Thanks to the Great Protein Obsession of the 90s, my school lunchbox was often packed with string cheese, beef jerky and (unrelated to the protein thing) snack bars. I got a little burnt out on dehydrated meat, but — thanks to Paleo, etc. — jerky is having something of a resurgence, and it has gotten fancy.
Beef and turkey are still the most common, but the flavours (such as habanero-peach) have gotten gourmand. The proteins have also broadened in scope. Salmon jerky isn’t new, but there’s more of it, and pork providers are now in on the game, offering both “bacon” and “carnitas” jerky.
These high-quality sheets and sticks of dried meat still make excellent snacks, but they also make an excellent grated topping for salads, pasta, grilled vegetables, and almost any other savoury thing you could think of (like devilled eggs).
It’s sort of like a bespoke bacon bit — but there are different meats involved — with almost infinite applications. Smoky, spicy carnitas jerky is very good on a salad. Sweet and tangy teriyaki beef is fun on ramen noodles. Buffalo turkey jerky longs for macaroni and cheese.
Salmon jerky is basically dirtbag bottarga; try it on a pile of pasta with some garlic and olive oil. Breakfast-wise, every variety is good on eggs, be they boiled, scrambled, or fried, and I’m pretty obsessed with bacon jerky on grits.
Just grab a piece of jerky and rub it (perpendicularly) on a microplane over whatever savoury treat you’re about to enjoy. If anyone asks, you can call it “artisanal cured meat shavings,” which sounds like a thing that is fancy and also real.