The Rovigo Ermine Turkey – An Italian Inspired Thanksgiving

turkey-featherPart of our Italian family is from the Veneto and although Thanksgiving is not an Italian holiday I can imagine that, if it was, the Rovigno Ermine turkey would be at the center of the table. Tacchino, turkey in Italian, is eaten in Italy but it’s not prepared nor sold the same as in the US. I did have an excellent turkey dish in Emilia at a cooking lesson with my friend Rita made with a rolled turkey breast but a traditional Thanksgivingesque turkey is most likely only to be found on an American expat November holiday table.

rovigoThe Rovigo Ermine turkey (Ermellinato di Rovigo) came into being in 1958, a result of a cross of local birds to the American Narraganset. It differs from the Italian Common Bronze turkey (Comune Bronzato) by its flesh-colored legs, white skin, and ermine color. Although very rustic, the color and design of the bird make it more stately and unique. Well-imagined as stuffed, displayed, feathers and all at a a medieval banquet. Our intention would be little less dramatic and our presentation more in keeping with the traditional Thanksgiving bird. Trussed, stuffed, dressed and served with the usual side dishes but with a decidedly Italian twist.

Sweet potatoes and pumpkin replaced with Marina di Chioggia, chioggia-sea-pumpkinthe sea pumpkin of Chioggia near Venice, a bumpy, misshapen Italian heritage cultivare of pumpkin with yellow orange flesh and a fantastic taste that lends itself to many preparations. Cranberry sauce morphed into an Italian mostarda (recipe below) and brussel sprouts roasted with prosciutto and balsamic. Parmigiano Reggiano mashed potatoes piped Duchesse style, in homage to Caterina de’Medici, the great granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent whose marriage to King Henry ll brought Tuscan food customs to the tables of France.

All brought together with family and friends and the belief that preparing a well-laid table to share and enjoy with your family and friends in a relaxed and tranquil manner is a lost pleasure that must be found again and a reason to be thankful.

Amarena Cranberry Mostarda (Serves 6-8)

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1/4 cup yellow onion, minced
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup Morello Austera Wild Cherry Jam
1/2 cup Maletti aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dried sour cherries
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon fresh marjoram, finely minced

Add all the ingredients, with the exception of the fresh thyme, to a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to bring the mix to a simmer, and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occassionally, until thickens. Remove from the heat, stir in the fresh marjoram and let cool slightly before serving.

from CosituttiMarketPlace

The Melons of Mantua

Mostarda (mostarda di frutta) is a classic Northern Italian fruit condiment with a healthy kick from mustard.  Not the yellow stuff in the squeeze bottle but fruit preserved in syrup spiced with powdered mustard seed or oil of mustard essence. Sometimes referred to as fruit mustard, the agrodolce flavor of mostarda has been a favorite of cooks since ancient times. The oldest recipe for Mostarda Mantovana was published in the 14th century and is still the basis for many modern recipes. Caterina de’ Medici carried a jar of mostarda in her dowry trunk when she left Italy to marry the king of France’s son in 1533. Pears and apples, grape must and figs, quinces, pears; almost any local seasonal fruit can be used to make mostarda.  Cremona and Mantua (Mantova) are known for their production of mostarda which enhances foods from tortelli to bollito misto.

The Viadana melons of Mantua, grown near the border with Parma, have particular characteristics of the land that create a melon that is fragrant, tender and sweet. The deep orange colored flesh, firm smooth skin and an intense aroma are perfect for the making of a mostarda.

white watermenlon
Anguria Bianca

Another typical product of Mantua is the Anguria Bianca (white watermelon), also known as the lemon verbena pumpkin, a melon with an herbal note that is truly unique. Grown on the fertile Padana plain, the white watermelon makes a sweet savory mostarda with a jewel like quality that the Renaissance court of the Gonzaga favored. Gonzaga documents testify to its presence at the table of the Lords of Mantua.  Made as a luxury by “speziali” (chemists) it was prepared as a delicacy and preserved in “albarelli“, earthenware or glass vases used for pharmacy preparations.