Mike Philips started Red Table Meat Co. three years ago, after lots of time traveling the world studying and tasting cured meats from famous salumieres. Where do I sign up, right? Mike, who grew up in a rural farming community, was an award-winning chef and restaurant owner in the Twin Cities for decades, and from his dedication to local and sustainable agriculture rose Red Table Meat Co., located inside the Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis.
Pancetta is one of the award-winning salumis (yes, “salumi” the Italian word for dry-cured pork, that encompasses salami, pancetta, ham and various other mouthwatering treats) that Mike and the rest of the Red Table Meat team bring to the Mill City Farmers Market on Saturdays year-round. Closely related to bacon, pancetta is Italian-style cured pork belly. It is often served thinly sliced as a cold cut or in thick slabs that can be cubed and used to replace oil or butter in soups, pasta sauces, salads and risotto. Unlike its famous cousin bacon, pancetta isn’t smoked. It’s cured with salt, spices and other aromatics. Mike creates his pancetta from sustainably raised heritage-breed hogs from Minnesota, which he buys whole and butchers. The resulting pork belly is cured with peppercorns and rosemary and aged for four weeks. If you’re interested watching the process, the Food Building offers guided and self-guided tours every afternoon Tuesday through Friday. Learn more on its website: foodbuilding.com.
Mike, like so many farmers market vendors, loves to discuss his craft. You can get a chance to talk to Mike and the rest of his team at the upcoming Mill City Farmers Market winter markets on Saturday, March 11 and 25 inside the Mill City Museum (704 S. 2nd St.) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. At the market you can also pick up pancetta and the other local ingredients you need for this delicious creamy vegetable soup!
Creamy Vegetable Soup with Pancetta
By Mary Jane Miller
- 1 package Red Table Meat Co. pancetta, cubed into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups coarsely chopped seasonal vegetables (this time of year, I love to use winter squash and turnips)
- 1 Yukon gold or white potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable) or water
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a medium pot, cook pancetta over medium heat until fat is rendered. Remove pieces of cooked pancetta and set aside. Add onion and garlic. Stir to coat with fat. Add salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened but not brown, about 3 minutes.
Add potatoes and broth. Note: If your vegetables are hard and need more time to cook (like squash or other root vegetables), add them here. If they are tender (like zucchini, tomatoes or broccoli) add them for the last 5 to 7 minutes of cooking. Bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until potatoes and other vegetables are very tender.
Add milk and pepper. Use an immersion blender to puree soup until very smooth. If you use a standard blender, blend it in batches and remove center plug from lid. Cover top with kitchen towel as hot soup can spurt out while blending.
Spoon into bowls and serve topped with a dollop of sour cream, croutons, popcorn, drizzles of olive oil, slivers of vegetables and/or chopped herbs, and, of course, the cooked pancetta.