Goodbye, Sardinia – Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga

Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga-2446

Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga is not a traditional Sardinian delicacy.  Bottarga and celery, yes; chicken wings, ah no.  This dish is, in fact, the love child of two different desires, Jody’s yearning for wings and my own wish to do another Sardinian recipe before I throw in the towel, tuck my shorts away in my Camp Grenada footlocker.  Sardinian wings were the result, and just in time.  A couple of days of freezing rain have stripped more than a few trees in our neighborhood of their autumn raiment; limbs are skeletal,not festive and the uncleared sidewalks resemble the killing floor in a chlorophyll slaughterhouse.  And it got cold, provoking someone in our house to violated the First Law of Yankee-dom: No one shall touch the thermostat until November 1st.  The one good thing about cold weather is that it means a new harvest of bottarga will be soon at hand.  And with this wings recipe in hand, when this season’s bottarga becomes available in mid-to-late November or early December, you’ll be primed.  While everyone else is still fumbling with their laces you’ll be burning down the track, chicken wings and celery bundled under your arm.  Nyah-nyah-nuh-nyah-yah.  And how did we make this recipe if bottarga won’t be available for another month?  Easy, we whittled down our own two-year-old chunk of umami ambergris that has been cooling its eggs in our fridge.  No lie – I ordered it online at the end of 2012.  When was the last time you consumed something from your fridge that was two years old?  Still as potently delicious as the day we bought it.  With chicken wings and celery it was a ménage à trois made in heaven.  After Jody left at the conclusion of our cooking and shooting session, I was the only one home, not counting the Lagunitas IPA’s in the fridge.  The next morning there were no wings to be found.  Draw your own conclusions.

RICOTTA, CINNAMON, HONEY, ORANGE

Ricotta Cinnamon Honey Orange-1163-2

After a week of biking through Sardinia with Ciclismo Classico, I have to say the island resists being pinned down.  Rural Sardinia puts on a deceptively simple face – sleepy villages, delicious basic cuisine, agriculture based around sheep, friendly people.  But once you start to look closely things don’t appear quite Italian.  The ghost of one culture appears and lingers just long enough for a sense of certainty to develop – oh, Sardinia is really Spanish – when it disappears, replaced by a different revenant – oh, no, it really is Italian… or Phoenician, or Roman or Greek.  Signage often appears in multiple languages–Italian, variants of Sardu, the Sardinian language, and sometimes another local language, like the Catalan dialect spoken in one part of the island. Welcome signs outside of villages typically greet visitors in French, German and English, as well as Italian and Sardu. Sometimes all you can do is take experience in, ask questions, and hope you get back.  It’s unusual for Jody and me to encounter so many new culinary treats in one place. Local ingredients we thought we knew were often combined in unexpected ways. Like this dessert of Ricotta, Cinnamon, Honey and Orange, a dish we enjoyed at Trattoria da Riccardo, a Magomadas restaurant owned by the cyclist/chef Riccardo Cadoni and his family.  It’s so good, so simple, that unless you roll with a much more travelled cabal of culinary sophisticates than I do, it will be a delightful surprise to whomever you serve it.  You can pretty much do everything at table.  Simple, delicious, and a bit surprising, a description that might sum up Sardinia itself.  Enjoy.  Ken