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  • Guanciale

    Post #1 - January 13th, 2005, 12:17 pm
    Post #1 - January 13th, 2005, 12:17 pm Post #1 - January 13th, 2005, 12:17 pm
    In the past I've heard people mention the difficulty of finding guanciale. I don't know where else it is available in the Chicago area, but Fox & Obel were boasting about theirs in their most recent email "Food Letter." The following paragraph is their blurb from said newsletter:

    "Would you question Mario Batali's thoughts on bacon? Neither would we, and so we have gone to great lengths to carry guanciale, a staple of central Italian cooking and Batali's cured pork of choice. Often difficult to find in this country, guanciale is salt-cured pigs' cheek - similar to pancetta or bacon (both made from the belly of the pig), but leaner and richer, with a delicate porkiness, and an abundance of flavor that distinguishes it from other pork products. It is the key ingredient in pasta alla amatriciana, alla gricia, and alla carbonara, and can be used like bacon to top salads, pizzas, or an omelette. Find this seriously succulent meat at our charcuterie counter and bring a true taste of Italy to your table."

    Ciao,

    rien
  • Post #2 - January 13th, 2005, 3:05 pm
    Post #2 - January 13th, 2005, 3:05 pm Post #2 - January 13th, 2005, 3:05 pm
    Did they mention the producer? I have a piece in my freezer that I bought from Niman. Quite good.
    MAG
    www.monogrammeevents.com

    "I've never met a pork product I didn't like."
  • Post #3 - January 13th, 2005, 6:13 pm
    Post #3 - January 13th, 2005, 6:13 pm Post #3 - January 13th, 2005, 6:13 pm
    I can't recall if they said or not. I thought I posted all the details they gave but I might have missed something. I gave them a ring but was immediately transferred to voice mail.

    My guess is that it's not Niman based on the very circumstantial evidence that they didn't mention the name in the passage and Niman is a big enough selling point that one would assume they'd market it.

    I'll try them again tomorrow.

    rien
  • Post #4 - January 13th, 2005, 8:56 pm
    Post #4 - January 13th, 2005, 8:56 pm Post #4 - January 13th, 2005, 8:56 pm
    MAG and rien,

    Salumeria Biellese in NYC, whose coppa, hot and sweet, are also offered at F&O, is the producer.

    I didn't need much persuasion to go out and buy yet another cured pork product, did I?

    Why do I think they're on 9th Avenue? Did one of the deli/charcuterie clerks tell me last time I was in, over the Xmas holiday?

    It seems to have an undertone of sweet spice in the cure. Clove in the cure?...Looking forward to a carbonara in the next week or so.

    :twisted:
  • Post #5 - January 13th, 2005, 8:58 pm
    Post #5 - January 13th, 2005, 8:58 pm Post #5 - January 13th, 2005, 8:58 pm
    I would not discount the possibility of Joe the Sausage King providing something close. I bought uncured pork jowl from him once long ago. If he can still get it I'm certain he'd be agreeable to smoking it.

    Joe's Market
    4452 N. Western
    773-478-5443
  • Post #6 - January 13th, 2005, 10:13 pm
    Post #6 - January 13th, 2005, 10:13 pm Post #6 - January 13th, 2005, 10:13 pm
    Speaking of jowl...

    I spent hours looking for salt jowl a few weeks ago. Needed it for my New Years Eve pot o' black eyed peas. Even drove out to Moo and Oink on Harrison, but didn't find it. I was also surprised that the Jewel at Wabash and Roosevelt didn't have any.

    Is there not a salt jowl tradition with NYE greens and beans here in Chicago?

    :twisted:
  • Post #7 - January 14th, 2005, 8:58 pm
    Post #7 - January 14th, 2005, 8:58 pm Post #7 - January 14th, 2005, 8:58 pm
    I've been buying Venetian brand guanciale (produit du canada) at Joseph's Foods on W. Irving Park the past couple months. It's pretty good and, so much so, that this thread inspired me to make pasta alla gricia for dinner.

    Guanciale is easy to cure, as long as you have some place under 60 degrees to hang it for a few weeks. And it's usually easy to get pig cheeks in Chicago, so I'm surprised that Moo and Oink didn't have them. The best guanciale I've had outside Italy was stuff I cured myself from jowls bought from Niman Ranch.

    I do wonder, though, what led Fox and Obel to claim that guanciale is leaner than bacon. Not in my experience. It's fat, decadent, and wonderful.
  • Post #8 - January 14th, 2005, 9:39 pm
    Post #8 - January 14th, 2005, 9:39 pm Post #8 - January 14th, 2005, 9:39 pm
    Choey wrote:The best guanciale I've had outside Italy was stuff I cured myself from jowls bought from Niman Ranch.


    I'm getting ready to place an order with Niman. I never noticed skinless jowls before on their price list. Guess I wasn't looking. So, if I order a box of jowls, how do you suggest I cure them? None of my meat curing books mention guanciale. Thanks.

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #9 - January 14th, 2005, 11:03 pm
    Post #9 - January 14th, 2005, 11:03 pm Post #9 - January 14th, 2005, 11:03 pm
    ER--

    THE FOOD EXCHANGE
    7162 S EXCHANGE AVE, CHICAGO, IL 60649
    Phone: (773) 978-4940

    has in the past had a good stock of porky products, including country ham, (whole, bits and pieces) country-cure bacon and jowl.
  • Post #10 - January 15th, 2005, 8:31 am
    Post #10 - January 15th, 2005, 8:31 am Post #10 - January 15th, 2005, 8:31 am
    Bill, Niman does occasionally have the skinned jowls, but not today, I guess. They are offering their own guanciale now, I see. If you decide to make your own, you remove the skin (add the skin to a slow cooked Neapolitan rau for great depth of flavor) and give it a go. If you want directions, Mario Batali has a recipe you can google. I use about half the sugar he does and skip the thyme. I massage cracked black pepper into the jowl instead. A week in the refrigerator, then you can hang it in a wine cellar or frig for several weeks. Your bucatini al' amatriciana will be the envy of your friends.
  • Post #11 - January 15th, 2005, 5:59 pm
    Post #11 - January 15th, 2005, 5:59 pm Post #11 - January 15th, 2005, 5:59 pm
    Hi,

    Another source of hard to find cuts is Peoria Packing House. I have only been there a few times, yet I saw cuts I have never or rarely encountered. Like everything else, I would phone in advance to learn if what you want is indeed there or available by advance ordering.

    Peoria Packing Butcher Shop
    1300 West Lake Street
    Chicago, IL 60607
    312-738-1800
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #12 - January 15th, 2005, 6:19 pm
    Post #12 - January 15th, 2005, 6:19 pm Post #12 - January 15th, 2005, 6:19 pm
    Choey wrote:Bill, Niman does occasionally have the skinned jowls, but not today, I guess. They are offering their own guanciale now, I see. If you decide to make your own, you remove the skin (add the skin to a slow cooked Neapolitan rau for great depth of flavor) and give it a go. If you want directions, Mario Batali has a recipe you can google. Your bucatini al' amatriciana will be the envy of your friends.


    Choey,

    I think I'll order some guanciale before I try to make it. I've never tasted it before, so I'd like to know more or less what I'm aiming for. One thing I did not particularly like in Batali's recipe is the lack of nitrites/nitrates for an item that is curing for an extended amount of time above 40F. It may change the flavor and texture just a bit, but if I make my own, I'll throw in some curing salts.

    So, do you have a killer recipe for bucatini al' amatriciana?

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #13 - January 15th, 2005, 7:37 pm
    Post #13 - January 15th, 2005, 7:37 pm Post #13 - January 15th, 2005, 7:37 pm
    Bill, this is pretty addictive stuff, so use caution: it may just become your preferred spaghettata.
    Ingredients:
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Guanciale sliced 1/8" then in short cross slices (1-2 oz/serving)
    Red onion minced fine (1 Tbs or so/serving)
    Garlic, a clove or two minced fine (optional, go without first)
    Hot red pepper minced (the long skinny ones: Santa Fe has to have the best)
    Basic tomato sauce (1/4 C or so/serving)
    Bucatini or spaghetti (I prefer Latini, Martelli or Rustichella d'Abruzzo)
    Pecorino Romano, or other sharp pecorino cheese, grated

    For two people:
    Start water (salted) for pasta. When rolling boil, add pasta.
    Put 2-3 Tbs olive oil in a 6 qt saucepan over medium heat and add 2 oz. guanciale. Cook for several minutes to render the fat from the guanciale, but don't brown. Add 3 Tbs minced onion and 1-2 tsp pepperoncino, saute until onion is sweated. Add tomato sauce and cook medium/low until pasta is done. Drain pasta and combine with sauce over heat. Toss it around a minute or two. Then, plate, add grated cheese as you like and a little sprinkle of diced pepperoncino taste.

    Like many Roman dishes, this may seem pretty fatty at first (that's why I dial the guanciale down), but that's why people love it. You can use more guanciale as you experiment with it. I usually add garlic to mine, but don't find that as often in Rome. Make this without the tomato sauce and you have pasta alla gricia, another great dish.

    Basic tomato sauce:
    This depends on how you use your tomato sauces, but for the Amatriciana, I'd saute 1/3 C minced red onion in olive oil. When sweated, add a couple Tbs of tomato paste and cook a few minutes; add 1/3 C red wine and reduce most of the way; add tomatoes (passata di pomodoro from Italy, 24 oz or so) and 2 Tbs of either basil, thyme or marjoram. I like thyme or marjoram for Amatriciana, and they also go great with lamb shoulder for a quick ragu. Simmer for 30 min or so and serve or refrigerate.
  • Post #14 - January 15th, 2005, 9:04 pm
    Post #14 - January 15th, 2005, 9:04 pm Post #14 - January 15th, 2005, 9:04 pm
    Thanks to all for the tips on getting guanciale here in Chicago. Let me just add my two cents concerning recipes for bucatini alla matriciana.

    Choey wrote:... I usually add garlic to mine, but don't find that as often in Rome...


    Choey:

    I'm glad you added the above qualification but I think it needs to be stated more like this: In Rome and the surrounding area where this dish developed, traditional versions never include garlic. In addition, no herb is used in traditional versions of alla Matriciana.

    Now, as always, I will add that a) I happily encourage anyone and everyone to eat exactly what they like and think tastes best, and b) I don't doubt that the recipe you offer results in a very delicious dish, but as a traditionalist I would also say a) that if one adds garlic and herbs, it's not strictly speaking alla Matriciana any longer, and b) especially with high quality guanciale on hand, I myself would be even more inclined to heed the aesthetic of simplicity which is the key to this and most of the Roman/Latian quick spaghetti recipes. Onion, pork product, tomato, pepper, pecorino... Substitute egg for the tomato and you've pretty much got carbonara...

    This question of no garlic vs. garlic, of traditional vs. innovative takes on such dishes has come up on this board a couple of times in the past, as well as on Planet Leff; sometimes it has ended with gnashing of teeth. So again, let me say clearly that I don't mean to say anything whatsoever against your recipe but just am pleading for a narrow application of traditional names for dishes such as alla matriciana and recommend to any and all who haven't yet done so, to try making the dish at least once with excellent ingredients and close adherence to a traditional recipe.

    For earlier related material on this board, see, for example, this discussion of carbonara and this discussion of matriciana and a similar Neapolitan dish, maccarune lardiate.

    Con o senza aglio, saluti amichevoli a tutti...

    Antonius
    amico della cucina convenzionalista
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #15 - January 16th, 2005, 10:51 am
    Post #15 - January 16th, 2005, 10:51 am Post #15 - January 16th, 2005, 10:51 am
    Don Anto', siamo d'accordo. I believe you're certainly right to prefer the Roman and Neapolitan speghettate in their traditional forms. A simple pasta, say, cacio e pepe, alle vongole, aglio e olio, alla gricia, marinara, gnocchi alla sorrentina, etc, deserves its fame due to the inspired and fortunate combination of ingredients of spectacular quality. An insipid tomato, a mediocre pasta, burned olive oil, a bitter caper will each transform a culinary miracle into fast food. So, I can only lament that given the odds that the tomatos I find in cans today are more toward the insipid end of the spectrum, I yield to the temptation to "improve" them with an herb, a splash of wine, perhaps too much pepperoncino. My reluctant excuse is O tempora, o mores. A moral and aesthetic weakling at heart, I am committing to a program of personal improvement henceforth, first by eschewing inappropriate herbs, then by scheduling a trip to eat at da Ettore in Napoli, and Trattoria lo Scopettaro in Roma (but, hold the pajata, please).

    Bill, if you've had any of these dishes in situ, you know Antonius is right. On this side of the Atlantic, we are sentenced to dine in Plato's Cave and eat dull simulacra of bucatini all'amatriciana; however, the search for guanciale demonstrates the nobility of your quest.

    Gee, all this rumination made me hungry. Forse un bel piatto di tagliatelle con sugo di funghi e pancetta?
  • Post #16 - January 16th, 2005, 11:02 am
    Post #16 - January 16th, 2005, 11:02 am Post #16 - January 16th, 2005, 11:02 am
    Bill, I left something out of the basic tomato sauce recipe: I confess, sotto voce, that I add a couple Tbsps of finely miced carrot along with the onion. It's not my fault, it's those darned canned tomatoes.

    La battaglia sara' dura, ma alla fine, credo che vincerò.
  • Post #17 - January 16th, 2005, 11:32 am
    Post #17 - January 16th, 2005, 11:32 am Post #17 - January 16th, 2005, 11:32 am
    A Traditional Version of Bucatini alla Matriciana

    Coming back to this thread after a night's sleep, I realise it might have been useful for me to offer something of a traditionalist recipe for bucatini alla matriciana.* The following is how I, following others in my family, make the dish and essentially the same recipe can be found in any number of books and websites which are concerned with the traditional cuisine of Rome, Lazio and the Abruzzi.

    Ingredients:
    • olive oil or lard
    • ca. 1/3 lb of (in order of preference) guanciale, pancetta, or prosciutto, cut into small cubes.
    • 1 small to medium (red) onion, chopped
    • hot red chile flakes
    • 1 small can imported pomodori pelati (preferably San Marzano)
    • salt
    • black pepper
    • 1 lb of high quality, Italian bucatini
    • pecorino romano

    Instructions:
    • Fry the cubed pork in a little olive oil or lard at medium heat, rendering out the fat from the pork and ultimately making the pork pieces crispy. At this point, I like to remove some or most of the pieces of pork and set them aside.
    • Add the chopped onion and fry but do not brown.
    • Add the pomodori pelati and chop them in the pan with a spoon or fork.
    • Add the desired amount of red chile flakes and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper. Allow the tomato/onion mixture to cook and reduce for ca. 20 minutes; taste and adjust if necessary with the addition of salt (N.B. the pork itself adds a salty element to the dish, as will the pecorino, so beware not to add salt without tasting.)
    • Meanwhile, heat water, cook bucatini just short of the desired al dente stage, drain, reserving a little of the cooking water, and add the bucatini to the sauce pan.
    • Add the crispy pork bits to the sauce pan with the bucatini, mix thoroughly, and adjust for consistency with a little of the cooking water if the sauce is too tight, cooking the pasta in the sauce for perhaps a minute or so.
    • Serve with an abundant amount of freshly grated pecorino romano and a mill for adding freshly ground black pepper.

    With a recipe so simple as this one, the quality of the ingredients is especially important: Use only the best of everything.

    I referred above to an exchange on the issue of the presence of garlic in this dish that I had with someone on Planet Leff; the discussion can be found here: CH General Topics discussion of alla matriciana.
    The person with whom I had this discussion in turn wrote in to Mario Batali on eGullet, whose response to her questions about the dish and more generally on the use of garlic can be found here: Marius (Batali) agrees with Antonius on eGullet about alla matriciana.† :wink:

    Antonius

    P.S. Don Giuseppe,
    You make an excellent point in that one must inevitably make adjustments and compensate in subtle ways for shortcomings of ingredients that are beyond our control. In the end, one doesn't eat the individual ingredients but a dish that cooks and comes together with its own flavour profile and it is the final result that one aims to make as well as one can. In this regard, let me add that your recipe sounds great and I would be happy to have a bowl of your bucatini placed before me right now (well, it's almost lunchtime). :D


    * Two versions of the name are current in Italy: bucatini alla matriciana and bucatini all' Amatriciana, the latter being historically correct, the other a now widespread form with misparsing. The dish is named after a town, Amatrice, in the far west of the Abruzzi, not too far from Rome.

    † Many thanks to RST for calling my attention to the eGullet discussion.

    Links to other recipes and cooking notes by this writer: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=55649#55649


    Post-site-move character problems fixed. Later, CH link updated.
    Last edited by Antonius on January 11th, 2010, 2:12 pm, edited 3 times in total.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #18 - January 16th, 2005, 12:38 pm
    Post #18 - January 16th, 2005, 12:38 pm Post #18 - January 16th, 2005, 12:38 pm
    Antonious,

    Having recently been gifted a nice sized chunk of Niman guanciale by MAG I plan on making Bucatini alla Matriciana Monday. Your recipe and Choey's seem strikingly similar, especially in light of Choey's instructions as to garlic, " (optional, go without first)".

    Am I missing a subtle, yet important, point? My my reading comprehension skills are occasionally lacking and I have not been to Italy since 2000. I do, however, own an Italian cookbook or two, including a few by that famous 'French' chef Marcella Hazan. :)

    By the way, I read the below statement by you in the c-h thread and couldn't agree more.

    "American inclinations toward the kitchen-sink mentality have also had a deleterious effect on the food served in Chinese restaurants, where the chefs feel they must add monotonous, gloopy sauces to all the dishes. What a wonderful revelation it is to discover the stuff the Chinese themselves eat."

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #19 - January 16th, 2005, 12:43 pm
    Post #19 - January 16th, 2005, 12:43 pm Post #19 - January 16th, 2005, 12:43 pm
    Choey wrote:however, the search for guanciale demonstrates the nobility of your quest.


    Choey,

    Thanks for your encouragement. Last year was the "year of the pork belly". I got a few boxes from NR and tried about a dozen different preparations. I was amazed at what wonderful things could be made. So this will be the "year of guanciale". I will learn how to make this delicacy and how to use it in dishes to best effect.

    Thank you Choey and Antonius for the recipes. I hope I can turn to you to keep me on the straight and narrow as the "year of guanciale" unfolds.

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #20 - January 16th, 2005, 1:52 pm
    Post #20 - January 16th, 2005, 1:52 pm Post #20 - January 16th, 2005, 1:52 pm
    G Wiv wrote:Having recently been gifted a nice sized chunk of Niman guanciale by MAG I plan on making Bucatini alla Matriciana Monday.


    Gary:

    :mrgreen: I'm jealous.

    Your recipe and Choey's seem strikingly similar, especially in light of Choey's instructions as to garlic, " (optional, go without first)". Am I missing a subtle, yet important, point?


    They are very similar but this is a very simple dish in which the central idea is the interaction of just a few ingredients. The traditional approach never includes garlic and uses just plain tomatoes, not tomato sauce, which itself contains other flavourings, including herbs. As I said, I'm quite sure Choey's take on the dish is very tasty (and more so perhaps than other versions for many*) but there are, I believe, good reasons why the traditional dish is kept maximally simple. And in this regard, I should note that the traditional simplicity of this dish even extends to the absence of parsley, which is as close a thing as one can find to a ubiquitous ingredient in Italian cooking.

    My my reading comprehension skills are occasionally lacking and I have not been to Italy since 2000. I do, however, own an Italian cookbook or two, including a few by that famous 'French' chef Marcella Hazan. :)


    Marcella Hazan is a fine cook, a fine cookbook author and for good reasons a respected and even revered figure. She introduced many Americans to the real breadth of cooking in Italy. But having said that, she is a northern Italian and, insofar as I know her writings, she is relatively far less interested in and has less deep a knowledge of southern Italian cooking than northern Italian, and is -- not surprisingly -- a little more willing to adapt southern recipes to her tastes without necessarily indicating that she deviates from the traditional approach. This is no cause for great gnashing of teeth on anyone's part and if one likes her recipes and prefers them to 'purist' versions, that's fine by me. But I think it is worthwhile to call attention to the fact that American takes on Italian food tend to homogenise, tend to assume a core set of ingredients for many dishes even when they're not, according to Italian sensibilities, appropriate.

    In dishes such as carbonara and matriciana, garlic is never used in the zone in which those dishes were developed and I believe the reason is simply that to the Italian palate garlic is a strong flavour and it is felt to be a distraction from the combined effect of just pork/onion/tomato that is the core of the dish. Now, Marcella, if I remember correctly, just flavours the oil with a clove and then throws it away, and that is a typical Italian way of getting just a hint of garlic, but it seems to me still a distraction from the basic spirit of alla matriciana.

    I've mentioned this before and won't belabour the point but along similar lines, tomato sauces in almost all of Campania are flavoured either with onion or with garlic, and it is only in a relatively few specific dishes that the two will concur. That seems, I'm sure, quite bizarre to most Americans, including Italian Americans, but I think it makes sense. For example, pasta e pisielle, pasta with peas, takes onion and not garlic. I've tried making it with garlic and, while it's not by any means bad, it is quite different and I think there is a special interaction of peas, onions and tomatoes that is much nicer than if garlic is added or replaces the onion.

    Antonius

    *And as I said above, I see Choey's point about sometimes having to try to tweek a recipe with some additions in order to compensate for shortcomings in some of the ingredients. For me, this dish doesn't work nearly as well with prosciutto as it does with pancetta, and of course with real guanciale it's better still. Now, what -- if anything -- one does to compensate for a less flavourful pork product is a reasonable point of debate or investigation. I myself use pancetta and stick to the basic, traditional recipe, but one should do what produces a dish that one most likes
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #21 - January 16th, 2005, 4:26 pm
    Post #21 - January 16th, 2005, 4:26 pm Post #21 - January 16th, 2005, 4:26 pm
    Fortified by a salubrious lunch of tagliatelle with mushrooms and pancetta, I reclined to ponder this thread. That, of course, led directly to a visit from the god Hypnos. Before embarking on a dinner plan, though, I will presume to make a suggestion to Bill: transform your "year of guanciale," a wholly admirable undertaking, into a true annus mirabilis by flying to Rome and eating your way down to Naples. Have pork at least once a day (making sure to stop in Ariccia in the Alban hills for a porchetta sandwich and in Frosinone for a plate of fettucine alla ciociara). I'm thinking such a trip could be managed in 8-10 3,500-KCal-filled days (plus wine). Besides, as lovely as Santa Fe is, you can't stay there all year. Heck, can one make pasta properly there? Doesn't water boil at under 200 degrees F at 7,000 feet? (I refer to the three years I lived in Denver as The Non-Farinaceous Epoch, or, The Secondi Period.)

    Gary, I'm with Antonius on Sra. Hazan. Food in Italy is sufficiently varied and the people so devoted to their localities (campanilismo refers to the conviction most Italians have that one's true home is within audible range of the belltower) that her authenticity decreases as she cooks farther from Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. I own her books and recommend them, but advise some caution when she wanders too far from her belltower.

    Antonius: Embe', no petrusino or amenta in the pasta with peas?
  • Post #22 - January 16th, 2005, 7:01 pm
    Post #22 - January 16th, 2005, 7:01 pm Post #22 - January 16th, 2005, 7:01 pm
    At least in her first cookbook (now out of print except I hear in a "combo" version with her second) Marcella Hazan's only bow to her northern roots is to use, first, a combination of vegetable oil and butter for the initial sweating, and finally, a combination of pecorino and parmesan.

    I feel somewhat compelled to defend her, as this is Himself's favorite pasta sauce, bar none, and while I have deviated from it, it has been in favor of using olive oil alone, and pecorino alone, not adding herbs or garlic or anything.

    One thing I have found, especially for the pasta sauces that need just a few good ingredients, including canned tomatoes, is that the quality of the tomatoes is critical. I recently made some gnocchi with a simple sauce (also from Marcella Hazan) of just passata with an onion left whole to cook in it and a good quantity of good butter. The passata, unfortunately, wasn't of the best quality, and would not stand up to the simplicity of the cooking.

    I think use of inferior tomato products might tempt people all too often to add what is easy to think of as "just that extra something."

    Canned tomato products are one thing worth brand loyalty, in my opinion.
  • Post #23 - January 16th, 2005, 7:45 pm
    Post #23 - January 16th, 2005, 7:45 pm Post #23 - January 16th, 2005, 7:45 pm
    annieb wrote:I feel somewhat compelled to defend her, as this is Himself's favorite pasta sauce, bar none, and while I have deviated from it, it has been in favor of using olive oil alone, and pecorino alone, not adding herbs or garlic or anything.


    Annieb:

    I completely respect your affection for Marcella Hazan but also don't feel she needs to be defended, insofar as she hasn't really been attacked. To say that she is a northerner and doesn't have the extensive knowledge of southern cooking that southerners or a few writers from the north such as Bugialli have is not an attack but just a recognition of who she is and what her background is. To back the claim that she seems neither especially interested in or deeply knowledgeable about the Mezzogiorno and its cuisines, look at the introduction to her book of 1973, The Classic Italian Cookbook. There she discusses Italian cuisine in a general way without venturing south of Tuscany for three and a half pages; only one paragraph, rather superficial in character, is devoted to all that lies from Naples southward, and Rome is completely left out.

    She's a northerner and has a northerner's perspective. Her use of butter in Amatriciana strikes me as an example of that, as too her advice to put parmesan on orecchiete with broccoli rape and anchovies. Now, that is neither to say that those are bad recipes nor even to deny the possibility that many people may prefer those versions to other (more authentic) versions, but rather just an acknowledgement of the fact that she has, rather than assiduously documenting southern recipes, instead adapted ones she likes to her more northern or international sensibilities. A great cook has the right to do that and the fans of a great cook probably expect and desire that, rather than the historical, anthropological sort of approach that some other folks might like.

    I do not attack Marcella Hazan -- quite the opposite, io ho un grosso rispetto per lei, to paraphrase someone in a famous movie -- but I stand by the opinion that for her southern Italian cooking is a familiar but still rather foreign cuisine and, judging from what I've read (which admittedly is not all that she has published by any means), a cuisine she hasn't researched in detail but knows more at the level of southern elements that are or approach being parts of a national, supraregional Italian cuisine. Now, surely she knows more than that but in what I've read by her, it's not really a particular concern. But again, she's a great cook and the recipes she gives are so far as I can tell all well balanced and elegantly simple.


    One thing I have found, especially for the pasta sauces that need just a few good ingredients, including canned tomatoes, is that the quality of the tomatoes is critical... I think use of inferior tomato products might tempt people all too often to add what is easy to think of as "just that extra something." Canned tomato products are one thing worth brand loyalty, in my opinion.


    I agree and never use anything but canned tomatoes from southern Italy and then only certain brands that I know. Almost all brands that sport the San Marzano appellation (including brands of passata) are great (some brands cheat you and give a can of water with a couple of good tomatoes) but some others from southern Italy (esp. Apulia) and Sicily are also very good to excellent. Many swear by Muir Glen from California but I haven't gotten around to trying them yet (being a traditionalist).

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #24 - January 16th, 2005, 10:13 pm
    Post #24 - January 16th, 2005, 10:13 pm Post #24 - January 16th, 2005, 10:13 pm
    Choey wrote: Before embarking on a dinner plan, though, I will presume to make a suggestion to Bill: transform your "year of guanciale," a wholly admirable undertaking, into a true annus mirabilis by flying to Rome and eating your way down to Naples. Doesn't water boil at under 200 degrees F at 7,000 feet? (I refer to the three years I lived in Denver as The Non-Farinaceous Epoch, or, The Secondi Period.)




    Choey,

    I actually returned in October from such a quest, starting in Genoa and working my way down the coast stopping at Vernazza, Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Positano, and Palermo, but especially Naples. My quest was one for pizza-type breads, for which I have a deep passion and an obsession to improve my own humble creations which are mostly of the Neapolitan and, to a much lesser extent, of the Roman style. I tried countless kinds of baked goods throughout the trip and all were a revelation. Next trip I will definitely pay more attention to pork products.

    Water boils here at 198F which means pasta takes a lot longer to cook, but still seems as good as at sea level. When in the mood for fresh pasta, I enjoy making my own (recipe from Marcella) using the same 00 flour made in Naples that I use for pizza. It has a smooth, silky texture. Is guanciale used in dishes with fresh pasta?

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #25 - January 17th, 2005, 2:03 am
    Post #25 - January 17th, 2005, 2:03 am Post #25 - January 17th, 2005, 2:03 am
    Perhaps I took a reference to Marcella Hazan as a famous 'French' chef improperly, and it rendered me defensive. Like I said, it's Himself's favorite pasta.

    In a pinch, the greek hollow spaghetti will do, but it's really for something else, as is perciatelli. It's bucatini you want.

    Use good ingredients. Trust your taste buds.
  • Post #26 - January 17th, 2005, 6:34 am
    Post #26 - January 17th, 2005, 6:34 am Post #26 - January 17th, 2005, 6:34 am
    annieb wrote:Perhaps I took a reference to Marcella Hazan as a famous 'French' chef improperly, and it rendered me defensive.

    AnnieB,

    Humor, not very good humor on my part. I had the pleasure of Antonious, Amata and m'th'su company at Mandarin Kitchen last week, hot pot was excellent. As we were walking outside the conversation turned to M Hazan who I, and I believe the others, have a great deal of respect.

    Standing outside in the Arctic wind tunnel known as Archer Ave I incorrectly referred to M Hazan, through chattering teeth, as a French chef. Thus the reference in my post. Of course I know M Hazan is Italian, have a number of her books, cooked her recipes, seen her on television, there's even a rumor she now lives but a short distance from my parents in Boca Raton, I simply misspoke.

    Once again, my reference to M Hazan was not disrespectful, simply an unsuccessful attempt at humor on my part.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #27 - January 17th, 2005, 10:45 am
    Post #27 - January 17th, 2005, 10:45 am Post #27 - January 17th, 2005, 10:45 am
    Bill, sounds like a great trip (it would take me at least two months to cover that ground (something about "an army of one marching on his belly"???) and then, after 60 days on the "Chet Atkins" diet, I'd have to be on that other abomination of a diet for at least a year to lose the weight). Tell me that when you were in Palermo you went to la Vucciria and had pane cu meusa. Go ahead, make me cry out in envy.

    I can't think of many fresh pastas accompanied by sauces that include guanciale. After all, by genetic handicap, I am biologically determined to favor pasta asciutta. There is, though, first and foremost, the great fettucine alla carbonara. The only dish I can immediately recall having: a pappardelle with broccoli and guanciale topped with a wonderful pecorino in the Maremma somewhere. The florets were just barely cooked and the guanciale had a deeper flavor than usual (certainly not smoked, but possibly from boar (cinghiale)). I bet if you look into food from the Valnerina (especially Norcia), ESE of Assisi, you'll find lots of ideas. That's the "other" great pork area of Italy. Maybe Antonius has some suggestions?

    AnnieB, one word of caution on brand loyalty in canned tomatoes: Italian agriculture is just as modern (and disintermediated) as here, so the various brands buy crops from independent farmers. And the weather is still a random variable. For example, two years ago, Strianese had the best canned tomatoes I've ever tasted. I went through the case in a month or two, but then when I bought more, they were just ordinary. Now when I find something good, I buy lots of it. And when I run out, I try to fake out the ordinary tomatoes with the addition of a little tomato paste, some wine, carrot.... I still end up with V8, but that's not enough to discourage a true trencherman.
  • Post #28 - January 17th, 2005, 11:14 am
    Post #28 - January 17th, 2005, 11:14 am Post #28 - January 17th, 2005, 11:14 am
    I must rely on my memories of the original Giovanna's cooking to try to duplicate her dishes. One of the reasons her pasta was so good was that it was based on the tomato with basil that she canned herself every fall [not sure what proportion of the tomatoes were actually from her back yard...]. Even when I cook with fresh plum tomatoes I can't quite touch the delicious simplicity of her sauce.

    My question, then, is that if Marcella Hazan is a good resource for northern Italian style cooking, who has a book that's a good resource for southern? Despite being from Sicily, my grandmother didn't go in for those sweet/savory Arab influenced things that I see in Sicilian cookbooks. My mom says that my grandmother learned most of her cooking here from a neighbor who came from elsewhere in Italy... and I haven't a clue where.

    Giovanna
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #29 - January 17th, 2005, 11:54 am
    Post #29 - January 17th, 2005, 11:54 am Post #29 - January 17th, 2005, 11:54 am
    Choey,

    Bringing this discussion back on topic: when I get to the point of ordering the meat for making guanciale, what exactly should I order? NR has two products on their price list: 1) skinless pork jowls; 2) pork cheeks (which are about 3 times the cost of the jowls. Thanks for the help.

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #30 - January 17th, 2005, 11:55 am
    Post #30 - January 17th, 2005, 11:55 am Post #30 - January 17th, 2005, 11:55 am
    On brand loyalty in canned tomatoes, I always try a can or bottle, and then try to go back (time, budget, and pantry space allowing) if they're good. Sometimes they're gone. I think the places I shop are as much at the mercy of purveyors as the tomatoes are of the weather.

    On grandma's canned tomatoes vs. fresh plum tomatoes. They are completely different creatures. Tomatoes are transformed by canning and can be considered something altogether otherwise. Like apples and applesauce, to use a comparison from my Michigan grandfather.

    (sorry, I spend all my computer patience learning to work a horrible new software program and have none left for learning how to use emoticons or quote boxes here)

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