Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Porchetta Pork Out

On a recent trip to Nice I was struck  by the Italian influence on local food. There are shops solely dedicated to selling handmade pasta. Or market stalls just selling tomatoes in various degrees of sun-induced dryness.  Pizza and its variants is everywhere and not just in restaurants; it is quintessential street food, as in Italy, and I saw people eating triangles of it whilst walking around, browsing in the markets, or sitting down at improvised little temporary, outdoor, snack bars.  The French are normally a bit more formal and parochial in their eating habits (I pretend the only people patronising all those McDonald's are foreign tourists) and I found this approach refreshing.

But having explored the town including its most magnificent square, named after Garibaldi who was a local, I recalled that Nice and its surrounding province was only incorporated into the French Republic in 1860 when Italy was unified.  Before that, Nice was part of the kingdom of Savoy which included Turin.  And much of the pizza I saw being eaten was actually pissaladière, a Provençal variant of the Neapolitan dish.
On further exploration I learned that gnocchi are actually Niçois and often accompany daube de boeuf, a Provençal take on boeuf bourguignonne.  Which is great because one has an excuse to sprinkle grated Parmesan all over one's plate.                                       
Much as the French love charcuterie they are rivalled, if not beaten, by the Italians with their vast range of salume.  In the narrow alleys of le vieux Nice I came across this glass cabinet containing two whole pigs bearing the label porchetta.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  The pigs had been completly boned out (save the head), then restuffed with meat, offal (including plenty of tripe) and herbs.  It was being sold as a kind of terrine.  But unlike many terrines, you could actually see the constituent parts.           Back at home for dinner, the herbs turned out to be (wild) fennel and the whole thing was highly seasoned, and dryish and crumbly rather than moist and fatty.  Delicious.  I often serve white wine with pork terrines, patés and rillettes (demi-sec Vouvray is good) but here a robust albeit rustic red was in order and we sunk a bottle of Côtes du Rhône.  A Barbera or Bardolino would have been more appropriate, I guess, but you can't expect the French to sell Italian wine, can you?  Even if they are Nice French.


  1. That porcetta looks fantastic!

  2. Is there any a finer dinner than a slice of terrine, some good bread and pickles?

    I think I dribbled on my keyboard.