martedì 23 novembre 2010
When Italians are feeling poorly, they frequently revert to dieta bianca – white diet. (Dieta Bianca can also successfully be employed after a grueling appointment with one’s dentist.) This basically means soft, unchallenging food that removes hunger pains but doesn’t necessarily satisfy the soul. Dieta bianca includes pastina in brodo (little bits of pasta in broth), spaghetti simply sauced with butter and maybe a little Parmesan (this also doubles as nursery food which indeed most of these dishes are), and myriad pale-faced dishes involving rice.
Riso al burro is popular with Italians at any time. In fact, you don’t even have to be feeling poorly to have it. Mario Sconcerti tells us that the Italian national football team usually eats about four hours before a match, and they often start with riso in bianco (boiled white rice) and then have a steak filet.
You don’t have to chew a lot. In fact, you could take your dentures out – if you had them – and fare quite well.
The Scallion, in Typical Contrarian Mode, sniffed over lunch (recipe, below): “Well, you could call anything dieta bianca then … including white truffles.” Hm. Yes, one could. If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to have had a hospital stay in Italy, and the cause of your incarceration was not gastrointestinal (or maybe even if it was), don’t you think that riso al Parmigiano (boiled white rice with Parmesan) would be elevated by a generous shaving of white truffle? What better way to lift the spirits? What aroma to help one get out of bed! Che gioia to mask the boringness of boiled white rice with cheese.
We rotisserie’d a guinea fowl for Sunday lunch, and half a side remained. It got turned into today’s risotto. Surprisingly tasty for food not meant to challenge the palate. You probably won’t have any leftover guinea fowl after Thanksgiving, but you will probably have leftover turkey, which would work just fine as a substitute (and, to my mind, would be a welcome change from hot turkey sandwiches, cold turkey sandwiches, turkey hash, turkey tetrazzini, turkey croquettes …) The fresh herbs really lift this dish, so try to use them. Dried simply won't do.
(Italians don't have a day such as this. Perhaps they should? They could celebrate the unification and ostensible concord of/in Italy by sharing regional dishes -- grissini and affettati misti to start (Piedmont), risotto alla milanese to follow (Lombardy), tortellini in brodo (Emilia-Romagna), bistecca fiorentina (Tuscany), cannellini beans (Tuscany), artichokes cooked in the Jewish way (Lazio), tiramisù (arguably, the Veneto), panna cotta (Piedmont), cantucci with vin santo (Tuscany), and cannoli (Sicily). And wines from everywhere, particularly Piedmont, Tuscany, and Puglia. If they did it at this time of year, they could (white) truffle practically everything. Oh, the possible combinations!)
Thanksgiving Day is a day like any other here, though increasingly Florentine restaurants offer their version of Thanksgiving; unfortunately, these offers are mostly at dinner time which is when most of us Americans are sitting in front of the television, groaning, and watching (American) football.
Risotto alla faraona e porri /Guinea fowl and leek risotto
¾ c. Arborio rice
2 T. butter
1 T. extravirgin olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, finely chopped
1 hefty cup leftover cooked guinea fowl (turkey if immediately after Tgiving)
1 c. white wine
4 c. chicken or vegetable broth, heated
A bunch of chives, scissor-snipped
1 T. fresh thyme
1 T. flat-leaf parsley
½ c.(or more) Parmesan cheese, grated and at the ready
Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the leeks, stir, and cook through. When soft but not brown, add the rice, stirring to coat with the butter.
Add one cup of good white wine (make sure it’s good, since you’re going to drink the rest of the bottle when you eat the risotto), stir ‘til it evaporates. Then start adding in ladlefuls the chicken or vegetable broth.
About 10 minutes into the proceedings, add the guinea fowl (or turkey), and continue to stir. Just before the rice is done (usually in about 20 minutes), add the grated Parmesan and the chopped/snipped fresh herbs. If the risotto seems a little dry before you add the cheese, give it another glug or two of white wine.
Generously serves two. Remember to drink the rest of the wine.
Re: riso al bianco and the Azzurri: Not dishes for champions, apparently, given the Azzurri’s dismal 2010 World Cup performance. See Mario Sconcerti, “Di Rigore gli Spaghetti,” in Corriere della Sera, Sette, 18 November 2010, numero 46.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING/BUON GIORNO DEL RINGRAZIAMENTO