Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2008-01-19 06:16
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

When it comes down to it, if I ever had to chose, I'd give up chocolate way before I ever gave up pork. And I like chocolate just fine (hard not to when you are born into a Belgian family that brings bars of Cote D'Or each time they come to the States to visit). But a life without prosciutto or pancetta or bacon? Nah, man, just wouldn't be the same.

One of my favorite dishes--something I make a couple of times a month---is pasta all'amatriciana. The dish is from Amatrice, which is just outside of Rome. The dish is very simple and very delicious--olive oil, onion, pork (in this country, pancetta or bacon), red pepper and tomatoes. You don't cook it long, the sauce can be prepared in the time it takes to boil the water and cook your pasta.

In Rome, the dish is most often served with bucatini, the spaghetti with the hole in the middle, and with pecorino cheese. And though Italians are usually very strict about their recipes, this one has variations, of course. Some people use vegetable oil and butter instead of olive oil (like Marcella Hazen), some add garlic, others add white wine.

In Amatrice, they don't use onions or oil. Just cured pork, tomatoes, and cheese. The one thing that all Italians agree on is the kind of pork that should be used: guanciale — cured, unsmoked pig jowl. I bought a pound of guanciale last summer. When my wife, Emily, saw me slicing this lusciously fatty piece of pork she almost had a heart attack. She made me promise I wouldn't eat all of it. I promised, but silently cursed myself for letting her see what I was doing. No matter. I rendered the fat from the stuff I wasn't going to use and saved it for later use (without telling her, of course). Anyhow, the guanciale did give the sauce a different, more intense, flavor.

I've tried the the amatriciana sauce every which way, and you know what? It's all good. The Times ran an excellent piece on the dish earlier this week. Worth checking out. And for those of you that enjoy cooking, it's worth trying guanciale just once. Little pork fat never hurt nobody, now did she?

2008-01-19 14:41:00
1.   Chyll Will
Hard to argue with you; bacon and spare ribs are really incredible representatives for the pork faction, not to mention tenderloin and pork chops... but to give up chocolate for them?? To never have a slice of Junior's chocolate cake (the slices, yo!), Hershey, Nestle, Ghirandelli, scarfing scoops of Nestle Quik mix straight out the box, oh and sprinkling Ovaltine on your ice cream... hell, if I made porn movies, my name would be Special Dark (which is actually good for you, hah!) Pork, for all it's glory to the tastebuds, isn't good friends with healthy.

Nah B, I ain't lettin' go of the chocolate just yet.

2008-01-19 17:21:30
2.   Andre
I'm with Alex on this one. Pork over chocolate. I grew up in Jersey for my 1st 18 yrs (been in Beantown the last 18) and I remember as a kid, my grandma going to the butcher to pick up a huge slab of smoked bacon. Me and my little brother would devour it with a loaf of fresh Italian bread. If you haven't tried this stuff, it's about an inch thick by 2-3 inches wide by 6-12 inches long, and about half of the volume is fat. It's a heart attack in a stick.

Anyway, my little bro married a muslim last year and started converting. I don't know how he did it - he loved the bacon more than me.

2008-01-19 17:56:38
3.   OldYanksFan
"Nestle Quik mix straight out the box"
Umm... err.... Will, is this a southern delicacy?

Was never into 'pork' much (Jewish family) but I always loved smoked honey ham (yum). So some years ago I raised my own pig. Had it slaughtered locally, and smoked by an old timer, the old fashioned way.

Got about 130 lbs of 'finished product'.
Well... I thought I didn't really like pork but... HOLLY GOD! Lean and mean! a Chine roast to die for.

2008-01-19 18:44:36
4.   Johan
Can't say I really enjoyed Nestle Quik mix straight fro the box, but I did love to overload my chocolate milk with it so that there would remain a healthy coat of sludge at the bottom of the glass.

Pork all the way though. Couldn't go the rest of my life without my dad's chili verde.

Coincidentally, I finally made a batch of my own last week that I think was identical to his. It's really not that tough a dish, but I could just never make it like him.

2008-01-19 19:02:33
5.   Chyll Will
3 OYF, you have to admit you have a problem. Sniffing a little Nesquik when you're a kid is one thing, but 130 lbs of 'finished product' is a lotta freebasing, my friend. We're all here to help! >;)
2008-01-19 21:59:51
6.   OldYanksFan
I'm not sure, but I think Alex invited us all up to VT this summer for a pig roast, over an open spit. Simply the finest way to cook meat.

We will have to coordinate who brings what side dishes. Will can bring the 'finished product' for after the feast. They grow it good down south.

2008-01-19 22:45:08
7.   godvls
Bucatini all'Aamatriciana is my absolute favorite dish to make. I've been searching high and low for guanciale, but haven't been able to find it in Los Angeles. I may have to order some from Mario Batali's dad. This dish is amazing with pancetta, I can only imagine what it's like with guanciale.
2008-01-19 22:48:12
8.   Chyll Will
6 Yep, I'll check my contacts in South Tarrytown >;)

At the Western Beef in Mott Haven (3rd Ave & 140th St), I bought (on three separate occasions) a huge pork roast for two cents each ... just because whoever labeled them priced them at two cents. Only one cashier caught this and asked the manager, and the manager waved his hand and said, "Sure, let him have it. He's lucky!"

Seriously, I am not making this up.

2008-01-20 05:51:12
9.   The Mick 536
Next time you visit VT, if you haven't already done it which you most probably have, try any number of smoked and cured bacons. Oh, those Saturday jaunts to A&S.
2008-01-20 06:35:42
10.   OldYanksFan
Santana not worth the tariff

Alex is a wondeful writer, although right now, I'd take a poor writer if he could find something about the 2008 Yankees.

It is most probably the even encroaching senility, but there seems to be less discussion about the Yankees this year then im years past.

Jim Dean, I miss ya.

2008-01-20 08:21:35
11.   wsporter
Ah yes just what this situation calls for: a good heated January debate over our crying need for an above league average BUC and Ca$h's abject failure to obtain him or her for a bucket of old balls, a cold cup of coffee and a half eaten donut. Where do I sign up for that? ;-)

Alex you inspired me: Braciole with a Caprese salad and lots of hot crispy bread for the game. A very big smile.

2008-01-20 08:44:15
12.   Raf
Made some pernil yesterday. There are a couple of chuchifritos 5 min from home

If it ever came to that, I would have a hard time giving up the swine. Pernil, bacon, pork chops, ribs, chicharrones, pork fried rice... Yep, it'd be very difficult.

2008-01-20 09:10:46
13.   JL25and3
Pork or chocolate? Derek Jeter or Hank Williams? Marx Brothers or van Gogh?

Of course, we're talking here about real pork - pork with fat in it, not "the other white meat." Those lean, dry, leathery things they sell as pork chops now are a shonda. I went to the Minnesota State Fair a few years ago, and the days of the fat prize pig are gone; they judge them on leanness now. (The food at the State Fair is awesome - the specialty is deep-fried anything on a stick.)

Unfortunately, the decision was made for me a few months ago by diabetes. I still get to taste chocolate, I suppose - a little bit, rarely. And this just after I discovered the array of high-end chocolate at the Harlem Fairway - intense stuff.

2008-01-20 09:34:52
14.   OldYanksFan
11 Well, maybe some fresh meat?
Santana may well be a FA in 2009. At age 30, with a lot of miles, I assume he will be looking for his last contact... I will guess in the range of 6/$120+. Many here were willing to trade Phil, Melky, et al for him. Is he a 'no-brainer' as a FA, or are there still concerns?

With Hanley, Tulo and a few others, and Jeter's progressively poor fielding, is he still an 'elite' SS? His contract is up after 2010. Will he have any value as a SS by then? While we signed the elderly Mo and Po, will Derek be worth keeping after 2010?
Does a guy like Jeter retire at 37?

If they Yankees do NOT move Jetes to 1B soon, and we sign Tex or another BFOG 1Bman, it's 4 more years at SS. Now, 1B is open. Should this get serious consideration?

With ARod signed for 10 years, will this have an emotional impact on Jeter? Would he 'refuse' to give up SS when ARod did? Will he be happy to walk after 2010?

I will cross my fingers and hope Mo is Mo in 2008, but will he still be a closer in 2009? With Joba starting, do we have ANY BP in 2009? Is Mo developing another pitch? How long can he be effective with 'just' the cutter? Are there any BP studs coming up for FA in 2009?

The Steinettes will want Cashman back. Could he possible leave his beloved Yankees?

It's a walk year for Giambi. Will he retire after 2008? With he play in 2008 with renewed passion, looking for a 1 or 2 year 'Pettitte' type deal?

Does anyone actually think Po can play 1st base? (Not me, I think he will make Piazza look graceful).

Does Melky have any future with the Yankess?

There has been talk of trading Matsui even though he has a No-Trade clause. Would his sense of 'honor' allow him to refuse a trade?

Is Phil still the stud we thought we were getting in 2006?

Is IPK for real as a #3 or at least #4?

The Yankees haven't made a big trade/aquisition in years. Does 1B already have 'Teixeira' written on it?

Will Posada ever be able to make it to 2nd base again?

Will a few years in LA kill Torre's reputation?

Does it take a tough man to make a tender pig?

2008-01-20 10:09:43
15.   JL25and3
14 The problem is, none of those are really debatable. There aren't any facts to consider, so all we can do is make assertions and speculations. Yes he will! No he won't! And most of those assertions have been made plenty of times before.

Quick recap: Jeter's not moving from SS in the foreseeable future. 1b is definitely a problem. Posada can't move to 1b because if you don't have a catcher, you're going to have a lot of passed balls. Matsui won't accept a trade. No way to know if Santana or Texeira reach FA, and no way to know what they'll be worth in a year. Ditto Hughes, Rivera, Melky, Kennedy, Torre.

2008-01-20 10:16:50
16.   ms october
I am going to have to go with Chyll and chose chocolate. (though in over 20 years in the south straight Nestle Qucik out of the box was not something I saw that much).
Though I do love pork - my mom and I love pork vindaloo and I get my mom and grandma to make it for me whenever I go - and Raf 12 brought up a favorite in pernil - and pastelles would not be the same without that pork - not to mention jerk pork - and just some good ole ribs.

11 That damn Cash ruined that BUC debate for us this year :}

14 Good effort in starting some debate. Here's a few -
I don't see Po doing that well at 1B - but Piazza sets a standard of crap that is hard for anyone to surpass.
Yes on Phil.
I think Tex is someone the Yanks would spend money on. Do you think Miranda is a real possibility though?

2008-01-20 10:44:39
17.   wsporter
How about "should we jump the gun and sign Wang and or Robbie to a long term deal (4, 5 or 6 years) rather than settling on a one year or allowing an arbitrator to decide their salaries?"
2008-01-20 14:53:11
18.   OldYanksFan
I don't think many players typically get long term contracts in their 1st year of arb. Does that sound correct?
2008-01-20 20:39:21
19.   wsporter
Dinner was a hit, thanks Alex. Giants Win!!! A very nice day indeed.

18 I don't know if we should sign both, either or neither to a long term deal; I'd sooner sign Robbie and lock him up until his early 30's than Wang but I wouldn't cry if they did a Mets move and signed both. I suppose keeping guys working year to year for a new deal has some attractiveness to a deep pocket owner as well so I'd understand if they didn't do it. Well ... I guess I'm done with that one.

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