By Stan Sagner.
There is no question that Prosciutto di San Daniele is a wondrous sensory experience on its own. Carefully sliced to translucence, a nibble of this silky, ethereal ham rushes the nose with its signature porkiness and hints of toasted grain. Each bite seemingly melts on your tongue leaving you eager for the next. But, much as we might wish, man (and woman) cannot live on prosciutto alone. With hopes of finding it worthy culinary companions, we took the opportunity to serve as match-maker for this carnivorous delicacy setting it up on some “blind dates” with some of the standout winners and finalists from this year’s prestigious Sofi Awards, often referred to as the “ the Oscar of fancy foods”
The Sofi’s have grown to become among the food world’s most coveted accolades. The awards are conferred upon standout products across the specialty food industry in June of each year. Launched in 1972 to recognize the most innovative food product launches, the Sofi’s now attract over 3200 top-flight applicants competing from around the world. Classified into 28 categories ranging from chocolate to cheese to pasta sauces and beyond, each product is submitted to a panel of over 40 culinary experts to undergo a battery of blind tastings and be evaluated against its peers. After careful deliberation, fewer than 1% of entrants merit the coveted Sofi statue.
We considered a curated selection of products from among this year’s Sofi diverse winners and finalists and winnowed the list down to those that best complemented the unique qualities and attributes of world-class San Daniele prosciutto. Several Sofi-winning products were considered, underwent tastings and here are the best of the best:
Pairing One – Siete Foods Almond Tortilla
Newcomer Siete Family Foods of Austin, Texas crafts a deliciously innovative line of gluten and preservative-free tortillas sourced from a variety of alternative flours including almond, cassava, chia and coconut. Our favorite, prepared from a blend of almond and tapioca flour, almost perfectly replicates the lovely soft, toothy texture of its more traditional wheat counterparts thus making them a no compromise substitute for those with dietary restrictions. An added bonus is that the almond flour adds some earthy notes and a touch of sweetness, which dovetail perfectly with the porky, umami notes of Prosciutto di San Daniele. We recommend quickly passing the tortilla over a super hot cast iron skillet (a non-stick pan will do just fine) until it blisters slightly – it will become fragrant brown speckles will appear – and then drape or roll them with slices of Prosciutto di San for a super easy, but terrific snack.
Alternatively, for an positively decadent quesadilla, sandwich two tortillas with some shaved prosciutto and slices of aged Manchego (or your favorite cheese) then griddle until the cheese softens “gluing” the tortillas together. Top with fresh guacamole or some mango salsa.
Pairing Two – Vermont Creamery Bonne Buche
Vermont Creamery’s stellar, aged goat cheese, the tree ash-sprinkled Bonne Bouche was launched back in 2001, but only claimed its Sofi accolades in 2016. The diminutive, hockey puck-shaped wheels pack tremendous flavor into their deceptively small size. On the tongue, their dense goatiness transforms to a splendidly floral, citrusy counterpoint to the richness of San Daniele. The cheese’s taste and texture is at its very best when served room temperature. We loved it simply smeared on some warmed crusty baguette or ciabatta topped with a generous slice of Prosciutto di San Daniele.
Pairing Three – King’s Cupboard Salted Caramelized Fig Spread
Salted Caramelized Fig Spread from Montana-based King’s Cupboard is an obscenely addictive sauce that would pair well with just about anything – including just your favorite spoon (be careful). Its unctuous, velvety texture first coats your palate with a swoon-inducing pop of cream followed by distinct gentle ripples of salt, then sugar, and finally a rich figginess that lingers on the tongue. Each mouthful is a sensory striptease.
Sparingly drizzled (a little goes a long way) over some San Daniele creates a snack that mischievously blurs the line between savory and dessert. It is a line I would be happy to cross anytime. Try it on a wedge of fruit – like a juicy Asian Pear – or temper with a neutral oat cracker.
Pairing Four – Simple & Crisp Fruit Crackers
Our final choice, “Simple & Crisp” perfectly describes these eponymous and surprisingly thin artisanal fruit crisps from Seattle. Combining the functionality and true crunch of crackers with the sweetness and unadulterated essence of real fruit, they live up to their name. Made simply from gently dried paper-thin slices of local pear, apple, orange and blood orange (the latter two glazed with a touch of cane sugar) these naturally flavorful crackers are the perfect foil to the sultry umami flavors of San Daniele prosciutto. Our favorite combo was Simple & Crisp’s pear cracker topped with a thin slice San Daniele Prosciutto and complemented with a nugget of a creamy blue cheese such as Gorgonzola or Fourme D’Ambert.
You can give them a crowning finishing touch by sprinkling with a few drops of honey or maple syrup.
There are 28 sanctioned producers of San Daniele prosciutto, but whichever you choose, remember the beauty of San Daniele lies not just in its intensely rich flavor but also in its versatility, so venture outside your comfort zone and improvise with other products. Chances are you’ll conjure a winning combo.
About the author:
Stan Sagner is a food writer and the former Restaurant Critic and a Travel and Culture columnist for the New York Daily News. He most recently served as Head of Visual Content and Strategy for Rodale, Inc. and currently works as an independent food and media strategy consultant. He is a graduate of the ICC Culinary Program and lives in New York City.