Moving American style cooking skills and kitchen appliances from the United States to Northern Italy is not easy. Falling in love with Italy is easy; booking a flight, packing suitcases, checking in and entering the plane… no big deal. Arriving to destination, looking around, site seeing, eating good food, drinking local wine can be inebriating, especially if you have friends who take you here and there. The architecture, the ancient monuments, the fashion offerings in the large and small shops and stores, and the cultural life options are indeed great. However, the power plugs and sockets, the difference in voltage, the gadgets and converters necessary to connect to the primary power supply in a building with appliances and devices which come from USA can be a challenge. Take the power plugs…one used in Italy called SCHUKO which means Schutzkontakt (transl. safety contact); two Italian plugs which have either two or three pins and finally another German with three pins which all work in different sockets grounded or un-grounded…
Electric current in Italy (220 volt) is different (higher) than in USA (110 volt); frequency of its supply is also different: 50 cycles per second in Italy and 60 cycles per second of the United States; Italian sockets can be either F or L.
If you can leave American household and kitchen appliances at home, do so; if you must take them, I suggest you consider taking with you a converter which will allow you to operate in Italy your American made electric mixers, blenders, steamers, grinding mills etc. and 1 thermometer which has Celsius and Fahrenheit signs as well as a scale that can be switched from ounces to grams and viceversa.
Let’s comment on ovens in Italy. They are usually narrower than those installed in the standard American home; usually 60 centimeters wide. Self cleaning programs are not a given thing when you buy an oven and if you wish to have them in place you will pay more for the oven. Temperatures are measured in Celsius and not in Fahrenheit and your standard cookie sheets often are too wide for the Italian oven as well as the large Dutch ovens which take up a lot of space. Ovens that are wider and larger are available but cost more than those standard installed in rental apartments. For those cooks who have chosen to stay longer and set up an Italian kitchen and who are a chicken on the spit fan there are also great ovens with an internal spit rotisserie option called girarrosto.
For U.S.A. North American cooking based on American recipes and American cookbooks be ready to convert temperatures by accessing the internet or by calculating it using a mathematical formula.
How do I convert Celsius temperature measurements into Fahrenheit?
Double the Celsius amount and subtract from it 10%; then add 32 degrees.
Example: 225 Celsius = 450 – 45 = 405 + 32 = approx. 435 Fahrenheit
one American cup equals 0.23 l liquid that is a little less than 1/4 of a liter
one Tablespoon (Tbsp) equals 15.0 ml
one teaspoon (tsp) equals 5.0 ml
one half (1/2 tsp) teaspoon equals 2.5 ml
one quarter (1/4 tsp) teaspoon equals 1.25 ml
Also microwave ovens are smaller than their American counterparts in Italy; usually they have a grilling device installed high above the inside turning plate. If wanting to save some money is a goal and keeping in mind that standard ovens in Italy have grilling devices, you might want to consider a microwave without a grilling device which would be deeper and larger internally.
For microwave suitable containers which can function instead of pots and pans, on the Italian market, there are great options and especially those of the series SISTEMA imported from New Zealand. Bright red these come for diverse uses; among my favorites are: the food vegetable steamer and the rice steamer, imported to Bassano del Grappa near Vicenza by a company called Pengo SpA.
With the access to the internet and a global international market, many more American ingredients are available in Northern Italian supermarkets and open air markets for those who wish to cook the American way. However, cuts of meat are different and certain ingredients are more difficult to find than others.
Take certain chili peppers for example, or certain cheeses, or chili kits for preparing the beloved American chili dish; they are a little bit difficult to find. However, if you are ready to be creative and adapt to substituting certain American ingredients with others, cooking throughout Northern Italy will reward you with great dishes and wonderful flavors which you will want to keep when you return to the United States.
HOW TO PREPARE STAG GOULASH WITH RED CRANBERRY GRAVY, ALSO CALLED GOULASH DI CERVO CON MIRTILLI ROSSI
This dish requires some time to prepare (overnight + 70-90 minutes); the meat will loose its gaminess if kept in the wine marinade overnight and turned over a few time during the process.
2 cups red wine
1 large onion, trimmed, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
10 whole peppercorns
10 whole juniper berries or 5 whole bay leaves
Ingredients required the next day:
2 lbs (about 1000 gr./1 kg.) lean and trimmed roast meat of stag, deboned, freed of pellicules, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed
1 tsp ground or powdered caraway seeds
1 tsp dried marjoram
¼ cup olive oil
1 lb. onions, trimmed, peeled, chopped or sliced finely
1 cup clear broth or red wine + ½ cup red wine + water if necessary
1 cup sliced either fresh or canned button mushrooms (about 2-4 oz)
¼ cup paprika powder
1 cup diced fresh peeled tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cranberry sauce (you may substitute with currant jelly)
Remove the meat from the marinade liquid and discard the liquid. Toss into the meat ½ of the olive oil making sure that each cube of meat is shiny and coated with it. Sprinkle over the meat the caraway, the marjoram, and the garlic. Set aside for about 10 minutes for later use.
In a skillet, heat the remaining olive and saute the onions until they are limp and translucent. Add the paprika and stir in with the cup of broth liquid. Add the cubed meat, the mushrooms, the tomatoes and season everything with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to a rapid boil, reduce the heat, and let the meat simmer in its juice, uncovered for about 60-90 minutes or until the meat is tender. Occasionally stir and if necessary moisten with more liquid. Thirty minutes before serving the meat, whisk together ½ cup of wine or sherry, the flour, and the cranberry sauce; add the mixture to the goulash and cook for additional 30 minutes or until the sauce binds smoothly like a thick gravy. Serve either over rice or polenta.