An Italian mainstay, lardo is pork fat cured in spices and herbs. In Tuscan lore, it was made in marble tubs that allowed the lardo to breathe as it cured, resulting in a lusciously tender piece of salumi prime for enriching just about anything.
Evan Funke of Los Angeles’ Bucato makes a chopped lardo mousse he calls “pesto Modanese.” His riff on this Italian tradition includes walnuts, wildflower honey and black pepper. “Because lardo is pure fat and highly seasoned, one should pair it with ingredients that have body and a bit of acid,” Funke explains.
“You should be able to taste the product; it shouldn’t taste like cinnamon or bay leaves, it should taste like pig,” says Kevin Nashan, of St. Louis’ Sidney Street Cafe. Draping slivers of lardo over brûléed scallops, the chef showcases pig purism while balancing out the sweet, buttery bivalves with a salty component.
Inspired by his mother’s childhood lard sandwiches, Greg Baker of Tampa’s The Refinery cures lardo with black pepper, juniper and rosemary before puréeing it and splaying it on bread. “Grinding and whipping it improves the mental picture of a lard sandwich and makes for an awesome crostino with some sliced turnip and finishing salt,” he explains.
“Lardo is the perfect use for a product that you just can’t make yourself throw away,” says Will Fincher of Charleston’s The Obstinate Daughter. He cures fat for several months before spreading it over pizza or crostini.
Andrew Wiseheart has brought his love for lardo to his Austin restaurant, Gardner. “I love working with lardo because of its rich, decadent mouthfeel,” he says. At Gardner, he dices, freezes and blends lardo into a powder. When added to an okra dish with almonds and dill, Wiseheart says it amplifies the textural experience of the dish.