My Sources for Special Food Items

Cooking shows seem to emanate from New York, where the closest middle eastern grocery is just a few blocks away and where Italian import stores are too numerous to mention.  Farm-fresh cream, yogurt made from Bactrian camel milk --- no problem.  The rest of us live in the real world which is very much like the mid-west. A college town in the corn belt with a population 20,000 is quite a substantial place in the scheme of things around here.  Chicago is 4 hours away, St. Louis is three, and Peoria and Springfield are about 1 1/2 hours.  So, when a store in our area stocks Maille Original Dijon Mustard, or, better yet, big, beautiful, rib veal chops, it is a noteworthy event.  Even so, we have to patronize mail order and  internet sources and take a cooler with us when we drive to a big city.

Internet, Mail Order, and Out-of-town Sources.

Country Bacon Source. Ole Smoky General Store in Nashville, Tenn. features the excellent Benson hams and bacon. This stuff can be unbelievably smoky: as if the smokehouse burned down and the sides of bacon were salvaged from the ashes.  You may buy by the side, half side, or pound.  Unsliced it is said to need no refrigeration.  Just hang it in your kitchen and hack off a piece when you need it.  Having a slicer helps.  I recommend the Krups for about $50.

Country Ham Source (carry out). From any Cracker Barrel restaurant (the closest is in Springfield, Illinois).  This is America's answer to proscuitto, but it is generally sliced and fried and is quite salty.  It comes on the bone and is hard to slice off without a band saw.  I recommend boning it.

Italian Style Meats. John Volpi and Co., on The Hill, St. Louis, Missouri. Forget the food snobs who say that the U.S.A. cannot produce a premium prosciutto. Volpi does. Yes, I have been to Tuscany and sampled the finest and there is no way I would pay a 100 percent duty for a Parma ham when I can call on Volpi.  The proscuitto is mild, sweet, rich and a perfect foil for fresh fruit or melon or a supper with good bread, olives, cheese, and wine.  My 'best' recipe came from Volpi and it is the reason I always have a proscuitto on hand: saltimbocca alla Romano.

I regularly use their pancetta, cacciatore, and soppressata. They supply me with casings for my annual hot Italian sausage-making orgy.

German Style Meats. Koenemann's is in a far-north suburb of Chicago, Volo, Illinois. They have stuff that's not on their website, such the seasonal lebkuchen, liquor filled confections, and Ganzleberwurst.

Italian Specialties and International Cheese selection. Reblochon. Piquant Gorgonzola. Large salted capote (capers).  Italian fontina. You may drive to Philadelphia or click on Prices are reasonable, but shipping for perishables can run high.

Saltimbocca alla Romano.

Literally, 'Jumps into your mouth, Roman style'.  It takes longer to read the recipe than it does to cook the dish.

Per person:

1 nice veal scallop (1/4 to 1/3 lb)
1 thin slice of proscuitto.
fresh sage, chopped, freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 stick of butter, white wine.

Lay the scallops on waxed paper, leaving lots of room between them. Pepper. Sprinkle with sage. Cover wtih a second sheet of waxed paper and pound with a battacarne (I use a lignum vitae carvers' mallet). The scallop will enlarge as it flattens, but try not to pound holes in it.  Flip over the paper and all, and  pepper and sprinkle sage on the other side. Pound a little more.  Have the proscuitto slices ready and a warm platter.

Put a large skillet over high heat. When very hot, drop in the butter. When the butter stops foaming, slide the veal scallops in.  Fry for about 30 seconds or until they start to brown. Flip them and lay the slice of proscuitto on the cooked side.  Baste the proscuitto with hot butter, and remove to the warm platter.  Add 1/2 cup of white wine to the pan and deglaze. Moderate the heat if necessary. Pour back the juice that has been thrown off in the platter.  As the pan juices thicken, add more pepper and a dab of butter to finish the sauce. Pour over the saltimbocca and serve with a mixed green salad and a simple pasta dish.

I have seen versions of this dish which add a slice of provolone or other cheese. I don't like it, it tends to overpower the wonderful harmony of the veal and proscuitto.

Pasta Suggestions (about 1/4 lb of penne per person):

Penne with homemade pesto and pecarino Romano cheese.
Penne with sage and butter sauce with sliced garlic and pecarino cheese.