feast magazine article, sides

feast magazine, february 2015: warm potato salad + ‘nduja vinaigrette.

'nduja for feast magazine, february 2015.

Vegetarians and vegans, avert your eyes: this month’s Feast ingredient is definitely not for you.

A little peek inside the inner workings of this column: I have zero idea what I’m doing. It’s one of precious few areas in my life where I fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t pick these ingredients based on some vast, specialized knowledge of food, no no: I pick them because they look or sound interesting, or totally strange, and I want to know more about them.

We’ve all seen ingredients we’re curious about at the store, or seen them on the internet perhaps, and only gotten that far. Me too! We’re all the same there. I feel like there’s some purity in that I’m starting at the same point as most of you would be starting at – were you to pick up one of these ingredients – because then the recipes which come out of it come from the same place: curiosity. Wonder. Fascination with trying new things. A willingness to dive right in and try something you don’t know anything about.

And then I dive right into something like ‘nduja, and I know that this serves me well; sometimes better than imagined. I knew the general idea: it was some sort of spicy, spreadable salami, but that’s about it. Packed with red peppers, it was. An intriguing addition to charcuterie, or snuggled up alongside a cheese platter; fabulous. So I tasted it, it was interesting and I liked it, and I researched it so I could create a recipe and write an article about it.

Then I learned what it was. Like what it specifically was, inside that small little sausage-shaped package holding it all together. In fact, I saw a fellow blogger refer to ‘nduja as a “spicy proccuito spread” the other day and I LAUGHED AND LAUGHED, because here’s what: this is offal, people. If you don’t know what “offal” is, look it up and enjoy. Hint: this is the thing that old-school Italian pig farmers make when pig harvest is finished and they’re trying to make the most of what’s left, just saying. Now, I would have normally been scared of this, or at the very least, hesitant to try it. But truly, it’s pretty amazing, and it’s maybe scooted my line a little bit further forward. You know the line: that clear-cut place where you go from being adventurous o being like “Nope! Noooo thank you” with new foods. I still have a line, don’t worry: A line which appeared when I perused the fresh meat section the other day at the international market. I won’t go into the (somewhat gory) details, but rest assured: my line remains intact, and it is clearly marked.

If you want to toe the line with your line, then I suggest trying ‘nduja. Not nearly as scary as it should be, and it’s surprisingly flexible: do the things I suggested above, or add it to things like pizza, or make it into a vinaigrette. Or make my potato salad: it’s a warm one, and it was delicious: a nice, safe way to try out the very unique flavor of this spicy weirdo salami. And I mean “weirdo” in a good way. If you want to know more about it, read my little article here, or pick up a copy of the February 2015 edition of Feast Magazine (which I do not have yet because I can’t find one where is my Feast?) To be fair, it’s got a big fat swipe of melted chocolate on the front so it may have flown off the shelves. I’m going to check out the digital copy and get back to you on my favorite things inside in this month, which will be plentiful; of this I am certain.

As you were.

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  • Reply elizabeth February 6, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Welcome to the soft, spreadable sausage club, my friend. (Yeah, that sounded better in my head but what the hell, I’m going with it.) I’ve never had ‘nduja, but you know my love of all things sobrasada (the big difference I would imagine is that the latter has tons of paprika whereas the former has heat from roasted peppers) so I’m pretty sure that I would love this too. Never for a second, though, would I call it “spicy prosciutto spread” because oh, that is a total effing misnomer.

    If you’re going to tiptoe into the world of offal, this is a pretty good way to do it because everything is mashed together and flavored with so many spices that you never think about what it is you’re eating and it’s really tasty, plus it doesn’t have that implied snootiness that pate, even chicken pate, conveys.

    I would love to know what your line is at the moment and then take you to Hong Kong Supermarket in Manhattan’s Chinatown just to show you all of the awesome pieces of offal you can get there and either watch you squirm or consider them with interest. 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      of all the people who i know read this blog, Elizabeth, you were my pick for liking this recipe, because of both your adventurous spirit and your love for all things sobrasada, yes. 🙂 I do think you’d like this: it’s a nice heat, intense but not unreasonable, from a considerable amount of roasted red peppers packed in there. But yeah…spicy proscuitto spread? i think not.

      Agree, because it’s like you’re a baby who’s getting introduced to new veggies: what’s to fear when it’s all blended together? And you’re so right about it not having the uppity nature of a pate: i mean, it can’t: it’s evidently the bar snack of italian farmhands, from what i gather. I read somewhere in my research that some artisinal ‘nduja makers (and i think it goes without saying, but ONLY ever buy the artisinal stuff) make this specifically FOR their old italian men population – the ones who remember when they used to make ‘nduja from the scraps on their own farms.

      My line…i had to think about this to give you a good answer. So my line is this: I’m absurdly interested in random foods, and i love – like love – looking at the oddities as much as i love looking at a meticulously decorated cake. So the look doesn’t ever make me squeamish. In terms of trying things, i think my position is that I do believe that i’d try most anything, provided that a) it wasn’t going to do me bodily harm (i.e. i have no interest in trying a ghost pepper) and b) it was prepared someone who knows what they’re doing, so i can get the most accurate first impression possible. When i wander the halls of the international market, with its unreadable labels and unrecognizable foods, i think, “someone has to like all of this stuff.” And they do, right? SOMEONE, or enough someones, have to like what’s on the shelves, or it wouldn’t be on the shelves. So by and large, I really will try anything, so long as it’s the best of that thing, i suppose.

      I do sometimes have a line which has to do with smells, though. there’s a few cheeses which come to mind, mainly something called a “Hand Cheese” from Germany which is evidently as unappealing to smell as it is to look at (and it looks revolting, frankly.) Also, durian. it’s like so much has been said about how incredibly repulsive it smells that now i’m just flat out afraid, but i do think i’d try it.

      I can think of nothing better than hanging out with you in Manhattan’s Chinatown, actually. I imagine we’d have a blast. 🙂

  • Reply Kimberly February 6, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    I love ‘nduja. Especially the ‘nduja from Salume Beddu. And I really, really love it on the ‘nduja pizza at Pastaria.

    Now that you know all that … I really, really, really love this recipe you’ve developed and I CAN’T WAIT TO MAKE IT (seriously, I’m drooling already) … and it’s going to make my hubby a very happy man because he loves ‘nduja more than me! Thanks for helping me make my hubby happy!

    Oh, speaking of offal, I once ate veal testicles. And they were surprising delicious. And I really hope this comment doesn’t go to your spam folder because I said testicles.

    Lunch soon, Shannon? 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Yay, someone who’s had ‘nduja! I forgot all about that ‘nduja pizza at Pastaria: i’ve never had it, but i came across it during my research and it looks fantastic.

      I hope you like it! It’s pretty low-key in terms of ‘nduja; i wanted to make something accessible that didn’t cost an arm and a leg (b/c expensive!), but the flavor and the heat is definitely there, and feel free to adjust the recipe as needed to satisfy your collective tastes.

      you know what, Kimberly? I’d love to do lunch soon…just don’t surprise me with veal testicles and we’re good. and somehow you made it through spam with that, so congrats. 🙂

  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends February 6, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Oooh, color me intrigued! I know of this whole “line” you speak of, but honestly? I don’t know that I’ve found mine. I’ve caught glimpses of it, out of the corner of my eye, but more often than not curiosity wins out with me. I like to think that I’d be willing to try anything, even offal, just to have the experience. (The only things I’ll straight-up say no to are things I’ve already had the pleasure of experiencing, and do not want to experience again. Slimy stink cheeses, I am looking at you!) Now that you’ve peaked my curiosity, I’ll be keeping my eye out for ‘nduja, for sure!

    On a side note, I think it’s interesting how some weird things are considered weird, and other weird things are considered perfectly normal, or even high-end. Like, lobster? Just as nasty weird as pig guts mashed up into a sausage, if you really think about it. Plus, like pig guts, it was once considered peasant food. Now it’s 20+ dollars a pound, and fancy people don fancy little bibs and use fancy little forks to eat it. Just saying — maybe fifty years from now, offal will be the new fine dining experience!

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      I think personally it’s kinda great to have a very out-of-sight line, because you’re eager and willing to explore, and that can mean you just get to be more creative with recipes. I’m the same in terms of curiosity: food has always been interesting to me, although so many things have always been interesting to me…i’m a learner. i love to learn new things, and i think you’re also a learner, so being open to that is great. maybe my line is keeping your line company over there in the slimy, stinky cheeses: i mentioned in my reply to Elizabeth S. that off the top of my head, i could think of a few things i’m opposed to, and cheese was on that list (specifically a slimy german called “hand cheese” because NO.) also, durian b/c i don’t know why it scares me but i do feel fear…it’s huge, and so much has been said about the smell that i find it intimidating. i’m going to make a little list for you next time i go to the international market and report back if anything else dings the “no” zone. 🙂

      YESSSSSSSS omg yes. so i was listening (i’m going to put this in a future post, i think, but anyway) to this one podcast about weird history stories – just little tidbits of weird and creepy and sad and funny things in mostly US history) called The Memory Palace, and just this morning he was talking about lobsters and how no one wanted them a few centuries back, and they were HUGE and basically just fed to prisoners, etc…long story and i knew that part of it, but the moral of the story was that by shipping them to the midwest (where no one had ever seen a lobster) and jacking up the price (b/c not so easy to ship in the 1800’s), it became a “delicacy” and is now, yes, eaten with wee forks and considered a luxury. i could go on forever WHY DON’T WE JUST SIT AND TALK EVERY DAY ABOUT RANDOM THINGS FOREVER? We really should. Just saying. 🙂

  • Reply Elizabeth @ Taste and Sprout February 6, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I had no idea that you got to pick your mystery ingredients. I figured the FEAST powers-that-be chose the weirdo (to use your word) ingredient each month. I would say I’m pretty adventurous with food, but this one I might have to live vicariously through your experience. But I look forward to seeing how your next mystery unfolds. 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      It’s amazing they let me out on my own with it, i know! 🙂 When i started, they would line up ingredients, but after a few months I got to help choose, and now we just work up a schedule x amount of months out and i get it approved and then i’m free as a bird, so it’s really nice because it’s on me to explore and continually find new things.
      You are welcome to sit this one out; i completely understand, but i promise you the next few you’ll like. 🙂

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs February 7, 2015 at 11:28 am

    One of my favorite lines from literature is “Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beast and fowl.” (From Ulysses.) Who doesn’t like the inner organs of beast and fowl? AKA offal? Kidneys and liver in particular are good stuff. And I’ve loved liverwurst ever since I was a little kid. But most people are turned off by the thought of these (don’t they know what goes into hot dogs???). Weird how specific ingredients can get in the way of what we think should taste good. I’d rather have ‘ndija than a lot of really tasteless steak I’ve been served — it at least has real flavor. Really fun post. And I’m with you — I like starting from a place of zero knowledge and then discovering new stuff.

    • Reply shannon February 12, 2015 at 11:17 am

      That quote is such a vivid and visceral one: you definitely get the full impact of precisely what it’s like to eat offal, you know? Very primal, to be sure. Now that you say that, i’m a huge liverwurst fan: i never categorize it as “offal” only because it was a very common thing in my own house as a kid, and we made sandwiches with it (mayo, white bread!) regularly. I still love it from time to time, but you’re right: people are entirely grossed out by it. And yeah, hot dogs, right? ummm…not much difference, but i guess it’s all about deep-rooted biases, maybe.

  • Reply Brianne February 7, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    I’m totally on board with this. I dig offal; I had a piece of pork trotter–the leg/feet area–as the main course of a nose to tail dinner once, and it’s one of the most memorable/delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Hella spices do offal a lot of good!

    But I definitely have a line. You know what’s on the other side of my line? Chicken feet. Have you looked at In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark? I love her, and I love the book…except she always writes about how she loves gristly, sinewy textures in meat, and that makes me nauseous. And she has a freaking recipe for chicken feet! I can’t even deal. She’s the most vivid writer; the headnotes of that recipe are almost barf-inducing. When I flip through the book these days, I know full well to steer clear of those pages!

    • Reply shannon February 12, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Pig feet! you know, i’ve seen them (pickled, i believe) here and there in places and i just…you know, i can’t? but i wonder in that setting and prepared in a non-jarred-floating-in-water way if i’d agree. I’d be willing to try, for sure.

      eeeeaahahhhhh…chicken feet: i don’t know about that: my line may be just to the left of that one, also. i’m not big on “sinew” of any sort…that’s maybe a textural thing or just never finding anything like that appealing. I haven’t flipped through that book, but now i know what to avoid when i do.

  • Reply Ashley February 9, 2015 at 10:24 am

    My line is funny. Thanks to some super strong mental blocks I set up as a kid, I haven’t actually eaten a bite of fish in over 20 years. I can psych myself up and have the fork midway to my mouth, but then I wimp out. So I’m nowhere near offal yet…but that’s okay for now 🙂 You’ve got guts, lady (ha, see what I did there???) and I admire it.

    I’m totally with you on being supremely curious about new ingredients all the time. I just want to know more! Jackfruit popped up at my grocery store recently and I’m pretty sure I acted like my kitten does when there’s a new object on the floor – sniff, cautiously pat, sniff some more, circle around, pat again… Your articles always satisfy my curiosity about a new ingredient.

    • Reply shannon February 12, 2015 at 11:08 am

      REALLY: now that is interesting, especially b/c i know how health-concious you are and fish seems a natural part of that. huh! so is that any fish, or some stronger fish (def i’m more in for mild fish than i am some of the “fishier” tasting ones, if that makes sense)…let’s explore this. 🙂 You said GUTS lol ohhhhhh snap. it should be said that i don’t know if it’s guts or sheer ignorance that allowed me to taste nduja: maybe a combo of both, but i certainly didn’t dive into it knowing fully what it was.

      Jackfruit! And i love how you just described my own practice EXACTLY: it’s very kitten-like and curious, and you don’t want to somehow disturb the object of your curiosity (although how you would bother it, i don’t know), but i do the same things. i could spend an hour in the produce section of our international market alone just looking at things i don’t know about.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats February 13, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    I have most certainly never heard of nduja…but it sounds like I might possibly like it. I love that you made a potato salad with it : )Although I have to tell you that after living with Nate and his picky food preferences, I think some of it has rubbed off on me and I’m grossed out by things now that I never would have been before!

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:33 am

      I feel like i’m slightly surprised by that, ONLY because i know in your area there are lots of artisanal nduja makers and also maybe old italian men who would totally love it; i guess in my mind it’s easier to find up there, but probably not!
      i totally get rubbing off on each other: i feel like tim’s food horizons have expanded because of me, but i feel like mine…i don’t know. they haven’t gotten narrower, but i’d say i automatically skip buying things i know i love (mushrooms, for example) because i know he hates them. it’s weird but definitely your consumption habits change in that way.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats February 18, 2015 at 11:06 am

    offal schmoffal! you know what is in the majority of spiced meats??? no?? ME NEITHER AND I’D LIKE TO KEEP IT THAT WAY! K? thanks. At least this saves me from eating the intestine casing, right? 😉 lol

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:21 am

      i feel like i completely saved your life with this one, Natalie. i do what i can.

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