Viva Italia!


I speak no Italian. I mean ZERO. I don’t even speak the kind of Italian Giada DeLaurentis speaks on her show (which I think should be renamed Big Head, Big Flavor), a language wherein you speak English, except for WAAAAAY overpronouncing any Italian words (like prosciutto). I don’t pronounce the words incorrectly, necessarily, but that’s not an Italian thing so much as an all-across-the-map thing. Actually, here’s a teensy tutorial on a couple of commonly mispronounced food words that will likely earn you a gentle slap across the cheek if uttered in my presence:

Chipotle—Let’s sound it out, shall we? Chip…oat…lay. Not too trixy, right? Then how come everyone and their brother says “chipoltay”? Even Bobby Flay, master of southwestern pretense (also married to my television girlfriend, Stephanie March), pronounces it “chipoatuhlay”. The extra syllable just hangs there in the air, like a verbal booger, and drives me crazy.

————-Note to Stephanie March: He doesn’t deserve you. I sorta do. And I’m afraid of physical acts of lesbianism, so I’ll stay married to my husband, and you can just stand near me and be pretty and adorable, mmkay?—————————

Next–

Mascarpone—Again, let’s sound it out. Mass…car…po..nay. Not “mar-ska-pone”, dammit. One of the chefs who taught us in culinary school mispronounced this word all day long, and it made me shake with rage. He also said chipotle wrong, but was crotchety and hilarious, so I let it slide. Also, Michael Chiarello says “mar-ska-pone,” and he’s an Italian chef, so it’s unforgivable.

Robert Irving had an episode recently where he not only SAID “expresso,” but also spelled it that way on the white board. I’m not sure I’ll recover from that treachery.

Nobody’s perfect. I mispronounce words occasionally. It comes from the fact that there are many words I’ve read and comprehended numerous times, without ever having heard them used in speech. So, while I know the word, the spelling, the meaning, I have zero grasp on the pronunciation. But I LEARN. The first time I hear it spoken, I mentally correct myself and am appropriately chagrined. I refuse to believe that these chefs have never heard the name of the common ingredients spoken aloud.

BTW, mascarpone is an Italian triple-creme cheese. It’s not unlike cream cheese, but is richer, creamier, more decadent. It’s used in tiramisu, most commonly, but I like it in cheesecake, on scones, wherever I can put it.

Chipotle peppers are smoked (usually dried) jalapenos. They’re usually canned, reconstituted, in adobo sauce, which is a rich, red, tangy-spicy Mexican preparation. They’re HOT, but deeply flavorful.

So, there’s your lesson. Now, want to see them in action? Here are two meals from the last four days at our house. The first is a Rick Bayless-inspired meal. I just bought one of his cookbooks the other day, and was thrilled to see that it was chock full of food that I REALLY LIKE. I’d become somewhat disillusioned by Mexican food, living in San Antonio, but these recipes are “a whole ‘nother” category of awesome. What I wouldn’t give to have his talent, I swear…


Hot, homemade corn tortillas


wrapped around chipotle-marinated steak and grilled onions


served with “cowboy beans” that began as a bag of dried beans, and ended up a brothy, smokey, bacon-y, garlicky, cumin-scented bowl of genius


and a side of rice that is made with four whole cloves of minced garlic, sea salt, and plenty of butter

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Chef Bayless. All of these dishes were spectacular and comforting, and the perfect meal with which to watch you win Top Chef Masters! On a hunch, I made this meal the night the final episode aired, so we got to enjoy some of his edible brainchildren while we watched him kick ass on the finale. PLUS, we have reservations to eat at his Chicago restaurant Topolabampo in less than two weeks. I can’t wait! Something about suckling pig, Oaxacan mole, Ahi tuna…swoon.

If that weren’t enough, we also threw down some serious Italian eats last night, just out of eagerness to eat some fresh cherry tomatoes before summer ends (hopefully VERY SOON).

Burrata is something I’ve written about before so I’ll let you go back and check it out, rather than re-bore you with the details. This was an attempt at imitating the dish from Dough. It was great, but I’ve still got a lot of technique to work on before it’s anything like as good as Chef Horn’s version.

Here’s how I did it: First, I made fresh mozzarella, which involves a lot of scalding. Then, at the end, I took the last of my curd and made a skin of mozzarella. Then, I took the scraps of curd from the bottom of my pot, mixed them with macarpone and truffle oil, and placed an ice cream scoop of the filling into the skin.
Finally, it formed a ball around the filling, and was dropped into a bowl of warm, salty water.
The end result gets set up with some fresh tomatoes, balsamic, and basil chiffonade. And that’s the recipe for how to make homemade burrata. It’s borderline pornographic in flavor, especially when spread on wood-fired flatbread.

The mozzarella that was made to aid in this process? It got turned into pizzas. Pizza Margherita, which is simple and fresh.
And pizza Kristie, which has bacon, caramelized onions, and three cheeses. Yowza.

Oops, no time to proofread, I have to go to kickboxing to try and work off my weekend calories. If there are mistakes, I’ll fix ’em later.

14 thoughts on “Viva Italia!”

  1. I prefer to totally botch the pronuciation of chipotle and call it "chip… pot…ul" just for fun. what fun is a mexican word if you cant bastardize it into really ignorant American versions now and then just for fun. For example tortilla "tor…till…ah". And my personal favorite – which comes out sounding dirty – fajitas "faa gite tahs". :)

  2. Shawn insists on calling Chipotle "chi-pot-ul". and Fajitas is Fuh-g-ite-tuhs. just like KaraLynne. I have some friends that also will call queso "Qwayso".

    I've always had a problem with "posthumous" to me it is Post-Humous not pahstamus.

  3. I agree with posthumous. I said "post-humous" for a long time, and now TRY to remember pahstyoumuss, but it's still difficult. Also, most French phrases trip me up–pied a terre, joie de vivre, raison d'etre…I know what they mean, but have a trixy time saying them. That said, I have bothered to learn as best I can, because sounding like a twat in public discussion doesn't appeal to me unless done intentionally.

  4. My sister-in-law, who is an extremely bright, well read, vice president of her company sort of person, used the word my-zeld for years. As in when someone intentionally misinforms you, you proclaim "I think I've been myzeld." Someone finally asked her how to spell it because they didn't know the word…misled. I think her pronunciation was much better. We use it all the time.
    Aunt Tracy

  5. Well, I apparently have been mizled on posthumous as well. Like you, I'll do my best to get it right from this point forward. I think it is a little elitist when peeps think it's okay to say words wrong as long as they know better…but that's just me. I like fresh jalapenos better than the chipotle-smoked version, but that's just me, too. Everything you make looks delicioso, and Huck is making me soooo jealous about the Chicago culinary field trip!
    Hugs! Momma

  6. There are pronunciation downfalls to every good profession. I have to teach a work by Coetzee again this semester. I only learned that his name is NOT said "Coat-Z" a few days ago. Instead it is: "cut-zee-uh"… Sort of. Afrikaans is hard.

  7. Additionally, the pizza looks very yummy. Do you think it'd pack well? You should put it in your suitcase, fly here and we'd find out. If it didn't work out with the pizza, weeeeellll, you'd still be here.

  8. Helluva moozzuhrella! (Ugh. Like nails on a chalk board.) Having grown up in Italy, whenever I go home, going out for pizza and getting some arancini are at the top of the list for immediate gratification. Love your blog. Great shout out to the "mother land". Forza Italia!

  9. YUM! Mozzarella is sooo delicious. And homemade mozzarella is even soooo much better. I am jealous of your household right now.

    I HATE HATE HAAATE when people say chi-pol-tay. UGH It grates on my nerves.

  10. Mike and I watch a local tv food show where some chick (who is far too homely to be so smug) eats at local restaurants from the 'burbs and reviews them. She is KILLER for the el-fako Italian accent. "Pro-SHKEYOO-toe!" The only thing that's AWESOME about it is that she uses the same awful accent at ALL ETHNIC RESTAURANTS. Have you ever seen a white girl use a fake Italian accent to ask for "Cha-HAAAN-a mah-SALL-a and SAY-guh Pan-EEEray." Priceless.

    I'm kinda bummed about Robert and the expresso. I mean, I'd still totally get him drunk and shag the daylights out of the poor man (given half a chance), but knowing that, I wouldn't enjoy it as much.

    Also – YOU MADE BURRATA. So now I have questions. How did you keep the mozza skin pliable while you hunted for the strachiatella to mix with the mascarpone? And do you just use rennet and citric acid when you make mozz? I decided that mozz was next on my wicked list of cheese-mongering desires, so this post comes at an opportune time…

  11. Tina–I've made mozzarella from milk and rennet, but the yield was terrible. Now I just go to the gourmet store and buy the curd directly. It comes home all crumbly, gets warmed, stretched, formed into balls, and then dumped into salt water. I pull the scraps from the previous balls together with the mascarpone and truffle oil to make the filling. Then I take one last pile of curd and make the burrata skin, then fill with the mixture. So good.

  12. I'm late to the party, but I was watching a re-run of Chiarello's show and it was driving me nuts as he repeatedly called the wine he was using "Zinfandale". Particularly when he proudly announced he was a "Zinfandale" producer. I googled "Charello mispronunciation and found your blog. Cheers!

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