Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brainwashing with Fritto Misto

Normally, I shy away from things that need to be fried in a substantial quantity of oil. Which seems sensible, since I am a woman who has, in the last year, both scalded and concussed herself. It doesn’t make loads of sense to me to put an accident-prone klutz in charge of, let me repeat, boiling hot oil.And yet, as a moth to a flame, I am inexorably drawn to things that are probably Very Bad Ideas.

I haven’t really discussed it all that much, because it seems only polite to limit my crowing about going to Rome, but I have been on a several month long campaign of brainwashing my children into being completely jacked up to try roman and Italian food (they’re already excited about all the ruins, because nothing makes something fascinating to bloodthirsty grade schoolers like hearing who died gruesomely where. Kids love Roman emperors and the sometimes traitorous Praetorian guard). Anyway.
I’ve been talking up suppli and rosette and pizza bianca and spaghetti alla carbonara… but I’ve also been making the dishes, and if they like it, telling them it’s Roman (if they don’t, I keep my trap shut about the origins). Spaghetti alla carbonara was a massive hit, and saltimbocca alla romana has been a long-time staple in our house. I made them a nice, juicy pasta with peas and prosciutto (I use broth, not cream, with the sauce) the other night, which I meant to be my entry for the Festa Italiana (even though I don't know if I would say it's my favorite, ever... that's a hard call to make)... but then I forgot to take any pictures. A picture of a lone pea didn’t seem like it would cut it. Anyway. I’ve extolled the virtues of baccala, and they hardly need to be convinced about the delights to be found in an afternoon gelato. They’re passionate advocates of con crema, and have been practicing the flavors they like in Italian. And the other day, there I was in the grocery store (my stories are so exciting, I know), looking at fish, and I realized I’ve never introduced them to the delights of a good fritto misto. What was I thinking? If you want to persuade a kid that a cuisine is awesome, make a fried dish from it. Duh.

And so I embarked on making a fritto misto. Naturally, I turned to Marcella first (it continues to be embarrassing to admit that I call by her first name in my head, since if we met and I would probably call her "Mrs. Hazan" unless she gave me direct permission to do otherwise), and Marcella did not disappoint. The batter had a bit of yeast in it, and although I did give myself a small burn, I considered me + hot oil = one small burn an acceptably low level of injury. It didn't even hurt enough to make me start to swear, remember that the kids were there and choke on swearing. I am digression central today. As opposed to other days. Anyway, I stuck with cauliflower and fish, because although I thought I had more vegetables than cauliflower waiting in the refrigerator, I was incorrect. Still, two things still counts as misto. Right?

And my boy? Told me that it was one of the best meals he’s had in a long time. And asked me how to say it in Italian. Ha. If I had a master plan, I would move on to the next phase of attack in the Brainwashing The Kids Into Loving Rome Plan. But I, um, don't.


Anonymous said...

Good post! The mention of baccala always brings me back to my childhood on winter days in grandmas kitchen. Baked baccala and potatoes are so delicious :)

joe@italyville.com said...

You're a riot! Good luck with the brain washing. baccala also bring back memories for me... mostly because my father used to call me one!:)

cook eat FRET said...

just wonderful... but i wanted more fooooooood infooooooo..... frito misto. wow. i never deep fry though. fear and confusion stop me...

Meg said...

Maryann and Joe- I don't have any childhood memories (baked with potatoes? Like a deconstructed brandade. Sounds tasty) of baccala (your father called you one, Joe? How did you inspire that?), but am so, so looking forward to having some in Rome. Who am I kidding? I'm looking forward to everything in Rome.

Claudia- I don't deep fry, either (tooooo scary). I just posted the recipe, because I was about to type the whole thing in comments, but that would be silly.