Daily Archives: October 23, 2009

Men Who Cook: Michael Sigmon Fallai – A Taste of Italy

Time for my favorite time of the week, another Men Who Cook entry.   Tonight it is from Michael Sigmon Fallai, who I have enjoyed corresponding with during this series.  Check out his photos and his uncle’s book links below.  We’re going strong with the series, but there is still room for more, so join the fun and send me your story and recipes.  Now, here is Michael:  

My name is Michael Sigmon Fallai. I was born in the US but my mother is Florentine and I have spent a lot of time there since I was a kid – I consider it my ‘real’ hometown rather than where I was actually born. Every couple years or so, we spent most of the summer with relatives in Tuscany and Umbria. As a result, I speak very good Italian and I have dual citizenship as well.

Cooking came a bit late to me; though my mother is a wonderful cook (as was her mother Mafalda, and is my uncle Giampaolo), I’ve had to be a bit assertive about getting her to include me in the kitchen. She takes it very seriously so I’ve learned to do this little dance so I am not in her way, while at the same time keeping a close eye on what she’s doing.

I’ve also taken the initiative to learn new dishes. I often refer to an Italian edition of Artusi, “Kitchen Science and the Art of Eating Well”. It is difficult to find in English, but you can check for it at Amazon where I have seen both new and used copies for sale.

I consider my heritage – including my ability to speak the language well, and my deep connections to Florence, Tuscany and Umbria – to be a tremendous gift. Over time I’ve oriented certain tasks in my daily routine towards maintaining and strengthening that heritage; for instance, I keep up with the news in Italy through the websites of the major newspapers as well as watching a fair amount of  “>Raitalia, the international distribution of RAI’s domestic television programming.

Cooking is most certainly one of those connections to my heritage. I don’t even mind cooking for one; it’s something I find relaxing as well as an opportunity to think about my Italian family and friends, including the great meals we’ve had together. To me, knowing Italian cuisine is as important as knowing the language. I’d even go as far as to say that each country’s cuisine is another language in which it speaks, each region with its own kitchen dialect.

I was asked to submit one of my favorite recipes. Given the theme of this site (keep it simple and delicious, in 30 minutes or less), I’ve decided on one of my favorite recipes which fits all three criteria plus one more. It is delicious; it is both easy and quick to fix; and it also has the virtue of providing both a meat dish and a very tasty red sauce which you can either use with pasta for the same meal, or store for another day.

As always, you should use good meat and fresh herbs – the fresher, the better.

SCALOPPINE ALLA LIVORNESE

(Chops Livornese Style)

  • about 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (use extra-virgin if you can)
  • 4 medium sized, boneless 1/2 inch thick chops (around 2 lbs)
  • -you can use lamb, veal or center-cut pork
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, tied together
  • (you can substitute 1 teaspoon of powdered sage for the bundle of 6 leaves… but fresh is always better!)
  • salt and pepper

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For your kitchen prep, you’ll need:

* a garlic press (or use pre-minced garlic… but you should really use fresh garlic!)

* a 2 quart bowl or other bowl large enough to hold 2 cups or so of liquid

* something to spoon sauce into the bowl

*a large frying pan with lid. Make sure it is large and deep enough to hold the chops plus the sauce. This is not a recipe where you want to discover too late that your pan was not big enough!

* a plate

* either another two plates or a covered container to hold the warmed chops.

* (optional) a small dish to hold the sauteed garlic

Crush the garlic and sauté it in a large frying pan on low heat. While it’s sautéing, you can prepare the chops. Put the flour on the first plate. Rinse each chop, pat it dry with paper towels, and coat both sides with flour. Place the chops on a second plate or in the uncovered container. Don’t forget about the sautéing garlic!

When the garlic is golden brown, take the pan off the burner and fish out the garlic, setting it aside either on the small dish or on the side of one of the plates.

Brown the chops on both sides. When done, place them on the second plate and cover them with the third plate, or place them in a covered container to keep them warm while you make the sauce.

Reduce heat and add the tomatoes, the tied bundle of sage leaves or powdered sage, the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer about 10 minutes. Give it a stir about every couple minutes or so. Once the tomatoes have reduced some, give it a taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

When it’s ready, take out the bundle of fresh sage. Remove about half the sauce into the bowl, leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the chops on this ‘bed’ of sauce. Pour the bowl of removed sauce on top of the chops. Cover and cook on low for about 10 minutes.

That’s it. Have some of the sauce with the chops; use the rest on pasta for the same meal, or save it for another meal. If you save it for later, either freeze it or refrigerate and use within 3 days.

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This recipe is based partly on one found in the cookbook my uncle Giampaolo wrote, Mamma Si Mangia? It is a really delightful cookbook filled with recipes of this sort – authentic, delicious and quick – as well as his tales of growing up with nonna Mafalda in Florence. It is out-of-print but I have a few copies left which you can purchase. At that same website,I have a number of original photographic prints which you might enjoy if you love Italy too. Buon appetito!

Thank you Michael.  Can’t wait to try it.  Enjoy everyone.

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