ften referred to as “French pancetta”, Ventrèche (prounounced vahn tresh), is an unsmoked, salt-cured bacon from the Gascony region of Southwest France. Ventrèche is made from pork belly (ventre means belly in French) that has been rubbed with salt, spices and garlic before hanging to dry. It can be kept in slab form so that the fat is mostly on one side or rolled tightly into a log so that the fat and muscle spiral around each other evenly, which is how we offer it at D’Artagnan.
Our hand-crafted ventrèche is gently flavored with finely ground black peppercorns and garlic before being dry-cured. D’Artagnan ventrèche has a thin plastic casing, which gives the bacon a uniform shape while curing and the outer skin supple and fresh until you’re ready to cut the plastic away. Our ventrèche can be refrigerated for up to 30 days, making it easy to use as you wish in a variety of recipes throughout the month.
Very Versatile Ventrèche
As with most bacons, richly marbled ventrèche fries up crisp and has a delectable, salty bite. It lends a distinctive, rich pork flavor to your dishes without the added, often over-powering smoke of American bacon. It’s sometimes added to a daube, casserole, civet, or soup for extra depth of flavor and richness. It’s also a prime component in Gascony-style cassoulet, traditional Coq au Vin and is sometimes sliced paper thin and used for wrapping small game birds, like quail or squab. For most applications, it’s sliced into disks or cut into lardons then sautéed or diced and rendered. If rendering, save the fat. It’s a wonderful, full-flavored oil for sautéing onions, garlic or vegetables and makes a delicious base for a warm salad dressing. Ventrèche can be also used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for pancetta, guanciale or slab bacon.
Here are some tips and ideas for using D’Artagnan ventrèche:
- A simple (and addicting) salad… Cut ventrèche into lardons, sauté until crisp and drain on paper toweling. Into the warm rendered fat, stir a bit of your favorite vinegar and season with course salt & pepper. Toss the dressing with crisp frisée or another bitter green. Top with the lardons and a soft-poached egg. Serve with fresh baguette or Duck Fat Croutons.
- Sliced thin and griddled, ventrèche makes a delectable breakfast meat. Serve it crisped, alongside eggs and potatoes or as a substitute for Canadian bacon in a classic Eggs Benedict.
- Use a whole ventrèche to flavor soups, stocks and beans.
- Throw a handful of diced, rendered ventrèche into the warm pasta of your choice with a splash of pasta water and some halved grape tomatoes. Top with grated parmesan cheese and toasted breadcrumbs. Some fresh torn basil leaves, a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and glass of your favorite red wine complete the meal.