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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cooking Lesson At Ristorante Marconi -- Sugo

Denis Croce, of Ristorante Marconi, speaks to us in his kitchen.

There can be no better way to get to know a restaurant than to visit its kitchen. And the best way to learn cooking techniques is to watch a master chef in action. Denis Croce, owner and chef at Ristorante Marconi, in Crodo, knows this, and has opened his kitchen on certain evenings for very special cooking classes, each of which focuses on one part of the meal, such as desserts, the primo piatto, or the secondo piatto.

I already had enjoyed a very memorable eight-course, cheese-oriented dinner at Marconi, read about it here, and so I knew the food was excellent. I then had the pleasure of attending a cooking lesson with Denis in his kitchen. During the two hour lesson we watched as he prepared seven different secondo piatti, meat dishes.

The first thing Denis prepared for us was this classic sugo recipe. The sugo, gravy, would then be used on many of the other dishes he prepared.

I made a pot of this sugo tonight. Very simple. Sedano, cipolla, e carota, celery, onion, and carrot, were chopped and put into a large pot with a meat bone, fresh rosemary, and about half a bottle of red wine. When the wine has reduced by about half, add a good amount of water to the pot, cover it, and let it simmer for an hour or so, until the liquid is again reduced by about half.
Let the sugo cool a bit, and then strain it. And here's the helpful tip Denis taught us. At this point he pours the sugo into an ice cube tray and freezes it in individual portion sizes.

I used a muffin pan instead of an ice cube tray to freeze my portions in.

When he needs some for a dish, he uses a portion of the frozen, reheats it in a saucepan, and adds a slice of butter to thicken it.
This is the amount of gravy each muffin holder held.

Back in the Marconi kitchen, Denis let that pot simmer all through our lesson. The smell was wonderful, whet our appetites for sure, as he knew it would. For the dishes he prepared that evening he used previously frozen cubes. Fascinating evening, fantastic food. This is just my opinion, but what I took away from this lesson was that the essence of classic Italian cooking may be focused on the precision of the techniques, and the quality of the ingredients, rather than a new interpretation of a dish.

Now, I have my supply of sugo ready in my freezer. The question is... what should I make next to pour it over? Should it be Marconi's Bocconcini di Faraona Porchettati? Or their Filetto di Maialino con Mele Caramellate al Calvados?


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