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Parma Ham and British Measures

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I was making a pasta recipe today from chef Jamie Oliver that left me with a few questions to post to this august body.

1. The recipe calls for "ham, preferably Parma". The lady in my local fancy deli claimed that Parma ham was the same as Parma proscuitto. Since there were several other cured meats in the case labelled "Parma" (but none "Parma ham"), I was uncertain whether to accept her assertion, as I usually think of ham and proscuitto as different entities. Are they indeed identical in Parma?

2. Several of the "measures" in the recipe left me perplexed: just what is (1) a "knob" of butter, (2) a "small wineglass" of white wine, (3) a "handful" of grated Parmesan or "small handful" of dried porcinis, or (4) a "generous glug" of olive oil?

I did make it through the recipe (Pappardelle with Slow-Braised Leeks and Crispy Porcini Pangrattato) by guessing. We thought it tasted good, but it seemed a bit fussy.
post #2 of 15
Whether or not they're identical in Parma is of no concern. The question is, are upstate NY prosciutto and UK Parma ham identical? And the answer is yes.

This is an example of (a) Brit cuteness; and (b) an attempt to convey that exact amounts are not important. (1) "Knob" is an Olde Tyme term for about 1-1/2 oz. (2) A "small wineglass" is just what it sounds like. Call it half a cup, plus a splash -- around 5 oz. (3) A "handful" of grated parmesan is just that -- as much as you can grab with one hand. (4) "Glug" is a term making the rounds. It may (God help us) have emanated from the perky pipes of Rachel Ray. It may have come from Jamie Oliver himself. He's no less cloyingly cute, but at least can cook. A glug is the amount you get when you do a quick pour from a bottle with a narrow neck, and the bottle makes a sound as the air burbles up through the neck to break the vacuum in the bottle: "Glug." More than a splash, a solid slug. A bit less than a 1/4 cup. Somewhere between an ounce and and three tablespoons.

The getting through by guess and by gosh was part of the idea. It wasn't supposed to feel fussy but windblown, tousled and casual. Well, there you go. Good cook, but too cute by half.

post #3 of 15
At the risk of sounding repetitive...

I don;t know about Jamie Oliver, but I find recipes for dishes like that (i.e. not baking) that DO give exact measurements to be too fussy and annoying. If you put a little more or a little less butter, oil or wine in such a recipe, it really doesn;t make much difference or at most is a question of taste. My mother in law would put half a bottle of oil in anything she cooked and would sop it all up with the bread after calling it "sauce". (She's 95 by the way). For me that much is disgusting.

More disturbing is measuring salt in recipes like this, because salt should taste right. You have to taste it to find out.

So, stylish concerns aside, a glug of oil sounds just right. I wouldn;t measure it any other way. Or perhaps, i would temper that with a consideration of how it covers the pan (a larger pan needs more oil to cover the surface, a smaller one needs less, then it depends how much you want to sop up with your bread. I glug it, then turn the pan around so it slides along the surface, and if it doesn;t manage to get all over, i add a little more, if it needs to cook some finely chopped onion or something, i need to have it a little thick, or the onion will burn, etc.).

I think recipes should teach people how to get a feel for cooking rathyer than give prescriptive and precise measures. These are useful for cooking in quantity but not in the kitche.

Plus, think of how many extra things to wash at the end - all those measuring cups and spoons...
"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.'"
"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.'"
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank you both for enlightening me.

Like most cooks, I take liberties with recipes and have learned from experience what I can vary and can't. If the idea of "glug" and "handful" is to teach that, I'll reluctantly acknowledge the intent, but argue that a nice "about" coupled with a more defined measure would be more instructive, albeit, perhaps, less entertaining.
post #5 of 15
Yes, in effect, they are the same. The recipe is calling for prosciutto di Parma. You can substitute any mainstream prosciutto, but you must be careful, because the Parmesan product is quite a bit less salty. If salt is not added elsewhere in the recipe, it may be worth considering dipping your slices of non-Parma prosciutto, held in chopsticks or tongs or something, into boiling water for just a fraction of a second. On the other hand, the texture will suffer.
I know nothing about Mr. Oliver. But Elizabeth David used the same measurements, and she wasn't being cute. A knob is a fat tablespoon, about the size of a small walnut. A small wineglass is a small wineglass, which amounts to a generous 1/2 cup. A handful is a handful. A glug, it seems to me, is a generous dollop out of the bottle. It may be cute, but another way to look at it (as suggested by BDL) is that it's supposed to get you to stop worrying about trivia. If you were using a big tub of butter, you'd grab a spoon and pull out a sort of knob-shaped blob, and that'd be a knob. You'd get a small wineglass and fill it a normal measure with the liquid. And you'd go from there. With recipes of this sort, you don't need fine-tuning.
As already noted, fussy is because you're worrying. Stop it.

Now that you know where to get Parma ham (prosciutto di Parma), try this one.

Quarter a small bowlful of cherry tomatoes and put in a big mixing bowl. Add a big handful of baby arugula, or the same of very coarsely chopped or torn arugula, or the same of pea shoots. Add a small handful of shaved Parma ham, cut in fat shreds. Boil a pound of fresh fettucine. Drain, and reserve some of the boiling liquid. Throw the pasta into the bowl, add a couple knobs of butter and a generous grind of salt and pepper. Add a big handful of fresh-grated Parmesan cheese. Toss well, adding reserved pasta liquid as you go, until you get creamy sauce. Serve immediately.

In a perfect world where you plan well ahead, first mince two cloves of garlic, then grind to a paste with a pinch of coarse salt, then work this into a stick of butter along with a little bit of minced herbs in season (basil is brilliant). Roll in wax paper and freeze. Cut your knob of butter from this, and thank me in the morning.

If you worry, try the recipe twice, and measure very precisely some appropriate differences: this bowl vs. that, this knob vs. that, etc. You'll find that it's great either way, and that your family prefers it with more of this as opposed to that.

If the veg are ultra-fresh and so on, this is a kick-butt recipe, which I have adapted pretty liberally from Alfred Portale, The Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook. I do this many times every summer with organic Sungold cherry tomatoes and baby arugula straight (as in picked that morning) off our friends' organic farm. How much tomato? Well... how much have I got?
post #6 of 15
Many of Jamie O's books are written as accompaniments to his many TV series here in the UK. If you can watch them, you'll see his 'glug', 'knob' etc. But most of us in the UK grew up on these type of terms. My Scots granny used to use them - a wee pinch o salt - a bigger pinch o salt - hauf a haunfu' of breidcrumbs (half a handful of breadcrumbs)... i think they are more visual than strict terms :lips:
post #7 of 15
To my mind Elizabeth David was the greatest cookbook writer of the 20th Century, and that covers a lot of ground. She taught the English not only how to cook and how to eat, but did a lot to get them to pull the stick out. She, along with a few other writers (and a couple of chefs) taught me to cook too (never had a stick). David absolutely did use those terms, with the exception of glug but she was writing at a different time to a different audience. And in all fairness, some of her dishes -- especially when she got outside of France -- were no more than the sketchiest of "running recipes." So incomplete you have to not only be a good cook to follow them; but know at least one variation of the dish. But you didn't mind, because in that recipe she'd somehow managed to convey the feel of the air on her skin on a summer's night in Zaragoza. And you felt it on yours.

If you've seen any of Jamie Oliver's shows, you know he works very hard at the Jamie Oliver brand -- which includes among other attributes a huge dose of perky, boy-band cuteness. It's only tolerable because he really is both a terriffic cook and teacher. His cookbooks and recipes are not bad at all, his restaurants excellent.

post #8 of 15
True. After all, Julia Child was only dealing with Americans. Elizabeth David had to teach cooking to people who'd made it a religion to eat green beans boiled gray.

You know Calvin Trillin's old remark about English cooking? He said (this is the 80s, remember) that it's not fair to say that the English have neither decent cooking nor a sense of humor: their cooking is a joke all by itself. :lol:

Frankly, the English renaissance of cooking is a much more dramatic phenomenon than the American parallel, and equally dramatic credit should go to Elizabeth David.
He sounds appalling. Emeril's restaurants are excellent, as are many of his recipes, but I don't like him either. I don't want to watch somebody be a jerk on TV, whatever his skills might actually be like.
post #9 of 15
I don't know anyone who finds him "cute". Well not on this side of the pond anyway. I've always thought his tongue was way too big for his mouth!:lol:
He is an excellent chef though, specialising in Italian food, his mentor was Genarro Contaldo, a genius in his own right.
post #10 of 15
Much as I like her, I wouldn't put Julia Child above Madame Saint Ange, Pellaprat or James Beard. What set Elizabeth David apart from the pack, is not her cookbookery but her writing.

With your good graces and imagination, Julia Child took you to cooking school; Madame Saint Ange to the kitchen of a wonderful country home where the chatelaine was herself a great cook; Pellaprat not only took you into the kitchens of palaces, but set you solidly in the stream of CUISINE (merci, chef); and James Beard took you into every kitchen in the melting pot that was Manhattan.

Elizabeth David, on the other hand, took you there, willy nilly.

post #11 of 15
My Mum used Elizabeth David's books as her 'bibles' in the 50s - along with her family recipe books. We lived abroad a lot when I was a child - and those books introduced us to many a delightful new experience.

Chris - please don't forget - unlike the USA and other places, we in the UK had rationing from 1937 to the mid-50s (not for all foodstuffs, of course) - it really DID last that long.

If our food was pretty awful, it was generally because the available ingredients were either meat that needed long, very slow cooking - or root veggies or whatever. I remember older relatives born during the war saying they had not SEEN a banana until they were 10 or so! No wonder our food went through the doldrums in terms of taste etc.

Good fresh foodstuffs were available if you grew them yourself, or had contacts in the countryside - that was not given to many, though.

I find anti-British jokes about our food very unfunny. After all, much so called 'American' foods have British origins.
post #12 of 15
I have made this pasta/leek recipe. I wasn't enthusiastic about it at first because I didn't think it sounded very good. Boy was I wrong!!! I can see how one would think it is fussy, but not because of the measurements. The proscuitto is used to lay over the leeks so that they braise in their own juices, like insulation. I personally am not a big fan of cooked proscuitto (too gamey) so after it has served its purpose I toss it -Jamie urges you to cut it up and incorporate it into your pasta which is fine too. What did you think of the breadcrumbs? I thought it was a PHENOMENAL dish and my husband demands it every couple of months.

I love Jamie and his oliverisms. He's so inspirational because he isn't fussy. He's a "little bit of this, little bit of that" type of cook and it resonates with me. Maybe you can find Jamie at Home on youtube, that's where this recipe comes from and you can see for yourself that a knob is nothing more than how much butter you can dig up with your fingers. No other chef inspires me like he does, I don't find him "cutsie" rather I think he's very genuine and rustic and really tries to get people to cook by feel rather than by measuring.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #13 of 15
Watch me stay out of this.

post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
The fussiness I alluded to ("a bit fussy") was not in reference to the measurements. We are finishing off the last of the leeks that overwintered in our garden, and I'm always looking for new and interesting dishes that use them. The pangrattato was new to me and a most welcome discovery, far superior to other breadcrumb applications to pasta that I've encountered in the past.
post #15 of 15
I thought you might ;)
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