This was my first experience working with the natural spider web of caul fat, which is the membrane around the intestines (usually of pigs). And, much to my surprise, I fell a little in love with it. The Cyprus restaurant Kopiaste Taverna had introduced me to their specialty of sheftalia, a homemade Cypriot sausage made from ground pork, parsley, and onions rolled in caul fat.
"It’s very unique and very popular in Cyprus. We sell hundreds of these. People come into the restaurant, and they say, 'Give me one hundred for a party,'" said owner George Georgiou.
So when I was experimenting at home with their recipe, it dawned on me that wrapping ground meat in caul fat was a far easier way of making sausages than putting them through the double rotation of a meat grinder plus stuffing into natural casings.
Grilling works best for cooking the caul fat-wrapped sausages, followed by broiling and then sautéing or oven-roasting. A majority of the caul fat melds during the cooking process, leaving a molded sausage in its place. Caul fat (which I found at butchers) can also be cut into pieces with poultry shears and wrapped around leaner pieces of meat, like chicken breasts or pork tenderloins, to add a bit of fat. Welcome to the culinary magic of caul fat.
Cooking Secrets from Immigrant Kitchens
While working on my latest cookbook, Queens: A Culinary Passport, I chatted with cooks and chefs from diverse ethnic backgrounds (Himalayan, Cuban, Cypriot, Szechuan, and more). As I learned how to replicate their dishes in my own kitchen, I amassed a slew of tips from them that I began using in my everyday cooking life.