Y’all know I like a challenge in the kitchen right (remember the indian feast?)? Not that I crave a huge kitchen adventure every day. A big reason I love putting meals together is that it’s an escape from the challenge of daily life. It’s relaxing and dependable. I’m more of a special-occasion-culinary-adventure seeker.
Like on New Years Eve, when you have just been gifted The Mozza Cookbook. For me, that’s a perfect opportunity to get a little crazy. We hatched a plan with two couples – the six of us would each select a recipe from the newly-released tome from our favorite restaurant and get together for a multi-course meal accompanied by champagne and wine. Somehow we wound up with 8 dishes. I’ve never been good at math.
I chose an appetizer, Crostini with White Beans alla Toscana with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Saba while Alex selected our pasta course, Fiorentini with Guanciale, Tomato, and Spicy Pickled Peppers. There are many things to say about these recipes. For example, both of our recipes contained recipes within recipes. In the case of the pasta, there were actually three recipes embedded in one (1. Passata di Pomodoro, 2. Spicy Pickled Peppers, and 3. The final dish). Also, I think between the three couples we used five bottles of olive oil.
We got cooking on the homemade tomato sauce or, in Italian, Passata di Pomodoro. Very easy to put together and totally satisfying to see a big pot of sauce bubbling away on the stovetop. Per the instructions, we even brought out the food mill!
We spent the early morning making these Spicy Pickled Peppers, a key component of our pasta dish and I remembered how much I love the process.
Here is the result! I loved the spicy smell of the brine, scented with honey, juniper berries, cloves, black peppercorns and bay leaves. Gorgeous.
Moving on! We had White Bean Crostini to tend to and this recipe is super involved as well. We start with soaking cannellini beans overnight. Then it’s time to cook them for approximately four hours with a handful of vegetables and aromatics – 16 cloves of garlic, a Spanish onion, two carrots, two celery ribs and two dried arbol chilies.
And then there’s the radicchio.
After sitting in a marinade of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper we sauteed the leaves for a minute or two until lightly caramelized.
Everything about this dish was in balance and for me it was a lesson in recipe development. Atop garlic rubbed toasted baguette slices, we layered the radicchio leaves. Then the white beans, which we had just pureed in the blender. The recipe specifies to create a small crater in the beans which is obviously meant to be filled with finishing quality olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of saba (one of several ingredients we had to search for). Sprinkle with thyme leaves and coarsely ground black pepper. And guess what? Almost 24 hours later, it’s a perfect dish.
Holly made braised leeks with buratta and breadcumbs. The leeks, which were from her garden, melted in your mouth.
It was as good as any burrata dish I’ve had at Osteria Mozza, a part of the menu for which they are particularly well known.
The flower and citrus filled-table.
Holly prepared the the lightest and maybe prettiest dish of the night – a salad of Little Gem Lettuce with Squash, Walnuts and Pecorino. I kept thinking how this would be a great dish to eat for lunch with a side of grilled flank steak or even salmon.
The pasta was the best meeting of noodles and sauce I have ever prepared in my kitchen. Perhaps it was the crispy chunks of pancetta? Or the fat rendered by the meat, to which you add the previously brewed tomato sauce (it almost seers in the animal fat)? Or maybe it’s that final touch of adding 1/4 cup of finishing olive oil at the last moment? Whatever. Who cares. It’s beyond.
Becky’s Pork Ribs with Fennel and Apple Cider Vinegar served with cole slaw and roasted asparagus functioned as our main dish, our “secondi piatti.” The meat was literally falling off the bone and had an almost smokey flavor.
And of course we had desserts. Two in fact. But by the time we got through this wildly fun and rich Italian feast, I could hardly think about eating the decadent Butterscotch Budino, my favorite dessert from Pizzeria Mozza, let alone photographing it. Which doesn’t take away from how delicious the bites I did taste were.
This was a great evening. Although at times we felt daunted by the amount of ingredients, steps and fat content in each dish, any doubts were quickly replaced by feelings of satisfaction, love and awe. Thank you, ladies, for cooking and eating. Thanks to Alex for always being down for an adventure. And thank you, Mozza, for the inspiration!