Cooking With Top Chef Fabio Viviani
What do you get when you combine a suave Italian chef and a bumbling editor who doesn't know the difference between risotto and Rice-A-Roni? Click above and see for yourself.
I recently had the good fortune of getting a private cooking lesson from Top Chef Season 5 finalist Fabio Viviani. After his successful stint on Bravo, the Florentine charmer published a cookbook called Café Firenze, named for his popular restaurant in Moorpark, California. Fabio was kind enough to create a few simple dishes just for us and, amazingly, he didn't even flinch when we asked him to teach yours truly, a kitchen nitwit, how to make them. On camera. We're lucky the whole place didn't catch fire.
After cooking, Fabio's best pal and business partner, Jacopo Falleni, made a fabulous summertime drink he calls "Tranquility" (see page 107 in the book for details). Now, this was one lesson I could really get behind.
Although it wasn't easy to keep my composure with these Italian stallions around, I managed to remain vertical for much of the time. Check out the fabulous recipes after the jump.
Seared Tuna with Caramelized Fennel and Salsa Verde
2 tablespoons butter
3 whole fennel bulbs, cut in half and sliced very thin
1 lb sushi-grade tuna loin
¼ cup capers, no need to rinse
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 lemons, juiced
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces parsley, roughly chopped
3 slices white crustless bread, torn into pieces
In a 10-inch fry pan, melt butter on high heat. Add the fennel, season with salt and pepper, and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, or caramelized, 5 minutes on medium heat. Remove from heat. In another frying pan, warm 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, and then sear the tuna on high heat until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. (Note: You want only the edges to be cooked; the center should be pink, almost still raw). Remove tuna from the heat, place on a cutting board, and let rest for 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend all of the other ingredients, except the bread, in a food processor to make a salsa verde. Add the bread pieces, thinning the mixture with more olive oil if necessary. Then thinly slice the tuna for serving.
To plate, spread all salsa verde on the bottom of a large dish platter, fan the seared tuna on it, and top with the caramelized fennel. Sprinkle some parsley and serve.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus with Brown Butter Sage and Shaved Parmesan
24 pieces of asparagus, bottom ends slightly peeled
8 slices prosciutto
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups whole fresh sage leaves
8 ounces shaved Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus, cooking for about 2 minutes. Remove and immediately submerge in ice-cold water to stop from cooking. Pat dry.
Wrap four pieces of asparagus with one slice of prosciutto. Continue to do this until all the asparagus are wrapped. Then arrange them on a plate.
In a saute pan, cook the sage and butter until butter is golden brown (not burnt). Drizzle the asparagus with butter/sage sauce and then top with shaved Parmesan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.