I swore that if I failed to post at least one recipe for ramps this season, then I would deport myself to the nearest city with a Chinatown (because a Filipino needs a local source for patis – see blog name). Ramps are the stinky wild leeks after which Chicago was named after all.
The local food-obsessed (or is it food-obsessed locals?) go nuts over the pungent spring seasonals for its unusual blend of familiar flavors. The purplish white bulbs taste sharply of some sort of onion, garlic, and scallion mutant hybrid. The leaves have a peppery bite reminiscent of arugula, but spicier.
My neighbors probably hate me for stinking up the entire building the past few days but I’m okay with that. Ramps have cured my fear of purple and green foods.
A quick saute in the rendered fat of guanciale, Italian cured pork jowls, is my favorite way of preparing ramps. I remember Mario Batali talking about guanciale in an Iron Chef America battle. He had this cheesy look on his face as he whispered sweet-nothings about the Roman specialty, which naturally steered me into thoughts of illicit goings-on between Batali and his house-cured cheeks. With Batali’s o-face in mind, I tried browning a few ounces of guanciale to a crisp in its own fat, just to see what the big deal is. Let’s just say I’m never going back to bacon.
Sautéed Ramps in Guanciale
makes about 2 servings
1 pound ramps, trimmed and cleaned
1/4 pound guanciale, small dice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (optional)
Pork jowl sounds much cuter than pig face.
- To trim and clean the ramps, cut off the root end and submerge in a large bowl of cold water to dislodge trapped dirt, changing the water as many times as necessary. Rub the stalks gently with your fingertips to remove a thin and slippery outer layer, much like cleaning scallions.
- The guanciale may be salty enough to season the ramps sufficiently.
- Slice the ramps where the stalks and leaves meet. The stalks will be cooked a few minutes ahead of time.
- In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook the guanciale until light brown and crisp.
- Add the ramp stalks and cook for a few minutes, just until tender. Add the ramp leaves and cook for about a minute, just until wilted. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, if necessary.