Like many foods we grew up with and take for granted, I have somehow overlooked until now the humble fried bits of pork we use in Kea as general flavoring for greens and any vegetable or bean dish. It is prepared each winter with leftover scraps of pork and fat, after the traditional slaughtering and butchering of the family pig. In the old days, the bits were heavily salted so that they wouldn’t spoil as they were stored in clay jars, to be used throughout the year. Costas calls paspalas ‘the Kea bacon,’ but unlike bacon it is not smoked and it is already fried when you use it to flavor eggs and other dishes.
The importance of this rustic flavoring became apparent when I prepared it in the kitchen of Zaytinya—Jose Andres’ Greek and Middle Eastern restaurant, in Washington DC. Last month we were trying traditional winter dishes from Kea and other Cycladic islands, for a pork and xinomavro wine feast, and Chef Michael Costa was immediately taken by paspalas’ intense and versatile flavor. We made several batches, using pieces of locally grown pork that the chef and his sous-chefs butchered in the kitchen. Besides the Kean scrambled eggs–also called ‘paspalas’ –we filled jars with the pork confit for future use. Bonnie Benwick, from the Washington Post got enamored with it, as well as with the eponymous scrambled eggs from Kea, that she made the dish famous in her column! (more…)