When we were in New Orleans a few weekends ago we ended up eating dinner at an Italian place where one of the appetizers on he menu was a simple salad of arugula, parmigiano reggiano, and bresaola. I pointed it out to Cheryl and said something like ‘you know that beef I cured and hung downstairs? well this is what it’s going to turn into.’ Of course, we ordered it.
A few weeks back I found myself wanting to have a go at curing something other than pork and looked in Salumi for ideas where I found a recipe for bresaola, cured and air-dried beef from Lombardy. The narrative recommended using a very lean cut of beef because unlike the fat in pork cuts which gives more flavor, beef fat doesn’t take well to air-curing. So I picked up some eye of round roast, trimmed off the excess fat (not much), and got to curing.
Just like curing whole pork muscles there’s not much to curing whole beef muscles. Make up a cure, cure the meat for a few days, rinse off the cure, tie up the beef, then hang and dry until it loses 30% of its weight. I’m really starting to get the technique down. One difference in this particular cure is the addition of some wine which makes it a wet cure as opposed to just rubbing the cut with salt and aromatics. The only new (and exciting) thing I really can report on about this curing experiment is I actually got some of the good white mold on it! One day I went downstairs to check on it, opened up the fridge and saw some white stuff on the outside. First reaction was ‘oh no’ but when I pulled one of the pieces out to get a closer look I realized it was the beneficial, protective kind of mold. Well done, helpful bacteria! 3-4 weeks later I had some wonderfully cured beef which has a smooth texture and a nutty, salty, beefy taste.
Bresaola is a great ingredient for the seasonal segue into summer from spring. It takes arugula around 35 days to mature. Almost the same amount of time it takes to cure bresaola. Hmmm. Coincidence? I think not! And like many things, it’s best when kept simple. I feel bresaola is meant to be served just like the salad we ate: thinly sliced with a little lemon, arugula, and Parmigiano. Pepper, salt, acid, cheese. Not many ingredients but oh the taste! You can even take those same ingredients and put them on top of some pizza dough or focaccia. I can’t stress enough the squeeze of lemon. While you’re going to be very happy with your bresaola, the acid in the lemon just opens up the flavor even more and adds a nice balance to the saltiness.
Don’t worry, I haven’t stopped learning how to cure pork. If you follow me on Twitter you know what was in the curing fridge alongside the bresaola and while I don’t mean to brag I think the bresaola’s fridge-mate might be the best thing I’ve cured yet! Tune in next week for that one.
Bresaola (adapted from Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Salumi)
- 3-4 lb beef eye of round
- Kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp thyme
- 10 juniper berries, crushed
- 4 bay leaves, crushed and ground
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- ½ C white wine
Using the salt box method, dredge the beef in the salt, making sure it is covered entirely.
Place beef in a Ziploc bag big enough to hold it.
Mix all other ingredients together and pour into bag. Rub seasonings all over beef, seal up bag, and place in refrigerator for 7-9 days. Flip the bag over and redistribute the cure every other day or so.
When the time is up remove the beef from the bag, rinse off the cure, dry off, and allow to air dry on a baking rack on the counter for 3 hours.
Tie it like a roast, weigh and record the amount. Hang in your curing chamber for 3 weeks or until it loses
70% 30% of its weight.