Praise the Lard!

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The Mangalitsa pig (aka “wooly pig”) has come to Sacramento.
     Why should you care? In a nutshell, it’s all about the fat. We know it sounds unappetizing. But the meat of this celebrated Hungarian breed—an odd-looking creature that resembles a Brillo pad with hooves—has recently been served at some of the area’s top restaurants (Ella, The Kitchen, Grange and Mulvaney’s, to name a few), which tells you it’s no ordinary oinker.
     “The flavor is amazing. It’s beautiful meat,” swoons chef Patrick Mulvaney. “The fat is especially yummy.” At his midtown restaurant, he drizzles the rendered fat on asparagus and uses it to make empanada dough and bacon cheesecake.
      According to Corti Brothers store director Rick Mindermann, it was his boss, Darrell Corti, who introduced this culinary curiosity to the Sacramento scene. “We were the first in town to retail it in a grocery store, and we offered all the cuts, plus leaf lard, head cheese and scrapple,” Mindermann says. He was especially taken by the leaf lard, which comes from the fat around the animal’s kidneys and is the highest-quality lard you can buy. “It was quite amazing—silky, absolutely silky. It’s the absolute best lard to use in baking.”
     It’s the lard that makes the Mangalitsa (MON-go-leet-sa) stand apart, explains Mindermann. “Ninety percent of the pig breeds in the U.S. are meat breeds,” he says. But the Mangalitsa is a lard-type breed—an extreme lard-type breed, actually.
     Still squeamish? Maybe this will get you over the hump: Mangalitsa fat is high in oleic acid—the same monounsaturated fat found in heart-healthy olive oil. “If you’re going to eat fat,” says Mindermann, “this is the most healthful kind to eat.”
     Thin may be in. But for Mangalitsa lovers, fat is where it’s at.