Buon appetito! Appetizers inspired by Italian cuisine resonate with customers and their budgets MUSHROOM COUNCIL by Evan Noetzel For the online exclusive recipe of chef Riccardo Ullio’s Funghi Fritti, visit Chef’s April digital edition at www.chefmagazine.com. N early every country or region in the world associated with a type of cuisine seems to offer the equivalent of an appetizer or “small plate” within its culinary repertoire: Spanish tapas, Russian zakuski, Mexican antojitos, Chinese dim sum, Mediterranean meze. Of course, on such a list, we mustn’t forgot the French contribution—both the amusebouche and the hors d’oeuvre, from crudités to canapés. Yet, arguably, it is the Italians, even more so than their Gallic neighbors, who have provided the greatest inspiration for the appetizer menus at many of today’s American restaurants. Whether plating staples of traditional antipasti—olives, cheese, cured meats, smoked fish, marinated vegetables—or their culinary descendants—everything from bruschetta to fried mozzarella—chefs are embracing the Italian-inspired appetizer as a medium for showcasing culinary skill and creativity while still appealing to customers’ tastes and pocketbooks. “It’s really helpful when you can put something like an artisanal cured meat on a small plate or appetizer and introduce the guest to your style of cuisine. It starts to pique their interest without inundating them or overwhelming them with entire meals that are based around such items,” says Brian Shaw, partner and co-chef of Fair Hill Inn restaurant (www.fair hillinn.com) in Elkton, Md. “Sometimes you have to educate your clientele and bring them along slowly. ... Small plates and appetizers are a perfect way to do that.” To broach the subject of delicious, cost-effective Italian appetizers, Chef has gathered tips from a few of your fellow chefs, some select appetizer recipes and a handful of foodservice products that will surely be the stars of your next antipasti platter. Meat meets cheese Any discussion about quintessential Italian starter items inevitably leads to cured meat and aged cheese. Whether served hot or cold, paired together or plated separately, Italian meats and Consorzio Grana Padano, Brescia, Italy, www.granapadano.com; wine pairing by Marlene Rossman Yield: 4 servings 2 T. balsamic vinegar Spoonful hot mustard 5 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for dressing Salt and pepper, to taste 1 tender, young lettuce head Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste 10 1/2 oz. thinly sliced fillet of beef, each slice individually wrapped in butcher paper 5 1/2 oz. Grana Padano, shaved in thin slices A few chives, chopped Method (1) Whisk vinegar and mustard in bowl; when creamy, mix in oil, salt and pepper with a fork. (2) Trim, wash and dry lettuce, then place it in large bowl; season it with lemon juice, extra oil, and center on a plate. (4) Arrange beef in single layer around lettuce. Cover with Grana Padano, chives, pepper. Drizzle with mustard vinaigrette. Serve immediately. Wine pairing: A silky Northstar Merlot 2005 (Washington) with truffles and blackberry fruit will pair beautifully with the earthiness of the carpaccio and cheese. CARPACCIO WITH GRANA PADANO 14 | Chef www.chefmagazine.com Visit us at giftwarenews.com/readerservice 14_16 Appetizers cm_FINAL.indd 14 3/20/09 12:33:31 PM