lunedì 18 febbraio 2013

Pot roast (homage to Fibonacci)

To my friend Laura Tulimiero, author of the popular foodblog, Matematica e Cucina, belongs the credit — or maybe the blame — for inspiring me to write this blog. I wanted to dedicate a recipe to Laura. Knowing that she is a math teacher, I decided to make this homage to my namesake, Leonardo Fibonacci.

The Fibonacci Sequence is easy to obtain: if you add a number and the preceding number in the sequence, you obtain the following number.

0 + 1 = 1, 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 2 + 3 = 5, etc., therefore:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ad infinitum.

But the significance of the numbers is much more profound. One sees this sequence throughout nature — for example, the seashell:

1 fennel (if large, quartered; if small, halved), the fronds and most of the stalks removed
1 bottle (750 mL) Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, or another red wine appropriate for braising
2 large onions, quartered
3 lb pot roast
5 garlic cloves, whole
8 plum tomatoes (if fresh, quartered; if canned, halved)
13 baby carrots
21 g (c. 1.5 TB) freshly-ground black pepper
34 g (c. 2 TB) fresh thyme
55 g (c. 3 TB) homemade lard (or butter)

(How much salt? Search me. 233 grains? 377? 610?)


So, with all these ingredients there are two possibilities. There is always the classic preparation:
  • grease a large pan with lard
  • fry the onion and garlic, then remove them with a slotted spatula
  • rub the roast with salt and pepper, then brown it in the pan
  • remove the roast, deglaze the pan with a little wine
  • in a separate frying pan, brown the other vegetables
  • put all the ingredients into the large pan, including the rest of the wine
  • cook very slowly for 3 or 4 hours
But, for a teacher, already busy with school, family, and home, perhaps there is not time for all this rigmarole. For that reason, it is decided to do the second method.

For this you need a crockpot, an appliance that every busy person absolutely must own. Let me explain how it goes. The teacher wakes up in the morning. She goes in the freezer and takes out the frozen roast — frozen, like a boulder, like the Rock of Gibraltar. She put it into the crockpot. She adds the vegetables. She adds the bottle of Lacryma Christi. She puts the cover. She presses a button. And she leaves the house. At school she's not thinking about the crockpot, because it's simmering very slowly, and when the predetermined cooking time elapses, the crockpot automatically shuts off and goes to "warm." The teacher returns home in the evening, and now the Rock of Gibraltar is so soft that you don't even need a knife! The flavors of the stock are perfectly amalgamated; the taste of the wine does not stand out. And how much time did it take to prepare this majestic meal, before leaving for school? Five or ten minutes!
Now, what do you do with this stock?

You can purée the vegetables and the liquid in the blender, to make a thick gravy, Piemontese-style. But then you can't enjoy the whole vegetables, like the delicious fennel.

Another method: you can thicken the liquid with cornstarch or flour (or roux, but then you need more lard or butter). I don't do this method, either.

I save the remaining stock. The next day, I boil the stock and add a soup pasta (orzo, little shells, little stars, acini di pepe). If I have it, I add a few leaves of a green leafy vegetable (escarole, dandelion, chicory, spinach). A little pecorino or parmigiano, and buon appetito! I can't imagine a tastier or more satisfying first course.

Thank you, Laura, for your inspiration, and accept this token of my sincerest esteem and friendship.

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