Happy 4th of July! Nothing seems more fitting than talking about a Romanian meat delicacy on a day where brats, hot dogs, and hamburgers are consumed in mass quantities! (I’m right there with you. I expect at least one of each later today.)
There are some things I don’t have the means (or, let’s face it, the skillz) to create. But, thankfully, I can look to my grandfather, who has been making these Romanian recipes for decades, to provide me with my quarterly fix of some of these items. One of those is the equivalent of bacon, but we call it clisa (pronounced klee-sa).
As is with many smoked Romanian meats, clisa is a pork product, made from the abdominal area or the back of a pig, and tends to be more gras (fat) than meat. It’s cured and smoked, and then ready to eat! Or, if you’re like me, you stock up on your pieces of clisa so you never run out. Since it’s cured, it can be stored in your refrigerator or freezer for quite a while.
It’s like an ingot of gold to a Romanian.
Or, at least, to me.
These pieces are a little thick for straight-up eating. I prefer it a bit more shaved than sliced, however this is the perfect cut for fire roasting—read on 😉
There never has to be a reason to break out the clisa and indulge. And it really is an indulgement. Because of the fat-to-meat ratio, which sometimes doesn’t even exist, you can’t have a lot of clisa. The fat + salt = a decadent treat (and yes, I know that’s typically how dessert is described, but this is just as good as dessert to a Romanian). Every once in a while, I’ll pull it out and shave off a few slices, usually with my dog by my side hoping for a piece or two.
I use it a lot as a bacon replacement in recipes, or to give my morning eggs a smokey meaty flavor in the morning.
But, what really makes clisa sparkle is a summer bonfire. I have the best memories of sitting around a flickering and popping bonfire, fireflies and stars overhead, and good company all around, with a hefty cutting of clisa roasting over the fire. Sure, the fat itself is delicious after its been licked by the flames, but what we’re really looking for is the drippings. While the clisa is heating, you’d hold a piece of crusty, likely homemade bread just below to catch all the fatty drippings before they escape.
That’s really the best part.
This is one part of Romania I wish I could more easily share with you in the form of a recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m capable enough to make it, or explain how to make it well enough for someone else to replicate. If you’re looking for something similar, I’d say an Italian prosciutto is close, especially if you were to shave the clisa thin. But it’s still not exactly the same. Prosciutto has a consistent balance of fat to meat, but clisa can vary, and oftentimes has more fat than meat.
I know I say a lot of Romanian things are my favorite, but when you have three or four pieces chilling in your fridge, I think it’s safe to say that is really my favorite, right?
What do you think? It’s a little out there in terms of foods to snack on, but would you give clisa a try?
Let me know in the comments!