Owners of small food businesses are struggling to find many reasons to be thankful — let alone to celebrate — during the coronavirus shutdown. But Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine can point to a bright spot already this spring, and there is another coming up this summer.
Earlier this month, Frasca was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant. And in July, Frasca’s first cookbook, “Friuli Food and Wine,” will debut on store bookshelves and via online retailers. The book’s release was postponed from last month.
Co-owner Bobby Stuckey knows that Frasca is fortunate.
“We’re going to reopen all four of our restaurants” (Frasca and Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, and Tavernetta and Sunday Vinyl in Denver), Stuckey told The Denver Post last week. “We are very lucky that we’re going to weather this storm,” he said, during a conversation that centered mostly on Italy, wine and recipes.
“I don’t want to be dramatic,” he said, “but if we don’t get a restaurant stabilization fund, there’s going to be one-third fewer restaurants in the U.S., and they’re not going to get replaced by someone else. It’s just a mere numbers deal.”
The timing of a national award nomination plus a cookbook publication at a time when many other restaurants won’t reopen is bittersweet, to say the least.
When Frasca opened in 2004, Stuckey writes in the book, it took a leap of faith just to move “to the culinary middle-of-nowhere in Colorado to open a restaurant where the food and wine would be inspired by the relative middle-of-nowhere Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy.”
The region lies to the northeast of Venice and shares a border with Slovenia and Austria, in addition to Italy. There, the Carnic Alps spill into the Adriatic Sea, and because of this unique location and landscape, the wine is so diverse and compelling, Stuckey says, and the food so surprising and yet still unknown to Americans, that they had to just “go straight into it.”
“I was so nervous because, when you think about it, when we were working on this (business) 17 years ago, there were no micro-regional restaurants out there, really,” he said. “To be, like, fully into Friuli was just wonky.”
Seventeen years later, Friuli is still largely unknown to Americans. “It is so non-touristy, it could go up 100% and you wouldn’t know,” Stuckey says. On a relatively recent visit during the peak summer travel season, he said “the only other Americans we saw were Kelly (Jeun) and Eduardo (Valle Lobo), our chefs now.”
Now, with Jeun and Valle Lobo running the kitchen (they’re currently offering weekly take-home meal kits), Frasca maintains its micro-regional focus. The cookbook features recipes from them as well as co-owner and founding chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, as well as the team’s befriended chefs in Italy and other cooks who have impacted Frasca’s kitchen along the way.
And it reads equal parts food, wine and travel. So its authors hope to transport you during this time — to a restaurant dining room, a less-touristed corner of Italy or, just generally, temporarily out of our current situation.
Here are a few recipes from the new cookbook, courtesy Frasca and Ten Speed Press.
Why haven’t we always paired wine with eggs?
or Frittata with Mountain Herbs; makes 6 servings
This recipe makes a great simple lunch or afternoon snack in Friuli. It’s so popular, in fact, that you’ll be able to pick up a packaged “frittata herb mix” at most any seller of fresh produce. Restaurants buy it, and you will even see the packets of dried herbs in farmers markets. The formula is simple: two eggs per person, whipped with a fork, and lots of minced fresh herbs.
12 eggs (two per person)
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chervil
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemon balm
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork until blended. Stir in the mint, parsley, chervil and lemon balm.
In a large, ovenproof nonstick pan over medium heat, warm the butter and olive oil. Pour in the egg-herb mixture and let the bottom set for 30 seconds. Then, with a nonstick spatula, spread the top of the mixture around until most of the egg feels set but the top is still wet, 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn out the frittata onto a plate, then slide it back into the pan, cooked-side up. Finish in the oven until the bottom of the frittata is completely set, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Your weeknight spaghetti wants this facelift — and your kids might thank you
or Spaghetti con Funghi al Cartoccio; makes 4 to 6 servings
Imagine a dish that arrives in a little parchment-wrapped package (known as a cartoccio, or cartouche) like a baked gift from the spaghetti gods. You open it up, and with the warm steam comes the scent of olive oil, parsley, white wine and wild mushrooms. Bam! That’s this dish right here. It’s very simple to make and is also a great way to get children to eat fungi.
1 pound dry spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound mixed fresh wild mushrooms, such as black trumpets or chanterelles, trimmed
2 small shallots, minced
fine sea salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for 2 minutes short of the timing for al dente on the package.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large sauté pan over high heat, warm the olive oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes. Push the mushrooms to the side of the pan, turn the heat to medium, add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes, seasoning with salt as you go. Stir the mushrooms into the shallots, add the wine and cook until it is almost completely absorbed, about 3 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock, turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer until the cooking juices reduce slightly, about 5 minutes.
Drain the undercooked pasta and stir it into the sauce, mix in the parsley, and then stir in the extra-virgin olive oil.
On a work surface, lay out one parchment square per person. Place one portion of pasta onto the center of each square. Moisten the edges of the parchment with water and fold up into a triangle shape, crimping along the edges to make a seal. Gently lift and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining squares.
Bake until the parchments puff up (from the steam inside), about 5 minutes. Use a large flat spatula to transfer each parcel to a plate. Serve immediately, letting your dinner guests open their own cartoccio!
New Zoom or IRL party trick: Chocolate Salami
Confectioners’ sugar gives it that aged meat look; makes two 7- to 8-inch “salami”
This dish was created by Frasca pastry chef Alberto Hernandez. It also happens to be one of the simplest dishes in the book. It’s a great end-of-meal nibble for a large group, or it could be the surprise hero at your next party. The quality of the chocolate is very important because the salami is all chocolate; look for chocolate wafers made by Callebaut or Valhrona. Make sure your hands are clean before rolling the logs in the powdered sugar, and let the salami come to room temperature before serving.
Note: Amaro Nonino Quintessentia is a digestive herbal liqueur made by the Nonino family in Friuli; they infuse their grappa with a blend of herbs, spices and roots, including gentian, saffron, licorice, rhubarb, sweet and bitter orange, tamarind, quassia bark, chinchona bark and galangal. You’ll find the amaro in all good liquor stores. Sicilian pistachios are smaller and sweeter than the ones that come from Iran, California, or Turkey. They are grown on the foothills of Mount Etna and are also known as Bronte pistachios. They can be purchased online.
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup shelled Sicilian pistachios
1 cup bittersweet chocolate fèves (discs or wafers)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Amaro Nonino
1/2 cup biscotti crumbs
finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
confectioners’ sugar for coating
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts and pistachios, taking care not to mix them together, on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 8 to 9 minutes. Skin the hazelnuts by putting them between two sheets of paper towel or a clean kitchen towel and rubbing vigorously. Pick out the hazelnuts from the dark flakes (it’s OK if some patches of dark skin remain).
In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water), regularly stir the chocolate until melted, about 2 minutes. Alternatively, microwave the chocolate in short 10- to 15-second bursts, stirring well after every burst, until completely melted. Set the melted chocolate aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, cream the butter and granulated sugar until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and continue to mix until incorporated. Then add the melted chocolate and amaro and mix well. Stop the mixer and, using a spatula, manually fold in the biscotti crumbs, orange zest, hazelnuts and pistachios.
Lay out two large squares of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the chocolate mixture into two equal parts. Place one half of the chocolate mixture in the middle of each square and, using a spatula, spread into an approximation of a log shape, 4 to 5 inches long. Pick up the plastic wrap at either end and use it and your hands to tighten and smooth the log into a nice even shape — the log should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 7 to 8 inches long. Twist each end, as you would a candy wrapper, to tighten. Repeat with the second half of the chocolate mixture. Transfer both logs to a small plate or tray and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
Pour confectioners’ sugar onto a large plate. Unwrap the chocolate logs and roll in the confectioners’ sugar to mimic the white edible mold on an aged salami. Shake off any excess sugar. If you’re feeling fancy, you can also tie up the salami in twine.
The salami will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 1 week. Make sure you let them come to room temperature before slicing and serving.
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