16 September 2012

Can a Canadian Gal Become Italian with Frico Caldo

Bellini's Frico Caldo

Growing up in Southern Ontario in an area founded by Scots and Brits I grew up in a rather eclectic neighbourhood with diverse cultures and influences. Our neighbourhood reflected a small slice of the melting pot that we call Canada where this British gal's senses were awakened and I learned to be accepting of all food cultures. The question is, as I dream of a sojourn to Italy in the fall, I wonder if I could ever truly be Italian; live and breathe as an Italian, think like an Italian, live in the moment "vivi il presenti?" Of course, I tell myself, I can have all the joy in the world trying. Read on for 10 reasons I think I could become Italian, and the one reason I may not want to.

10 Reasons Why I Think I Could Become Italian

1) I sometimes find myself talking with my hands to get my point across; although rude gestures I may make in the heat of the moment may be underappreciated. Italians describe emotion, camaraderie, the shared-game-of-life with their hands.  It is as though their hands are directly connected to their minds. Since I speak very little Italian hand gestures may become necessary when travelling.

2) My name Valerie ends in a vowel just like Maria, Vinzenzio, Salvatore and Camilla. Check. 

3) I enjoy watching soccer... er...umm... football. Check.

4)  I had Italian friends as a teenager and frequented the Italian Club (although I could also be found at the Portuguese Club, "Newfie" Club and Polish Club). Check. 

5) I love gelato, pasta, Napoli-style pizza, and seafood, and tomato should be my middle name. Check. 

6) I worked in a pizzeria owned by Italian friends. Check. 

7) I am not obsessed with designer clothing, hats or handbags, although I have longed for a silky, smooth Italian leather jacket. Considering the cost, perhaps a change purse will do. Double check.

8) I cook with wine and sometimes it even goes into the dish I am preparing. Even if this post is not to be taken seriously, I am a dedicated cook who would gladly feed an army of friends, family and even strangers. Mangia! Mangia! Check.

9) I love a good market, it is a meeting place and a hub of activity. Check.

10) I love history, art and Andrea Bocelli, Il Divo and Il Volo.

But, here comes the hitch. Of all the stereotypical Italian dishes that come to mind I have rarely seen a potato among them. My love for potatoes is legendary, at least here on More Than Burnt Toast. Could I live a life without  potatoes in my every day living? Of course there is potato in one of my favourites gnocchi dishes but can I live without my tuber for breakfast, lunch and dinner?  Then along comes frico caldo which has me truly believing that YES I can become an Italian and embrace it with gusto! If I had the opportunity to relish in the flavours of frico caldo every day I could enjoy being Italian, even if it is only for 4 weeks! Mi sono innamorata (I am in love) !!! Frico caldo are Italian cheese crisps, in this case made a little thicker with potato. This recipe is based on several recipes from the famed Frasco in Denver, Colorado and Bon Appetit's Chef Patterson. The entire dish needs to be assembled while the potato is still hot so that the cheese will melt and blend in with the remainder of the ingredients.  This recipe uses montasio cheese which is made from cows milk and produced in the Fruili and Veneto regions of northeastern Italy. If not available try for Piave or vecchio from the same region. In a pinch parmigiano reggiano could also be substituted.  Si vive come un italiano (live like an Italian)!!

**Bellini's Frico Caldo**

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 cups Piave or aged montasio, finely grated
Pinch of salt
Grated nutmeg to taste
4 pieces sliced prosciutto
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a cast iron frying pan sauté chopped onions in 1 teaspoon olive oil for 4 minutes until translucent and sweet. In the meantime in a heavy saucepan place Yukon gold potatoes with salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until fork tender about 15 - 20 minutes. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Using large wooden spoon, break up potatoes into roughly 1/4-inch pieces and add onion. Add cheese, salt, and nutmeg and stir until just combined. Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Be sure not to over mix.

Heat oil in a cast iron/Teflon pan on moderate heat. Add potato mixture and flatten into 1/2-inch-thick, 7-inch-wide cake, rounding edges with spatula. Cook, without moving, until underside is browned, about 8 minutes. Invert large plate over skillet and flip frico onto plate. Slide frico back into skillet, uncooked side down, and cook until underside is golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Mix the components of the pesto vinegar together. Cut the Frico into wedges and serve with the pesto vinegraitte. With each slice of Frico, serve one piece of sliced prosciutto.

**Pesto Shallot Vinaigrette**

from Bon Appetit

3 medium shallots, finely chopped
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons purchased basil pesto
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from 1/2 medium lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

In small container, combine shallots and vinegar. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.  In fine-mesh sieve, drain pickled shallots, discarding all but 1 tablespoon of the liquid. Transfer shallots to medium bowl and whisk in pesto, leftover vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in grapeseed oil, then olive oil. Set aside. 

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. Bellini sounds pretty Italian:) You cracked me up w/ the Valerie..This looks scrumptious..And yes..you will adore Italy..Italie..Italia:)

  2. These are adorable and I would happily become Italian to have a couple.

  3. What a beautiful dish! Scrumptious.



  4. Looks amazing!!!!

    Now about those potatoes - I've yet to have a main course in Italy without some sort of grilled, roasted, or fried potato to accompany it. I think you'll be just fine. ;-0

  5. Then I really can be Italian Jerry!!!!!!

  6. Yum, this sounds delightful!You crack me up about the potatoes but I totally agree with you at the same time!

  7. Oh you make me laugh, Val! :-) I'm a potato girl too - through and through!! - I think we could make our own Italy. Complete with Italianized potatoey things to make our hearts happy. :-)

  8. You will love Italy, Val. Can't wait for your stories when you return home. This dish has it all and sounds delicious.

  9. Ohhhhh!! This looks DIVINE!!! :-)

  10. I think I could be Italian. I've got the cooking for an army part and warm hospitality down!

  11. Good traits to have That Girl!!! We can both be pseudo-Italians.

  12. Just change the name to Valeria and you're golden.

    One thing I remember from my trip to Italy last year was that we often had the most amazingly crispy fried potatoes. I could not replicate them no matter how hard I tried.

    Good thing I don't have to go to Italy for this dish though. Hopefully mine can look as good as yours.

  13. I am convinced that food helps your genetics to become Italian! This is a beauty - I've never seen anything like it and will be making it. Potatoes comfort. Period.

  14. Oh my goodness, I hadn't thought about potatoes when thinking Italian food. I must pull out all of my Marcella Hazan cookbooks and look up potato dishes.

    Love your "list"!


  15. Ciao, bella :-). These sound scrumptious and well worth the effort to make. I have no doubt you'll fit right into Italy. My fear is we may never get you back. Have a wonderful day, Val. Blessings...Mary

  16. You are going to be the most informed and prepared traveler Italy has ever seen! I am so excited for you! This dish is one I have never heard of and looks amazingly scrumptious! When do you leave? It must be soon, now!!!

  17. you're a hoot and a half, val--that's a great list, and the recipes you've provided ain't too shabby either. :)

  18. Hi - Thanks for recommending a pan with Teflon® nonstick coating for your Bellini’s Frico Caldo recipe. I represent DuPont and it's always a pleasure to see people recommending our products.

    If you are interested in some recipes to look at for your cookware with Teflon® nonstick coatings, visit http://www.scribd.com/TeflonBrand! Thanks. Cheers, Sara

  19. Funny lady! The Frico Caldo looks AMAZING!

  20. Looks delicious and yes you can be Italian. My husband decided he wanted to be and his last name is Roberts. Italy just did him in.

  21. I think that you are officially Italian. The caldo frisco looks to die for! I wish I could just grab it off of the computer screen.

  22. Fun post, Val! I smiled all the way through your list. :)
    And still smiling after seeing your Frico Caldo. Delizioso!

  23. Great post, so Italian to me. Looks yummy that dish!

  24. Great list and I think you are already Italian :) I love Italian food and could easily eat my way through Italy. This dish sounds wonderful! How exciting about your trip.

  25. Val, all along I THOUGHT you were Italian, with your nick name of "bellini"! Funny thing, I'm 100% Italian American and married a Scots-Irish man (men, rather), and never lived around any Italians other than my small family that immigrated here. But many of the other points that you touched, I share. Except I do LOVE clothes and made my career in fashion prior to education.

    Leaving for Italy in 14 days and I am beside myself with excitement!

    I hope you follow my posts while I am there!


  26. Oh PS, Val,

    You need to try traditional gnocchi which are made of potatoes and if you ever had my family's Italian roasted potatoes and our Italian stew (with potatoes) you would think you'd have died and gone to heaven. Italians adore potatoes!


  27. Looks soo fabulous Val! I want to poke a fork through the monitor screen for a taste.. Nicely done!! xo

  28. I am catching up and when I read this post I started to laught because I was just thinking that the Italian side of me came out today when I made the best meatballs ever and did not write the recipe down..I just added this and that.

    I too love my potatoes and married to an Irish man you know its a staple at home. Great post...


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