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Cooking and Cuisine of Piemonte and Val d'Aosta


Kevin72
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Chufi, that dessert looks wonderful. Did you bake the cookies as well?

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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Chufi, that dessert looks wonderful.  Did you bake the cookies as well?

April

yes, they are a variation on Ling's shortbread that's in RecipeGullet, see here for details, I have to say that with all the improvisation, these are some of the best cookies I ever made. I made them on Sunday and they are still delicious and crunchy today!

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I'd like to know the fate of the black truffle from Oregon.

Uhhh, it went on a 160 mile roundtrip with me to discover my brother was sick resulting in a canceled dinner, me going out to mediocre Indian food :sad:, and not getting to drink Proddutori del Barbaresco. :angry: It is currently resting in Arborio rice in my fridge and will have a role in Friday's Piemontese meal.

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I'm sorry about the disappointing road trip, and your brother's health. On the other hand, the rice has had much more time, now, to become infused with the flavor of the truffle.

Up thread I mentioned that Roberto Donna likes to plant sformati in the middle of a soup.

I am planning on making Mario Batali's chestnut sformato and wondered if you have any recommendations for a complementary flavor for a crema di riso to engulf the thing. Donna makes a parsely sformato to go with rice that is inflused with truffle oil. (He also pairs turnip sformati with beef broth dotted with beet oil and submerged crouton spread with roasted garlic paste.) Since I don't have truffle oil, any other suggestions?

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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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

A couple of suggestions and views on Italian language cookbooks from Alberto (albiston) may be found here.

I started out with the help of a dictionary myself, after I had bought some Italian cookbooks in Milano. It worked but it was a slow process. It was this that prompted me to start learning Italian. Even after that I find it hard to correctly translate some things, such as the names of different cuts of meat.

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.

The series is published by the italian publisher Newton & Compton and is called Quest'Italia (This is Italy) and isn't limited to just cookbooks. Pradelli is the author of several of the regional cookbook volumes, but there are other authors as well, for instance Ada Boni. I've only got one book in this series, La Cucina Sarda by A M Pradelli. I've not cooked from this book as much as I've would like yet, so I'm not able to give much of a review. All I can say is that it contains a lot of recipes as well as some genearal info. The recipes are all rather tersely written. I'll probably get more books from this series in the future.

I've also got a couple of books in the Slow Food recipe collection series. These are collection of recipes from different Osterie (Inns) from different regions in Italy. The quality of the recipes varies since the sources of the recipes varies. Sometimes important steps may be skipped or only mentioned briefly, so you'll have to "read between the lines". All in all, I think it is a rather OK series, despite its shortcomings. Some of the books cover a whole region while other only covers a sub-region or province.

For Lombardia, I have the Ricette delle Osterie di Lombardia, Cremona e il suo territorio by Marino Marini. As the title suggest this book only covers the cooking of the province of Cremona.

The other sources of information on the Lombardy region that I have are all in Swedish and they are from a time when there wasn't that much Italian ingredients available in Sweden, so they rely heavily on substitutions. The problem with these substitutions is that the original ingredient isn't mentioned.

I've been eyeing Anna Del Conte's Gastronomy of Italy in my local bookstore sometime ago, but regrettably I didn't buy it.

Edited to add name of Italian publisher and to correct link to albiston's post

Edited by kanljung (log)

Christofer Kanljung

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A couple of suggestions and views on Italian language cookbooks from Alberto (albiston) may be found here.

I started out with the help of a dictionary myself, after I had bought some Italian cookbooks in Milano. It worked but it was a slow process. It was this that prompted me to start learning Italian. Even after that I find it hard to correctly translate some things, such as the names of different cuts of meat.

Thank you for the link to the old thread, and your thoughts on the other books. This should get me started. It's good to hear that you had some success translating recipes. I'm going to give it a 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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Up thread I mentioned that Roberto Donna likes to plant sformati in the middle of a soup.

Oh, I like this idea (ie I might steal it soon)

For chestnut sformati, I would think somrthing sweet/sour and fragrant might work. Maybe a few drops of balsamico in the rice and some crumbled ricotta and fennel fronds. I can only imagine how a chestnut sformati woould taste so I could be totally off the mark.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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I'd like to second April's note of gratitude, Kanljung. I appreciate all the information.

I wanted to bring to your attention the fact that a new cookbook covering Piemonte came out in December, i.e. written in English.

Another is due out in April: Autumn in Piemonte.

Both were discovered via a brilliant bit of marketing at Amazon.com: Italian Bookstore. Click on the box in the lower right corner and you'll be introduced to a 59-page inventory of cookbooks which you're free to reshuffle alphabetically or by date of publication.

As for sformati, thanks for the suggestion, FoodMan. I like it! I conducted a search on epicurious and found celery root, celery, sage, mushrooms, fennel, carrots, butternut squash and blue cheese were some of the flavors that appear in savory dishes with chestnut. I have only a few chestnuts left, but enough to make at least four individual ones to try plain first, and then as islands.

Roberto Donna's book is kind of expensive for a slim paperback, primarily because it was published by a small consulting firm for chefs in Cleveland. Despite the flaws I've mentioned, I must say that the book really is filled with the author's creativity and I enjoy the fact that the recipes often result from the kinds of dramatic statements that a chef makes in his flagship restaurant. (I've eaten at Galileo only once, but it was an excellent, unshowy meal.) Another thing I appreciate is the generous way that Donna gives full credit to chefs & colleagues whose dishes he's adapted. I'm going to make his mother's focaccia di ceci.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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By the way, the pages are moving so fast that I barely get a chance to weigh in on what everyone's making, but it's all solid. And the photos are just perfect; right out of a cookbook. April's three antipasti would look right at home in Kramer's cookbook, Pontormo's putting me to shame with the feasts she's cranking out every other night, and the zabaglione experiments all look elegant and enticing.

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I remember a PM conversation I had with Kevin before this thread started where he told me that he did not get a lot of volunteers to tackle this project and was not sure if there was much interest. Man am I glad this group has stepped up to create a great thread that I am sure will grow in the coming months.

So, here is the answer to what I did with my truffle (I know you have all been holding your collective breath :biggrin: ).

Antipasti: Antipasti consited of Roasted peppers with stormy sea bagna cauda (which means I did not have anchovies in the house), roasted hazelnuts, salumi, and artichoke sformato. I could not find cardoons so in a fit of jealousy I decided to go with their cousin the artichoke which is abundant where I live. This is a bechamel based sformato with pureed artichokes and little chunks of artichoke.

54134091-O.jpg

Moving on to secondi. For my pasta course I made agnolotti piemontese with black truffle butter. This recipe was from Bugialli on Pasta which is the only all region book which I truly love. Unfortunately, Bugialli does not give any background on this dish but the complexity of the filling and the supersized aspect made me speculate that these are some sort of holiday dish. The filling is arborio rice and braised pork and while I made mine at 2 and 3/4 inches, the original recipe called for braised veal and 4 inch agnolotti. (I could only find a cookie cutter this big). Three was a piggish portion and the more sensible people only ate 2. The truffles are not really strong but add a nice earthy undertone to the dish.

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The filling consited of two things. First, pork shoulder (the recipe called for veal but I can't get veal, other than chops, ground and shank and pork is cheaper and tastier) was braised with white wine (I could not find anything under $18 from Piemonte so I used a white from Umbria), meat stock, carrot/onion/celery/parsley, and tomato paste. The second part was arborio rice cooked with onion and meat stock which then had parm. and 1/3 of the meat blended in. A border of the rice filling was made and then the meat filling was put in the center. You can sort of see that in the pic here.

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Great dish. I was worried the rice would be odd in the filling but it was nice and creamy. The braised meat actualy tasted quite a bit like my ragu bolognese but with a different texture.

And now the main. I was intrigued to find a milk braised veal recipe on Langhe.net. This recipe is generaly attributed to Emiglia-Romagna but this differs from that in that it adds a bit of Marsala (I used Madeira, sorry Italy) and is further thickened with ground hazelnuts. I thought this would be interesting since I have done the milk braised pork many times and I thought this would be a fun place to use my truffle. Plus, I LOVE sauces thickened with ground nuts. I started out by butterflying my loin and spreading thin slices of truffle over it.

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I then tied it up before browning, adding onions, adding madeira, and braising in milk.

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The final dish:

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The final dish shot 2:

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Whoops, forgot to add truffle to the sauce. Lucky me there was some left in the pan so I shaved truffle into the sauce and you can see the black specks in the sauce on the final plate. I could only eat one slice since I pigged out on the agnolotti.

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This was absolutely amazing. At least 3X better than the standard milk braised pork even though I used pork loin which is not nearly as exciting as pork shoulder. The hazelnuts added a wonderful complexity and texture to the sauce and the subtle earthy aroma of the truffle permeated the whole dish. The contorno is oyster mushrooms sauteed in the leftover truffle butter from the pasta course and a bit of garlic. Looked like this:

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I skipped dessert :laugh:

Of course it would be shame to wash all this food down with water, some local Piemonte wines were required:

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The dolcetto was simple and went fine with the first courses. The Barbaresco was a more serious wine and went brilliantly with my main. It was not very old and a bit tannic, but the fat in the dish cut through the tannins to let its fruit show and the wine played amazingly off the flavors of mushrooms and truffles

Overall I was very happy with this meal and am looking forward to the leftovers. Thanks for the motivation that I got from all the amazing meals here. The bad news is that after the 2 bottles with dinner, I just opened a Sicilian Nero d' Avelo/Cab blend.... does anyone have a traditional Piemontese hangover cure :sad: ?

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So, here is the answer to what I did with my truffle (I know you have all been holding your collective breath :biggrin: ).

And now the main.  I was intrigued to find a milk braised veal recipe on Langhe.net.  This recipe is generaly attributed to Emiglia-Romagna but this differs from that in that it adds a bit of Marsala (I used Madeira, sorry Italy) and is further thickened with ground hazelnuts.  I thought this would be interesting since I have done the milk braised pork many times and I thought this would be a fun place to use my truffle.  Plus, I LOVE sauces thickened with ground nuts.  I started out by butterflying my loin and spreading thin slices of truffle over it.

The final dish:

54134109-O.jpg

This was absolutely amazing.  At least 3X better than the standard milk braised pork even though I used pork loin which is not nearly as exciting as pork shoulder.  The hazelnuts added a wonderful complexity and texture to the sauce and the subtle earthy aroma of the truffle permeated the whole dish.

Nathan, that is one amazing dinner, especially what you did with the truffle in the pork loin. The plain version from Marcella Hazan has always been a hit whenever I serve it, but I feel called to try new versions now. I like the "filling within the filling" in the agnolotti as well. Congratulations on a fine ending to Piemontese cuisine. Sorry about your hangover.

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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Nathan, what a gorgeous dinner.. the pork looks so beautiful, pink and juicy with the black lines of the truffle slivers running through it.. sigh.. I am really jealous of your truffle dinner but happy that you shared it, if only visually, with us..

I'm going out of town for a couple of days and won't be cooking anything Piemontese anymore before the month is over, but I'm in for the next round! I'll be telling my friends I'm in an Italian cooking club and they have to eat Italian for a while :biggrin:

Thanks Kevin & Hathor, it has been wonderful!

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Are there any Italian wine enthusiasts in this crowd? I am a wine amateur but have been getting a bit more interested in wine over the last year. I'm off to a slow start but I have a side goal of drinking wine from every region as we go through them. (Uh I think I missed ValDAosta allready). I am lucky to have a good local wine shop that, while small and not an Italian specialist, searches out wines from smaller producers, less familiar grapes and regions. I want to try and avoid the modern style stuff and look for regional wines to go with the food. One good example would be this bottle of Freisa from the Langhe that was part of my thanksgiving table this year.

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Beyond the fact that Freisa is not on every shelf, this wine was slightly sparkling ( I was told the term is frizzante). Totaly interesting and went very well with raosted meat which should fit with the hearty cuisine we have been seeing.

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Antipasti:  Antipasti consited of Roasted peppers with stormy sea bagna cauda (which means I did not have anchovies in the house),

Brilliant! Did you make that term up?

does anyone have a traditional Piemontese hangover cure :sad: ?

More bagna cauda?

Great meal and pics, Nathan. I was worried when reading this and saw you putting the truffles into the meat and cooking it that they wouldn't carry through in the final dish. Glad that they did; and I liked that they went in raw to the sauce at the end for two different flavor layers.

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Antipasti:  Antipasti consited of Roasted peppers with stormy sea bagna cauda (which means I did not have anchovies in the house),

Brilliant! Did you make that term up?

does anyone have a traditional Piemontese hangover cure :sad: ?

More bagna cauda?

Great meal and pics, Nathan. I was worried when reading this and saw you putting the truffles into the meat and cooking it that they wouldn't carry through in the final dish. Glad that they did; and I liked that they went in raw to the sauce at the end for two different flavor layers.

I made it up but it is an obvious rip-off of Batali of course. He always loves to highlight dishes with names like this and makes up his own as well. These truffles were more of a subtle flavor point but I figured inside the pork loin if I only took it to medium they would not get too cooked and the flavor would hopefully penetrate the meat. The pork dish went amazingly with the Barabresco. The fat in it cut the tannins in the wine bringing the fruit flavors forward and the mushroom/truffle flavors and aromas really harmonized well with the wine. I figured it would be ok but was amazed at how well it worked.

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Nathan, in response to your question about other wine enthusiasts, I started a new thread called A Year of Italian Drinking in the appropriate forum. I hope some of the experts here at eGullet will check in from time to time to see what we're cooking.

...............................................................

Now, as for your bagna caoda, did you make it without anchovies due to personal taste or missing ingredient?

..................................................................

Since I did not cook anything from Piemonte after Sunday last week, I have decided that my car broke down in Casale Monferrato, close to the Lombardian border. The mechanic is waiting for certain parts to be shipped.

Therefore, I will be making a few more things from this month's region throughout the week ahead, including bagna caoda. This time, however, I will be using a recipe in which there's no danger of burning the garlic.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Nathan, in response to your question about other wine enthusiasts, I started a new thread called A Year of Italian Drinking in the appropriate forum.  I hope some of the experts here at eGullet will check in from time to time to see what we're cooking.

...............................................................

Now, as for your bagna caoda, did you make it without anchovies due to personal taste or missing ingredient?

I'll check out the wine thread. I just did not have any anchovies on hand. Plus since I was doing the pork and the complicated agnolotti and the sformatto I felt justified in some easy fill-in products for the rest of my anitpasti.

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Host's note:

As some of you will doubtlessly already have noticed, I have changed the title of this thread to "Cooking and Cuisine of Piemonte and Val d'Aosta" following the suggestion many of you have expressed both on this thread and in private. Since the thread is already so long it makes sense to dedicate a separate thread to the next region.

Even more important, at least for us hosts, is that having threads dedicated to the different regional cuisines of Italy was something we wanted to have for a while. It is great to see things lifting off thanks to the enthusiasm all of you have shown. Thanks for the great effort. I'm sorry I missed out on Piemonte but count me in from next month :smile: .

With this in mind, I would kindly ask that whoever starts to post about Friuli does so in a separate thread called "Cuisine and Cooking of Friuli Venezia Giulia". The choice of the following month(s) should better be discussed in this new thread, and so for the following months (new thread for each new cuisine and discussion of the follow-up region in that thread). My intention is to leave the different regional thread open, even after the end of the month, allowing anyone interested in that particular cuisine to have a dedicated thread permanently available.

And now back to the interesting stuff: food!

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Nathan, what a stunning dinner! Pork braised in milk is a favorite of mine but I never tried to use nuts for the sauce. It sure sounds great. And those agnoloti's look like a meal on their own. Great work.

My farewell meal to Piedmont was not as elaborate as I had planned due to unforseen circumstances (my son got the flue). What I did make was wonderful though and very satisfying:

- Grissini, made with a mixture of whole wheat and wite flour using a sourdough starter. I seasoned them with salt and 11 secret herbs and spices :smile:. Just kidding, three herbs and one spice. We just munched on those dipped in olive oil while the beef was cooking. Very addictive with a glass of wine.

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- Stracotto al Barolo, of course I used a Cabernet that I like and not Barolo. For the meat I used chuck, the only beef I use for braising no matter what the recipe asks for. I followed Marcella Hazan's recipe for this one. I could not resist at the end but do a very un-Italian thing, I strained the sauce and enriched it with butter :shock: . Don't know, it just seemed like the right thing, or maybe it's a habit that is hard to break. In any case it was lovely, beefy and satisfying.

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- Roden mentions in her book that pureed potatoes are a common side with this dish, so I made mashed potatoes with parmesan, milk, butter and parsley. Hope this satisfies a Piedmontese.

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My plate, the first one.

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I was planning on serving an Onion Sformato with mushroom broth for an antipasto with the breadsticks, as well as som e kind of dessert, probably another zabaglione. Oh well.

See you in Lombardy.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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I'm afraid this is totally cheating but I couldn't resist. My friend and neighbour english winegrower Geoff Bowen (of Pebblebed Wines) just went out to visit another great friend Mario Fontana of Cascina Fontana in the wine hills of Barolo to help with the potatura (winter pruning) and other work in the cantina. On his return, Mario sent him back with some agnolotti al plin for us which we enjoyed last night. What a wonderful and vivid taste of Le Langhe! These little ravioli-like stuffed paste are filled with a mixture of veal, spinach, parmigiano reggiano and then hand-pinched together ('al plin'). We cooked briefly then simply bathed the pasta in melted, unsalted butter in which we'd infused some chopped sage and rosemary. Topped of course with parmigiano reggiano. Agnolotti al plin are very typical of the Barolo wine zone, so we accompanied this delicious primo with, what else, a bottle of Mario's own Cascina Fontana Barolo 2000.

agnolottialplin2.jpg

[edited] PS Italians are nothing if not precise. Mario has just this minute emailed me the following: Mi fa piacere che gli agnolotti vi siano piaciuti anche se era meglio non usare il rosmarino e la salvia insieme ma "o"il rosmarino oppure la salvia, scusami forse non mi sono spiegato bene. What this translates is Mario telling me what a bonehead I was to use both sage and rosemary - one or t'other, per cortesia not both. My response: "Erano buonissimi lo stesso!"

PPS The Barolo 2000 is very good, Kevin, but not in a classic way. 2000 was not the greatest year in Le Langhe, but the upside is that this is a Barolo that is very supple and approachable even now. Smooth and velvety with softly sweet tannins, and with the delicate and sometimes rather haunting aromas of Nebbiolo beginning to emerge. But lacking the true power and the glory of Barolo from a great year.

Edited by Marco_Polo (log)
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