With winter just around the corner, you crave comfort food that will fill you up with true warmth.
The recipes in the new “Alpine Cooking: Recipes and Stories from Europe’s Grand Mountaintops” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, do exactly that because, after all, they highlight the hearty foods of Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France.
It’s by Meredith Erickson, a veteran cookbook author, who splits her time between Montreal and Milan.
The book is a a travelogue of the picture-perfect, snow-capped Italian and Swiss alps. You just want to step inside the photos to go for a hike or schuss down the slopes.
The 80 recipes hit the spot, too, after a day of invigorating mountaineering. Think schnitzels and strudels, with plenty of cheese thrown in for good measure. Enjoy everything from “Veal Carbonnade with Polenta” and “Venison Ragout” to “Hangover Soup with Cheese Dumplings” and “Chartreuse Souffle.”
“Radicchio Dumplings” is like Thanksgiving stuffing meets matzo balls, which makes them especially appropriate to enjoy at this time of year with the holiday nearly upon us.
The dumplings are made with torn, stale pieces of bread that have been mixed with warm milk, then enfolded eggs, Parmigiano, radicchio, and speck. Although the recipe calls for oblong Treviso radicchio, I used the standard globe-shaped Chioggia that most supermarkets carry. And instead of speck, I used prosciuitto.
You want to get down and dirty, and mash the mixture together with your hands, much like you would with meatloaf. That way, you break down the bread pieces so that the mixture can come together easily to make sort of a dough.
The mixture is formed into balls that get boiled in a pot of water. The balls will expand more than twice their size, much like matzo balls do.
The cooked dumplings get finished simply with melted butter and a sprinkle of more Parmigiano.
They are quite moist, much like the center of your holiday stuffing casserole. They are ever so cheesy tasting, quite filling, and a little festive with the specks of vivid purple from the chopped radicchio.
In the Alps, they are enjoyed as a main course. But you could also serve them as a side dish alongside Thanksgiving turkey for a European Alpine twist on the American holiday staple.
(Serves 4 as a main, or 6 as a side; makes 12 dumplings)
11 ounces stale white bread, crusts removed, diced
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, warmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
11 ounces Treviso (or Chioggia) radicchio, finely chopped
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated Grana Padana or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Regggiano
7 ounces speck (or prosciutto), finely diced
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
In a large bowl, combine the bread and warm milk and stir to moisten. Set aside for 30 minutes. Line a plate with a layer of paper towels.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the radicchio, continue to cook until wilted, about 2 minutes, and then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Add the eggs, Grana Padano, and speck to the soaked bread mixture. Season with salt, pepper, and a good grating of nutmeg. Mix well (don’t be tempted to add more milk). Then add the radicchio mixture, flour, and bread crumbs and mix well with your hands until homogeneous. The dough should come together but feel slightly tacky.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Moisten your hands (keep a small bowl of water next to you) and divide the dough into 12 even portions. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a firm tight ball, using your hands to confidently shape it.
Slide the balls into the boiling water and simmer for 8 to 12 minutes, until the dumplings are heated through. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared plate.
Transfer the dumplings to shallow serving bowls and spoon a little melted butter over them, followed by a spoonful or tow of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve immediately.
Adapted from “Alpine Cooking” by Meredith Erickson
More Dumplings To Enjoy: Beef-Ale Stew with Green-Onion Buttermilk Dumplings
Plus Stuffing Ideas For Thanksgiving: Fig and Pistachio Stuffing