Monday, January 12, 2009

Extra-special salumi

My friend Candice flew back from Italy and Geneva after a whirlwind Christmas/New Year's holiday. She's even crazier about food than I am; and an order of magnitude more accomplished. She's the only person I know who has thrown a dinner party for 18 where one of the courses included foie gras wontons.

She's crazy about food because she brought back several kilograms of cured italian meats. She left her boots and some clothes behind at a friend's to fit them in.

So last Friday, as a quick no-cook throw-together dinner, we had the following sample platters (just a few tasty morsels from Italy):

  • Finocchiona (Salami with fennel seeds)
  • Lengua di Manzo (Ox tongue)
  • Mortadella al Tartufo (with truffle)
  • Prosciutto di San Daniele
  • Speck Magro (Lean speck)
  • Speck di Trentino (Fatty speck)
  • Bresaola di Manzo
  • Coppa di Parma
  • Sopressa di Veneto
  • Salai di Cingliale (Wild boar salami)
  • Salami di Capriolo (Juvenile deer salami)
  • Salami di Camoscio (Venison salami)
  • Salami di Cavallo (Horse salami)
  • Mortadella di Bologna

The speciality, Lardo di Collonada(sp?), deserves a special mention. It's basically 90% cured and smoked fat with a thin streak of meat running through. Candice told me to eat it with the wild Italian mountain honey and a freshly toasted walnut - I cannot remember the last time I was in heaven.

Wild Italian mountain honey has the most incredible unctuous creaminess. It's still sweet, but there's such a strong, almost gamey, taste to it. It's slightly musky but still floral. The toasted walnuts give off that roasted smell; the sweet nut oils and crunch contrast so well with the soft melting fat. Of course its saltiness and smokiness mix with the sweet of the honey - the bitter rocket leaf just skewers everything together.

Together with a friend who brought over some amazing French cheeses, I was quite in heaven. Candice told me to try the Gorgonzola with a horseradish-applesauce - what a combination. The creamy and pungeant gorgonzola completely mutes the sharpness of the horseradish and you taste the high notes of this spice without the heat at all. It's a vegetal astringency crescendoing over the smooth bass of the cheese. The sweetness of the applesauce only brings out the fruity nature of the gorgonzola.

If that weren't enough she'd also brought back some amazing pasta and found some Truffle Salsa. Together with Italian mountain butter, I couldn't resist and stuffed my face as the cries of my internal watchdog, "It's all just fat and carbs!", faded into the background. I cannot resist the aroma of truffle; and when you have it with butter and egg fettucine, it's a sin to say no.

Candice prepared a second lot of pasta for some latecomers and I went for seconds, despite a distended stomach. Terry asked if I was still hungry.

"No, but I just want to eat more. I'm using a smaller bowl so that I will take less."

I'd heard that eating with child-sized utensils was a technique that Elizabeth Hurley used to shrink her portion sizes.

I cannot remember a time when I've had such amazing food. Oh yes, I can; it was at her previous dinner party.

Never turn down an invitation.

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