Technique: Creating Aerated Lardo at New Hampshire’s Stages at One Washington
The idea for the aerated lardo is based off Wylie Dufresne’s aerated foie gras. We adapted his recipe to lardo, since both are renderable fats, and followed his technique, making adjustments as needed.
We get whole pigs in the restaurant, and use every part. First, we cure and age the back fat, which takes about 12 weeks. Once the lardo is shelf-stable, we cube it, and render it with water to emulsify it. You have to keep a good eye on the cubes of rendered fat, until there is nothing left to render, making sure the rendered cubes don’t get to brown, as it will alter the flavor of the fat.
Then we strain it off and put it in blender, but not at too-high a speed, because if the speed is too high, the heat from the blender will keep the fat in a liquid state. Then we add gelatin sheets to the fat, and cool it down. We don’t cool it with an ice bath, because it will solidify too fast and then you can’t aerate it. It was a lot of trial and error with a 12-ounce mason jar, but it works with roughly four ounces rendered lardo.
We put the sealing lid on it, and just place the screw cap on top, then use our chamber vacuum. You take the four ounces of fat in the jar, and put it on the highest vacuum setting. It creates an aerated effect in the fat, then the vacuum pulls, and the jar is sealed. Then it goes right to an ice bath, to cool the fat completely and set the gelatin.
Now that we have this aerated fat to play with, we are working on an à la minute bread program, where we serve a small crock of bread that we have proofed and baked while our guests were eating. They get it with the fifth and sixth courses, served with aerated fat. It’s super light and fluffy. You don’t feel like you are smearing fat, it’s so light, silky, lighter in terms of density. We’ve talked about infusing flavors; adding spices or herbs to the fat while it’s rendering, to add another flavor to it.
So now we have a technique to use with other ingredients—Mason jar with vacuum pack. It’s something I get to play around with. What does it do to meringue? Or cake bases? We have a killer sponge cake, but what can we do for cake with this vacuum pack? Like with everything, one idea sparks another and then another. We don’t look for dead ends.
We’ve already used this technique to make a clam and oyster dish with aerated prosciutto fat. The fattiness of the prosciutto fat offsets the brininess of the oyster. It’s classic European with Scandinavian influences, which in my opinion, is what New England food is about. There are lots of similarities with wild and oceanic products. The preservation techniques you find in places with a harsh winter are more prevalent: fermenting, pickling salting curing. You find the same herbal notes, with parsley, dill, mint and sea plants. We apply that sensibility with our New England ingredients.
Experiments like this are important for us. We have two lines of development in our kitchen; the day-to-day work for service, and the next level, which will be a technique we’ll try just to see where it takes us. That’s what this turned out to be, so we’ll see what we come up with next.