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The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Monday, March 4, 2013

It's "al Dente", Not "al Dante"

I once heard Mario Batali joke about people who asked for things to be prepared “al dante.” He laughed that Dante has been dead for nearly seven hundred years and so food prepared “al Dante” would probably not be very tasty. He suggests people should ask for “al dente” instead and leave poor dead Dante alone. Another chef I know believes that “Al Dante” might be the old Italian guy who lives down the street. Either way, I always thought these guys were kidding. I mean, nobody really says “al dante,” do they. Turns out, they do.

I was channel surfing and came across a cooking show where the “chef,” one P. Allen Smith, was preparing something that looked pretty good. I watched until I actually heard him say, “you want this to have a little tooth; to be al dante.” I rewound and listened again. Yep. He said “al dante.” Click! There went his credibility. Come to find out he's a designer and gardener from Tennessee, so he didn't have much cooking cred to begin with. Although he has published a cookbook, which just goes to show you anybody can do it.

Isolated incident, right? Nobody else uses “al dante," right? Wrong. Check out this recipe instruction for “Rigatoni alla Fontina” from the website www.cookingindex.com : “Cook the rigatoni in 5 to 6 quarts salted boiling water until extra al dante....” Or, same site, different recipe (Rigatoni with Three Cheeses); “Cook until super al dante as they are going into the oven....”

And over at the “busy cooks” section of About.com I found a really nice, helpful lady named Linda Larsen telling people that “al dente” is pronounced “all DAN tay” and that “Al Dante” is just an alternate spelling.

Okay, so maybe there are doofi (the proper plural of “doofus”) who say “al dante” instead of “al dente.” But what does it all mean?

Dente” is Italian for “tooth.” Adding “al” makes it “to the tooth.” It is sometimes also translated as “to the bite,” meaning you have to use your “bite” to chew the food. It shouldn't be overcooked or mushy. The term refers to a proper degree of doneness, especially as it relates to pasta, although it is often applied to certain vegetables, as well. The texture of a food that is considered to be “al dente” should be tender but still slightly firm. There should be a resistance at the center of ”al dente” pasta. When you bite through it, you should see a firm, white core. Vegetables cooked “al dente” should be at the “tender crisp” stage.

Dante was not noted to be a great cook. But since he is often called “The Father of the Italian Language,” he would really want you to know this. And I'm sure if you read between the lines of his great work, he probably has a place in hell designated for those who use “dante” instead of “dente.” Maybe in the Sixth Circle with the rest of the heretics, I don't know. But I wouldn't take any chances if I were you.

2 comments:

  1. I don't know if this is just a Pittsburgh thing, but people here pronounce chipotle as"cha pole tea."
    Every time I hear it a part of my brain dies.

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    Replies
    1. I get the same feeling when I hear "mascarpone" (mahs-car-POH-nay) pronounced as "MASS-car-pohn." :-)

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