by Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
Christmas is such a happy day, and in Florence, our families gather for a great banquet of traditional Christmas dishes. Almost every dish is served with red wine. Wine is so important to us, and there is no celebration without a toast with hearty red wine or some “bollicine”—sparkling white wine.
Of course, the most important toast is made at the end of the meal with glasses full of Spumante and Prosecco—perfect to drink at the end of the feast with the panettone—the typical Italian Christmas cake.
Please enjoy these traditional Florentine Christmas recipes . . . and Buon Natale!
Tuscan Chicken Liver Crostini
17 oz. (500 grams) chicken livers
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Tuscan bread or homemade bread
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1.5 oz. (40 grams) pickled capers
10 oz. (300 ml) chicken stock
½ glass of white wine
½ carrot, finely chopped
½ stalk of celery, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets in oil
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
Sauté the onion, celery, and carrot with the oil, add the chicken livers, cook for 5 minutes over a gentle fire, turning them often with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle with wine and let it evaporate. Add salt and pepper. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes, wetting, if necessary, with half of the stock.
Place the livers in a food processor with the vegetables, adding capers and anchovy fillets. Blend until creamy and velvety.
Put chicken liver cream in the pan and add the tomato paste, stock, and salt.
Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
Toast the slices of Tuscan bread, spread the warm cream of livers on each slice.
Serve with a good glass of red wine—a Chianti or Brunello.
Agnolotti alla Fiorentina
For the dough:
200 g of wheat flour
1 tablespoon of warm water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
For the stuffing:
18 oz. (500 grams) of minced beef
7 oz. (250 grams) of spinach, washed well, stalks removed
2 oz. (50 grams) Gruyere cheese
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 glass of white wine
4 tablespoons of tomato sauce
Salt & pepper
Brown the "soffritto" (onion, carrot, celery) in the oil with the ground meat. Add the wine. Let the liquid evaporate. Add the tomato sauce and a good ladle of salted water to the mixture. Cover and cook very gently for an hour.
Boil the spinach in a small amount of water until tender (4–5 minutes). Drain well. When cool, squeeze out all the moisture. Chop finely. Add the spinach to the meat mixture.
Add an egg, grated cheese, and nutmeg and pepper, mix well, and set aside as you prepare the pasta.
For the pasta: Form a well in the flour. Add the eggs, whisking them with a fork until blended. Gradually incorporate the flour to the center to form a smooth dough. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Use a rolling pin or pasta machine to create a thin sheet of dough.
Place approx. 1 tablespoon of meat/spinach mixture every 1.5–2 inches apart on the upper half of the dough. Gently fold the bottom half of the pastry over the filling side. With wet fingers, seal the areas around the heaps of stuffing, carefully squeezing the dough around the filling to remove the air. Use a knife to cut out the "agnolotti."
Gently add the agnolotti to boiling, salted water for approx. 5 minutes, and then remove with a slotted spoon.
Divide the agnolotti onto plates and top with the leftover meat sauce.
Cinghiale in Dolceforte
Tuscan Wild Boar Stew with Chocolate
For the marinade:
2 cups red wine
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
For the stew:
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 pounds wild boar, stew beef, pork shoulder, or other meat, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon candied orange, chopped
1 tablespoon raisins (plumped in a small amount of warm water, then drained well)
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
Make the Marinade:
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring all of the marinade ingredients to a boil, and then remove from heat and let cool completely. Submerge the chopped raw meat in the marinade and refrigerate, covered, for 48 hours.
Strain the meat and vegetables out of the liquid and keep the marinade. Separate meat from vegetables and discard vegetables and bay leaf.
Make the Stew:
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the garlic in the olive oil just until lightly golden. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until vegetables are softened and onion is transparent, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the chili pepper flakes and sauté for another 30 seconds. Stir in the prosciutto and sauté for about 1 minute.
Pat the pieces of meat with a paper towel until dried well, and then add to the pot and stir until browned. Pour in the strained marinade liquid and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Add the bay leaf, the candied orange, and sugar and simmer. Cover and let simmer over low heat until meat is very tender, about 2 hours.
When meat is tender, stir in the candied orange, raisins, pine nuts, and grated chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and all ingredients are well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Serve with a thick slice of Tuscan bread.
Italian Christmas Cake
¼ ounce dry yeast ½ cup warm water ½ cup flour 2/3 cup golden raisins ¼ cup grappa, brandy, or orange liqueur 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature 2 eggs 4 egg yolks ¾ cup sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla 3 ½ to 4 cups flour Grated zest of 1 orange Grated zest of 1 lemon ½ cup chopped candied citron or orange peel
To make the starter dough, dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water in a bowl. Add ½ cup flour and stir to make a very loose dough. Cover the bowl with a cotton towel and let rise in a warm place for at least 6 hours or overnight.
In another bowl, combine the raisins and liqueur and let them soak overnight.
In a large bowl, combine the butter, eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla and mix well.
Drain the soaked raisins in a strainer set over a bowl. Press on the raisins with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Set the raisins aside.
Add the liquid to the egg mixture. Add the starter dough and mix well. Add 2 cups of the flour and blend the mixture well. Add another cup of flour and mix to incorporate and make a soft dough. Knead the dough with hands until it is smooth and elastic and make a ball.
Butter a large bowl, place the dough in it, and turn once to coat both sides with the butter. Cover with a towel and let rise for 5 to 6 hours in a warm place.
Butter and flour a panettone mold or other deep mold that is about 6 inches tall and 7 inches wide. If you are using a paper panettone mold, there is no need to butter it.
Punch down the dough and transfer it onto a lightly floured surface. With your hands, flatten the dough into a large rectangle. Evenly distribute the orange and lemon zest, raisins, and citron over the dough.
Fold the dough in half to enclose the fruit and knead to distribute the fruit throughout the dough.
Place the dough in the prepared mold, cover again with a towel, and let rise for 60 minutes in a warm place. The dough should rise to just below the top of the mold.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut an X in the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Bake for 20 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Continue to bake for about 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Take out of the oven and let it cool.
Serve with a beautiful, celebratory glass of Spumante and Prosecco!