Urban Italian came about when Carmellini was between jobs and waiting to open a restaurant, an opening which was plagued by delays. Finding plenty of time on his hands, he missed cooking and took to doing some home cooking in his tiny apartment kitchen.
During this time, he developed an appreciation for the logistics a home cook has to deal with. Carmellini noted he had cooked professionally for so many years with teams of people to perform all the tasks (prep work, chopping, cooking, cleaning), and ingredients are brought to him by various purveyors and delivery people. It almost became a revelation that home cooks have to do everything themselves. These recipes are the results of his home cooking endeavors. Italian cooking, NYC style, he says.
Like American Flavor, Urban Italian, there is a huge introductory chapter that is filled with crazy stories from his culinary education. It is an amusing and entertaining book for the stories alone. But that leads you right into a showcase of some amazing recipes.
All of the recipes are designed for the home kitchen. This is not to say that some of the recipes aren't a little involved and contain a number of steps (such as "My Grandmother's Ravioli"). But all of the recipes are very well explained, and the more involved ones often have the work spread out over a couple of days. There are some very classic Italian dishes, but also some creative interpretations of the classics.
I have made a number of his recipes, and a couple of them (such as the lamb ragu & chicken leg cacciatore) have become "go to" dishes in my culinary arsenal. For this challenge, I made a dish that I have prepared before, so I am not exactly breaking any new culinary ground. But it was so good that I wanted to do it again! I am talking about the "Prawns Wrapped In Pancetta and Sage."
It is really quite simple, and there are only a few ingredients. Take huge shrimp, sprinkle with cracked black pepper, apply a leaf of fresh sage, wrap in pancetta, broil a couple of minutes per side, drizzle with lemon, and eat them with a big 'ol smile on your face.
|Prawns Wrapped In Pancetta and Sage|
I keep coming back to Urban Italian. It is enjoyable just to read Carmellini's stories about picking porcini mushrooms in Europe, getting wine recommendations from the Italian police, and cooking for a guests at a disastrous fashion show. But the recipes are even more enjoyable. Honestly, when I first got the book, I listed out at least 15 dishes I wanted to make, and everything I have tried has been delicious and fun. That makes for a pretty inspirational cookbook.