Thursday, September 15, 2016

Return of a Classic - Prosciutto & Melon

"This is sooo good. Remember when prosciutto and melon was the first course at every wedding you went to for 10 years straight? " I hadn't really thought about it this way but my sister-in-law was absolutely right. I'd just served the most unimaginative starter ever. 

Was my cuisine dated? Was I a hack? All these thoughts crossed my mind as I set about putting an even bigger dent in the bottle of rose we'd been draining by the minute.  Thankfully it only took another bite of the paper-thin, velvety prosciutto against the sweetest and most fragrant Sugar Kiss Melon to come back to reality. Nah, I'm not a hack. This is beyond delicious.

Prosciutto & Melon, Photo: NK

And so it goes with the classics, t
hose easy dishes that enjoy great popularity, sometimes to their detriment, they're classic for a reason, but that's not an excuse to phone it in. When you're serving a starter thats simplicity has made it exceedingly popular, it's all about the execution. If you miss the mark there, you'll find yourself in lukewarm wedding banquet territory in the blink of an eye.

I'll give you an example: Pigs in a Blanket are everyone's favorite casual party bite. Even when they're bad, they're good, but how much better and more memorable are they when they're great? My philosophy is simple: if you're going to serve something that's been done to death, make sure it's the best they ever had, or close! To that end, here
 are a few great Pigs in a Blanket Recipes with a twist HERE and HERE.

As for the ubiquitous Prosciutto & Melon itself, it's actually a pretty classic and legit Italian starter, not just popular here in America. While you're feeling good about that, check out my easy tips on how to do this rightfully well-loved dish justice.

Prosciutto & Melon, How To:

Only the best. If you can, spend a little extra on the Imported Prosciutto. Here in America, we only see a few types consistently (San Daniele or di Parma, for example), but there are actually inumerable varieties of Italy's king of the cured meats. Secondly, do not, I repeat, do not attempt this dish if your Melon isn't perfectly ripe and gorgeous. We used Sugar Kiss Melon, which is like a Cantaloupe but smaller, because it's in-season now. If Honeydew is better, use that. And finally, if you can't find ripe Melon or the season is just off, serve something else. This dish only sings when each individual component is at its peak (that principle also happens to be the essence of fresh, simple Italian cuisine). 

Consider your format. Is your dish for a cocktail party, a sit down first course, a passable hors d'oeuvre?? Decide on how your presentation will best fit the needs of your guests. In other words, how will you cut your Melon? When served individually, Prosciutto and Melon will usually be presented as one large wedge of Cantaloupe with a ribbon of Prosciutto draped around it. In today's dish, we opted for a sharable platter of Melon cut quite small as you see above - two or three bites a piece, because our event was a casual Barbecue. For a cocktail party, throw the ingredients right on a stick

Don't forget plating.  So, so important and a key commandment here at Neurotic Kitchen! Good plating can make the difference between lazy and luxurious. Take your time with it, sketch it out even, and, please, don't forget to garnish. I always add something green to my Prosciutto and Melon, such as Mint (my favorite, pictured above), Italian Parsley, or baby Arugula. And I never serve this dish without sprinkling the assembled platter or plates with Lemon Juice and then garnishing with Lemon Wedges. Lemon just brings out the flavors even more. 

There you have it. Easy doesn't have to me uninspired. Buon appetito! 

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