The Devil Is in the Details

They’re one of the all-time cliché potluck contributions — deviled eggs. But the convergence of a party invitation from our neighbors Chris & Glennis’  with a surplus of eggs from our 20-some-odd chickens proved to be more of a temptation than I could resist. You could say the devil possessed me.

Catalan deviled eggs

Catalan deviled eggs

The first time I’d done something like this was for one of my fancy XX-course New Year’s Eve dinners — a version a few years back with a Spanish theme. I created a deviled egg of sorts, the hard-boiled yolk blended not with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard but rather with those pillars of Spanish cooking: lots of olive oil, garlic and pimentón. More

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The Most Expensive Ham in the World

jamón iberico bellota

I’d been reading about the stuff for years. A mythical ham cured for years from the meat of the black-hooved Iberian pig, left alone to wander among the oak woods of Salamanca foraging for acorns — “bellotas” in Spanish.

If you’ve ever been to Spain, you know they’re serious about their ham. One of the most popular restaurants in Madrid is the Museo de Jamón — the “Ham Museum”. And in a country that takes its ham this seriously, iberico bellota is king. For years if you wanted some, you would have to travel to Spain. Only recently was it cleared for export to the United States, with our stringent regulations against the importing of long-fermented, unpasteurized things.

Guy carving iberico bellota

Iberico bellota is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. It will make you forget that proscuitto de Parma you used to think was so good. I love to watch the guy carving slices from the whole ham in the traditional manner (it is never sliced on a machine like proscuitto, so it always has a rustic, thicker quality). The meat explodes on your tongue in layers of flavor — nutty and dense, elegant and briny — and the fat is unctuous and silky. I must stop talking about it now or I’m going to have to excuse myself…

It is, indeed, the most expensive ham in the world — I pay $135 a pound for it, and am grateful for the privilege. I don’t buy it often, and usually get a quarter pound for $35. It’s plenty. You might have trouble finding this stuff. If I were you, I would make like a detective and do whatever you had to do to pick up its trail. If you live in L.A., I get mine at Surfa’s in Culver City. You could likely get it at the Spanish Table in Seattle (I know there’s a few of you out there). Probably Dean & DeLuca’s or someplace like that in NYC. You could buy a whole one online from tienda.com for $1,400. (Let me know… I might go in on it with you.)

A recipe?

Buy some iberico bellota. And eat it. Serves 1. (You won’t want to share.)

If you have to do something to it, get the best crusty loaf of bread you can buy, get the best butter you can buy… tear off a piece, spread a little butter, top with iberico bellota, and sprinkle with a little Maldon salt.

In heaven, iberico bellota will grow on trees like figs.