Thursday’s holiday from cooking was over, and it was time to head back into the kitchen on Friday. At the public market, Silvestro led us to the large meat case, the same one where we purchased our sun-kissed chickens on Wednesday, and directed our gaze to the long rabbit displayed behind the glass. It was skinned and its organs lay in a small pile in a cavity somewhere in its mid-section (I’m an English major, not a veterinarian).
The butcher displays the organs so you can tell how fresh the rabbit is and the head is left on so the buyer can be assured they are getting bunny and not a cat. Not sure if Silvestro was kidding or not when he told me that, but it’s good to know we wouldn’t be eating someone’s kitty for lunch.
Our pasta lesson on Friday was the dreaded orecchiette, for me, the most frustrating of all the shapes. Giuseppe showed us how to do it: begin by making a cavatello, and then you sort of turn it inside out, over your fingertip to make the little ear shape. They are meant to look almost like little bowler hats, but mine resembled yarmulkes, and nothing like the “sample” Giuseppe gave me.
We also made a twisted pasta shape.
The menu for our mid-day meal was:
- Antipasti: Peperonata — gorgeous yellow peppers sliced into wiggly strips, then sauteed with garlic and bread crumbs. I could have eaten the entire pan.
- Primo: Orecchiette con le crime di rapa (broccoli rabe) – at least it wasn’t chicory
- Secondo: Coniglio con verdeca, timo e olive verdi — the rabbit with white wine, thyme and green olives
- Dolce: Cantucci – little almond cookies, like biscotti
Santina and I made the rabbit together. First browning it in a large cast iron pot until it was golden brown, then we added the wine, herbs and olives and let it all braise together.
To drink, Silvestro poured Rosato, which is rose made in the Salento with negroamaro grapes.
It was one of our best lunches of the week, and lasted until nearly 3:30. During our afternoon break (which we started calling “la pausa”) a few shops were open, so we made a few purchases. I returned back to the apartment to work on the blog (you’re welcome) while Anne shopped some more with Barbara and Adrienne, two of our new school pals.
Before we knew it, it was time to meet Silvestro in the Piazza for a tour of two wine shops in town. One was just around the corner from our apartment. We’ve been in there a few times. In addition to a selection of wines from the region, as well as all over Italy, they also sell cookbooks, olive oils, and high end packaged foods.
The second shop was definitely more for the locals. It, too, had a good selection of wines and the prices were a little better. I did not purchase any, so don’t anyone get their hopes up for a bottle for Christmas.
And then it was time, of course, to go back to the Scuola for dinner. Our menu was more extensive than we usually have (our evening menus have tended to be lighter).
- Primo: Twisty pasta and tomato sauce and ricotta forte
Secondo: Polpettone — a.k.a. the largest, sickest meatloaf you’ve ever seen
Dolce: Baked pears with sweetened ricotta
The meatloaf was an architectural wonder, constructed of extra lean beef and pork, ground twice, along with Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs and eggs all blended together.
We shaped one half of the meat mixture into a large mound with a trough running through the center, and then lined the trough with spicy salami, filled it with Scamorza (cheese), and then added another layer of the thinly sliced salami over the cheese. Using the remaining meat, we created a cap for the top of the loaf to seal in the filling. Mamma mia.
Taking our places around the dining table, Silvestro opened bottles of Salice Salentino, a blend of our old buddy negroamaro and malvasia nera. The pasta was served with the red sauce, and then we each added a little bit of ricotta forte, super stinky cheese that comes in a jar. It was a little much for me, but if you like your cheeses strong and smelly, ricotta forte is for you.
The Polpettone was taking a long time to cook, giving Silvestro an opportunity to tell us about his annual bike trip around Sicily. Check out his site to read all about it.
Finally, it was time for the Polpettone. I can not tell a lie, it was delicious. Luckily, I asked for only half a slice (they were the size and thickness of a small ribeye steak), because the baked pears with the ricotta were also outstanding. We had some kind of dessert wine with the pears, but I was in a food coma by that point and didn’t note the name.
We rolled home and were tucked into our beds by 11:30. Only one more day left of cooking classes. It has all gone way to fast!