Showing posts with label carnevale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label carnevale. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

There will be blood

You can blame my cousin John for this.

I do.

The guy just had to go and tell me about the "pig's blood cookies" that our grandfather used to like so damned much.

I love my family, I do. But sometimes...

I'm not gonna torture you here, okay. I used real pig's blood in this dessert. There are pictures that I took along the way, but I'm not going to show them to you. (Hey, I put a lot of effort into attracting readers, not begging them to stay the hell away from me.)

What we'll do here is just stick to the facts and move along.

First of all, my cousin John's memory may not be entirely reliable. It's more likely that our grandfather enjoyed not a "blood cookie" but a blood pudding served with cookies. That's the way our Aunt Anna remembers it. And much as I respect my cousin, he would have been just a child at the time.

Tradition also supports my aunt's theory. A dessert known as sanguinaccio dolce (basically a blood pudding that's made to be sweet) goes back generations in Italian culture. And it is often served with some type of crisp cookie.

My version of sanguinaccio dolce is anything but traditional, in method or spirit. In my grandfather's day the blood used to make the pudding would have come from freshly slaughtered pigs, because it was considered wrong to waste any part of an animal killed for food. I got my pig's blood out of the freezer case at a local Asian market; it came from New Jersey. My motives weren't so honorable either: An unusual-sounding food became known to me (thanks to my rotten cousin) and so I simply had to try it.

I also learned that this pudding often is associated with Carnevale. And so today being the final day of the annual celebration ("Fat Tuesday" as it's know in the U.S.) I decided to make a batch of sanguinaccio dolce and get this whole matter behind me once and for all. I searched far and wide for a recipe but wound up winging it a little, just so that I could make as small a batch as I could.

I don't expect a single one of you to try making this. I doubt that I will again. Not because it doesn't taste good. It does. In fact, the taste is very rich, maybe even a bit too rich.

It's just that even the modern Italians have largely moved away from this ancient preparation, and I can't see a good reason why I would want to hold fast to it.

I'm not so sure my grandfather would have either.

Sanguinaccio Dolce

1 cup pig's blood
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup almonds, chopped fine
1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped fine
1/2 cup dark chocolate
1/2 cup milk chocolate
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Run the blood through a sieve and then add it to the milk in a double boiler over medium heat.
Stir in the spices and sugar.
Add the nuts and the chocolate and stir.
When the pudding is the consistency of heavy cream remove it from the stovetop, pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Serve in bowls with crisp cookies of your choice.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Playing my guitar

Not exactly the image that comes to mind when you think about Mardi Gras, is it?

Me neither, but then I didn't get to spend yesterday (aka Fat Tuesday or Carnevale) in Venice or Rio de Janeiro or even New Orleans. I spent it in Maine, a place with little if any affinity for the annual period of pre-Lenten celebration for Catholics the world over. 

As New Orleans was long the home of an important member of my inner circle, it seemed fitting that I do something to mark the occasion. And since Louisiana and music are so tightly woven together, I decided that I might play the guitar for the lady. 

A stretch, I know. But romantic of me, yes?

It's a double-sided number, this instrument of mine. Well over a hundred strings in all. It takes some practice to master, but I can teach you how to play in about ten minutes.

You'll need a rolling pin, not a pick. Because we're making pasta here. And with a chitarra, not a Fender Stratocaster. (This is a food blog, after all.)

Chitarra is Italian for guitar and, considering its design, it is also the term for the pasta tool you see here. It's a very old-style tool, this chitarra, invented around 1800 or thereabouts (in Italy, but of course you knew that). It's made of hardwood and metal; not a single bit of plastic resides anywhere on the thing. The reason it has two sides is to accommodate two different noodle widths. On one side the strings are close together, so as to make spaghetti noodles (hence the term spaghetti alla chitarra); the strings on the other side are further apart, for more of a fettucine type noodle.

Speaking of the strings, they can be loosened or tightened by turning this knob, just as guitar strings might be adjusted, and the strings can also be replaced. (If you're interested in more information, or want to buy a chitarraFante's in Philadelphia is a good place to poke around.)

What the lady had requested on this particular evening was a simple cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) with spaghetti alla chitarra noodles. The sheet of fresh pasta dough you see here? I rolled it out by hand, not by machine.

The idea here is to let the strings cut the noodles. You start by pressing down and moving the rolling pin along the pasta sheet; this scores the individual noodles.

As you go back and forth with the rolling pin the spaghetti strands will start to fall through the strings.

Often you might help the noodles along by running your fingers over the strings as well.

Until they've all been cut and have fallen through.

After working on a few sheets of pasta dough this is what I wound up with for our Fat Tuesday feast.

And the cacio e pepe, a simple dish that actually takes quite a bit of practice to master if I do say, was just what the lady ordered.

I think.

Here is the briefest of clips showing how one man uses a chitarra (mostly using his fingers). The whole thing is under three minutes, but if you want to fast-forward to the actual chitarra demonstration, it begins at about the two-minute mark.

And just so you know, Louie Prima provides the soundtrack, so if you're at work or in church or maybe pretending to be doing important research at the library, you may want to turn off the sound.

Me, I like a little music when I'm playing my chitarra.