A few nights ago, a very dear friend of mine visited my home, probably for one of the last times in a very long time. Davide is a floral designer from my last life; we worked together very well and became good friends. His Visa is up and he is traveling back to his home, a little village called Pavia outside of Milan, in about 10 days.
Lucky for me, Davide used to be a chef and co-owned his own restaurant back home. (He’s also been an advertising executive, filmmaker, barista, and so much more – but this is not about his other careers; this is about his cooking.) He offered to cook for me and some friends so I could learn some of his favorite recipes.
The food was amazing and comforting; it even sounds comforting when you say it in Italian.
- Brasato di Manzo alla Piemontese con Polenta
- Panettone con Crema di Mascarpone
The Brasato is like a stewed beef dish made with beef brisket. It was braised in an entire bottle of red wine, lots of vegetables and touched off with some dark chocolate near the end. It was served on a huge dollop of creamy polenta made with just polenta, water and salt. I was surprised at how few ingredients went into the polenta; I always thought it needed oil or butter to make it creamy. In fact, no – it’s creamy all on its own and was perfect with the beef braised in wine and chocolate.
Brasato di Manzo alla Piemontese con Polenta
For dessert, Davide made a fancy cream typically served on Christmas Day in Northern Italy. It was the creamiest and yet lightest mascarpone cream that I’ve ever tasted. I’ve made mascarpone cream for tiramisu in the past, but Davide’s cream was so light due to the egg whites folded in at the end of the process. He said they folded in egg whites to make the dessert go further back in old times. It was perfect dolloped next to a warmly toasted piece of panettone and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. This is now my Christmas Day recipe for years to come.
[For those interested in the recipe, the ingredients are 4 eggs (yolks separated), 6 tablespoons sugar, 2 mascarpone containers, and 1/4 cup brandy. Whip egg whites until stiff, set aside. Beat egg yolks with sugar until light yellow and creamy. Stir in mascarpone and then brandy. After all is combined, fold in egg whites. Let sit in fridge to stiffen up a bit before serving.]
Panettone con Crema di Mascarpone
Davide had us decant a bottle of Amarone that he had brought from home. Wine enthusiasts are so passionate about Barolo (the legendary and some would say best wine from Italy); it is very expensive in Italy and here in the US. But if you ask most Italians, they will tell you their favorite wine is Amarone, it’s a wine made from partially dried grapes in the Veneto section of Italy. We decanted it for about 3 hours, as it was from 1999. Upon sipping, I thought I was drinking a very dry, less sweet Port. I could smell and taste the hint of raisins; it was lovely and went very well with such a hearty dish.
Amarone, the label and the wine decanting on my table
My husband and I have grown very fond of Davide, and will miss him dearly. But I have a big birthday coming up in 2008, and I’m hoping to spend it in Northern Italy with Davide and his family. So this isn’t the end, just a sweet interlude until we cook together again.
Eat Boutique was an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting retail markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie now supports entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses through We Are Magic Studio. Follow Maggie Battista on Instagram.