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Charcuterie at Balena, The Bristol

Charcuterie author Michael Ruhlman coming to Chicago

Prolific cookbook author (21 published books) and TV personality Michael Ruhlman will hit town Tuesday, giving fans a couple of opportunities to meet, greet, nibble and dine.

From noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, he'll be at Balena (1633 N. Halsted St.) for a Q-and-A at which an assortment of breads, salumi and cured meats will be served, in homage to Ruhlman's latest work, a revised edition of "Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing." That evening, he'll be front and center at The Bristol (2152 N. Damen Ave.) for an evening beginning with a 6:30 p.m. cocktail reception and followed by a five-course dinner executed by executive chef Chris Pandel.

"They'll be preparing dishes from the cookbook," said Ruhlman via phone last week, "and I'm very honored that they're doing that."

"Charcuterie" has been a big seller — Ruhlman joked that it's "one of the most stolen cookbooks in America" — so he expects a lively exchange of ideas at his appearances.

"I get tons of questions from people online, asking about their own meat curing, and I'm always happy to answer them," Ruhlman said. "This is a chance for me to meet my readers, and for the readers to meet me, ask questions and have a dialogue. We'll talk about charcuterie, talk about meat curing, and we'll talk about schmaltz, the chicken fat of which I've become obsessed of late."

There will be opportunities to purchase signed copies of "Charcuterie," which Ruhlman said he revised because "We've learned so much about charcuterie and curing in the last eight years (since the 2005 original version), and we want the book to be as accurate as possible. We took out some of the commercial processes that people don't use; we made the curing-salt concentrations uniform. We fixed a few errors and addressed a few questions that we got regularly about starter cultures."

Though some people might find home-curing daunting, Ruhlman said it's perfectly safe, provided one takes precautions and uses common sense. "We've been doing this for thousands of years," he said. "We almost forgot how to do it, which is why I'm so gratified that chefs are embracing the craft of this noble culinary discipline."

Tickets for the Balena event, $25, are available through Brown Paper Tickets at brownpapertickets.com (type "Ruhlman" into the keyword field). For the dinner, $89 with optional $29 beverage pairing, reserve by calling The Bristol at 773-862-5555.

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