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:
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