Stanley Tucci is a wonderful actor who has been in some of my favorite films, including Julie and Julia, The Devil Wears Prada, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Witches, Prizzi’s Honor, and one of the best foodie films of all time, IMHO, called Big Night. If you call yourself a foodie and you haven’t seen Big Night, you’re really a phony foodie and you should be ashamed of yourself! Go and see it immediately, if not sooner. It’s streaming on Amazon for just a couple of bucks to rent. Go on. I’ll wait.
For those who know Tucci from his more recent foray into cooking and writing, you will likely know his memoir Taste and the subsequent television series that came from the book called Searching for Italy. I always prefer the book to the film/TV series but in this case, both are awesome. The book is hilariously funny, rife with stories of family drama, arguments, laughter and heartbreak. Tucci tells in wonderful detail stories of growing up with his Italian-American parents, his Italian immigrant grandparents, his siblings, his two marriages, his five children, his varied acting career, his life during the 2020 pandemic and subsequent shutdown, and throughout these stories are interwoven the most luscious and mouthwatering descriptions of food.
Tucci talks about the food his mother cooked when he and his siblings were growing up. He shares the tales of his grandparents and their forays into the culinary world. He talks about his own cooking experiences and more importantly, his experiences eating around the world as he travels the globe for his film career. He talks about his first wife and their time cooking and eating together, and what I loved so much about his reminiscences about Kate is that he adores women with an appetite. He waxes rhapsodically about his second wife Felicity and how he fell in love with her when she first cooks roasted potatoes for he and his parents, making a god-awful mess in the kitchen while making him laugh at the same time. I am a sucker for a true love story in which both parties appreciate each other’s foibles and quirks, and Tucci is fortunate to have found love twice in his life. Some of us still haven’t found it so I am all about people who are able to move on after the loss of a love to find that connection yet again.
I don’t think I’ve read a food memoir as engaging and funny since Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. I have no doubt that Taste will go down as another classic, just like Bourdain’s phenomenal first book of food writing. It also doesn’t hurt that Stanley Tucci is incredibly handsome, debonair and sexy. But I’ve always had a thing for bald men so it’s no surprise he flips my switch. And, dude! The guy can cook! I mean, Tony Bourdain, may he rest, will always be my forever future ex-husband, but Tucci is right up there in my top 5 category of famous men I would not kick out of bed.
One of my favorite of his essays is when he talks about filming up in Canada and befriends a local Italian restauranteur, who refuses to charge him when Tucci comes to eat every single night he is filming there. The restauranteur, Pino Posteraro (and who could resist such an alliteratively beautiful name like that?!) serves Tucci some mouth-wateringly described fettucine in a bolognese ragú sauce that has…….something about it. Tucci gets Posteraro to tell him he makes his ragú using Parmesan stock. This was a revelation to me! I usually toss the rinds when I’m done with my Parmesan, but no longer. I hoarded them up over the past four months just to make this marvelous stock and I used it to make mushroom risotto. The result? Salty, delicious, cheesy heaven in liquid form.
I followed Tucci’s method, though I significantly lessened the amount of salt. Tucci calls for 7 ounces of salt, which converts to 14 teaspoons. You read that right, woodchuck chuckers, `14 TEASPOONS OF SALT!! I get that it is probably so that you don’t need to add salt to any dishes you might use in conjunction with the Parmesan stock, but holy shit, that’s a freaking lot of sodium!
Now, I love Stanley Tucci and his cooking methods, but I made a few edits in terms of amounts of water and salt because I don’t fancy dying of high blood pressure at my youthful (yeah right!) age. So my method, based on Tucci’s, is below.
7-10 Parmesan rinds
4-5 bay leaves
5 teaspoons sea salt
8 cups water
Fill a large pot with the water and add the salt.
Take out your beautiful Parmesan rinds and admire them before scraping off any mold that has accumulated, then put them into cheesecloth bags. This is to avoid the rinds melting and sticking to the bottom of your pan and pushing you toward homicide when you have to scrub the pan for days on end.
Add the bags of Parmesan rinds to the salted water and toss in the bay leaves.
Cover and bring to a low simmer. Cook for up to 4 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting for seasoning.
Remove the bags of cheese rinds from the stock along with the bay leaves. Add the rinds back into the stock and, using an immersion blender, blend the liquid with the rinds so that they break down and release even more flavor.
Strain the liquid to remove the broken-down rinds and let the stock cool before decanting into jars.
Use the stock as you would like for soup, sauces, risotto (which I did) or anything else savory. You will not regret it. It’s so delicious and adds just the right hit of umami. Thank you, Stanley Tucci, for inspiring me to make this lovely stock. Call me if things with you and Felicity don’t work out, ok? I’ll be waiting by the phone…..