The Underrated Legs – Cosce di Pollo con i Gelsi

Some things in this world – such as 80s shoulder pads, most of the Finnish Eurovision Song contestants, the English weather and my baking skills – are left without much recognition for understandable reasons.

Yet there are also some things whose lack of appreciation is more unfortunate.

Take chicken legs for example. For years, I have seen everyone praise the qualities of chicken breasts and they are a part of every street-credible athlete’s and nutritionist’s diet. However, Italian recipes have now taught me that by eliminating the fat and bones of your chicken, you also eliminate the possibility to add more flavour to your dish. Chicken legs are also relatively inexpensive. Thus, I would dare to suggest that they are the underrated (but hopefully rising) stars of today’s kitchens!

This chicken leg recipe originates from Giogione’s book (Giorgione – Orto e Cucina). Giorgione hasn’t defined the exact quantities for some ingredients of this dish. Fortunately I was not as unlucky as the last time when experimenting with a bit vague recipe, and this secondo turned out great and tasty. However, I think the next time I will consider adding a bit less olive oil and more wine and herbs to increase the flavour even more.

Chicken Legs with Mulberries

7 slices of bacon (I left these out as I don’t eat bacon…)

7 chicken legs with thighs

2 handfuls of black mulberries

white wine

black pepper

salt

1 bunch of rosemary

1 sage leaf (or several if you use less strong Finnish ones…)

olive oil

Mix together some salt, pepper, white wine, olive oil, the rosemary and sage and pour the marinade onto the chicken legs. Leave to rest for some time.

Oil an oven tin. Take one chicken leg at a time, roll it once more well in the marinade, wrap one slice of bacon around the leg and place it in the oven tin. Keep the leftover marinade for later use. Bake the bacon-wrapped (or without bacon as I did) chicken legs in the oven at 180C for 30 minutes.

Add the mulberries, some more white wine and a little bit of additional olive oil and salt to the leftover marinade, and mix gently. Leave to rest while the chicken legs are in the oven.

After the first 30 minutes of baking the chicken legs, take them out, and pour the mulberry sauce onto them. Cover the oven tin with aluminium foil and return the chicken legs to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Cutting Room Confessions – Disastri Diversi

As it is obvious, I am by no means a professional in the areas of cooking, writing nor photography. But what I may lack in those skills, I try to make up with persistence and tenacity (/ stubbornness) – in addition to my friends helping with many of this blog’s beautiful pictures.

Hence it is inevitable that things do not always go as planned in this fintastic kitchen, and during my 7.5 months of food blogging the amount of less successful culinaristic adventures has not been insignificant. Inspired my latest attempt yesterday, this time I decided to share some highlights of those moments that were edited in the process!

1. The Ketchup Wrong – Pappa al Pomodoro

This traditional tomato and bread soup sounded like a sure winner for this biggest tomato fan in Helsinki. I even used the very street-credible source of Giallo Zafferano for my recipe. Yet something went very wrong. Maybe it was the tomato concentrate that I added although it wasn’t included in the recipe (as I didn’t have enough tomatoes). Or perhaps the smaller amount of bread is to blame. Whatever the reason, just imagine ketchup with occasional pieces of water-soaked stale bread and you will see why this dish won’t be making another visit to my kitchen anytime soon.

2. Lost in Translation – Briciole di Pasta con Ricotta e Pomodori

I still have no idea what this recipe from an Italian cooking magazine was supposed to be. I managed to make quite an impressive imitation of the picture of the dish. The only slight issue was that it tasted terrible. I was so stubborn that I re-read the recipe more carefully and tried again a few days later. The look of dish was even more impressive. And it still tasted terrible.

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3. Fake Bake – Muffins al Cioccolato Bianco e Lamponi

I have already admitted that baking isn’t exactly one of my fortes. Yet I optimistically promised to make these muffins for my mother on Mothers’ Day. Having learned something from the past, this time I however warned my mother not to solely rely on my muffin delivery. At least I did that right. The muffins on the other hand looked like this:

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As I had already invested in cute cupcake wrappers, I didn’t give up and managed to disguise the barbapapaness of my muffins:

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However, this did require some serious muffin editing:

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Based on this experience, I am thinking of launching a new term: to fake bake = to miraculously disguise (with all possible decorative tricks in the book) a cake/ pastry gone badly wrong to a somewhat edible form.

4. The Ingredient Issue – Insalata di Radicchio Trevigiano

I prepared this salad a few weeks ago to accompany caserecce alle noci. Nothing wrong with it as such but it tasted exactly what the ingredients were: chicory and apple – nothing spectacular either. I think the main issue was the kind of chicory I found here in Helsinki as opposed to the types available in the sunny fields of Southern Italy!

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5. Orange Overload – Finocchi al Forno con Arancia, Pinoli e Uvetta

Lesson learned yesterday: at my skill level, it may not be a fabulous idea to try a recipe that doesn’t give any indication on the quantities of any of its ingredients (especially if it is a dish that you can’t taste and season as you prepare it).

Another lesson learned yesterday: peels of organic oranges sold in Finland are not entirely free of preservatives.

The result of learning these two things only yesterday: What might have been quite a nice veggie side or main dish, was now a messy mouthful with an overpowering plastic flavour of orange zest.

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So, please rest assured my dear readers that I do not post every dish ever tried in this kitchen to this blog but there are strict quality control measures in place on Cucina Fintastica. And even more appreciation for those times when things do go as or better than planned!

Well-Dressed – Insalata di Melanzane

I am one of those women who tried her best to avoid every visible source of fat (such as salad dressings and butter on a piece of bread) in her food for years. When I learned a few years ago that in fact my diet contained too little fat, I had to retrain myself to remember to accompany my lettuce with a bit of olive oil. The success of my endevours is now clearly visible on my waistline but at least it is good fat, eh?

As a byproduct of my retraining comes a proper appreciation for a nice salad dressing whenever I meet one. My latest pleasant acquintance of this sort was enabled by the book “Voglia di Cucinare“. The method of making the dressing is quite interesting: it is cooked and includes some cream in addition to the more traditional elements of olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. I am not usually a very big fan of uncooked champignon mushrooms but for some reason this dressing marinates even them into quite a delicious format! Hence, all I have to do now is to negotiate with my waistline to hit the gym…

Aubergine Salad

2 aubergines

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tomatoes

1 zucchini

100 g champignons

1 garlic clove

1 dl white wine

juice of 1 lemon

1.5 dl cream

1 tsp rosemary

1 tsp fresh mint

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

salt, pepper

Cut the aubergine into very thin slices. Sprinkle them with salt if needed and after an hour, rinse with water and dry (you may skip this step if your aubergines are not the bitter type, as most aubergines sold in Helsinki aren’t).

Heat one half of the olive oil in a pan and add the aubergines. When the slices are cooked, transfer them into a salad bowl. Add the sliced tomatoes, zucchini and champignons to the bowl.

Heat the other half of the olive oil in a pan and gently fry the garlic clove in it. Add the white wine, lemon juice and cream. Stir into the sauce the rosemary, fresh mint and vinegar and bring it to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing onto the salad and let the vegetables marinate in it for at least 30 minutes. At the time of serving, season with some additional salt and pepper to your taste.