Sunday, April 19, 2009

Recipes: Home-Cured Flat Pancetta & Edamame and Mushroom Risotto with Pancetta

Bacon’s smell wafting through the air is so enticing that even committed vegetarians are sometimes tempted to stray from their virtuous path. These days I mainly use bacon and pancetta as flavor-boosting ingredients; it’s been years since I ate it on its own.

Since I use bacon to boost flavor, I buy the best available. So I was intrigued to read on
Kits Chow, that Christine’s Home-Cured Bacon was so good, her husband asked her not to buy bacon from the store anymore. I had to try it.

Although I’ve visited
Kits Chow more than once over the past year, I was there recently because I was paired with Christine for March’s Taste and Create. Invented by Nicole of For the Love of Food, Taste and Create is one of my favorite food writing events. Every month Nicole pairs participating food writers; each is responsible for trying one recipe from the other’s blog and writing about it.

Some months it can be a challenge to find something I want to write about on my partner’s blog (although I’ve always found something delicious to make). Other months there’s an abundance of recipes I can’t wait to try; this was an abundant month. I haven’t made it yet, but Christine’s simple
Ginger Custard will appear on our table shortly after I next go shopping.

Christine writes from an Asian perspective, while I focus on Mediterranean foods, but there are many similarities in our cooking styles. We both emphasize foods made with fresh, locally available products, and enjoy making ingredients from scratch.

Christine shares my passion for creating variations on a theme. For example, she recently wrote about and photographed a
series of grilled cheese sandwiches; every time I look at this post, I crave an immediate grilled cheese fix. I also appreciate Christine’s creative Asian-Hellenic fusion cooking.

But back to the bacon.

Christine used a
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe from the Guardian to make her bacon. The recipe is simple: pork belly is liberally coated with a dry-rub of salt, sugar, and spices, and then cured in the refrigerator for several days.

The result was delicious: meaty, juicy, and mouth-watering. I’m calling it flat pancetta rather than bacon because it isn’t smoked (a hallmark of American bacon). And since I renamed it pancetta, I used the meat to flavor a wonderful risotto made with edamame beans and garlicky sautéed mushrooms. I’m only sorry there isn’t any leftover risotto; writing the recipe has left me wanting more.

Homemade PancettaHome-made Flat Pancetta
Adapted from
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall via Kits Chow
The original recipe recommended curing the meat at least 4 days, or as long as 10, draining the juices and applying more cure every 24 hours. I stopped the process on the fourth day because the pancetta was getting too salty for my taste. Since I cured it for shorter than called for in the original recipe, and because the recipe doesn’t include nitrites or nitrates, I froze all the pancetta I didn’t use right away rather than worrying about spoilage. The best place to buy meaty pork belly is in Asian markets (in Anchorage, Sagaya is the best source). Be sure to look the pork over carefully and buy the meatiest piece you can find. Once, in desperation, I bought a frozen piece of pork belly wrapped in freezer paper. The butcher repeatedly assured me the meat was skin-on; it wasn’t, plus the “meat” was 90% fat. The fault was my own for buying meat sight unseen.

Curing mix:
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. juniper berries
5 bay leaves
1 1/3 cup kosher salt (3/4 pound)
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar (1/4 pound)

2 pieces meaty pork belly, with skin, 1 1/2 – 2 pounds each

Make the Curing Mix: Grind the peppercorns, coriander seeds, juniper berries, and bay leaves in a spice grinder, or pound them in a mortar and pestle until they are finely crushed. Mix the ground spices with the salt and brown sugar.

Curing Pancetta - Day 1Day 1: Rub each piece of pork belly with the curing mix until the meat is well coated and every nook and cranny is covered with the mix. Put the meat in a glass or other non-metallic container. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Curing Pancetta - Day 2Day 2: After 24 hours, pour off all the liquid that has leached out of the pork and rub the meat with more curing mix until it is once again well coated.

Day 3: Repeat Day 2.

Day 4: Rinse off all the cure under cold running water. Dry the meat very thoroughly. Wrap in wax paper, parchment paper, or cheesecloth and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use (before choosing storage method, read the above headnote).

Edamame and Mushroom Risotto with PancettaEdamame and Mushroom Risotto with Pancetta
Serves 4
The mushrooms need to be sautéed in batches to ensure they brown properly; if you try to brown all the mushrooms at one time, they’ll steam rather than brown. Because home-cured pancetta can be salty, be sure to lightly salt the mushrooms or the finished dish may be too salty (the mushrooms need some salt to ensure they cook properly). Pancetta is often sold in packages of very thinly cut pre-sliced meat. Although I use pre-sliced pancetta in a pinch, I mostly buy pancetta direct from the deli counter (if I’m not making my own at home). I ask for either a chunk of pancetta, which I hand slice and dice at home, or have the deli staff cut the pancetta into slices the thickness of thick bacon. With thicker slices, eaters enjoy bursts of pancetta flavor when devouring the risotto; thinner slices tend to melt into the other flavors.

1/2 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, cut in 1/4” slices (about 2 cups sliced)
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut in 1/4” slices (about 2 cups sliced)
2 Tbsp. butter, divided
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic, divided

3/4 cup diced home-cured or store-bought pancetta (rind removed), 1/4” dice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions, 1/4” dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/3 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
10 ounces shelled edamame beans, blanched if fresh or thawed if frozen
6 Tbsp. minced fresh mint, divided
6 – 7 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup freshly (and finely) grated parmesan cheese

Cook the Mushrooms: Sauté the cremini mushrooms, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil, until the mushrooms are nicely browned. Stir in half the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove the browned mushrooms from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with the shiitake mushrooms, using the remaining olive oil, butter, and garlic.

Make the Risotto: In a sauté pan large enough to hold the finished risotto, sauté the pancetta until the fat renders and the pancetta begins to brown. Stir in the onions, lightly seasoned with freshly ground black pepper, and sauté until the onions soften and begin to turn golden. Stir in the rice to completely coat it with oil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine, bring to a medium boil, and cook, stirring, until the wine is almost all absorbed.

Add 1/2 cup of stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the stock is almost all absorbed. Keep adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring until each addition of stock is almost absorbed. When the rice is half done, stir in the edamame beans and 5 Tbsp. mint. (The recipe can be made ahead to this point, and finished right before serving. If you make it ahead, after you take the rice off the burner, stir it until it cools down before adding the edamame and mint.)

Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring until the rice is tender, but still firm in the center (this takes 18 – 22 minutes total). There may be stock left over. Stir in the reserved mushrooms, remaining 1 Tbsp. mint, and 1/2 cup grated parmesan. If necessary, add stock until the risotto is the consistency you desire; it should be moist and creamy, not thick and dry. Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed.

Serve immediately with the remaining grated parmesan on the side for sprinkling on top.
This is an entry for My Legume Love Affair – 9th Helping (MLLA9), created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, which I hosted in March 2009. My Legume Love Affair - 10th Helping for April 2009 is being hosted by Courtney of Coco Cooks.


Maria Verivaki said...

i like to use bacon for the same reason as you do - adding some flavour to a meal, rather than using it as the main ingredient in a meal

i never thought i could make my own spicy cured meat - although we cook a lot from scratch in my house, your recipe idea is opening up a new avenue for me

Karen said...

Mmm, that pancetta looks amazing! I would freeze it too... just to be on the safe side.

KC said...

Hi Laurie:

You have made my day with your lovely post about my blog and cooking. Thank you! The risotto looks so good I've bookmarked it and will be making it when I make some bacon.

Best regards,


Cindy Ruth said...

This risotto looks great, and I'm so excited about the recipe for making my own pancetta. Thanks for the recipe, and thanks for letting us know we can get the pork at Sagaya. I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

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Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Welcome to the world of curing meat! You will soon find yourself addicted, I suspect. You can get all sorts of different effects with pancetta depending on amount of salt, length of cure, the type of herbs and spices you use, whether you roll it or leave it flat, how long you hang it to dry after curing, etc. etc.

It is a whole lot of fun. Enjoy!

david said...

you read the article, inspiration for me to learn to write

Devany said...

I found your blog through Nourish Me. I can so relate to the sometimes challenge to find Mediterranean ingredients, as I live in Hawaii.

I am going to make the pancetta! We have tons of pork here, that is for sure. I have made bacon before in my smoker.

Keep up the good work!

Devany, Hilo, HI

Unknown said...

Amazing! I have been trying to find Pancetta in Wasilla but now I can make my own! I will try Valley Meat and ask for a meaty pork belly.
Website is great!
Helen in Willow

Rumela said...

Great recipe!! The combination is truly fascinating. edamame and mushroom risotto with pancetta all are nutritious and good for health. So a threesome combination is likely to be tasty and healthy alike.

Unknown said...

Wow! pancetta sounds delicious..this looks something i'd love to try...all you have to do is step outside for some of the ingredients...right away i'm gonna get the ingredients from and try it..thanks for the recipe...let's see how it comes.

Unknown said...

I have been looking for a source of local organic pork belly, but it is hard to find when the restaurants buy it all up. Anyway, I want to make bacon with it. I will have to try your method!

african vanielje said...

Laurie, this all looks too mouthwateringly devine. YUM

Hypnosis Australia said...

I added the bacon and it certainly made the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Bookncoffee said...

Oh I can certainly tell I will enjoy your blog! Found it while searching for pizzettes. We are having pizzettes this week. I was trying to show a friend what they were.
I am so glad I found you and I am following.

Unknown said...

That looks amazing! I am making dinner for a friend this week so I am thinking about this!