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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 of art.


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 understand.


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!


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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