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July 16, 2008
Roll With the Sublime
Pleasure of Prosciutto
Translated into Italian, the word ham becomes prosciutto.
Translated back into English, prosciutto becomes “meat product so good
you will break down and weep at knowing that such beauty exists in this
world.” That is perhaps not an exact translation, but most linguistic
experts will tell you that it is close enough.
Prosciutto comes most
frequently in the form of thin slices, so it would be easy to mistake it
for lunchmeat. You may think that you can be forgiven this mistake if
you’re an aristocrat and commonly surrounded by things of sublime
pleasure. That is not true. It is an unforgivable sin. Of all the good
things you can say about the simple sandwich, the greatest is that it is
often the sum of its parts. This is not the approach you should wish to
take with prosciutto, unless you feel the need to gravely insult a work
Instead, you will wish to
look for different applications for this linguistic marvel. It is best
to think of it as a rare and talented musician, whose style is
distinctive enough that it can be recognized where it is present and not
consumed as just another voice in the choir.
This screams out for
simplicity, where it is paired with a few other ingredients who
themselves are not entirely dominant. We start, in fact, by laying down
a slice of prosciutto.
Here is where you will
learn the end result, which is a rolled up log of prosciutto with stuff
inside. In this case, the end result is delicious enough that it would
be unwise not to spill the secret beforehand. The question is what you
should roll inside.
Start by laying down on
top of the prosciutto a bed of fresh basil leaves. Make sure they are
uniform in their coverage.
Now, you should take
fresh mozzarella cheese. A few words here will insult the cheese. The
natural form of mozzarella is a misshapen lump. When shaped in block
form, this insults the natural order of things. You buy block mozzarella
over the misshapen ball at the risk of tampering with forces you do not
Slice it thin, and lay it
on top of the basil. If, for reasons known only to yourself, you are
cooking outside, this will offer relief from the breeze by holding the
basil leaves in place.
Once you have things
arranged, roll the prosciutto. Nothing else should matter but the
prosciutto, because where it goes so goes everything else. Roll tight,
to create a tight roll.
When your prosciutto log
is created, slice with the sharpest knife in the house into half-inch
sections. If you look at each section from the top, it will look perhaps
like a satellite photo of a hurricane. Were you to spin this quickly,
you might mesmerize yourself. Don’t do this.
Instead, lay it on top of
a cracker – Triscuit-style has the interweave strength best suited to
support this – and eat it as an appetizer. Enjoy the symphony!
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