By Peter Confalone
[I’ve been friends with Peter Confalone since, oh, 1973. Or so. Back then he managed the 4000 member Cambridge Food Co-op, then worked the meat counter at the famous Savenor’s (Julia Child shopped there). Since then he’s done almost everything, including theater and film, and most recently he’s been “Behind Bars in Miami” -which happens to be the working title of a book he’s writing. – mb]
Things move very slowly here on Miami Beach but with the renovations finally done on my kitchen, I have been using my new flattop stove and convection oven, cooking for friends at a much higher frequency. In doing so I have nearly exhausted my culinary repertoire, which consists mostly of Italian dishes taught to me by my father and stepmother. Both were of Sicilian decent but the recipes they passed on are really Italian-American.
Don’t get me wrong: I love that food. A soup from them I call Minestra della Matrigna – made of escarole, Savoy cabbage, pork neck bones, tomatoes and pepperoni – is fabulous. But since being exposed to true “continental” cuisine I’ve been searching for more authentic recipes.
While putting together a menu for a small dinner party I discovered a recipe for falsomargro, a Sicilian dish, evidently created by the French cooks (Monsù) of Palermo during the Anjou reign. The name is derived from the French farcie de maigre – “stuffed with lean.” In Italian, farsumagru translates roughly as non-lenten, maybe because it contains a triumph of ingredients. In the local dialect it became falsomargro or false lean (lean as in poor), a Sicilian joke perhaps.
It is actually a large braciole or involtini, using a thin piece of veal (I used flank steak, and I’m sure pork would work too) stuffed with ground meat or sausage, mortadella or salami, fontina or any hard cheese cut into sticks, onion, hard boiled eggs, lardo, and peas. Really: practically anything you like will work for the stuffing. The stuffed meat is then tied up, salami style – mine was about 18 inches long. After browning it on all sides I braised it in the oven in a tomato sauce scented with chiles, cloves and a cinnamon stick.
To continue the Sicilian theme I made sparaceddi assassunati – broccoli raab in olive oil and garlic sauce. The term “assassunati” (very cheap) derives from an ancient sauce used by Jewish communities on Sicily and then used by the Monsù, to season (assaisonner) vegetables.
I served it by floating a crosscut round on a pool of sauce flanked by potato roasted in the braising liquid and a helping of the broccoli raab. It’s a homey, rustic dish and the sight of the egg surrounded by the meat and cheese is a winner.
And I apologize for any misuse of a beautiful language.