Wednesday, June 15, 2011

capocollo with dandelions and fiddlehead pickles

I started making this dish about two months before we had it. To do it the way I would have liked, I needed to start it about four months before we had it.

When I knew I was going to do a charcuterie plate for the recently mentioned dinner party, I decided this dish would be part of it. After all, it required dandelion greens, and I grew dandelion greens, and they were nearing the end of their potential life cycle.

That meant that I needed to find fiddleheads, which I have heard have a notoriously short season. So when I was in Whole Foods one day in April and saw them, I almost bought them. Since they were going to be pickles, I figured I could buy them, make pickles, then figure out when to have them. But the fiddleheads they had didn't look so good. Kind of dry and with black blotches on them. So I passed, despite the fact that the produce guy said they probably wouldn't get anymore.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I'm in New York at Union Square Greenmarket. And, apparently, it is fiddlehead season. Everyone had them. So I bought them, kept them in the fridge at the hotel, and smuggled them back to Florida, where I made pickles as soon as I got home.

Then it was all about the capocollo.

I wanted to make my own. I made all the other stuff on the charcuterie plate for that dinner party, why not the capocollo? Plus, throughout this project, I'm trying not to use any finished products as ingredients, even when they are called for, if it's something that I could make. I have a recipe for coppa, which is another word for capocollo, according to my research (which consisted of asking Michael Ruhlman on Twitter. He said yes. Good enough for me.).

Here's the thing: Making your own coppa, according to Ruhlman's recipe, takes about three months. And when I talked to some other people that make it, they said four to six. I'm in Florida, so any aging/curing/hanging is happening in the fridge. I wasn't sure enough in my curing ability to hang a piece of pork in the fridge for several months, then serve it to 10 friends. So I made the executive decision to buy my coppa.

My first plan was to buy it at Mazzaro's, where I get any Italian thing I might need. But then, as the date of the dinner party drew close, I realized Mario's dad has a salumeria in Seattle and sells cured meats over the Internet. I could buy coppa that Mario's dad made! That seemed highly appropriate. So I e-mailed them. There were two problems. First, I missed the last shipping day before the party, so I wouldn't get it in time. Second, even if i had been on time, shipping would cost more than the meat. I'm willing to pay almost anything for good food, but I'm willing to pay almost nothing to FedEx. So that would have created a moral dilemma for me even if i had thought of it in time.

So I bought it at Mazzaro's. And it was terrific.

I arranged the capocolla slices on the cutting board, topped with the dandelion greens and fiddlehead pickles, then shaved some parm over the top. Total win.

And, now that I think of it, I actually did start making this dish about four months ago. That's about when I planted the dandelion seeds. (In the second photo, the sprouts are on the left side of the tray.)

BONUS: For the charcuterie plate, I wanted cherry mostarda. So I looked on the Internet for cherry mostarda recipes and found this one on a totally appropriate website for this project. Warning: It is restaurant quantities. I quartered this recipe, and actually still had about twice as much as I needed. But it's good, and will hold up awhile. I think. We'll see.

Up next: I think actually seriously maybe the sable post. Because I got Pam to do it, which made it much easier for me.

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