In my last post I discussed sidemeat — salt pork — which is probably outside of your regular diet if you live outside the South. Even if you live in the South, you probably only use side meat to season vegetables. (Traditional Southern vegetables are rarely vegetarian.) How many of you have had side meat as an independent dish? Okay, how many who are under 70? Just as I thought.
But side meat does have another dimension beyond seasoning vegetables — streak o’ lean. Streak o’ lean is deep fried side meat. And side meat is just really fatty bacon — fat with a streak of lean — that has been cured with salt rather than with smoke.
Making steak o’ lean is pretty straightforward. Buy a piece of salt pork — you won’t need much — and slice it into thin pieces, say, one eight of an inch. You probably want to soak the slices in buttermilk for an hour or three to leach out some of the salt. Pat each piece dry. Some people dust each piece very lightly with flour. Add several grinds of pepper to each piece. Add a quarter inch of peanut or vegetable oil to your heated cast iron skillet. When the oil is hot, carefully lay each slice of salt pork in the oil and cook for maybe three or so minutes on each side, until they’re lightly browned. Remove them from the pan when done and place them on a plate with paper towels to drain.