Recipe: Raw Kale & Pig Cheek Salad, You Know You Want It

updated Jun 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

A version of this post was originally sent to our email subscribers yesterday. To receive Sara Kate’s weekly email, sign up in the column to the left or click here. Something tasty will arrive in your inbox every Thursday.

We’re slogging our way through January with the theme of Eating Light guiding not only our recipe coverage, but our attitudes toward eating and cooking as a whole. In last week’s email I suggested one way to eat more lightly is to just eat less. Radical, I know.

This week I want to share one recipe that might seem like a wee bit of a departure because while it’s light, it’s dressed in pork fat. So you decide how much of it to make. I made it for a dinner party on Saturday night and had a hard time not going for seconds.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Guanciale (pronounced “gwan-chee-ALL-lay”) is the cured fatty meat from under a pig’s jowel. Like pancetta, but fattier, it is the meat traditionally used in Amatriciana pasta sauce. When cooked on its own, it renders enough fat to cook other foods in, or perhaps dress a raw kale salad.

I know, it’s a bit of a leap, but trust me, it works. The recipe is based on a salad I had at one of my favorite NYC restaurants, Lupa. A nip of wine and a salad at the Lupa bar is one of the best culinary deals in New York.

Raw Kale & Pork Cheek Salad
serves 4-6

1 small bunch lacinato (aka Dinosaur) kale
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 stalk celery, trimmed
1/4 lb guanciale*, cut into 1/4″ x 1″ batons
1/2 cup shredded dandelion greens, lamb’s quarters, or baby spinach washed and well dried
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste

Wash and trim the bottom inch of the kale. Set aside any large, woody leaves. Carefully trim away the stems from the more tender leaves and slice them along their ribbed lifelines into 1/2″-wide ribbons. You need about 3 cups, packed total. Reserve all remaining kale, including larger, woody leaves, for another use.

Put the kale in a big bowl and toss it with the lemon juice. Then spend a good minute or two massaging the juice into the leaves, distressing them slightly, but not so aggressively that you rip holes in them.

Slice the celery crosswise into thin little bits. Try for 1/8″ if possible. Mix them into the bowl of kale.

When ready to serve, put a handful of the kale on each person’s plate, making sure everyone gets some celery too. Your guests should be seated.

Place the batons of guanciale in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet, preferably something 6″ wide or less because you want the fat from the meat to build up. Turn the heat to medium and cook, agitating the pan, until it begins to brown.

Toss in the dandelion greens (watch for splattering) and chili flakes if using, and cook until the greens are frizzled, 10-20 seconds, stirring, and taking care not to burn the meat. Pull it off the heat, get a dry dishtowel and cradle the pan with it.

Carefully spoon a few drizzles of the mixture over each person’s plate. Tell them to toss it all around, and enjoy immediately.

*Guanciale is available online through Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor Michigan, Murray’s Cheese in NYC and other specialty meat retailers. If you can’t fine it, pancetta makes a close second.

(Pig map image via Zimmerman’s)

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
Last Week’s Posted Email: On Eating Light