I had the privilege to host a local foodie club, The Hungry Chefs, in my kitchen this week. The host plans the menu and everyone arrives with their apron and chefs knife to dig in and cook up a storm. It was so much fun to meet some new fellow foodies and to share, learn, laugh and dine together. Special thanks to Margarita, PattiAnn, Elvie, Donna, Margaret, Diane, Sandra, Vesna, Lynn, Penny and Marisa for sharing their passion for food and cooking.
Fresh Peach Bellinis - with Chef Jaime Laurita's Prosecco
Lemon Almond Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Glaze
I was delighted to also have Margaret McSweeney, author and host of KitchenChat, and her producer Lynn Gentile join us. Margaret shared with us her culinary adventure to honor her Dad, an amazing gourmet home cook in his own right, and her journey to learn the joy and techniques of cooking. Margaret and Diane made the Lemon Almond Olive Oil Cake with a Brown Butter Glaze and it turned out fabulous! Look for an upcoming podcast from KitchenChat filmed from the kitchen of HomemadeItalianCooking!
The star of the lunch was the king of pork roasts - an All-Belly Porchetta Roast! Yes, as in an ALL-BACON roast! The best pork belly is Berkshire pork that you can order from D'Artagnan. I stuffed the boneless, skin-on pork belly with a mixture of garlic, rosemary, thyme, fennel, & pepper and slow-roasted it for 6 hours. After 5 cups of fat rendered out, we were left with a roast of juicy meat, and a very crispy skin. Look for the video coming soon if you want to learn how to make this truly outstanding culinary experience.
The Tuscan Greens Salad was a combination of thinly sliced radicchio and Tuscan (lacinato) kale. Vesna and Sandra made a killer tart cherry vinaigrette using a reduction of Montemorency tart cherry juice and Wild Cherry Balsamic vinegar. Keeping in tradition with the Tuscan theme, they added toasted sunflower seeds, and used sunflower oil for the dressing.
We were all surprised how incredibly delicious buttery Burrata cheese pairs with peppery radishes and arugula. Penny and PattiAnn dressed the burrata with a simple, yet elegant, dressing of fresh lemon juice and zest, extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt. They served it with grilled crusty crostini. Lara Postiglione, the owner of LaMozzarella Chicago, provided the burrata cheese and the inspiration for the recipe. She also sent along a hunk of Burrata Fume, smoked burrata cheese, that was outstanding. While the French may have invented butter and radishes, I think the Italians mastered it with Burrata cheese. Thank you Lara!
The hardest dish to make was the polenta. Thanks to the patience, persistence and strong arms of Margarita and her lovely mother Elvie, they took turns stirring the polenta to perfect creaminess. Adding parmesan cheese, fried sage leaves and serving it on a wooden board freeform style was not only a great presentation but also complimented the super-rich pork belly.
Special thanks to Margarita for organizing the whole lunch, and my sister Marisa for being co-host, sous chef, and photographer! I feel blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family who share my passion for cooking and bonding in the kitchen. My Mom and Grandmothers would have loved this, and I know they were there in spirit with us.
Can't wait to see what the Hungry Chefs plan for the next lunch.