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Carne All’Albese or Carne Cruda, I.E. Chopped Raw Beef Alba Style

Carne Cruda All'Albese

Carne Cruda All’Albese

In other parts of the world finely minced raw beef is called steak tartare, and in many places they crack an egg into it. In Piemonte they don’t, preferring lemon juice and olive oil, and you should try this even if you think you don’t like raw meat, as it can be a rare treat indeed.

To serve 4 you’ll need

  • A pound (450 g) of top quality beef (see below note on meats)
  • The juice of 2 lemons
  • Two cloves garlic, crushed flat
  • Salt and pepper
  • A white truffle (optional)
  • A rinsed, boned and minced salted anchovy (optional)

Continuing with the introduction, The quality of the meat is of course paramount to the success of the dish, and, considering the horrid bugs that occasionally strike those who use commercially slaughtered meats, selecting it properly is very important.

You have several choices. Piemontese recipes suggest beef filet, and if you follow their lead you will want a thick, whole piece of beef filet. Filet because it’s tender enough, and whole because the bacteria that can cause food poisoning can’t penetrate a whole piece of meat — they stay on the surface. When you get it home, quickly sear it on all sides — you’re just killing what ever’s on the surface, not cooking the meat. Then remove it from the flames, trim away the seared sections, and you’re ready to proceed.

At the Trattoria alla Palma outside Verona, where I had the good fortune to watch them prepare steak tartare, they used cuore di scamone, which is an individual muscle from the heart of the rump, and both flavorful and tender.

Though many cookbooks say to grind the meat for steak tartare, the results will be superior if you chop it extremely finely with a very sharp knife, because grinding ruptures and crushes the fibers, with an adverse effect on the texture of the dish.

Once you have chopped the meat, put it in a bowl and mix the lemon juice into it, together with the garlic, and season abundantly with olive oil (as much as the lemon juice or perhaps more), salt and pepper. If you are using the anchovy add it now.

Let the meat sit, for between 10 minutes and two hours — the longer it sits the more the pinkness will fade, as the lemon juice cooks the meat. Purists prefer shorter sitting times. In any case, once it has sat, mix it again, removing the garlic when you do, put it on a serving dish, dot it with finely shaved truffle if you’re using it, and serve it as an antipasto. Some people also serve it with tiny pickles, and others dot it with thinly sliced wild mushrooms if they don’t have a truffle.

Chicken Marengo, Pollastri alla Marengo

Chicken Marengo is said to have been first prepared for Napoleon on the eve of June 14, 1800, following his victory over the Austrians near the Piemontese town of Alessandria. As one might guess, the situation was fairly chaotic, and the cook used whatever he was able to scrounge.

This is probably why no two Chicken Marengo recipes are alike, and many are quite fanciful. Giovanni Vialardi’s is actually tame by modern standards, and this is probably because he compiled it just a few decades after the battle took place.

Clean two chickens and cut them into 6 pieces each, in other words three from the breast, the thighs, and the backs, plus the wings and the drumsticks, which should be boned.

Mr. Vialardi says to put the pieces in a pot with a quarter cup of oil and a half cup of unsalted butter – you can, if you want, reduce the amount of fat, and I likely would — and add to them 2 onions, a carrot, and a stalk of celery, all sliced finely.

Cook until the meat has colored and the onions are golden, then stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 cups of broth or water, check seasoning, and simmer until the chicken is tender than the sauce is reduced. Transfer the birds to a heated platter, deglaze the sauce and either strain it or blend it, pour it over the birds, and serve.

Carne Cruda All’Albese

Carne All'Albese

Carne All’Albese

In other parts of the world finely minced raw beef served at table is called steak tartare, and they crack an egg into it. Piemontesi instead prefer lemon juice and olive oil, and you should try this even if you think you don’t like raw meat, as it can be a rare treat indeed.

The quality of the meat is of course paramount to the success of Carne Cruda all’Albese, and, considering the horrid bugs that occasionally strike those who use commercially slaughtered meats, selecting it properly is very important. You want a thick, whole piece of beef filet. Filet because it’s tender enough, and whole because the bacteria that can cause food poisoning can’t penetrate a whole piece of meat — they stay on the surface. When you get it home, quickly sear it on all sides — you’re just killing whatever’s on the surface, not cooking the meat. Then remove it from the flames, trim away the seared sections, and you’re ready to proceed.

Assuming your trimmed piece of meat weighs a pound (about 450 g), you’ll need:

  • The juice of 2 lemons
  • Olive oil
  • Two cloves garlic, crushed flat
  • Salt and pepper
  • A white truffle (optional)
  • A rinsed, boned and minced salted anchovy (optional)

 

Chop the meat very finely with a long-bladed knife. Don’t use a grinder, because the texture will suffer.

Put the meat in a bowl and mix the lemon juice into it, together with the garlic, and season abundantly with olive oil (as much as the lemon juice or perhaps more), salt and pepper. If you are using the anchovy add it now.

Let the meat sit, for between 10 minutes and two hours — the longer it sits the more the pinkness will fade, as the lemon juice cooks the meat. Purists prefer shorter sitting times.

In any case, once it has sat, mix it again, removing the garlic when you do, put it on a serving dish, dot it with finely shaved truffle if you’re using it, and serve it as an antipasto. Some people also serve it with tiny pickles, and others dot it with thinly sliced wild mushrooms if they don’t have a truffle.

Chicken with Bell Peppers, Pollo ai Peperoni

Chicken With Bell Peppers

Chicken With Bell Peppers

Chicken with bell peppers is a classic north Italian dish, or at least that is where I have encountered it — in Piemonte, and very fine eating it is.

  • A drawn chicken weighing about 2 1/2 pounds (1.2 k)
  • 3 meaty bell peppers of the colors you prefer
  • 3 medium onions
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 3/5 cups (400 ml) dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C).

While it’s heating, season the bird inside and out with salt and pepper to taste and slip the rosemary and bay leaves into the cavity. Truss the bird and put it in a fairly high-sided baking dish.

Wash, stem, seed, and rib the peppers, and dice them. Peel the onions and slice them crosswise quite finely.

Distribute the onions and peppers over the chicken, seasoning them too to taste with salt and pepper, dot the vegetables with the butter, and sprinkle the wine over all.

Cover the pan and bake the chicken for 45 minutes to an hour (or until the juices from a skewer inserted into the wing joint run clear), basting the bird occasionally with the pan drippings.

When the bird is done, chop it and serve it with the cooked vegetables and the pan drippings to taste. In the winter it’s especially nice with polenta, and in terms of a wine I would think about a Dolcetto or an unoaked Barbera.

A note: The picture is from a restaurant in Barolo, and I think they may have chopped the chicken before roasting it. You could too if you want, though roasting it with the herbs in the cavity will infuse their aromas in the meat.