wIt is never without butter in the house, such as dried thyme, garlic, tomato sauce, capers, and olive oil. My wife has been known to melt Jersey butter for pancakes, and my kids eat it like cheese on the endless rounds of toast they demand every morning. Everyday luxury.
Butter is a staple in northern Italian cooking, and is used much more than it is in the south. Historically a favorite fat of the wealthy, its rich, subtle sweetness underlies the sumptuously elevated pasta served with white truffles, and is also important in risotto. What Elizabeth David poetically describes as a “nut of butter,” added at the end of something home-cooked using everyday ingredients, makes for the hug one needs at this time of year.
An Italian classic, it can be stacked on a bed of yellow amaranth polenta—chance for more butter. It will also work well with greens and bread at the table to mop up the juices.
chicken 1, small (about 1 kg)
butter 90 grams
celery with leaves 3 sticks
leeks 1, big
garlic 2 clove
green olive 12
Rosemary 3 twigs
Buy 4 tree leaves
past 200 ml
white wine 250 ml
salt And the black pepper
Using a good knife or scissors, cut the backbone from the chicken. Turn it upside down and cut the chicken in half between the breasts. Remove the wings and thighs and separate them from the drumsticks. Cut each breast into two pieces. (Alternatively, ask your butcher to separate the chicken for you.) Season with salt and black pepper.
Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a wide skillet with a lid. When it becomes foamy, add the chicken, skin side down. Fry, crackling gently, 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. While this is happening, chop the celery and leeks into 2cm pieces. Peel and then add the garlic with the olives to the butter in the space between the chicken. Saute for another minute or 2.
Add the herbs and vegetables and mix well – the butter will soften at this point. After 3 minutes, add the wet ingredients, combine and cover. Cook over medium-low heat 35 minutes, stirring and covering halfway through.
Porcini and saffron risotto
There is a strong argument that porcini make the best risotto. Luscious licks of saffron with butter and Parmesan bring out the depth of flavour. Use saffron powder if you like, or omit it entirely if you don’t have any.
Dried porcini 15 grams
Saffron threads a pinch
Celery with leaves ¼ head
red onions 1, small
garlic 1 clove
butter 80 grams
Risotto rice 400 gr
white wine 1 large cup
stock 1.5 liters (chicken, meat, vegetables)
Parmesan cheese 60 grams, grated
salt And the pepper
Soak the porcini in a cup of boiling water and the saffron separately in 2 tablespoons. Reserving any leaves, finely chop the celery along with the onion and garlic. Preheat the broth.
Melt half of the butter with a little olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the vegetables with a pinch of salt over medium heat until soft. Reserve the water, drain and chop the porcini and add to the pan. After 3 minutes, add the rice and continue to sauté gently, stirring, for a minute or so, until all the grains are hot. Turn up the heat, add the saffron in the water and all the wine. Stir well as the wine evaporates. Once the liquid has evaporated, add the mushroom water while continuing to stir. Now it’s time to share. Add scoop by scoop, stirring and allowing the last scoop to absorb before adding the next.
Continue cooking until the rice is satisfied. A little softness is best. The entire process takes about 25 minutes. Turn off the fire. Check out the spices. Finish by stirring in the rest of the butter, Parmesan, and chopped celery leaves. Cover the rice and let it rest for two minutes before serving.
Celery, fennel and squash
A comforting blend of slightly aniseed and braised fall vegetables. This works just as well for a dainty centerpiece as it does for the centerpiece itself.
fennel 3 bulbs (about 500 grams)
Celeriac 350 gr
winter squash 300 gr
garlic 5 cloves
butter 50 gr
parsley or marjoram ½ handful
Red wine vinegar ½ tbsp
sea salt And the black pepper
Cut the fennel into 3 cm wedges. Peel the celery and the winter squash and cut both into 2-cm slices. Peel and cut each garlic in half.
Melt a generous amount of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir the pan as it melts and allow the butter to change color to a light caramel color before adding the fennel and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and stir frequently for about 4 minutes, until vegetables turn an even gold. Then add the celery and cook for another 5 minutes, keeping stirring from time to time to avoid burning the vegetables.
Add the squash and a splash of water, turn the heat on to medium-low and put the lid on. After 5 minutes of cooking, add half of the herbs, and check if the pan has dried out and needs another splash of water.
Continue this process, making sure to dry and moving occasionally, for 30 minutes. Be gentle when you stir the vegetables. The pan should stay steamy rather than too wet. When done, add a little red wine vinegar and the remaining herbs.
Bread, butter, pear, brandy pudding
My mother, an expat in Italy, had always delighted in how popular English pudding was with Italian dinner guests, so I was especially proud to offer this to an Italian house guest and get her stamp of approval. 6 services
butter 2 tbsp
Soft brown sugar 2 tbsp
brandy 50 ml
Sourdough bread 7 slices, preferably old
butter 80 grams
milk 250 ml
Double cream 250 ml
vanilla seeds 1, split
Golden soft sugar 50 gr
butter 2 tbsp
Peel, halve, and core the pears. Then melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat in a wide, shallow skillet. Add the pear cut side down. Fry for 5 minutes until golden, then saute for another 2 minutes, before adding the caster brown sugar, turning off the heat, and then adding the brandy. Stir everything so the sugar dissolves into the brandy, making the sauce in the remaining heat from the skillet.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.
Bread butter. Alternate the bread and butter and then the pears to fill the baking dish. Heat the milk and cream with vanilla. Whisk the yolks with the caster sugar until pale and then whisk in the hot milk and cream. Use it to cover the bread and the pears, drizzling the pear sauce juice on top. Set the pudding aside for 20 minutes.
Place the dish in another slightly larger dish and cover it with hot water to make a Mary bath. Bake for 40 minutes and serve with a good drizzle of cream at the table.
Joe Trivelli is the Executive Chef River Café in West London