In late September, the world lost a culinary legend in Marcella Hazan. Synonymous with Italian cooking, she “changed the way Americans cook Italian food” according to The New York Times who also declare that her impact “is impossible to overstate.” My good friend Cathy, as a way of remembering the grande dame of Italian cooking, invited us to “invite people you love. Cook for them from one of Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks” on October 26th – a worldwide virtual #dinnerwithMarcella.
#dinnerwithMarcella just happened to coincide with the very first session of a new book club – a COOKBOOK book club (the best kind!) – that I’ve created with Jan from Family Bites) and Jenn (from Chocolate Shavings). The premise is simple: each month, we agree to work with recipes from a specific cookbook author or a book, one person hosts at their house and cooks the main course and the others bring appetizers and dessert. (Note: since the emphasis of the evening is about friendship and food, all the photos here were taken on my iPhone so excuse the quality!)
Since I hosted this month, Jan agreed to bring appetizers. She arrived with Marcella’s Baked Stuffed Mushroom Caps and Hard-Boiled Eggs with Green Sauce (yes, that’s really what they were called!). Jan followed the recipes to a T and we all found them as Jan puts it” pungent and salty, and full of colliding bold flavours like anchovies, garlic, capers, Dijon, and marjoram (does anyone use marjoram anymore?” They did taste (and look!) a little dated – so salty! – but it was an interesting experience for all of us to follow the recipes to a T, despite what our instinct might have been saying.
For the main course, I chose Marcella’s Ragù Bolognese. A true example of slow food, this dish took just over 4 hours to complete. Not a lot of that was active kitchen time but it was definitely an exercise in patience. With only a very few ingredients (onion, celery, carrot, beef – I used a combo of beef and pork – white wine, milk and plum tomatoes) and only nutmeg, salt and pepper for seasoning, I was concerned that this would not have enough flavour. But after four hours’ slow simmering, it was a fabulous example of depth of flavour – it was sweet and salty and rich. Plus, the house smelled amazing! Worth the wait.
Both dense and light, this cake was so flavourful (again with very few ingredients) – paired with a dollop of hand-whipped, unsweetened cream, it was a perfect end to a meal paying homage to a different era of cooking. While many of Marcella’s classic dishes remain timeless (I’ll be making that ragù again, for sure!) , those retro appetizers are perhaps not something the three of us would repeat but we’re glad we tasted them. And we’re especially glad we got together to raise a glass, enjoy each other’s company and honour Marcella. Thank you Cathy for the “invite” and thanks Jan and Jenn for playing along!
This month we’re cooking with Nigella – stay tuned!
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