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Nduja (in-DOO-yah) is a spreadable Italian salami. It comes from the Calabria region and is not for the faint of heart. It's cousin, andouille, is not so fierce. It's a secret ingredient in my chili and I sometimes use a bit to spice up tomato soup, beef stew, spaghetti sauce, and even pizza sauce. A little tiny bit goes a very long way for me so rather than buying it and wasting most of it, I tend to make it myself as I need it. That does take a bit of pre-planning as it can take a day or two to make

. Here's my recipe for a very quick nduja:

Speedy Ndudja

1/4 pound finely chopped fatty bacon (I prefer either apple wood or
1 ounce finely chopped pork shoulder
1 tablespoon ground red chile, hot (I like using hot smoked paprika mixed with pepperoncini, so you can use the pepper combination of your choice)
2 teaspoons sea salt

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl. Place the mixture in an old-fashioned meat grinder and process through a fine die. You can also use a food processor, but use the pulse mode so that you don't over process or overheat the mixture. It should be the consistency of a very thick pate, or perhaps a slightly warm cream cheese, and orange in color. Let it rest for a couple of hours to absorb the pepper into the meat.

For an extra kick and some serious flavor creds, at this point you can stuff the paste into a small casing and smoke it - with hickory or apple wood for a complimentary flavor, if you want, or pecan or mesquite to sweeten it a bit. You can smoke small amounts in a wok on the stove top (that's how I smoke my salts).

Yield: About 3/4 cup

For the heat lover, this can be scooped out and spread on crackers or bread or even tortilla chips. Otherwise, it can be used to add some heat and flavor and depth to pasta sauces, stews, pizza, soups, nachos, burritos, refried beans, chili, or even bruschetta. One way to add it to a stew is to chop some bell peppers, onions, garlic, and carrot, sauté those in a bit of olive oil or butter, and stir in a teaspoonful of nduja at a time, then add the mirepoix to the stew of your choice (or chili).

If it's truly too hot for you (as it is for me!) you can cool it by adding it to cream cheese to achieve the desired heat level, then use it from there. Some people think nduja and cream cheese together make an excellent bread spread or dip.

If you have time to make nduja, it's a great appetizer/seasoning for Thanksgiving dinner.

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