Bacon and Watermelon
The classical combination of prosciutto and melon is an overwhelmingly pleasurable and seductive treat that has been tantalizing taste buds for centuries. Watermelon is undoubtedly the iconic summer melon in the United States. In this preparation, the technique of compression- placing an item in a cryovac bag with a flavorful liquid and/or herbs and spices and removing the oxygen- is utilized to transform the watermelon in flavor and texture. When watermelon is vacuum sealed in a cryovac bag, its texture becomes incredibly moist and dense, and its appearance obtains an alluring level of translucence. Take that same watermelon and add watermelon juice along with bacon fat to the bag and all of that flavor is instantly injected into the compressed fruit, intensifying the melon flavor and enriching its character with an accent of bacon. In order to bring further interest to the overall dish, the melon will be smoked briefly in order to take on that adoring quality we cherish in high quality bacon. Fresh watermelon juice and lime juice is heated up with a seaweed based hydrocolloid called agar agar. The agar causes the liquid base to set into a solid when completely cooled down. This solid mixture of watermelon and lime juice is then blended with fresh watermelon juice, thereby creating an incredibly smooth and luxurious concoction referred to as a fluid gel. The fluid gel carries with it the bright melon and lime flavors and obtains a beautifully glossy appearance.
Bacon is a delightfully decadent treat that is always better when produced by the chef, allowing for maximum specification and control of flavor profiles. Curing a pork belly for smoking is as simple as mixing salt, sugar, curing salt- such as Instacure, and whichever spices or herbs are relevant to the desired result of the dish. In this case salt, sugar, juniper, star anise, cinnamon, instacure, rosemary, and oregano are used to cover the pork belly for four days before allowing to air dry for an additional day before smoking. The pork belly is smoked, using Applewood chips at 200 degrees Farenheight for approximately two hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. The fresh bacon should be cooled to a safe temperature, below 41 degrees Farenheight internal temperature before being sliced and cooked for consumption. Some of the bacon is cut into half inch thick cubes to be slowly rendered until crispy on the outside and pleasantly chewy within. As an additional textural element, some bacon is sliced thinly and baked until completely crunchy and fairly dry. This will be ground up in a Robot Coupe or food processer until a powdery texture is achieved. These crumbs are then dried until they become fine enough to serve as a breading. The compressed watermelon cubes are then dipped into the bacon crumble to perfectly coat the outside surfaces. Once sliced into the incredibly gorgeous interior of the watermelon will be exposed and its enriched texture will be enhanced further with the bacon crust.
Ricotta salata cheese is an aged dry version of the beloved fresh ricotta we are all very familiar with. Similar to Feta- which would be too strong and overpowering in this preparation- the ricotta salata will be lightly brined in a solution of water, watermelon juice, red wine vinegar and salt to enhance its relatively mild flavor. Upping the ante as well as the flavor impact of the ingredient, it will also be briefly cold smoked to carry on the smoke element in the dish without melting the cheese.
Fresh basil is the perfect bright and fragrant herb, used in savory and sweet preparations alike, to tie together the components of this remarkable salad. Blanched until deep green, shocked immediately in ice water, the basil is blended with a touch of canola oil to create a beautiful basil oil that will be drizzled lovingly over the finished salad. Finally, fresh basil is carefully sliced in a chiffonade and scattered sparingly over the dish. This salad not only respects the tradition of prosciutto and melon, but showcases the incredible efforts put into each component of the salad, in order to elevate the whole salad experience.