Secondo Piatto: Cooking in Italy
February 8, 2013
VICENZA, Italy- Being stationed in Italy is not only a chance to experience the local cuisine, but also a chance to bring those flavors and memories with you to your next duty station. Vicenza Military Community foodies and novice cooks looking to expand their cooking repertoire discovered the art of cooking Italian terra and mare (meat and seafood) secondo piatto (main course dishes) during an ODR cooking class at the l'Istituto San Gaetano di Vicenza Jan. 17.
Chef Cristiano Pasin, class instructor, led the group of a dozen through the preparation of Cinghiale alla cacciatore, a wild boar dish from Tuscany that was gently stewed with herbs and red wine, and Arrosto di maiale e fichi secchi, a slow roasted pork lion stuffed with pancetta and figs.
Pasin emphasized the importance of marinating the wild boar overnight as it tends to be a gamier meat, and the necessity of searing the meat prior to cooking it for a long time in order to seal in the flavor.
"I like going to restaurants and discovering new dishes and going home to revise it to my family's taste," said Melissa Bender, who was on her third cooking class with ODR.
"The boar stew was soft and amazing," she said.
Once the wild boar and pork were slowly cooking, the class moved on to preparing mare, or seafood, that included learning to scale and fillet sea bass and to clean squid.
"I would always buy a fish filleted because the idea of boning my own fish was intimidating," said Jackie Velasquez. "I'm glad I was finally able to take this class after wanting to do it for a long time."
The filleted sea bass was rolled into a bundle with a filling of capers and olives, and served on a bed of thyme roasted potatoes. The remaining fillets were diced and mixed with breadcrumbs and herbs, and stuffed into the calamarie, or squid.
"I would not have made squid without being shown how to clean it first," said Tara Bennett.
"The next time I'll make it with my kids who would totally want to make it because they could put their hands in a bowl of squid," she said.
Gary Guarrera, a self-described foodie who likes cooking full course meals for his wife, said the highlights of the ODR cooking classes are the chance to experience the flavors of another country and to learn new dishes and ideas.
"I am looking forward to the dolce bignolata (little cream puff desserts) class in February. I enjoy cooking; it relaxes me," said Guarrera.
Vicenza ODR offers cooking class trips every month.