Sunday Supper: Notte Italiana
My family spent a laid-back weekend afternoon at Fleet Arcade- a quiet mall overlooking the Victoria Harbour. After a long brunch we walked out only to find an Italian grocer owned by the restaurant on the second floor. Naturally, we walked in to look at more food, and what meant to be a quick shop for some daily essentials of bread and tomatoes soon turned out to be a major shopping event. We first pondered the white truffles featured on the display window, then peered over the meat counter to look at a beautiful piece of Fiorentina steak. The manager, a buoyant Italian almost twice my height soon demonstrated his Italian hospitality by offering us some bread and sparkling water. At that point, it was quite clear to me we were not walking out empty-handed.
It was the steak that really piqued my interest, since it is reminiscent of my summer trip to the renowned Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano, Tuscany. The owner Dario Cecchini is featured in Bill Buford’s memoir “Heat” as well as Anthony Bourdain’s show. Amongst the free-flowing wine, crusty tuscan bread and pungent olive oil, I was thoroughly amazed by the bistecca alla fiorentina, a T-bone steak from the meat of a Chianina ox.
If you have ever spoken to an Italian chef, you'll understand how flustered I was, two minutes into our conversation, that I realize I need to start memorizing the "recipe" he was casually describing. To make the egg taglioni with white truffle, heat some butter in a pan until it starts to foam up, then strain off the milk solids. Meanwhile, carefully drop the fragile nests of pasta into rolling water (there was a lot of gesticulation at this point,) and when it loosens up, drain and toss the pasta in warm clarified butter. "Never ever in olive oil," as they do in the Langhe region of Piedmont.
He then recommended a block of Castelmagno, a medium-hard cheese with a hard, brown rind made of goat’s milk shaved over the hot pasta. Aged for 3 years, it is quite sharp and savoury, which is a perfect substitute for salt in the dish. When ready to eat, generously shave slices of white truffle on top of the pasta.
For the Fiorentina, take the piece of steak out of the fridge and let stand in room temperature for around an hour. Preheat the oven to 240-250C. Meanwhile, fry each side of the steak on a hot cast iron pan for 4-5 minutes, until browned. When the oven is ready, make a cut on both sides of the steak along the bone, and slide it onto a roasting tin, 7 minutes on each side. (Use a pizza stone if you have one) Sprinkle with salt and buon appetito!