Having accepted the invitation we received from the Lorenzo de’ Medici (LdM) cooking school in Florence, at 1:00 pm on a Friday, I headed to the upper floor of the Mercato Centrale to take part in its “A pranzo con lo Chef” [Lunch with the chef] class.
We went into the kitchen where the courses are held at 16 stations for students and the chef behind the big counter in front. A video camera positioned above the counter records each step for making each recipe. The images are projected on a large screen at the same time as on the tablets at each station. This lets all aspiring chefs follow each and every step of dishes’ preparation!
We got settled at the station set up right next to where today’s chefs, Giulio and Alessandro, would cook a risotto with shellfish and candied lemon and a yogurt cream with barley malt and ginger. And the cooking demonstration began!
Giulio told us how to clean the fish and use the heads and shells of the shellfish, mixed with celery, carrots and onion, to flavor the broth in which to cook the rice. Meanwhile, he told us some interesting facts. Where does the name “risotto” come from? From the Italian words for rice (“riso”) and eight (“otto”), in reference to the figure eight drawn on the bottom of the pan while toasting the rice. He taught us to use our senses to see if the rice is well toasted and its time to add liquid. Touch it to feel if the rice is hot, listen until you hear the “sound of breaking glass,” and looking to see if the edge of the rice grain has become transparent.
While the rice was cooking, we moved on to making the dessert.
Starting with the ginger part of his recipe, Alessandro talked about how important spices are for a healthier diet; for example, curry and tumeric can help us cut down on salt. And for desserts barley malt or honey can replace sugar. A few simple steps and our dessert went in the fridge to chill before being served!
The rice was almost done and the risotto was finished up by creaming it — of course, far from the heat. Giulio added shellfish, the candied lemon, parsley and Parmesan cheese — which contrary to popular belief — boosts the flavor of even fish-based risotto. And this is what we got!
We tasted it paired with a nice glass of wine. Alessandro explained how desserts should complete a meal without weighing us down and should balance with the flavors that came before. His yogurt cream was fresh and delicate, ending our lunching with a note that was both simple and special.
For those interested, classes with chefs are available for dinner too every weekend starting from €38.00 a person. LdM also organizes private, theme-based and customized cooking classes. For all of you who loves food and Italian cuisine!
Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici
Mercato Centrale (upper floor) – Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Florence
334.3040551 – firstname.lastname@example.org
English translation by Miriam Hurley