White and Bottura: the value of bread

A sparkling lecture held by the American and Modenese chefs takes this basic food to paradise

01-10-2015
Left to right, Michael White, of Marea in New York

Left to right, Michael White, of Marea in New York and Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena, the authors of a splendid lecture on bread at Eataly New York (to their left, Michael White’s two assistants and Davide Di Fabio – the right arm of the Modenese chef). And tonight, everyone’s dining in the Birreria

Hurricane Bottura arrives for the sixth year in a row in Manhattan with force 5. «Today I’m here to make passatelli with breadcrumbs instead of flour», he bursts on the kitchen desk inside Eataly’s Scuola «but before anything else, let me thank Davide Di Fabio, who’s been in the kitchen with me for 11 years, since he was 18. Today he’s part of my body, my right arm, my third son». Right after that, Vince Girasole impeccably adds on the microphone: «Bottura is from Modena, the city of fast cars. His cooking, however, is a slow one». The harquebus Massimo waves as it pulls out the passatelli is also slow and comes from the past: «My grandmother used to use it». This is the incipit of “Autumn in New York”, «A motive that starts from my passion for jazz and Billie Holiday».

Why breadcrumbs? «They’re a heritage of my family Catholic background. For us breaking the bread was a small gesture with a big meaning: table, bread and sharing», which are in fact the pillars of the Refettorio Ambrosiano project which the Modenese chef then presents in detail – a project we know very well (though the fact «Daniel Humm, who cooks on the other side of Madison Park left in tears from the Soup Kitchen in the Greco neighbourhood» is a less known fact) together with the main message of Expo, “Feed the Planet”.

Autumn in New York, Passatelli risotto-style in a "broth of everything" by Massimo Bottura

Autumn in New York, Passatelli risotto-style in a "broth of everything" by Massimo Bottura

Back to bread: «Fishing from my memories», urges Bottura, «I found the best dish I ever had as a teenager: breadcrumbs with a little chocolate. This led to my reflection. Because these ingredients speak to you. We make passatelli made with breadcrumbs risotto-style, in a ‘broth of everything’, which is the key element: if the broth is good, passatelli can only be delicious». We’re referring to celery roots, chestnuts, porcini peel, Grana Padano – «which is the component adding flavour». How about the autumn? It comes with a rainfall of ovoli and porcini mushrooms, white truffles, the acidity of hazelnuts and «Jerusalem artichokes, which would like to become truffles». «Acidity, sapidity and bitterness», a very effective according to everyone in the room.

Bread is the lesson’s emblematic food and this also applies to Michael White, an old friend of Identità who’s almost hard to recognise given he’s lost so much weight. The stature of the chef, however, is intact: «Michael», Bottura introduces him himself «is a lucid interpreter of Italian cuisine because he observes it from a privileged point of view, thousands of kilometres away. From here, he sees it as it is».

Gnocchi made with bread and prosciutto with squash and cream of Grana Padano Riserva by Michael White

Gnocchi made with bread and prosciutto with squash and cream of Grana Padano Riserva by Michael White

«I’ll try to do what I can since Massimo used all the porcini and the truffle», jokes the chef from Marea, «I’ll bring a truly poor cuisine to paradise – this is after all the challenge at your Refettorio, isn’t it?». They’re maxi-gnocchi made with the soft part of the bread – no crust – on top of a puréed squash and a cream of Grana Padano Riserva. Double-super-yummy. «For me Italy», he said at the end, «is a box collecting influences from everywhere. Think about the cultural distance between couscous and a knodel. When many years ago I first arrived in Rome with my very American Walkman in my ears, I had no idea. I then discovered the great simplicity of your cuisine and since then I work so as to replicate in the best possible way I can».

The curtains’ fall is delayed because the two chefs then recuperate together what is left over in the pantry: the result is Fusilli Monograno Felicetti with basil cream and breadcrumbs. A stunning leftover that will long remain in the minds of those present.


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