The Best Revenge, Episode 5: Spaghetti All’ Amatriciana

Dr. Fleming and Chef Garret discuss this Italian classic and how it can be adapted to American ingredients.

Please send in questions and reports of the results when you try your hand.


Original Air Date: October 22, 2016
Show Run Time: 43 minutes
Show Guest(s): Chef Garret Fleming
Show Host(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming

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The Best Revenge℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2016. All rights are reserved and any duplication without explicit written permission is forbidden.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Vince Cornell says:

    This was fun to listen to, although y’all are going to need to be a little more accommodating for folks like me who barely have enough skills to warm up canned soup or open a sardine tin.

    A few questions, if you don’t mind.

    1. – Is there a Carbonara recipe in particular you would recommend? For Easter we’ve been having Carbonara, but I know it’s an Americanized recipe as it stoops to using cream (something I’ve been told off for by an Italian acquaintance).

    2. – Is there something you recommend for beginner cooks to get the basics? A book, or YouTube channel, or web site?

    3. – Will there be an episode on wine pairing? I know that it exists as a concept, but apart from red usually goes with red meat and white usually goes with fish I don’t know that I have much knowledge in that arena. Can getting the wine pairing wrong actually impair a meal?

    Now for an unrelated anecdote: Back when I was growing up we used to watch the Japanese cooking show “The Iron Chef” which had challengers face off against one of the Iron Chefs to cook a full dinner based on a revealed secret ingredient in an hour’s time. I remember the show being enormously entertaining because the Japanese cooks and commentators were taking it so absolutely seriously. Some of the dishes did come off looking spectacular, and the panel of judges was always fascinating (it usually consisted of random Japanese celebrities – what their culinary qualifications were I couldn’t say).

    At one point, my father, brother, and I challenged my Mom to an Iron Chef battle. We used the kitchen in the little apartment over the garage, and she had the main kitchen to herself. My wife picked carrots as the secret ingredient, and we had to prepare as many dishes as possible. We won, but only because we cheated and looked up recipes on the internet (which many still didn’t come off that well. About our carrot salad one judge said, “It tastes like someone shoved a lot of carrots in the garbage disposal and then put it on a plate”), and also because we bribed one of the judges. My mom took it in stride, though, thanks to her having been sampling the wine while she was cooking.

  2. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Carbonara is a very simple dish, though a bit tricker and less forgiving in the execution. It has similar ingredients to L’Amatriciana, except for substituting eggs for tomato, so the same stipulations on using guanciale or hog jowls or bacon. Pecorino of some sort will always work better than parmigiana. Follow any good Italian recipe that is not innovative. Sautee the guanciale (about a quarter pound) or good bacon (not one that is highly flavored) cut into thin strips or small cubes until fat is getting transparent and SLIGHTLY crispy. Take off heat and allow to cool off. In a bowl mix in 4 egg yolks and one egg with somewhat less cheese than bacon (say three oz.) until you have a homogeneous mixture, then add in cooked cooled guanciale and fresh ground pepper (don’t be shy about the pepper). When spaghetti is cooked, take off heat and drain quickly but do not rinse and add while hot to the mixing bowl and stir until it is gooey. You don’t (or at least I don’t) want it either cooked or runny. That is the tricky part.

    As for learning to cook, I started with Fanny Farmer and the Joy of Cooking (old editions). Get the basics down. Poaching, sautéing, deep frying, grilling. For more advanced technique, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking is an introduction for ignoramuses.

    As for wine pairing, I hate the phrase and I hate everything pretentious in the food world. Obviously, the heavier the meat, the heavier the wine and vice versa. Don’t even think about reading The Wine Spectator–to which I keep on getting free six month subscriptions because I order a lot of wine. Sometimes you have to make do. Driving around the Balkans with Trifkovic and a Brit former Royal Marine officer/ EU observer turned wine importer, I kept on ordering white wine with my trout, always against the Brit’s advice–white wine is harder to make consistently. After one glass I always switched to Vranac with my fish and I learned to like it. James Bond would be horrified and I’d get shot. There are areas of legitimate disagreement. My wife prefers white wine with roast chicken. This is more or less wrong, but with a robust white, it tastes good to me. Just don’t get tricked into being a wine snob or, worst of all, a “foodie.”

  3. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    And yes, absolutely no cream. It is the mark of a rotten American restaurant but it makes it easier for them. If you want to make fettuccine Alfredo, make it and don’t confuse the two dishes.

    For Carbonara, check out this usually excellent website: http://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Spaghetti-alla-Carbonara.html. It is in Italian but use a translator program or look the words up. Never pick up random recipes off the web. I don’t know where they find the chumps for All Recipes, much less anything on About.com, but to me they seem like trolls out to trick the unwary.

    A good subject for discussion is Italian cookbooks for Americans. Decades ago, there was a nice little book called “The Little Italian Cookbook,” completely bonehead but pretty authentic. I am very fond of the Florentine snob Garret quoted on the show, Luciano Bugialli, not a chef but a great lover of Tuscan food. His classic Italian Cooking is really Florentine cooking, but it is great, as is his book on pasta. The king or rather queen of Italian cookery books is Ada Boni. Her masterpiece, Il Talismano della Felicita (Talisman of Happiness) does not exist in English, though some part were issued years ago, I am told. I don’t know if her book on Roman cooking has been translated, but she has a wonderful picture book with very authentic recipes, called Regional Italian Cooking. She was not a chef nor was she a snob. She wanted to help middle class Italian housewives, who were less and less likely to afford a cook, how to feed their families beautifully. Marcella Hazan is generally good, but she is sometimes too eager for novelty. We’ll spend a lot more time on this topic as the months go by.

    Finally, I should say I am not only not a chef nor even one of the best cooks in my family. I learned to cooks some simple things from my mother, cooked a bit but not well in graduate school, and have been fooling around in the kitchen, partly to help out and partly to escape from doing nothing but read and write all day. My wife and two of the children cook better than I ever will, though in Garret’s case, comparisons are a bit unfair. Of course, once your wife figures out you can cook reasonably well, you are in for a lifetime of of being exploited. Mine insists she does not know how to use the coffee machine or make eggs. On the other hand, I don’t know many women who can scramble or fry eggs properly.

  4. Avatar Vince Cornell says:

    Thank you, Dr. Fleming! And I promise to not become a wine snob.

    May I ask one more question of the Chef’s Father? Do you have an opinion on Sous Vide? I hadn’t heard of it until fairly recently, but it seems like some sort of cheater’s way to cook food. Cooking a steak in a warm water bath sounds like the exact opposite of how one should cook a steak, but I defer to the experts.

  5. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    It is an old technique similar to the food baggies of 50 years ago. I wouldn’t even waste time on trying it on a steak but as a means of reheating a sauce or vegetables or a braise, it works extremely well when I have tried it. Think of it as a much better alternative to a microwave oven, whose only use I have been able to discover is to heat a coffee cup on a cold morning.