Every other week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.
As a child, waking up on Easter Sunday felt almost like the resurrection that is celebrated that very day: It meant a joyful lunch after Mass, all while bathed in the newly found sunlight of May.
My grandfather -- who always worked as hard as his arms would allow him and never thought one should fit comfortably in a pair of farmer's shoes --- wore cologne and combed his hair back with grease. He smoked with an Alain Delon-esque allure as he waited for my grandma to put on her best coat and go to Mass.
(My grandparents next to a haystack in 1951, when she was 17 and he was 23. A great-great uncle of mine, who lived in the city and worked as a photographer, took the picture.)
The previous day, she would put freshly laid eggs into a basket and bring them to the priest, so that he could impart his blessing upon them. Then she would make Crescia, which she and my grandfather would eat with hard-boiled eggs and cold cuts as a pre-Mass breakfast. They would then drive off on their old, cream-colored Fiat 600. After 40 days of Lent, celebration was in order; the richness of the Crescia summed up their feeling of post-Lent satisfaction in a most outstanding fashion.
I collected this recipe from scraps found in my grandma's old notebook, which had been buried in a closet for several years. Her staggering calligraphy, studded with grammar mistakes (common in unschooled Italian elders), described a process which most American home cooks would look at with heaps of frustration:
- Mix part of the flour with one egg.
- Let rest.
- Add other ingredients and let raise.
That befuddling recipe skipped several essential steps, to say the least. To this day, she is the only one who makes the Crescia every year, so a talk was in order. I visited her to ask for clarifications and details.
"Well, but that's all there is to it, no?" she said in the local dialect, waving her hands. "What else could I ever tell you? Let's just make it and you'll see."
In her world, where knowledge was only perpetrated through experience, she had a point.
This is food for rebirth, after all. It is very important to cook it well and, most of all, it is very important to do it with your family. Today, I am putting my gift of being able to write to good use and proudly share this recipe with the world -- all details included.
Makes a 10 inch wide, 8 inch tall bread
3.5 ounces Sourdough starter, or leftover bread or pizza dough
4 cups Bread Flour (17.6 oz)
1/2 cup Flavorful olive oil
1.7 ounces Lard (substitute with a bit more oil if not using)
3.5 ounces Mix of grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Pepper