The 11th edition of S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino returned to the familiar backdrop of Canton Ticino where it has chosen to count on the support of the Italian association Le Soste.
Why change a winning formula? The 2017 format remained unvaried: a series of prestigious dinners, each signed by two or three chefs, whom we coaxed into revealing their cooking secrets.
At the first dinner, Sandro and Maurizio Serva from the restaurant La Trota in Rieti province, with two Michelin stars, were the guests of Frank Oerthle of the starred Artè restaurant at Hotel Villa Castagnola.
At the second dinner, the guest chefs were Giancarlo Morelli of the Milanese restaurants Pomireou, Bulk and Trombetta and Martin Dalsass of the Talvo by Dalsass restaurant in St.Moritz, both of whom have one Michelin star and were hosted at the Ciani in Lugano by resident chef Nicola Costantini.
We asked them to tell us about the dish they prepared during the evening, as well as to reveal a technique and an ingredient they are particularly fond at this stage of their careers.
The Dish of the evening
Oerthle: "Look-alike truffled baby squid, which in actual fact is salmon cooked at a low temperature."
Serva brothers: "Purple artichoke, emptied, stuffed and fried with a crisp double coating of breadcrumbs to become a secret treasure trove for an egg yolk."
Morelli: "Risotto made from Gallo Carnaroli rice that has been aged for a year, wild garlic and parsley chlorophyll, snails from Calabria and a final creaming with reduced acid butter and potato emulsion."
Dalsass: "Flash fried Patagonian toothfish served with marinated mustard seeds and asparagus."
Oerthle: "I love cooking at low temperatures and use the Roner for fish and meat. This improves the texture and the end result is lighter."
Serva brothers: "We have perfected a technique based on “hot/dry marinades,” especially for freshwater fish such as lavaret. a sheet of tinfoil on the bottom of a slightly wet pan acts as a support for wild herbs and a few spices; we heat the pan and cook even the most delicate and fragile fish on this base, which gives the flesh a most appealing aroma."
Morelli: "I have studied a technique I would define as a cross between crystallisation and fermentation. I learned this method when travelling in Peru and I apply it to all sorts of citrus fruits. The orange segment in the dessert has actually been processed in this way: placed in salt for one week and then vacuum packed with salt and sugar at a low temperature. The resulting product has a firm consistency, but is still juicy without ever being sickly sweet."
Dalsass: I am not particularly fond of cooking at low temperatures, but I often have Bresse chickens and partridge on the menu, so I have recovered an old technique of traditional French cuisine. I put the bird in a copper tube before placing it in the oven. This is an extraordinarily effective way of getting the heat to penetrate so that it cooks evenly throughout. It is also a perfect method for suckling pig.
Oerthle: "I am currently using a slightly hot curry-based spice mix. I have a lamb dish on the menu that I accompany with creamed carrots and these spices."
Serva brothers: "We have the good fortune to work in an uncontaminated environment in the vicinity of small mountain lakes reaching an altitude of 1200 m. Two trustworthy fishermen supply us with carp, lavaret, eels and the odd zander, fished with the maximum respect in these waters. They are problematic to use because the precious flesh of these creatures can easily spoil when handled."
Morelli: "If I were to depart for another planet I would take some corn with me. This is a cereal many world populations owe their survival to. It is versatile and can be made into bread, polenta, desserts and creams. It is popular with celiac disease sufferers and pairs well with almost all other ingredients because it has a neutral taste despite its pronounced character."
Dalsass: "I could never live without extra virgin olive oil. In my cuisine, I use 12 different types, all of them Italian. I vary them according to the effect I need to create: if I want to achieve delicacy, I choose Ligurian oil, if herbaceous I choose Tuscany, if assertive I choose Sicily. We also use it in cake and pastry making, for instance to create a magnificent chocolate mousse."
The useful tip
Oerthle: “When you have guests and want to serve a nice piece of meat, don’t skip these two important steps: first sear the meat well at a high temperature before putting it in the oven at 160° C. Let it rest before carving.”
Serva brothers: “Two cooking tricks that will leave your guests speechless. If you make your own gnocchi, cook the potatoes in the oven instead of boiling them in water. When making polenta, cook it in meat or fish stock rather than water, according to the proteins you wish to serve it with. It makes an amazing difference.”
Morelli: “Any cook about to go shopping should first ask him/herself the following questions: where am I located? What season is it? Second tip: get rid of the food waste bin, because you have to learn to use up any scraps.”
Dalsass: “Don’t economise on ingredients. That doesn’t mean buying truffles and caviar, but choosing the best even when shopping for garlic, onions or potatoes. Remember the rule of three: each dish should include one keynote ingredient and two secondary ones. Any more than that and you risk creating confusion.”