|Hey, I was trying to take a picture of the sign.
Without further dithering, pancetta.
Pancetta is unsmoked Italian bacon and it adds salt and savor to pastas, soups, risottos, and big cheesy polenta casseroles. It is super-easy and relatively (sometimes extremely) inexpensive to make, but you do need two ingredients that you will not find at your typical big-box America supermarket. Once you have these ingredients, the pancetta practically makes itself.
First, you need some pink salt, a.k.a. salt cut with sodium nitrite. This cheap Pepto Bismol-colored powder prevents botulism in bacon, pancetta and many of our favorite carcinogenic luncheon meats. No, it's not healthy, though neither botulism. If nitrites worry you, you probably shouldn't eat pancetta. My personal motto: moderation. You can order pink salt here or from the butcher supplier of your choice.
You also need pork belly, a deliciously fatty cut of pig that is the foundation of bacon, salt pork, and many exquisite restaurant entrees. No, it is not healthy. But you can choose between moderately unhealthy pork belly and very unhealthy pork belly, depending on how much you want to pay.
If you can afford it, you should special order your pork belly from a boutique butcher shop. Where I live, that would be Marin Sun Farms, which sells only pastured meats. The Marin Sun Farms price for boneless, skinless pork belly as of this writing is $7.99 per pound. This is as pure and wholesome as pork belly gets. I love Marin Sun Farms, but acquiring their meat is expensive and inconvenient and I go to the trouble less often than I should.
Alternatively, you can walk into just about any Chinese market and find pink rafts of pork belly in the display case near the tongues, chicken feet, and gelatinous blobs of coagulated pig's blood. The other day I went to my beloved Richmond New May Wah on Clement Street in San Francisco and bought 5 pounds of pork belly for $3.99 per pound. (Important: Wherever you buy your pork belly, ask to have the skin removed. It's no fun to do at home, but will take a skilled butcher roughly 30 seconds.)
I guess my point is, if you're going for the cheap pork belly, you should go for the cheapest pork belly you can find.
But, truly, I don't think you should go for the cheap pork belly, I think you should buy the best pork belly you can afford. I had buyer's remorse; I know not to buy cut-rate meat and bought it anyway. I'm sure I'll do it again, but that doesn't mean it's right. People, be better than I am.
Pancetta part 2, coming soon.
|Pork belly should have a thick layer of creamy fat, but also plenty of meat.