This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was all about curing a hunk of meat. Fully convinced that I didn’t have an appropriate space to hang meat for 3-4 weeks, I figured I was finally unable to complete a challenge. Right at the end, too. Rotten luck.
However, in thinking it out amidst all my whining, I realized I did have the perfect place to cure it, I’d just have to be organized (that’s not as easy for me as it is for others.) My husband had recently gotten a keg/fermenting fridge and had vacated my single door, glass-front fridge in our garage for his own, greener pastures. We hooked up a temperature controller and a hygrometer (something to measure humidity) and I got to work. Knowing full well that I would need that fridge by Thanksgiving, I naturally waited until the last possible minute to get my meat curing.
And cure I did, after all I had the whole refrigerator to myself.
All told, there was Pancetta, multiple Sopressatas and Tuscan Salamis, Bresaola, Duck Prosciutto and something I call Agneau de Noix (lamb in the style of Jambon de Noix.)
When it was finished (barely in time,) it was the Bresaola that won my heart. Truly, it didn’t take much. Bresaola and I have a bit of history.
In 2009, my husband and I spent nearly a month in Italy with his parents. At the beginning of the trip, we spent several days with his extended family…some in the house that his great-grandfather had built in the Dolomites and some in Padova, where his cousins live.
We met them in the main Piazza in Padova, where the market is held. It was turning evening and the market had begun to shut down. Vendors were closing up, there was little to be had. Barbara, Andreas and Nicola met us there and Roberto and Sylvia would join us later for the drive to their favorite restaurant.
Walking around Padova for a short time was so nice with the people who actually lived there – it was less like tourists and more like being shown a home we had never seen. The history was incredible, but they made it even more alive by showing us family places; places they worked and played and shopped.
Eventually, we met up with Roberto and Sylvia, Barbara’s brother and his long-time girlfriend. We had too many people to all ride together, so Andy told us all to “make a sandwich” with our cars, us in the middle, so we wouldn’t get lost while driving there. It seemed we drove and drove and drove. It was quite dusk and the small roads we traveled wended their way through small villages and up onto a hilltop where we stopped. The wind was picking up and thunder rumbled in the sky.
Unsure what to expect (after all they spoke some English and we spoke some Italian, but none of us much of either), we were led into a small dimly lit restaurant and were greeted joyously by the owner. Turned out that we were the only Americans that had ever been to his restaurant and he seemed more excited than we were. It was fairly crowded; a wedding anniversary party was also being held, so we knew this was a special kind of restaurant. Directed to a lovely set table in an outdoor room that had been enclosed, we sat down in anticipation. We did not have long to wait. Out swooped several servers, all bringing us plates and bowls and wine and treats that were indescribable. Things we’d never eaten before (and a couple I could live without.) White wine was served like water and there was a different kind of wine for every course…and there were so many courses!
One course caught my eye. Looking down at my plate, I knew. I’d never had Bresaola before, but I knew what a treat this would be. The taste was supple and sublime. Mine was served on arugula with parmesan and peaches. Not everyone’s plate was the same; some had grapefruit, lemons or other fruit. It was incredible! My mother-in-law didn’t finish hers, but I finished mine and hers! I couldn’t get enough; so much so that I had it at nearly every restaurant we had on our trip after that. Some were close, but none was as exactly good as that first bite; my culinary life wouldn’t remain the same.
That night was magical. The lightning show that Padova put on for us that only added to the bliss. We ate and ate and drank and drank and finished the night with a delicate sorbetto of melon and raspberry that was like a soft, cool kiss.
After eating and talking for hours, we left that night with bottles of wine and hugs from the owner and a deep appreciation of Italian hospitality that we had never experienced in our entire lives. Our lives were changed and whenever I see, smell or read of Bresaola, my mind floats back to that wonderful, incredible evening.
Bresaola-Mozzarella Roll with Basil Jelly
This is a simple recipe that doesn’t take long to put together. Well, that’s after the weeks of curing that the Bresaola takes to finish.
Start with a 1 lb batch of fresh, warm mozzarella.
(If you’ve never done this before, it’s pretty cool…check it out here)
Bresaola that’s sliced paper-thin
Roll the mozzarella out with a rolling pin into a rectangle, about 7 x 14 inches. Layer with the bresaola and again with the arugula. Roll up tightly, jelly roll style and wrap very tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate several hours or overnight and slice just before serving.
This is tasty as is, but I topped the slices with homemade basil jelly. Peach would be great or even a peach jalapeno jelly (hey, I have some of that!)
The creaminess of the fresh mozzarella and the silkiness of the bresaola shines through with the tangy peppery flavor of the arugula. Topping it with something sweet just makes it all the better!