Last winter, I tried my hand at making guanciale, considered the easiest of all homemade cured meats. I wrote about my fumbling attempts for this week's Food section, beginning to end, from cutting up the hog jowls to preparing the lamb ragu braised with a good half-pound of my basement-aged guanciale.
Enzo Fargione, chef and proprietor of Osteria Elisir, supplied the recipe for the lamb ragu as a sort of sneak preview to his forthcoming cookbook, "Visual Eats: A Behind the Scenes Look at Modern Italian Cooking," scheduled for release this fall by Keith Publications. In the headnote to the recipe, Fargione writes:
The lamb ragu idea came about when one day I mistakenly overcooked a leg of lamb: My sous chef and I were having a late lunch feasting on double-cooked pork from a nearby Chinese restaurant and completely forgot about the leg cooking in the oven. I had no idea what to do with an almost-well-done leg of lamb other than possibly make a filling for stuffed pasta, when it suddenly hit me: Why not double-cook the lamb in a similar way of the Chinese pork I just ate?
The recipe itself is almost fool-proof. You could prepare it at home with little worry about overcooking the meat (since it's already overcooked), but you could also just make it easy on yourself: Fargione will be giving away free tastings of his lamb ragu at Osteria Elisir from Wednesday through Oct. 9. The only requirement for the free sample is that you stay for lunch or dinner. (Tom Sietsema gave the casual Osteria Elisir two and a half stars when he reassessed the rebranded restaurant earlier this year.)
Fargione will serve up, gratis, a half-portion of his cavatelli with lamb ragu to anyone who says they have read the guanciale story — or say they just want to try the dish. The ragu will also be available for takeout in 12-ounce ($12, serves 3 to 4 people) and 24-ounce containers ($24, serves 6 to 8 people).
The dish will eventually make its way onto the full menu this fall, when Fargione also hopes to have a new general manager and chef de cuisine in place following his former pair's departure this summer.