Crispy Prosciutto

Crispy Parma tastefood

Do you like crispy bacon? Then try making crispy prosciutto. Oven baking slices of prosciutto (or any other dry cured ham) transforms supple ham slices into crunchy shards ready for munching or crumbling over salads, soups, pastas and vegetables. Baking dehydrates the meat, concentrating its flavor and intensifying its saltiness while cooking off excess fat. The resulting wizened slivers of dried pork add a punch of flavor to almost anything and taste great as simple finger food. I call these salty snippets crack-croutons because they are highly addictive and intensely flavorful. 

Crispy Parma Slices Lynda Balslev

Oven baking is a great way to use up any leftover parma, coppa or prosciutto in your fridge – if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers. If not, the method is so easy and quick it justifies shopping for a whole package to open and pop into the oven. And you don’t have to spring for the expensive stuff – any thinly sliced dry cured ham will do. I often use German prosciutto from Trader Joe’s that’s half the price of the Italian equivalent. 

crispy parma cru Lynda Balslev

To crisp the ham, arrange the slices in one layer, without overlapping, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the ham stay in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and cool, then break into shards. The crispy ham will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week – but I promise it will be long gone by then.

Five ways to use crispy prosciutto:
1. Scatter over mixed salads.
2. Sprinkle over creamy soups and chowders.
3. Garnish eggs and frittatas.
4. Crumble the shards and use to season cooked vegetables.
4. Add to cheesy pasta dishes and homemade pizzas before serving.

Pork Stew with Prunes and Armagnac

Here is an in-your-face stew, which says to the cold winter season: Bring it on. Nothing is bashful about this stew. Fortified with wine and spirits, perfumed with rosemary and juniper, this is a hearty slow-cooked wonder and a perfect vehicle for pork. The key ingredient, of course, is the Armagnac, a French brandy derived from grapes, in which inky prunes macerate, before the whole lot is dumped into the stock. Just be sure to pour yourself a little to enjoy before and after this rich and warming meal.

Pork Stew with Prunes and Armagnac

Serves 6

20 prunes, pitted
3/4 cup Armagnac brandy
3 pounds pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed, meat cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
2 bay leaves
1 bouquet garni: 4 juniper berries, 3 rosemary sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, and a handful of parsley leaves wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with a kitchen string

1. Combine the prunes and Armagnac in a bowl and let stand at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
3. Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a lid. Add the pork in batches, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining pork.
4. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon pork fat from the pan. Add the bacon and sauté until its fat renders. Add the carrots and onion and sauté until the onions soften and the carrots are crisp tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the prunes and Armagnac, the wine, bay leaves, bouquet garni, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
5. Remove the stew from the oven, discard the bay leaves and bouquet garni, and taste for seasoning. Serve warm with mashed potatoes or polenta.
(The stew may be prepared up to two days in advance. Warm over low heat or in a 300 F. oven before serving.) 

Skillet Dinners: Spicy Sausage, Mustard Greens and Cauliflower

sausage greens tastefood

~ a farmers’ market bounty in a skillet ~

Last week I came home from the farmers’ market with an armful of mustard. I shop with my eyes and couldn’t resist the bunches of mizuna mustard leaves – frizzy purple, spiky red, scalloped green – not to mention their sunny flowers strung together in tidy bouquets. Since then, they’ve made themselves at home in my fridge, while I’ve reached for pinches and handfuls at each meal, tossing in salads, sprinkling as garnish. Yesterday was our last hurrah. I up-ended the remaining mustard into this quick one-dish skillet dinner, along with my other market acquisitions: spicy Italian sausages, violet-tinged baby cauliflower, orange cherry tomatoes and a few handfuls of curly kale for good measure.

Spicy Sausage, Mustard Greens and Cauliflower in a Skillet
Serves 4

Extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 ounces Italian sausages, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cups cauliflower florets, any color works
Salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 generous bunches mustard greens and/or kale, tough stems removed
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage in one layer and cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once. With a slotted spoon transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. If the skillet is dry, add 1 more tablespoon oil. Add the cauliflower and a sprinkle of salt; sauté until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the greens, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cumin, paprika and black pepper. Saute until the greens are tender and bright in color, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sausage. Cover partially, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm with couscous or farro.

Sizzling Fourth of July Grill Menu

We are wilting under the shroud of a spectacular heat wave here in the Bay area. Stifled by the temperature, nothing is moving – even the leaves are too warm to rustle. It’s so hot right now, it’s impossible to cook. In fact it’s so hot right now, it’s impossible to even write about cooking. So, let me treat you to a photo round up of a sensational summer grill menu in preparation for the fourth of July. Keep cool.

Blackberry Spritzer tfBlackberry Spritzer and Mojitos

gazpachBeat the Heat Chunky Gazpacho

fattoush salad tastefoodFattoush Salad

ribsSummer Solstice BBQ Baby Back Ribs

marinated chicken skewers tfGrilled Chicken Skewers with Sriracha Marinade

quinoa kale slaw tfRed Quinoa and Kale Slaw

apricot bruleeCaramelized Apricots on the Grill with Yogurt and Honey

Chipotle Pork Carnitas

Pork Carnitas TasteFood~ Chipotle Beer Braised Pork Carnitas ~

Carnitas are perfect weekend food. Festive and fun to eat, they are great for a casual party or a large family gathering. Begin the meat early in the day so that it will slow cook in the oven while you go about your daily business. As the meat breaks down, it will be infused by the beer and chipotle braising liquid until it’s falling apart tender at the bone. A little shredding and a final turn in the oven with the reduced sauce turns out smoky, spicy, caramelized pork, ready to pile on tortillas with salsa and guacamole. If you have any leftovers, the meat may be used in sandwiches or loaded on homemade nachos the next day.

Chipotle Beer Braised Pork Carnitas

Serves 8

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (4 pound) bone-in pork shoulder
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup Mexican beer
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Accompaniments:
Warm flour or corn tortillas
Guacamole
Salsa
Fresh cilantro
Sliced green onions

Heat oven to 300 F. Mix the cumin, paprika, sugar salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over the meat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a dutch oven. Brown the pork on all sides. Remove the pork. Add onion, garlic, beer, orange juice, chipotles, lime juice and brown sugar to the dutch oven. Bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, then reduce heat to a simmer. Return the pork to the pot. Cover and transfer to oven. Cook until pork is very tender, about 3 to 4 hours, turning every hour or so.

Remove pork from the braising liquid and transfer to a cutting board to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat. Place the meat in a baking dish. Strain the braising sauce into a saucepan. Boil until reduced to a sauce consistency. Drizzle over the shredded pork. Transfer the pork to oven and broil until the meat begins to caramelize, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon some of the pork in the center of a tortilla. Top with guacamole, salsa, fresh cilantro and scallions. Roll up and eat.

Super Bowl Party Food: Dry Spice Rubbed Pork Ribs

BBQ Pork Ribs TasteFood 1

~ Dry Spice Rubbed and Grilled Pork Ribs ~

Call me a fair weather fan (or a championship series fan) when it comes to football. I don’t pay much attention during the season, but once it gets down to the final stretch I am right there on the couch with all of you potatoes. As this season would have it, I was nearly in a connundrum, since I am a die-hard New Englander residing in San Francisco. Who would I root for? That question will remain unanswered (sigh) since the Ravens removed any potential conflict of interest. Now I am a resolute 49ers fan, which is a good thing, since that means I am now welcome in my friends’ homes to watch the game. And for the big occasion I suggest this finger-licking-spicy-good rib recipe for your Superbowl Party.

Dry Spice Rubbed Baby Back Pork Ribs

The key to making these ribs is in the method. Begin with a dry rub which coats and permeates the meat with a sweet, spicy, smoky flavor as the ribs cook long and slow in a low-heat oven. You can start the ribs early in the afternoon; pop them into the oven and forget about them for 3 hours. Thirty minutes before serving, remove and transfer to the grill to cook just long enough get all caramelized and crispy.

Serves 6-8

For the rub:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne (or to taste)

3 racks baby back pork ribs

Preheat oven to 200° F. Combine all of the rub ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
Pat ribs dry with a paper towel. Arrange in one layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Rub the spices all over the ribs on both sides, coating well. Bake in oven for 3 hours.
Prepare grill for indirect medium heat. Grill ribs on a rack over indirect heat, turning, until the meat darkens and crisps, 10 to 12 minutes.

These ribs are good as is, with the crispy exterior and succulent meat. If you like your ribs more wet, baste with your favorite sauce  just before removing from grill and serve with additional sauce on the side.

Salame, Figs, Fennel and a Sandwich Showdown

Salame, Figs, Fennel and a Sandwich Showdown

  Figs, Fennel Salami, Goat Cheese, Arugula, Apple-Fennel Slaw
plus 1 Mystery Ingredient

Yesterday I participated in “TopWichSF” a sandwich-showdown hosted by San Francisco’s Colombus Salame and Sean Timberlake, author of Hedonia and founder of Punk Domestics. I am a big fan of Columbus products, and was more than pleased to be 1 of 3 bloggers invited to this event to promote Columbus’ new line of Farm to Fork Naturals salame. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect, outside on the sunny terrace of Hotel Vitale’s Cafe Americano, overlooking the San Francisco Embarcadero in the company of my formidable competition, John Mitzewich and Michael Procopio.

To begin with, Sean had created a sampling of small bites he created using Columbus products for us to taste. We were then introduced to the Colombus company, and given a little back ground on its 100 year history and the intricacies of flavoring and shaping various salame. I didn’t realize how important a role the casings play in distinguishing flavor – and, apparently, size does matter.


Before we donned our aprons, we were whisked across the street via Pedi-Cabs (picture a bicycle rickshaw with crossfit drivers) to the San Francisco Ferry Building, a bastion of glorious food purveyors, restaurants and specialty shops. We were given ten dollars and ten minutes to purchase the secret ingredient of our choice which would catapult our sandwiches to the highest level and propel one of us bloggers to the winning title. We then had a brief yet scenic trip back to the hotel where we returned to our battle stations on the patio, providing extra entertainment for the restaurant patrons at the nearby tables.

In 20 fast minutes, we had to create our sandwich masterpieces and plate for 5 esteemed judges from Chow, Tasting Table, SFWeekly, YumSugar and Columbus. No time to get nervous. And no time to taste my sandwich either – the time just flew by. After the judges compared notes and tallied scores, the winner was … John! He made a smoked turkey and soppressata sandwich embelished with a pluot and pinenut relish and harissa (no wonder). Michael’s  sandwich was beyond creative with grilled turkey and soppressata with apples, slathered in  bone marrow butter. (These guys are good). As for me, I kept things fresh and made a fennel salami, fig and goat cheese sandwich topped with fennel-apple slaw and a sprinkle of fennel pollen (my secret ingredient). John generously donated his cash prize to the San Francisco Food Bank, and I think we all won by experiencing a fun and fabulous day and opportunity to meet a few friends in the blogging community and the friendly faces behind Columbus Salame.

As for my sandwich, I’ve recreated it here – mostly for you, but also for me, since I never had a chance to take a bite of the one I made yesterday. Buon appetito!

Fennel, Fig and Salami Sandwich with Goat Cheese

Many specialty stores will carry fennel pollen with their spices, but don’t despair if you can’t find it. A little sprinkle definitely adds an extra boost of flavor, but this sandwich is equally delicious without. Alternatively, add 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon to the oil in place of the pollen. Makes one sandwich.

Mustard Fennel Oil:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Apple Fennel Slaw:
1/2 small green or fuji apple, thinly sliced in small matchsticks
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

1 ciabatta roll

2.5 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon fennel pollen, or to taste
1 – 2 figs, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 ounces thinly sliced fennel salami
Small handful fresh arugula leaves

Make the Mustard-Fennel Oil:
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Make the Apple-Slaw:
Toss all of the ingredients together in another small bowl. Set aside.

Assemble sandwich:
Horizontally slice the ciabatta roll in half. Spread the bottom half with the goat cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper and fennel pollen. Arrange the figs over the cheese in one layer. Top with 2 layers of overlapping fennel salami slices. Top the salami with arugula, then top the arugula with some of the apple-fennel slaw (you may not need all of it). Spread the cut side of the top half of the ciabatta with the Mustard-Fennel Oil and cover the sandwich. Eat immediately.