Since I dine out frequently, I’m always attracted to new or different ingredients, and last night was no exception.
I enjoyed an extraordinary meal in Chicago at Avenue M, where I lapped-up tender, hand-rolled garganelli with wild mushrooms and speck in a decadent cream sauce. It was the speck that sold me; I had never tried it, and it didn’t disappoint.
Speck, I learned, is a salt-and-cold-smoke cured ham that tastes like a remarkable combination of the sharper, smoked meats of Europe and the mouth-watering, salt-cured, air dried prosciutti of northern Italy. Talk about flavor – Wow.
While it might be difficult to find speck in certain geographies across the U.S., this ingredient is worth looking for. I’d suggest exploring gourmet food retailers or specialty butchers.Once you’ve found speck, experiment in the kitchen, adding it to quiche, eggs, pasta, soup (i.e., split pea, navy bean), pasta sauces and vegetables.If all else fails, you could substitute speck with either pancetta or slab bacon, preferably a hickory-cured variety containing just a bit of sugar.
In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear from any of you who have great recipes/uses for prosciutti or pancetta.