Saturday, February 27, 2010

Italian Cured Meats

Unlike its French cousin charcuterie (which we'll get to in a future post), salumi encompasses tradition Italian cured meats. What better place to get some Italian cured meats than at Jimmy's in Dallas. This Italian grocery store has been around since 1966, so it's no surprise that this is the place to go for Italian specialties like salumi. Sure there are many other stores that carry salumi like Central Market and Kuby's to name a couple, but I just couldn't eat anymore. On to the meat.

Sopressata Salami - This is a pork salami with large peppercorns and a high fat content. It has a gamey flavor with a shiny look from all the fat. A heavy hitter on the front of the tongue, this one also lingers for a while on the palette.

Toscano Salami - Similar in look to the sopressat with a bit more black pepper giving a constant but pleasant heat with a much drier and firmer texture. It tasted meaty where the sopressata tasted fatty, and the flavor was not as pungent.

Molinari Dry Salami - This beef and pork salami is tastes most like the hard deli salamis that we're used to from our childhood. It does not taste overly fatty but has a deep meaty flavor with a kick from the visible black pepper corns. Molinari is a brand name of salamis which have been sold in San Francisco since 1896. You can read more about this great deli at in a post by local blogger The Brad.

Speck - This smoked prosciutto has Italian as well as Austrian heritage. A punch of salt on the front of the tongue was felt first as the fat begins to melt bringing a unique smokiness to the palette. On the chewier side of prosciuttos that I've tried, it mattered not as the flavor was worth savoring.

Coppa - Also called Capicola, this is a cured cut from the pork neck or shoulder. Ribbons of both tender and chewy fat run through the cut while the spicy variety I had gave quite a kick from the highly seasoned perimeter.

- Sometimes referred to as "beef prosciutto", this treat is a lean meat from the eye of round. The meat has a concentrated beefiness without an overpowering saltiness. With more natural flavor than a jerky, this is actually a pretty healthy snack.

Coppa above and Bresaola below.

- This final entry is not meant to be enjoyed in it's raw state. It is a cured bacon that comes from the pork jowl rather than the belly, and is therefore much fattier. It can be enjoyed alone straight from the frying pan, but unlike standard bacon, it is mostly reserved for flavoring dishes like Spaghetti alla Carbonara, or as a key ingredient in the very traditional pasta all'amatriciana which has four ingredients - guanciale, tomatoes, pecorino cheese and spaghetti. I chose the latter which begins by frying the cubed guanciale to let the fat render. Render it did as I had plenty of grease to saute the tomatoes after removing the now crispy meat. I tried a chink of the naked meat, and it tasted like little more than crunchy slat cubes. It wasn't until the dish was complete that I understood the beauty of this unique ingredient. Adding the meat back into the simple sauce, I placed it atop the pasta and dug in. Although a scant 1/4 pound was used for six servings worth of pasta, the bold flavor from the meat was omnipresent on every forkful that passed these well oiled lips. After eating the traditional recipe, it's hard to imagine that anyone would suggest the comparatively bland pancetta as an adequate substitute.

Niman Ranch guanciale purchased from Jimmy's

I purchased all of these but the coppa from Jimmy's. The coppa caught my eye while purchasing bacon and pastrami from Rudolph's. It was incorrectly identified as bresaola by the meat cutter at Rudolph's, but I figured it out once I got home with it. After all the eating, my favorites were the speck with it's smoky undertones that didn't get overpowered by the salt. I also enjoyed the bresaola for it's unique, but subdued flavors, and its low fat content. The toscano salami was also a nice surprise given its similarity to sopressata of which I'm not a huge fan.

Although this isn't a full exploration of the vast selection of Italian salamis, I hope it will inspire you to go out an try pronouncing some unfamiliar meat terms, and enjoy your brave spoils.

- BBQ Snob

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.