Top: Chef Carmen Gonzalez serves her native
Puerto Rican, home-style cooking in her new
restaurant, Lucy of Gramercy, in Manhattan.
Bottom: Barbara Lynch, the chef-owner of
Boston’s The Butcher Shop, says the eatery/
wine bar serves as a “tribute to European
that they found a way to preserve things
and make them culinary delights at the
And so he decided to give it a try. Karp
started by curing prosciutto in his basement at home.
“I didn’t tell anyone what it was, and
my wife and my housekeeper saw it,”
he says, laughing. “They nearly jumped
through the ceiling—they were like,
‘What’s this thing hanging here?’ ”
Now he has several “things” hanging
in his walk-in cooler in the basement:
soprassata, salami, chorizo and another
couple of legs of prosciutto.
“It certainly gives the walk-in a lot of
character,” he says. “I have some squeamish bartenders.”
But people become less squeamish as
they become more aware of culinary arts
and wisdom, whether that’s appreciating
what goes into curing meat or understanding the advantages of hormone-free
meat and local produce. In both cases,
bringing back the old ways of doing things
usually makes for better-tasting food.
“It’s certainly a lost art,” says Barbara
Lynch, the chef-owner of The Butcher
Shop in Boston, which serves cured meats,
pâtés and terrines all day long at the bar
and communal table.
A Time-Honored Craft
Marc Buzzio, one of the owners of Salu-meria Biellese, definitely does things the
old-fashioned way. He makes sausages
and cures meats the same way his father
did when he opened the business in 1925.
“The way I dry a salami is the way they
were dried for centuries,” says Buzzio,
who supplies charcuterie to “the who’s
who of the best chefs in the country,”
from Daniel Boulud to Gray Kunz to
Thomas Keller. “The way nobody wants
to do it anymore.”
Buzzio also uses specific breeds of
hogs for specific cuts, like Tamworths or
Gloucestershire Old Spots for pancetta.
“Both are old English orchard pigs
known for their fat bellies,” he says. “It’s
what they were bred for, for centuries.”
One of the people responsible for the
renewed interest in the old ways is author
Michael Ruhlman. His book Charcuterie:
The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing
( W. W. Norton), which he wrote with
Brian Polcyn, a chef-instructor and expert
in charcuterie, came out in 2005 and
has been on the shelves of many chefs’
cramped kitchen offices ever since.
Dennis Heslin, the head chef at
London Grill in Philadelphia, guesses
he’s made at least half the recipes from
Charcuterie, including prosciutto and
Tuscan salami. (And though these dishes
aren’t made of pork, he’s also particularly proud of his tuna bresaola, which
he rubs with thyme and rosemary, and
lemongrass-cured duck breast.)
“I even got one of my purveyors—one
of those people who pretty much only
eats chicken—to try the wild boar prosciutto,” he says.
Sometimes all it takes is a bit of home
cooking to get people interested in cured
meats and sausages. Chef Carmen Gonzalez, who with restaurateur Phil Suarez
opened Lucy of Gramercy in Manhattan
in November, serves Puerto Rican home-style cooking at her restaurant. One of
her staples? Longaniza sausage, which
is cured and flavored with paprika, anise
seed and vinegar. It flavors her arroz con
longaniza and a hearty stew made with
chicken and beans, called San Cocho.
“I compare it to what the Italians
do,” she says. “They start with sausage.
They’ll add it to anything.”
One of America’s best-known chefs,
Mario Batali, takes it one step further.
He’ll add any sort of pork—especially
pork fat—to anything. A salad of pancetta, romaine and a Cherokee purple
tomato I had at his Del Posto restaurant
in Manhattan over the summer was just
this side of the best BLT sandwich I’d
ever had—and only because it wasn’t a
sandwich. When the waiter sets down
your bread service at Del Posto, he points
out two small ramekins alongside. One is
butter. The other? Lardo—pure pork fat.
Spread with abandon.
Batali also serves a lardo pizza at Otto,
his casual pizzeria in Manhattan. A while
back, I was there with a group of picky
eaters who shied away from ordering it.
I don’t have much patience for picky eaters, and somehow it ended up on the table
any way. Guess what? The “white pizza”
was declared the most delicious of the
bunch. (No, I didn’t tell them.)
And that brings me back to bacon.
We can talk about the craft of curing,
the art of sausage making or the skill of
smoking, but in the end there’s one reason we—and chefs—love pork in all its
forms, and David Chang says it best:
“It’s just damn delicious.”