|Brasato al Barolo|
SARONNO, Italy - There’s an Italian cooking program on television that I like to watch called Classic Italian cooking. The chef, Mario Bacherini, is a young guy who really knows his stuff. From his name I think he comes from Naples, but I may wrong. Sometimes he says things like “this is my mother’s recipe for pesto, ciao mama,” so maybe he is from Liguria. I may be reading too much into it. His mother could be from anywhere and just make a good pesto sauce.
Italian food differs greatly from region to region and where someone comes from plays a big part in the way they cook. If they come from an area near the sea, they probably are good with fish dishes; if they are from the mountains you can expect to see more game and polenta and dumpling like things, and if they are from southern Italy whatever they are cooking is probably going to have tomatoes in it or on it. Which is fine by me. It’s all fine by me. I’ve yet to find an Italian dish that I won’t eat – well, that may be a slight exaggeration; there are a few things that will clamp my jaws shut but that’s another story for another day.
For me, cooking in Italy is a dream come true, if I’m cooking Italian food. Whatever the little food devil gives me a hankering for, I can usually find it in the market. And if I can’t find it in the supermarket then most certainly I will find it at the outdoor food market that we have in Saronno every Wednesday. That formula works as long as I don’t hanker for anything that isn’t in season, that is.
Right now there are tons of artichokes, eggplant, peppers, green beans, fennel and several dark greens like catalogna and bietole in the shops. There is also cauliflower, both white and green and another green spikey thing called Roman broccoli, that looks weird and tastes like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. And if I go to the fruttivendolo, aka the greengrocer, I can also find fat porcini mushrooms.
Today I am starting a brasato in Barolo, or beef in red wine. I’m following Mario’s recipe rather than Julia Child’s Boef Bourguignon, because I don’t have bacon or mushrooms which are called for in the French recipe. Regular bacon as we know it is difficult to find. I can buy pancetta, Italian bacon, which is sold chopped up in cubes or by the slice, and while technically it is smoked bacon, it really isn’t the same.
In the Italian version of beef in red wine, I have to marinate the beef in the refrigerator overnight. The marinade is made up of red wine, celery, onions, carrots, a couple of whole cloves, and a bay leaf. Maybe a clove of garlic could go in there too, but I can do that when I cook it.
Tomorrow I will take the meat out of the marinade, pat it dry, brown it in a large pot, put the vegetables back in the pot, add the marinade and cook it on top of the stove for about an hour, or until it is tender. After 15 hours in a bath of red wine, I don’t think it will take much cooking to get the meat to the fork tender stage.
Brasato in Barolo is a recipe from the Piedmont region, which is in the northern part of Italy, on the side close to France. There’s a great food culture in Piedmont, it’s where the Slow Food Movement was born, and the main city, Torino, has some of the best restaurants and food purveyors in Italy. It is also a large wine producing area.
So the lunch menu at Auntie Pasta’s tomorrow is going to be brasato al Barolo with polenta, and for desert pears poached in white wine.