What is pastrami and how is it made

What is pastrami and how is it made

Pastrami is now a typically American specialty, still not widespread in Italy: we asked Cristina Bowerman to explain its secrets.

Its origins are to be found in the Middle Eastern and Turkish countryside, then in the Romanian ones, among the Jewish people and kosher butchers . We are talking about pastrami , a gastronomic specialty that has become a huge hit in America since it arrived in US cities, especially New York, with the migration of Romanian Jews in the second half of the 19th century.in the US, pastrami is served with rye bread, a veil of mustard and pickled gherkins You know the scene from Harry Met Sally in which Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm at the table of a   New York deli ? On his plate is a pastrami sandwich, now the most famous in history, which in the US they serve with rye bread, a veil of mustard and pickled gherkins. But what exactly is this pastrami? Nothing more than a piece of meat, generally the brisket of beef (but traditionally mutton or lamb are also used), left to rest in brine, possibly at room temperature for 1-2 weeks, covered with a mix of spices (mostly garlic, coriander, black pepper, cloves, mustard seeds), then smoked and steamed.


harry meet sally
harry meet sally


And in Italy? For some years now, pastrami has begun to appear on some local menus, but it has not yet experienced a real boom. A chef, already 4-5 years ago, had started studying this preparation, proposing it first at the Festa a Vico, and then on its menus. We refer to Cristina Bowerman , soul of Glass Hostaria , in Trastevere, and of Romeo Chef & Baker in the Prati district, in Rome. We asked you a few questions about this American specialty.


Cristina Bowerman
Cristina Bowerman


How did you discover pastrami?
“ While I was dedicating myself to fermentations, I started to get curious about the pastrami. I chose to study it and to avoid doing things superficially, I went to New York, where this preparation has developed strongly. There I got to enter 3 major kitchens specializing in pastrami. I’ve been to the Rub, on West 23rd, where the dish is influenced by some American cuisinesouth-central. At Katz’s Deli, on the other hand, you will find the more traditional preparation. But the place that really won me over was Dickinson’s Farmstand at Chelsea Market, where tradition is reflected in a more modern approach. In addition to the particular mixture of spices and a marinade that lasts 3 weeks, the peculiarity is that the pastrami is first smoked and then cooked; so the smoke does not become too aggressive “.

And then he decided to bring the pastrami to Italy.
“ Yes, but I decided to change it. After having learned the necessary knowledge and techniques, I tried to connect everything to the city where I work and to its gastronomic tradition; Roman cuisine, among other things, is innervated with Jewish influences. I studied the meat to start with and I decided to focus on the Roman tradition of the fifth quarter. Among the various cuts, the one that seemed best to me was the tongue “.


How do you make your own language pastrami?
“ I prepare the tongue with a marinade in which I add palm sugar, pink salt, ginger, bay leaf and garlic, to which I then add some toasted spices, black pepper, chilli, cloves, mustard seeds, coriander, juniper. After this stage, the tongue is vacuum-cooked at a low temperature. We serve it with mustard ice cream and a slightly exotic pickle in which I use radishes, white turnips, onions and ginger. Since the tongue has a very lean meat, I decided to accompany it with very thin slices of ciauscolo, which with its fatness makes everything softer and more velvety “.

And how does the public perceive this dish?
“ It was already very successful when I presented it at the Festa in Vico, 4 or 5 years ago. The tongue pastrami sandwich with pickled vegetables, ciauscolo sauce and mustard ice cream was the sandwich of the year for Gambero Rosso’s 2013 Street Food guide; and it’s the only sandwich I’ve never changed on Romeo’s menu. Let’s say that I managed to bring the Roman public closer to a preparation that until a few years ago was almost completely unknown “.

What would you combine it with?
“ I like to combine it with beer rather than wine. For an aperitif, the sparklingness of the Equilibrist of Birra del Borgo is perfect, a classic method beer, made with 50% of wine must and 50% of beer must. But also the Maledetta, always Birra del Borgo, with a soft and enveloping bitterness and a pleasantly spicy finish is an excellent match “

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