New Year's Eve in Sicily: the chef's lunch, recipe included – Italian Cuisine

From the sauce of the false lean to the pasta 'ncasciata up to the buccellato, the lunch of the New Year of chef Procopio – recipe of the Aci trunzu cabbage as a gift

“The lunch of New Year's it has the scent of false lean sauce but also of cinnamon, toasted almonds and figs ". They are childhood memories that are perpetuated and relive in the memory but also in the dishes, those of Gaetano Procopio, executive chef of the Relais San Giuliano in Viagrande, at the foot of Etna.

The First of the Year it preserves the sacredness of the ritual of the holidays but also the adrenaline and the effervescence of a new year that is about to arrive. The sumptuous Sicilian tables overflowing with food narrate the gastro-Sicilian epic of millenary traditions. A texture made of contaminations, culinary stratifications bequeathed by the successive dominations on the island. Each dish is linked to a memory, an episode, a historical-legendary narrative.

Even the lunch of Sicilian New Year it does not escape anthropological storytelling and is intertwined with popular history. In the dialogue with the chef Procopio, who shared his with the readers of La Cucina Italiana New Year's lunch and its recipe, we enter the Sicilian kitchens, in constant ferment during the holiday period, in view of the big bouffe of the first of the year.

Chef Gaetano Procopio

"It starts with the appetizer – the chef tells us – where they can't be missing anchovy or ricotta crispelle, sweet and sour pumpkin, fried cod, stockfish salad, Sicilian caponata. The evergreens of Sicilian tables such as cured meats, cheeses and scacciate are inevitable ".

G.them appetizers, combined with Sicilian bubbles, they represent a warm up worthy of the best island tradition. The first courses are an unreserved homage to the most authentic expression of the island. Procopio has no doubts: “New Year's lunch pasta is a choice including lasagna, baked anelletti, n’casciata pasta. Personally, I will prepare lasagna, a classic that must not be missing to start the new year ".

A culinary marathon in slow motion, the table at the beginning of the year is an omen of health and joy, which in Sicily becomes even more high-sounding and abundant. We arrive at the latter with the joy and enthusiasm of waiting, well rewarded and satisfied. “The symbol of the New Year's Eve lunch is for me all in false lean, wrapped in pork rind and put in the sauce”- comments the chef Procopio. "In Sicily we call it"burnt"And it is the dish that takes me back to my childhood, when my grandmother started cooking the false lean on the evening of the 31st, only to wake up at dawn and flood the kitchen with the scent of sauce".

Octopus with sauce

THE Side Dishes are strictly made from seasonal and local vegetables, preferably wild such as broccoli, mustard, caliceddi, trunzu cabbage of Aci, the latter, a kohlrabi grown in the gardens of Aci, today a Slow Food presidium.

Like any self-respecting Sicilian chef, Procopio also makes the culinary memory a vivid present, signing a pact to give back to every Sicilian dish the gift of eternity.

"Almonds, chocolate, dried figs, pistachios, Sicilian mandarins, they guide us and prepare us towards the dessert of the beginning of the year. We are close to the grand finale, which for Procopio has a unique name and flavor: that of Sicilian Buccellato, “the true Sicilian dessert symbol of the holidays”, he adds. A donut-shaped cake, prepared with a semi-shortcrust pastry, stuffed with dried figs, almonds, dark chocolate, cinnamon, candied orange and citron peel, pistachios, walnuts, bitter cocoa powder. The work is completed with a garnish of candied cherries and chopped pistachios.

A pairing with a Sicilian sweet wine is a must: the Malvasia delle Lipari or the Passito di Pantelleria.

Memory takes yet another journey before final toast: the one that brings chef Procopio back to the decoration of the New Year's table. "All around is an explosion of perfumes: Sicilian mandarins, almonds, nougats, pistachios, a Christmas star as a centerpiece reminds us of the holiday".

Chef Procopio and the Aci trunzu cabbage

Chef Procopio's debut was in full adolescence, at the age of sixteen. It was then that he began his journey in Catania and its province, first in a pizzeria and later in the kitchens of restaurants and hotels in Taormina. After a preliminary apprenticeship on the island, chef Procopio arrives at The Pergola from Heinz Beck, where he spends five highly formative years. “Chef Heinz Beck taught me respect for raw materials and a great technique in working with ingredients”. The return to Sicily is in the kitchens of House Snout of Taormina and then in those of the exclusive Hotel Villa Sant’Andrea of the Belmond group.

There are still two years as a resident chef in one of the most charming places in Sicily, Monks of the Black Lands, before arriving in 2021, al Relais San Giuliano, a boutique hotel de charme in Viagrande, not far from the Etna volcano. In this historic residence, one of the most beautiful in Sicily, Procopio directs the brigade of the I Palici Restaurant, recently awarded two forks by the Gambero Rosso.

Chef Procopio collects the Aci trunzu cabbage

"I define myself as a contemporary chef – comments the chef – because my cuisine does not distort the ingredient but respects it in its essence while declining it in different expressions". Vegetables from the garden, meat, fish but above all a great technique and discipline that allow Procopio to work the raw materials with great skill without taking them to extremes and taking them away from their matrix.

Like when he conceived and created a vegetarian menu entirely dedicated to trunzu cabbage from Aci, a vegetable particularly loved by the chef because it is versatile, with extraordinary properties and above all a local resource. "Trunzu Cabbage Water Lily”Is the dish that best represents me, comments Procopio, who shared the recipe with the readers. It is carpaccio of trunzo cabbage marinated in vinegar with Sichuan pepper, cabbage powder and trunzo cabbage leaf sauce.

"Today being contemporary means reinterpreting the past but without distorting it, adding the contemporaneity of the technique together with the total respect for the raw material".

Recipe: Aci trunzu cabbage water lily

Arci trunzu cabbage waterlily

Trunzu cabbage from Aci
White balsamic vinegar 40gr
Carricante white wine 20gr
Salt 2gr
Black pepper 1gr
Extra virgin olive oil 130 gr
Sesame oil 20 gr
Black sesame 1gr

Remove the leaves, and pass them to an extractor. Peel the stems and cut them into a diamond shape and the central part in a slicer, marinate them in white wine, white balsamic vinegar and vinegar. With the peels of the central part dried at 60 degrees overnight, obtain a purplish powder. Prepare a dressing with 25 g of marinade, sesame oil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Text collected by Liliana Rosano

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