Charcuterie craft began as a lark for Gabriel Ross: he had too much spare time on his hands and not enough restraint at the Greenmarket. Ross likes playing with pork, and quitting his job (he cooked at Savoy, among other restaurants) freed him up to experiment. He began by making pancetta and dry-cured sausage. However, it was a surfeit of pork shoulder that he turned into rillettes (a pâté-like pork spread) that launched Gabriel’s Handmade, a rapidly expanding line of charcuterie, all made in Park Slope (he won’t reveal where). His friends, though glad to benefit from his new hobby and dependable largesse, convinced him that other people would be happy to pay him for his efforts. “I believed them,” Ross laughs, “and now I’ve got myself another job.”
When Ross isn’t selling wine at Smith & Vine, the 32-year-old Fort Greene resident is invariably behind a stove, working on his latest creation—which might be port-spiked chicken liver mousse, foie gras terrine, country pâté made from pork jowl and liver, or a chicken- liver-foie-gras-and-ramp terrine. The contents of his little mason jars can change from week to week, depending on what he finds at the Greenmarket. Ross sources as many of his ingredients as possible from local farms: pork from Tamarack Hollow Farm, chicken livers and hearts from Grazin’ Angus Acres, foie gras from Hudson Valley’s LaBelle Farm, milk and cream from Ronnybrook.
One of the best parts about Ross’s charcuterie, like the fledgling business itself, is that it’s the product of happy circumstance. For example, to use all the pork stock that’s come out of the by-product bones and scraps, Ross is developing a variation of Tuscan fagioli al fiasco, beans cooked slowly for maximum flavor and to retain their integrity and a creamy consistency. Some one-offs that haven’t made the cut deserve more play. Ross doesn’t think there’s a big market for his testa and has decided not to sell it. Pork and charcuterie lovers need to get their hands on this headcheese-in-a-jar; it’s a rich, sweetly flavorful rustic mashup of pig ears, tongues and other succulent bits, bound up in a brightly meaty, melting aspic. One can only hope he goes a little overboard next time he’s out buying pigs’ heads.