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Posts posted by Pontormo

  1. The big splurge: fresh porcini and charterelles from -- iirc -- Mother Earth her own self.

    Name is Feriel, most likely, unless she's doing the big Baltimore market and sent one of her assistants to a market founded by Nina Planck's mother. The former, known by many as The Mushroom Lady is quite a character: warm, fiercely political and a sucker for children. The chanterelles might have been foraged locally or possibly cultivated in Southern PA. No local porcini, though.
  2. From what I recall, Rick Bayless was more patronizing in his endorsement of a "healthier" new line of low-fat chicken sandwiches at Burger King than hypocritical. Definitely compromising his principles, but out of the belief that if the American public was going to eat fast food, at least he could steer them toward a menu item that wasn't packed with grease, fat, processed cheese, etc. and didn't cry out for an accompaniment of fries.

    Not sure what the historical sequence was: Oprah sued after vowing not to eat beef again, Bayless's commercial and the rise of the McNugget, but wasn't our hero's endorsement at a time when hamburgers were the overwhelming choice of the American public? Certainly, Jared wasn't even a twinkle in Subway's eye, Michael Pollan was writing about letting your lawn grow wild and The Naked Chef wasn't telling kids how gross processed chicken is. So, no one was questioning how humanely raised or "natural" the animal protein was, but some were worried about red meat and cholesterol.

    In any respect, the flack from a misguided appeal to the masses clearly embarrassed the guy (I remember being outraged) and he did try to make amends.

    Now, the person who really owes the American public an apology for food endorsements is Doctor William H. Cosby, Jr. Granted, he's not a culinary professional. However, he's all about the kids. Shouldn't he be as concerned about their bodies as he is about their emotional well-being?

    Someone should send him to a famous organic garden south of Philadelphia where he could hold a press conference and apologize for all those Jell-O ads.


    4 servings

    12 g Carnaroli rice

    12 g Basmati rice

    200 g Vegetable stock ["broth" is literal translation]

    300 g Cream [see note below]

    4 g Instant coffee, divided into 4 equal portions of 1 g each

    40 g Sea urchins; weight of edible contents

    Extra virgin olive oil (light or subtle, e.g. from Liguria or Garda district)

    Pour both liquids into a saucepan with all the rice, then bring contents to boil. Allow them to cook for around 15 minutes, checking every 1-2 minutes. (Recipe does not say "simmer" or "stir", but trusts the reader's judgment.)

    Stir the resulting cream of rice thoroughly to blend and pass the entire contents of the pan through a fine sieve to eliminate all the solid gunk, i.e. lumps. You're aiming for a perfectly smooth mixture. Salt to taste.

    Heat four soup plates.

    Spoon 1 g of instant coffee into each plate.

    Top each with the cream of rice, making sure it is not too hot.

    Distribute the sea urchin, spooning 10 g over each mound [vs. "pool"—not too liquid] of rice.

    Finish with a splash of the olive oil.

    I may be missing some of the nuances of the original Italian regarding the optimal interaction between the powdered coffee and the rice. Is it saying that if the rice is too liquid the coffee will dissolve before contact with the diner's spoon? At least, that's how I understand it: he wants each of the four components of the dish—coffee, rice, uni, olive oil--to remain discrete and intact upon presentation, relegating the act of unification to the diner during consumption.

    N.B. Apparently at Cracco-Peck and other speciality stores you can buy pasteurized uni as shelled, cleaned pulp.

    Also note that the recipe doesn't say "panna" for cream, but "crema di latte fresca" or "cream of fresh milk", a phrase unfamiliar to me.

    * * *

    It was hard to us to figure out why you needed help with Italian until your very useful second post :smile: . I googled keywords from your initial inquiry and gather that HB took inspiration from both Marchesi's celebrated "gilt" risotto and Cracco's riffs on tradition.

    (The link you provide has more than one recipe, thus its length.)

  4. .

    I've a Campania question: are there other recipes in Campania that call for bechamel? It just seems so E-R to me, or at least more northern in flavor.

    sometimes a degree of richness based on bechamel does co-exist in the otherwise sleekly tomato-evoo-basil leaf Neapolitan palate. a leftover of the French chefs who cooked for the aristocrats during the days when naples was part of the kingdom of....whichever kingdom it was part of......

    Even earlier: The Kingdom of Naples. Angevin (as in Louis of Anjou, etc.). 13th and 14th century--i.e. another example of Franco-Italian cuisine, though this is too early to have more than recipes as marginalia and insertions in the kind of manuscript that might be cataloged as a compilation. Pizzanap. would be the expert here. (MS's reference is to the age after tomatoes. Spanish rule, 15th C, intervening.) However, I am objecting to the idea that you need to wait until the Napoleonic age and defer to the French to account for rich, aristocratic food on Italian tables.

    As said in my earlier post responding to this question, there are other examples of a roux-based white sauce used in the region of great fresh cheeses, cows and bufale. Cf. Foodman's beautiful ziti above in which ricotta plays a role similar to Romagna's balsamella.

  5. Given the lively discussion on Meat and Morality in a different forum, I am reviving a cooking topic which never caught on the same way that Regrettable Meals did as an alternative to the Dinner thread.

    Here, recent posts on dishes from Campania (Naples, etc.) might inspire others wishing to prepare more vegetarian meals. Cf. my own post on pasta stuffed with eggplant, basil and bechamel, then Foodman's gorgeous Ziti alla Sorrentina.


  6. I've a Campania question: are there other recipes in Campania that call for bechamel? It just seems so E-R to me, or at least more northern in flavor.

    I can see why you say that, though aren't sformati rather widespread at this point? At least you find them in Central Italy and not just Piemonte.

    Given the importance and fame of fresh cheeses in this region, it makes sense that there are more dishes w balsamella, which Marcella Hazan attributes to Romagna. Sartu, is the one that springs to mind.

    * * *

    Shaya, good to see you here, too! This is actually the second time I've made it, the first being at a time when my principal ingredients were local and in season. It's still one of my absolute favorites of all the things I prepared first for these regional cooking threads: up there with those incredible swordfish impanate!

    * * *

    As for Franci, send me a PM and I'll be happy to update you (sort of) with pictures, etc.

    * * *

    Finally, many of you have probably heard the sad news about bufale and the fate of our beloved mozzerelle. Just in case: BBC on the threat of disease.

  7. [F]rom Elisabetta Cuomo (forum of Cucina Italiana)

    Stuffed paccheri with eggplants

    300 g paccheri De Cecco or Setaro

    1 kg eggplants

    150 g fiordilatte

    200 g provola affumicata (NOTE: if you like, I hate smoked provola or mozzarella)

    75 g grated parmigiano

    150 bechamelle

    10 basil  leaves

    750 g of cherry tomatoes (or 1 and half can of the cherry, one can 400 g)

    200 g passata

    evo and garlic

    Cut 750 g of the eggplant in long slices  1 cm thick, the rest cut in cubes and put under salt. Rinse, dry. Flour the long slices  and deep fry. Fry the eggplants cubes. Dry well on kitchen paper. In the mixer pulse the eggplant slices with the bechamelle and the basil. Transfer to a  bowl, add the cheeses in very small cubes, the parmigiano, add the cubed fried eggplants. Cook the pasta 4-5 minutes. Fill it with the eggplant stuffing. Make a sauce with the garlic, oil cherry tomatoes and passata and pour on the paccheri in oiled baking pan, sprinkle with a lot of parmigiano and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. More basil at time of serving.

    It was sublime!  Somehow the combination of eggplant, bechamel, fior di latte, basil and parmigiano made for a sweet, creamy, luscious mouthful.

    I used canneloni shells which are longer than the traditional "pacchieri" pasta that the dish calls for. 


    While it's hard to feel nostalgic for summer during a winter of unusual warmth and little snow, finally the temperatures dropped and winds picked up enough to make treks down long city streets a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, the best place to pick up basil in January is only two blocks away and the leaves survived the journey home. Eggplants were on sale and I've been thinking about this dish ever since I spied cans of cherry tomatoes imported from Italy at Whole Foods. Also found something equivalent to paccheri called "gigantoni" by a local supermarket as part of its upscale line.

    So, last night, after a two-hour hike, I came home and listened to old radio shows and prepared this dish. Ate around midnight since it took forever to chop the garlic, make the sauce, slice two eggplants into slivers, salt, drain, rinse, dry them, coat them with flour, fry and stack them in between sheets of paper towels. Then, there's the béchamel. Water to boil. Pasta to cook half way through in 10 minutes. Cheese to weigh, cube, and mix in with the eggplant, including the fried slices processed with basil and white sauce. The gigantoni are only about 1 3/4 inches long, so I don't want to know how many I stuffed. I will say, the proportions in the recipe are nearly perfect since I had enough stuffing to spare for not quite 2 more by the time I was through. Baked for half an hour.

    FYI: I subbed feta for about 1/3 of the cheese in the filling with success. However, omitting the passata this time around was not a good idea. Perfectly fine, but sort of Italian-American since cherry tomatoes are canned w their skins and the thicker sauce that results does not seep into the pasta the way a thinner sauce does. Next time, I think I'll skip flouring and deep-frying the thin slices of eggplaint--I don't see why baking or even a flip under the broiler wouldn't suffice.

    I raise my glass to Alberto of Campania whose warmth, knowledge and passion for Italian food are sorely missed! Here's to Franci for introducing us to this wonderful dish and Shaya whose documentation inspired me to prepare it in the first place. Tanti auguri to all who participated in these threads in days of yore.

  8. Now that I think about it, a cream tea is a food-verb affair. "Tea" in the merry old UK is a meal, you have tea in the same way you have breakfast and dinner. And cream, is, of course, clotted cream. Which must be had with scones nd jam. So, I give you cream tea, with some allowances for the differeces between Britspeak and USpeak.

    Thank you for introducing all of us to a new term. Strictly speaking, though, Prince William might tee off near his alma mater, but Queen Elizabeth II does not tea with corgis curled up at her feet.
  9. I also had a serving of this reduced carb OJ, and look, it even has the WW points on the container( I bought this in Michigan).  I drink it because it is reduced carbs and not because it's WW approved.    President's Choice( Canadian brand) also makes a reduced carb OJ.


    Hi, Randi. I've been skimming through this joint-blog and wish all of you success, or should I say continued success in deference to the impressive results Mizducky has reported in the past.

    Last year when I decided to do something about over a decade of slowly accumulating pounds, I chose simply to modify the amount I ate and to impose a few restrictions while exercising more. Granted, I am not counting WW points, nor concerned about limiting carbohydrates, but in researching various words of advice about weight loss, I decided to heed something I read over and over again: Don't waste calories on beverages.

    I switched from my beloved glass of grapefruit or orange juice in the morning to eating fresh fruit with the exception of transitional weeks when citrus fruits get dry and bitter and melons are not yet in season. Half a grapefruit has half the calories of a glass of juice. Since even "home-style", heavy pulp juices have 0% fiber, the fiber in the fruit is probably more filling, too, and I find it sweet enough to not require additional sugar.

    Also, I guess I'm bothered by the fact that Tropicana is asking you to pay for water, and adding artificial sweeteners to mask a watered-down taste. (Coco-Cola owns the company and is starting to narrow the gap between its premium, un-reconstituted fruit juices and its soft drinks.) You'd save money purchasing a carton of regular orange juice and mixing it with water yourself, as in 1 part juice to 2 parts seltzer, which is something I adore in the summer.

    Sorry for sounding so Pollanesque. The grace of prescribed diet plans is that they impose discipline and permit some degree of freedom within a clear set of guidelines that you're not following all on your own. Whatever works for you works.

    Re body image, dieting etc,  it seems to me its probably a component that

    straight women, gay men    want to be sexy to men

    straight men, gay women    want to be sexy to women.

    And straight women and gay men want to look good to themselves and other women, kind to animals, sweaty to other runners, hip yet authoritative to their teenager's friends.... It's all so very complicated.

    * * *

    Dried beans rise when there's air in between the skin and the legume within. Often, you'll see the skin is wrinkly, the bean tiny, and it's best to throw the floaters out.

  10. To atone for my original response, I'd like to add something that offers a bonus since lentils also are rich in iron:

    Here's a picture of the soup, unfortunately on an Italian cooking forum, but I think you can get the idea: Lentil soup w fresh clams. And while not exactly what I was looking for--something w clams, sausage and spinach or greens in a broth: Spicy sausage soup w clams; there are also tomatoes as per advice concerning benefits of acidic component.

    For a brief moment, fregole were poised on the brink of becoming the new thing here in the States, and I admit, the small Sardinian bread balls that I bought last year are not as versatile as I would like, nonetheless there is a classic brothy dish in which they're prepared with clams. First the picture, then the recipe, also involving tomatoes.

  11. Have you been researching other foods high in iron to lend variety?

    While moist, cooked clams, canned or fresh have 28 mg iron per 100 g. serving, dried Beluga whale will supply 72.3 mg iron for the same amount.

    Dried spices would amp up the amount of iron considerably. Maybe use a citrus-thyme sauce to go with?

    Cf. Nutrition Data.

  12. While I seem to have lost the set of pom poms that matched the letter sweater I picked up at one of those sconti at Armani, I have nonetheless glanced periodically at the Italian forum, pleased with all that you've been doing with huge slabs of porcini (Kevin, wow!) and round pans of lasagna (gorgeous, Klary!).

    The recent flurry of activity inspires me to raise a glass to all the original participants of the Italian regional cooking threads who continue to contribute, as well as newcomers.

    Elie: As always, your commitment to make everything from scratch impresses me as much as your skill in shaping pasta. I've never even considered baking amaretti. What a fabulous meal! Bravo!

    Pedalforte: Thank you, thank you for singling out the ducal lasagna. You'd have to go back quite a bit in this very long thread, but I raved about the lasagna the first and only time I made it. I, too, thought the whole medieval/Renaissance taste for sweet & savory would be odd, especially when it came to spices. However, I didn't change things radically at all, but instead, made two separate lasagne, the smaller one, based faithfully on the recipe as written. I preferred the smaller one, finding that LRK had modernized the dish sufficiently (largely by switching to egg noodles) while, presumably, keeping to the spirit of the historical recipe. Currently, my neck of the woods is going through a Sicilian phase of warm weather, but if it turns bitter cold again, it might be worthwhile to give the dish another try. A generous hand w prosciutto dolce, as far as I was concerned, is mandatory since its flavor complements the sweet ingredients, the funky ragu, the silky pasta and the rich cream.

  13. While there are fairly recent comments that should be of use--especially those of gracious, witty and always opinionated hosts of France and this particular region--might I recommend browsing a local food message board where the traffic is more congested? Go to DonRockwell.com.

    The fact that the Restaurant and Dining section is at the top of the forum's index indicates the primary raison of its etre. The eloquent, irreverent founder has a personal guide to restaurants that only members may scrutinize, however, you should have access to more than you'll need to know.

    * * *

    As for your own list, Vace is more of a grocery store than dining destination. Definitely keep Palena on your list.

    Cf. the thread started here by Busboy (?) on New Heights. John Talbott also wrote feedback after a recent conference-related visit.

    ETA: Glance down on this region's list of threads. You'll see much of what you're looking for in a topic started by someone also staying at the Omni...Woodley Park early in 2007. Also to delete info re a kid-friendly diner vs. the Adams-Morgan spot that inspires BB to exchange rusty spoon for pronged utensil.

  14. Like snowflakes, so many of us are unique, but easily replaced.

    You, Sir Sconzo, are one of the rare ones.

    Not a flake, I mean, but unique and I can't imagine anyone who could replace you.

    Thank you for being such a kind, generous host. I've enjoyed reports of your travels and learned a great deal from the thorough accounts of conferences. I still don't know how you managed to take so many pictures, yet somehow attend to the presentations of chefs you so clearly admired!

    It's been fun interacting with you. I appreciate your positive spirit and enthusiasm, especially.

  15. Last year, I resolved to walk more and in the spirit of the original Pontormo, keep track of everything I ate for the sake of losing weight. I did and I did.

    While I'd rather listen to organ music than diet, I followed some advice for losing weight, including a recommendation to fill up on soup. Here's the resulting inventory:

    SOUPS OF 2007

    • Lentil minestrone w rice and chard

    • Roasted Red Pepper Soup

    Mirepoix, butternut squash, red lentils, paprika,

    pimenton and stock; half puréed.

    • Cappelletti en brodo with Parmesan

    • Escarole soup made w leftovers including chicken & angel hair pasta

    • Black bean soup w dab light sour cream

    • Carrot-fennel soup w dill (onions, turnip, red lentils, broth, white wine…)

    • Miso soup w soba, tofu, shitake, gingerroot, scallions, asparagus & carrots

    • Parsnip soup w leeks, cannellini & arugula; drizzle of EVOO

    • Lemongrass chicken soup w ginger

    Fish sauce, lemon, red chili, rice noodles, asparagus, garlic,

    kaffir leaves, carrot & shitake

    • Snert (Dutch split pea soup)

    • Apple-rutabaga soup (based on Patrick O'Connell's recipe)

    • Beef and mushroom-barley soup (leftover stew)

    • Pho w Tai flavors

    • Tomato-beet soup w Indian spices & swirl light sour cream

    • Caldo verde w Mexican chorizo

    • Ginger chicken soup w bok choy

    • Boiled Kale (Zuni Cookbook)

    With poached egg & garlic-rubbed toast. Half of liquid chicken broth (vs. water), extra onion,

    roasted pepper garnish & Pecorino

    • Vegetarian chili w pinto beans and tomatoes

    • Soup w leftover Venetian meatballs, reduced sauce, egg, scallion, lemongrass & rice

    • Asparagus soup (purée but no cream)

    • Chicken soup w artichoke, mushrooms & asparagus (leftover fricassee plus)

    • Carrot-red lentil soup

    • Soup of Romano beans, brown rice, collards, Italian plum tomatoes, etc.

    • Paula Wolfert's soup from Le Marche w barley, arugula, prosciutto & kohlrabi

    • Mushroom barley soup w fennel (and other vegetarian variations later in year)

    • Mushroom soup w lentils, collard greens, grated Romano

    • Celery & rice soup

    • Chowder w cod, bacon, etc. (Mark Bittman)

    • Stockpot dinner of chicken shreds, carrots & onion w Fleur de sel & lots of pepper

    • Sunchoke soup

    • Curried sweet potato soup w ginger & lime

    • Asparagus soup w rice & pancetta from Zuni Café Cookbook

    • Scotch Broth (made from leftover Calabrese lamb shoulder chops)

    • Risi e bisi using leftover broth from mussels

    • Chilled green gazpacho

    Cucumber, baguette, maro, spring onions, red & Jalapeño chilies,

    yogurt, chicken broth, EVOO, champagne vinegar

    • Lamb soup w lentils, onion, greens, parsley, lemon, rice & cooked tomato paste

    • Black bean chili w red onion, scallion, cilantro, cheese & sour cream

    • Corn chowder w bacon & red bell peppers

    • Taratour—cucumber yogurt soup w mint and walnut-garlic pesto w T EVOO

    • Spicy Mexican chicken soup w summer vegetables

    Rick Bayless recipe w roasted chicken thighs marinated w green chilies, lime & EVOO.

    Roasted corn, tomatoes, more lime, potato, patty-pan squash & carrot

    • Tomato soup w rice & roasted peppers (Based on Local Flavors)

    • Cucumber-yogurt soup w chives

    • Roasted beet soup w lime (dreadful improv)

    • Breese's mushroom soup (Greens, modified)

    • Cauliflower soup w leeks

    • French lentil soup

    Lulu's w tons of garlic, modified w Parmesan rind, smoked bacon, arugula,

    balsamic vinegar

    and grated Romano—thin & glorious

    • Flageolet soup w cannellini, onions, braised fennel and Parmesan

    • Chicken soup w arugula, garlic & potato

    • Cardi in brodo: cardoons in Christmas soup from Abruzzo w tiny meatballs

    • Kaboucha soup w ginger and lime

    • Kaboucha soup w cider, sage & stock (better)

    • Double Celery Soup (adapted Greens recipe)

    • Chickpea-farro soup

    W 'ncapriata (dried fava purée), plum tomatoes

    & vegetarian stocks

    • Pumpkin red-lentil soup with onion relish (Nigel Slater)

    • Minestrone w borlotti, farro and chard

    • Turnip soup w thyme

  16. Abra, thanks for the gracious response to my question about regional cooking. I was thinking about the eager use you three were making of local ingredients and Paula Wolfert's cookbook which Busboy has also consulted with spectacular results--wondering about the extent to which tradition is perpetuated locally on a day-to-day basis. I kind of suspect the paen to peanut doodles also answers my question, if indirectly! :biggrin:

  17. Italy has a very well developed ristorante culture....as well as trattoria, osteria, pizzaria, etc.

    Judith, my point is that Italy doesn't have a well-developed restaurant culture -- or perhaps I should say restaurant tradition of long standing -- compared to France. Due to the Revolution and other factors, France's restaurant culture was underway by the beginning of the 19th Century. In Italy, on the other hand, even by the Second World War there wasn't much more than the occasional roadside osteria -- and certainly there was no expectation among Italians that the food would be particularly good. Osterie were for people who didn't know anyone they could stay with in town. When restaurant culture began happening in Italy for real, post WW2, it catered largely to tourists and most hotel ristoranti served food that might be better described as "continental" than Italian. It's also worthy of note that many ristoranti at this time were owned and operated by Italians who had moved to America for a number of years, prospered, experienced America's well-developed Italian-American (and French) restaurant culture, and had now moved back home. Meanwhile, by 1950 French haute cuisine was already well past its first golden ages (Carême's work having come some 150 years before). So, at the very least, French haute cuisine has had a 150 year head start on the possibility of an equivalent Italian restaurant concept.

    I am guessing the source for this argument is an essay by John Mariani used in the Italian-American cookbook he co-authored with his wife. In any respect, I am linking it (again? cf. topics on Spaghetti Code or the cooking thread on expatriate Italians): "Everybody Likes Italian Food".

    As for the history of French restaurants, Dr. Rebecca L. Spang challenged the commonly held belief that the institution owes its birth to the French Revolution and all the cooks left jobless on account of their employers' beheadings. Instead, her research centers on the humble, health-food origins of restaurants in a scholarly tome that earned awards from The American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Harvard University Press and the Royal Historical Society.

    I was surprised to find that Google provides access to the entire book online: The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture.

  18. Salut, mesdames!

    This is truly a wonderful undertaking; I only regret that Lucy had to return to Lyon so quickly. Her photograph of the candied citrus peel (?) stacked in neatly tied bundles is one the most beautiful contributions thus far. My other favorites have already been singled out: the blue, weathered shutters and warm, ripe cheese.

    Thank you so much for sharing this week with us. I look forward to more.

    Abra, the photographs of the enormous supermarket (!!!!), un-decapitated bird, not yet footloose, and the meal you three share inspire a question.

    Granted, you are gifted cooks who are dedicating a week to an exceptional enthusiasm for food that connects us all. Nonetheless, I wonder if you've gotten to know any of your neighbors. Just how much of a role does "traditional", local "regional" cooking play in day-to-day life in the place you've chosen to spend this year? Is anyone else preparing poule au pot?

  19. Docsconz: Thank you for a wonderful report of your dinner. I am guessing by your description of one of your unnamed dining companions, you had an incredible selection of wines, too. What an amazing night!

    Just a footnote to the whole "Is he/isn't he" question and Bruni's review. The latter doesn't bother me all that much given its appreciation of Trabocchi's food and the lack of concern the critic expresses when confronted with the problem of classifying the menu. But I do find the notes about lasagna interesting in light of the collaborative effort of several eGullet members to cook our way through discrete regions of Italy.

    Here's what Bruni exclaims first:

    Would you find these entrees in Italy, even up north?... Can a lasagna with as little sunshine and as much stormy intensity as Mr. Trabocchi’s justly call itself lasagna? And can a restaurant with food as ornate, saucy and creamy as Fiamma’s rightly call itself Italian?...  It owes its classically indulgent soul to France.

    One of the signs of French finesse is a lightness which Bruni attributes to the miserly use of flour in first courses such as gnocchi or lasagna:

    He takes flour, too, out of what might otherwise be a béchamel for the lasagna. What does he leave in? Well, a reduction of chicken stock and cream, which is layered with noodles and with a ragù of veal sweetbreads, chicken livers, chicken gizzards, prosciutto and more. Around the lasagna goes veal jus. And chanterelle mushrooms, for some additional dark magic.

    The description evokes a very courtly dish that Lynne Rossetto Kasper, herself, riffs upon slightly in The Splendid Table, her incredible book on the food of Emilia-Romagna.

    First there is the sauce that reminds me of ragu de nobili which I described last December:

    ...the ragu features diced boneless chicken thighs that one sautés with minced pancetta, Italian sausage, giblets, a little ground beef and the customary battuto (mirepoix). White wine, a pinch of cloves, bay leaf, crushed garlic and a generous dab of tomato paste are gradually added with small amounts of stock. Once everything is incorporated, including more stock, the ragu simmers for less than an hour since small, browned bits of chicken dominate the mixture. This is a welcome change from other ragus. Instead of adding milk early in the procedure, a little heavy cream finishes the sauce. That last step is the sweep of the Fairy Godmother's wand: the giblets are transformed from something funky to an assertive, sweet element.
    *Reference in full.

    It sounds as if Trabocchi caters to contemporary tastes by underplaying the sweetness of his savory dish. Not to imply that he consciously appropriates the rich 16th-century fare of Cristoforo da Messisbugo, but here's a brief description of lasagne Duchi di Ferrara:

    ...noodles [layered] with the [ragu de nobili], Parmesan, slivers of Prosciutto di Parma, plumped golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of heavy cream and a pinch of cinnamon...One of the best things I have made this year. Luxurious, close enough to the familiar to be not scary, and with thin sheets of lasagna, a small amount of cream instead of bechamel, not at all heavy.
    *Cf. Post 76.
  20. "Welcome, stranger.

    You shall be entertained as a guest among us. Afterward,

    when you have tasted dinner, you shall tell us what your need is."

    —The Odyssey, II, 118-124

    The pact between host and guest is central to Ancient Greek culture where hospitality serves as a touchstone for determining one's ethos. There is the tale of Baucis and Philemon, an old couple whose generous meal of cabbage and pork inspires Zeus and Hermes to throw off their disguise and as a reward, transform husband and wife for all eternity into two sturdy trees that rise from a single trunk. When the house of Odysseus is invaded by unruly suitors during his absence, Penelope distinguishes herself by not kicking the sots out the front door. Then there are the cautionary tales: the hubris of Tantalus who fed his son to the gods, or rapacious centaurs who behaved badly when invited to the wedding feast of Peirithous and Deidameia.

    Clearly the acorn that is Busboy falls from the tree of Baucis and Philemon—he didn't need to go to Athens to acquire the exemplary kindness that ought to inspire us all. And man can the B's cook! I've eaten cassoulet only once before, years ago in a stark white space in Manhattan where my friends had to explain who Jerry Orbach was when he was spotted across the room. It was okay. Kind of heavy. Couldn't finish it. I remember Orbach more.

    The Sweeney version, on the other hand, haunts me still. It was a thing of beauty, percolating ruddy, creamy and brown, crust as glazed as the enormous cassole that was carried into a dining room painted to match. It tasted even better than it looked. What's not to love? You got your earthen bowl lined with the stuff that huge guys with shoulder pads throw around all day long on Thanksgiving. Silly men! Your duck: legs and fat. Sausages as plump as the thighs of a well-greased glutton and pinkish red fibers of unfettered pork poking out of the détente of the beans.

    It was a pleasure to participate in the subversion of the traditional turkey dinner, I must say. I am a faithful soul who will continue to light candles on the altar of Calvin Trillin and defend the greatness of Rome and its food no matter how many snooty Francophiles outnumber me in the room. Yet, I would like to point out that spaghetti carbonara is a mere first course and cassoulet is a meal. If you want to rebel against the boring, sorry bird of your family's making, I gotta say a warm, blustery day at the Sweeneys is the way to go.

    As for green bean casserole with French's onion bits atop de-canned goop, I have a new theory about the origins of Thanksgiving. Clearly, it began with Huguenots from Toulouse at a feast shared with Native-Canadians further up in the northeast of this continent. Cassoulet was enjoyed by all every year hence until Anglo-Saxon culture gained the upper hand and replaced it with a lesser dish.

    Finally, let me respond to a few remarks Busboy made above. First, with a nod to Mayhaw Man's brilliant debate about the relative merits of cake and pie, I had to equivocate since I much prefer cake with one exception: pumpkin pie. In the spirit of undermining tradition and in deference to Charles's own feelings about pies filled with squash, I decided to be a model guest and go with something French. (I also tried the orange cheese dip in the spirit of good manners.) I'm not sure you'd call Kouign Amann cake, but it is definitely not a pie. What can I say? I followed the recipe of a very gifted professional who pops up here from time to time, only the results were not as evidently laminated as they ought to have been. The apple-pear confit was prepared from a recipe by Patricia Wells, using fruit from a farmer the Sweeneys and I both favor. The Languedoc was all about pairing foods of the same region and an homage to the birthplace of cassoulet. Last, lest one think the Sweeneys not consistently classy, guests also had the option of dousing those lovely oysters with a light, clear shallot vinegary dressing. And we didn't have to dance to The Dead afterwards as fun as it was to frolic with the warm and joyous Mrs. B.

  21. And thanks, Rachel for answering my questions, and thank you Chefzadi for the links, though I blush to see that Markemorse linked the article early on in this blog. I look forward to catching up on the other bits I have yet to read, as well as reading more carefully what I have only scanned.

    Two things, though. You probably cover this in your writing, but regarding the mole, what I find interesting is the symbiosis of cultures. Arabs bring spices, nuts, fruits to Spain as the conquerors. Centuries after the end of Cordoba's power, conqueror-wannabees bring tomatoes and chocolate back to Spain from the so-called New World, only to have culinary repercussions develop back where they came from.

    Second, I respect your opinion regarding salsa verde and thank you for the feedback. I have enjoyed just about every version I've had and for the record, do not own any edition of Larousse. However, a friend took the freshly blended ingredients of salsa verde and reduced the sauce w chicken stock once. Twas very good!

  22. Rachel:

    First, thank you for contributing this view of your scholarly and culinary life in Mexico. Your discussion of servants is, indeed, brave and much too complicated for me to comment upon more than to thank you for gently pushing an issue from the background to the foreground.

    Your week here is timely for me since I've just learned how to make tamales and starting to make simple Mexican food w accessible ingredients, including the two sauces you just prepared. The salsa roja is relatively new to me--are chiles other than Guajillo used?

    As for the salsa verde, I've never seen it prepared w tomatillos and fresh green chiles boiled together! I've only made it either by blending the raw tomatillos or searing them in a pan while charring chiles and white onions. You acknowledge variety. I wonder if it's traditional to cook down the sauce w stock once it is blended, or if this is an American practice.

    Finally, I was intrigued by your earlier comment about mole's ties to the Islamic world. At first I assumed you were tracing its path all the way back to Al-Andalus and I puzzled over the connection. Chocolate is also found in savory dishes in Sicily and Sicily was once the site of an Arabian court, but the chronology doesn't make sense. So, are chocolate and Al-Andalus both red herrings? Later, you mentioned Lebanese elements of Mexican culture.... If you are at all prepared to share your theories at this stage in your work, it would be interesting to hear more.

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