Italian Piadina with Ricotta, Prosciutto & Arugula Topping

According to the original recipe, in Romagna, in Northern Italy, piadine are often served with cured meats, greens and fresh cheeses that soften in the warmth of the freshly cooked bread. They are folded in half and eaten like a sandwich. This version is based on the classic presentation. Yum.

The recipe was adapted from MilkStreetTV.com, contributed by Erica Bruce. I bought lard for the first time in my life to make this flatbread! Christopher Kimball convinced me that lard was the secret to both the optimal texture and flavor in this wonderful bread. In the article, they found that when using lard “the piadine were tender with just the right chew and (had) a deeper, richer background flavor. (They) also tested vegetable shortening, which gave the same supple dough but lacked a bit of flavor. Lard was the clear winner.” The flatbread was perfect.

This special sandwich was a fabulous and fast summer dinner. We hope to try piadine with all sorts of other toppings in the near future. It was dangerously easy to make. 🙂

Yield: 4 flatbread sandwiches (4 servings)

For the Piadina:

  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 311 grams (2 cups) bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 63 grams (5 T or 1/3 cup) lard, at room temperature
  1. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup of the water and the yogurt.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process 5 seconds.
  3. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds.
  4. With the processor running, add the yogurt mixture.
  5. With the processor still running, add the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute. If the dough doesn’t ball up in the processor, gather it together and briefly knead it by hand.
  6. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. (I used a kitchen scale.)
  7. Roll each into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the topping.
  8. Using a rolling pin, form each dough ball into a 10-inch round. (The round will be approximately 1/16-inch thick.) Poke the surfaces all over with a fork.
  9. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes.
  10. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. (I cooked mine for a little less than 1 minute.)
  11. Using tongs, flip and cook for about 30 to 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat.

For the Topping:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon (about 1/2 tsp), or more, to taste
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices prosciutto, at room temperature
  • baby arugula (about 1 cup per person) (we also used baby spinach)
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, optional
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta and lemon zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice to the ricotta, or reserve to toss with the arugula (or spinach).
  2. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over half of each piadina, then top with 2 slices of prosciutto.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the lemon juice (if not in the ricotta mixture) and a pinch of salt. Mound on top of the prosciutto.
  4. Drizzle with oil, if desired, and fold. (I omitted the oil.)

Fried Chicken with Biscuits & Tomato Gravy

Like my last post, this special and indulgent feast was also included in Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best-Ever Recipes” issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of their publication. I made it for the second year in a row to celebrate my husband’s birthday! 🙂

The recipes were adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock, the then chef at Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and co-author Edna Lewis, the legendary Southern cook, his mentor and close friend. I modified the cooking techniques and substituted sunflower oil for lard. Last year, I made Lewis’ wonderful biscuits from this full menu, but, this year I served the chicken and gravy with sourdough biscuits.

The chicken is double-brined, first in salt water and then in buttermilk, and then fried in a cast iron skillet filled with oil (or lard), butter, and bacon fat. It was very tender and juicy. The creamy and rich gravy is reminiscent of Italian vodka sauce. Pretty delicious. 😉

We ate the chicken, gravy, and biscuits with macaroni and cheese (my favorite version), and iceberg wedge salad on the side. My husband’s birthday meal is not complete without his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. ❤

For the Fried Chicken & Tomato Gravy:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • One 3 1/2 to 5 pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces (I cut each chicken breast in half)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 oz, 180.7g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch (optional) (I included it)
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lard or solid vegetable shortening, for frying (I substituted 2 cups of sunflower oil)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon (I used 4 thick slices)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups drained canned diced tomatoes (from three 14-ounce cans)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

To Make the Fried Chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the kosher salt in the cold water. Add the chicken pieces; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain.
  2. Put the chicken in a large bowl, add the buttermilk and turn the pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. (The chicken can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired.)
  3. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, potato starch, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and shake.
  4. Set aside 1/2 cup of the flour mixture for the gravy.
  5. Lift the chicken out of the buttermilk, wipe off any excess and set the pieces on a wire rack; let dry for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, to the flour mixture in the bag; shake to coat.
  7. Dry the rack. Shake off any excess flour and return the chicken to the rack.
  8. Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, melt the lard (I used sunflower oil) and butter over medium heat. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  9. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes; reserve the bacon for another use. (I crumbled the bacon over our wedge salads.)
  10. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook over moderate heat, basting and turning, until golden, crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Lower the heat if necessary. (I kept the cooking oil temperature between 300 and 340 degrees. I also completed cooking the larger pieces (especially the breast pieces) in the oven at 300 degrees, until they reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
  11. Set the chicken on a clean wire rack to drain.

To Make the Gravy:

  1. Transfer 1/4 cup of the chicken cooking fat to a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. (I chopped the onion and garlic in a food processor.)
  3. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of seasoned flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the drained tomatoes and thyme and stir constantly until blended.
  5. Whisk in the cream and milk until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes.
To Serve:
  1. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter.
  2. Pour the tomato gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

For the Biscuits:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder or double-acting baking powder (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces (I used bacon fat)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times.
  6. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet.
  8. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
  9. Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter.
  10. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.

Note: The unbaked biscuits can be frozen in a single layer, then kept frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

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