Guanciale – The Magical Mystery Meat

Shortly after the guanciale finished curing, it occurred that I had 5 lbs of cured meat sitting in my freezer (and I’m not even going to mention all the various sausages I have in there too).

Only a family of 2, (even with the meat maniac Everyman) I realized that it was going to take an awfully long time to burn through that much guanciale unless 1) I started giving chunks of it away (but really, do you know how strangely people look at you when you offer them homemade cured meats?) or 2) I started coming up with other ways to use it than just out of hand, on a burger or on antipasto platters.  Even though one of our cats loves to nom on prosciutto, I’d already ruled out the idea of sharing it with them after our vet told us that (the non-prosciutto-eater) our cat was obese.  Somehow feeding them snacks composed primarily of pork fat just didn’t strike me as a good idea…

If you travel around the foodie blogosphere, then you know that combining bacon with sweet things has become one of the haute new trends in food.  I have no doubt that this has been going on for some time (I mean, how long has Vosges been making that Mo’ Bacon bar?) but the trend has only recently started to gain traction in Toronto.  This article from Toronto Life’s website not only pointed me in the right direction for finding Vosges in Toronto, but also highlighted all the fun things retailers and chefs here are doing with bacon.

Now I’ll confess to owning a bacon-only cookbook (aptly titled Bacon) but it was purchased as a gift for the Everyman several years ago and (like most things I buy him) has never been used.  I too own Jennifer McLaren’s book Fat and I find the idea of Baconnaise revolting.  I already love the Mo’ Bacon bar, but bacon salt, while intriguing, just wasn’t turning my crank.  I may yet revisit that some other time, when I dust off the old box of flavoured salts I acquired.  I don’t need bacon bubble gum, and it’s too early still for bacon ice cream.  I’m undecided on bacon cupcakes and I don’t think I’d care for the candied variety.  That left some bacon toffee.  But instead of making it with bacon, I’d be making it with guanciale (the Roman bacon)!  I felt equal parts of promise and disgust, but I had nothing to lose except a chunk of guanciale so I dived right in.

It’d been a while since I made toffee, but the process is surprisingly easy, and easier still if you happen to have a candy thermometer lying around.  The main thing you need to remember is that no matter how ooey, gooey delicious that caramelized sugar might look, do not try to taste a bit of it with your tongue or on your finger.  Caramelized sugar is a few degrees away from molten, and if you get it on yourself, only bad things will happen.  Instead, just be patient and wait a few more minutes before sampling the finished product.

It turned out quite good, but (as I often do), I thought it would be greatly improved by the addition of chocolate.  I finally had an occasion to test out the mini chocolate dipper/melter that my mother in law bought me for Christmas a few years ago, though I’m sure the very idea of what I was making would repulse her to no end.  After chipping off a chunk of the 1 lb dark bar of Callebaut in the freezer (another Christmas gift from my m-i-l) I set to work melting and dipping guanciale toffee.  It was a messy (and delicious) job, but someone had to do it.  I kept half the batch of toffee unadulterated, and went whole hog with the other.  Please understand, this is not a treat for the faint of heart.  In a few more hours once the chocolate has set, I’m sure I’ll be a very happy foodie, though.

Chocolate Guanciale Toffee

8 oz guanciale, thinly sliced like rashers of bacon

1 c. butter

1.25 c. sugar

0.125 c. corn syrup

0.125 c. water

0.5 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz dark chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 350*.  Place the slices of guanciale end to end on a large foil-covered baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until crisp but not charred.  Remove the guanciale to a paper towel-covered plate to cool and drain.  Once cooled, chop the guanciale into thin strips or small chunks and set aside.  Add the butter, sugar, corn syrup, water and vanilla to a medium heavy-bottomed pot, and turn the heat to medium high, stirring frequently.  If you have a candy thermometer, clip it on to the pot.  Stir the mixture until the butter and sugar have melted, and the toffee starts foaming, about 5 minutes.  Continue stirring.  Once the temperature reaches 300*, remove the pot from the stove and quickly stir in the crumbled guanciale bits until combined.  Pour the toffee out onto a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.  Once hardened, crack the toffee into smaller, bite sized pieces.  Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave until smooth and glossy.  Dip the toffee bites into the chocolate and turn to coat.  Remove to a Silpat or parchment paper to cool.  Keep refrigerated at all times.

Makes approximately 1 lb of toffee.

Until next time…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “Guanciale – The Magical Mystery Meat”

  1. [...] Preheat the oven to 350*. Original post:  Guanciale – The Magical Meat | Foodie and the Everyman [...]

  2. [...] but these caramels are close to my heart because they remind me somewhat of a combination of these and these.  I know I’ll probably never get my hands on any of his lard caramels, so it might [...]

  3. [...] those of you who think this is all quite strange, I will remind you of my chocolate guanciale toffee and roasted garlic [...]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.