AN ITALIAN EXPERIENCE - FOOD - Secondi
LAMB, SPRING IN EGG SAUCE
Known as Abbacchio Brodettato, this is a specialty in early spring, or if you are Roman, you can also serve this at Christmas time. it is extraordinary. Use only the tenderest young lamb.
Sprinkle the meat with the wine, and once it has evaporated, add enough boiling water to almost cover the meat. Cover and continue simmering, checking every now and again to make sure the water hasn't completely evaporated. You donČt want the sauce too liquid, but rather thick and flavorful.
A few minutes before the meat is done (it should be fork tender), beat the yolks with the minced herbs and the lemon juice. Reduce the heat to a bare minimum and pour the yolk mixture over the meat. Turn everything, gently until the yolks thicken; the low heat is necessary because you want the sauce to be velvety, not to contain shreds of cooked egg.
Serve at once.
Note: The cooking time depends on the quality of the meat. Plan for at least an hour, and perhaps two.
Osso Buco (veal bone with a hole) are braised veal shanks; my version includes anchovy-spiced gremolata.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Use a large, heavy and deep pan with a heavy bottom, or use 2 pots if you can't fit the veal in a single layer, adding 1 extra Tbsp. of butter for each pot.
Melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter, add the onion, celery and carrot and saute over medium-low heat for two or three minutes, then add the pancetta, continuing to cook mixture for about ten minutes more until vegetables are fairly translucent and the pancetta is cooked. Add the strips of lemon peel and garlic and cook another 2 or 3 minutes until mixture is wilted. Remove the pancetta mixture with a slotted spoon and set it aside, leaving any butter residue in the pan.
Put the pan back on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Dry the veal shanks with paper towels, adding salt and pepper. Turn the veal shanks in the flour, coating them all over and shaking off the excess.
*Note: do not coat the veal far in advance, for the mixture will become soggy and prevent the veal from becoming crispy.
When the temperature is quite hot, add the veal to the pan and brown the pieces on all sides over medium-high heat in the onion and prosciutto-flavored butter until golden, 6-7 minutes. Add the cognac to the pan and carefully set a match to it, vaporizing the alcohol. Pour in the wine and cook over medium heat until only 2-3 Tbsp. of the liquid are left. Remove the veal with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Return the vegetable mixture to the bottom of the pot, then the veal pieces, arranging the veal pieces side-by-side, standing upright with their marrow openings on top. Add the broth and tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, pepper and salt. The broth should have come approximately 2/3 of the way up the side of the shanks. If it does not, add more liquid.
Bring the liquids to a simmer, cover the pot tightly and put in the lower part of a preheated oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the veal is tender when a fork pierces the meat and a dense creamy sauce has formed. Baste every twenty minutes or so. If the mixture becomes dry, add a few tablespoons at a time of heated beef broth, as needed.
While the veal is cooking, make the gremolata by chopping together the lemon zest, orange zest, parsley and anchovies. Add the 2 tbsp. remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and mix with a mortar and pestle to turn it into a kind of paste.
Approximately thirty minutes before serving, turn the temperature off, add the gremolata mixture, mix it in with the juices and veal pieces and cover for 1/2 hour. Then reheat gently and serve.
aka Sweet and Sour Sole,
aka Sogliole in Saor
This is one of Venice's signature dishes. The method of smothering the fish in vinegar and onions was first used by sailors to fight scurvy and preserve the food for long trips at sea.
Rinse fish and pat dry. Season both sides of fillets with salt, then dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
In a large skillet, heat 1/2 inch olive oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. In batches, fry fish in a single layer until just opaque in center and lightly golden, about 2 minutes per side (when turning carefully turn fillets away from, not toward you). Transfer to prepared baking sheet to drain. Discard oil carefully.
Combine 1/2 cup oil and onion in a fresh skillet; cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened (do not brown). Add vinegar, bring to a gentle simmer and cook 3 minutes. Add nuts and raisins, reduce to a bare simmer and cook 5 minutes more.
Transfer fish to a deep serving dish or baking dish with fish in one layer, and cover with onion raisin mixture (saor). Let cool completely, then chill, covered, several hours or 1 day to allow fish to take on flavor of saor. Before serving, bring to room temperature and sprinkle with parsley.
Thanks to La Cucina Italiana. We've somewhat adapted the recipe to suit our taste.
SAUSAGES WITH GRAPES
This is from Artusi's The Art of Eating Well, the bible of Italian cooking, passed down from generation to generation for more than one hundred years. It is very simple.
Take sausages, fork them here and there to let their juices explode when they cook, then sauté them in a pan. When they are almost cooked, add grapes. Continue to cook until the grapes are wilted, about five minutes more. The gravy is especially divine.
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. In a bowl, mix together tomatoes, stock, garlic, 3 Tbsp. parsley, rosemary and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in a medium sized Dutch oven. Brown the ribs on all sides over medium heat, sprinkling with pepper.
4. Add onion and optional carrots to the pan and cook for 3 minutes while stirring. Pour the wine into the pan over the ribs and onion, bring it to a boil, scraping up any brown bits.
5. Pour the reserved tomato mixture over the rib mixture and stir well. Cover the pan and bake 2 1/2 hours. Baste two or three times while it is cooking.
6. Remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes. 7. Serve the ribs topped with the thick tomato-onion sauce, sprinkling with the remaining Tablespoon parsley.
FISH, BAKED WITH POTATOES AND OLIVES
I use persico, which is perch, but any firm-fleshed fish will work well.
Wash the potatoes in cold water, then pat them dry with towels. Put the potatoes into 1/4 cup of olive oil in a pan, half the garlic, half the parsley, salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes to coat them well, then spread them evenly over the bottom of the dish.
Put the potatoes in the 450°F oven and roast them for 15 minutes in the upper third of the oven, until they are halfway done.
Take out the dish, but do not turn off the oven. Remove the slices of garlic. Transfer the potatoes to a temporary dish. Mix the remaining olive oil, garlic and anchovies in the dish, swirling the anchovies around until they become more of a paste. Add the tomatoes and parsley and olives and mix well.
Put the fish fillets on top of the tomato mixture skin side down. Spread the potatoes over the fish and tomatoes and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little extra olive oil on top of the potatoes, and return the dish to the oven.
After about ten minutes, take the dish out of the oven again, and baste the olive oil mixture that has dropped to the bottom of the pan over the tomatoes, loosening those potatoes that have turned brown and stick to the side of the dish.
Return the dish to the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish fillets.
Remove the dish from the oven and allow it to settle for five minutes. Serve directly from the baking dish, and pour some of the juices over the each portion of the fish and potatoes.
PEPOSO - BEEF, PEPPERY STEW - PEPOSO
Thanks to about.com for this recipe and story:
Peposo is a specialty of Impruneta, a town near Florence that's famous for its terracottas. The stew is a fiery exception to the rule that Tuscan cooking is bland, and is also one of the few dishes to have provoked a general strike. According to legend, Brunelleschi tried some while he was scouting tilemakers for the roof of the Duomo. He loved it, and asked the cook to come to Florence, with a boy agile enough to climb the scaffolding to deliver bowls of stew to the workers building the cathedral (this way they wouldn't loose time climbing down, going elsewhere to buy food, and climbing back up). Brunelleschi's workers went on strike to get their lunch hour back. Had he merely asked the cook to set up a catering stand, the idea would have been a smashing success.
Let the mixture cook for ten minutes, then add the wine and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the peposo for at least two hours, adding boiling water or broth as necessary to keep it from drying out completely and burning.
When the peposo's almost done (the sauce should be thick), toast the slices of bread and rub them with the other clove of garlic, then put them in a deep serving dish. A few minutes before removing the peposo from the fire, stir in the remaining ground pepper. Carefully pour the peposo over the bread and serve.
ARROSTO MORTO di POLLO ALLA BOLOGNESE - BOLOGNESE CHICKEN POT ROAST
Thanks to Kyle Phillips at about.com, who translated the famous Artusi book and provided this recipe:
"Artusi gives a number of recipes for making an arrosto morto in his Scienza in Cucina e LČArte di Mangia Bene... This Bolognese chicken arrosto morto is somewhat different from the other arrosti he lists."
Remove it and simmer three or four diced potatoes in the sauce until they're done, then return the chicken to the pot to heat it through and serve it with the potatoes.
Note: I think I'd cut up the chicken, rather than leaving it whole.
POLLO ALLA GRIGLIA - GRILLED CHICKEN
Strip the leaves from 6 inches of the sprig of rosemary and mince them with the sage, salt and garlic. Once the mixture is reduced to a paste, add a little bit of ground pepper to it, stir half the oil into it, and rub it into the chicken. Let the chicken marinate for an hour or so. In the mean time, build a hot fire in your barbecue.
Place the chicken on a rack about 8 inches above the coals and grill it, turning it often and basting it with the remaining olive oil. Once the bird has shed the grease under its skin the coals will stop flaming up. (Lift the bird out of the way of the flames if need be to avoid getting charred.) Lower it to about 6 inches above the coals. It may take an hour or slightly more to cook, and will be done when the meat begins to pull up along the drumsticks and the juices run clear if you insert a skewer into the hip joint.
Combine the tuna, lemon juice and anchovies in a food processor. Turn it on and add the olive oil through the spout until it is smooth and the sauce reaches the proper consistency. Stir in the capers, or save them to sprinkle on the top after serving.
Assemble the chicken with the lemon slices on a platter. Serve the sauce separately. This dish can be made well in advance and kept wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or in sealed containers and refrigerated until ready to serve.
The next day place the meat in a Dutch oven. Strain the wine and add it to the meat, then add enough water to cover. Lightly salt the pot and simmer the meat for an hour.
In the meantime, wash, scale and bone the anchovies. When the hour is up add them to the pot and continue boiling for another half hour. The liquid should be reduced by half.
Hard boil the eggs, run them under cold water, peel them, and extract the yolks (you can discard or fill the whites as you prefer). Rinse, squeeze dry, and mince the capers.
When the meat is fork-tender remove it from the pot and strain the broth into a bowl.
Transfer the fish filets to a clean strainer and press them through it, together with the tuna and the yolks, into another bowl. Stir in the minced capers, the vinegar, the lemon juice and the olive oil, and then dilute the sauce to your taste with some of the reserved broth.
When the veal has cooled slice it finely and lay the slices out on one or more platters. The veal should all be on one layer. Spread the sauce over the veal, garnish the platters with the lemon slices, capers and parsley. Cover them with plastic wrap and chill them in the refrigerator before serving.