Thursday, April 7, 2011

Breaking the rules

What i (also) love about my restaurant stage is that the food mentalities i possess only out of sheer devotion to Italian mentality moreso than from actual experience, are adhered to passionately and without question. No cheese with fish. Not even anchovies. Ever. Breadcrumbs are put on the linguine vongole to dissuade people from asking for parm as a finishing touch. Carbonara is sacred. Bacon and eggs; lots of pepper; parm. No peas, no garlic, no artsy make-it-new-ed-ness. Keep it simple. Any more than four ingredients (especially in a pasta) just takes away from flavours that are beautiful on their own, or with a good solid lover. The last is something that i try (and love, respectfully) the most. My favorite flavour combinations are really trifold or less: peas, sage, pecorino; cauliflower, garlic, olives; fish, parsley, lemon; flour, water, salt (ok, thats bread...). Yet as much as i adhere to simplicity, enjoy it, sometimes i struggle with it. or at least i think i do. What i am realizing though, is that certain things are not ingredients at all, part of creating a dish, but not directly part of the dish. They dont "complicate" flavours, rather, create or accentuate them. For example, salt. You wouldnt say: "i had the tastiest pasta of peas, sage, sheeps cheese, and salt. Its not really an ingredient (except in the case of bread...), it is just there, unassemptive and certainly not complicated. For an even more succinct example (or two) how about wine, stock, or lemon (im addicted to lemon, i would sooner add it to things than salt; it certainly goes with anything fish that i make--another italian rule i follow religiously); or just because salsa verde contains four to six different herbs plus garlic and maybe even capers (certainly salt and lemon) doesnt make it complicated. It is simly salsa verde: green sauce. Simple simple. Herbs are simple simple. Garlic, chilis, oil, sel again, liquids: simple simple. Not breaking any rules. So tonight maybe i didnt break the rules. Instead of lemon and oil dressed calamari with peas, turnips, cauliflower, sunchokes, artichokes, garlic and olives on buttermilk polenta with sage, garlic chives, and parsely, all with salt and a bit of wine, i had calamari and spring veg on polenta. Simple. Flavourful. Not topped with cheese.

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