Prosciutto di Parma (Short Stack 03/12)

Another month, another Short Stack! This month’s was Prosciutto di Parma, which was great because prosciutto is one of my favorite meat products and I really enjoyed learning new ways to cook with it that aren’t just “slap it in between a bagel with fresh mozzarella and call it a sandwich” (although that ‘recipe’ is really good, I promise).

I did better than I thought I would, given that prosciutto di Parma can be expensive and given the other things I had going on this month. I shot for CASE/BY/CASE NYC for the first time this year, a wonderful interview with the incredibly inspiring Ale Lariu, who spoke with us about the unique challenges that women (and mothers in particular) face in the workforce. I love shooting for C/B/C — I’ve learned so much and been privy to so many fascinating, educational conversations. I like to think of myself as someone who can get excited about anything so long as I’m interacting with someone who is knowledgeable and enthusiastic. There are very few subjects that outright bore me. I’m thinking here of another C/B/C interview, this one discussing data science, which I really know next to nothing about and yet found so interesting. (I won’t go on here, but you should read it.)

This is really my goal in doing this Short Stack project: I want to get enthusiastic about ingredients I don’t know anything about. This month, though, I fell back into old loves, culinary and academic. I’m working on a sourcebook for Onyx Path’s Changeling: the Lost, a tabletop roleplaying game I’ve loved since I was a teenager. Literally, I vividly remember toting the core book (and the main World of Darkness rulebook, since back then they parceled out mechanics into a separate book that you had to have to play, which was ridiculous, but anyway…) on college visits. I’d sit at a hotel desk and pull out the books and some printed character sheets and dream people up. I was 16 then; I’m 26 now. This game has been with me for a long time, and I’m so damn excited to be part of its 2nd edition — but I digress, sort of.

As part of my freelance assignment, I’ve spent the last month and a half reading fairy tales and folklore from around the world, something I was really passionate about in high school and university that fell off after I started working in journalism. A lot of things fell off because of journalism. It’s very hard to switch your brain back and forth between reading and writing 500-word news articles and reading and writing fiction. It’s been lovely to revisit that, like curling up in a comfortable old blanket. Eating prosciutto di Parma is the same way, a comfort food I’ve loved for a long time, nourishing my body like fairy tales nourish my mind. It feels fitting that this overlapped.


Book: Prosciutto di Parma, Sara Jenkins (Short Stack Editions)

Recipes made: 6/20


Wilted Greens with Prosciutto:  I like the idea of this, but didn’t love the execution — I found it to be a bit oily and also too hot (both of which were probably my own fault, as I quartered the recipe and that sort of reduction can be hard). I’d love to try the full recipe again and see what happens.

Wilted Greens with Prosciutto: I like the idea of this, but didn’t love the execution — I found it to be a bit oily and also too hot (both of which were probably my own fault, as I quartered the recipe and that sort of reduction can be hard). I’d love to try the full recipe again and see what happens.

Cheesy Prosciutto Bread:  I have no idea if it’s the recipe or if it’s somehow me, but Jesus christ this was  peppery , like far too much black pepper than anyone has ever needed ever. I didn’t grind most of it fine enough because it takes one million years to grind even just one tablespoon of black pepper (I don’t own a spice grinder it’s fine I’m fine). When my mouth wasn’t full of pepper, this was delicious and I’d like to try it again, but yeah, the pepper…did a whole lot.

Cheesy Prosciutto Bread: I have no idea if it’s the recipe or if it’s somehow me, but Jesus christ this was peppery, like far too much black pepper than anyone has ever needed ever. I didn’t grind most of it fine enough because it takes one million years to grind even just one tablespoon of black pepper (I don’t own a spice grinder it’s fine I’m fine). When my mouth wasn’t full of pepper, this was delicious and I’d like to try it again, but yeah, the pepper…did a whole lot.

Grits with Prosciutto & Gravy:  I’d never made grits before, which is probably a major source of shame to my Louisiana family, but I’m also very glad my first time making them was for this recipe! I think my girlfriend said it best: “I am going to shove my entire face into this prosciutto, grits and gravy thing.” There’s really nothing else to be done.

Grits with Prosciutto & Gravy: I’d never made grits before, which is probably a major source of shame to my Louisiana family, but I’m also very glad my first time making them was for this recipe! I think my girlfriend said it best: “I am going to shove my entire face into this prosciutto, grits and gravy thing.” There’s really nothing else to be done.

Spinach Salad with Prosciutto Vinaigrette & Egg Mimosa:  Look, I don’t know how to photograph salad, and I don’t know how to make it either. I burned/charred (if we’re being generous) the prosciutto for the vinaigrette, and I didn’t boil the egg hard enough because I prefer runny yolks. I didn’t finish this. I’d like to try it again sometime, but maybe I’ll practice with a cheaper form of pork first.

Spinach Salad with Prosciutto Vinaigrette & Egg Mimosa: Look, I don’t know how to photograph salad, and I don’t know how to make it either. I burned/charred (if we’re being generous) the prosciutto for the vinaigrette, and I didn’t boil the egg hard enough because I prefer runny yolks. I didn’t finish this. I’d like to try it again sometime, but maybe I’ll practice with a cheaper form of pork first.

Egg Tagliolini with Prosciutto, Butter & Parmesan:  So so so good. I’d never made fresh pasta from scratch, and I didn’t cut the noodles thin enough, but whatever, everything here was harmonious and delicious and I’m very excited to make it again.

Egg Tagliolini with Prosciutto, Butter & Parmesan: So so so good. I’d never made fresh pasta from scratch, and I didn’t cut the noodles thin enough, but whatever, everything here was harmonious and delicious and I’m very excited to make it again.

Migas de Pastor:  These are Spanish-style migas, which I suppose was only right for my first attempt, given my background. They are very good and very easy and I ate a few spoonfuls just like this before…

Migas de Pastor: These are Spanish-style migas, which I suppose was only right for my first attempt, given my background. They are very good and very easy and I ate a few spoonfuls just like this before…

…I put an egg on it. Even better.

…I put an egg on it. Even better.

Things for yourself

In classic Chloe fashion, I’ve left a passion project to sit for nearly a full month and barely noticed the time go by. It’s been a busy month, but it’s about to get busier, what with Thanksgiving coming up; around this time of year I start really wanting to cocoon, but that’s not a full-time option. Unfortunate. But if I can’t do that, I can spend my days off doing things I like — baking, spending hours with my girlfriend watching TV or hanging pictures on my walls for the first time in the 3 years I’ve lived in this apartment, petting my cats, reading, listening to Ariana Grande…all the usual things that make weekends nice.

But weeknights are important too. I sometimes feel like I’m tripping toward the weekend, stumbling through the days of work before I get to the full days off. On busy days at work that feeling is intensified. With the weather changes and general stress, I keep getting little (and big) headaches. At work I eat the same things over and over, which I can’t really complain about (free!) but am going to anyway. There is a lot to be said for making your own food. Maybe I enjoy it so much because I don’t do it a lot.

One of my favorite things to eat is fries, and one of my favorite things to make is…also fries. I spent part of my childhood in Belgium, where frites are a national icon (they are NOT French, y’all!), and while I am discerning, I will also eat any goddamn fried potato you put in front of me. Or oven baked. When I make my own fries, it’s in the oven, and I make them with duck fat in addition to olive oil.

The thing about duck fat is that it’s a fancy ingredient that’s semi-accessible (you can buy it at gourmet/upscale grocery stores) and makes you feel very cool. It definitely adds quality to whatever you’re using it for, but I do feel that half of that is just…feeling cool. I’m cooking with an unusual ingredient that cost more than a Key Food bottle of olive oil or bar of butter! I’m a fancy bitch! It’s not the only fancy ingredient out there, and it’s not something I would generally recommend off the bat as something that will make you feel cool and fancy. It’s not something that can’t be replaced.

It’s nice, though.

Tonight, I came home with the intention of making duck fat oven fries and grilled cheese (with the bread I baked yesterday), but I couldn’t tell if my mozzarella was going bad and I didn’t want to actively risk getting sick (right! before! Thanksgiving!) so I took my cool things (duck fat and homemade buttermilk white bread) and added Kraft white American cheese to them. And then pressed some shredded Parmesan I keep in my freezer onto the bread. The American cheese gets cloying without a meat or something to balance it, but the Parmesan helped, and anyway, the fries were (and always are, wherever you go) the real star of the show. I liked it a lot, so I thought, maybe time to update this blog. (Also a friend told me I have lesbian Ina Garten vibes and that kicked my vanity into high gear.)

The oven fries recipe is Smitten Kitchen’s with duck fat; the grilled cheese was inspired by her frico grilled cheese.

Honestly I hate the editing on this but I lost all my presets when I got a new computer and I am struggling ok! I promise it tastes good!

Honestly I hate the editing on this but I lost all my presets when I got a new computer and I am struggling ok! I promise it tastes good!

What you knead:

  • Approx. 1.5 tablespoons duck fat (1 tbsp for the fries, .5 for the sandwich)

  • Oil (olive, grapeseed, canola, all fine)

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread

  • Whatever cheese you want

  • 1 tbsp shredded Parmesan

  • 1 russet potato

  • Kosher salt

What to dough:

Preheat your oven to 450°. Peel potato (or not, but scrub it if you leave the skin on) and cut into batons — 1/2 inch is best, but go with your gut. Place fries into a pot, cover with water (at least an inch above the fries), and boil over high heat for 10 minutes.

During this time, spoon duck fat onto a sheet pan. When there’s only 3 or so minutes left to go on your timer, put the pan into the oven.

Drain the fries, then toss them onto the pan and in the duck fat. Drizzle with oil and kosher salt, however much you want, then put in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove and flip them and salt them again, and put them back into the oven for 5 minutes. After that, take them out, salt again, and eat as soon as you can.

Before taking the fries out at the 20 minute mark, prepare your sandwich: cheese between two slices of bread, you know the drill. Add duck fat to a skillet over medium heat, and scrape what’s left on your knife or spoon over the outer sides of the bread. Put the sandwich in the skillet just before you take the fries out, and press some of the Parmesan into the top.

Flip the sandwich whenever it’s just getting golden on the bottom, and press the rest of the Parmesan into the top. When the bottom gets golden, flip again so the rest of the Parmesan can melt. When that’s golden and melted into the bread, take it out, cut it in half, and, obviously, enjoy.

Also:

Fresh mozzarella is my favorite cheese to grill, but it doesn’t melt quickly. I’d recommend putting it on each slice of bread and putting them in the oven, open-faced, with the fries for the last 5 minutes, then closing the sandwich and sticking in the skillet for the shredded cheese part. (Or skip the shredded cheese. Grilled cheeses with fresh mozzarella are glorious enough on their own.)

Also also:

I guess grilled cheese and tomato soup are the classic pairing, but like, these are fries. Add some ketchup to dip the sandwich and fries in and you’ll be more than happy.