It was my 80th birthday, and the dinner – including the wines – was as exceptional as the occasion.
I might say that in this latest appearance, our storybook ‘Magic Meal’ was actually upstaged by the first course, but I won’t, out of huge personal sentiment – and loyalty to both a great restaurant (Al Forno, in Providence) and a home kitchen that has seen a lot over the decades.
Still, the sturgeon was a tough act to follow. Some of it may have been the pure novelty, and the fact that the recipe, in all its simplicity, was entirely mine, but it really was delicious. That I grew up in the midwest, mid-century, where I was surrounded by sturgeon legends, and that Barry comes from Arkansas, one of the homes of the pallid and shovelnose, had almost nothing to do with it.
- four ounces of sliced smoked American farmed sturgeon from Grace’s Marketplace placed on a bed of almost impossibly-thin slices of 2 small golden beets from Norwich Meadows Farm that had first been sprinkled with small amounts of wild fennel pollen from Buon Italia, a good Puglian olive oil (7Giorni), and Newman’s Own balsamic vinegar, topped with dollops of a Ronnybrook Farm crème fraîche mixed with lemon zest and chopped fresh thyme, garnished with some subtly peppery micro red mizuna from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- flat bread crisps (Firehook Baked Crackers with rosemary and sea salt)
- the wine, which we had opened before the meal began and with which we toasted my great age and many great years shared with Barry, was a French (Champagne) sparkling, François Billion, Grand Cru, Brut Millésime 2010, from Astor Wines
The magic part of the meal was Conchiglie al forno (last night it was actually Lumaconi al forno, the pasta this time being Setaro’s ‘snails’, from BuonItalia), a rich pasta course with a very friendly history con noi that goes back 20 years. This pasta is sometimes described as lumache.
It combines a pound of a large Campania artisanal shell shape pasta with roughly half a pound of sliced mushrooms, half a pound of butter, 4 Italian cheeses, lots of double cream, one head of sliced radicchio, and a generous amount of fresh sage.
The recipe can be found on this site.
tip: any earthy mushroom would work (I have access to many, and this time I used chestnut mushrooms
tip: I used one large head of radicchio and it was more than enough
tip: the gorgonzola should not be a dolce
tip: you’ll need one very large bowl (or the emptied pasta pot)
- the wine was a very fine Italian (Tuscany) red, Barone Ricasoli, Chianti Gran Selezione 2015, from Bottlerocket