The Food Network (FN) has ceased to be an source of cooking ideas for me. It is no longer my default channel when I’m watching television, but I will occasionally check it out to see what new crop of yahoos is teaching Americans how to cook yet another version of mac and cheese. You can imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this clip, a segment from The Best Thing I Ever Ate, a show featuring FN “personalities” talking about their favorite foods. (Let’s consider that for a moment: The FN won’t air shows with a single chef in a kitchen showing you how to cook, but will broadcast dozens of episodes of a show with people talking about food.)
In addition to being the chef at offal-centric Incanto in San Francisco, Chris Cosentino is also the co-owner of Boccalone, maker of tasty salted pig parts. My immediate reaction to seeing the prosciutto ice cream made at Humphry Slocombe (credit where it’s due) was I can do that.
I made my way to Capone Foods, my source of all things cured, and asked Al what he did with his unused prosciutto bones.
“Prosciutto bones? They’re cured without the bones. One of my first jobs was cutting the bone out of the shoulder before we started the curing process. I got pretty good at it, but I haven’t seen a bone in years. You might be able to get bones from La Quercia, but otherwise you’re out of luck.”
I obviously hadn’t put any thought into my plan. Of course Cosentino had access to bones, he owned the company. I wasn’t about to buy a bone-in pork shoulder just to debone it for ice cream, although that very thing arrived a day later. Plan B presented itself in the form of a few vacuum-packed chunks at the end of Al’s deli case.
“Aren’t those prosciutto ends?”
“I prefer to call them beginnings. They’re great for adding to pasta or vegetables.”
“I’ll take them all. I’m working on something.”
And so I returned home with these:
The piece in front is actually from a Serrano ham end, the other two are prosciutto; all are from the tapered end of the shoulder that can’t be sold due to the higher fat content, which is exactly what I needed. My plan was to replicate as much of the process in the video as possible, with adjustments made for using meat instead of bones.
I roasted the pieces for an hour at 250° F, until the fat rendered and the outside skin was crispy. The crispy skin was not necessary for the recipe, but it was vital to my appetite.
I prepared a sweet cream custard base with two cups of heavy cream, a cup of milk, and three quarters of a cup of sugar (a variation of this process), then whisked in the rendered fat.
While the cream/fat mixture was still hot, I added the roasted pieces and let them steep for half an hour.
I temporarily removed the meat, tempered six egg yolks, then cooked and cooled the resulting custard.
I returned the meat to the custard, and let the mix sit in the fridge for two days, allowing the porky goodness to suffuse the custard. I removed the meat and ran the base through my ice cream machine.
After an overnight visit to the freezer, the final product was ready:
How did it taste? I’ve not tasted the original, but I think I nailed it: salty, sweet, porky, nutty, all in near-perfect balance. I couldn’t eat a lot at once – the photos are “beauty shots” that are twice the size of what I’d consider a decent serving – but I could eat this ice cream every day and be happy doing it.
My satisfaction was insufficient; I needed independent confirmation. Without naming the flavor, I had a friend taste a spoonful, asking him to identify it for me. His reaction: “Bacon? No, wait, it’s… prosciutto?”
One data point wasn’t enough, so I took a sample to the only other person whose opinion mattered. I had Al try a sample, and his immediate reaction was “prosciutto.” “Maybe a bit too salty, but still pretty good. I’d serve this with a savory course, maybe with some green vegetables.”
Now I have an idea for a new side dish. One more blow for complete world pork domination.
And what about the leftover prosciutto chunks?
You didn’t think I’d throw them away, did you? I have another plan, and it involves breakfast. Stay tuned.
Prosciutto “beginnings”: Capone Foods
Milk, cream, eggs: Sherman Market