Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Summer Salad With Speck
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalProv Food Expert
Speck is a lovely cured ham from Trentino-Alto Adige. Prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele makes acceptable substitutes, although they lack the Speck’s smokiness. Look for supremely tender escarole for this salad, since you’ll be serving it raw; the more tender the escarole, the less bitter it will be. Great addition to a quick lunch or side dish for dinner.
½ bunch tender escarole, washed, dried, thorn (use white part only)
½ head radicchio, washed, dried, thorn
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced in wedges
¼ pound Speck, thinly sliced
2 slices white bread, cubed and toasted
½ pound green cabbage, julienned
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste
Mound the escarole and radicchio in a pretty serving platter, and top with the wedges of hard boiled eggs. Drape the sliced Speck over the escarole and radicchio, and distribute the cubed bread over the top. Garnish the platter with the cabbage, piling it in the center.
Make the dressing in a medium bowl: Whisk the mayonnaise and mustard together with ¼ cup water, the mint, salt and pepper and adjust the taste for seasoning; the dressing should be somewhat spicy because of the mustard but not too salty. Add a little more salt and pepper if necessary, remembering that the Speck is quite salty, so be careful that the dressing is not overpowering. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve within 5 minutes or the escarole, radicchio, and bread will become unpleasantly soggy.
The term “speck” first appears in Tyrol’s history in documents dated back to the 18th century. However, the word makes was first used under different names and definitions in the trade registers and butchers’ ordinance as far back as the year 1200. The term has its roots in the Middle High German word “spec” and the Ancient High German word “spek” and actually translates into “something thick, fat.”
South Tyrol’s history documents that South Tyrolean farmers originally cured speck to preserve the meat. The ham was intended for home consumption. Traditionally, pigs were slaughtered during the Christmas Season. The production of speck ensured that farmer’s had a supply of preserved meat for the entire year. The ham recipe was carefully guarded and handed down from generation to generation. The ancestral seasoning secrets from more than 100 years ago still give the speck its typical taste today.
Speck Alto Adige is in no way related to the standard fatty pork belly speck described by the common German term. Speck is the result of a combination of two methods used to preserve meat: the standard Mediterranean style curing process for raw ham and smoking, which is a process typically used in Northern Europe. As a result, a unique South Tyrolean ham was created based on the traditional rule “a little salt, a little smoke and a lot of fresh air.” Speck is an ingredient used in numerous typical South Tyrolean dishes, such as the South Tyrolean Speck Dumplings. In South Tyrol, this ham paired with bread and wine, is the main component in the genuine “Marende” – the typical South Tyrolean snack platter. Over the centuries, Speck Alto Adige has been continually upgraded and is now considered a star ingredient by many award-winning chefs.
Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." Check out the Chef's website and blog
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