This recipe is eaten on November 21, the symbolic date of the end of the plague of 1630. Chef Chiara Pavan reinterpreted it in this way during the Identità Golose 2020 congress, with the same ingredients (cabbage and mutton) and with the same wish
On November 21 in Venice is celebrated from 1630, the end of the plague which affected a million people in Italy. The epidemic is the one narrated in The betrothed, but in Venice on this autumn date the defeat of the Black Death is celebrated and the Madonna della Salute is celebrated (in that church built precisely to thank the saint for the end of the pestilence). It is done in the kitchen, with one cabbage-based soup grown in the fields and gardens of the lagoon and of little smoked mutton and seasoned that arrived by ship from nearby Dalmatia. A dish that appears poor to us but which at the time, and after a year of torment, was the best that could be put on the table.
Local, seasonal ingredients and little meat, preserved with traditional methods and eaten on a special day: the starred chef Chiara Pavan of the Venissa restaurant, on the island of Mazzorbo in Venice, has dusted it off because it is absolutely current, in the philosophy of using raw materials and because we all look forward to celebrating the end of this 2020 pandemic; and maybe come out really better.
The recipe he brought to the stage of Identity of Champagne by Veuve Clicquot at the event Identità Golose 2020 (which moved online this year) was this. Perfectly in line with the type of cuisine he offers in Venissa, and in combination with a great champagne such as La Grande Dame 2008 with a pinot noir base.
Venissa's environmental kitchen
Chiara Pavan's cuisine looks to the territory, and by territory in Mazzorbo it means the vegetable garden that she cultivates in the middle of the lagoon with herbs, vegetables and collecting the spontaneous plants that grow in the grass. "The cuisine we do tries to be the expression of the place where we work, that is the lagoon and even more particularly the Venissa estate. The first goal is that the guest who sits at our table perceives a strong coherence between the place he is visiting and the dishes he eats. Our kitchen has certain characteristics in this place, and it certainly wouldn't have the same style if we were to cook elsewhere. It is, that is, a strongly environmental cuisine. The term environmental fits in two ways: on the one hand because it describes the dependence of a cooking style on the environment that surrounds it and on the other because it denotes the obsessive and extremely current attention to the environmental issue".
Everything has a special flavor, savory and therefore amplified, which in the dish translates into the use of vegetables as protagonists. «Vegetables are, in fact, the great protagonist of our menu. Sometimes, even the fish is only the accompaniment of the vegetable, acting as a texture. The vegetable is the protagonist of our dishes also (and perhaps primarily) for an "environmental issue". In fact, we believe that the tendency to eat more and more vegetables will and must be dominant in the future. A diet rich in animal proteins (possible only thanks to farms which are among the main causes of global warming) will no longer be environmentally sustainable and we will be (or our children will be) forced to turn mainly to the products of the earth .
The cabbage becomes the protagonist
In his recipe for liberation from the pandemic, freely taken from Castradina Sciavona, the cabbage is cooked in the whole oven, then it is pressed in the press, as in classic French cuisine it was done with meat. «The juice is thus obtained, with which a sauce is made by reducing it and adding fermented cabbage juice. The cabbage remains compact, with an almost fleshy consistency, is cut into pieces, browned with butter and mutton garum . The vegetables are cooked in a pan like a classic piece of meat, and a mutton-based preparation is used to flavor it, made in the restaurant with the aim of using every part of the animal. «There is no waste in the kitchen. The technique of fermentations, predominant in the latter menus, has therefore allowed us to achieve a double result: obtaining savory and acidic tastes, very much in keeping with the way we want to describe the lagoon experience through food and not waste ". The cabbage is then served with a chopped raw mutton, the sour and sweet sauce made from cabbage, grated dried mutton and watercress from its lagoon garden.
Eleventh commandment: do not waste
This dish does not exist on the menu, but some elements recall other preparations dear to Chiara. «We make a garum of sardines to season spaghetti, produced thanks to the scraps of the sardines (heads and bones), and we make other garum of scraps and also, for example, a bread miso (with the scraps of old bread). All the fruit and vegetables that we produce in excess have found, in fermentations, an excellent and ancient method of preserving, which does not require the use of plastic and electricity consumption for keeping in the freezers. The fermentations plants are also, in our opinion, a great food of the future, because they are rich in lactic ferments that nourish the bacterial flora of our organism (those who study the intestinal microbiota in medicine, argue that a diet attentive to the bacterial flora is the basis of medicine preventive and we believe it!) ".
In the hope that we will come out better from this pestilence, at least in the kitchen.