From Bergamo. Polenta e cüní. This is the most common Sunday lunch in Bergamo, and is one of the dishes I miss from my time living there. The are many variations on the recipe. This one comes from Slow Food Italy. Serves 4
Polenta cuni ingredients
1 rabbit, cut into portions
50g lardo, guanciale or fatty pancetta
2 glasses of dry white wine (Slow Food recommends Valcalepio)
4 sage leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
Put the rabbit in a pan large enough to contain it in a single layer. Place over a high heat for a few minutes to completely dry out the pieces.
Polenta cuni lardo
Reduce the heat a little and add the lardo, butter, clove and sage. Brown the meat.
Polenta cuni browning the rabbit
Add the wine and let it evaporate, stirring from time to time.
Polenta cuni with wine
Reduce the heat to low, cover and continue cooking until the rabbit is tender. There shouldn’t be a lot of liquid while it’s cooking, but if it looks like drying out, add a little stock. The cooking time will vary according to the rabbit, but it will be at least two hours, maybe longer.
About five minutes from the end of cooking, add the remaining butter and the chopped rosemary. The rabbit should be quite dry, almost crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside.
Serve it with polenta made according to the instructions on the packet. If I don’t have a polenta machine available to stir it, I usually use the quick cooking variety. A lot of Bergamasci regard this as a heinous crime though 🙂
Pasta cresciuta. From Naples. My local pizzaria here in Bari is Neapolitan and cooks what the locals regard as “thick” pizzas. The Barese go there when they want some foreign food 🙂 They also cook a few specialities from Naples, such as arancini and this dish. Pasta cresciuta means “grown dough”, because the batter contains yeast. You can cook them without a filling, or with some of the more traditional ones such as courgette flowers or anchovies. Alternatively experiment with what you have to hand. The batter will make about 60-80 pieces.
Mixed fritters ingredients
Sun-dried tomato halves, soaked to soften
Courgette (Zucchini) flowers picked over to make sure they don’t contain any insects etc.
Large sage leaves
Oil for deep frying (traditionally olive oil, but sunflower oil is acceptable)
For the batter
1 cube of fresh yeast
320ml lukewarm water
300g oo flour
A pinch of salt
First make the batter. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture. Beat it with a whisk until smooth. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1 – 2 hours to rise. It should about double in size.
Mixed fritters batter
Heat a pan full of oil to a medium heat, about 180°c. If the oil is too hot the fritters will be raw on the inside and burnt on the the outside. If the temperature is too low they will be soggy. A litte experimentation may be needed to get it right.
Mixed fritters cooking
To make plain fritters, drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot oil. Cook until they are lightly browned, turning once. You are aiming to keep a reasonably soft texture. Think savory doughnuts. Drain on kitchen paper. Dip the various fillings into the batter and continue as before.
They are best eaten hot, but may also be eaten cold.
Pollo alla cacciatora. It is very common to find versions of this dish outside of Italy, especially in the United States, however they often bear little resemblance to dishes found here. Even the spelling has been changed, possibly reflecting a dialect spelling originally used by Italian immigrants to the States. The name translates as hunter’s style chicken. I am a bit unsure why as I am unaware of anybody hunting chickens 🙂 You can also prepare rabbit in this way so maybe that was the original recipe. There are many versions in Italy, but the common factor is the chicken is cooked with white wine and tomatoes. This version is from Liguria. As always, if you can find a really good free range, or at least corn fed chicken it will improve the dish no end. Serves 4-6.
1 chicken cut into cut into 6 or 8 pieces
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion, chopped
Half a celery stalk, chopped
A sprig of rosemary
2 fresh sage leaves
A bay leaf
A glass of white wine
6 fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded (or an equivalent amount of tinned)
Chicken cacciatore ingredients
Brown the onions, the celery and the garlic in a large pan.
Chicken cacciatore browning the onions
Add the chicken pieces, rosemary, sage and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes over a reasonably high flame.
Chicken cacciatore browning the chicken
Lower the flame and add the wine and cook until it has almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes, stir and cook until the chicken is done. About 45 minutes. Serve directly from the pan.
Some people like to add a little chopped parsley at the end
You can also add sliced fresh or reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms along with the chicken.
Salvia fritta in pastella. From Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Around Italy the styles of eating vary quite considerably for a large meal. The basic form doesn’t change, how could it? 🙂 The unalterable form is Apperitvi, Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Dolce, Caffe. What does change from region to region is the emphasis placed on each course. For example in Bergamo the bars compete to have the best apperitivi and you may be presented with a large selection. Here in Bari the antipasto is king. If you order the house antipasto you may be presented with up to twenty small dishes. Luckily you are not always expected to continue to primi, secondi etc. Bring your appetite with you if you go to a wedding though.
Fried sage leaves finished dish
This recipe is from the north however. My sage plant is getting very big and I wanted a way to use it.
Fried sage leaves batter ingredients
20 g of large fresh sage leaves
125 ml beer. A lager would be best.
100 g oo flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
The white of 1 egg
Oil for frying
Washed sage leaves
Wash the sage leaves well and dry them on kitchen paper.
Fried sage leaves batter
Put the flour in a bowl and add the chilled beer. Add the oil and a large pinch of salt. Mix it together with a whisk until it is smooth. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Fried sage leaves egg white
Beat the egg white until you have stiff peaks. Add a pinch of salt and carefully fold it into the batter.
Dip the sage leaves into the batter and fry then in hot oil turning once. When they are golden brown, remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.
Casonsei alla Bergamasca. When I lived in Bergamo we used to drive up into the mountains once or twice a year to eat polenta taragna. The starter was invariably casoncelli, or casonsei in the bergamasco dialect. Slightly sweet filled pasta dressed with sage and pancetta. Makes a generous 8 servings.
Casoncelli finished dish
For the pasta:-
400 g 00 flour
100 g durum wheat flour
Mix together all the ingredients along with enough water to make a dough. Knead until smooth. Let it rest for half an hour or so and then roll out into reasonably thick sheets. A hand cranked pasta machine will be a great help with this.
Petti di pollo in carpione. I got this recipe from the English translation of il cucchiaio d’argento –The Silver Spoon. This book is I think on the whole a clever marketing trick. It is a 1950s cookbook with a few modern recipes tacked on the end. Add to that an appalling translation, don’t trust any measurements! The recipes still appear in the original Italian alphabetical order even though they have been translated into English. I have met some people who have heard of it here, a bit like the good housekeeping books in the UK, but I have yet to find anybody who has used it. It can be useful for ideas if you already know what you are doing. The following recipe is in fact very nice 🙂 Serves 4
Soused chicken breasts ingredients
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast portions
80 g breadcrumbs
25 g butter(or use all oil)
5 tablespoons olive oil (I usually use much less)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
350 ml white wine vinegar
100 ml dry white wine
4 fresh sage leaves (or a teaspoon of dried)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
salt and pepper
Beat the chicken with a meat mallet until evenly thin.
Beat the egg with a pinch of salt in a dish, add the chicken and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Spread out the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Drain the chicken and dip in the breadcrumbs to coat.
Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan, add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes until golden brown on both sides.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in another pan, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the vinegar and wine and bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat and add the sage and garlic.
Place the chicken in a dish, pour the hot marinade over it, leave to cool, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.