Monday, October 17, 2011

Mangalitsa for Entertaining

5 dishes with Mangalitsa

I've been cooking Mangalitsa for others lately.

I've been astounded at how forgiving this stuff is. Even overcooked, it still tastes really good.

If you cook things like crab or clams, you can overcook them and blow the meal. It is pretty much impossible to do that with Mangalitsa belly or even hunks of meat.

When I serve others Mangalitsa the first few times, it usually blows them away. It isn't like I'm particularly good at cooking this stuff. Although I've had a lot of practice, I normally keep it very simple.

Sweet potatoes fried in lard

I didn't prepare the meal above, but it is simple enough that I might have. Dinner was dehydrated bacon, portobello mushrooms fried in lard, sweet potato fries fried in lard, salad with Mangalitsa bacon, seaweed salad, pickled vegetables of various sorts and some sirloin cutlets. Delicious.

I'm reminded of Rebekah Denn's article (which won her a James Beard award), on Mangalitsa belly:

...This fat-laden cut — belly with some small ribs — is sinfully rich and salty-sweet. By the time it left its slow braise and joined some glazed turnips and Brussels sprouts on the plate it was practically pork candy, or the pig equivalent of foie gras. It was so tender and moist it fell apart at the touch of a fork.

Dining on any more than a small square of the meat would overwhelm any rational appetite — the serving shown in the picture, I realized after taking a few bites, would feed two or three. The foie comparison carries over to the serving size...

I am not usually one to eat the fat off any form of meat. It tastes foul, the texture is rubbery, and it’s terrible for your health. With the melting mouthfuls on this young pig, though, I get how people can nibble at it until their lips glisten.

I’ll be buying that cut and making this dish the next time I want to make dinner guests swoon.

When I have a make-or-break dinner, I do it with Mangalitsa, like the one shown above.

I don't bother wasting my time trying to find and then prepare beef or seafood. That's just way outside my comfort zone. I'm almost certainly going to screw that up and then feel like an idiot for not using Mangalitsa the first time around.

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