Scored some Niman Ranch guanciale this weekend at the 9th Street location of DiBruno Bros. For those of you not addicted to Molto Mario, guanciale is cured pig jowl. The Babbo website notes that "although the resulting meat is leaner than traditional pork pieces, it has a noticeably richer flavor. It is this richness, combined with a delicate porkiness, that ... distinguishes guanciale from the rest, making every dish that much more succulent."
I've been dying to give it a try for some time now, so I purchased a jowl, which weighed a little less than 1-1/2 lbs, @ $8.99/lb. While you can also purchase it by mail order, I tend to prefer physical shopping to virtual. But I did check the Niman Ranch website: $16.50 for a 27-oz. piece, or about $10/lb (+ min. $15 for FedEx shipping). So, it's a bargain.
I picked up some farm-fresh eggs at the Headhouse Sq. farmers market and made myself some carbonara. Boy, guanciale takes this dish to another level altogether. As opposed to pancetta (or bacon), the cubes fry up golden-crisp on the outside, encasing a porky-juicy pop on the inside. The contrast of the creaminess of the fresh eggs and ParmReg and the porkiness of the guanciale was really spectacular. One caveat: I didn't "clean" the pork of its salt crust prior to frying, thinking much of the salt would be discarded along with the rendered fat, but some guests found the dish too salty.
I hope Batali succeeds in his apparent goal -- like Julia Child and shallots -- to make guanciale an American staple. Sonny d'Angelo grudingly offered to cure me some this fall, though noting that there's little call for it. So if any pork 'Hounds are in the Market in the near future, stop by d'Angelo's and cast a vote for guanciale (he's currently offering a great pancetta).