DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
According to John T. Edge, the cure for what ails you is cured meat. John T. is our curator of all things culinary and he's been out on the trail tasting handmade salamis from Oxford, Mississippi to New York City to Seattle, Washington. That's where we tracked him down for this week's food moment. John T., I understand you ate more than your share of salami last night.
Mr. JOHN T. EDGE (Southern Foodways Alliance): I did indeed, and I'm drinking a lot of water this morning.
ELLIOTT: We should explain that you were at a restaurant called Salumi?
Mr. EDGE: I was. This is owned by Armandino Batali. You probably know his last name by way of his son, Mario Batali. He has six or eight restaurants in New York, all of unimpeachable quality. But I think the real secret in the family is his father, who cures beautiful meats, prosciuttos, salamis - in Seattle, Washington.
ELLIOTT: Salumi is the Italian word for salami. What's it like there? Do you feel like you've stepped into the Old World?
Mr. EDGE: You do. It's this narrow storefront. You walk in, high ceilings, and you dogleg right into a kitchen. There are two tables in the back. One maybe a six-seater, one maybe an eight-seater, chalkboards on the wall with the listing of the day's salamis. It's all communal seating. Armadino's daughter, Gina, is running back and forth with oxtail sandwiches, with a great prosciutto fig and goat cheese sandwich. She's also running back and forth with the best salami I've ever had, including something that's not of the norm. I had a mole salami, which for Armandino is a reference to the increasing Hispanic population of America. He adds some smoked chilies to it, ancho peppers and chipotle peppers, and it's not - you know, there's no basis in Italian cookery other than the technique, the fermented meat, which is what salami is, in essence.
The fermentation develops the flavors. It also wards off the harmful bacteria, and when you add a little bit of ancho and you add a little chipotle, you get a taste of, you know, really what the future of America is.
ELLIOTT: Now, let me ask you. How do you eat the salami? Is this something that you might just, you know, see cut up on a tray and you use a toothpick to eat it? How do they serve it?
Mr. EDGE: Well, I mean you could think about salami as being purely antipasti, you know, something that precedes the meal. But last night I had hot sopressata with these oven roasted potatoes. And the potatoes had taken on the oils of the sopressata and were just bathed in this beauty. I had lamb prosciutto wrapped around dried dates. It's very honest, very - how would I say? It's very good.
ELLIOTT: Now I went to the Salumi Web site and looked at some of the salamis, and what really did catch my attention, John T., was this - it might sound disgusting but it didn't look disgusting. There was this photo of a huge slab of pork fat and it was coated in rosemary - not your average hunk of lard.
Mr. EDGE: No. Its lards leap towards transcendence - at Salumi it is. Last night I had a breadstick, a perfect breadstick, wrapped with a strip of lardo, and that little extra O I think makes it all the more palatable. And the - and then he stuck it underneath a broiler for just a second. And you got, it was like a - I don't know, it was like a pork pixie stick. It was like a pork popsicle. It was amazing. You know, people say lard and it's - it reads like an epithet. This is not an epithet. This is beautiful, beautiful food.
ELLIOTT: It looked like it would be fun to cook with. John T., are we on the cusp of something new here? A bona fide trend? Are salami tastings in the offing?
Mr. EDGE: I think it's certainly a trend with chefs. You know, they're kids in the kitchen playing with science and food. I know a number of chefs that are curing their own pancetta, curing their own country hams, and I think diners are awakening to what they're doing back in the kitchen.
ELLIOTT: John T. Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance in Oxford, Mississippi. John T., we'll catch up with you again soon.
Mr. EDGE: Thanks, Debbie.