Last week, an American family came to this part of Italy to visit relatives. While here, they wanted to explore the area and delve deeply into the riches of the cuisine of northeast Italy (the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia). What better way to delve than a private cooking class? Enter my friend, Silvana Mozzon. Silvana owns a small restaurant here called Taverna al Frico.
(Don’t know what Frico is? Be sure to read the sidebar below!)
While she is a superb and internationally recognized chef, and founder of the local chapter of Lady and Chef, Silvana doesn’t speak much English. She asked my wife and me to be there at the class to translate.
Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to watch her work, meet some new Wine Friends and score a free meal in the process.
During the course of the evening, we sipped regional wines as Silvana supervised the preparation of:
- Risotto con zafferano (Risotto with saffron)
- Risotto con crema di tartufo bianco (Risotto with white truffle cream)
- Spaghetti alla carbonara (Spaghetti with egg sauce and bacon)
- Gnocchi di patate (Potato gnocchi)
- Tiramisu’ (I am guessing you know what that is)
I won’t put the recipes here, but if you are interested, let me know and I am happy to send them to you. Just go out and buy some quality Italian olive oil, onions, and garlic and you are pretty much ready. You’ll need plenty of parmesan cheese, too.
Now I think I am pretty smart when it comes to Italian wine and consider myself an expert when I have a fork in my hand. I’m still an amateur in the kitchen, though. Here are some things I learned that are pretty cool.
- Need to saute’ something? Bunch it together in the pan rather than spreading it out evenly – this prevents burning.
- Veggies that grow above ground get put into already boiling water. Veggies that grow below ground get put into cold water that is then brought to a boil. I am not sure why, but if Silvana says to do it, that is how I am doing it from now on.
- Fresh-made gnocchi can be kept in the fridge for about a week. Once cooked, run cold water over them, put in a container with oil, cover and refrigerate. When it’s time to eat, pop them into boiling water. When they float to the surface, they are ready.
Over the course of the three hour class, my wife and I enjoyed terrific traditional Italian treats, made fresh for the first time by an enthusiastic group who are now our friends. They, in turn learned much more than a few new recipes. They experienced first-hand the art of an authentic Italian meal. Buon Appetito!
Here is the sidebar I mentioned earlier…
What is Frico, anyway?
Owing to the agricultural history of northeastern Italy, traditional foods here are made from simple, inexpensive ingredients that come from local farms. The basic ingredients of Frico are a mildly aged cow cheese, cooked potatoes, and onions.
Tradition has it the first Frico was served some centuries ago by a farm family to a wanderer in need of a hearty meal. Cooking methods of the day involved heating ingredients in a pan over a flame. The farm family grew potatoes and onions, and had cheese from their neighbor’s cows. The wanderer, who, as it turns out, was a traveling Archbishop from the city of Aquileia, was moved by the poor family’s kindness and impressed by the magnificent taste of the simple Frico.
Today pretty much every restaurant in the region that claims to serve “typical dishes” offers some form of Frico.
Traditionalists will say to add no fat (butter or oil) to the pan. The fat from the cheese is enough. You can experiment with that as your Frico skills improve.
For ten super (and easy) Frico recipes, check out this E-book on Amazon.