Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pantry Perennials: Pepperoni

Yes, it's the ubiquitous pizza meat, which I find funny since 1) I don't make pizzas at home and 2) I hardly order pepperoni on my pizzas (meatwise, I'd much rather have my pies topped with sausages, bacon and ground beef, and the occasional ham/Canadian bacon if I'm feeling "Hawaiian".)

But I keep sliced pepperoni around because it's such a versatile, multi-tasking ingredient, since it contributes:
    pepperoni
  • Oil: Instead of vegetable oil or butter, I sometimes begin my stir-frys and saut├ęs by throwing a few snipped slices of pepperoni on the skillet and wait for that brilliantly orange-red, spice-infused oil to leach out within a minute. I then take the pepperoni out and have vibrantly-flavorful cooking oil to start with.
  • Seasoning: for similar reasons to the oil, I will regularly add pepperoni at the end of cooking a dish to do double duty of adding saltiness & spiciness at once. And just like extracting the oil, it doesn't take long for the dish to be boosted with the meat's flavors.
  • Texture: pepperoni slices crisps up quickly and wonderfully, and it makes for a delightful change of pace from other crunchy toppings (breadcrumbs, frizzled onions, and heaven forbid-- Bac-O Bits, which I just found out don't even contain any animal products.)
While I can go on and on about my uses for pepperoni -- currently, my favorite is to crisp up pepperoni slices on the skillet & crumble it and using the spicy oil for a vinaigrette, making for a fantastic dressing & topper for a salad. Or, when I want a near-instant snack, crisp up the pepperoni and use the oil to grill a slice of bread and eat both with some olives or pickles.

Although I do rotate between a few brands, Fresh & Easy's is one of my regular go-tos. The flavor is great (just salty, spicy & complex enough), and I appreciate its lack of nitrates & unnecessary chemical gnarlyness. I also like its larger-than-norm slices (which I can snip down if I need to), and at 60 calories per 1 oz serving & priced at $3.49 - it's not a bad deal for the wallet or waistline either.

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