Learned Hounds, I’d like your input, please. I’m making an Italian dinner for four in about a week. My aims for this dinner are in this order: 1) Deliciousness 2) Using several ingredients I recently brought back from Italy and an Amarone I already have, and 3) Adherence to as traditional an Italian experience as possible. Please comment on the below menu and tell me what might be done better, or what might be tweaked for a better experience. I am not bound to most of it quite just yet, so comment away.
Aperitivi – I’m considering serving either an Aperol or Campari spritz, or maybe a Prosecco on its own here (depends on food) and maybe a small bite, amuse bouche-style. Any suggestions on what would work best with either of those beverages? Any recipes for an appropriate bite? I brought back from Piedmont a small jar of artichoke sauce (creamy) we got at a farmer’s market. We already ate the radicchio cream sauce from the same producer, and if it’s anything like that, it will send us over the moon. I thought that maybe I could use it here, but I just can’t think of the best way, and I hesitate to just spread it on crostini, though that might be best. Ideas?
Antipasti – Nothing yet identified, and I also need help here. Bagna cauda maybe? I brought back a tin of salted anchovies, and it’d be nice to make use of them here. I tried to replicate an antipasto we had in Asti consisting of a large piece of roasted red pepper with a thin anchovy on top, drizzled with olive oil. It came out terribly- chewy, crunchy, not delicate at all. Can I use these anchovies for this antipasto? How do I prepare the anchovies? Other than that, these other things have jumped out at me: this Batali swordfish recipe: bit.ly/VLKXst (would halibut work?) and I also thought of some simple preparation of mozzarella di bufala. I would like to avoid more common antipasti such as melone e prosciutto and similar, if possible. Also, I have a small jar of beautiful carciofini, which are soft, delicate, and delicious, if you can think of a way to serve them. Lastly, if I don’t serve the Prosecco up front, I’d like a suggestion for a wine with this course, also, in the $30-$40 price range, maybe from the Veneto or Piedmont.
Primo – I have perfected the CI Creamy Tomato Sauce recipe by adding these salt-packed anchovies (instead of prosciutto). We brought back some beautiful fusili pasta which I think will drink up this sauce beautifully. Topped with fresh shavings of Parm-Regg. I thought of serving up the 2007 Amarone (don’t have label in front of me) bottle I already have with this course, but I’m open to suggestions, if hounds think I should serve it with secondo course, only. (I only have one bottle, but two of the guests are light drinkers.)
Secondo – Lamb shanks. I settled on this because I think the Amarone will be fully enjoyed with this type of meat cut, and I was already gifted the wine, which I want to drink at this meal. I am between these two recipes, and would like input on which is best with this menu: Batali’s Orange and Olives Recipe - http://abc.tv/YWQrPR or Bitmman’s with Lentils - http://nyti.ms/YxleCV. Either way, I feel I need to serve this with a starch and a contorno. I think polenta would be fabulous, but I don’t know if it’s worth the trouble/time to make in the middle of the meal. If not, any other starch? For a contorno, I’d think that both recipes kinda have that built in, but I was also thinking that a bit of braised kale or collards might be exquisite. Also, I brought back a bag of kamut, which I thought might do well thrown in with the lentils in the Bittman recipe. Thoughts? Could I used them any other way?
Salad – I don’t know what is most traditional here and what would go with the rest of the menu. I am leaning toward a jicama/tomatillo/citrus/watercress mix, or something else refreshing. Wine suggestions here? I imagine the Amarone would kill any salad here.
Cheese – My guests (and I ) love Sottocenere al tartufo, so I was thinking of serving that with Cacio di Roma, and a third cheese to round things out. Maybe another sheep’s milk cheese? My cheese counter is pretty complete, so I should be able to find any of the better-known Italian cheeses. As an accompaniment to the cheese, I’d like to serve a Mostarda di Frutta we were gifted on our trip. I also have truffle honey (miele al tartufo) I was thinking of serving in miniature dishes for the cheese. Comments? Wine suggestions?
Dolce – My wife is in charge, and she’d appreciate suggestions on a flavorful dessert, maybe not too rich given cheese course.
Caffe – Got it covered with Lavazza Oro in our moka.
Grappa / Limoncello – I will have to buy either one. Recs?
Thanks in advance of any/all input. These are special friends with whom we’ve travelled to Italy, and I’m trying to bring a piece of it back on this night for all of us.