Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bresaola Pintxo

This being the second to last CharcutePalooza  challenge, I couldn’t help but start counting the days until the winner is announced.  That slightly unsettling feeling of anticipation also permeated the November curing challenge.  Time was the name of the game this challenge, but good things come to those who wait.
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Although a lot of my recent cooking has been influenced by my trip to Spain a few months ago, I decided against making chorizo for this challenge.  I wanted to make something I'd never had before, and after flipping through the options in Charcuterie, I found bresaola to be the only option that would satisfy both the CharcutePalooza parameters and my own personal quest to try new things.  However, that's not to say the final usage of the bresaola didn’t reflect some of the things I experienced overseas.
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Having done all 12 challenges at the time of this writing, I can definitively say this was the easiest challenge in terms of the difficulty of producing the meat product and difficulty of producing the final composed dish.  When you boil it down, the manual labor involved in curing something is minimal: salt the meat, wait, rinse the meat, hang the meat, wait.  Easy on the muscles, but tough on the brain.
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During the period the meat was hung out to dry, several things ran through my mind:
  • This thing is going to taste so awesome.  I can't wait!
  • Oh cool, some small specs of white mold have started to develop.  Hopefully that keeps the bad mold away.
  • Wait a second, does that small white spot look sort of fuzzy?  I don't think so...I think it's ok...
  • Crap, what if that spot really was fuzzy?
  • What the heck, how is half of the surface area suddenly covered in fuzzy green mold??
  • Wiping the fuzzy green mold with a brine solution seems to have gotten things under control.
  • Will I get botulism?
  • Great...fuzzy green mold is back again.  Time to try a vinegar wipe down suggested by a fellow CharcutePaloozer.
  • Phew!  Two weeks of no fuzzy mold!  Vinegar > brine solution.
  • What??  Fuzzy white mold one day before I plan on cutting into this baby...
  • Oops...the meat has lost 45% of its mass.  I hope that doesn't have any adverse effects.
  • Hopefully the vinegar in the pickled pepper and salt in the olive kill any pathogens.
  • Here goes nothing...
  • I'm not dead or incapacitated!
  • Curing is magical.
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Like I said: easy on the muscles, but tough on the brain.  The final composed dish, or more appropriately pintxo, was inspired by the pintxos found in the Basque country.  I also figured I should make something simple so the bresaola could shine.  I didn’t want all that waiting and worrying to be in vain.  One of the most popular pintxos in the Basque country consists of fresh anchovy, olive, and I believe pickled piparras peppers.  At one particular stall at the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, this pintxo served as the basis for a wide array of pintxos that all followed a similar template: a protein, a pickled something, and an olive.

From this template, I made a pintxo of bresaola, pickled banana pepper, and an olive.  Salty, briny, and sour in one bite.  I did plan to use olives that I’d recently started curing from fresh, but sadly they were still extremely bitter.  I was genuinely surprised how much herb flavor came through in just a thin slice of meat, and that herbal flavor was nice in the bite.  Overall, I was happy with how the bresaola and the pintxo turned out and found myself eating the bresaola plain after running out of olives.


Bresaola Pintxo

Mise En Place

  1. Thinly sliced bresaola
  2. Pickled pepper
  3. Pitted olive


  1. Skewer one olive, one slice of bresaola, and one pickled pepper onto a toothpick


  1. That picture of the bresaola with a slice cut off — magical. Love the garnet color.

  2. I have been unable to consume bresaola paired with anything - I love it too much by itself! But this pintxo is brilliant and it's going to show up as a tasty treat with tonight's cocktail. Thanks, Brian!