Winter foods from Piemonte

Winter is perhaps the best time of year to be Piemontese. Piemonte is a region in the very northwest of Italy, at the base of the Alps. The food and wine are hearty and rich, just what one needs to fight off the frozen fog that settles between the towering mountains and the Ligurian coast every winter. These recipes are three favorites of the people of Casale Monferrato, a town in Piemonte that lies in the center of the triangle formed by Torino, Milano and Genoa, three of the largest cities of the northwest. They are untraditional but delicious. Try them, and you will not be disappointed!

Bagna Caoda:
Bagna Caoda literally means “hot bath.” It is a dish that involves dipping raw vegetables in a cheese-less fondue.

Melt some butter in a small sauce pan. When it is melted add some garlic and brown it, taking care that it does not burn. Add to this mixture some olive oil and finely diced anchovies. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the anchovies have dissolved, stirring as needed with a wooden spoon. Transfer the contents to a self-warming fondue pot, which is to be placed at the center of the table. Surround the pot with raw fresh vegetables such as pieces of cardoons, bell peppers, celery, carrots or whatever else may be fresh or to your liking. Dip the raw vegetables in the sauce and bring them back to your plate on a piece of good crusty bread. At the end your bread will have accumulated a good amount of sauce, and will be great for eating as well.

La Finanziera:
La Finanziera is a very old and traditional dish. It is a sauce that could be used for pasta, risotto or on a bed of polenta.

Put in a sauce pan butter, oil, sage, rosemary and onion. Sautee until the onion becomes translucent, and add some peas. After mixing in the peas, add chicken livers, chicken sweetbreads and Italian sausage, all sliced into bite-sized pieces. Add some flour for texture, and cook for about 6-8 minutes.

Trippa alla Savoiarda:
This is a stew that was rumored to be one of the favorites of the Royal Family.

Rinse and drain about 2.5 pounds of tripe that has already been boiled once. Cut the tripe into thin strips. Heat butter and oil in a large pot and add 2 minced onions, 1 minced carrot, 1 minced celery stalk, a pound of peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes and some fresh basil. Sautee for a few minutes and add the tripe, mixing it in well. Stir in 1 ladle of meat broth and 1 teaspoon of equal parts ground nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Cover the pot and let simmer for at least 3 hours. Serve hot with freshly grated parmesan cheese on the side.

What wines, you ask?
With the Bagna Caoda or the Finanziera I recommend trying a young Dolcetto or an unoaked Barbera. The Trippa requires something a little heartier. Barolo is the best but is very expensive. Try a less expensive Barbaresco or a Barbera, but if you go Barolo or Barbaresco make sure it is 1997 or older. For more help with these or any other Italian food questions contact Kevin via e-mail at [email protected]