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The Great Pancetta Cookoff

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
In the next few days I will be enjoying several different pancetta variations. I want to compare the differences between a few of the better quality, and better known, pancettas available in the area. However, before cooking up the bacon it would be helpful to get some ideas on what characteristics to compare. Any thoughts ...

Thus far I have Paul Bertolli's Fra'Mani and a local favorite, Molinari, in the house. I'll pick up two or three more, and that should get things rolling.
post #2 of 12
Cut it into a fine dice and fry. Are the little chunks nice and crisp or tough and rubbery?

Whoa, that was festive! I was sitting here typing my response when my wife let out a yelp. I thought maybe one of the cats jumped on the counter and startled her, turned out to be a rather large black widow spider crawling up a cabinet door. Crisis handled, I think. I'm pretty sure I didn't get bitten, but if I start seeming to be even more clueless and flaky than usual, I'll blame it on the spider. Anyway....


The texture of the fried bits does depend on other factors, like pan surface, cooking temps both starting and finishing. Pancetta is just unsmoked bacon ( and the Mona Lisa is just a painting of some woman ) and I find that when I'm using it in recipes I get the best results by cooking it as I do my bacon - starting it in a cold cast iron pan, bringing it up to temp slowly to render out the fat [ and what marvelous fat it is ] and finishing with a quick blast at moderately high heat for final crisping.

I'm trying to think of cases where I put it raw into a dish to be baked or boiled or whatever along with the rest of the stuff, but can't think of any at the moment. Last dish I made with it was pretty simple. Diced the pancetta, fried until a fair amount of fat was rendered, added diced onion, cooked until softened. Threw in a garlic glove or two, stirred a bit, added about 2 coarsely chopped tomatoes and a mashed anchovy filet. Another case of what my wife doesn't know won't hurt her. Once the anchovy was no longer visible and the tomatoes were hot, dumped the mess onto a plate of linquini. Parm and red pepper flakes to taste.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #3 of 12
I'm certainly not a connoisseur of pancetta, I just buy the one they have handy, but just one clarification- pancetta comes both smoked and unsmoked. I tend to prefer the smoked on pasta, and i don;t use it for anything else, so i don;t remember which is used for which, but traditionally i believe amatriciana uses one and carbonara uses the other. Here it is often sliced thin and eaten like prosciutto or salame, raw. If someone were to want to test which is best, they would taste it raw. You can do that if it's imported, since because of the massive cold cut industry all pork is tested for trichinosis - not sure in the states. (Personally, i don;t like it raw at all, just saying.)

P.s. Teamfat, hope you didn;t get bit by the black widow - you didn;t begin to delirate, but aren't they deadly or make you very sick? or are they only that poisonous to their mates?
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #4 of 12
I did not know that, all the stuff I've gotten here has been unsmoked.

Really? Gee, I'd never do a thing like that!

In truth, I'm wondering why Shel is wasting his time. Everyone knows that Boar's Head makes the best pancetta on the planet! Er, wait a minute, maybe Boar's Head is the one that I won't eat raw.

mjb.

PS: No, I didn't get bitten by the spider. But black widows and brown recluse are two of the most poisonous spiders in North America. I don't mind having a few random varieties of spiders wandering around the house to help keep the overall bug population down, but I draw the line on spiders that can kill me.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #5 of 12
So, teamfat, it was a close call. Phew. I guess i can assume you'd have known it if you'd been bit! If there were deadly spiders around here, i'd get rid of them all, since when they're about to bit them i'm not going to go grab my glasses to see if they have the characteristic markings!

Anyway, i have an american doctor - i invited her for supper once and made roast pork. It turned out it was underdone, and i was going to put it back in the oven - she said, naaah, don't bother - italy relies so much on its cold cuts and pork products that are eaten raw that they test ALL pork for trichinosis and it's all safe. She said she actually learned that in med school in the states. So i'd be more worried about your spiders. Anyway, prosciutto here is called "prosciutto crudo" - raw ham. Prosciutto actually just means ham, and what americans call ham is called "prosciutto cotto" - cooked ham. I eat that, but i don;t eat pancetta raw because cold pork fat is very unappealing to me.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #6 of 12
Well...



How did the great pancetta cookoff go?


I use pancetta in a number of recipes but I don't have much of a variety, which is why I'm interested in the results.

hope it went well>>>

dan
post #7 of 12
That's a new one to me. Here in the States I had always been taught that the biggest difference between American "bacon" and panchetta was the fact that panchetta was not smoked. That's why I love Chef Talk. I learn something new everyday.


As for the undercooked pork, I prefer my pork chops medium. In this day and age pork is one of the safest meats around. No need to cook it to sawdust anymore!
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Not as well as I'd hoped, which is why I didn't post a followup. I was only able to get two varieties - two brands actually - and was hoping to get a few more. Time ran out as, after a while, the pancetta started to lose its freshness while I was looking for more alternatives. It's not that the meat went bad, but it seemed a good idea to do the comparison with equally fresh samples. Now that I know where other brands and samples can be found, I'll try again in the next few weeks, and schedule my pancetta purchases on the same day.

I did compare Fra'Mani, Paul Bertolli's "artisan" pancetta with Molinari, one of the better - if not the best - regarded commercial brands in the area. There was a substantial difference between the two. Fra'Mani was less salty, less infused with nitrates, and less "smokey" - it had a more subtle, natural taste, closer to the guanciale I tried from A.G. Ferrari foods. I liked it quite a bit.

The Molinari was saltier, and tasted more like a typical American bacon, or more like I remember a typical American bacon tasting, as I've not had any in years. I've only purchased slices and chunks of slab bacon from non-mainstream producers. Getting back to the Molinari - the samples I had were a bit leaner than the Fra'Mani, which I liked as I prefer lean bacon, but the Molinari cure, which will probably be preferred by those who like a more intense bacon flavor, was not to my liking. Well, let me amend that - if I were looking for a more typical bacon taste, which I might at times, then the Molinari is a fine choice, although it was still a little too salty for me. Maybe blanching it for a bit would help.

As for the leanness of the two bacons, considering that they are natural products, I imagine that there may be some fattier samples of the Molinari to be had, and some leaner samples of the Fra'Mani.

Pricing was close enough to be comparable, and different markets would have somewhat different prices, so price, at least for me, was not a factor. When I buy bacon, I just buy the few slices I'll need for a dish. I can't recall when I've purchased more than four or five slices of any type of bacon, although sometimes those slices are pretty thick ;)
I never buy packaged bacon - haven't in at least ten years.

Hope this helps a bit ...
post #9 of 12
Pancetta is fully cured just like any Prosciutto or Jamon. I have eaten it raw and cooked and have never been sick. To really appreciate the differences and nuances of the different types Pancetta you should try it raw. Once it is cooked you loose all the volitile oils of the spices it is packed and cured with. Just my .02
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #10 of 12
As to the question of eating panchetta raw...I have never eaten it raw, but do eat bacon raw, if it comes from small producers. Would never eat the supermarket stuff raw though.
post #11 of 12
Volpi is a national brand of pancetta that is made about a mile from my home. They crank out a fairly large amount and have a great small storefront with fun Italian foodstuffs.

We've got a new artisan salumi maker in STL who has the connections and "chops" to make good shtuff. He's using local berkshire pigs and tammworth/chesire from a couple of farmers in the area. His guancala is pretty darn good. Small artisan operation.

As to eating raw bacon....nope...aged proscuitto sure, breosola sure, pancetta nope.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Volpi has a pretty good national reputation, however, I've not been able to find their pancetta here.

Good to hear that you've got a few "artisan" salumi makers in the area. When I lived in STL the place was pretty much a culinary waste land.
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