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Yes, I did use Google (it's pig jowl), but I'm still intimidated. In asparagus season I sometimes make a pasta dish of bacon, shallots, and asparagus browned in a cast iron pan, with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and Parmesan. Today my SO showed up with this hunk of flesh and I'm not sure how to proceed. I gather that it isn't smoked, so that's going to alter the taste, right? Also, should I just slice it? Dice it? Any help would be great. (This is a recipe I usually make without even thinking. Now, I have to think!)

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  1. Oh - you are so lucky. The first dish I would make is Amatriciana - I'm a fan of the recipe posted in the NYT w/n the last year. But, yes, I'd cube it. I think it has an earthy/farmier taste than bacon, if that makes any sense.

    1. First, do a little happy dance.
      It will go well with your asparagus/shallot thing. Dice the guanciale, and render it down a lot. It's much better crispy, even if you don't prefer your bacon that way. Guanciale is fatter and saltier than bacon. And a little goes a long way.
      I like it with collards and polenta,
      and in Amatriciana red sauce for pasta (Batali has a good recipe - I googled http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9123786/ )

      1. After you make the Amatriciana, the second thing should be a classic Carbonara sauce. (also Mario's recipe....) It's much better w/ guanciale than w/ pancetta or bacon. Save the fat after you render it, because that's a vital contributor to the sauce's unctuousness (I hate that word, but in this case, it's very apt.) Good on Mr. gc; you'll thank him eventually... adam

        1. You have no idea how jealous I am. I love it as the others have reported but also sliced thinly and wrapped around bundles of new asparagus and roasted in the oven.

          1. I obviously have some learning to do. I cooked the cubes until they were browned on the outside but still scarily white inside. So then I cut the cubes in half and cooked them into little croutons of doom. Some of them were wonderfully crispy, others a little chewy.

            I still have enough make Amatriciana and am looking forward to trying again. It was quite a large piece for $4.

            Thanks, everyone.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Glencora

              It keeps in the freezer very well, so you can take a little time between rich delicious pork fat meals.
              Unlike pancetta where I'm much lazier about the size of the cubes, I go for a 1/4" dice with guanciale, so it can really really render.

              1. re: pitu

                Good to know. Thanks. My cubes were definitely too big the first time, then.

              2. re: Glencora

                In order of delicious for amatriciana, carbonara, etc. it goes guanciale, then pancetta then good american bacon. Def. not for the fat phobes though.

              3. It's pretty easy to make you own guanciale as well. We get jowls from a farmer in Allentown but a good meat market s/b able to get you jowls upon request. It takes about a week to cure and then a week or so to dry and presto, you've made guanciale!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Den

                  What kind of environment do you have for curing? I've made some pancetta, hung in my basement bathroom for a week (after a week's cure in the fridge) and it turned out awesome. But that was winder, and it was cool in the bathroom. Now it's spring and getting warmer. I want to make guanciale, but I'm getting concerned about my less than ideal setup.

                2. My local, regular grocery store just started carrying guanciale, and I bought some with no idea what I was going to do with it. Only $9.99/lb, guess it was a good deal! I was thinking to put in in the Manhattan clam chowder I'm making for dinner tonight, because the best add in I've done so far was Hormel pepper coated bacon. Any comments will be appreciated; if not I will report back. Hope it's not sacrilege to use it in a non-Italian application.

                  1. OK I am officially jealous. We made guanciale last year and it's all gone! I kept mine frozen in small blocks and would take out some and slice super thin with the meat slicer. Next I'd fry it and add to anything I wanted to give some punch. It was great crumbled over potato soup and simmered in clam chowder - red or white. My daughter and I like to take it straight from the skillet to a slice of toast, fold, and savor for breakfast. Great over a big salad or in potato salad too. Enjoy!