Whether you’re a fan of the European travel, a lover of cross-culture cookbooks, or just an avid consumer of all television programs a la Anthony Bourdain, you’re probably hip to the love affair that the Mediterranean Europe has with one particular culinary crew: dry-cured meats.
From prosciutto, to soppressata, to jamón serano and beyond, Spain, Italy and France are particularly in love with dry-cured meats. And for good reason! Commonly served as an accompaniment to or star-player in a variety of arenas, dry-cured meats can quickly jazz up a pasta dish, add more oomph to a salad, or easily pull together a cheese board into a complete meal.
“When I went to study abroad in Barcelona, I was shocked and also psyched to discover that an entire bone-in, dry-cured ham called jamón iberico was a fixture on the counter of my host mother’s kitchen,” Maddie said. “Wanting to start off my semester of eating and drinking abroad with something skinny—you know, to set a very hopeful tone for the following five months—one of the very first meals I had when I arrived in Barcelona was a cantaloupe and jamón salad. I was in love with the contrast between super-salty ham and cool-sweet melon.”
Similar dishes are likely to be found on the menu of a small Italian restaurant, or might be scribbled on the specials board at any of Nashville’s recent farm-to-table luncheries that seem to be popping up all over…but is it snotty to say that this classic cantaloupe and prosciutto combo is just a little bit tired and outdated? That it feels kind of been-there-done-that? Is it mean to say that we adore the idea, but we just want to make it better?
Watermelon & Surryano Salad
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 as main; 6-8 as side
½ seedless, baby watermelon (we like Delvin Farms watermelons)
16 thin slices Surryano ham*
4 cups fresh arugula
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
fresh garden herbs, to taste (we like tarragon)
1-2 Tbs. KYBB Woodford sorghum vinaigrette
1 pinch PRB hot chicken seasoning**
- Cut watermelon in half. Save half for making delicious cocktails or other eating, or gift it to your next-door neighbor. They’ll love you for it. Cut off the entire rind removing everything green and white, so that only pink flesh is exposed. With the cut-side down, cut watermelon in half again, and then slicing width-wise, thinly slice each piece into triangles. Transfer to serving platter, shingling then on top of one another down the plate.
- Drape half of the Surryano (about eight pieces) across the watermelon shingles, from left to right.
- In a large bowl, mix together arugula, red onion, garden herbs, salt, pepper, and Woodford sorghum vinaigrette. Pile salad on top of watermelon and Surryano so the salad adds plenty of height to the dish. Drape the remaining Surryano across the salad. You could also mix it into the salad, if you prefer. Note: if you won’t be serving the salad immediately, wait until you are ready to serve before you dress the salad to prevent it from wilting.
- Sprinkle a generous pinch of PRB’s hot chicken seasoning across the top of the salad.
- Serve immediately.
* Virginia-bred Surryano ham, an incredibly marbled piece of meat that is created from heritage-breed Berkshire hogs, has a deep and rich flavor that nicely matches up to the hams of yesteryear from old Europe. If you’ve yet to try it, now’s the time.
**If you don’t have Hot Chicken Seasoning and don’t want to buy a whole jar, try substituting for your favorite spicy blend, or even use a pinch of plain cayenne. Any kind of spicy zing will be a nice addition.