Friday, December 31, 2010
I guess since I’ve been in Rome so long, there are bound to be places that I either take for granted, or forget about for a while. Norcineria Viola, in Campo dei Fiori, is one of those places.
I’ve been going there since I was 12, and used to frequent it regularly when I was going to the market in Campo dei Fiori more often. But lately, since I rarely shop at Campo, I just plain forgot about Viola.
I don’t know what drew me in the other day. Could it have been the sunlight bouncing off the hanging prosciutti? Or was it the overwhelming smell of cured pork wafting out of the doorway? That was nothing compared to the overall embrace of pure porkiness when I walked through the door. I felt like I was coming home.
Norcineria Viola has been going at it for over a century. They sell one thing, and one thing only: cured pork. But if you think that narrows the range of what’s on offer, think again. Any size, shape or variety of cured pork, and they’ve got.
Prosciutti, salami, guanciale and pancetta for sure. But about 50 kinds of salame, from all over Italy. Dozens of types of prosciutti. Big fat slabs of glistening lard. Jelly-laden pigs feet. They even have pastrami from up north. Ok, that’s beef masquerading as cured pork. But the rest of the shop is pork and pork only. A veritable shrine to pork.
Me being me, I of course bought an entire quanciale (you never know, it always comes in handy.) But I also picked up a few strands of wild boar sausages to have on hand over the holidays, and also to give as gifts. Right now the only thing I’m regretting is not having bought one of their home-made cottechini. Oh well, they are sure to have at least a couple left over next week, right?
Campo de' Fiori 45
06 688 06114
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
After the excesses of this past Christmas weekend (here and here and here), none of us wanted anything very heavy for dinner. We weren’t quite ready for the new year’s diet, but still. A nice piece of broiled fish, and maybe some broccoli seemed in order.
But for some reason the fish store on Via dei Serpenti was closed. Of course. I should have known. It was Wednesday afternoon after all. Can you believe after all these years in Rome, I still can’t figure out what stores close when? Who makes these rules?
Anyway, Domenico and I were on our way to the butcher, but we just couldn’t get excited about anything even as heavy as chicken. So we kept going, and wandered up Via Panisperna, over to Mia Market, the small organic grocer in our neighborhood, Monti.
Besides everything being very healthy and organic and all that, it is all displayed so prettily it was no problem deciding what to have for dinner. I picked my own perfect little free range eggs out of a basket, a few leeks and potatoes, and frittata was on our menu tonight. And since since we were still feeling sort of festive in this ‘tween holiday week, I picked up a pack of smoked salmon as well.
Potato Leek and Salmon Frittata
1 large potato (about a cup, chopped)
2 -3 leeks (about 2 cups, sliced finely)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
fresh tarragon (or parsley or chives, or all three)
salt and pepper
100 gr/3 oz of smoked salmon
Cut potato into small, dice-size cubes.
Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12 inch non-stick frying pan.
Heat and add potatoes, some salt and pepper, and let cook for about 5 minutes.
Add chopped leeks and butter and continue cooking until leeks have wilted and reduced and potatoes are tender.
In the meantime break eggs into mixing bowl and beat gently. Add contents of pan, and stir. Add fresh herbs and salmon, which you have cut into smallish pieces
In the same frying pan place the rest of the olive oil, heat and add egg mixture.
Cover the pan and cook at very low heat until the eggs have set.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I go through phases. There was my quilting phase. And my knitting phase. And last spring, my Dirty Martini phase. For some reason that was the only thing I wanted to drink. Vodka, a hint of Martini & Rossi extra dry vermouth, and a bit of brine from the olive jar. For a while I Frenched things up, switching in Lillet for the Martini & Rossi. But the final touch, always: three pimento-stuffed green olives.
Pimento-stuffed green olives. Really? This is by far the most industrially- produced condiment in my fridge. It finally dawned on me that I maybe I didn’t have to use these hard little pitted nubbins from who knows where. (and what's with those 'pimentos'?) I had at least five other kinds of olives on hand, bought at the farmer's market, so why not try to use those.
I decided to skip the whole brine thing (my sister, Jodi, will be shaking her head by now. She could drink the entire jar of brine). But I figured to get a really olivey taste going (which is what you want, right?) , all I had to do was muddle the hell out of the little things.
I used two types of olives. Olive Bianche from Viterbo were big and juicy and sitting in a murky brine. The other were hard, intensely flavored, slightly bitter, Olive Nere di Gaeta. And instead of being brined, they had been slow- dried in a oven, and so had a slightly smoky taste.
The Martini turned out just how I imagined it tasting. The rich, strong taste that we all love in Italian olives came shining through. I don’t think anyone will describe the cloudy, olive-infused vodka as pretty. (You certainly can't picture Don Draper sipping one) But the olives on the toothpick that had sat in my drink for a half hour? Divine.
Un Martini Sporco
2 1/2 oz vodka
2 large good quality Italian olives in brine, with pit
4 small black dried olives
1 Tablespoon Martini & Rossi extra dry vermouth
Carefully pit the olives, both kind, trying not to destroy them.
In a shaker, place 1 brined olive and 2 black olives and add vodka,
Muddle well, mashing up those olives as best you can.
Add vermouth and ice. and stir, to chill.
(I can’t stand shaken martinis, since it delutes them too much and they lose that silky texture)
Slip the remaining olives on to a toothpick, and place in martini glass (chilled if you like)
Carefully pour the contents of the shaker into glass, using a fine sieve to keep out the olive bits.
Monday, December 27, 2010
After stuffing ourselves at Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day lunch, it’s family tradition, when we are in Bari, to go out to a restaurant on Boxing Day to have a really big meal. This year was no exception.
We walked down the Lungomare to Il Tavolaccio. (at least we got a walk in) It’s ‘new’. And by ‘new’ I mean it opened 18 years ago. The chef/owner, Minguccio Perrucci, used to work at Il Sorso Preferito (our other favorite restaurant) and decided to open his own, smaller, place, down the road.
Since it was a holiday, they told us there was a limited menu. I guess by limited they meant there were only 20 kinds of antipasti, instead of 30. They also told us it was 30 euros a person, so we might as well just eat all the courses that came our way.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
While I love gelato, pastries have never been at the top of my favorites list. I would much rather order an extra antipasto or plate of pasta, than ‘save room’ for desert. Maybe that is why it’s taken me so long to appreciate Italian pastries.
Italy isn’t really known for it’s pastries. Sure, there is tiramisu and cannoli that everyone knows and loves. But it’s not as if they are competing with France or anything. Yet Italians do have a sweet tooth. If you’ve ever spent time here you know that there is entire industry devoted to ‘breakfast’ cookies and cakes.
And Italy really does pull out all the stops in the sweet department when it comes to the holidays. At this point everyone has eaten Panetone, and even the eggier Pandoro. But things get a lot more complicated when you go from region to region, and holiday to holiday. There are some pastries that are available only for a few short days, in a few small towns.
We are spending Christmas in Bari this year, and a big part of the festivities include the platters of various pastries that Zia Tetta brings over. These used to be made by Zia Filippa, but her feet are hurting too much these days to bake anymore, so we now get our pastry-fix from Zia Tetta’s maid’s sister. (family relationships down here always get real complicated)
The pastry platters are numerous and always huge, and everyone has their favorites. But the centerpiece, the raison-d’etre if you will, are the cartellate.
It took me a very very long time to appreciate cartellate. These are strips of dough, rolled out paper-thin (this is where the name comes from: carta = paper) The pastry is then cut into thin strips, with a zig-zag edge. The strips are then manipulated into elaborate rose-shaped pastries, which are then deep fried in oil. Drained, they are drenched in vincotto, a cooked- down, wine-based syrup.
What do cartellate taste like? Well, imagine fried dough soaked in wine syrup. They are definitely weird. And do I have to add, heavy? I remember when I first tried one, I took a bite as my husbands entire family watched. “Mmm, yum. I’ll just save the rest for later.” They then gave me a ‘starter’ cartellate, one that had been dipped in honey instead of vincotto, which I have to admit I liked. Fried dough in honey. What's not to like?
But I didn’t give up with the traditional version. Each year I’d try again, if only to help in the family effort to get through Zia Tetta’s platters. And now I can actually say that I love them. The fried dough is just the right foil for the slightly musty, not-too-sweet vincotto.
Today is the 26th, so it’s bye bye to the cartellate until next year. But carnevale is coming up soon, so it’s not as if I’ll be going into fried-pastry withdrawal any time soon.
Here is a traditional recipe for Cartellate, if you want to have a go at it yourself. I, of course, have never made them, since we receive industrial quantities from Zia Tetta each year.
1 kilo of flour
40 gr yeast (cake type), disolved in a bit of water
200 ml olive oil
2 glasses of white wine
1 tsp salt
Olive oil for frying
Vincotto or Honey
Place the flour on a work surface, and make a well in the middle. Add the olive oil, wine and yeast and work it into the dough, kneading utill the dough is soft and elastic, (kind of like pizza)
Let it rise for a couple of hours, then punch it down. Divide into small balls.
Roll out each ball as thin as possible. With a zig-zagged edge pasta cutter (the rolling kind) cut strips that are 4 cm wide and 20-30 cm long. Fold each strip in two, length wise, so that the long edges are touching each other. Pinch the dough together with your fingers every 4-5 cm. Then roll the strip up, to form a kind of rose.
Heat a large pot of oil, and fry the roses until golden. Drain and let cool, on paper towels.
Bring a small pot of vincotto (or honey) to boil. Gently dip in each cartellate, swirling and pushing it under, so that it absorbs the vin cotto. Place on platter.
Once made, these will keep a couple of weeks.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
I have no idea where the concept of the Seven Fishes comes from. Why do Italians eat seven types of fish on Christmas eve? No idea. If you want to know why there are eight nights of Chanuka, I’m your girl. Religious underpinnings of Christian holidays? Not so much. But luckily I’m as comfortable cooking up bacala as I am flipping a latke.
This Christmas we are in Bari, in Puglia, where my husband was born and where his family still lives. So naturally we did the fish thing last night. But even when we spend Christmas with my sister in Westchester we do the fish thing. But there is a big difference. In Westchester we head to an amazing fish store in Mount Kisco, where I arrive with a shopping list of all the ingredients of the dishes I’ll prepare that night. There is an awful lot of planning, shopping, preparing and cooking involved.
Instead, in Bari, things are much simpler. In fact, if you can believe it, control-freak me didn’t even do the fish shopping. Sophie and Domenico went to the fish store. With no list. And that was that.
The beauty of the seven fishes in Bari is that the raw ingredients are so fantastic that we don’t do much to them. In fact we just leave most of them raw.
We can actually see the fishing boats from Domenic's mother's window, so freshness is not an issue. Well, it is an issue, actually, when the fish are literally flipping fresh. The cicale that were flopping around the fish store this afternoon were still flopping around in the fridge and then in the sink as I tried to clean them. As were the gamberi. I can do a lot of things, but shelling live shrimp...slightly more than icky.
But anyway, I got through it, and here is our meal. A few more than seven fishes, I think. And really only two recipes to include, since only two of the fishes made it into the oven. The rest we ate raw. Once they settled down.
Oysters which the fishmonger said were local. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not. But they certainly tasted delicious. They were huge.
This dish is called tagliatelle. But not the pasta. These are fresh squid that are cut into tagliatelle-sized strips, and eaten raw. They are kind of chewy, but in a good way.
These shrimp were so fresh they flipped out of my hands as I was trying to clean them.
Capitone is a traditional Christmas dish. This is eel that has been battered, fried and then preserved in vinegar. You buy it already made. I have never really liked it. Too fatty and vinegary for me. But Domenico and Emma, like most Italians, can't get enough of it.
These little sardines are 'cooked' in a bath of vinegar. We buy them already prepared at the alimentari and they are one of my favorites.
Cicale are a kind of Italian crayfish. They were flipping out of the vats at the fish store. I guess I could have used them to make a pasta sauce, but we just added them to the plate of crudi.
Noce are a kind of clam that I've only ever seen in Bari. It's one of those things I eat raw, trying not to think about whether or not I really should. I could have eaten 2 dozen myself.
Even I draw the line at eating raw mussels.
The fishmongers in Bari can open bivalves at the speed of light. So ordering 2 dozen mussels, opened, is no biggie. But if your fish store won’t do this for you, steam them just enough so that they open and you can take off the top shell.
2 dozen mussels, opened
1 cup of bread crumbs
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup of olive oil (plus some for drizzling)
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 180C/350F
Place opened mussels in a oven tray large enough to hold them all.
Place bread crumbs, garlic and parsley in a food processor, and whizz until parsley and garlic are mixed in. Place in bowl and add olive oil and mix with hands until crumbs are moist. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
Place a good amount of the bread crumb mixture all over the mussels. Drizzle with olive oil.
Place in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes, just until cooked. You don’t want to over cook them.
Dentice alle Olive (Sea Bream with Olives)
This is a very typical Barese way of preparing fish. We had Dentice, which translates as Sea Bream, but it works for any sort of fish like sea bass or red snapper.
Dentice - however much you need for the amount of people you are serving.
1/3 cup of olives per person
lemon, parsley, salt & pepper
Have the fishmonger scale and clean your fish, leaving it whole.
Season inside of fish with salt and pepper. Stick in a few slices of lemon and a sprig of parsley. Spread some oil over the entire fish, and then season with salt and pepper.
Place fish on tray, and scatter olives around it. drizzle with a bit more oil, and pour some wine in the pan. Just enough to cover the bottom by about a 1/4 inch.
Bake at 180C/350C until done. A smallish fish, that serves 1 or 2 people, takes about 20 minutes, a bigger fish, that serves 4 will take about 40-45 minutes.
Take out of oven, and let sit for 5 minutes and then fillet and serve with the olives.
Friday, December 24, 2010
You know how cute it is when children just start to talk? Mimicking adults without really knowing what they are saying? Well, one of the first sentences my daughters learned, and knew full well what it meant, was “Accattate le rizze.” Speak Italian, but still don’t know what that means? Well, it’s Barese dialect, and it’s what we hear fishermen yelling every morning outside my mother-in-law’s home in Bari. “Accattate le rizze!”
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Here is the piece I wrote up for The Atalantic yesterday, just in time for the holidays. A trio of Italian-inspired cocktails. Enjoy!
We’re went to my friend Sienna’s house for a pre-Christmas dinner last night. She also invited Alessio and family, the owners our favorite restaurant, Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. So, as you can imagine, she went all out in the food department. The main course was duck and my duty was to bring the salad.
My new passion when it comes to salad these days is cavolo nero, or Tuscan kale. While I’m a big fan of cavolo nero (we grow tons of it in Todi) it never occurred to me that you could eat it raw. It makes sense though, since cole slaw is nothing more than raw cabbage.
It took my friend Melissa Clark to wake me to it’s wonders. She writes about it in her new book, In the Kitchen With A Good Appetite, and many bloggers, including Heidi Swanson, have spun their own versions of the recipe.
While Melissa’s and Heidi’s salads are garlic-packed, I decided to make mine a softer version. Since Sienna had the whole duck thing going on, I thought something slightly sweet, with a bit of crunch would be just right. I also picked up some beets, and thought the red/green theme would be very Christmasy.
Christmas Cavolo Nero Salad
1 large bunch of cavolo nero (about 8 cups, cleaned)
1 small head radicchio
4 medium sized beets
1/4 cup of roasted almonds
1/4 cup chopped raisins
1/3 cup grated ricotta salata (or hard goat cheese if you can’t find ricotta salata)
1/3 cup olive oil
4 Tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
4 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
4 Tabelspoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey
2 tsp dijon mustard
Wash cavolo nero, and remove all the thick stems. Slice the leaves cross-wise, into ribbons about 1/4 inch thick. Wash and slice the radicchio.
Wash beets, trimming off the tops and tails. Wrap them in tin foil and roast at 350F/180C for about an hour- hour and a half, until tender. Take off tin foil, and remove skin. Cut into small cubes.
Chop the roasted almonds and raisins roughly.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together. (I usually just use the immersible blender and the container that came with it.) Taste and adjust for salt. If it seems a bit too sweet, you can add some lemon juice.
Put all the salad ingredients in a bowl, add dressing and toss.
Monday, December 20, 2010
If you’re like me, you’re just now realizing there are still gaping holes in your Christmas gift list. And if you’re like me, you have no idea where to go and what to buy. Plus, you have no time really, since Christmas is - OMG! - this week.
My gift to you? A new store in Rome where I promise you will be able to find things for just about everyone. If you are in Rome now, it’s handy for Christmas. If you’re coming here for a trip in the future, even better for foodie gifts to take home.
Podere Vecciano opened last week on Via dei Serpenti. This is the Roman outpost of their farm in Tuscany, just outside of Chianciano, where the family produces olive oil and wine. The store here in Rome offers much more. Sort of a Tuscan ‘greatest hits.’
Olive oil, of course, and lots of delicious jams and honeys. But also things I’ve never seen before, like fig balsamic which I bought for...oops! Can’t say, she’s probably reading this.
A large collection of hand-carved olive wood pieces and delicately colored woven dish towels. Make sure you get to the very back room, where they store their small, but interesting collection of Tuscan wines as well as a pretty big selection of glasses, carafes and other wine stuff.
I did the most damage in the beauty section. I love olive oil in cosmetics, and they had not only hand cream, but also face creams and even after shave (for you know who).
How can you not love a store with a live olive tree in the middle?
Via dei Serpenti 33
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I get really great gifts this time of year. It’s not only Christmas, it’s my birthday too. My husband always comes through with great jewelry and usually something technological (I’m hoping for a new camera). But one of the gifts I always look forward to is the one from my neighbor Marisa, in Todi.
I’ve mentioned Marisa’s gifts already in the past (truffles? too many truffles?) Last Tuesday Domenico came back from Todi with the biggest, plumpest chicken I’ve ever seen. While I put that in the freezer, I have been cooking all week with the other part of my gift: three dozen farm-fresh eggs.
Today is Sunday, and like the true Italian mama that I have morphed into over the years, I am making pasta for lunch. The combination of the gift of eggs plus Sophie being home from college means one thing, and one thing only: carbonara.
In my last post my friend Ari told you a bit about guanciale. In preparation for Sophie’s visit I bought an entire guanciale last week. Let me tell you, happiness is having a whole guanciale in the house. It really does come in handy.
Another reason I decided to write about carbonara today - besides the early eggy christmas present - is because my friend Edward wrote to ask me for a recipe. He was complaining that the carbonara you get in the New York is too often like Pasta Alfredo, with heavy cream. For the record: heavy cream has no business even being in the same room as carbonara. So, Edward, this is for you: Classic Carbonara.
1 pound linguine (or pasta of your choice)
3 thick slices of guanciale
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
4 egg yolks
1 egg white
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
freshly grated pepper
I know I repeat this over and over, but with these simple recipes, ingredients make all the difference. If you can get imported pasta, then use it here. I love Faella, which comes from Gragnano, outside of Naples (I get mine in Orte). Guanciale: I know it’s hard to find, and there are a few sources in Ari’s post. If you have to substitute thick-cut bacon, that’s ok, but not smoked. And definitely not lean! (you want that fat). Eggs are the main ingredient here, and you will be eating them raw. So...farmer’s market, fresh please, if possible.
Chop guanciale into small cubes. Heat a pan big enough to hold all the pasta, and pour in the olive oil. Add guanciale and let cook until the guanciale starts to give up its fat, and get crisp at the edges. (But you want it to stay chewy, not get brown and hard like bacon). Turn off heat. (Do I have to say it? Do not drain the fat? Well, I’ll say it: do not drain the fat. This is one of the main ingredients of this dish. If you want something with no pork fat, this dish isn't for you)
In a large serving bowl put the four egg yolks and 1 egg white. Beat just to break up the yolks. Add the grated cheese and pepper and mix well with fork, creating a creamy ‘sauce.’ I find this is the secret to a great carbonara, mixing the grated cheese with the yolks before you add the pasta.
Bring a big pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until on the hard side of al dente (you will be adding the pasta to the hot guanciale and also letting it sit a bit with the yolk/cheese mixture, so you don’t want to over cook).
In the meantime re- heat the quanciale.
Drain the pasta, reserving a half cup of the hot pasta water. Add drained pasta to the pan with quanciale, stirring and making sure you coat the pasta well with the contents of the pan.
Turn off heat and add pasta to the bowl with the yolk/egg mixture. Toss well, adding a bit of the reserved water if you think it is too thick. Cover the bowl with a lid, and let sit for 2 minutes, to let the egg set a bit. Take off the lid, stir one more time and serve.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Since my name is Elizabeth, most people tend to shorten my name. I’m Liz to all my grad school friends, Lizzie to my sisters and nieces. I’ve even been called Kibbles (Bitsy > Bits> Kibbles & Bits)
But I think the nickname I’m most proud to wear is Guanciale Girl. My good friend Ari Weinzweig, the owner of Zingerman’s, came up with that one. Ari, along with Paul Saginaw, is one of the founders of Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor Michigan. What started out as a deli has since grown into an empire that includes a mail order business, bakery, creamery, restaurant and business training program.
Many of the great ingredients I mention in my blog are available through Zingerman’s. Actually a lot of them I discovered with Ari, toodling around on press trips through Italy or at the Salone del Gusto.
But getting back to Guanciale Girl. Ari is also a writer, and his most recent book is Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon. Yes, everything you ever wanted to know about Bacon but were afraid to ask. The section on guanciale - in which I am mentioned - has a very cute illustration of me, dressed in my Guanciale Girl outfit (at least that’s how the illustrator pictured me) complete with cape and tights.
What is guanciale you ask? Well, I”ll let Ari tell you in his own words. Here follows an excerpt from his Guide to Better Bacon along with his recipe for Pasta alla Gricia. And do you want to see me dressed in my GG outfit? Well, you'll have to get a copy of the book. As a special porky treat, Ari has agreed to offer readers of my blog a 20% discount if you’d like a copy of your own. To order, you'll find the link and information at the bottom of this post.*
Guanciale (from Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, by Ari Weinzweig)
From a technical standpoint, guanciale isn’t bacon, either. Like lardo, it’s made from the wrong part of the pig: in this case, the jowl. But since it’s used in a recipe that regularly—if, most Italians will tell you, wrongly—calls for bacon, I figured it would be okay to mention it in passing. It’s certainly an interesting bacon alternative.
The name “guanciale” means “pillow” in Italian—a reference to its chewy meatiness and also to the shape of the whole piece of off- white cured jowl. “Cured jowl” probably sounds scary if you haven’t tried it, but since this book is directed at bacon lovers let me just say that you’ll want to get to know guanciale. Why? Because it’s porky, rich, velvety . . . because it’s good. It’s got pretty much everything most people love about good bacon: perhaps more intensely so, albeit without the smoke. If you need any more convincing, guanciale has been called “the magical Roman bacon.” That’s a pretty tough label for folks like us to resist. Personally, I was won over to guanciale thanks to Elizabeth Minchilli, a friend and food writer who has been living in Rome for many years. “I have become a guanciale girl,” she says. “I am so much happier cooking with guanciale instead of pancetta.” Yow. That got my attention. Forget the Prozac: just switching porks can increase life satisfaction? Who wouldn’t want to try it?
“What makes you so high on it?” I asked. “The fat is a different texture, and so takes longer to
get to that crunchy stage,” she answered. “And when it does, it still remains chewy and has a richer, meatier flavor. I use it for pasta— carbonara, amatriciana—but also with beans,” she went on. “I sometimes use it in spinach salad, as if it were bacon. This summer I was using it on all sorts of pizza. My favorite was goat cheese, sage and fried guanciale!”
As Elizabeth hinted, guanciale is the most authentic meat to use when you’re making pasta all’amatriciana. And there are a handful of very good guanciales on the American market: Niman Ranch cures its fresh hog jowls in sea salt for a month, spices them with rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and then air-dries them to complete the cure. Herb Eckhouse, too, has been making guanciale for the last few years. “We started making guanciale because we like eating it,” he told me. “Next thing we know, we can’t keep it in stock.” Like Niman’s, Herb’s is seasoned with salt and spices (most prominently rosemary and black pepper) and then dry-cured. He uses no nitrites, nitrates, vegetable juice or extracts. “The challenge,” Herb explained, “is getting the moisture out without making it overly dry.” He ultimately settled on a six-week cure, which he feels intensifies the flavor without creating something resembling shoe leather. Up in Seattle, Armandino Batali also makes a very good version. And there are a whole range of good restaurants that are curing their own now, too, perhaps most famously Babbo, the flagship establishment of Armandino’s son, Mario.
Ari's Pasta a la Gricia
Serves 3 to 4 as a main course, 4 to 6 as an appetizer
This is one really great bowl of pasta, and the pepper is one of the key components of this dish, not a postscript, so use a lot of it.
The more I eat this dish, the more I like it.
1 lb. spaghetti (I’m partial to Martelli, but you can pick from any of the great artisan brands including Latini, Rustichella and Cavalieri)
5 ounces guanciale, cut into quarter-inch dice
Red pepper flakes to taste (I use the Marash red pepper flakes from Turkey)
Freshly ground Tellicherry pepper to taste
5 ounces Italian Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt.
At the same time, begin heating a heavy 12” skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the pasta to the water and stir so that the noodles don’t stick.
Fry the guanciale in the skillet until its fat is released and the nuggets begin to crisp. (If your guanciale is too lean, add a bit of olive oil to the pan.)
When the pasta is approaching but not quite yet al dente, remove from the heat and drain.
Add the pasta to the skillet with the guanciale and toss well to coat with the hot pork fat. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the pasta is fully al dente. Stir regularly so that the pasta doesn’t stick. Add red and black pepper liberally to taste.
Turn off the heat, add the grated Pecorino cheese and toss to coat. Serve hot, and pass the pepper grinder.
In the spring, sauté 6 ounces of asparagus, cut into one-inch pieces, along with the guanciale. I like the asparagus pieces lightly browned to bring out their full flavor.
*To order your very own copy of Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon click here, and type in this discount code: MINCHILLI and that will take 20% off your order (not including tax and shipping). The offer is valid until 2/28/2011.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I love a well made, classic cocktail. In fact, most nights it’s a Manhattan or a Dirty Martini. But there are some nights when I want something just a teeny tiny bit sweeter. And that’s when I mix up an Old- Fashioned. Just a hint of sweetness from the sugar syrup, and cherry/orange mix. I guess it’s the cold weather, but sweet sounds good these days. I must need more calories to stay warm? (not)