My friend, Carolyn, lives in lower Manhattan. She has a view of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and is just steps to Chinatown and Little Italy. We were actually born within blocks of each other…although we didn’t meet till we worked together on Park Avenue ‘a few’ years later.
She has often told me about the dishes her mother made that were traditional to Piacenza, the area in Northern Italy where her family came from. None intrigued me more than the polenta with porcini mushroom sauce. Carolyn told me that it required a special copper pot, a hand-crafted stirrer and, when done, it was sliced with sewing thread. This I had to see!
So we made a date to cook together when I was in NY last week so that I could journal the process. She has treasured her mother’s pot which looks like a pail and the handcrafted stick which is used to turn the polenta. (It looks a little like a hockey stick.)
Her mother traditionally served this dish with chicken cacciatore so Carolyn made that as well. We conspired on non-traditional bruschettas to start and a Creme Brulee for dessert. But first…
Now the layering and threading begins. Carolyn had pre-made a porcini tomato sauce which began the layering. I learned that using thread to cut the polenta resulted in sharp cuts whereas it would have stuck to a knife. Sauce, polenta, cheeses, sauce…repeat.
Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you 2 varieties of bruschetta that we served with cocktails — and the Creme Brulee I got talked into making. My first!