Life And Death (Trumpets)
My life improved drastically recently when Brendan McGill opened a deli adjacent to his excellent Hitchcock restaurant. Actually, it’s way more than a deli, it’s a sort of Everything Store. You can read all about the Hitchcock restaurant here, but for now let’s stick with the delights of its little sister, a little shop of wonders, here on Bainbridge Island. I went in the other day to buy some butcher-quality meat, and came home with fresh black trumpet mushrooms, the freshest of organic pastured eggs from the island’s Heyday Farm, and a huge chunk of impeccably house-cured pancetta.
The pancetta alone is worth the trip from wherever you are, but heaped on my counter with those saffron-yolked eggs, those trompettes de la mort reminding me of my favorite French market, and a huge supply of my over-wintered and emerald green parsley, well, something delicious was inevitable. If I ate pasta, or if you do, they’d combine admirably into a killer pasta sauce (not that you’ll die from those death trumpets, but you know what I mean). But since I’m a low to no carb sort of person, some kind of omelet or frittata called out to be concocted.
Now the thing about a dish like this is that it’s sort of unpresentable. Only someone who really loves food, or who really loves you, will rejoice to see a plate of this. That’s okay, more for you! The pancetta and black trumpets combine with a dusting of Parmesan and the funky allure of duck fat into an earthy, woodsy umami sort of thing that’s irresistible. The bright flavors of the parsley and a liberal amount of garlic keep you coming back, bite after bite. The eggs and cream make it plushly satisfying. You can even keep it in the fridge for a couple of days, giving a quick zap to a portion or two whenever you need an umami fix. Personally, I like it for breakfast, but I know that’s pretty hardcore.
What I love about the little, everything’s possible, Hitchcock deli is that I never know what I’ll find there, which is exactly how I like to cook. I love to be surprised by ingredients, and I have an unreasonable amount of fun creating new dishes with unexpected treats. Try this one and I hope you’ll see what I mean.
Pancetta and Death Trumpet Frittata
1 8oz slice of pancetta, cubed into bite-sized pieces
2 T duck fat, or use olive oil or butter
4 oz black trumpet (trompettes de la mort) mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 oz Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
5 very fresh eggs
1 cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper, and salt if needed
Heat the duck fat in a skillet until melted, then add pancetta cubes. Stirring constantly, toss the pancetta in the fat until lightly golden. Remove pancetta from the pan. Add the black trumpets to the combined duck and pancetta fat in the skillet and toss to coat. Stir in the parsley and the garlic and sauté until the mushrooms are partially cooked. Add the pancetta back into the skillet and toss together for a minute or two. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 350°
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs briskly until well combined. Add a good amount of black pepper, then whisk in the cream. (Please don’t try to make this with milk, you won’t be happy with the results)
Taste the pancetta mixture for salt. Brendan’s pancetta is salty enough that I didn’t need any additional salt, but your pancetta may differ, so salt the mixture if necessary. Butter a medium casserole dish and spread the pancetta mixture evenly over the bottom. With a microplane, grate a lacy film of Parmesan over the pancetta mixture. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the pancetta. Bake until puffed and golden, 25 minutes in my convection oven at 350°.
Serve only to those who know what’s good.