Last night I competed on Chopped, on Food Network, and guess what, I won.
I dreamed to be on Chopped since the time I decided to take a crazy leap, change my career, my life, and enroll at Cordon Bleu. I should leap more often, because I enjoyed every stressful second of it. The second I walked in to the Chopped Kitchen, the second I heard Mr. Ted Allen announced my name, the second I saw judges Maneet Chauhan, Marc Murphy, Chris Santos glare at me, the second I opened my first mystery basket. Then It’s all a blur. heart pumping, adrenaline going, knives action packed hour. And I won. Thank God! because the smile on my children face when I told them I actually won, was worth every heart pounding moment.
By the way if you had not noticed, it’s April 1st today, and wouldn’t you know it, the pantry in the Chopped kitchen was chock full of pranks and the ingredients in the mystery baskets were in disguise; but after enduring April Fools’ Day pranks, a mystery basket of duplicitous ingredients, and a grueling twelve hours of competition against younger, up-and-coming chefs from the hot culinary scene in Charleston, South Carolina, I think I impressed the judges with my dessert, sweet canederli.
I LOVE CANEDERLI! Canederli are bread dumplings, a regional specialty of northeast Italy where they are served as a first course or dessert. Considered part of ‘cucina povera’, they are made of simple and inexpensive ingredients including stale bread moistened with milk or cheese bound with eggs and a small amount of flour. They are not very known here in the US. But I grew up eating them. It’s a dish that comes from the north and the mountains of Italy, like me. They are a tasty treat, that exemplifies my love for “chic and simple comfort” cuisine. A style rooted in making beautiful food to share with loved ones.
The sweet Canederli I made on Chopped, are based on my very simple but elegant recipe: Balsamic Strawberry Soup and Sweet Canaderli. It’s a very easy recipe and it’s a great dessert to end a meal. I always shape the canederli in advance, but poach them at the last moment. The aroma of the cinnamon, cardamon, clove and lemon fills my kitchen, reminding me of my precious times spent back home, exploring my loved Alps and Dolomites, with my family.
Savory Canederli are even more popular than sweet one. Some of my favorite are the ricotta canederli and speck, and the semolina ones. Ricotta canederli are lush, soft and delicious, when drowsed in brown butter.
The speck and semolina’s are packed with flavor, saltiness and restoratives qualities, thanks to warm, rich broth they float in.
To make Canederli, you use what you have in your pantry, stale bread from the day before, a little semolina, flour or even old mashed potatoes. They are a great way to repurpose left overs. They are not hard to make, you just have to learn to shape them, it’s like making meatballs, fun for all.
I’m posting the recipes below. I hope you try to make them, perhaps you can then imagine you are in the Dolomites, rent the 1962 original “Pink Panther”, or Roger Moore’s “For your Eyes Only and make a movie night of it.
Me, I’m going to celebrate my victory tonight, with a big bowl of canederli and my grinning kids and husband.