Then the day comes. An 8:00 AM mass to insert some thanksgiving reflection into the day, and then a shift from the spiritual to the more secular , yet equally important, of family social gathering. Sometime around 3:00 PM. Appetizers are served and the feast begins. an onslaught of mostly hand made dishes. As much was we tend to stick to the planned menu, it always tends to expand. Mothers, sisters, friends, they all bring in their own dishes.
Providing details for each of the dishes prepared yesterday would be quite difficult. So Out of all the dishes , here are a couple really stood out.
Milk marinated Sea bass cutlets
in a thin white wine and smoked trout Béchamel
3 lbs of Chilean Sea Bass
3 cups of milk
Fresh herbs: Thyme, Oregano , chopped and abundant (marinade and crusted)
1/2 cup of thin corn meal ( Fish Fry Seafood Fry Mix works great)
1/2 -1 cup of plain Italian bread crumbs
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup of white wine (example Pinot Grigio)
3 small bay leaves
1 sprig of Fresh Thyme
1 small shallot
Salt , Black Pepper
2-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3-5 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1/8 lb of smoked trout, coarsely diced
Rating: You gotta write about this one, yes you do!
Pannelle e Ricotta
Pannelle were recently features on the very popular Travel Channel food show , Bizarre Foods as a tribute to the traditions of Sicily. I have been, however experimenting with this versatile ingredient for a while. A few years ago, I discovered this ingredient at my local purveyor in Mamaroneck, NY - Cosmo & Alex Pisano Bros. They carry an excellent imported brand chickpea flour and now I have been keeping my pantry stocked at all times.
Fine chickpea flour - 1 lb
Whole milk ricotta cheese - 1 pint
Herbs: fresh Thyme, fresh origano - chopped, 4 tablespoons
dried coriander seed - 1/2 teaspoon
Fresh garlic cloves - 3 or 4 crushed, not minced
S/P . EVOO
Rating: The guests had to be reminded that if they did not stop eating, there would be no room for the entire 10 dishes and desert.
Panelle is a very simple dish as you will see.
Preparing the ricotta topping: On the side whip up the ricotta cheese, adding in some 1/4 of the herbs. Add some EVOO, and also add a small amount of H2O to keep the ricotta on the softer side. Add a pinch of salt, and black pepper, and the ground dried coriander. Mix by hand until smooth. A tip for ricotta. Try to find the one that is sold by the pound at your local gourmet Italian grocer.
Cooking the chickpea flour:
You can basically treat chickpea flour as if it were a polenta (see wikipedia). To boiling water which has been salted, very slowly whisk in flour until you have batter-like paste which should remind you pancake mix. Cook on low heat for a few minutes, up to 5, constantly stirring with a whisk. Towards the end of the cooking time, add the chopped herbs before taking off the heat. Add a bit of EVOO too. One final stir.
Pour the mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and allow it to cool and stiffen . When cool. cut the paste into rectangles (about 6 x 3 inches) in size. These are your panelle.
Sear on both sides in skillet with hot oil in which you have browned a garlic clove. Remember to remove the clove as soon as the garlic starts to get dark so that you avoid a pungent bitter flavor to develop. Place on a paper sheet to remove any excess oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
Plate 1 pair of panelle with 1-2 dollops of ricotta cheese mixture. Perfect with the some chilled crisp white wine.
Today's Lesson: Amidst so much abundance, and overt glee , take some time to reflect on the past and modern meaning of this national holiday. It's not a celebration about food.