What to eat at the airport: Chicago O’Hare

Tortas Frontera at Terminal 3 in ORD
Maybe it’s the feel-good endorphins released when we eat chile peppers, or perhaps it’s just the simple combinations of strong flavors, but when we’re truly stuck at the airport, nothing soothes our frazzled nerves better than good Mexican food. When American canceled our flight from Dallas to Albuquerque, we had time to discover the healing power of the chicken and green chile tamales at Pappasito’s Cantina at DFW. (See this post for details.)

Yesterday, when American summarily canceled our flight from Chicago O’Hare to Lexington, Kentucky, we headed directly to Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless. We’ve been fans of his food for years, and find that the recipes in his cookbooks are among some of the best for reproducing authentic Mexican dishes at home. It’s nice to find a friendly face, so to speak, at the airport.

Tortas Frontera, as you might expect from the name, is basically a sandwich joint. But what sandwiches! We settled in at the food court with a spicy albondigas torta (a meatball sandwich), a smoked pork mollette (an open-faced sandwich), and a bowl of creamy corn and poblano chowder that was practically the definition of comfort food.

And we knew what we were getting, as Bayless lists the ingredients and often the local farms where he gets them. The food may be Mexican by culture, but it is, as his souvenir shirts say, “Hecho en Chicago.” The meatballs incorporated pork and bacon from Gunthorp Farm in nearby LaGrange, Indiana, and they were served with Bayless’s classic roasted tomato sauce and a little melted soft Cotija cheese. The mollette was a harmonious stack of sliced pork loin, melted Jack cheese, chipotle-fig spread, Cotija cheese and a little cilantro on half a bun. And that sublime chowder contained sweet corn, roasted green chiles, caramelized onion, and Cotija cheese. When we get home, we’re going to check his cookbooks for the recipes.

We can recommend them all, with the caveat that when American is canceling flights willy-nilly, the lines get long and the service a little slow. But we could wait. We weren’t going anywhere for 24 hours.

Branches of the restaurant are located in Terminal 1 at B11, Terminal 3 at K4, and Terminal 5 at M12.

23

06 2015

Black truffle quiche

Black truffle quiche
Everyone always says that truffles pair well with eggs so I thought a black truffle quiche would be a natural. But when I went looking, the only recipes I could find for truffle quiche use truffle oil—an interesting ingredient in its own right if you like laboratory flavors, but not exactly real truffle.

To create a quiche worthy of truffles, I turned to two late, great chefs whose teachings inform pretty much everything I cook. I combined my favorite savory crust, which is adapted from Charles Virion, and Julia’s Child’s quiche Lorraine recipe, substituting truffles for bacon. She was right—quiche doesn’t need cheese. I scaled the recipes for a seven-inch tart pan that makes just the right size for light lunch or a good appetizer course. It goes very well with a glass of deeply chilled Muscadet.

BASIC QUICHE CRUST


1 cup cake flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, cold
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or lard), cold
2-3 tablespoons ice water

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place flour and salt and process briefly to mix. Cut the butter and shortening (or lard) into half-inch pieces and drop through feed tube. Process about 3 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and process another 3 seconds. If dough masses on blade, you’re done. If mixture is still crumbly, add rest of ice water and process a few seconds.

Roll out on flour-dusted counter and drape into 7-inch fluted tart pan. Push dough into the flutes to form an attractive edge. Chill at least 2 hours.

Remove from refrigerator and bake in 450°F oven for about 7 minutes, or until crust begins to color. (Pie weights will help keep the crust from puffing up.)

BLACK TRUFFLE QUICHE


2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
10 grams grated black truffle
5 grams shaved black truffle

Mix eggs and salt. Add heavy cream and grated black truffle and mix.

Add mixture to partially baked crust (above) and bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. Check to make sure it’s beginning to set by inserting cake tester. Bake another 15 minutes. Remove quiche from oven and sprinkle shavings of black truffle on top. Return to oven for 2-5 minutes, or until egg mixture begins to brown slightly.

Cut in wedges and serve.

10

06 2015

Black truffle pizza tricks

truffle pizza
I got some of my best ideas about how to adapt truffles for home preparations from Doug Psaltis of RPM Steak (rpmsteak.com), RPM Italian (rpmitalian.com), and Paris Club (parisclubbistroandbar.com) in Chicago, who is the biggest user of Aussie truffles in the U.S. Psaltis credits his comfort level with truffles to the seven and a half years he spent working for Alain Ducasse (he opened Mix in New York).

chef Doug Psaltis loves black truffles “I learned the best thing about truffles—that they are really delicate and not overpowering,” he told me. “There are a lot of aromas to truffle dishes but what I really savor is the actual flavor of truffle. Handled right, it’s light and delicate. You can add lots of butter and lots of cheese to make a Parmesan pasta with black truffle and it’s great. But sometimes I just prefer some crushed truffle, a little bit of garlic and pine nuts and just a sprinkle of cheese tossed in great pasta. Then the truffle comes through.”

Psaltis’s advice to cut back on the fat gave me a new way of thinking about truffles, since most traditional truffle recipes pair the fungus with lots of butter, beef juices, or other fat. (I’ve even seen chefs in Italy’s Piedmont shave white truffle over a plate of lardo, which is pure raw pork fat.) One of Psaltis’s other favorite treatments surprised me.

“I love a great burrata with tomatoes and black truffles,” he said. “You get a little bit of the earthiness and the tang from the burrata and the acid of the tomato and a little bit of raw garlic in there with the truffles.”

I’m looking forward to trying both of Psaltis’s treatments this summer when the new harvest is available. And when a chef of such accomplishment spoke about the simple pleasures of tomato, mild cheese, and black truffle, it inspired me to bring some of those same flavors together to make a black truffle pizza.

Restraint is part of the secret of any good pizza, and for a black truffle pizza it was even more important. I use a pretty standard pizza dough that’s easy to make but requires several hours to rise. It’s been adapted from a pizza class adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated adaptation of a New York baker’s no-knead dough that rises in the refrigerator. It’s best if it rises overnight in the fridge, but it works fine if you let it rise all day on the counter.

FOOD PROCESSOR PIZZA DOUGH


210 grams flour
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
150 grams ice water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In food processor fitted with steel blade, add flour, yeast, and sugar. Process 30 seconds to mix. With processor turned on, dribble ice water through feed tube until absorbed. Process another 30 seconds.

Let sit at least 10 minutes before proceeding. This allows the yeast to get a head start on the salt.

When the wait period is over, add salt and olive oil and process until the dough pulls away from the sides of bowl.

Turn out and place in greased 1-quart bowl to rise, preferably six hours or more. Punch down periodically when dough reaches rim.

This recipe requires some modest kneading on an oiled surface and then working by hand to stretch the dough into a 16-inch round. Cooked at 450°F, it produces a Neapolitan-style crust in about 10 minutes—crisp and browned on the bottom and slightly chewy on the top.

BLACK TRUFFLE PIZZA


truffle pizza 2The firm cheese is an aged goat cheese from the French Pyrenees that has a grassy/fruity flavor and melts very smoothly. It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s worth it for the perfect pairing with the delicate truffle flavor. The truffles only go in the oven for the last few seconds that the pizza is being cooked, mostly to activate their aroma and let the cheese melt around them.

Crust (as above) rolled out on pizza pan
3 ounces tomme de chevre Aydius, coarsely grated
1 ounce fresh goat cheese
1 cup diced fresh tomato, well drained
10 grams grated or shaved black truffle
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced

Distribute cheeses evenly on crust and top with diced tomato, as shown above.

Cook until crust starts to brown on the bottom. Remove from oven and sprinkle pizza with black truffle. Return to oven to cook another 30-45 seconds. Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil, and cut into slices.

05

06 2015

Sweet corn tamales with black truffle

Australian truffle
During last July’s research trip to Australia, I babied a single prize black truffle all the way home. I kept it cool inside a rigid plastic box wrapped with absorbent paper that I changed every 12 hours so it wouldn’t get too moist. When asked at Border Control if I had any fresh food, I said, “yes, a black truffle.” The agent said, “OK,” and waved me through.

shaving a truffle The real question was what to make with this spectacular faceted lump (see above) that was an 80-gram culinary gem? How could I stretch it as far as possible without skimping on the flavor in each dish? After an indulgent meal of black truffle sliced over buttered pasta (see last post), I decided to set aside the truffle shaver in favor of a microplane grater that could produce gossamer ribbons of truffle. As I learned in Australia, maximizing the surface area pumps up the flavor.

Many top North American chefs rave about truffles with sweet fresh corn—one of our first tastes of summer at the market. But I had never seen truffles with sweet corn tamales. It seemed logical enough. After all, the Mexicans have been eating tamales filled with huitlacoche (an inky corn fungus) for centuries. As it turns out, truffle and corn tamales are a match made in culinary heaven.

This version is adapted from Mark Miller’s original “green corn tamales” that he used to serve at Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe. I’ve changed the dough a little and filled the tamales with soft goat cheese blended with black truffle. We serve them without a sauce, but with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche on the side.

Sweet corn tamales with truffle

SWEET CORN TAMALES WITH BLACK TRUFFLE


With apologies to Mark Miller and millions of Mexican chefs, I abandon the colorful corn husks or banana leaves for more practical aluminum foil to wrap the tamales for steaming.

For dough

3 large ears fresh corn, shucked
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter (one half stick) cut into pea-sized pieces
2 cups masa harina
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup warm water

Cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a large bowl. Blend 1-1/2 cups of the kernels, the sugar, and the butter until it forms a chunky purée. Return to bowl with remaining kernels and add masa harina, salt, baking powder, chopped parsley, and water. Mix by hand until a soft dough forms, adding a little extra water if the dough is crumbly.

For filling
190 grams soft goat cheese
10 grams of finely shaved truffle ribbons

Mix truffle ribbons into cheese.

Divide dough into eight equal pieces. Flatten each and put one-eighth of cheese in middle. Fold over from two sides to seal. Wrap in aluminum foil and seal tightly. Repeat until you have eight tamales.

Steam for 50 minutes. Unwrap and serve with crème fraiche or sour cream.

Peddling truffles with Simon Friend

Tagliatelle with truffles at Cafe DiStasio in Melbourne, Australia
When I researched the Robb Report story on Australian truffles, I had the pleasure of meeting Melbourne-based Simon Friend and his partner Bryan Burrell. They do business as Friend & Burrell (friendandburrell.com.au), but they might as well be called The Good Tastes Guys because they’re Australia’s go-to suppliers of gourmet mountain hams from Spain, Giaveri caviar, and big tins of Iranian saffron. The two former tennis professionals are also major distributors of black truffles from the Australian Truffle & Wine Company.

Simon Friend with trunk full of truffles As the Melbourne Truffle Festival was about to start last July, I joined Simon Friend on his sales and delivery rounds in Melbourne. The state of Victoria has its own truffle industry, but production is dwarfed by the Manjimup farm, a four-hour plane ride west. We stopped at the airport to pick up a shipment and headed straight to Queen Victoria Market. Two newspaper articles about black truffles had appeared that day. One of the gourmet produce dealers had called to say that Friend was right: He should have ordered more truffles a few days earlier. Could Friend bring some by?

Simon Friend selects truffles We puttered around the busy market until a parking space opened up and we could dash in with a box cooler, a gram scale, and an invoice book. When Simon opened one of the plastic boxes in the cooler, the vendor and I both let out involuntary grunts of appreciation as the aroma wafted out. Each truffle was rolled in a fresh paper towel to absorb any excess moisture, and as Simon unwrapped them, the produce man approved each with a nod. They were small truffles, perfect for selling to chefs more interested in taste than appearance. Friend selected seven that weighed out at 156 grams. He promised to return a few days later with a new batch of bigger truffles that Melbourne foodies would be requesting once the festival publicity hit.

We spent much of the morning popping in kitchen doors to schmooze with a few chefs and talk about their truffle dinner plans during the festival. Finally, we came in through the kitchen to have lunch at the bar at Café DiStasio (31 Fitzroy St, St. Kilda; + 61 (3) 9525 3999; distasio.com.au), one of Friend’s very good customers.

Simon eating tagliatelle with truffles at Cafe DiStasio in Melbourne “A couple of bowls of pasta,” Friend requested. “And here’s a truffle to shave over them,” he said, pulling an unpretty but highly aromatic small truffle from his pocket. The waiter suggested a glass of Barolo each, and we concurred. By the time the dish arrived, so had Mallory, one of the two owners, who insisted that we have a green salad as well. Then she topped up the glasses. The tagliatelle were perfect, just slightly toothy and sauced with an emulsion of cooking water and superb Australian butter. The truffle was sliced so thin that it was translucent.

“That’s the key,” said Friend. “You want to maximize the surface exposure to get the best aromatics.”

And it doesn’t hurt to smother the pasta with those paper-thin slices of gustatory heaven.

Here’s my version of the dish pictured at the top of the post:

TAGLIATELLE WITH BUTTER AND TRUFFLE

Makes 2 generous servings

2 cups all purpose flour (plus extra for kneading and rolling)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter
20 grams thinly shaved black truffle

Mound flour on the counter and make a depression in the middle. Place salt and olive oil in depression. Break eggs into depression. Using fingers—or a long-tined fork and a bench knife—combine the ingredients until the eggs are fully incorporated. Knead briefly until dough takes on texture of an earlobe. Divide into six pieces and roll out to desired thickness with hand-cranked pasta maker. Cut into 1/4-inch noodles.

Cook noodles in boiling, salted water for about two minutes until al dente. Drain and toss with butter in bowl, adding a little pasta water to make sure noodles are moist and well-coated. Divide into two bowls and top with shaved truffle. Enjoy with a glass of Barolo. Or two.

21

05 2015

Bordeaux is just the beginning for Lafite

Lafite wines at The Palm Boston Château Lafite Rothschild is legendary for its red Bordeaux, many of them too expensive for all but special occasion meals. Fortunately, the parent company, Domaine Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) (www.lafite.com), has been spreading Lafite’s winemaking skills around the globe to create more affordable wines. And back home in Bordeaux, they’ve developed a series of soft, ready-to-drink red and white wines under the Réserve Spéciale line. We had the chance to try several of the different branches of Lafite at a wine dinner at The Palm Boston, and we’re happy to say that the Lafite junior lines show that good wine can be made at a good price.

We started by drinking the Lafite Réserve Spéciale Blanc 2013. White Bordeaux, especially from the Entre-deux-Mers district, doesn’t get a lot of respect but this Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc combination had just enough fruit to complement its pronounced acidity. The minerality made it a fine aperitif wine while our palates were still fresh. It nicely complemented a course of seared sea scallops. Wine shop price is $13-$15.

Los Vascos Chardonnay Among the white wines, Los Vascos Chardonnay 2013 stole the show. In 1988, Lafite became the first French firm to invest heavily in Chile and the reward for their boldness are the Los Vascos wines. They are distinguished among bargain Chilean wines (about $7!) for the cleanness and clarity of the fruit. The chardonnay character is well-rounded and the full mouth feel makes it a real contender with strongly flavored seafood and even soft-rind cheeses. (Yes, it’s the perfect arts reception wine with a wheel of Camembert.) At this dinner, it more than held its own paired with a roasted beet and arugula salad that had been dressed with a quite tart champagne vinaigrette.

Bodegas Caro We also drank two reds that demonstrate Lafite’s flexibility. Lafite isn’t the only Bordeaux name to team up with a top Argentine wine producer, but Bodegas CARO (a Mendoza partnership with Nicolas Catena) is one of the most successful, at least to our taste. We drank a Bodegas CARO Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2010 with a powerfully beefy serving of braised beef short rib. Harvested from old vineyards at very high altitudes, the two grapes were fermented separately and underwent malolactic fermention separately (15 percent in barrel, 85 percent in stainless steel). The blended wine was aged 18 months in French oak from Lafite’s Bordeaux cooperage and allowed to mellow in the bottle for a few years before release. The resulting wine has the hairy-chested bombast of great Malbec with the tuxedo elegance of superb Cabernet—just about perfect with an intense beef dish. Retailing at $60-$65, this wine is worth planning a meal around.

Lafite Pauillac We also drank a Lafite Réserve Spéciale Pauillac 2011. It was a classically balanced light Bordeaux—almost a throwback to old-style claret—redolent of nutmeg and cedar cigar box. It’s Bordeaux as winemakers used to make it for the English market. Soft Bordeaux calls for a lower-profile meat, at least to our taste. The Palm served lamb, which was a good choice, but we thought the aggressive spice rub overpowered the wine a bit. At about $40 per bottle, it’s a pleasant Bordeaux for everyday drinking—if you drink $40 bottles every day.

At the end of the night, we enjoyed a sip of Sauternes (Château Rieussec 2009) with apple strudel. It’s a classic pairing, but the wine wasn’t quite ready. Unctuously fruity, this Sauternes needs more time in the cellar to marry the intense sweetness with the full-bodied Sémillon fruit. It’s retailing around $35 for a split, $55-$70 for a full bottle. Buy it now and lay it down for five years.

19

05 2015

Australian black truffles upend the seasons

First page of Robb Report Australian truffles story
I did not realize how successful the Australians have been in cultivating black truffles until I had the pleasure of visiting Manjimup in Western Australia to see for myself. The Truffle & Wine Company‘s truffière in that little town two hours south of Perth is quite simply the most productive black truffle farm in the world. I was visiting on behalf of the Robb Report, where my article on the subject, “Move Over, Monsieur,” appears in the May issue. You can also read a copy here on the “Some Articles” page of HungryTravelers.

I’m happy to report that there’s now a reliable pipeline of supply from Manjimup to the U.S., and some of the country’s top chefs have discovered the joys of pairing fresh black truffle with fresh summer produce. (The more-familiar European black truffles arrive December to March, also known as “root vegetable season.” ) The supply line is mostly for chefs and fancy food distributors, since black truffles have a very brief shelf life, but individuals can also order at the web site, www.truffleandwineusa.com.

I brought one home to experiment, and later this month, as the Australian black truffle season gets into gear, we’ll be posting some summertime black truffle recipes.

06

05 2015

The Palm serves a mean shepherd’s pie

The Palm Boston exterior
The Palm Boston (www.thepalm.com/Boston) got a new lease on life when the iconic steakhouse moved from Copley Place in Back Bay to the swank One International Place Tower at the edge of the Financial District. Now that the weather has warmed, the restaurant can show off one of its greatest assets: the outdoor seating looking out on the new Seaport District just across Fort Point Channel.

Over the winter, regulars gathered in the glittering interior for wine dinners. We enjoyed the Lafite Wine Dinner that paired a number of wines from the legendary Bordeaux house’s farflung empire with some classic Palm cookery, including seared sea scallops with a pea and truffle purée, ancho- and espresso-rubbed lamb chops, and braised short ribs with a wild cherry drizzle. But The Palm isn’t all expense-account cuisine. Just as the restaurant happily served some of the bargain Lafite wines (like Los Vascos from Chile), chef Karen Mitchell hides a comfort-food heart behind her fine-dining credentials. One of the dishes for which she’s locally famed is the humble North American casserole of meat and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes known as shepherd’s pie.

And like many fine-dining chefs, she’s found a few ways to make the home-cooking classic her own—notably through the superb beef, the splash of hot sriracha sauce, and the cheese that’s melted into the potatoes. And if you didn’t think shepherd’s pie was fit for fancy company, you’ve never seen The Palm serve it in finger-food-size pastry shells as a hot passed appetizer. Here’s Chef Mitchell’s recipe:

KAREN MITCHELL’S SHEPHERD’S PIE FOR THE PALM


Palm shepherd's pie Serves 6-8

4 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup diced onion (1/2″)
1/2 cup diced celery (1/2″)
1/2 cup diced carrot (1/2″)
1/2 cup fresh yellow corn kernels
4 smashed garlic cloves
1 1/2 lb. good quality ground beef (The Palm uses ground prime beef)
1 cup white wine
2 cups beef or veal stock
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons A-1 sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon paprika

For mashed potatoes
3 large Idaho potatoes
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
salt (about 1/2 tsp)

Directions
1. Sweat onion, carrots, celery, garlic cloves, and corn in canola oil on medium-low heat until tender. Add ground beef and sauté until all pink is gone. Add wine and reduce by three-quarters. Add stock, bay leaves, and sriracha, A-1, and Worcestershire sauces.

2. Cook on medium low heat for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped parsley, salt, and pepper at the very end.

3. Strain the mixture and reserve the juices.

4. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or hotel pan, evenly spread the ground beef mix and put aside.

5. Make whipped potatoes. Boil or steam peeled Idaho potatoes until tender. Heat milk and butter together in a saucepan until combined. (There’s no need to boil the milk mixture.) Add cooked potatoes and, using a stand or hand power mixer, whip the mixture. Add the cheddar, rosemary, and salt to taste.

6. When smooth, spread the potatoes evenly over the ground beef.

7. Sprinkle the paprika over the mashed potatoes. Place pan under broiler for a couple of minutes until the mashed potatoes brown slightly.

If you want to make gravy, use the reserved juice from the ground beef mix, a little more stock, and enough flour to thicken. Ladle over each serving.

24

04 2015

Tortellini in brodo is a Modena treat

tortellini en brodo at Hotel Ristorante Pizzeria Parco in Palagano
Before I visited Modena, I kept seeing references to the city as the home of stuffed pasta. It made little sense to me, but when I arrived, I discovered that the signature pasta of the region are those diminutive stuffed crowns known as tortellini. Tortelloni and tortellini(They also serve tortelloni, which are much bigger and go better with tomato sauce.) Specifically, the classic dish of Modena is tortellini in brodo: the little pastas served in a strong chicken broth. Every home cook has a family recipe for the broth—and most people just go to the market and buy terrific fresh tortellini from local producers like Doremilia (www.doremilia.it).

I got a chance to see Doremilia’s pasta factory in the hill village of Monchio di Palagano, about 45 minutes west of Modena. Alas, because I couldn’t risk trying to bring a fresh meat product back to the U.S., I wasn’t able to bring home any of the splendid, handmade tortellini. But I did have lunch with one of the owners at a wonderful restaurant in the larger hill village of Palagano, Hotel Ristorante Pizzeria Parco (Via Aravechhia, 27, +39 333 594 8124, www.hotelristoranteparco.it), where we proceeded to enjoy some tortellini in brodo as one of several courses. I recommend you do the same if you’re ever in the neighborhood. Palagano sits on the Dragone river in the foothills of the Appenines, and the area is crisscrossed with scenic hiking and cycling trails. It’s also well within the district for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, so you get lots of great flavors with the natural views.

chef Tagliazucchi Chef Vittorio Tagliazucchi did Doremilia proud, serving a special batch of the tortellini that had been made with 36-month-old Parmigiano Reggiano in a clarified, very intense roasted chicken broth. While I couldn’t bring any of the products home, I did manage to pick the chef’s brain about his broth and got Massimo Ceci, the pasta company owner, to give me a rough idea of how to make the tortellini filling. It took a little practice, but here’s a fairly authentic tortellini in brodo to make at home.

TORTELLINI IN BRODO

Makes 6-8 servings

Tortellini filling
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces lean ground pork
2 ounces prosciutto, finely diced
2 ounces mortadella, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 large egg

In a large sauté pan, heat butter and oil over high heat. Add ground pork and lightly brown, breaking up pieces with a spatula. Add diced prosciutto and mortadella and continue cooking a few minutes, stirring to mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and let cool.

Add nutmeg and black pepper to meat mixture and process with steel blade in food processor until the mixture is very finely ground (about 2 minutes). Add grated cheese and process about 30 seconds until mixture is well blended. Add egg and process until smooth.

Pasta
2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour plus extra for kneading area
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Place flour in a heap on the counter and make a depression in the middle. Crack eggs into the depression and add oil and salt. Using a long-tined cooking fork, stir the flour in a folding motion until eggs and oil are absorbed into a sticky dough. Knead for 3-4 minutes, using extra flour as necessary to keep from sticking. When ball has texture of an earlobe, divide into eight pieces.

To make tortellini, roll a ball of dough out one notch thinner than you would for fettucine.

Lay out flat dough on counter and using a knife or rolling cutter, cut into 2-inch (about 5cm) squares.

Place a slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon of filling mixture in the center of each square.

Make tortellini by folding pasta corner to corner to form a triangle and pinch edges to seal in filling.With one corner pointing up, roll bottom up one-half turn. Using tip of little finger in the middle, fold over one corner. Then fold over the other, tucking point underneath into center area. Remove little finger and pinch to make sure ends stick. Here’s a really good video of the process on YouTube.

Set tortellini aside and cover with dish towel to keep from drying out. Repeat process until all the pasta is used up. If any filling is left over, freeze for another day.

For broth
3 pounds (1.5kg) chicken necks, backs, and wings
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced on diagonal
2 stalks celery, diced
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups water

serving tortellini en brodo Set oven to 450°F and arrange chicken parts in shallow pan. Roast 30 minutes until browned.

In stock pot, place roasted chicken pieces and remaining ingredients. Bring to boil and lower temperature to simmer. Cover and simmer 2 hours. Let cool and strain, discarding solids.

To serve, boil tortellini in salted water for about 10 minutes or until done to taste. Heat broth separately. Spoon tortellini into bowl and spoon broth over. Pass grated Parmigiano Reggiano to sprinkle on top.

18

04 2015

Why Parmigiano Reggiano is king

Wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano
The king of Italian cheeses is Parmigiano Reggiano, which is head and shoulders above the various imitators sold as “parmesan” in the U.S. and Canada.

2-cows I had always wondered why the D.O.P. product was so clearly superior, and a visit to Caseificio Poggioli (+39 059 783 155, http://poggiolicoopcasearia.it/en/) on the Via Montanara in Spilimberto outside Modena helped me understand. The new €6 million facility is a cooperative of four dairy farmers of Modena province and was built, partly with public financing, after the May 2012 earthquake that destroyed so many of the region’s cheese factories and aging warehouses. Yet to be tested by seismic events, the facility is equipped with state-of-the-art controls for the time-honored process of making Parmigiano Reggiano.

3 - bales of hay Under the D.O.P. regulations, all the milk must come from herds within a prescribed geographic area in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Mantua on the right bank of the Po river, and Bologna on the left bank of the Reno river. The rolling plains between the rivers are covered in rich grasslands, and all the feed for the cattle, both green pasturage and stored hay, must also come from the region. The cattle are not allowed to eat silage because—unlike most other Italian grating cheeses, such as Grana Padano—Parmigiano Reggiano is not pasteurized.

4-fresh curd In many ways, the cheese production proceeds as it always has. Milk from the evening milking is placed in shallow steel trays overnight and is partially skimmed in the morning before being placed into copper-lined cauldrons with an inverted bell shape. It is topped with whole milk from the morning milking to bring the volume up to 1,100 liters. Rennet is added and the mixture is heated to promote coagulation of the proteins. The new equipment at Poggioli stirs the curd, allowing the factory to make a lot of cheese with very few cheesemakers. When the cheese reaches a texture determined by the cheesemaker, he or she will cut the curd in half. Each piece will be cradled in a linen cloth and lifted from the whey.

Fresh curd begins its transformation into Parmigiano Reggiano The bulbous masses go on a line to drain and be transported to another room, where each one is lifted into a plastic form. Each form has a band that imprints the place and date and numbers each wheel separately. After sitting in a seawater bath for about three weeks, the wheels are cleaned and dried and placed on wooden shelves to begin aging.

6-cutting By regulation the cheese must age for at least 12 months. In practice, Parmigiano Reggiano is rarely sold until it is at least 24-30 months old. At that stage, the cheese begins to develop protein crystals that give it a slight crunch. As it continues to age, the umami flavor becomes ever more pronounced. At 36 months, most wheels begin their decline as they become too dry.

From just four farms, Poggioli makes 18,000 wheels of cheese per year, which is a lot of sprinkles on top of pasta. The aging rooms contain more than 50,000 wheels at a time. The photo below shows just one row of one room of the warehouse. When the last earthquake hit, wheels went flying off the shelves. If another big one strikes, they should stay put, thanks to giant shock absorbers.

The cheeses from Poggioli are exquisite. You can buy them by the piece at the factory in sizes from half-kilo chunks to entire wheels. It’s also available at the public market in Modena.

aging Parmigiano Reggiano in Poggioli

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04 2015