The beginning of the end (part 3)
Having left London behind and having in mind only positive thoughts, I was ready for the last part of my European trip, Master Chef’s finals. Next stop was Italy, which is popular for its raw materials and the Mediterranean, cuisine which is similar to Greek.
It’s time to taste….
I am in Parma, at the Pillota Palace. Parma has been declared the gastronomic destination of Italy by UNESCO. At the palace there are a lot of museums, but what we were looking for was food. We learned about culatello…it’s the most expensive part of pork and it’s only produced in 8 places, in the banks of Pados river. A significant factor for culatello to age and be conserved is the weather, as in this area there is wet, cold and foggy climate.
We had the chance to get to the cellar, where there is the culatello that has been chosen for the top restaurants and people of all over the world. I was impressed! Culatello is served with hands, by putting a little butter on top, as there is very little fat, accompanied with a very special wine, the Fontana (it has got only 6 degrees of alcohol and cannot easily be found in shops). Then, we visited a dairy factory and learned about the production of parmesan cheese. 1100 litres of milk are needed to produce 2 cheese wheels of parmesan. Every two hours the cloth is changed and the cheese is turned on the other side. During the last turn, the cheese is put in the parmesan mould and the label is printed.
Then we visited the conservation place. A vast place for cheese to age. There are an average of 20.000 cheese wheels (both the amount of cheese and money that there is, is unbelievable). We saw cheese which was aged in the first term of 2017. It’s called Parmigiano Reggiano, because it has already been aged for 12 months and it’s certified. When you try this kind of cheese, you should listen to the sound while cutting it. That very sound means that the cheese is properly aged. When it was cut by the expert, the crack that was heard, was amazing. Later, we visited Pepèn, a street food restaurant where we tried panini. After we went to Ciacco Lab, a traditional Italian gelateria, which is in the top 30 of the Italian restaurants.
We visited the Academia Barilla. It is the place where professional and amateur cooks come to learn the secrets of the Italian cuisine. There used to be the first factory of Barilla, which was built in 1910. We met chef Roberto Bassi and tested his dishes. He explained that both Greek and Italian chefs share the same cooking culture, as they are both Mediterranean. The chef cooked lasagna with fresh vegetables, fish stock, celery, parsley and some onion. He also used bell peppers, olives and a sauce, a kind of bechamel sauce.
It’s time for us to cook! We were at the amphitheater of the university of Parma and we had to cook for the students, 3 pasta dishes that should be accompanied with meat, fish and vegetables. I was thinking of doing 3 different dishes. The first one would be a white, made of ragout of crawfish and scallops. The second one would be with meat and eggplant, bacon and prosciutto with red sauce. The third would be lasagna with vegetables, similar to chef’s in Master class, but using different vegetables. We had 45 minutes to prepare the dishes. When we finished, we visited Ceresio 7, one of the most iconic restaurants of Milan. It is awarded, not only for its cuisine, but also for its design. It is one of the most historical buildings in Milan, which used to be the headquarters of ENEL and nowadays Dsquared’s2. Milan is the capital of taste in Italy. There are popular restaurants, which are visited by well known people and experts of international cuisine to express their views. Ceresio 7 is a place which every person that deals with cooking should visit, as the modern philosophy of Italian cuisine can be seen. It is the place where we met chef Elio Sivoni, who made fish carpaccio. Carpaccio is a new word in Italian cuisine. It cannot be found in books written before 1930. At first, the word carpaccio referred to meat but now it may mean vegetables, fish, fruit… anything finely chopped. Milan is the city with the fresher fish in Italy. The specialty of this dish is the dressing.
The second testing starts. We had to copy two traditional Italian dishes, gnocchi and risotto. Gnocchi was filled with hake and red mullet, alla livornese with pepper gel and seasoned mousse. And then risotto alla Milanese, an ordinary dish. When saying Milanese, we mean risotto with saffron. The specialty of this dish is that the rice is busted up with sour butter (the most difficult part of the procedure). Also, there is a raw shrimp filled with foie gras. We had 2 hours to prepare all these.
The end of testing…. and of my European trip
When testing was over, my European trip was over too. I felt a little sad, but I couldn’t wait to arrive in Athens. Milan was such a beautiful city. I felt nice and pleased with myself and my achievement. What I kept in mind was, that you should become part of Milan in order to understand the food and cook the raw materials.