Braciuole nella scamerita, an Artusi classic
After a good five weeks away at our “other home” in Tuscany, Melbourne’s autumn is being particularly kind in letting me ease into the idea that winter is on its way. With crisp weather that doesn’t bite you if you don’t do up your coat or you forget your scarf, trees slowly dropping their beautiful yellow leaves like slow motion confetti and even some gorgeous sunny days, the only thing I can really complain about are the shorter days. In truth, I love autumn and the excuse to get rugged up and cook big pots of soup or slow roast something for hours, warming up the kitchen. So much of my favourite food is cold weather food – it’s the combination of much-loved, heavier, wintry vegetables and that satiety that automatically comes with comfort food.
I usually turn to Artusi for some inspiration in trying out a new dish. ‘New’ to me, that is. In reality, the dishes are really quite old – 122 years old to be exact and who knows how much longer they’ve been around before Artusi penned them? It seems an almost magical book, the well-thumbed pages, sticky-note bookmarks and cracked spine proving that I’ve been through the 790 recipes hundreds of times before and yet every time I pick it up there is something that I’ve never seen before, as if every time it’s put down, a new recipe blossoms inside, waiting to be discovered.
This time, that particular recipe was braciuole nella scamerita, an Artusi classic, a Florentine classic and an ideal cold weather dish. Like many of Florence’s best dishes, it’s not a fancy or particularly attractive dish but you can be sure it’s tasty. It’s a simple, humble but nutritious and warming recipe that you can imagine being served in an old school trattoria. A thrifty cut of pork neck* is cooked quickly in a skillet with a few whole garlic cloves still in their skin. It’s doused in red wine, then kept warm while some blanched Tuscan kale or cavolo nero takes its place, soaking up the rest of the red wine and softening ever so. It’s served with the juicy cavolo nero acting as a warm bed for the pork. As this is classically Florentine, it goes without saying that plenty of bread is needed to mop up the sauces – Tuscan bread would be ideal, but a good, crunchy ciabatta is the next best thing.
Now this is the sort of thing that truly prepares me for winter.
Braciuole nella scamerita
Artusi’s Pork neck with cavolo nero
Sear the pork neck fillets in a hot skillet with a bit of olive oil and a couple of slightly squashed, whole cloves of garlic with their skins still on. Season with salt and pepper and cook just a few minutes on each side, until golden. Add half a glass of red wine to the pan and reduce by half. Keeping the pan juices cooking, remove the pork, keep warm and add some blanched, chopped cavolo nero to the pan to warm through and soak up the juices. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately, with the pork neck fillets sitting a top the juicy cavolo nero.
*A note about this cut of meat. Braciuole implies a thin (about 1-2 cm thick) slice of meat. Scamerita is pork neck, but confusingly, Artusi describes it as a cut that comes from the rear, back part of the animal, where the lombata, the loin and leg meet. I suspect that part of the confusion comes from the fact that the lombata in Italy refers to two different cuts of meat depending on where you are from. In the north, it’s this rear, back part, in central Italy it is the neck. In this case, despite Artusi’s description, I went with what most Italians would think of as scamerita these days – the neck. It’s an extremely tasty cut that is nicely marbled with both fat and lean meat.