May 11 – May 17, 2020
Monday: Leftover Barbecued Chicken and Kale Salad with Currants and Parmesan
Tuesday: Pasta with Massimo Bottura’s Evolved Pesto
Wednesday: Grilled Brats with Spanish Ratatouille
Thursday: Parmesan Chicken with Arugula and Fennel Salad
Friday: Massimo Bottura’s “Sole en Pappilote”
Saturday: Bourbon-Brined Pork Chops with Atomic Apple Sauce
Sunday: Moroccan Meatball Tagines with Green Olives and Lemon
Imagine a spell-binding speaker with an Italian accent and fifteen unique hand-gestures. Now imagine that he is not only a three-star Michelin restaurateur, but the owner of the best restaurant in the world. And, finally, imagine him being more than a little crazy with his passion for food and for perfection.
Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Massimo Bottura teaches a course on MasterClass and is featured in, I think, the second season of Chef’s Table (Netflix) and in one of the better “Somebody Feed Phil” episodes (also Netflix). You would do well to make his acquaintance and to follow his advice while ignoring his more zen-like sayings (“And what is water? Water is truth.” – but is that sparkling or bottled, still or tap water, huh?) He is a huge believer in ‘evolving’ tradition. This means, so far as I can grasp it, that he will cook you the world’s greatest Ragû Bolognese but that it will be different in unique ways from your grandmother’s.
He is also very big on what he pronounces as your ‘pa – lah -ta.’ M. Bottura: “What is thee most importanta tool in thee kitchen, do you theenka? No, eet’sa not thee chef’s knifeah, or thee fireah, or any of thee theengs we needa for to cook with. Eet eezah (and hear he lifts his hands, rotates them backwards and points, with his left and right forefingers to back of his head where his mandible and maxilla join) thee cooksah palahta. You must tasteah and learn, and taste and learn and try deefferent theengs and keep tasting. Thees way, you keepah tradition, but you changeah for thee better. You evolvah.”
I haven’t quite captured Massimo’s quicksilver brilliance and I haven’t even tried to capture the presence of his sous-chef, Tanaka, who will remind you of a more substantial version of the character Kato from Peter Sellers’s Pink-Panther movies. But I hope I’ve piqued enough interest that you will look into this strange and wonderful creature yourself.
Below, I give you my version of his sole en papillote (‘soliogla al cartoccio’ in Italian). It’s my version because his recipes are none too exact and, apparently, require his presence to nudge or restrain Tanaka’s professional hand. SWMBO is my Massimo – definitely not my sous-chef.
Overall, it was a fine week at Casa Stuarti, with the isolating humans suppressing their homicidal tendencies while enjoying a week of fine dinners, including a Moroccan Meatball Tagine that, if not for Massimo’s fish, we would have shared with you in a flash. Things have begun to open up in Western Pennsylvania, with the State Stores selling booze again and the malls opening. Still no church, except in parking lots, but confession is back to allow us to unburden our ravaged consciences. No sports except NASCAR, on a regular basis. Hey, I may start watching.
Note: Massimo has also worked to feed the poor and to reduce food waste – he did not grow up wealthy. He founded Refettorio Ambrosiana in Milan with money from a Catholic Charity– a restaurant designed in an old theater space – and began to feed the homeless with simple, but superbly-cooked food with tablecloths, real cutlery and flowers (donated) in a beautiful space. He named it ‘refettorio’ in reference to the refectories where monks eat in monasteries. The word derives from ‘reficere’ meaning to remake or restore. Since then, these cafeterias have opened in other European cities and most of the great chefs of Europe have helped to devise recipes that use the kind of food (imperfect fruit and vegetables, wilted lettuce, ground beef that is approaching the end of its shelf life) that restaurants and markets will donate to the poor. If you’d like to help, you can buy his book, Bread Is Gold: Extraordinary Meals with Ordinary Ingredients. (Published by PHAIDON – all royalties donated to FOOD FOR SOUL to create and sustain community kitchens around the world.)
Soligola al Cartaccio
(adapted from Massimo Bottura’s MasterClass)
[Note: You’ll need parchment paper for this recipe – easily available in markets and there is NO substitute. I.e., without parchment paper don’t cook this. The recipe itself is simple and does not require any professional skill.]
Timing: 45 minutes, including preparation
Ingredients: Serves 4
1 whole sole filet 1 ¾ – 2 lbs.) or other thin, firm-fleshed white fish, such as turbot, sea bass, or snapper. (We used turbot, more readily available)
5 paper-thin slices of lemon
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
10-12 black olives (kalamata give more flavor)
1 Tablespoon plus of drained capers
Flaky sea salt (Maldon is perfect here)
1 Tablespoon or more of minced parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
Heat oven to 350 F.
Cut the sole filet in half (you’re going to stack the halves on top of each other)
Season the flesh-side of the fish with salt, then stack.
Now line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper – you’ll need a baking sheet large enough for the fillets to fit at least 3” from all edges.
Place the stacked filets in the center of the parchment paper.
Arrange the lemon slices over the top filet, then scatter tomato halves, olives, capers, and parsley over the fish.
Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Brush the edge of the parchment paper with the egg wash and then place another sheet of parchment paper over the fish so that it lines up with the first sheet.
Now create the package by starting at one end and working your way around, folding the edges of the sheets up and over a few times to seal in the fish. Use more egg wash if needed.
Cook the fish:
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Remove fish from oven and, carefully, since hot steam will escape, cut a slit in the top of the package and peel the parchment paper back.
You can serve directly from the package (you’ll need a spatula and a spoon for the garnish and the juices) or remove the fish to a platter and spoon the garnish and juices over.