It’s been many years in the making, but we finally nailed a Mortadella recipe! Originating in Italy, Mortadella is basically fancy bologna – which made us think, “hey, how hard can it be to make a low-rent lunchmeat?” Pretty damn hard, it turns out.
One of our first brushes with Mortadella manufacture resulted in a flavor not unlike a wet, fetid dog and a texture that was mealy. It was perhaps the most inedible product we have ever made at the Smokehaus, before or since. We threw the whole batch away – there was nothing else to do with it.
Bologna was surprisingly hard-to-get, like some sort of across the tracks romantic tableau where you try to sweep the town drunk’s daughter off her feet only to realize that she isn’t really interested (at least not without some effort). We mistakenly thought Mortadella was a sure thing. We quickly moved on to less complicated garde manger duties, like dry-cured Saucisson Sec and country-style pate.
A few more attempts here and there resulted in similar failures, leading us to believe that Oscar Meyer (and his millions of dollars worth of machines) had us licked. But this winter has been a winter of discovery – the punishing weather forced us to tinker, to dream, to get a little risky – and we culminated our Mad Professor moods attempting another round with Mortadella: The One That Got Away.
We hit the books and got on the phone, lining up the best local pork we could find, along with the most celestial back fat on earth. We ordered synthetic casings – a Smokehaus first – and discussed cooking methods (smoking v. poaching v. roasting v. a combination) in a fairly argumentative way, all of us desperately craving the same two goals: 1) Not to f@#% this up, and 2) To eat copious amounts of Mortadella. We bought exquisite organic pistachios. We diced perfect cubes of lardon. We emulsified. We stuffed. We hung. We waited.
The outcome of this first heavily anticipated meat torpedo was, if not a disaster, at least a solid rebuke. Although the flavor, color, and shape were exactly as designed, the texture was so powdery, so resistant to the creamy, hammy bliss that is intrinsic to Mortadella, that it actually somehow was able to remove any resonant moisture in your mouth as you ate it. Kind of like a reverse-treat. Like the lunchmeat was punishing us by taking our saliva away after years of drooling about it. Bitch.
But we tried again.
We adjusted the fat ratio (which is a little stunning, even by our hedonistic standards) along with a few other key technique-oriented factors and voila: Mortadella is finally on our side, pink and perfect. Creamy, dreamy, studded with mild pistachio and aggressive peppercorn – we are definitely going steady.