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?—————————
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.