Fatty reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees I proclaimed it done and moved it to a tray to rest for fifteen minutes under a foil tent. It looked so good that it proved to be a very long fifteen minutes. Finally, it was ready. I sliced it into one inch thick sections. These I placed on a serving tray, along side a bucket of beans.

The Fatty was a big hit with the family, though there were many comments about the impact such a meal would have on the blood pressure. The prepared sausage provided a nice degree of spice, without being overwhelming. The Kielbasa provided some tooth, and smokey goodness. The bacon, well, it is bacon! The melted cheeses were a very positive addition.

Lessons learned:

Don't build it quite that big, next time. Make several smaller Fatties. It was hard to handle, and the bacon on the bottom could have used some crisping. Smaller Fatties could be cooked a bit more slowly, and still be crisped over direct heat toward the end.

Use more cheese, and more aggressive cheeses. The delicate flavors of the Swiss and the Colby Jack were lost in the bold flavors of the rest of the Fatty. A lot more Sharp Cheddar would be good. Perhaps a goodly amount of Pepper Jack and Cheddar would work, as well. Something to experiment with. Maybe even some Stinky Cheeses, to make a Stinky Fatty.

It might be fun to play with the sausages used in the center. Perhaps replace the sausage with some previously smoked cuts of meat. Pickled meats or fishes could also be placed in the center, providing additional aggressive flavors and a variety of textures.

With regard to textures, I think strips of grilled vegetables would go nicely in the Fatty, as well. Peppers, in particular, would provide flavor and texture. They would also add color to the plated slices.

The ground meat used to create the bulk of the Fatty also provides ample opportunity to experiment. Rather than prepared pork sausage, the cook can grind and blend a variety of meats and spices to create something truly unique.

The Fatty is a barbecue format that provides the cook with opportunities to experiment. It is delicious in the simple form, and has the potential to be magnificent. I look forward to the adventure.

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