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The Cooking and Cuisine of Trentino Alto Adige


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First, Mrbigjas, it's great to see you cooking again in addition to an update on the happy baby.  I always enjoy a vicarious peek at other people's bookshelves, so thanks for enough focus to see Leaves of Grass AND Rock Til You Drop behind said baby.  On the other side of the kid, I hope the open volume is NOT a cookbook!

well, not yet anyway--not till we get to the little-known region of italy called 'korea.'

Mrbj: How long did you cook your polenta?  Buford got pretty huffy about the way a REAL polenta takes hour(s?) of cooking and constant attention despite all the shortcuts, the unattended pots and slow-oven methods touted in English-language books these days.

If you do figure out what may have made it so good, please pipe up before dinnertime tomorrow.  I'm sure your source and the colder weather both helped.

well, here's what i did: heat up a quart of water, when it boils i salted it some, and started sprinkling in the polenta while stirring. lidia taught me about that. then it started thickening. then after about five minutes, it got real thick, so i added probably about 1/2-3/4 cup more water and stirred that in so it could actually cook. then after about 10 minutes, the same thing happened. then after about 10 minutes the same thing happened. my guess is that i probably ended up with about a 6:1 ratio of water to polenta in all, and it cooked for maybe a half hour to 40 minutes. at the end i stirred in about 2 T of butter. and that was about it. i didn't even put parmigiano in it this time. i wonder if that was the difference in flavor--that i usually load it up with cheese. well, not 'load'--i like to think i have SOME sense of restraint. but i didn't use any this time, and i think we might have enjoyed its absence.

the polenta i used was the kind that comes vacuum-sealed in a brick, and is pretty coarse, and is not perfectly cleanly yellow--it's got little brown bits like in this random picture here, which was my first google image result for 'coarse polenta'--and it turns out it's a trentino breed of flint corn they're using there. i wonder where this stuff was from. i have to restock, so i should have an answer relatively soon.

i get the impression buford gets pretty huffy about a lot of things--wasn't he the one who went on and on about how it's an abomination to make a pesto in a blender? i mean, i know on one level it is, but i'm not a old italian homemaker who has all day to tend to a polenta pot. but if i keep enjoying it this much i might have to invest in one of these...

kevin, i wonder if you're right about the mistranslation for cumin. caraway would kind of make more sense--although cumin does seem to be one of those universal spices that shows up in nearly every cuisine, which is why i didn't really think twice about it. but for instance, when i was reading the google translation of that link franci posted, it kept translating noce moscata as 'walnut moscata' instead of nutmeg... maybe i'll have to make another batch and see.

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I did work a little bit tonight :biggrin:

Apfelstrudel

This is one of my favourite dessert and I really enjoy making the strudel dough

gallery_20639_4143_2696.jpg

I didn't measure the size of the kitchen towel I used to stretch the dough, it's quite a big size

gallery_20639_4143_38367.jpg

And here the cooked strudel

gallery_20639_4143_27711.jpg

Edited by Franci (log)
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Franci, that streudel is gorgeous!! Is the recipe on your blog, or another website? That dough looks incredible!

Since we were talking about polenta cookers, I dug up some photos from my Ital.cook days.

This was a polenta cooking demonstration over a wood fire, the paddle was turned by hand, but it was a long crank handle so the 'turner' didn't have to stand too close to the fire. When it was finished it was poured onto a board and cut with a string. We ate it in small bowls, with a little milk.

gallery_14010_2363_79917.jpg

gallery_14010_2363_24534.jpg

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Wonderful cooking all; including the strudel!

As mentioned above, in German/Austrian influenced stews like goulasch I think the spice would be Kuemmel or caraway; not cumin. I don't think that cumin is a traditional spice in Central European cooking. In addition, caraway seeds are very common in goulash recipes.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Wonderful cooking all; including the strudel!

As mentioned above, in German/Austrian influenced stews like goulasch I think the spice would be Kuemmel or caraway; not cumin.  I don't think that cumin is a traditional spice in Central European cooking.  In addition, caraway seeds are very common in goulash recipes.

thanks ludja--with all the confirmation, i reckon i'm gonna have to make it again.

damn you, about.com!

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Franci, that strudel, especially the stretched dough, is so impressive!

I have to add that you offer stiff competition to Andieseij (sp?). She's a long-time eGullet member who colllects kitchen appliances and equipment.

However, I have to say that your specialized mechanized polenta pot and the tigelliera win the prize for fascinating culinary toys!

* * *

I also appreciate all the comments about polenta. Unfortunately, the grains I use are a standard-issue bulk item that Whole Foods used to sell as polenta, but now has decided to call grits. At least it has large grains and results in a more satisfying texture than the finer-grained meal that Northern Americans use for cornbread.

I also use the trickle-through-the-fingers method, mrbigjas, but my teacher was Marcella. This time I won't stop when it begins to stick to the bottom of the pot. I'll let it form a crust.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Franci, that pastry dough is amazing. So thin and shear. Bravo.

On the polenta topic, I've not had much luck with Buford's enticing method in Heat. I'm using what's labelled "organic polenta" at our gourmet store; it comes bulk. I'd assume then, that it's not the quick-cooking kind.

But anyways, none of the changes he describes occur: the gradual swelling and expanding beyond the initial phase when it hits the water; the visible transformation and smells, etc. It just winds up being alot of scorched, hard polenta with a liquid center. I know there's alot of factors that may be contributing to my lack of success, and that you do want some of that "crust" but this seems overkill. The closest to success I actually had was in fact when I covered it and put it in the oven and stirred it occasionally, which I know someone above wasn't too keen on.

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On the polenta topic, I've not had much luck with Buford's enticing method in Heat.  I'm using what's labelled "organic polenta" at our gourmet store; it comes bulk.  I'd assume then, that it's not the quick-cooking kind. 

that site i linked for the pic up there? i really want to buy some, but i just can't bring myself to pay $4.95 plus shipping for 12 oz of cornmeal. i have to draw the line somewhere--i'm not sure where it is, but it's before that.

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Franci-

that is some lovely strudel. Please more details, dough proportions, filling and baking. The most success I've had with a strudel was using the recipe from Alford and Duguid's "Home Baking" book.

As for cooking polenta, I really like Paula Wolfert's oven method in Slow Mediteranean Kitchen. I have not read far into Heat to check out Buford's method, maybe I will today.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Franci-

that is some lovely strudel. Please more details, dough proportions, filling and baking. The most success I've had with a strudel was using the recipe from Alford and Duguid's "Home Baking" book.

As for cooking polenta, I really like Paula Wolfert's oven method in Slow Mediteranean Kitchen. I have not read far into Heat to check out Buford's method, maybe I will today.

Elie, I loaded recipe and pictures on my blog here

I really like this dough, it work very well also for savory strudels. I hope it helps.

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Franci-

that is some lovely strudel. Please more details, dough proportions, filling and baking. The most success I've had with a strudel was using the recipe from Alford and Duguid's "Home Baking" book.

As for cooking polenta, I really like Paula Wolfert's oven method in Slow Mediteranean Kitchen. I have not read far into Heat to check out Buford's method, maybe I will today.

Elie, I loaded recipe and pictures on my blog here

I really like this dough, it work very well also for savory strudels. I hope it helps.

Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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It just wouldn't be right to ignore one region completely while exploring the rest. Besides, I am not sure I made polenta for any of these cooking threads, yet.

So, tonight I consulted Anna Del Conte's book on Northern Italian food and liberally adapted a recipe designed to pay homage to the hundreds of different mushrooms that grow wild in this area, albeit much later in the year. I did what I could with a limited number of different varieties of cultivated mushrooms (4, though it could have been 6) plus dried porcini.

These produced funghi in umido (hard to pick a color for that one; let's pretend chanterelles were involved). The recipe had some built-in flaws since it requires an entire bunch of parsley and tells you what to do with half. I can't imagine what the rest sprinkled over only 700g or 1 1/2 pounds of dehyrdrating mushrooms would do other than diminish the flavor you've spent time enhancing; I used less parsley and more garlic than required. At any rate, it is a simple dish, in many ways a trifolato. The only difference is that you cook the funghi for some time on high heat until all the moisture evaporates and then you add 8 T of milk, turn the heat low and stew for quite some time again. Nice, subtle effect in that last step.

It it often treated as a contorno with venison or game hunted in the mountains. However, I followed a vegetarian suggestion and served it with polenta (easy decision there).

Kevin expressed skepticism about Buford's hyped-up exposition on a proper pot of polenta. I have to agree, though I will add a very un-Italian aside to say that if you're interested, send a PM & I will give you Peter Reinhart's recipe for cornbread that is made by soaking coarse cornmeal in buttermilk overnight. If you wait a few days before preparing and baking the batter, the swelling of the larger, rough grains creates an extraordinary texture that most cornbread lacks.

I cooked mine in the usual fashion, only spending twice the amount of time Hazan recommends. After 50 minutes, with a thin yellow coat on much of the bottom (soaking in the sink now), the grains retain a nice fluffy quality. While steam continued to rise until the point that I turned off the heat, I just thought the texture was too dry because I had neglected to add more water to accommodate the longer time on the stove top. Leftovers had to be plopped by the spoonful or scooped by hand onto a wooden board rather than poured.

Not authentic as an accompaniment, but scallions braised in a little bit of new chicken stock worked out rather well. I'm still hungry, though, and wish I had some of Franci's strudel.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I cooked mine in the usual fashion, only spending twice the amount of time Hazan recommends.  After 50 minutes, with a thin yellow coat on much of the bottom (soaking in the sink now), the grains retain a nice fluffy quality.  While steam continued to rise until the point that I turned off the heat, I just thought the texture was too dry because I had neglected to add more water to accommodate the longer time on the stove top.  Leftovers had to be plopped by the spoonful or scooped by hand onto a wooden board rather than poured.

Marcella Hazan cooks polenta for 25 minutes :shock: ? To me that would be undercooked, the polenta is hard to digest and it doesn't taste good. Maybe with fioretto you can cook for less but the thicker the grains the longer the cooking.

The "crust", if it's thick enough, you can peel the most of it and it's like eating corn chips.

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good speck is usually enjoyed as is - sliced , with var. pickles and bread and butter - just like prosciutto. and the fatty ends you fry and cook on the rendered fat. i've recently bought it in balducci on 14st, but only 1 kind. in alpine areas there are specialty speck shops with incredible varieties.

we've been to var. areas in and near the region and find that alpine cuisine is quite similar due to historic connections: from arlberg in austria to engadine valley in switzerland, thru sud-tirol; but even in cortina there is a strong austrian influence. you'll laugh, but the best polenta i had was in lech, austria: with ground walnut.

i look and cannot find a simple recipe for 'fresh sauerkraut' - that is served everywhere in alpine areas in austria as a condiment: its really just fresh cabbage cured for a few days with salt/caraway.

i find that now, with international tourism in ski resorts, the cross-breeding or at least the presence of both italian/tirolean cuisines is wide spread.

Edited by rumball (log)
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Marcella Hazan cooks polenta for 25 minutes  :shock: ? The "crust",  if it's thick enough,  you can peel the most of it and it's like eating corn chips.

I only have the original editions of her books, so the timing might have been shortened to accommodate the finer grains of the only type of yellow cornmeal available to most Americans back in the 1980's. I don't know if the revised edition adjusts the recipe.

Even a vegetarian cookbook by Deborah Madison notes that 45 minutes is traditional--though the author reassures her American readers that polenta sometimes can be eaten after 30 minutes of constant stirring--or cooked in a double boiler for a much longer period of time, but stirred only once and a while as you're attending to other matters.

(Thanks for the chip tip. Sounds like a good thing to teach a young child. :smile: )

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Polenta chips! Try this with left over polenta: roll some very thin between sheets of plastic wrap, then crisp them in the microwave. If you take them out while hot, you can bend them into cone or cup shapes. Sorry...got carried away with msyelf.

Pontormo, your funghi sound excellent. I like the milk part....very interesting.

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  yesterday i bought a package of fioretto

Fioretto is more used for baking cakes and cookies. See amorpolenta, zaletti, pan de mej (mei=millet in milanese), biscotti di meliga.

ok, will do!

when i was at the store looking at the bricks of vacuum packed polenta, i just picked out the one that had the instructions to cook for 45 minutes. you can't really see the size of the grains through the plastic, so i was hoping i chose the right one--guess not.

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good speck is usually enjoyed as is - sliced , with var. pickles and bread and butter - just like prosciutto. and the fatty ends you fry and cook on the rendered fat. i've recently bought it in balducci on 14st, but only 1 kind. in alpine areas there are specialty speck shops with incredible varieties.

we've been to var. areas in and near the region and find that alpine cuisine is quite similar due to historic connections: from arlberg in austria to engadine valley in switzerland, thru sud-tirol; but even in cortina there is a strong austrian influence. you'll laugh, but the best polenta i had was in lech, austria: with ground walnut.

i look and cannot find a simple recipe for 'fresh sauerkraut' - that is served everywhere in alpine areas in austria as a condiment: its really just fresh cabbage cured for a few days with salt/caraway.

i find that now, with international tourism in ski resorts, the cross-breeding or at least the presence of both italian/tirolean cuisines is wide spread.

I'm not sure but I don't think it's fresh "Sauerkraut" what are you looking for. There is a dish called "Krautfleckerl" in which sour braised cabbage is combined with broad noodles.

The simplest recipe for braised cabbage

1 kg cabbage (Spitzkohl) julienned

60 g lard (pork fat)

1/2 onion finely chopped

Salt

Caraway seeds

water

10 g flour

vinegar

pinch of sugar

Fry onion in in fat until golden yellow. Add cabbage, salt and caraway seeds and braise at medium temperature until soft. Add some water if necessary. Sprinkle flour, stir and add some water. Let cook a few minutes. Season with vinegar and sugar.

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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Saturday night, I made the onion and speck pie from, I think, the about.com site Pontormo posted at the beginning of the thread. When it came time to make it, I couldn't find it again until afterwards, so I winged it. I caramelized the onions instead of just getting them golden, and threw in some rosemary, but otherwise I was surprised that I was pretty close to the recipe. Oh, and I did make the pastry (but it wasn't puff pastry). A tart salad worked to cut the richness.

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Sunday's meal began with another concocted dish, baked buckwheat polenta with ricotta sauce:

gallery_19696_582_71845.jpg

So here again I couldn't resist Friulifying a TAA dish; those of you with Terra Fortunata will recognize the ricotta sauce from Plotkin's book. The buckwheat polenta also had speck and cheese stirred in. I was going to do the brown butter/anchovy sauce again from one of Pontormo's links but then decided that the flavors and smells might be too strong for my wife. She really enjoyed this version, though: "the speck makes it!".

For the main it was stinco di maile, braised pork shanks. I got them at a superb new Asian market that opened very close to where I live. The only kind they had available were boned out, so they had to be secured in rather unappealing looking lumpy bundles. Bonus: they came skin-on, which I removed and tossed in the freezer for potential cotechino making!

Anyways, the recipe is from Mario's first book. Served with it was blaukraut, sweet and sour red cabbage.

gallery_19696_582_8258.jpg

For dessert I whipped up a strudel-type thingie with fresh apples, nuts, and dried fruits. I was using gubana as the guide, but I don't like the cocoa that goes into them, so I left it out and minimally spiced the fruit mixture.

gallery_19696_582_32273.jpg

And no, I didn't make a lovely dough like Franci! :biggrin:

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Wonderful spread, Kevin! Three more days of this region and I'm not sure I'll get around to tasting my first (? :huh: think so...) speck, but that pie does look good.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Franci

we made it a family affair to make your apple streudel this weekend and had a great time doing it. My wife and three year old had a great time spreading sugar, cinnamon, apples, raisins and nuts. I will try to post a picture, though it will only be of what is left as we could not wait to long after it came out of the oven to cut into it.

grazie per la ricetta

Dave

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