This March, we're taking you on a tour of the Old World, with a focus on how traditional European dishes are influencing modern cuisine.
Many credit chef Marco Canora of Hearth in NYC with the broth craze that hit the city in late 2014, but before Canora, there was Andrea Berton. The Milanese chef considers broth to be "the highest synthesis of each dish's main ingredient."
Berton had been toying with broth for years. He wondered how to take an item that's usually stuck in the kitchen, or used for slurping when one is sick, and thrust it into the spotlight. "The added value is to transform it into an interesting dish, something that creates curiosity," he says.
In 2013, when Berton opened his self-titled restaurant––that now has one Michelin star––in an emerging area of Milan called Porta Nuova, he included a nine-course broth tasting menu. Before you go thinking that this translates to nine bowls of clear liquid, think again. Imagine tiny raviolis filled with lobster, olive oil, garlic and chile pepper, alongside a clear glass mug of rich, pure lobster broth and, because pasta always needs a side of bread, a brioche stacked with chunks of lobster.
For a chef, Berton is tall. Six feet, four inches. But when he was smaller, he recalls joining his parents when they dined out in restaurants. "I usually placed myself in front of the kitchen doors looking at the food transformation happening inside. I was very charmed by this," he says.
In 1989, Berton began his culinary schooling at Marchesi, which the budding chef thought was the best restaurant in Milan. He wasn't alone; many consider its executive chef, Gualtiero Marchesi, to be one of the founders of modern Italian cuisine. Over the next decade, he bounced around Italy, learning new techniques and earning Michelin stars, including with Alain Ducasse at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, La Taverna in Colloredo di Monte and Ristorante Trussardi alla Scala in Milan.
It was on his daily commute that he spied a building going up in Porta Nuova. He knew instantly that it was where he wanted to open his flagship.
In Berton's 44-seat, ultra-modern restaurant, broth is the hero of the menu. Next to the dining room is Berton's stage, a spacious kitchen that you can peek into through glass walls that open and close. At the end of your meal, you'll be escorted into the pristine set, and the towering handsome chef will shake your hand, smile and give you one last morsel. As you drop the final bite into your mouth and walk away, you'll wonder how to create the same experience at home.
Here Are Broth Tips from the Master
Base ingredients: Always use high-quality ingredients, because your starting points––perfect veggies and pricey protein––will taste better and enhance the resulting flavor.
Flavor: For Berton and his team of 20 chefs, it's a continuous evolution. "We always test new broths with different ideas; there are seasonal broths and the chocolate broths made with water, which has the same color of the end product." Don't be afraid to try different ingredients. Your broths can be sweet or salty and have a base of vegetable, meat or fish.
Pasta: For pasta in brodo, you can simply add the broth at the end when your pasta is ready. Berton recommends using fish broth for pasta with seafood. His other tip: Use broth with smaller-size pasta.
Protein: Try serving a beef or fish broth in a glass cup alongside a savory course of meat. When you make fish broth, use fish heads and bones, and clean them very well. But make sure you don't use fish eyes, or your broth will be bitter. Use our recipe for fish and seaweed broth as your starting point.
Risotto: Making risotto with a homemade broth will exponentially change the flavor profile of your meal. When you start your risotto, the rice grains are small. When they begin absorbing the liquid, they swell and expand, and your end product is an al dente outer layer infused with your starting liquid. Try this one from Sean Brock.
Braising: Use good-quality broth as a braising liquid with your proteins instead of wine, beer or water. Don't be afraid to mix your meats: You can braise beef with chicken broth and lamb with beef broth. When making chicken broth, you want to cook it for at least six to seven hours and with your onions, Berton says, "Make sure to roast it before using it, so your broth will have a beautiful color."
Chocolate: To make Berton's chocolate broth, you'll need water, cocoa nibs, chocolate, gelatin and sugar. Boil together the water, sugar and cocoa nibs. Pour the prepared liquid onto the chocolate and then add the gelatin. Freeze and let it drain through gauze or a coffee filter over a glass bowl.
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