A new focus on cuisine

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Ticino rekindles its culinary traditions

A new focus on cuisine

A new focus on cuisine

A new focus on cuisine

A new focus on cuisine

Turning the clocks back 175 years may seem a bit of a cliché in the Canton of Ticino, but exploring new gastronomic horizons is worth it. Freshwater fish float in the avant-garde of the author’s style cuisine and it would be strange if one were unable to go beyond the carp here where, at the foot of the Alps, the sky seems to fall into the meadows. If you turn your attention to the Malcantone, a sort of gastronomic refuge, you will rediscover remote dishes such as eel stew or pike risotto, or even exquisite fish cold cuts such as galantine, sausage and salami made from mullet, carp and eel. Upon closer inspection, freshwater fish is one of the strongest culinary ties between the Canton of Ticino and Italy: dried twaite shad, which become missoltini, is one of the oldest gastronomic delicacies. Lugano is experiencing a gastronomic boom, as witnessed by the shower of «stars» in the last year (I Due Sud at the Hotel Splendide Royal, the META, and the Principe Leopoldo at the Hotel Villa Principe Leopoldo), and recovering its «sweet fish» has the potential to make a further leap. It is enough to look a little further south, towards Italy which, despite its eight thousand kilometers of marine coastline, has in store lakeside cuisines of absolute charm. In 1846, a booklet was published in Lugano by the Fioratti brothers and should be savored again: Il nuovo cuoco ticinese economico. It was written by Luigi Franconi, who left Brissago and went to Milan where he became a cook for upper middle class families, rejecting the «tyranny» of French cuisine. He warned: «Here we do not mention the lavish gravies of Paris, which are more satisfying to fashion than to the palate». Canton Ticino also had its very own resident Artusi (the codifier of Italian bourgeois cooking). Franconi dictated an exquisite «pasticcio di polenta in ragù di anguilla» (polenta pie with eel ragout) and had great respect for lake fish. After him, Maryton Guidicelli and Luigi Bosia (Ticino a Tavola: ricettario della tradizione alimentare) recoded a number of recipes where tench, bream, carp, sturgeon, perch, eel and whitefish contribute to defining a lake delicacy. Indeed, the term gastronomy originates from fish. It was Archestratus of Gela who, 360 years before Christ, wrote his essay on sea cuisine and called it Gastronomia (or Hedypateia). In order to explore the new frontier of fresh fish, all you need to do is take a small boat trip from Locarno to Verbania and go to Piccolo Lago and sit down at the table of Marco Sacco (two Michelin stars). Marco lives by the lake and for the lake, so much so that he has doubled the size of his kitchen on the Isola dei Pescatori, where he brought life back to the Verbano, a house hotel with the charm and traditions of the community of those who cast their nets in the Maggiore. He created the movement «Gente di Lago» (Lake People) and promotes the breeding of sturgeons and has his own school of freshwater chefs. His innovative recipes include carp in alkermes sauce and white trout in lime cream; his historic recipes include smoked marble trout with beech and raspberry vinegar gel. We are now almost at the gates of Rome to meet brothers Sandro and Maurizio Serva. They inherited «La Trota», in Rivodutri, from their father and mother, and there at the source of Santa Susanna, in the Rieti countryside, where the waters descend from Terminillo and form fields of liquid crystal, they earned two Michelin stars. Sandro Serva says: «Freshwater fish will be the protein reserve of the future and invites us to a cleaner world, from a culinary point of view it is a store of flavor yet to be explored». Serva’s «discoveries» translate into trout, pineapple couscous, rose vinegar; carp, red turnip mayonnaise and spring cress; pike-perch «salt cod»; and a bowl of tench soup, brown trout, foie gras, parsnips, as well as a sublime gastronomic sleight of hand: artichoke egg. Gianfranco Vissani (in Cannitello, Baschi, province of Terni) has a preference for fresh water fish. «I began - he says - cooking whitefish, I have always had a sacred respect for these delicate meats: you can make them in crazy water or in chamomile tea, what they give you back is the purity, that which I see looking out over the Lake of Baschi». From the Michelin-starred Norbert Niederklofer (St. Hubertus in San Cassiano) to the metropolitan Cesare Battisti (Ratanà, Milan), they all have sweet fish on their menu. In addition to carpione (which is also a very old recipe that in Italy goes by a hundred names and a thousand ways) there is more. Speaking of carp, it is a lake fish that has almost disappeared; they have saved it and are reproducing it in Lake Garda. Why? There is a recipe by Mastro Martino da Como (at the end of the 1400’s) who, in his Libro de arte coquinaria, recommends a dish with this fish «which has gentle and easily damaged flesh to be cooked in water and vinegar». From Martino to Franconi: tout se tien. The challenge has been launched and it is up to the chefs of Ticino to take it up.

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