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International Day of Italian Cuisines (IDIC) 2012 at the International Culinary Center

Italian cuisine is world-renowned and well-loved, but, due to global travels, many of its dishes have morphed considerably since their origins.  Ending up in far-flung places, regional specialties have been adapted to fit the ingredients that immigrants were able to find in their new home countries.  Although the names might be the same, the food on the plates could look very different than what would be consumed in Italy itself, something that the International Day of Italian Cuisines (IDIC) sponsored by ItChefs-GVCI seeks to highlight each year, by featuring one classic recipe and in bringing together Italian chefs who work around the globe to promote it.  This year’s featured dish is Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese.

Event Organizers

I’ve never made this, having been a bit intimidated by the recipe, but the demonstration at the International Culinary Institute on Thursday showed me that maybe I’ve just been too hesitant to try it.  Chef Matteo Scibilia, a specialist in the cuisine of Lombardy, from which this dish hails, led the cooking lesson, explaining that, like with many classics, the ingredients and techniques have been “officially” agreed upon by the local council.  (The same has been done in Bologna, for example, as to what makes an authentic Ragù Bolognese.)

Dorothy Cann Hamilton of ICC introducing Chef Matteo Scibilia (with Rosario Scarpato of GVCI)

One of the most important steps to making this recipe is to have the right ingredients.  A tip I picked up from the chef is that he cooks the bone marrow separately from the veal itself.  Another is that there are various and tweaks that still make it authentic, just like any other regional dish.  Although the instructions for the classic dish call for using butter to cook everything, that is considered a bit heavy in today’s times, so some people do use a butter/olive oil mix, which is also one of my favorite cooking combinations.  There are also slight variations within the province of Lombardy, from which this comes.

Even the Mise en Place has a sense of style

Chef Scibilia dusts the veal in flour before browning it in the fat, another slight change from what others do as well and one with which Rosario Scarpato, who was translating the discussion for the audience, disagreed.  For him, this gives the meat the brown crust he likes and helps to seal it.  Once the meat is seared, the soffrito, the base of the sauce is put into the pan, with its combination of finely minced carrots, celery, and onions.  I noticed that the recipe linked above calls for a larger dice on the vegetables, but as you can see from the photo below, they were cut into pretty small pieces in the dish made at the demo.  I also didn’t really pick up that there was any proscuitto in the sauce.

Bone marrow cooking separately

Despite these different points of view, some key elements in making the dish are the same.  One is that the liquid in the pan needs to be at the level of the meat when it is cooking in the oven.  Wine is added to give the dish some acid and balance, and tomatoes, which were probably brought into the recipe after the discovery of the Americas, are really there more for color rather than for flavor.  The gremolata is a reflection of several aspects of Italian cuisine.  One, is that Milan was an important trading city, so these would have come from another part of the country.  Another is that the bright, citrus-herbal freshness of the garnish is probably something that was included later on in the development of the dish.  With the movement from the heavy spices of the Middle Ages, this rich meal was then balanced by the lightness of the gremolata.

Chef Matteo Scibilia with Rosario Scarpato translating the demo

After watching all the steps in preparing this dish, with the amazing aromas wafting our way from the demonstration table, we were rewarded with our very own plate of Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese.  The tender meat just melted in my mouth, the fat and stock having kept it moist through the several-hour cooking process and rendering it completely succulent and nom-worthy.  The tangy lemon and grassy parsley garnish cut through the richness to add an extra, lighter dimension to the dish and kept it from being too overwhelmingly heavy.  Underneath the veal was a pile of velvety smooth potato purée with a dash of Grana Padano cheese, another deviation as this is typically seen with Risotto alla Milanese, as a complement to the meat.

Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese

Having seen this prepared before me, I think that this is a dish I might try to tackle sometime soon.  I think the weather, especially after this past weekend, is getting cold enough to warrant running the oven for a couple of hours of cooking.  My plan is to find a recipe for Ossobuco alla Milanese and then to try to put as little American spin on it as possible so that I can keep in the spirit of the IDIC 2012.  As Ms. Hamilton said in her opening remarks, this day is about celebrating “authentic recipes with Italian ingredients.”

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Colangelo & Partners for inviting me to take place in this event on behalf of their client Consorzio Tutela Grana Padano.

Many restaurants around the world, including quite a few in the United States, will be taking part in the International Day of Italian Cuisine 2012 on January 17, 2012.  Here is a list of participating locations.

The ItChefs-GVCI has a recipe for Ossobuco alla Milanese, but it doesn’t seem to me to be quite the one that Chef Scibilia made at the demo.  There is also a list of suggested wines to go with the dish on the website as well.