I Nduja Tonight

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boccalone nduja.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Hot summer nights call for sexy music and spicy company... enter nduja, everybody's favorite spreadable salame. Assertive, tender, musky, and exotic, it's everything you're looking for, and you can spread it on a cracker too.

Nduja, pronounced "en-DOO-yah"(not "NOOD-jah," as I was hoping) is a traditional cured pork salumi product that originates from Calabria, the "toe" region of Italy. The name derives from the French andouille, which is another type of spiced pork sausage bearing only a faint resemblance to nduja.

A domestic version of this Calabrian classic is now making Americans swoon, thanks to Chris Cosentino (of Incanto restaurant fame) and his Oakland-based artisanal charcuterie business, Boccalone. Cosentino's nduja features a unique, almost rillettes-like texture, hints of sour orange and smoke, plus plenty of heat from a variety of chilies that also lend the meat a fiery red hue. The salted meat and spices are fermented, lightly smoked, and dehydrated only enough to firm up the exterior casing, leaving the inside enticingly soft.
You can eat it spooned straight out of the casing, spread on crostini, mixed into tomato-based pasta sauces, or scrambled with your eggs. Curb the flames by mixing in fresh ricotta and using the spread on sandwiches, or try pure nduja with dried mango slices and a racy white wine. Off-dry prosecco would also provide a charming counterpoint to the aggressive spice and richness of the meat, and might help keep your taste buds alive 'til dinner.

Robust Italian red wines like those made from Gaglioppo (one of the most prominent red grapes grown in Calabria) would also be a worthy match for this formidable beast in a main course pasta or pizza offering... but keep your pinot noirs far away from this bad boy if you ever intend to taste them.

Boccalone, www.boccalone.com

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