Thursday, December 1, 2011

CHARCUTEPALOOZA 11, CURING: Lardo and Lonzino, or the Fat and the Lean




One time Jack referred to Brian’s bresaola as the “old meat hanging in the basement”, and little did he know how good that old meat would become. Over the past few years, Brian has gotten the bresaola thing down, each one more mind-blowingly delicious than the last. He’ll present these little plates of perfectly seasoned cured beef, so thinly sliced that they’re translucent and they melt in your mouth. Usually they’re served in the classic way, with some of his garden arugula, large curls of shaved parmesan cheese, and a few drops of lemon juice, but I always try to eat an unadulterated slice or two so I can taste just it.
 So I was just slightly intimidated by this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge. What on earth could I make that wouldn’t pale in comparison to Brian’s bresaola? I figured I might be safe trying something that we’d never eaten before, so we wouldn’t know just how good or lousy it might be. I figured that pork is a pretty safe bet; you can’t go wrong with it. And Lonzino, a pork loin cured in the same way as bresaola, might even be ok on the new eating plan. But then I remembered a nice piece of milk-fed pork fat from the Amish farmer that was in the freezer, and thought it might be interesting to try curing two opposite cuts of the pig, the lean loin and the pure fat, and to compare them, even though I’ve been working really hard to be more like Jack Sprat and less like his wife!

For the Lonzino I used Hank Shaw’s, of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, recipe (great site, by the way), and followed Ruhlman and Polcyn’s guide for the lardo.


First the meat & fat got a good covering of salt and spice.

Into the refrigerator they went for a few weeks, being turned every once in a while.

Then they were wrapped and tied.

And they went to the basement to hang out for awhile. The little bathroom down there, with lights off, a humidifier, and a towel at the door is the best place for this.

The Lonzino was brought up and rubbed with brine and/or vinegar a few times to keep any nastiness out.

It didn’t take too long, and they were ready to go.


How do they compare?


The lardo is, well it’s ok.  Maybe it would be more interesting if you were to rub it with a fresh batch of spice before wrapping and hanging.  Maybe a thicker slab of fat would be better. Brian thinks it needs a glass of wine alongside it. I’m wondering if maybe Mrs. Sprat is losing her taste for fat.

But the lonzino, well the lonzino is another story. The texture is right, and the seasonings peek through in just the right amount. I wish we had a few fresh figs to go with it. Lonzino on bread is super, and lonzino on a slice of apple is sublime.




ROASTED GARLIC RICOTTA SPREAD

Both of these meats are just fine on their own, but also good with a mild cheese. This spread, made with mild ricotta, roasted garlic, and a hint of lemon, is just right for a sliver of lonzino.

Drain 1 c ricotta cheese and 3 T yogurt in a cheesecloth lined colander for at least a half an hour. It should be fairly thick and dry.

Meanwhile, slice off the top end of a head of garlic, and roast it in a medium oven for about 20 or 30 minutes until it begins to turn golden.

Pop the cooked garlic out of its skin and whir, along with the drained cheese yogurt mixture and 2 – 3 tsp olive oil, in a food processor until smooth.

Stir in grated zest of one lemon, 1 tsp of lemon juice, a pinch of hot pepper flakes if you like, and salt and pepper to taste.

With the lonzino I like the mildness of the ricotta, but you might want to try one of these variations: try with cottage cheese, drained, or farmer’s cheese. Goat cheeses are nice, too, but may have a stronger, more tangy,  flavor. Drain according to the wetness of the particular cheese you’re using. Fresh herbs, of course, are always nice mixed into a soft cheese; try chives, chervil, and thyme, or whatever other combination you like. 

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