The focus of today's class was Lombardia, in northern Italy. Our teacher, Serena, told us that this region traditionally uses more butter than olive oil because cows are plentiful and the area is too cold to grow olives. The cheese used in the region is also typically from cows, unlike in Tuscany, where the characteristic pecorino cheese is from sheep. Rice is also more common in this area because of the flat, fertile land (again, in contrast to the rolling hills of Tuscany).
The antipasto, Sfogliatine di verza e speck, or a quiche-like tart filled with cabbage, onions, speck, cheese, eggs, and cream is where I initially spent my time. First I sautéed the cabbage, onion, and speck mixture until it was soft and then I covered it in the cheese and cream combination, filling tarts made from pastry dough. When we took the tarts out of the oven, they were a perfect golden brown and oozed delicious cheese. This is definitely a recipe to be repeated at home.
The primo piatto of pizzoccheri was a vegetarian dish (a rarity around here!) and Serena explained that this is the dish she and her family would eat after a day of skiing in the mountains of Lombardia (I guess not all of it is flat…). For this hearty dish we made fresh buckwheat pasta and boiled it with swiss chard, potatoes, and cabbage and then put it into a baking dish lasagna-style, layering it with cubed fontina and grated asiago and parmesan cheese as well as a sauce of butter, sage, and garlic. The baked casserole was mild (absent the typical red pepper flakes of Tuscany) and delicious – certainly one to be repeated on those infrequent cold days in Los Angeles.
Our secondo was Ossobuco in cremolata, or ossobuco cooked in the northern Italian style, with white wine and a sauce of minced parsley, garlic, and lemon zest (southern style ossobuco uses red wine and tomatoes). This was accompanied by our contorno of risotto alla milanese with saffron. The ossobuco was dredged in flour and then pan fried in parallel to a pan of sofrito, or minced celery, carrot, onion, and garlic (I think this must be the Italian version of mirepoix). We combined both in a pan and baked it in the oven for an hour. The dish was delicious, especially when combined with the creamy risotto, and it was also very different from what I usually associate with the texture and flavor of this dish.
Last was the dolce – Budino di pere or a pseudo-soufflé of chocolate and pear. To make this I crunched up amaretto cookies and ladyfingers and lined small tart pans with them. I then filled them with a whisked mixture of egg, sugar, milk, cocoa powder, and diced pears and then crumbled more cookie on top before baking. Simple, light, and delicious.
We have now had all three of the chefs who will be rotating through and teaching us over the next three weeks and each has a different style of teaching and of cooking. It's very informative and fun to learn from such a range of experiences.