You will need to ask your butcher for the blood. Chinese butchers are a good source. It may be difficult to obtain, but it can be got. You will also need an 8-inch loaf pan lined with plastic wrap.
This dish is the third panel in the comic illustrated by my friend Laura Williams. We served every item shown at a dinner party for a few of our good friends. The second–and last–panel will be next week’s update.
I’ve been a big, big fan of eating blood ever since I had my first boudain noir at Bouchon. Rich, creamy goodness with a luxurious flavor unlike anything else. So when I happened upon this recipe, I knew before I even tried it I would absolutely love it. The rough part was going to be finding a place that sold pig’s blood. But as Mr. Henderson mentions above, heading to the Chinese market is usually my first stop when it comes to finding the more interesting items needed for making recipes from “The Cookbook.”
MT Supermarket in Austin sells pork blood by the pint. This recipe calls for fresh pigs blood, and even though this blood was coagulated to the point of being like Jello, the butchers behind the counter swore it had been put out that morning. I gathered the rest of my needed ingredients and headed home.
In a large non-stick skillet my wife started to sweat a finely chopped onion and some garlic in duck fat. The duck fat is just the tip of the iceberg of the unctuous, rich goodness of this dish.
This was my first time ever using two things: Marjoram and Mace. It turns out that Marjoram is a relative of Oregano, and that Oregano also goes by the name Wild Marjoram in some places. It tasted slightly citrusy and sweet with a slightly bitter undertone. I plucked the leaves from half the bunch, and finely chopped them.
Next up was the Mace. Mace is the dried “lacy” reddish covering or arillus of the nutmeg seed. Very similar in flavor to nutmeg, Mace is just a bit stronger. I had some real issues with finding Mace in the usual megamarts, so I ended up ordering a probably too-big bag from Penzeys Spices. I dropped half a handful of strands of Mace into a coffee grinder that I commandeered into spice work and blitzed them until I had a powder.
The Marjoram, Mace, some Allspice, the blood and some cornmeal were all added to the onions and garlic in the pan. The blood jello had to be cut and mashed with the wooden spatula to loosen it up. Eventually it liquifed only to start thickening back up. I was looking for a runny porridge-like consistency, before I could add …
… some fatback. Except this isn’t fatback, it’s caul fat from a Berkshire hog. The weekend before I made this dish I went to the downtown Austin Farmer’s Market where I found a stall for the Peach Creek Farm of String Prairie, Texas. I met a nice woman named Rose who suggested that using caul fat would be a fine substitute for fatback. I picked up this huge slab of fat for a reasonable price, and Rose was so very kind that I’m probably going to be using Peach Creek Farms for most of my piggy needs in the future. I cut and measured out a half pound of caul fat, and then turned it into 1/4″ cubes. Once the blood was at the proper consistency, all of the fat cubes were added. I had to wait until just the right time, otherwise the fat cubes would have just sunk to the bottom of the mixture while it baked.
With a loaf pan properly lined with saran wrap, I poured the blood and fat mixture in. After wrapping it with aluminum foil, the pan was placed in a water bath in a medium hot oven where it baked for over an hour.
Removed from the oven, you can see how the blood had firmed up. I wish I had let it go a little bit longer, as the cake was a bit crumbly when sliced it later on, but the skewer I used to check its doneness had come out clean after three jabs. The blood cake went into the fridge to set.
Later on during the dinner party, I removed the blood cake from the pan and made enough 1/2 slices to serve everyone. Two pans were placed on the stove top and duck fat (hooray!) was added to both. In one pan I fried an egg, while in the other I fried the blood cake. When both were properly cooked, I placed the blood cake on a plate, with the egg on top …
… like so. As I had previously surmised, I loved it. Perfectly dense blood cake, with hunks of slightly gelatinous pork fat with every bite. Laura commented that the egg was needed to cut the richness of the cake. Now that’s what I call rich! I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe the flavors to you with no success. It’s such a unique taste that I can only suggest that you find yourself some blood cake or boudain noir to experience it yourself. It’s really delicious, I promise.
One down, eighty seven to go.