Showcasing The Fatted Calf's new straight-cut Pancetta
I keep thinking I've written all there is to be said about The Fatted Calf, but like a magician who pulls another bunny out of the hat, these San Francisco based charcuterie makers still surprise me on a regular basis. What was once a big fat, swirly round of cured pork is now a delicate, straight, wafer thin ribbon that puckers and curls so prettily when you lightly pan fry it. It's fairly salty when cooked this way so plan to balance it against something less so.
Forget about wrapping your figs with fiddly imported Prosciutto - this Pancetta works out so, so much better. Each piece is straight, even and slightly smaller than a fig in width which results in the neatest of parcels that Prosciutto could never hope to match.
Each piece of Pancetta is hemmed with a tiny line of rind. Make sure this side faces the top of the fig so it'll become crisped by the grill. For inspiration I used a recipe in The Produce Bible, a great book I have recommended before. Simply cut a cross in the top of each fig and stuff with rosemary (the original recipe uses sage but I didn't have any). Wrap your pancetta around the fig, finishing it off by tucking the end underneath. Clarify a couple of tablespoons of butter and mix with the juice of half an orange. Brush generously over the figs and then pop them under a hot grill for just two or three minutes until the pancetta rind is golden. Remove the rosemary and serve warm or at room temperature. Listen and smile as "oohs" and "ahhs" and satisfied silences reverberate around the kitchen. Whereas cooked proscitto can become hard, chewy and over-salty in this kind of preparation, the pancetta remains light and melts in your mouth adding a delicate, crispy, salted bite to the juicy fig it enrobes.
The Fatted Calf Pancetta can also be eaten uncooked and it's got great flavour. The rind, although small, may be a little bit combative for some tastes, but anyone with a decent pair of carnivorous incisors should find it worth the effort.
I was hoping to serve these Piadina to my guests as well. I was following a recipe in the September 2007 issue of Food & Wine but I didn't care for the results. The magazine describes them as irresistible but that is not a word I would have used. Mine came out bland, dry and tasteless (and yes - I did remember to add the salt to the dough). Perhaps I did something wrong, or maybe that is the authentic taste, but I wasn't a fan. Don't worry - I served the innards as a salad instead. (Anyone have a use for 11 rounds of uncooked piadina dough? Maybe some kind of jam tart!)
From the Fred perspective - the Frenchman isn't himself sure he likes the new pancetta. But he is crazy-mad about the new bresaola. The Fatted Calf have this week switched from using Marin Sun Farms beef to Prather Ranch. We did a side by side taste test of the two yesterday and sure enough what we already thought was wonderful now tastes even better.