Thursday, February 10, 2011
Insert Pig Joke Here
A few years ago when we had that whole swine flu scare, I ended up in a very serious pig-based discussion with my third grade class. My contributions were limited to helpful observations such as: "Um, we're calling that H1N1 now." and "You know you can't get it from eating pork or bacon or ham right?" As the children paused to reflect on these pearls of wisdom, S, a terrific kid with impeccable timing said (and I quote!) "I just love pigs..." then she sighed audibly and added, "they're so adorable...and they taste delicious!"
I could not agree more. However, I am married to one of the many people out there who does not eat pork. You could say it's because he's Jewish (he is, but it's not) or because he's Muslim (he's not, so it's not) or because he's watched Pulp Fiction too many times and over associates with Samuel L. Jackson's character (although he hasn't and he doesn't). The fact is, it doesn't matter why he won't eat any tasty swine products, all that matters is that he won't.
And of course, I'm the one who suffers. Oh sure, I buy poultry sausages and I eat turkey bacon now without too much complaint. If it's hidden in a recipe, it usually won't pain me too much. But as much as turkey bacon is a cheap and slightly sad substitute for bacon, it's just painful to use it in place of pancetta. So I've been suffering along (in silence, I promise) until something better came along.
And that something better is... duck bacon. Okay, so it's pricey. But duck bacon is actually delicious. And gives off delicious fat just like pancetta would. And has a texture that is pleasing and not sort of leathery. It's not for every day, but if you've got a dish where the pancetta should shine and you're pigless? Duck bacon.
I made this Pasta with Pancetta and Leeks with turkey bacon the first time, but it is far more delicious when made with duck bacon. I can only dream what it would taste like with pancetta.
PASTA WITH DUCK BACON! AND LEEKS
adapted from The Pioneer Woman
serves between 2-4 depending on how hearty your appetites are - we had a fair amount left over
8 oz farfalle
4-5 slices duck bacon
2 leeks, sliced and properly cleaned (cut into rings, push rings apart with your fingers, soak in cold water, lift out the rings leaving all the sandy ick on the bottom of the bowl) - use only the white to light green parts, don't use the thick dark green leafy parts
1/4 C vermouth
1/4 C light cream (Oh for crying out loud, I usually add a smidge more. I'm a bad person)
1/4 C - 1/2 C parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish.
reserved pasta water
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Chop your duck bacon into small tasty bits. Drop them into a large skillet and cook on medium-high until cooked (5-7 minutes). They will give off tons of fat, so you won't need any other oil/butter nonsense. Add the leeks and cook 8-10 minutes. You do not want them to crunch (well, I don't anyway). I like them nice and tender. They will likely not stay a pretty green like on Pioneer Woman. They are cooking in a pan full of delicious duck fat. They will become golden. Add the vermouth. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add the cream, toss well to combine. Add the pasta (I did say a large skillet). Add the grated cheese and toss. If it seems dry, feel free to add a bit of reserved pasta water, or some more cream (come on, I'll never tell). Serve and garnish with some shaved parm (use a potato peeler for pretty curls). Be very grateful that being pig free is no longer a hardship.