If you were intrigued by my post about Guanciale (cured pork jowl), the natural question you might ask is, now what do you do with that stuff?
At first, we had no idea. Mostly we made the guanciale because our normal meat farmers did not have any pork belly (for bacon) and we were up for a new adventure. We had no idea what one might use the stuff for. We knew from our research that it is traditionally used as the base for pasta sauces or in lieu of pancetta in spaghetti carbonara. We honestly do not eat those two things too often, so some non-Italian uses were needed.
Guanciale is not the United State's most common cured meat product (shocker, I know). I have rarely seen it for sale commercially at super specialty stores. Therefore, I had never had the occasion to taste any recipes using it and internet searches based on the ingredient yielded vast quantities of traditional Italian pasta dishes. Delicious I am sure, but we have a whole jowl to consume. That is a lot of pasta sauce.
Our finished jowl has this amazing nutty, rich meat flavor. It is pretty salty. The texture is comparable to proscuitto, but the flavor is pretty distinctive. It is not the sort of thing you can snack on with cheese and crackers. A little goes a long way.
The first thing we made was a salad and then we moved onto some guanciale parmesan biscuits.
Guanciale Beet Salad
about 1/4 cup (or to taste) greek feta , crumbled*
about 6 thin slices of guanciale (you could use bacon too)
2-3 slice stale bread
mixed salad greens**, washed and dried
good tasting olive oil
good tasting balsamic or red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano (or whatever you have growing), chopped
freshly ground pepper
1. Wash, dry and trim the beet. Double wrap it in aluminum foil and put it in the oven at 450 degrees for about one hour or until it is soft. We usually do a bunch of beets at once and eat them for awhile. Remove the beet from the oven, let it cool and peel off the tough outer skin (it should come right off). Slice the beet and chop it into bite size pieces. Set aside.
2. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan at about medium heat. Cut the stale bread into about 1 inch square cubes. Add the bread to the oil and stir to coat toasting the bread until it is a dark brown color (but not burnt). Remove the bread from the pan and allow it to cool.
3. Put the pan back on the stove. Add the thin slices of guanciale to the pan and fry them until they are crispy. Discard the fat (I know, sad) and crumble the guanciale. Set it aside.
4. Chop the salad greens into your preferred size. Put these greens into a large salad bowl. Top the greens with the cooled croutons, crumbled feta, diced beets and crumbled guanciale.
5. In a small bowl (I use a pyrex measuring cup), pour a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, whisk in the salt, pepper, and oregano. Slowly pour in about 1/8 cup olive oil in a steady stream, whisking it while you pour (I usually just eyeball this until it looks right amount).
6. Toss the dressing with the salad. Eat immediately, wilting salads are not so tasty.
*I studied abroad in Greece. I do not believe that most products sold in American grocery stores and made with cow's milk deserve the name feta. Feta should be made with sheep or goat milk and packed in brine. Please do not buy the pre-crumbled stuff. Do me a favor. Please.
**We get our lettuce from the farmers market and the bags usually include red leaf, green leaf, butter lettuce, arugula, and more. It is my favorite way to buy lettuce because it includes variety but we do not have half a head of each kind rotting in our fridge. I also find that the farmers market lettuce is more flavorful, tender, and lasts longer than the packaged supermarket lettuce mixes. At our farmers market (Carrboro, NC), salad mixes are available year-round.
Ok, this post is already really long. Biscuits coming up after these messages.
What, no messages?
Well, just take a break then.