Speck is elaborately-cured ham. “It is the best-kept secret in the U.S.,” states Fabrizio Schenardi, Executive Chef, St. Louis’ Four Seasons Hotel. “It is produced in northern Italy and cut from the rear leg of a hog, cured with juniper and salt, cold-smoked over beech and maple and aged for at least 22 weeks. I love it, and the one I really love is from Sauris di Sopra near Udine, in the Friuli area. Sauris is a small town in the province of Udine, wooded with meadows and green pastures, near the Italian, Austrian border.” Speck reflects the two culture’s methods for preserving. This means it is salt-cured as well as smoked.”
Lucky diners in St. Louis these days can order Schenardi’s Jumbo Prawn with Green Lentil Salad and Caper Sauce. He tells us, “I butterfly the shrimp, mix it with chop marjoram, crushed pink pepper corns and chives. Then I wrap them in speck, dust them with flour and sauté in olive oil with chopped shallots. Next I add capers, deglaze it with Limoncello and white wine. I serve it with soft polenta. Buon Appetito.” He smiles.
His Carbonara with speck and grappa is special too: “I like to use speck and saute it with a bit of olive oil and black pepper, then I flambé it with grappa, let it evaporate a few seconds and add a mixture of egg yolk, heavy cream and Pecorino cheese. I finish the dish with a bit of tarragon, because it goes well with grappa.”
OTHER USES FOR SPECK:
You can experiment with speck the same way you would prosciutto:
- Serve tissue-thin slices of speck with horseradish, pickles and dark rye bread. Sprinkle with raisins and nuts.
- Sautee speck until crisp, add a bit of cream and some fresh herbs and serve over pasta or fresh asparagus.
- Scatter arugula, sliced, boiled potatoes, thinly sliced, fresh radishes, chopped hard-boiled egg and curly shavings of Grana Padano cheese over a platter of sliced speck dressed with olive oil for a Tyrolean salad.
- Add it to a frittata with sautéed shallots, wild mushrooms and Asiago cheese.
- Speck works well in risotto, pizzas, seafood, pasta sauces and in salads.
- Pair it with parsley, lemon, apple, sprouts, mushrooms, hearts of celery and mint.
Speck is pleasingly light while being bold, gently savory and considered far superior to bacon and Pancetta. Ideally, it should be close to 50% fat and 50% lean meat.
You can find speck in most Italian pork stores and online. Just be sure to make sure it is authentic, imported speck.