Monday, March 23, 2009

Lamb Bacon

I first experienced the wonder that is lamb bacon at Resto, a Belgian restaurant in Manhattan. The dish was called Lamb Belly with Snap & English Peas, Tendrils, Leaves, Goat Cheese.

From the first bite, I was smitten.

Combining the intense, delicious flavor of lamb with the salty, crispy goodness of bacon, the lamb belly was a revelation. I couldn't believe I hadn't experienced this product before.

Six months later, I had my next encounter with the smoky seductress. This time the belly arrived nestled amidst bacon's common confidants, lettuce and tomato as part of a gourmet BLT. While many plates coming out of Boqueria's kitchen are memorable dishes, this was one of the all-time greatest sandwiches I've ever had the pleasure to eat (and I don't even like raw tomato slices!). It was balanced and perfect in all the ways that a great BLT is, but had the added pizazz of lamb flavor to up the ante that much more.

Boqueria's Beauties

By this time I was hooked. I had to have more lamb bacon, to experiment with this wonderful ingredient on my own, and to share the fantastic flavor with my friends.

There was just one little problem with my plan.

I couldn't find any.

I called specialty stores, emailed meat purveyors, and even wrote to various farms around the country. Nobody, and I mean, nobody, sold lamb bacon.

After about a dozen attempts, I gave up. It seemed that there was no lamb belly to be had.

A few months later, I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for the new daily food digest, Tasting Table. In between hobnobbing with various food bloggers and encountering the legendary Jean-Georges himself, I met the proprietors of said newsletter.

For some reason the conversation ended up turning to lamb bacon, and low and behold, the gentlemen told me that the following day's e-mail would contain the answers to my search.

The next morning, after frantically refreshing my inbox for a couple of hours, the e-mail arrived.

Lamb belly was now being sold at Williamsburg butcher shoppe, Marlow and Daughters. I immediately made plans to go.

The answer to my prayers

After a scrumptious lunch with my roommates at Peter Luger, I made my way over to this new meat market and plunked down a cool $5 for 1/3 of a pound of lamb pancetta. While not exactly lamb bacon (pancetta is cured, but not smoked), I figured it would do the trick.

The trick I hoped that the pancetta could perform was to add balance and flavor to a salad I was making that evening.

I decided that I’d roast the paper thin rounds of pancetta until they were crisp sheets and then crumble the warm results over a salad.

The other cast members included peppery baby watercress, sour and acidic blood orange segments, and shaved red onion. The salad was topped with Annie's garlic studded Green Goddess dressing.

Baby Watercress, Lamb Pancetta, Blood Orange, Red Onion, Green Goddess

The lamb bacon was not only able to hold its own against these pungent ingredients, but it actually served to tie them all together.

The bacon fat was cut by the acid from the blood orange and the pancetta’s crispy texture gave spunk and flavor to the watercress. Red onion added its own sweet and spicy flavor, while the dressing both lubricated and flavored each ingredient well. When all the ingredients were eaten in one bite, the salad was a perfect expression of the type of dishes that I love to make; big, bold flavors that play well with one another.

Unfortunately, between the salad and pre-meal snacking (a good chef always tastes his food before serving it), I used up all the pancetta on this one dish.

Don’t worry though. 

Even if it means another trek to Williamsburg, where there is lamb bacon, I’ll be there.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Big Apple Block Party Fast Passes and Schoolgirls

I won't delay you from clicking on these links any longer than I have to.

There are two things you need to know A.S.A.P.

1) Big Apple Block Party Fast Passes are now on sale

2) Park Avenue Winter, one of my favorite restaurants in the city, is doing this (via Eater):

"Attention UES parents, creepy old men, and ladies willing do anything for a free meal. Feast your eyes on this little ol' Dealfeed from Park Avenue Winter: "Park Avenue Winter will make its small-screen debut on The CW’s Gossip Girl on Monday, March 16. The ingĂ©nue restaurant is celebrating its star turn with a special offer for March 16-20: girls of any age in a school uniform will be treated to dinner with Park Avenue’s compliments." "Girls" over 21 get two rounds on the house. "

Park Avenue Winter
100 East 63rd Street at Park Avenue, 212-644-1900.

Now go make yourselves a reservation!