Pastrami-Spiced Duck Rillette on Caraway Toast at The Square ($10)
The Inspiration: “I’m not a pastrami sandwich guy,” confesses Matt McNamara, who, along with Teague Moriarity, co-runs Sons & Daughters, Sweet Woodruff and their new North Beach gathering spot, The Square, “but there’s something about pastrami’s flavor that sparks memories for me.” The distinctive, bold spice mixture of fragrant coriander, cinnamon, paprika, cloves and all-spice instantly takes him back to his childhood, eating the Cincinnati-style chili at the Skyline Chili diner in Cleveland with his parents.
The Technique: Ever since McNamara tried a “pastrami-cured” tuna at Le Bernardin in Manhattan that “blew his mind,” he’s obsessed about re-creating that evocative flavor. His answer, at The Square, is a pastrami-spiced pork rillette appetizer, for which he first cooks pork shoulder in confit, then mixes in traditional pastrami spices and finally blends the meat into a spread.
The Twist: The final dish features a ramekin of the pork rillete garnished with sliced cornichons and dabs of tangy French mustard, served with housemade caraway toasts that mimic the flavor of rye bread. We like to think of it as a deconstructed pastrami sandwich.
Why It's a Bacon Threat: Pastrami’s potent flavor profile is so distinct and aromatic, it allows the chef to trigger vivid, sensory childhood memories in dinner guests. Newfangled flavor combinations, concedes McNamara, simply don’t have that same kind of power.