|(L) Scrapple and duck eggs. (R) Pan-frying scrapple in butter. © Ryan Schierling|
So, it's good to get the goose back on the hot dog.
As most of you already know, I'm a huge fan of geographic oddities when it comes to food. There are dishes that never stray too far from their origins, and if you don't seek them out, it's possible to go through your entire life without ever having them pass your lips. The Horseshoe. The Hot Brown. Lobster rolls. Loco Moco. Burgoo. Cincinnati chili. Chicken riggies. Zydeco salad.
There are recipes that I'm sort of shocked didn't originate in Texas. Scrapple (similar to the German panhas) is at the top of the list. Texans are historically very good at using all bits of the beast for barbecue, and Texas hot guts may very well be kith and kin to this Mid-Atlantic meat mishmash – but it was the Pennsylvania Dutch who figured out a delicious way to extend leftover pork trimmings and offal with cornmeal and spices. Of course, delicious is a subjective term. I've talked with friends originally from the Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virgina) Peninsula, and their long-term relationships with scrapple are decidedly love-hate with no middle ground.
There are a number of commercially-made store-bought scrapple options for breakfast, with corn meal and flour mixed into pork stock as the primary binder for all manner of the nasty bits – pork liver, skin, trotters, tongue, heart and who knows what else. One manufacturer touts "contains no snouts," which I suppose could either be a selling point or labeled by hardcore fans as inauthentic. Homemade scrapple isn't an overly-laborious process, but it does take a fair amount of time to make the pork stock. Scratch pork stock is a sweetly-nuanced nectar that is pig-head and shoulders above any store-bought pork-flavored water you could possibly use, and it makes all the difference in this dish.
The only deviation from the traditional recipes I researched was that I incorporated some jalapeño for additional heat. This is Texas scrapple, and I had to. Much like breakfast sausage, the spicy, rich and fatty flavors are complemented by condiments with a bit of sweetness. Maple syrup, grape jelly, and apple butter are common toppings, and some crown their scrapple with... ketchup. I had no prior experience with scrapple, so I tried it pan-fried and plain, seared with a nice crust on both sides, keeping the delicate interior soft and supple. I like my breakfast sausage run through a little syrup, and testing the scrapple this way was my favorite.
Finally, for a complete breakfast, I went for griddled Texas Toast topped with maple syrup and cracked black pepper, pan-fried scrapple, and a sunny-side-up duck egg. I have to admit, I'm a believer.
|Scrapple on Texas toast with maple syrup, cracked black pepper and a sunny-side up duck egg. © Ryan Schierling|
2 pounds pork neck bones with meat attached
1 head garlic
2 onions, quartered
3-4 carrots, roughly chopped
3-4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put pork neck bones and the head of garlic in a roasting pan and roast for two hours. Remove from oven and put the neck bones and garlic into a large stock pot. Add onions, carrots and celery. Add enough cold water to just cover the meat and vegetables. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, skimming off any foam that comes to the top. Turn heat down low enough that you can maintain a very, very gentle simmer. Add peppercorns and bay leaves and a pinch of salt. Simmer for 4 hours. Once the stock is finished, let it cool, then strain out all the solids. Save the pork neck bones and any meat that has cooked off the bone. Transfer the stock to the refrigerator to chill overnight. The next morning, any fat will be solidified on the top of the stock, and you can spoon it off. When stock is reheated for use, add salt to taste. Pick any meat from the neck bones, carefully removing any small bones. Chop the meat fine and reserve for scrapple.
1 pound cooked pork neck bone meat (or however much meat you get off your neck bones from making stock)
16 ounces spicy fresh breakfast sausage
1/2 pound liver (we used beef liver, but you can use pork if you like)
1 medium onion, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
A pinch of dried red pepper flakes
2 fresh jalapeños, including seeds and membranes, diced
3 cups coarsely-ground cornmeal
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
3 cups pork stock + 1 cup pork stock
Prepare 2 regular-sized loaf pans by placing a piece of plastic wrap inside them, creating a lining so the scrapple will not stick to the sides. (We tried liberally greasing one pan instead of using cling wrap, and the scrapple didn't want to come out cleanly).
Cook the breakfast sausage and liver in a large skillet over medium heat with a little oil. Break apart the sausage and liver and crumble everything up as it cooks. Add the onion, jalapeños, garlic, sage, marjoram, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and continue cooking until the meat is well-browned. Add the chopped pork neck meat. Bring 3 cups of pork stock to a boil in a large stockpot and add salt to taste. Slowly add the cornmeal, continuously stirring, to the stock. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the oatmeal, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is thickened, add the meat and drippings from the skillet and stir well. Continue cooking over medium-low heat until the mixture is thick and barely-pourable. Add additional pork stock as needed.
Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings as needed – it should have the taste of a very strongly-opinionated, feisty breakfast sausage.
Using a spatula, fill the loaf pans with the scrapple mixture. Let cool slightly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or until well-set. Remove scrapple from pans, cut into 1/2" slices and pan-fry over medium heat in a little butter and/or bacon grease. You should have a nice, crispy sear on both sides and the scrapple interior should be soft.