Florence, Italy: Bacalhau, an Italian Mamma, and a Pheasant!
Thumbs Up from the Tuscans!!!
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My Famous Bacalhau
Browning Pheasant in Olive Oil, Garlic and Fresh Herbs
Cooked Pheasant Served with Crusty Bread
If you read my article last year about "A Perfect Sunday in Tuscany" you will remember that Pasqualina is the ideal Italian Mamma (the kind who can get any laundry stain out, irons sheets and cooks better than most chefs). Her husband, Mauro, hunts wild game, grows incredible fruits and vegetables and raises some animals (like hens that lay fresh eggs). Needless to say, FOOD is serious business in this family. They have kindly invited me over to dine more than once, so I figured it was time for a cultural exchange and some reciprocity. I decided I would make my famous Bacalhau- the most traditional of all Portuguese dishes.
Toni picked my husband and I up in Florence on a hot Sunday and drove us out into the countryside. Despite having made my most requested recipe of all time, I was nervous. Would this Tuscan couple like a non-Italian dish? Would they like my cooking?
Pasqualina made some nice crostini and bruschetta for starters (she had been told not to make pasta) and some fresh green beans from their garden. When the Bacalhau was put on the table, I watched them serve it onto their plates as a drum-roll played in my head. The trip between fork and mouth seemed to go in slow motion. They chewed with serious faces, then said, buono (good) and then another bite and molto buono, davvero (very good, really). When they helped themselves to seconds, I knew they were not just being nice.
Success!!! I cooked for Tuscans and they LIKED it. Wow, to me, that is really something.
Pasqualina's tiramisu, coffee, vin santo and grappa added the finishing touches to our lunch. Since one never leaves their home empty-handed, I returned with 6 fresh eggs, some green beans, a cucumber, stuffed zucchini and a whole pheasant that Mauro had caught. She gave me an easy recipe to follow. Keep in mind that pheasant is an extremely lean meat that dries out quickly, so you may want to soak it in vinegar before cooking (a tip I learned AFTER making it).
1 pheasant- cleaned and chopped into pieces
4-5 cloves garlic- chopped
2 tomatoes- coarsely chopped
1 bullion cube (vegetable or chicken)
1 bottle cheap white wine
salt and pepper to personal taste
1. Brown pheasant in olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs.
2. Once browned, lower heat and add 1/3 bottle white wine and bullion cube.
3. Simmer until wine reduces and add another 1/3 of the bottle. Add tomatoes.
4. Simmer until wine reduces and add last 1/3 of the bottle. Season with salt, pepper.
5. Simmer until wine ALMOST reduces (you want some sauce- it should be nice and thick). Turn off heat and allow pheasant to sit in the juice for about 1/2 hour before serving.
As always, thank you for reading and I hope that you, too, will someday have a perfect day in Tuscany! A presto!
C. De Melo
Author & Artist
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