New Wonders – Gratin di Pollo con Porcini E Radicchio di Campo in Salsa Carbonara

Happy New Year everyone!

2014 seems to have flown by and suddenly we have reached the mid-point of this decade. Amazing. What is quite baffling too is that in a few weeks Cucina Fintastica will celebrate its first birthday. I set up this blog with the initial target of challenging myself to complete three posts. Almost a year later, not only is the amount of posts 15-fold but I also possess a widened range of cooking skills (learnt both the easy and hard way), an impressive library of Italian cook books (ok, five to be exact but still…), and a renewed optimism in my abilities to actually bake a cake (apart from that stupid torta della nonna that is).

Anyway, as I mentioned in my previous post, this week I had the intention of looking into the Italian New Year’s traditions. I actually hosted a little New Year’s party, and was obviously keen to utilise the fabulous wisdom of the Italian kitchen in my menu. I did make this salad and tested some nice spinach and goat cheese pastries from “Le ricette della prova del cuoco” but didn’t find any must-haves to prepare for exactly New Year.

Now that I am in a bit less of a hurry and have the time to actually sit down when searching for recipes, I can see that there would have been at least one thing not to miss: lentils. Apparently having lentils (symbolising money) on New Year’s Eve should be auspicious for your finances for the coming year. I suppose I hence can’t expect Cucina Fintastica (nor my real career nor any attempts at lottery) to take the world by storm this year either. Well, at least I’ll know better the next time.

According to Google, there are also some other interesting New Year’s traditions in Italy. One of the most worrying kind is throwing old plates and glasses out of windows at midnight. In today’s Italy this habit is not quite as widespread as earlier but anyway be warned to take a helmet with you if you ever happen to visit Italy at this time of the year. Or obviously you can always consider changing your travel destination to a nice city where windows remain firmly closed in Dec/ Jan, such as Helsinki.

It seems that I have now managed to almost complete this post by writing about things that have absolutely nothing to do with today’s dish… It is in fact another fantastic recipe from Bruno Barbieri’s book “Via Emilia, via da casa“. By just looking at the list of its ingredients, you know you can’t go wrong with it. And believe me you certainly won’t. So what better way to start off your culinary year?

Chicken Gratin with Mushrooms And Wild Rocket (Rucola) in Carbonara Sauce

Serves 4

For the carbonara sauce

150 g smoked pancetta

50 g butter

1 egg yolk

parmesan cheese

1 liqueur glass of water

Splash of cognac

For the gratin

2 chicken breasts

4 handfuls of wild rocket

3 (porcini) mushrooms

100 g parmesan

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of rosemary

2 garlic cloves

olive oil

Cut the pancetta ham into small cubes. Fry them in a pan with the butter for a few minutes. Add the cognac and let it evaporate. Remove the pan from the heat and once cooled down, add a mixture of the egg yolk and the water. The sauce (that you hence make) should not be too thick. If it thickens too much, pour into the sauce a little bit more water or a few drops of vegetable stock. Move the sauce to a heat-resistant (gratin) dish and cover it with the grated parmesan.

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Move them to a pan and cook them with a crushed garlic clove, the bay leaf and some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking the mushrooms for another few minutes.

Cut the chicken breasts into cubes. Fry them in a pan on a high heat with some olive oil, the other garlic clove and the rosemary for 3-4 minutes stirring continuously.

Add the chicken cubes on top of the carbonara sauce in the gratin dish, and then the rocket leaves. Sprinkle the dish with the grated parmesan, add a trickel of olive oil, salt and pepper, and finally a knobs of butter. Bake in grill for some minutes.

Serve the chicken with the mushrooms.

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Twinkle Michelin Star – Fondente al Cioccolato Speziato con Gelato di More E Zenzero

I don’t understand what happened with Christmas this year.

I do know that it has a tendency to sneak up on you but this time it seems as if it was even slier than usual and very quietly crept behind my back and then suddenly yelled loudly “Hello – here I am again!!!” only a few days ago.

I had all these big plans for this Christmas season. I was going to send all those Christmas cards that I always forget to send. And this time even on time. I was going to clean my floors so spotless and shiny that they would serve as spare mirrors if needed. And obviously I was going to cook all sorts of Italian Christmas dishes and write very expertly about them.

But then something unexplainable happened and as a result, the quantity of Christmas cards sent and Italian Christmas dishes tested is now zero whereas the amount of spots on my floors is not currently publicly disclosable.

However, although I hence don’t currently have any Italian Christmas classics – such as panettone – at my disposal for blogging, I do have a very worthy substitute recipe with fittingly Christmassy flavours. The recipe is also related to stars – even though in this case they are Michelin (and TV) ones.

It orignates from another Italian cookbook “Via Emilia, via da casa” I recently bought. It is authored by an Italian celebrity chef called Bruno Barbieri. His restaurants earlier earned seven Michelin stars in total. More recently he has been starring in many TV cooking shows (such as MasterChef Italia).

Many of Bruno’s recipes in the book look fabulous but unfortunately many of them are also too challenging to test in Helsinki due to their very special ingredients. However, this dessert was a fantastic exception with the Christmassy twist as I mentioned. There are quite a few flavours in it but they work superbly together!

So I suppose all the remains to be written this time (accompanied by a solid intention to investigate different Italian traditions for New Year next week…) is:

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

Spiced Dark Chocolate with Blackberry Ice Cream And Ginger

Serves 4

For the chocolate:

100 g dark chocolate

1 tbsp sugar

100 ml milk

100 ml cream

1 small dried red chilli

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves

2 seeds of cardamom

fresh ginger

For the ice cream:

ice cream (home made or not)

2 punnets of blackberries

1 glass of sweet Lambrusco wine

2 tbsp sugar

zest of one orange

For the chocolate: In a kettle, gently heat the milk without boiling it and add the sugar and all the spices. Mix and remove the kettle from the heat. Leave to infuse for 3-4 hours. After that, filter the spiced milk through a strainer. Move the milk back to the kettle with the cream. Heat well, then switch off the heat and add the crumbled chocolate. Remove the kettle from the heat and stir well until the chocolate has melted into the mixture. Cool the sauce down in the room temperature.

For the ice cream: Rinse and clean the blackberries. Move them to a pan with the Lambrusco wine, sugar and orange zest and cook for 7-8 minutes. Filter the sauce and let it cool down. Combine the sauce with the ice cream.

Presentation: Spoon some chocolate sauce into a glass. Add a scoop of the blackberry ice cream on top and sprinkle with grated fresh ginger.