‘Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy’: What’s on the menu in Piedmont
(CNN) — From exquisite white truffles to rich risottos and the finest wines, Piedmont is a gastronomic paradise.
Coffee, chocolate and cream
Italy has a reputation for coffee, but nowhere is it more evident than in Turin, Piedmont’s capital.
Its signature drink is the bicerin, which has been packing a powerful punch since the 1760s.
It consists of three layers — coffee, chocolate and cream — each at a different temperature and beautifully suspended in one cup.
Here’s a tip: Don’t stir, but sip the caffeinated masterpiece.
Chef’s new take on a centuries-old classic
Tucci tried finanziera, an ancient Piedmontese stew made from the cheaper parts of animals. It contains the veal brain, kidneys, testicles and the middle of the spine. Baronetto makes two versions: the traditional one and his unique take.
First up, the traditional: In this ancient peasant dish, the meat is chopped into small pieces, cooked on low with vinegar and marsala.
“This is really delicious,” Tucci said, “and delicate.”
Now, for Baronetto’s reinvention: His version contains large pieces of steamed meat with a dipping sauce on the side.
“Wow. I was afraid of the testicles, but I’m not now,” Tucci said. “They’re absolutely delicious.”
A finger-licking good hot garlic dip
Chef Elisabetta Chiantello cooked up bagna cauda, a Piedmontese specialty. The sauce is made from anchovies and garlic and served warm. It’s perfect for dipping vegetables.
“This will be the best bagna cauda you’ll ever eat in your life,” she told Tucci.
And he agreed when he tried it. “Oh my God! That is amazing,” he said.
But the chef’s son warned: You’ll have bad breath after indulging in this savory treat.
What pizza is to Naples, risotto is to Piedmont. Tucci heard the best restaurant for risotto is hiding at the back of a 1960s hotel in Vercelli.
Their signature dish is a risotto made with coffee, beer reduction and Grana Padano cheese.
“It’s a revelation,” Tucci said as he tried a bite.
Decadent white truffles
If you visit Piedmont, something grows there that’s so special you simply have to try it: the white truffle.
White truffles, which only grow in the wild, are so coveted that they’re sold for huge sums of money.
Truffle hunter Igor Bianchi — known as the “King of Truffles” — showed Tucci how to hunt for the delicate fungi and cook up a simple truffle dish.
Simple recipes are best when it comes to showing off the truffle’s flavor, so Bianchi fried an egg in butter, topped it with shaved truffle and covered it with a lid to warm the truffle and absorb the truffle scent.
“Despite all the razzmatazz and velvet cushions, when it comes down to it, white truffles are really a simple, earthy pleasure — straight from Mother Nature,” Tucci said.
On cloud wine
Next, Tucci traveled up to Langhe to try Barolo, one of Italy’s finest and most expensive red wines.
At 24, she started making wine. The slopes on her family estate get a lot of sunlight, making them perfect for growing nebbiolo, a thin-skinned grape that’s hard to cultivate outside this region. It’s the only grape that can be used to make Barolo.
“The tannins are more prominent, and yet at the same time, it’s sort of lighter. And more delicate,” Tucci said when sampling a glass of Barolo.
Negri agreed. “It’s incredible how really Barolo you put it in the glass, and in 10 minutes it’s changed completely,” she said.
Finally, Tucci ascended to Italy’s smallest and highest region, Valle D’Aosta. Nestled in the Alps, its cuisine is influenced by nearby France and Switzerland.
“Oh my God, that is so good,” Tucci said as he dipped his bread in the warm fondue pot, “so delicious.”
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