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Cooking and Cuisine of Piemonte and Val d'Aosta


Kevin72
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This recent thread on Barolo may be of interest.

Incidentally, I did purchase a great big, expensive can of Sicilian salt-packed anchovies which I intend to open from the bottom to preserve the gorgeous graphics of the upper lid. I may try to make it into a clock, though any other ideas for something else of a kitschy nature will be entertained.

For me, this will now be the Week of Milk and Anchovies.

NEW QUESTION: Do any of you have recipes or suggestions for the use of chickpea flour in making specialties from Piedmont?

My primary source has a recipe for farinata, a kind of chickpea pancake that really is a snack or street food eaten plain, without fillings or spreads.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Is everyone out there cooking meatloaf :unsure: ?

Okay, it's me, again.

The score is Piemonte 1, Pontormo 2.

I decided to cook three different courses, substituting a small portion of an interesting take on bagna caoda for an antipasto, then make a new kind of risotto that would complement the secondo, fricassea bianca di pollo.

I peeled and finely chopped half a head of garlic only to watch each little morsel turn brown and ultimately black in all that olive oil and butter. I used an incredibly low flame, the lowest possible, and a small cast iron skillet. The Icelandic butter seemed particularly rich in milk solids...is that the problem? Or was it the pan? I've cooked garlic forever on top of the stove before with success, but that was unpeeled in clarified butter. Big difference. Marcella advises the purchase of an earthenware pot. (Didn't have a spare burner, but sometimes I pile one on top of the other to lower heat.)

That was supposed to be poured on top of three exquisite strips of a roasted red pepper which I will now save to make sformati.

The risotto al limone was subtle and wonderful. I saved the fat I used to cook the chicken to soften the shallots and scallion (you'll see why shortly) which made a difference. At the end, when some people enrich the risotto by adding an extra pat of butter, instead, you're instructed to mix in an egg yolk that itself had been beaten with lemon juice and zest. (I used a Meyer lemon which was great. Not too powerful in a small quantity.)

The chicken was the weird thing that I had wanted to try. Skinless pieces are browned first in olive oil and butter. Then finely chopped scallion, garlic, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, Italian parsley and zest are added to the pan along with MILK. Yes. When cooked for a long time, the solids do separate.

Adam's word, "coagulate" is basically what makes the sauce. Once chicken (very moist thighs) is removed, heat is turned high until the watery liquid evaporates and you're left with white particles clinging to the green and yellow specks. I cheated and served this beside the risotto after slivering in some more scallion greens. Delicious pair.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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My Piemontese dinner ended up on Monday, Sunday was way too busy. I did do most of the prep work on Sunday though.

- Risotto with mushrooms and parmesan. I used a good amount of dried porcini in the stock to give it a nice flavor. This could've been a meal in itself.

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- The wonderful cardoon sformati. these came out lovely topped with parmesan and fried bread crumbs. my wife finally admitted that she loved them. She had not eaten cardoons since the "incident". We served these as a side dish

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- The beef tongue with Salsa Rossa. i love beef tongue and this one with a tangy and herby sauce is excellent. I am looking forward to cold sandwiches tomorrow

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- Hazelnut cake with a dusting of cocao, from the Babbo cookbook. The flavor was excellent but I though the cake was a little on the dry side. I should've gone with my first instinct and made a zabaglione to accompany it. Oh well, there is always tomorrow.

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my wife's plate

gallery_5404_94_377321.jpg

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Pontormo, I think that the cast iron skillet may have been the culprit; it built up too much heat or took too long to cool off and scorched the garlic.

FoodMan, everything looks great, including the tongue(!), especially the cake. Italian cakes can skew to the dry side, though I'm not sure how to remedy that.

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Foodman, all of your dishes looks really tasty!

I did agnolotti del "plin" this sunday. I had some wonderful agnolotti at the Osteria dell'Arco in Alba a couple of years ago and now was the time to have a try on these small meat-stuffed ravioli.

Agnolotti comes with many different types of filling, but most contains some combinations of leftover brasised or roasted meats. Most common are combinations of roasted veal and pork shoulder, sometimes sausage meat, rabbit or even chicken are also used. The meats are complemented with cabbage, kale or spinach. In the rice growing regions of piemonte, rice may also added to the stuffing.

The pasta dough is often rich on eggs, but not as rich as tajarin. I based my agnolotti on a recipe in Ricette di Osterie di Langa edited by Armando Gambera.

Pasta dough

I used 500g of strong flour, three whole eggs and 7 egg yolks. I used a variety of free-range eggs that are extra "golden" yellow.

Stuffing

I used some left-over veal roast saved in the freezer and then I braised a half pork shank and a samll cut of brisket in a little chicken stock and some red wine (not piemontese, I'm afraid). I then pulsed the cold meat together with some spinach in the food processor. Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese and eggs were then added.

Making the agnolotti

It was some time since I made my own filled pasta, so I felt a little bit rusty. The dough was very strong and elastic which felt promising. Agnolotti del "plin" should be rather smallish. The instructions says that filling of a hazelnut's size should be placed a centimeter apart. Mine were larger than a hazelnut and maybe two centimeters apart. Still, they were the smallest sized filled pasta I've made so far. After I've assembled enough agnolotti for a dinner for me, my wife and our son I still had a lot of filling and pasta dough left and postponed the pastamaking and started to cook them.

The result

There are basically two way to serve agnolotti, either with some melted sage infused butter or with the left over sauce from the braising/roasting (sugo d'arrosto) and then of course some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. I decided to test the the latter, since I usually make sage infused butter for filled pasta. I think this was a mistake since the sauce from the roasting was a little to thin to coat the pasta in a good way.

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Tha agnolotti were ok, but nothing like those we had in piemonte. They tasted a little bit bland and again I think this would've been remedied by using the sage butter instead of the sugo. Also they were a bit larger than the piemontese version. As both SWISS_CHEF and kevin72 already have remarked on, it is really hard to get that yellow colour.

After dinner I opted for the easy route with the rest of the pasta dough and made some tajarin out of it. They turned out rather good, no pictures on those though.

Christofer Kanljung

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Is everyone out there cooking meatloaf :unsure: ?

Close. My husband wanted some more "normal" meals this weekend. He doesn't have adventurous tastes in food, and he wanted some familiar comfort foods to balance all the new things that I'll be cooking over the course of the year. I have plans to do some baking later today, and to finally make a Brasoto tonight.

I decided to cook three different courses, substituting a small portion of an interesting take on bagna caoda for an antipasto, then make a new kind of risotto that would complement the secondo, fricassea bianca di pollo.

I peeled and finely chopped half a head of garlic only to watch each little morsel turn brown and ultimately black in all that olive oil and butter.  I used an incredibly low flame, the lowest possible, and a small cast iron skillet.  The Icelandic butter seemed particularly rich in milk solids...is that the problem?  Or was it the pan?  I've cooked garlic forever on top of the stove before with success, but that was unpeeled in clarified butter.  Big difference.  Marcella advises the purchase of an earthenware pot.  (Didn't have a spare burner, but sometimes I pile one on top of the other to lower heat.)

I agree with Kevin about the cast iron retaining too much heat. Perhaps you could

melt the butter, throw in the garlic and then remove the pan from the burner, which would allow the garlic to cook in the residual heat. The one time friends and I made Bagna Caoda, we even skipped that part and just heated it all up in a fondue pot.

Your secondo and risotto sound sublime. I've braised pork loin in milk many times (from Marcella's recipe), but I've never considered chicken. It's something new to try.

April

One cantaloupe is ripe and lush/Another's green, another's mush/I'd buy a lot more cantaloupe/ If I possessed a fluoroscope. Ogden Nash

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gallery_26014_2389_888058.jpg

Tha agnolotti were ok, but nothing like those we had in piemonte. They tasted a little bit bland and again I think this would've been remedied by using the sage butter instead of the sugo. Also they were a bit larger than the piemontese version. As both SWISS_CHEF and kevin72 already have remarked on, it is really hard to get that yellow colour.

They still look great though. Mario Batali made agnolotti on his show once and related that the Piemontese hold them in such high regard that they are sometimes served completely "dry", no sauce whatsoever!

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These are very good looking Agnolotti. They were too bland? well that is what Parmesan cheese is for.

Parmesan cheese helped a long way. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit when I say that they were bland, they were bland only when compared to expectations and ones I've tasted before. All the meaty goodness that went into the filling didn't really cut through.

I tried some cold leftovers as nibbles later in the evening and they were actually quite good as such!

Christofer Kanljung

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It all looks wonderful!

Elie, I am singling you out to ask if you got your cardoons at WF, and if so, could you ask them about the company's policy regarding national distribution.

I also wanted to say thank you for posting notice of your efforts here on the Dinner thread. It would be lovely if eGullet members who don't normally frequent this regional forum would join, especially since so many do cook Italian dishes.

Speaking of which I wanted to draw your attention to the fact that Jessica's Biscuit lists more than 500 titles in Italian cookbooks, out-numbering French by around 100 if memory serves me correctly, its only rival. I wonder how long it took for this pattern to develop and how long we'll have to wait before it is surpassed by Asian or other regions. (Spain is growing, but still is represented by less than 100 titles.) Matt Kramer's book on Piemonte's cooking is now a closeout item, selling for around $15.

And Kevin & April, I suspect you're right about the cast iron. It was the smallest thick-bottomed pan I had. I will try again later in the month with more appropriate equipment. No fondue pot in my cupboards, but that's a good idea. I will probably clarify the butter too.

As for the agnolotti, I am sorry the taste of the meat did not come through. I have to say I'd go for any excuse to top pasta or gnocchi with melted butter and fresh sage.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Another approach is to pop the pan with the garlic, butter, and oil into the oven on the lowest possible setting and cook it slowly that way. I've picked up this approach since aquiring a gas burner at the new house and it can never be set low enough to gradually cook garlic and infuse the oils.

Isn't there a Balducci's or Dean & Delucca in the DC area? Can't remember which is which but we went into one in Alexandria last Christmas and saw cardoons there.

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FoodMan, everything looks great, including the tongue(!), especially the cake.  Italian cakes can skew to the dry side, though I'm not sure how to remedy that.

The other "dry" Italian cakes I've made before, I think one was almond and the other Hazelnut, were both from Marcella Hazan's Essentials. In both cakes she uses whipped egg whites, Mario in this recipe does not. The Hazan cakes come out more airy and while not moist, less crumbly and have a better texture. So, I prefer her recipes. That is the only remedy I can think of.

Pontormo-

I did not buy the cardoons at WF, I buy them at a local grocery store called HEB. I never noticed them at WF. HEB also has an awsome gourmet store called "Central Market" (superior to WF IMO) and they carry it too. Wanna hear what the best part is about buying them at HEB?

Well, This is the second time that they charge me for them as "celery" :wacko: . So a large bunch of the stuff costs 1.30. Hold on now, it is not my fault. I pick up the cardoons, there is no price tag under them (by bunch or by lb). The bunch does have a UPC tag on it though, so I think they will just scan it. I get to the cashier and she tries to scan..."item not found". She askes "what is this?" I say "cardoon". She looks in her little booklet and does not find it, she calls the manager, the manager asks me "sir, what is this?" I say "Cardoons", he says "did they have a price tag?" me "No". The manager digs in his booklet and the checkout line is building behind me, so he goes "they look like big celery, charge him for celery, is that ok sir?". I say "I am sure it costs more than celery, so yes it's ok."

This happened the first time I bought cardoons from them a few weeks ago, and I thought whatever glitch they have it would have been fixed by now. Wrong! Almost the exact script happened when I bough this bunch. When no one could find the mysterious thistle I told them "last time I paid for them as celery and I thougth you would've fixed the problem by now", the manager goes "celery it is".

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Much as I love Mario, I think you really have to be careful with his dessert recipes. Seems there's always a slipup in the ingredients that leads to disaster--his struffoli recipe in Holiday Food is notoriously off-mark. It's gotten to where I try crosschecking his recipes with similar ones I have on hand to make sure there isn't a screwup.

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  Italian cakes can skew to the dry side, though I'm not sure how to remedy that.

Wine :biggrin:

Glad to see some risottos pop up. I picked up some arborio imported from the Piemonte last week which is going to find its way into some agnolotti next week as kanljung mentioned in his post. Also glad to be seeing some more antipasti ideas from here and Kevin's side of the thread. Nice looking red tounge.

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Isn't there a Balducci's or Dean & Delucca in the DC area?  Can't remember which is which but we went into one in Alexandria last Christmas and saw cardoons there.

"hello, i am calling to see if you carry cardoons"

"huh?"

"carDOONs. it's a type of..."

"hold on..."

Pause.

New voice.

"Can I help you?"

"Hi. I am looking for cardoons."

"How you spell that?"

"You know 'cartoons?', the comics in the newspaper?"

"Take out the 't', put in a 'd': 'cardoons."

"Oh, let me check."

Pause.

This has been going on in various configurations for at least a dozen phone calls. You'd think with Balducci's, D & D, numerous WF stores in a tri-state area, at least one well-known D.C. restaurant whose chef

Roberto Donna hails from Piemonte....

One guy will swear he saw them at P St. P St. says, "no." Very nice people at Galileo (Donna's restaurant) say they're some at Wegman's and at the Arlington WF. Arlington: "Never saw them here."

There's plenty to cook without these guys. One store offered to make a few calls and special order them if it's possible. I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, do check out Divina's hog blog. Today is the Festa of Saint Anthony, an early hermit saint not to be confused with Saint Anthony of Padua, the late medieval Franciscan whose tongue (speaking of) is enshrined in the basilica in the center of town.

Italians celebrate primarily on the Sunday before January 17 as you'll see on her blog. However, there is also a collaborative event you'll enjoy browsing.

Because one of Saint Anthony's attributes is a pig, eat some today. (The eremetical order that took St. Anthony's name was said to raise pigs during the medieval period, some claim for the sake of curing 'St. Anthony's disease." Not an expert on this saint, but one thing that distinguished animals from humans, according to the medieval Christian mind, was the former's lack of a soul. Therefore, demons found it especially easy to possess animals, especially cloven-hoofed pigs due to their particular suseptability & sullied reputation in the Bible. Perhaps the virtuous brothers were able to transfer the demon possessing the invalid to the pig and then slaughter it. )

Also, any recipes for chickpea flour or farinata?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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That sucks. I know too well the pains of running around town explaining yourself and the ingredient over and over again, following false leads, etc. I guess maybe try artichokes instead?

Can't help you on the farina department other than the already mentioned chickpea flatbread. You could do crepes, like I did here.

Hold on to it though; as the thread goes further south there will be plenty of opportunities.

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Fantastic looking food everywhere! I'm jealous!! I'm up in the mountains of Utah, skiing, and have severly restricted access to ingredients...or the internet for that matter.

I confess: I've been intimidated by cardoons as well.

Be sure to wash those salt packed anchovies off really well! I agree, they are much better than the oil packed, but you need to be sure to wash thoroughly.

Agnolotti technique, try this: long strip of pasta, maybe 1 3/4" wide, pipe a small thread of filling down the center of the pasta strip. Fold over, then pinch the agnolotti shut on the sides. Its quicker than the individual dot kind and you can get them smaller.

I have a question: what region is responsible for osso bucco? That's the closest I've come to anything Italian in the past few days. (Except for some pistachio crusted lambchops made in the style of the restaurant in our piazza...but that recipe will be held until we get to Umbria! :cool: )

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OH, the appetites are here. But, I've been skiing like a banshee with my 20 year old son..and I'm no spring chicken! I'm tired!! The real problem is restricted ingredients. But...I'll try...I'll try.

I think some faro soup would taste very good and I did bring along the faro!

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Dinner last night was Brasato. It wasn't very photogenic. Afterward, I spent the evening baking cunchy, cornmeal-lace Krumiri from Piemonte and the light, hazelnut wafer from Val d'Aosta called Tegole.

gallery_36660_2126_36563.jpg

The half-moon shaped krumiri turned out to be one of only two recipes from this month's regions that I had previously prepared. I'm crazy for anything with cornmeal, and its presence in what's essentially a butter cookie makes them seem exotic. The cornmeal always draws surprised comments from guests when I serve Krumiri to them, but the cookies disappear quickly. Krumiri aren't sweet when compared to American cookies and they are nice for dunking.

By contrast, the tegole are crisp, airy and very, very sweet. The wafers have a wonderful, intense hazelnut taste that makes me wonder why hazelnuts aren't more popular in the U.S. Why are there only two cookies in the photo? Well, I'd never made them before, and those are the only two left that I deemed photogenic. The first cookies were underbaked, and were a sticky mess. The second batch was better, but very brown around the edges. I'm not sure that the cookies are supposed to be that browned. Out of the second batch, only two remain because my husband raided the cookie jar last night. It's a wonder he wasn't bouncing off the walls from all of the sugar.

I just got Matt Kramer's A Passion for Piedmont in the mail today. It took long enought to get here, but I like the selection of recipes that he presents, far more than what I have found in my other cookbooks or on the web. I see some more exciting meals in the near future.

So, does anyone want to start voting for the next region? That way, I could get related books before the end of February. (I vote for something in the North, like Lombardia or Friuli).

April

One cantaloupe is ripe and lush/Another's green, another's mush/I'd buy a lot more cantaloupe/ If I possessed a fluoroscope. Ogden Nash

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And, yes, not to get pushy but we're on the final third of the month and we've only gotten four votes in for February:

April's voted before on one of the four left out from the other thread: Lombardia, Sardinia, Trentino, or Molise, and now again on Friuli or Lombardia.

Two more votes for a Northern Region from FoodMan and NathanP.

Eden has voted on Le Marche.

If you need a map to refer to, don't forget that Megan posted one on the first page, with all the regions labelled.

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I am of two minds.

If we all feel ready to go on to a new region with the beginning of a new month, I agree. We should stay in the North.

The two (other, excluding Kevin's current investment in Valle d'Aosta) Italian regions touching Piemonte are Lombardia and Liguria. I vote for reserving the latter for a time when pesto and seafood would be especially welcome. Moving directly to the east, Lombardy is a good place to explore in the winter since I understand vegetables are not central to the cooking & I do want to try makng buckwheat pasta or polenta.

However, I just started cooking Piemontese dishes now that the month is drawing to a close, and you guys, as much as I appreciate the wit of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", I am no Julie Powell. Tonight I did find a second great source on Piemonte at the library and am eager to try more...in spurts. Roberto Donna's cookbook has a flawed text, but is quite engaging, personal and offers recipes I haven't seen elsewhere, including a chickpea polenta that is made with cooked legumes versus ground dried ceci. If I am brave, I may even try one of the items with pig ears.

If others are ready for a change, really, that's okay.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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April: Your basket of baked goods looks scrumptious!

It must have been in the back of my mind when I made a reference to Julie Powell whose book I have just completed. In Julie/Julia, she mentions delivering a batch of cornmeal cookies to the box office when attending a play that stars a crush of hers. After the performance, accompanied by her husband, she sees the actor standing outside the theater munching her cookies, but does not identify herself as the woman whose cake he's moaned over years and years before.

I feel the same way you do about cornmeal.

Are you planning to try the noodles made with a mixture of cornmeal and regular flour, sauced with leeks?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Dinner last night was Brasato.  It wasn't very photogenic. 

April

Non-photogenic food is totaly welcome here! You could put a picture of a rock next to those cookies and we would still all be drooling.

I officialy vote Trentino /Alto Adige next. My local wine shop just announce a tasting of wines from the region mid-month which is good enough reason for me. My second place vote goes to Lombardia.

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