I’m completely fascinated by chefs that cook ‘nose to tail’ style – using every part of the animal – like kidneys, brain, feet and more. One of the most front and center of these chefs is Chris Cosentino. Often as his restaurant Incanto in San Francisco, he’ll offer a plate called “Odds and Ends” making amazing dishes out of what many chefs toss. Some say gnarly, I say let’s try it. If you’re an Instagram user, follow Chris – he’s fun. He also founded the artisan salumi company, Boccalone, and they make the most amazing salami and other tasty salted pig parts. I love the orange and fennel. The head salume (the guy who actually makes all of this art), Stephen Pocock is a Baltimorean and a very cool guy. He also runs his own business called Damn Fine Bacon, which keeps Bay Area bacon enthusiasts quite happy.
Back to the bacon. First, the pork belly was from local pigs raised at Zahradka Farm, a local farm that Clementine works with all the time for the restaurant, market and also a very popular local meat CSA. So, Winston was excited to share their own pig with me, the eager student. I followed a New York Times recipe by John Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, co-authors of Charcuterie. (I want that book – hint, hint…) It was very clear and easy to follow. Basically, you choose your flavors, rub them onto the pork belly and then put it in a zip-loc bag in the fridge, turning it over daily. Then, at the end of 7-8 days, you simply cook it in the over on 200 for 90 minutes. You can also use a smoker, but well, I don’t have a smoker and I can’t imagine I will be getting one anytime soon.
For the recipes and techniques, I also consulted the Sussmans’ cookbook. The only modification I made was to skip one ingredient – pink Himalayan sea salt. It makes the bacon pinkish in color – similar to bacon you’d buy in the store – but it also contains nitrates and Winston said I could definitely skip it at home. He said my bacon would look sort of grey until I cooked it – and he was right, of course. I made one savory bacon rubbed with fresh herbs and garlic and one sweeter kind with brown sugar and coffee.
What kinds of cooking projects do you like to do? Are you a pasta pro? A bread baker? Or maybe you’re a cheese whiz? (Sorry, that was too easy…) Which end results do you think are worth the time and effort? I feel like bacon is something I will do at home over and over. Really super easy.
There is always more to learn. Onward!