|Lardo di Colonnata © Massimo Zivieri|
Some folks are still nervous when it comes to eating fat. I personally am more suspicious of whoever rips the white part off prosciutto, but that's me. Lardo di Colonnata is a delicious cured "affettato" that should not be eaten with distraction. Each morsel of silken pork fat is a precious, melt-in-your-mouth, mystic experience, and the complexity of its flavor should be savored religiously.
Until recent times, lardo in northern Tuscany was considered a poor-man's meal, that cavatori –– the marble quarrymen of the area –– would stuff it in crusty homestyle bread sandwiches, along with sliced onions and tomatoes. This humble panino was prepared early in the morning before the men went off to carve statue staple out of the Apennines at 6200-ft altitude, a snack that had to last them all day. The calorie content, along with the vegetables and a nice flask of local wine, assured the necessary sustenance in the long and strenuous shifts at the quarries. In time lardo has become an exquisite gourmet item, and a highly sought foodie must.
Lardo di Colonnata is a beautiful white –– or sometimes pinkish –– slab of thick pork fatback, which is cured with a mixture of salt, spices, herbs and minced garlic. In the curing process the salt extracts moisture from the fat, creating a brine that preserves it from air and bacteria, and flavors the tissue.
|Alpi Apuane © Lucarelli|
|Marble conca © lardodicolonnata.net|
|Image @ culinarytypes|
A glass of wine, a view, some pig fat on bread. Life is good.
Some like to wrap thin slices of lardo around filet mignon, go overboard with foie gras pairings, or prefer it employed in novel seafood recipes. Tuscans use the leftover lardo rind as a flavor booster in hearty soups and minestrones.
On one of my regular shopping spree trips to Colonnata, I learned a wonderful new way of enjoying lardo. Here is the recipe that –– besides the star ingredient –– also employs leftover polenta, and lightly seared radicchio.
Leftover polenta, cut in thin slices
1 head of radicchio tardivo, ribs separated
Lardo di Colonnata
Film a skillet with olive oil and lightly wilt the radiccio ribs.
Place the polenta slices on a greased oven pan, or on the grill, and toast 5 minutes on each side.
Dress the toasted polenta crisps still hot from the oven, with a generous amount of thinly sliced lardo. It will go translucent and melt beautifully.
Top with the grilled radicchio, uncork the vino rosso, and relinquish all inhibition.
To learn more about Lardo di Colonnata visit lardodicolonnata.net
You can also read an interesting article on Lardo di Colonnata: Protecting traditional foods from EEU regulators