Bacon in the snow
- Eric Eto
After all the talk about the burger at Peter Luger's I finally got there during the blizzard. The burger was quite good, albeit overcooked. However, the best thing on the plate was the bacon. Damn, it was good. I haven't had a piece of bacon that good since... well, since a couple days before, when I got some stuff from one of the polish butchers in Greenpoint. I took a trip with another chowhound to get some items and we waited in line at Nassau Meat Market (I think that's the name) on Manhattan Ave just above Greenpoint Ave. The trouble with going to these Greenpoint butchers is that there's far too large a variety of wonderful looking products to choose from and I don't know what most of them are, besides being intimidated by the fact that everyone in there is speaking Polish. While we were waiting in line, contemplating which of those sausages or salames or smoked meats I should buy, I noticed that every other person in line was buying a 1-3 pound slab off of this semi-fatty hunk of meat the size of a whole loin. This was from the "hot meats" section of the counter towards the rear of the store. I'm not sure what cut it was, but since it was the size of a loin, I'm thinking it must be from the fattier layer just below the loin, but not the belly. I followed suit and got a 1 lb piece, along with some other inpulse buys. When we got back to my place to sample our goods, I took slices off the bacon-y slab and we were astounded with how good it was. It wasn't quite bacon, perhaps closer to a fatty ham, but regardless, it was damn good. They also have the raw version of this bacon available. Carbonara with polish bacon tonight, perhaps.
re: Eric Eto
Ha! The Polish "boczek" is the Czech "bucek" (with a little circle over the u and a tiny "v" over the c; pronounced boo-check, or maybe boo-czech), and it means roughly "little side". So, it's from the side of the pig. We Eastern Europeans ("New Europe", ya know) eat this stuff all the time. Fry eggs on it, eat it in sandwiches and as filling in potato dumplings (washed down by beer.) When McDonald's first came to Prague, people were very lukewarm about the burgers, so they introduced - I kid you not - a McBucek, which was a burger topped with a slice or two of bucek. I never had it was became pretty popular for a while - but I think they discontinued it in 1998 or so.
I found extraordinary bacon recently at the Irish butcher in Sunnyside on Queens Boulevard next door to Bloom's. Its the first place I've found in this country that has Irish bacon not in packages. My husband is a Brit and loves his English breakies. So I consider this a real find. If you're into bacon, you should give this a try. They also have black pudding and Irish sausages, not to mention a variety of Irish/British packaged products. I've also been told that their hot take-out lunches are very good, although I haven't tried them myself.
The place is calle The Butcher Block. I've been going there for other items, but for some reason, I forget about the bacon. Thanks for the reminder. As an aside, I really want to like the food at the Butcher Block, but I've found most things I've gotten really bland and salty. The saturday special stuffed roast pork loin looks great, tastes eh.
I was Eric's accompaniest.
W-Nassau Meat MKT Inc
915 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Most readers of this board understand. When Mr. Eto leads, you follow. Particularly when pork is the destination. Along that stretch of Manhattan Ave there are 4 or 5 butchers, I forget the number. I will return to visit and sample from the others, but this place seemed to have an amazing depth and range to their meat products. At the back of the store, the head of the line that went all the way out the door, was a butcher cutting fresh meat to order. There were countless cured sausages hanging from hooks above the counter and uncooked sausages (and other meats) filling the cooler running the length of the store.
I saw some cured meat hanging that reminded me of the tasso I used to buy back home in Louisiana with the deep red of the spices coating it. Beyond that I had no clue and asked for a pound, sliced. On the label:
bacon / boczek
????? / sur. wedzony
(can remember if it said cured or smoked)
It turned out not to be as spicy as tasso but I will never ever buy typical bacon from a grocery store again. I had it pan fried, wrapped it around the large fist sized cabbage stuffed with meatball that I had also purchased there and placed it under the broiler (that was heavenly!!!, no wait, i mean supernal!!!) and finally used it in the dish I can only cook when I have access to top quality pork products: jambalaya.
Only one limitation, if your cooking goal is to get lots of bacon grease for some other cooking purpose, you won't find it here. It only shrinks about 10-15%. Just barely enough fat for it to be bacon and have a bacon taste.
Eric, keeping to his bacon topic, didn't mention the sausages we purchased. Both were very good as well. The idea of jambalaya filled me as soon as I entered W Nassau and smelled the spices and cured meats. So I told them that I wanted a sausage to use for cooking that had lots and lots of garlic. I don't know if they understood me. What they gave me was labelled mysliwska and the label said it had both pork and beef. Very Very good. Meaty and full of flavor. The jambalaya came out great by the way. Next time I'll share, maybe.
I can understand why Eric focused his comments on the baked bacon he got. It was like eating the juiciest most flavorful ham you could imagine. It's great to slice and eat as is and I am thinking that any Chinese recipe that uses pork would be "kicked up to notches unknown." Sorry folks, that big thread in the Not about Food board about food words has infected me.
Oh, lordy. I just realized that my fridge is empty of pork. Maybe I better go there tomorrow, it's so crowded on Saturdays.
Being a Polish Chicagoan, what you have just decribed was Cygan Bacon..Otherwise known as Gypsy Bacon.. It comes in a slab like a ham and the stuff we get here is Double smoke..Tasty stuff my man..Bobeks in Chicago sells it..I think you can find it online.