Braunschweiger, a type of liverwurst that's usually smoked, has some ardent fans. Stephen Colbert likes it so much that when Martha Stewart appeared on The Colbert Report in 2010, he not only prepared her a snack with the pork sausage, but also licked some off her blouse after she dropped it.
Mike Simmons of Rootstock has fond memories of eating "tons and tons and tons" of the Usinger's brand in his early 20s when he'd just moved to Chicago. "It's so delicious that when I begin eating it, I cannot stop eating until it's either taken away from me or gone," he says. "My wife can attest to this. It's kind of gross."
Simmons says he rarely eats braunschweiger anymore because it's difficult to find any made with ethically raised meat. So to meet Parachute chef Johnny Clark's challenge to create a dish with braunschweiger, Simmons made his own. "I cut up a whole bunch of pig face and pig liver and spices very finely, packed them into a beef bung casing, and smoked it," he says. Beef bung is "exactly what it sounds like: the lower end of the large intestine of beef . . . it's the last stop." As for the spices, he stuck to ones classically used in the old-school sausage, like mace, nutmeg, and black and white pepper.
Liver can be a strong flavor, but Simmons didn't try to tone it down. "When I eat offal, I really like the flavor. When I eat a kidney, I don't spend a day soaking it in milk to take all the kidneyness away from it, and when I eat liver I don't spend a day soaking the liver in a brine to take the liveriness away. I pat the liver dry, I cut it up, and I put it in the grinder with the pig face." The finished braunschweiger, he says, "tastes like smoke and pork and liver and salt."
Simmons hasn't lost his taste for braunschweiger over the years. He made two three-pound sausages, and he and his kitchen staff consumed half of one in a single afternoon—and the other half the next afternoon.
Once Simmons had the sausage, he had to decide what to do with it. "The way I cook and the way I like to eat is with people. So I thought I'd make a party snack," he says. He made a paté from a little more than a pound of braunschweiger, mixing it with cream cheese, butter, sour cream, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and onion dip mix—which the Bucktown spice company Epic Spices made specially for him and ended up naming after him. The paté can be molded into any number of shapes—Simmons recommends a Darth Vader mask or a pig—but he chose to shape it into a ball, chill it, and then roll it in a mixture of roughly chopped pecans, crackers, and Garrett's cheese popcorn combined with dried parsley and more of the Mike's Onion Dip Mix from Epic Spices.
He got even more creative with the accompaniments to the braunschweiger ball: cheese curds, carrots, bread-and-butter pickles, leftover sausage-and-mushroom pizza, hard-boiled egg, chopped onion, mustard, pickled pearl onions, pickled green beans, cornichons, butter, and toasted rye bread surrounding the paté on a huge platter. (He ran out of room for the crackers and French onion dip, which he ended up serving on the side.) Then he invited a few friends to help him eat it, which they obligingly did, polishing off nearly the entire thing over the course of an hour, washing it down with beer and white wine.
Simmons plans to make more paté with the remaining braunschweiger and put it on the menu until he runs out. And once he runs through the stock of charcuterie he's currently aging, the paté will have a permanent place in Rootstock's charcuterie rotation.
Simmons has challenged Nicole Pederson of Found Kitchen & Social House to create a recipe using birch syrup, which is made from the sap of birch trees. Simmons says it's "very sweet, quite thick, and it tastes very much of wood . . . the way that maple syrup tastes like maple."
Mike Simmons's Braunschweiger Paté
1 lb braunschweiger
2 T Epic Spices' Mike's Onion Dip Mix
6 oz cream cheese
2 oz butter
2 oz sour cream
Hot sauce to taste
Worcestershire to taste
Dice braunschweiger, butter, and cream cheese and allow to come to room temperature.
Place braunschweiger, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, and Mike's Onion Dip Mix into a food processor and process until the mixture becomes homogenous. While pulsing the food processor, season with hot sauce, Worcestershire, and salt to taste. It is now paté.
Carefully remove the paté from food processor with a spatula and place it into whatever mold you have available—sports ball, fish, bachelorette-party penis, Darth Vader mask, TARDIS, ice cube tray, cactus, high-heel shoe, shell, yin and yang, revolver, etc. You may, alternatively, hand-shape it into anything you like. Like a sphere.
Place the paté in a refrigerator and chill for six to 12 hours. Overnight is best because you don’t have to think about it. Go buy some strong German beer.
½ c chopped toasted pecans
1 c chopped crackers (like Chicken in a Biskit)
½ c chopped Garrett's cheese or Chicago mix popcorn
2 T dried parsley
1 T Epic Spices' Mike's Onion Dip Mix
Or any other assorted crunchy bits you may have laying around like: cereal, pretzels, potato chips, bacon bits, dog food, fried rice, Corn Nuts, M&Ms, Nerds, freeze-dried pineapple, etc.
Remove paté from refrigerator an hour or so before you are having your party or your solo marathon pork-liver paté session. Open a strong German beer. Drink some beer and apply the garnish mixture to the outer surface of the paté. Continue drinking beer. Place the garnished paté at the center of a serving platter and, around it, arrange the items you would like to eat with the paté. Some suggestions include but are not limited to:
French fries: Belgian or crinkle-cut
Celery and carrot sticks
French onion dip (made with Epic Spices' Mike's Onion Dip Mix)
Sliders: hamburger or pulled pork
This paté is fine with or without other people, but will always taste better with cold beer, good companions, and great conversation. The more you eat, the more you'll be able to drink, the more you drink the better the conversations will become (to a point), and the better your conversations the closer you will grow to your companions. I guess what I'm saying is, within this recipe for liver dip there lies a recipe for friendship.
Braunschweiger (adapted from Rytek Kutas's Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing)
2 tsp Insta Cure #1
5 T salt
1 T Epic Spices' Mike's Onion Dip Mix
5 T granulated onion
1⁄4 tsp toasted ground allspice
1 T ground white pepper
2 T dextrose
1⁄4 tsp ground nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp ground fresh ginger
12 leaves fresh sage
1⁄2 tsp ground clove
1 T ground mustard
2 cups ice water
5 lbs pig face (One whole face including tongue—use the skull to make a rich stock to poach the sausage. Remove the brain beforehand, fry it in bread crumbs and butter, and eat it on toast with marmalade while you're waiting for the sausage to poach.)
6 lbs pork liver
Grind all meat and liver through a 3/16 grinder plate. Add all other ingredients, mix well, and grind again. Stuff into sewed hog bung or beef bung casing.
Poach at 180 F in rich stock made from pig skull to internal temp of 152 degrees F. Cool in ice bath for one to two hours. Rinse with hot water to remove outer grease and hang at room temp until dry.
Cold-smoke for three hours. Refrigerate overnight. Good luck not eating it all in two days.