As Real Food Real Story's "Food Stories Stylist," I (Amanda Kennedy) love a good story. When I experienced the 6.20 RFRS Picnic x The Local Butcher Shop, I had the pleasure of talking with Aaron Rocchino, one of The Local Butcher Shop's co-founders and learned something exciting: Not only did Aaron grow up about an hour away from where I did (he in Allentown and I in Lancaster, both in Pennsylvania), but that we both grew up eating and enjoying a regional staple: scrapple. Even more exciting? The Local Butcher Shop makes it! (I can confirm it is delicious.) Curious what scrapple is? Let's hear from Aaron:
How was scrapple a part of your life growing up?
Where I grew up, I would go out to eat in diners all the time, and that was a normal routine for people in our area. For me when I was growing up with my family, [scrapple] was kind of one of those staple things that you get on the side, like a hash brown. More traditionally, my grandmother would make it, and it wasn’t very often I would be together with her for breakfast. When we were together, it was this fond memory of being able to sit down and because it didn’t happen very often and because I enjoyed being around her, it was something that we always had together: scrapple with an egg on top. It was perfect for me. It was always way better than what you would get in the diner, which is why I liked it even more. I ate it in the diner pretty regularly if we went out for breakfast. We would always have [scrapple], and I would always compare it with what i had before. It was a staple item for us.
What are the components of scrapple?
There’s a couple different ways that people make it, and I’ve had it both ways. Some people will do a mix of cornmeal and buckwheat flour, and I think it is pretty regional. Different states and different areas will do a different mix. Where I grew up, there was a lot of corn, and we used a lot of cornmeal. I think if I grew up with the mix of the two, I would say I would like the buckwheat/cornmeal one better, but I grew up with the cornmeal. We use cornmeal at the butcher shop.
Now that you are running a whole animal butchery, how does scrapple fit into that philosophy?
From what I understand, the diners would serve scrapple out of a can. They wouldn’t make it; it would just be sliced, put on a griddle, and served. From what I’ve heard, a lot of that stuff [from the can] is the bits and pieces of different parts of the pig, and there’s something to be said about that. We use the pig heads, which has a lot of meat and fat, and we really like a good amount of fat when you’re cooking. Let’s say you’re cooking polenta, and at the end you put in a lot of butter. It makes it so good, so rich and creamy. That’s the thought when we make scrapple. The heads are fatty from the jowls. the whole jowl area is really fatty; it’s a fatty version of pancetta. It ends up melting out and incorporating into the cornmeal that soaks it up and makes it really rich.
What have West Coasters’ reactions been like who come to your store and try out scrapple?
The majority of the people who look at it ask if it is a pâté, if you can eat it cold or put on a cheese plate, and we do tell people that it is more of a breakfast item and best hot, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The majority of the time we’re not trying to push it; we tell them about it, and it’s really exciting.
We label it as “west coast” scrapple because it gets them thinking a little more and starts that conversation. We call it "west coast scrapple" so they know it’s not shipped from the east coast.
What are the best ways to prepare scrapple?
Here’s what I like to do: I get a pan hot and put some oil into it, and cut a thick piece, about an inch or so, of the scrapple and put that in the pan. I give the pan a little shake as I’m putting it in. The key is to not mess with it for a little while. If you start trying to move it, it sticks at first and won’t keep it shape.
Add some oil, basically frying it like a shallow fry. Once the scrapple goes into the pan, I turn the pan down to medium-to-high heat, looking to get good color on the bottom. When you start to see the color happening, it will start to release itself from the bottom of the pan. You might need to get some help with a spatula. Check to make sure the color is good: caramel color, like something came out of the fryer. Once it is that color, you do the same thing. Once you flip it, let it sit. Don’t mess with it. Get color on the both sides. It will be ten minutes in the pan in total.
It will be hot in the middle, and you just scoop it out with a spatula and put it on a plate. Usually let it sit for a little because it is piping hot, so that gives you enough time if you want to put an egg on top. I like a sunny-side-up egg, like a runny egg, on top of it. By the time you’re done with that, for me the scrapple has cooled down enough, not even room temperature, but you pop the yolk and watch it ooze out over the scrapple. And that’s it!
You can get polenta with an egg on top, so this is basically the same thing except this is a really meaty version of it. I like to get it crispy.
Another way: What my dad does is he puts a pan in the oven and gets it hot, and then puts the scrapple directly into the pan directly without any oil or anything because there’s enough oil in the scrapple as it’s cooking. One side will get crispy, and the other side will stay soft. This method is a little bit easier.
You can also use a nonstick pan if you find that it is sticking too much. People also dust it in flour first…[which] will help keep it from sticking. The only thing about that is I feel like it gives it a different flavor. It tastes a little bit like fried food.
I like to cook a thicker piece, like an inch thick, but I would say that it is too hard to cook if it is too thin of a piece. I know that people who like to coat it in flour will get thinner pieces because they like it just to be crispy; they don’t like the soft inside, so it is more like that fried scrapple thing. I like it better on the thicker side: the thicker it is, the more soft and creamy it is on the inside.
It’s great for breakfast, especially if you have a nap afterward!
When someone comes to The Local Butcher Shop, where can they find the scrapple?
We make scrapple in terrine molds and put the terrine in the case, and then people tell us how thick or thin they want it. We’ll cut it for you for sure. You can get a bunch at a time and then freeze it for the weekend.
Thanks, Aaron! Time to enjoy some scrapple!