bellota iberico lomo
Pork is a beautiful thing. In a sweet succulent brined pork chop way. Or smoky falling off the bone bbq spare rib way. It’s delicious as a rillette with a crusty toasted slice of rustic bread and tangy crispy cornichons . And as grilled pork bulgogi with cloves of garlic and slices of bright green jalapeno. And we can’t forget juicy sausages and smoky bacon either. But when pork is cured, it goes beyond all that. Prosciutto, jamon serrano, pancetta – who knew happiness could come in thin slices.
You can imagine my mind, and taste buds, running wild last July when I read on Brett’s blog [In Praise of Sardines] that La Tienda, an online Spanish food retailer, would start selling iberico pork products in the U.S. for the first time. Iberico pigs are black-coated pigs that are grown free range and fed a heavy diet of acorn as slaugter time approaches.
La Tienda: There are indeed lesser forms of jamón ibérico, made from pigs that haven’t consumed so many acorns. The highest category—jamón ibérico de bellota, “bellota” being Spanish for acorn—comes from animals that have put on at least one third of their weight by eating nothing but foraged acorns and grass (and the occasional snake) during the montanera...
The acorn-rich diet transforms the fat of jamón ibérico de bellota. Studies from the University of Extremadura indicate that more than half the ham’s fat content is monounsaturated (the type that is in olive oil) rather than the artery-clogging saturated kind usually found in animals.
How crazy is that?!
I was in complete awe. I must have this pork was the only thing going through my mind at this point. Pretty much as soon as I read Brett’s post I clicked over to La Tienda and purchased the bellota iberico lomo, iberico chorizo and iberico salchichon. The bellota iberico lomo comes at a hefty price of $97/lb, but well worth it.
It is really mind-blowing. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. Not only beautiful in color and marbling, but buttery, nutty, savory, meaty. Almost sweet, the flavor just melts all over your tongue. Damn, my mouth is watering. If you love pork, or if you love yourself for that matter, try this.
The Jamon Iberico Bellota is supposed to come out around winter 2008. You can pre-order them by putting down a deposit of $200. Final price will be $79/lb, about $1200 for the bone-in ham. I guess it’s safe to say I probably won’t be able to taste Jamon Iberico Bellota until I go back to visit Spain. Hopefully sometime in the near future.
fried padron peppers
Now the iberico spending spree happened last July. But the other day I just happened feel like browsing through La Tienda and they had Pimientos de Padron in stock. Uh oh, here I go again. It started with a pound of these peppers.
Pimientos de Padron are little peppers from the town of Padron in Galicia. The ones I ordered were “local greenhouse” ones which I assume to mean domestic. It sounds like the peppers are usually only available once a year around July. Well thank god for greenhouses! These were delicious fried in olive oil and sprinkled with fleur de sel. I love peppers! One in ten peppers is supposed to be a hot, I didn’t bite into one that sent steam out of my ears or nuthin. Just deliciousness. The blistering in the oil added some nice smokiness to the tender flesh. I ate a whole bunch of these in one sitting. A lot, but I won’t tell you how many.
tuna & couscous stuffed piquillo peppers
I also got a few jars of piquillo peppers. I stuffed these delicious smoky peppers with leftover couscous, capers, and olive oil packed tuna. I didn’t have any of the fancy imported canned tuna on hand. The Trader Joe’s one worked quite fine. I squeezed some lemon juice over the filling to brighten it up, filled the peppers up as neatly as I could, then drizzled some wild Spanish olive oil over them.
I had leftover romesco in the fridge and some ciabatta sitting around. What excellent timing to have a tapas dinner! I toasted the ciabatta slices in the oven then spread romesco on top. Crunchy, nutty, smoky. I love romesco. The version I made above is Suzanne Goin’s recipe which uses ancho chilies.
boiled quail eggs
I had quail eggs sitting around my fridge too. So why not? I boiled them for a few minutes then used them to scoop some of the romesco off the ciabatta.
A delicious tapas dinner…