The Marche – visiting Chef Gian Carlo Rossi
The Marche is located in central Italy on the Adriatic coast. The region is rich in food products and offers great diversity. The region has 170km of coast line so seafood is prevalent in the cuisine with clams, mussels, sardines, shrimp, monkfish, John Dory, cod, cuttlefish and sea snails being common. The area has mountains and has an abundance of wild game, namely Cinghiale or wild boar, and rabbit. The mountains also provide a variety of mushrooms, and plentiful truffles. The mountains/hills also produce grapes for wine making with two main types being Rosso Conero and Verdicchio. Very high quality Verdicchio is produced and it can run from sparkling, dry, to sweet. Good quality olive oil is produced but not in large quantities compared with some other regions. The Marche also has plains in the south which provide plenty of wheat, grains like Spelt/Farro, and legumes.
The area is known for meats as well as seafood. Pork is king in the area, but beef is popular as well. The region raises a specific breed of cow called the Grassa Marchiagano and is said to rival the quality of famous Chiania beef of Tuscany. The area compares with North Carolina as pork loving country. Traditionally almost all dishes were started with lard instead of olive oil, the reason being that lard was more plentiful, and cheaper than olive oil in this area. There has been an evolution and now the people of the area generally start dishes with a 50/50 mix of olive oil and lard. We did cook a lot of pork during class!
The area uses eggs in its Sfoglia (pasta), the chef stated an interesting fact that it is only in last 50 years that they started to use Grano Duro (durum wheat, semolina ) in their pasta. Before that they only used soft wheat because that was what was grown in the region. The south had the durum wheat. Key terms or definitions:
Potacchio – something cooked with garlic and rosemary
Porchetta – something cooked with wild fennel (not just pork).
Frascarelli – like polenta, but made with white flour. Frascarelli di Riso – the same but made with the addition of rice. It was like rice porridge and can be served sweet or savory. A very poor and humble dish. We ate it with duck ragu and one with Saba both were really good.
Passatelli – a dough made from bread crumbs, grated parm, flour and eggs. Used like pasta and really tasty.
Cresc Tajat – a dough made from left over polenta, flour and water. You make a dough and use like pasta.
Tasting so many delicious dishes that are created and based on necessity, total utilization, taste, nutrition, and comfort reminds me how screwed up the US has gotten. I think about food a lot, and I am very connected to the source of almost all the food I cook and consume. Therefore I find it strange that I feel a little ill at the notion that as a country we were so ignorant, weak willed, and willing to be lead astray by marketing and big business that a majority of the food consumed in the US is not connected to anything, is unhealthy, and is really crappy. I have read all the books, know all the jargon, and am doing my part to help right the ship, but as a US citizen I feel embarrassed that we have let our food systems get so screwed up.
We cooked: Chicken Potacchio, Frascarelli di riso, Campofilone Pasta with Artichokes, Sfogliata Primavera, Viincigrassi (Lasagna-Marche Style), Gnocchi Patate con Sugo all’ anatra, Passatelli in Brodo, Zuppa di Cicerchia in Pagnotta, Cresc Tajat con Sugo Finto, Coniglio in Porchetta -2 ways, Stracciatella in Brodo, Zuppa di Farro, Fave in Porchetta, Spaghetti di Farro con Cicerchia, Freco – a ratatouille type of dish, Marocchini Biscotti, Ciambello – a cake/cookie