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Cooking and Cuisine of Piemonte and Val d'Aosta


Kevin72
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Hmm, that even takes the idea a bit further. So maybe one thread dedicated just to the cuisine of Piemonte, one to Lombardia, etc? Then it stays open and we can contribute more in subsequent months of cooking?

I like that idea as well. We can keep the thread titles cosistent and only change the name of the region, maybe add it to the subtitle. We can contact one of the Italy moderators and they can change this (Piedmont) for us.

I am all for democracy and all, but I do not like the idea of voting and tallying votes. Creates more work for whoever is doing it and frankly, very few of us "know" what they want. I am still of the opinion that Kevin and Hathor (since it was their idea...sort of... to start this series) should just decide on what regions we are doing every quarter. I really am fine with any way you want to do it though.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Hmm, that even takes the idea a bit further. So maybe one thread dedicated just to the cuisine of Piemonte, one to Lombardia, etc? Then it stays open and we can contribute more in subsequent months of cooking?

Yes exactly. Nothing clever, just poaching the format of the cook-along threads that run on the Cooking Board. I noticed that every month one of the older cook along threads will pop up again as someone makes a contribution even though the group is months past the topic. I also have no problem with Kevin and Hathor picking the regions. People can always PM them and beg to modify the rotation if they need to tie in Cooking in Tuscany with their month long vacation there!

Well truffle hunting was easy... Head outdoors, grab a dog, look for some trees, sniff around a bit and Bobs your uncle.

Straight from the Piemonte

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Allright, only the rice is from Piemonte, the truffle hails from that lost region of Italy, Oregon :hmmm: Not a lot of aroma, but not a lot of $$. I just had a big non-italian meal downsized this weekend so I am going to slide in a Tajarin w/ truffle course for the new small group. Not a full meal but I am curious to see if these are a total waste of dollars. Either way we will be drinking single vineyard Proddutori del Barbaresco so I suspect the food may not really matter.

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Yesterday's dinner was a combination of one traditional Piemontese dish as an appetizer, a primo that complements Piemonte's tastes and a liberal translation of something from the Piedmont as a main-course salad:

Peperoni ripieni alla Carlina

Ricotta gnocchi with butter and sage

Petti di pollo in carpione con scarola

I used the cookbook that the chef of D.C.'s Galileo wrote on Piedmont's cooking. Like many of his generation in my city, Roberto Donna was influenced by Jean Louis Palladin whose mark was artful sophistication. Therefore, the stuffed red and yellow peppers in Donna's illustration are rather elegant and architectonically erected as three thin glistening columns rising from the plate with an extreme diagonal cut at the top, angled to show as much of the confetti-studded filling as possible. The white china is speckled with differently colored oils and essences with a jaunty little shrub of frisee planted smack in the center.

I went for something a bit more down to earth and rolled my roasted red peppers as heftier logs. The stuffing is very much like a Salade Nicoise without the olives, tomatoes or green beans. Italian tuna packed in olive oil, my salt-packed anchovies, a boiled potato, garlic, parsely, capers, hard-boiled egg, etc. are processed with a thin stream of olive oil to make a smooth paste. After the peppers are filled, they're refrigerated for several hours to firm up and allow the flavors to blend. Very light, wonderful textures (a surprise since I love fishy things, but am not a fan of pastes or mousses). I only wish Hathor had knocked on the door, holding a basket of her home-baked grissini.

The gnocchi were prepared just because there is a farm nearby that makes excellent ricotta that I like to treat as simply as possible. I didn't want the fresh taste to get lost in an elaborate stuffing...and I love butter and sage. Enough said.

Finally, the chicken breast was left over from the chicken I had braised in milk as were the herbs from the Poultry Blend packet (marjoram, rosemary, sage & thyme), something I prefer buying if I have to pay $2.50 for less than a handful of organic sprigs. So, I deboned and pounded it, sliced the scallopine into thin strands and sauteed them in olive oil, sprinkling lots of red wine vinegar over them while still warm so that it would be absorbed. The rosemary and lots of sage was then sauteed with shallots, parsley and garlic after all were minced, then tossed immediately into the bowl with the chicken. S & P, more vinegar and oil. Chilled for a few hours, brought back to room temperature and tossed with lightly dressed escarole.

While I didn't fall in love with it as Kramer had predicted, I didn't feel like Batali does about feeding chicken breasts to the dogs either. Perfect for the summer-like weather we're having down here on southern swamp land.

N.B. Before we end our survey of Piemonte, I'll mention a few things that I find interesting in comparing this chef's book to that of a wine critic/food writer (Kramer). There are some very useful cooking "tricks" and it's always fun to see what the chef does to seem inventive or creative...even though some might scorn the loss of authenticity.

Just one glimpse now: Roberto Donna likes to place a small sformato in the center of a shallow soup plate and present it as a kind of island. Then he surrounds it either with a consomme, maybe with a few submerged croutons, or a more complex broth. Very pretty. Not sure how I'd feel about bechamel clouding up a clear broth, but the turnip sformato in a crema di Arborio scented with truffle oil might not be bad....

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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OMG! Bob's your uncle!

When I was working in Boston forty years ago one of my fellow architects was Andrew Rudovski (a member of the Polish army overrun in '39) who went to school in London after the war.

At any rate, "Bob's your uncle" refers to Robere Peale, of London "bobbie" fame and meant that you were untouchable.

And that was the only time I ever heard the phrase. Bob's your uncle indeed!

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As promised, here is the hazelnut cake with the Zabaglione added on top along with chocolate shavings. The Zabaglione was made following Marcella Hazan's recipe and was so thick and good, that I felt bad not having made more. I bet it would make great chilled dessert.

gallery_5404_94_36858.jpg

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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"The few times we [children] were allowed to dine downstairs, flawless dishes would be brought in by Emilia, our beloved cook, who bustled unperturbed between her stove and the dining room. The food was invariably white--uniformily white--and bland. Always very good, always impeccably executed, but so bland. Many souffles, lots of sformati (timbales), paste al gratin, and beautiful fish--maybe a merluzzo (a small Mediterranean cod), steamed to perfection, with a whisper of extra-virgin olive oil. Food was judged by the same standard as fashion: spiciness was as vulgar as a skintight dress." --Patrizia Chen, Rosemary and Bitter Oranges

Robiola e pane di tre cereali

Risotto ai Finocchio

Trotta Ripiena in Salsa di Barbera

The meal began with a small square semi-soft cheese that falls somewhere below a very ripe Brie in terms of real funk-appeal. It was wonderful with bread that was baked less than an hour before I got home, still warm while gliding slowly from my hand to the clerk's at the check-out line. While eating cheese before the primo is more American than European, it helped keep hunger at bay when the primo calls for an hour's worth of braising even before the rice is toasted.

From what I gather, the term "robiola" is used for numerous semi-soft cheeses with edible rinds that come from different parts of Northern Italy, most like mine which hails from a small cheesemaker near Cuneo. According to Kramer, most robiola from Piemonte deviates from the norm, being a fresh cheese like the one posted earlier in this thread to show off little bits of black truffle on top.

I followed Matt Kramer's recipe for the most part when making the risotto. The taste of the braised fennel was augmented only by the usuall shallots and a couple of garlic cloves and pinch of cumin (huh? made no difference) that is added to olive oil and water while it was melting, the entire lot except for the oil, pureed and added to the rice when it was cooking.

Nice, warm, but underwhelming nursery food, even though the organic bulb was fresh and perky while crisp. I've made Marcella's fish braised with fennel and mashed potatoes with fennel and enjoyed them both. Were I to do this again, I wouldn't puree the entire vegetable; I'd let the reserved pieces carmelize to a rich color and throw them into the risotto along with the grated cheese. Some vermouth in the broth might help too...and maybe some freshly ground, toasted fennel seeds instead of cumin. Now that I have mastered risotto fritto (cold leftovers flattened into a fat pancake and fried in olive oil until crisp & gold on the outside), I have to say leftovers were better.

The troat was the most satisfying part of the meal even if Roberto Donna needs a consultant to edit and revise the text of his recipe. (Instructions misleading unless you anticipate problems that a literalist might experience; overly fussy.) Cf. Kevin's lovely version of the dish.

My recipe called for butterflied fillets of trout. Pork chops, maybe, but most fish fillets are sold as one half of the fish, cut lenghthwise with head and tail removed. I just bought a whole, clean fish. The stuffing saved the meal from being utterly white and entirely understated since it contained shallots and mushrooms AND pancetta along with the customary blend of strongly scented herbs. These are softened up a bit with tomato paste and Madeira, though I used the last of a bottle of vermouth since I did not want the taste to interfere with the Barbera. The stuffed fish is placed on a bed of softened shallots and surrounded by the red wine. Once the pan is lidded with heavy foil, it's heated on the stove and then transferred to the oven for 10 minutes. I really liked this part of the recipe since the fish was perfectly cooked.

When you take it out of the oven while stirring the last of the broth into the risotto, don't get distracted and grab the hot metal handle. At least the soft spot on one of my fingers is small and does not impede typing.

Some of the stuffing (without the pancetta) is meant to be reserved and blended with the wine, then reduced a few minutes to form a smooth sauce free of alcohol taste. The trout is stripped of its skin, then plated on a bed of mushrooms and dressed in the sauce. I skipped the bed. Too fussy. Next time I'd skip the blender since the wine was not boozy...maybe thicken with butter reduction instead.

The meal was so filling, it called only for a small cluster of grapes. These I submerged in a clear bowl filled with ice as witnessed on a hot summer day in Cortona. These I found especially refreshing as I dipped my throbbing left hand into the cold water and grabbed onto the cubes.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Finally, heads up:

I conducted a preliminary search to see what kinds of resources might be available for us to use for the next two regions that are leading contenders for February.

Surprisingly, I found only one cookbook in English that features either of these regions: Fred Plotkin on Friuli which is not in my public library (nor Ada Boni, Claudia Roden...). I checked the Library of Congress catalogue and found numerous publications on Lombardia and individual cities such as Milan or Mantua...tutti in italiano.

Since most of us have had ossobuco, I am sure we have recipes for Lombardia's specialties at home. We'd just have help each other out a bit more.

There seem to be numerous online sources, designed to entice tourists and visitors. Many are from sites I already linked near the beginning of this thread, such as Delicious Italy.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I went all-out for the dinner I cooked last night, in an attempt to fit in several recipes from Matt Kramer's book before we move on to our next region at the end of the month. I have to say that the style of Italian meals is what is the most difficult for me to get used to. I generally just prepare and serve a main course with one or two sides and some bread.

The three antipasti, left to right: Insalata di Carotte e Lingue Tornavento, Peperoni Ripieni con Tonno, and Funghi Trifolati.

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The tongue salad with carrots was fun and tasty. The recipe called for soft goat cheese, but the best that I could do was brie. I had a hard time not adding extra ingredients to the tuna and olive oil filling in the red peppers. My subconcsious kept demanding American-style tuna salad. I should have followed the version given by Pontormo over the weekend. The mushrooms were fabulous (yes, they were button mushrooms). What's not to love about mushrooms with garlic, bacon and parsley?

The soup was Palline di Carne con le Mele in Brodo (Meatballs with Apples in Broth).

gallery_36660_2126_20434.jpg

The meatballs have grated apple and Parmesan cheese in them, and they are also simmered in white wine before before adding them to the broth. I used the broth from poaching the tongue mixed with poultry stock for the soup. The combined flavors were unique and refreshing.

The main course was Petto di Tacchino Ripieno alle Nocciole (Turkey breast with hazelnut stuffing). The stuffing was a delicous-sounding mixture of ground pork, ground turkey, cream, eggs, chopped hazelnuts, pancetta and white raisins.

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I was disappointed that the flavor of the hazelnuts didn't come through. The filling mostly tasted of the sweet raisins. Next time, I will reduce or eliminate the raisins and add more hazelnuts.

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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Finally, heads up:

I conducted a preliminary search to see what kinds of resources might be available for us to use for the next two regions that are leading contenders for February.

Surprisingly, I found only one cookbook in English that features either of these regions: Fred Plotkin on Friuli which is not in my public library (nor Ada Boni, Claudia Roden...).  I checked the Library of Congress catalogue and found numerous publications on Lombardia and individual cities such as Milan or Mantua...tutti in italiano.

Have you tried to get these books on Interlibrary loan? Somewhere there's bound to be a library that has them.

Plotkin's book on Friuli is also available used through Amazon and Abebooks.com.

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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I am so glad you made the veal meatballs in broth, too! I really liked the soup.

I eyed the tongue at the supermarket, but I haven't been able to get over silly prejudices, nor have I had the patience to follow the regiment of courses with utmost fidelity.

I bought some leeks this weekend. I hope you'll join me in making the pasta with cornmeal so that others get to see what the dish looks like.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Have you tried to get these books on Interlibrary loan?  Somewhere there's bound to be a library that has them.

Plotkin's book on Friuli is also available used through Amazon and Abebooks.com.

April

I am trying to keep purchases of cookbooks to a minimum since books in general are a terrible weakness. I confess that each time I take something else out of the library, I want to buy it, though! This thread is doing me in since I now feel I have to have the NEW translation of Pellegrini, Ada Boni, Waverly Root & revised Del Conte. Some of these are cheap. THEN there are the historical books in modern editions that I cited on the Biblio thread. THEN there are all the books on Italian food that are coming out of Italy, including those produced in affiliation with the Slow Food movement.

I am spoiled as a resident of D.C. with a reader's card at the Library of Congress. I do read Italian and there are plenty of good Italian books for me to use. (Problem is that photocopies are 25 cents a page!!!!! as opposed to free when it comes to other federal libraries.) I was trying to think of other people in different places throughout the world.

Well, I need to log out for the day.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I am so glad you made the veal meatballs in broth, too!  I really liked the soup.

I eyed the tongue at the supermarket, but I haven't been able to get over silly prejudices, nor have I had the patience to follow the regiment of courses with utmost fidelity.

I bought some leeks this weekend.  I hope you'll join me in making the pasta with cornmeal so that others get to see what the dish looks like.

The tongue isn't bad at all, once the outer layer is peeled away. It has a taste and texture like mild roast beef. That said, one of my neighbors witnessed me slipping the package into my grocery cart over the weekend. She requested that I not invite her to my "experimental" dinners.

I'm definitely planning on making the pasta. I have leeks in my fridge at this very moment! I just need to finish off last night's leftovers first.

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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Azerus, this looks like a top notch meal. I love your antipasto platter and the soup especially.

Tongue is excellent, just think of it as the big muscle that it is, nothing more. If more people would try it I am sure they will love it.

So, "the powers that be" (aka Kevin and Hathor) :smile:, what are we doing next?

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Lombardia is definitely what we'll be doing in February.

I must say, though, that I still like the idea of everyone voting on where we head. I think if we go the quarterly route, it helps cut down a little on doing all the legwork. Maybe instead of taking up thread space, especially if we're going to break these up into region-only cooking threads, we should move the votes to PMs and I'll just make an announcement at the beginning of the last month of that quarter. It's really not that much more work for me to tally the votes, and I like the more organic process that emerges as a result. Plus I want to avoid just rerunning the regions or the order that I did last year. It allows for more contribution that way instead of me (or me and Hathor) dictating where we go. Though I guess with voting via PM that does take some of the open discussion element out of it.

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Lombardia is definitely what we'll be doing in February.

I must say, though, that I still like the idea of everyone voting on where we head.  I think if we go the quarterly route, it helps cut down a little on doing all the legwork.  Maybe instead of taking up thread space, especially if we're going to break these up into region-only cooking threads, we should move the votes to PMs and I'll just make an announcement at the beginning of the last month of that quarter.  It's really not that much more work for me to tally the votes, and I like the more organic process that emerges as a result.  Plus I want to avoid just rerunning the regions or the order that I did last year.  It allows for more contribution that way instead of me (or me and Hathor) dictating where we go.  Though I guess with voting via PM that does take some of the open discussion element out of it.

Awsome! My homemade Bresaola (round 2, since the first one did not exactly work out) should be ready for consumption within a week or so. It will make a great antipasto.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Would anyone care to speak about the relative merits of the cookbooks that organize recipes according to regions of Italy?

I am referring to the comprehensive surveys, i.e. Boni, Root (? if it is a cookbook), Roden & the Culinaria. I have seen the cookbooks that focus exclusively on Northern Italy, though I would be interested in opinions on this topic, too.

Edited for sake of clarification & lack of proof-reading. Yes, Kevin, indeed.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Would anyone care about the relative merits of the cookbooks that organize recipes according to regions of Italy? 

I am referring to the comprehensive surveys, i.e. Boni, Root (? if it is a cookbook), Roden & the Culinaria.  I have seen the cookbooks that focus exclusively on Northern Italy, though I would be interested in opinions on this topic, too.

I was thinking the same thing, and in the Italian Ragu thread, marons was asking about recommendations for cookbooks written in Italian. When I was looking for used cookbooks on abebooks.com yesterday, I stumbled across several regional books written or edited by Alessandro Molinari Pradelli. This led me to an on on-line bookseller in Italy, Bol.it which listed several more by him, including books on Friuli, Lombardy, and the Piedmont. There's even one devoted to the cooking of Milan. (2007: "My nerdy year of Milanese cooking" :cool: ) There are also "Guida Gourmet" books on several different regions.

I don't know Italian myself, but I'm intrigued by these books, and I feel that with the help of a dictionary, I could handle the recipes. But, it would be nice to know in advance which books, in English or Italian, would be worth the effort of aquiring.

Perhaps we could start a thread on Italian cookbook reviews, since the Bibliography hasn't yet taken off.

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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Azerus, this looks like a top notch meal. I love your antipasto platter and the soup especially.

Tongue is excellent, just think of it as the big muscle that it is, nothing more. If more people would try it I am sure they will love it.

Thanks, Foodman. I forgot to give you your proper due yesterday--your meal featuring tongue was fresh in my mind when I went shopping last weekend. The leftovers have made great sandwiches.

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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April, look at the links I provide to online library cataloges, especially in the Italian Bibliography thread. It's either there or here (where I offer a string of online sites on Piemonte) that I explain how you can look through the Florentine catalogue.

You're referring to an author who, if memory serves me correctly, may be the editor of a series in which each volume is devoted to a single region.

What we need are a few participants in Italy proper.

However, I will make a point of going down to the LOC (Library of Congress) some time in the next few weeks and report back on some of those here in D.C. I might try making a few things from Lombardia.

If anyone is in NYC or London or a university town, there should be resources, too.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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April, what a lovely looking dinner, elegant, colorful, with vibrant flavors almost jumping from the pictures!

The Zabaglione was made following Marcella Hazan's recipe and was so thick and good, that I felt bad not having made more. I bet it would make great chilled dessert.

I made Marcella's Zabaglione today, and following Elie's cue, I chilled it and had it for dessert with hazelnut cookies. Very rich, very delicious... After chilling, it became an extremely unctuous sauce... (see second pic)

zaba.jpg

zabaclose.jpg

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