Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gnocchi alla Romana: Historic Food Fortnightly Challenge 4, Foreign Foods

The finished Gnocchi alla Romana

The Challenge:  “Foreign Foods” 

July 13 - July 26

Make a dish that reflects the historical idea of “foreign” - either foods with a loose connection to foreign lands, named after faraway places, or attributed to foreigners. Real connections to actual foreign countries not necessary!

The Recipe:
Gnocchi alla Romana (Gnocchi of Farina or Cornmeal)

Foods of the Foreign Born in Relation to Health by Bertha M. Wood, Boston: 1922.

1/2 cup farina or corn meal
Butter and grated cheese
1 egg
1 pint of milk, or half milk and half water

Let the milk come to a boil; salt it and add the farina gradually, stirring constantly, so it will not become lumpy. 

Take from the fire and add a tablespoon of butter and several tablespoons of grated cheese, also the egg, slightly beaten. Mix well and spread out on a molding board in a sheet about three-quarters inch thick. When it is cold, cut in squares or diamonds. Put a layer of these on a shallow baking dish or platter that has been buttered. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. Make another layer, and so on, until the dish is filled. Bake in the oven until the crust is well browned.

The Date/Year and Region: 
American, published in Boston in 1922

How Did You Make It: 
I made it exactly as directed, using cornmeal, but there were some directions missing. Luckily, I used to make polenta for my Italian grandmother (she died in 1985 so it's been awhile), so I had a good idea of how long to cook the polenta.  The polenta took a lot longer to firm up than it should have, and never actually really firmed up completely.  I think that is because the recipe calls for using a whole egg, as opposed to using just an egg yolk.  I did what it said though!  I used Pecorino Romano cheese, which is both Roman and my favorite!  I cooked the gratin for about 12 minutes at 425 degrees and then broiled the top for 3 minutes.

Cooking the Polenta and Adding the Cheese

Cooling the Polenta

Uncooked Gratin

Time to Complete: 
It took about 20 minutes to cook the polenta.  I let it cool and firm up (as much as it would) for about 6 hours, and then I cooked the gratin for about 15 minuts.

Total Cost: 
It cost about $5, mostly for the cheese. 

How Successful Was It?: 

It tasted great!  However, as I followed the recipe precisely as it was written, I would say it was not as firm as it should have been.  I suppose that could be one of the points of this challenge, that recipes for foreign foods (this case Italian) not written by an Italian might not always work properly! I will make this again using just an egg yolk, not the whole egg.

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