Gusto de Piemonte
Around the world attention is focused on snowboarding, ice dancing, alpine skiers, speed skaters and yes curling as all the Olympics continue in Torino (Turin) Italy . The Piemonte region, of which Tornio is the capital, is also a great spot for those with just dreams of Olympian style eating.
Cuisine of this region is a dynamic blend of Italian mountain specialties and strong Gallic flavors due to its nearness to France. It’s no surprise then that in 1986 the Slow Food movement was born here. Piedmont has all the ingredients of a gastronomic feast–corn and rice grow in the fertile plains along the Po River; apricots, peaches, figs and kiwi in Cuneo and Langhe for the region’s prize, hazelnuts. The regional cuisine is a hybrid of Italian and fFrench translating to rich and hearty foods. In the south it is common to see trifola d’Alba (white truffles) accompanying some of Italy ’s best and greatest wines, Barolo and Barbaresco. Polenta is found in many a pot and it is celebrated annually at Il Polentone.
A traditional Piedmontese dining tavola boasts a huge amount of food traditionally six course beginning with antipasti. No less than four types and often up to 10 different starters including bagna cauda, a type of vegetable fondue. You also find meals accompany by grissini (breadsticks) which were created here all in the effort to aid the digestion of Prince Vittorio Amadeo II the duke of Savoy. Risotti are also very popular given that the area is the biggest rice producer in Europe.
Regional second course dishes mirror the French influence, such as brasato al Barolo (braised beef with Barolo wine) after marinating in Barolo wine it is cooked in a beef stock and served with a sauce along with polenta. There’s also bollito misto, (boiled meat dinner) served with the mostarda, a preserved fruit in a sweet-heat syrup infused with powdered mustard seed or oil. It is a bit like a chutney and is one of the standard condiments served with boiled meats in northern Italy. Origins trails all the way back to the condiment bars of the Roman Empire.
Pastas are many including taiarin (or tajarin) a narrow tagliatelle made with eggs from corn-fed chickens that produce near orange yolks which creates a visual feast when sprinkled with white truffles. Another is agnolotti (pronounced (ahn-yo-LOHT-ee), made with eggs stuffed beef, pork, or rabbit, and seasoned flavored with a bit of sausage, parmesan cheese and herbs. The name loosely translated as priest’s hats, are small half-mooned shaped ravioli. There are many ways to prepare this dish either by poaching , browning with butter or with a creamy local cheese sauce such as Gorgonzola. It can also be dressed up when made by hand, pulled together into little sacks called plin or agnolotti al plin referring to the tool used to seal the pasta sack. And don’t let this confuse you…a single agnolotti is called a quadratri. Raising the question, “Is it possible to eat just one?’
And then there’s the cheeses and sweets…
The Hunt for White October (Americans on a truffle hunt)
Image: Residenza del Sole , Italy (links to recipe for Brasato al Barolo)