Above: Prosciutto Piccante, from La Quercia, features a spicy rub created with fennel and ground chilies.
By Wini Moranville
Recently, at Gateway Market, I grabbed what I thought was the usual package of excellent prosciutto from Norwalk’s La Quercia. Once home, without paying much attention, I ate a slice … and was suddenly astonished by an unexpected curveball of jazzy-peppery spice amid the sweet-salty-porky flavor of the cured meat. What was this amazingness? Turns out, I had inadvertently bought a package of La Quercia Piccante, a version of prosciutto that’s rimmed with a spice rub of ground chilies and fennel.
Soon afterward, I contacted Kathy Eckhouse, co-owner of La Quercia, to find out more. Eckhouse told me that the spicing, which they call their “California blend,” is a nod to the wild fennel that grows abundantly throughout that state, and to the chilies, which “are an important part of food there, and a major contribution of the Americas to world cuisine.”
I asked Kathy her favorite ways to serve the specialty. “I like to take a piece and just eat it as is,” she says. “It’s also great on a sandwich, on buttered bread, with a good Manchego cheese (very thinly sliced).” Additionally, she suggests pairing it with cheeses; in fact, she says it matches up well with a lot of cheeses, because it has a little extra “oomph” but “plays well with others.”
I must admit I was surprised I hadn’t seen or heard much about this product, which has been on the market (in the sliced version) since 2012.
“Tasting is believing,” Eckhouse said. “That’s particularly true of the Prosciutto Piccante, since basically no one walks into a store and asks for it.”
It’s true. Unless you taste it, you simply cannot know how good it is. This holiday season—when we’re all looking for easy-yet-impressive foods to serve friends and family—is a great time to discover this under-the-radar wonder.
Find Prosciutto Piccante at Gateway Market (2002 Woodland Ave.; 515-243-1754) and the Cheese Shop (833 42nd St.; 515-528-8181).
Wini Moranville writes about food, wine and dining. Follow her on Facebook at All Things Food DSM.