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Aug 6, 2009 04:01 AM

cooking prosciutto -- and other horrible food tragedies (or not?)

i've noticed two distinct camps regarding cooking or heating prosciutto:

1. the "lidia" camp, et al. (the "traditionalists-purists") -- never cook prosciutto. it is a sin. it destroys the delicate texture and flavors. prosciutto should be respected -- revered even -- as it is in its country of origin. this reverence is appropriate, especially when the pristine original is so fabulous that many seek to imitate it. why mess with a good thing? why squander the nuances that have taken generations to perfect?

2. the "everyday food" camp, et al. (the "fusion-innovators") -- use prosciutto like a lean unsmoked bacon, to wrap things in for flavor, like grilled pork chops, or figs in the oven, on a pizza, or wherever you'd like bacon, or a nice pork touch. to heck with the purists, we eat food we like, and use it in ways that taste good. simple.

personally, i love prosciutto, and appreciate its delicacy. i also like to use "traditional" foods in different ways that taste good to me. so, i'm gonna keep a foot in both camps, i guess.
but the idea of two camps, the traditionalists-purists vs. the fusion-innovators, applies in other ways, too. one that comes to mind is heating parmesan (e.g., lidia says cooking the cheese changes its flavor, and always turns off the heat of her pasta once she's added the cheese. maybe this is only for the pasta cooked on the stove?). or eating cheese with seafood. or adding "new" ingredients to guacamole. putting olive oil on bruschetta before it is grilled (lidia, "no"!). i'm sure you'll think of many, many more.

do you find that the "traditionalists-purists" tend to be from -- or otherwise strongly linked to -- the "country of origin" of the product or dish? <i know i'm like that with key lime pie and the original pastry crusts. i don't "approve" of graham cracker crusts. ;-)>

do "fusion-innovators" miss the unique qualities of the food item they "adopt" and thus degrade the ingredient's special qualities that set it apart from the mundane?

what ingredients and dishes do you think exemplify this split?

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  1. I agree with you.... i can be a purist or i'll do what i want. I gently crisp prosciutto to sprinkle on a pizza after it comes from the oven. I grate real parm on food after it is plated or directly into risotto toward the very end of cooking.

    1. I do as I choose as well.
      As for rule #1, I'm not really in the "Revere" camp when I comes to prosciutto. I like it but much prefer capicola.
      I do like prosciutto to wrap scallops for grilling.

      As for parm, I've never heard that you aren't supposed to heat it. I think it melts/bakes wonderfully. Nothing better than a nice baked layer of parm on top of a lasagna.


      2 Replies
      1. re: Davwud

        i love parm on top of gratins, in artichoke dip, in so many dishes, too.

        i'm sure lidia has cooked it on top of dishes in the oven, too. so, hmmmm, is she a hypocrite? or is this the "traditional" way, and thus it's OK?

        same deal with the olive oil. fine to sauté veggies in, but then not fine to apply before grilling bruschetta.... what gives, lidia?

        from wiki:

        As olives are taken to the local mill for pressing in November and December, growers typically take some country bread with them. There is usually a small fireplace in the corner of the pressing room, and when the oil emerges from the press, the grower toasts a bit of the bread on the fire to sample the oil with. The next step is rubbing the toasted bread with garlic. Then, it is finished off with small, diced onions."

        1. re: Davwud

          What about fricos? They are cooked parmesan crisps and delectable. If it's good enough for Thomas Keller, it's good enough for me.

        2. Shrimp wrapped in proscuitto & then quickly of my favorites.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cavandre

            I love these too cavandre . . . I put a nice basil leaf on the shrimp (prawn) first, then wrap with prosciutto and either grill, or fry up gently in some olive oil and butter. Good eating!

            1. re: vday


              We use a recipe from Weber's Big Book of Grilling. No basil in the shrimp & then serve them with a pineapple salsa...
              1 cup diced pineapple
              2 tablespoons minced scallions (white part only)
              2 teaspoons rice vinegar
              1 teaspoon soy sauce
              1 teaspoon vegetable oil
              1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
              1/4 teaspoon black pepper
              Just mix it all together & serve with the shrimp

          2. I had some amazing citrus marinated chicken wrapped in proscuitto and sage last night, so i definitly fall into the fusionist category, even though I can trully appreciate some nice proscuitto all by itself

            1. I'm not sure that I see two camps.

              Ham is an ingredient just like cheese is an ingredient. We eat both as they are and we eat both cooked in some ways.

              I'm certainly happy to eat it as it comes. I'm certainly happy to wrap a couple of slices round a piece of monkfish or cod before baking