Correction to This Article
The Jan. 23 Food article about sausagemaking provided unclear information about the proper proportion of fat in the featured recipes. It should be 20 to 25 percent fat for the sausage and 30 to 35 percent fat for the p?t? and terrine.
Chef on Call

With the Right Link, a Natural Stuffer Was Born

Who says that sausagemaking is an activity best unwitnessed? Chef Jamie Stachowski teaches his sausage skills to Chef on Call student Michelle Harriger.
By David Hagedorn
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Man, we're going to turn you into the Sausage Queen!" promised chef Jamie Stachowski when he showed up at the Harrigers' home in Columbia on a gray Saturday morning this month.

That was just what 31-year-old Michelle Harriger, who teaches math at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, wanted to hear. With the help of a charcuterie cookbook, she had managed to produce credible versions of pork confit and duck-breast pastrami, but the sausages and terrines were daunting. Even though Harriger has cooked her whole life, she says, she had never used a meat grinder.

Ignoring the oft-cited assertion that sausagemaking is an activity best unwitnessed, Harriger asked Chef on Call to hook her up with someone who could show her the way. Stachowski immediately came to mind.

Anyone who doubts the resurgence of charcuterie need only look at the menus of the most popular eateries in town. The house-made delicacies Stachowski offered at Kolumbia, the K Street restaurant he sold in October, were the most-requested items there.

The chef came by his charcuterie talent naturally: He grew up in a Polish household where donating a kidney would be more likely than parting with a treasured kielbasa recipe.

During a 30-year career that included stints at Ma Maison in Los Angeles, Le Perigord in New York and Jean-Louis in Washington, Stachowski perfected the craft of making sausages and terrines by combining family tradition with French technique.

Stachowski is neo-hippie cool, mad-scientist smart and exuberantly kinetic. Though 45 and married, with two grown children, he seems like a boy trapped in a man's body. He jokes that if he hadn't become a chef he would have been a criminal. His wife, Carolyn, harnesses his energy by encouraging calm and quiet in their Arlington home.

"She made me cut my hair and wear a tie today," Stachowski admitted upon his arrival.

Then he began unpacking the refurbished 2004 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor he had borrowed from his 19-year-old son. A restaurant's worth of supplies came forth, like clowns from a circus car: Multiple bins of ingredients, a set of stainless-steel mixing bowls, knives, a Robot Coupe food processor, a mega box of professional-grade, heatproof plastic wrap, a manual sausage stuffer and a slicing machine soon were piled onto Harriger's kitchen floor. He carried an upright smoker to the patio out back.

Also on hand for the event were Michelle Harriger's husband, Adam, 31, who owns Annabell's Fine Wine Shop and Bar in Ellicott City, and her best friend, Kat Gatewood, 29. Any notion that the two would only observe quickly disappeared as they were drawn into a whirl of production and instruction.

Stachowski's lesson plan was ambitious: a winter game pâté layered with venison and quail and baked in a ceramic terrine; a pâté with quail eggs baked in puff pastry; two versions of Polish kielbasa; a delicate seafood sausage; celery root remoulade; and his version of bigos, a Polish stew, with braised red cabbage, dried fruit and salt-crusted, oven-steamed pears.

Two days' worth of work was crammed into a six-hour session; various components of each dish were working at the same time. "You have to get the longest things going first and then work backward," Stachowski said. "It'll seem a little crazy, but it will all come together."

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