Sommelier Bobby Stuckey and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have been championing the cuisine of Friuli–Venezia-Giulia at Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colo., since 2004. This historically multicultural region of northeastern Italy, bordered by Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea, brings together distinct culinary traditions, which serve as the inspiration for Frasca’s rustic-meets-modern menu and its wine program, which holds Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence.
The duo typically travel to Friuli three times a year, sometimes bringing staff along, and have even created their own wine label. So when they started brainstorming a wine-centric cookbook concept about five years back, they thought, “Why don’t we write a book that expresses our 15 years of exploring this beautiful, undiscovered part of Italy?” Mackinnon-Patterson recalls.
Friuli Food and Wine, available July 7, will do just that. The recipes celebrate the influences behind Friuli cuisine and culture and the commonalities among them. A strawberry tart, in particular, shows clear French roots (and nods to Mackinnon-Patterson and Stuckey’s stints at the French Laundry) but incorporates Italian ingredients and shared techniques. According to Mackinnon-Patterson, the recipe is based on a Friuli tradition that makes it perfect for a springtime brunch.
“Whether it’s French dining or Italian dining, there’s a big shared experience around cheese and dessert,” Mackinnon-Patterson says. “Often in Friuli, that also extends into breakfast. So you often have a spread, if you will, of some fruit, a tart of some kind, some bread, some meat, cheese, yogurt. And this is a daily way of kind of closing dinner as well as opening a new day."
Though social-distancing restrictions will likely keep celebrations small for the foreseeable future, a tart inspired by community rituals can be a comforting—and delectable—way to honor Mother’s Day this year.
So what makes an Italian-infused French tart special? Mackinnon-Patterson says it’s more about the similarities between the two styles than the differences. “Some people forget that some of the fundamentals of those old baking techniques, whether they were old France or they were old Italian, often come from a very similar place,” he says, noting that they usually start with what’s called a “short-crust” pastry, which has half the amount of flour to fat. “And then after that, it was usually about either seasonal vegetables or seasonal fruits.”
Historically, people would use whatever flour was available in their area, from heirloom grains to finely ground corn to the flour featured in this recipe, semolina. If all you have is regular all-purpose flour, that works too. Mackinnon-Patterson stresses that the dough should chill in the fridge for at least an hour so it’s easier to work with. “Make sure that you’re rolling out the crust when the dough is firm,” he says. “Not rock-hard, but firm.” Once you’ve mastered the tart shell, “the rest is really very simple.”
The shell gets topped with a pastry cream that’s cooked in a saucepan and then cooled over an ice bath, a chef-y trick to ensure a smooth consistency. “The reason for that is especially important at home, where it’s sometimes hard to not overcook the pastry cream and end up with something coagulated or lumpy.”
For the final layer, strawberries are lightly macerated rather than cooked, so there’s more textural contrast. “Anytime that you bake fruit, the fruit melts, and often you get kind of a homogenized texture inside,” Mackinnon-Patterson explains. “In this case, it has three different textures in the sense of a filling, a crust and then the raw, fresh strawberries.” Frasca serves the tart during Colorado’s peak strawberry season in late spring and early summer, so Mackinnon-Patterson says “it’s really perfect for this time of year.” But if you don’t have access to tart-worthy strawberries, they can easily be swapped. “Blackberries would be great, or even raspberries.”
Stuckey, a Master Sommelier, suggests serving this with a dessert wine rather than drier still wines that could “strip the fruit of its sweetness and make the wine feel less delicious.” But don’t overdo it, either. “You want something that has enough sweetness for the berries, but not too, too sweet.”
His pick is Livio Felluga Picolit, made from Friuli’s indigenous Picolit grape, which is challenging for farmers but rewarding in the finished product. “It naturally aborts a lot of its berries during flowering so it gives very, very low yields,” Stuckey says. “It’s slow to ripen but it makes a great, balanced sweet wine where it’s sweet but not cloyingly sweet. It carries natural acidity.” He’s also a big fan of the Felluga family itself, praising their local influence. “I don’t think any of us would be on a call talking about [Friulian] wine had it not been for the trailblazing of [winemaker] Andrea Felluga.”
Stuckey says to go forth with any vintage you can get your hands on, but if you can’t find Picolit, see below for Wine Spectator’s selection of eight recently rated dessert wines that balance sweetness with refreshing acidity and show fresh fruit notes to play off the strawberries.
Reprinted from Friuli Food and Wine: Frasca Cooking from Northern Italy’s Mountains, Vineyards, and Seaside. Copyright © 2020 by Frasca Food and Wine, Inc. Photography copyright © 2020 by William Hereford. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
- Instant-read digital thermometer
- 10-inch tart pan with removable base
- Dried beans, rice or ceramic pie weights
- Small offset spatula
For the pasta frolla dough:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
For the semolina pastry cream:
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon semolina flour
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water (this can be ordered online from high-end grocers, baking supply stores and other sources)
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
For the macerated strawberries:
- 4 cups vertically sliced strawberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
1. To make the dough: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter, and pulse until well-blended, four to five pulses, or blend the ingredients together in a large bowl with a fork or pastry blender, until the butter is the size of small peas.
2. Add the beaten egg to the food processor (or to the bowl if you are making this by hand) and process, five to seven pulses, or blend until a rough-looking dough starts to form. Gather the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or up to overnight (take the dough out 15 minutes before rolling to soften slightly).
3. To make the pastry cream: Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water to form an ice bath and then set a medium bowl on top. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to scalding (just under a boil). In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and semolina flour until very well-combined, about 2 minutes.
4. Pour 1⁄4 cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture and whisk well. Return the tempered mixture to the saucepan, turn heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring continuously, until it registers 180° F to 182° F on a thermometer. Transfer the mixture to the bowl set over the ice bath; add the butter, orange blossom water and orange zest; and then whisk until well-combined. Place plastic wrap on the surface of the mixture and set aside in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly butter a 10-inch tart pan.
5. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin, then roll between two sheets of parchment paper into a 12- to 13-inch circle. Remove the top piece of paper. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour, then fold it in fourths. Lift the dough and place it with the point of the fold in the center of the prepared tart pan. Gently unfold the dough and fit it into the pan, allowing any excess to drape over the sides. Trim the edges with scissors and press the dough manually to make it even with the top of the pan. Poke the dough all over with a fork.
6. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the dough and weigh it down with dried beans, rice, or ceramic pie weights; this will help prevent the tart shell from puffing up as it bakes. Set the tart mold on a baking sheet. Bake the tart shell for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and bake until it is golden around the edges and cooked through (the base should look dry), about 10 minutes longer. Transfer the tart shell to a wire rack to cool.
7. To prepare the strawberries: In a medium bowl, gently combine the strawberries and sugar. Set aside to macerate, allowing the strawberries to release their juices, 30 minutes or so, and then drain.
8. Spoon the pastry cream into the tart shell and use an offset spatula to spread the cream and smooth the surface. Arrange the strawberries in an overlapping spiral, starting on the outside and working your way into the center. Serve immediately. Makes one 10-inch tart; 8 servings.
8 Sweet White Wines
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search, by choosing the advanced search options and selecting “dessert wines” under “wine type.”
Riesling Beerenauslese Mosel Schieferterrassen 2017
Score: 93 | $40
WS review: Racy, slim and elegant, but full of energy, this intensely flavored sweetie combines acidity with rich notes of orange blossom, honey, peach and vanilla, all packed into a light-weight package. Finishes on a refreshingly zesty accent. Drink now through 2040. 1,500 cases made. From Germany.—Aleksandar Zecevic
CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES
Vidal Niagara-On-The-Lake Icewine 2017
Score: 92 | $48/375 ml
WS review: Creamy and offset by bracing acidity, this plush dessert white is full of apricot, butterscotch, orange peel and vanilla cream flavors. Balanced, with a mouthwatering finish. Drink now through 2032. 2,500 cases made. From Canada.—Bruce Sanderson
Tokaji Late Harvest 2017
Score: 92 | $36/500 ml
WS review: A mouthwatering, off-dry version that explodes with juicy blood orange and nectarine fruit, candied ginger and grapefruit peel notes and ample spice and herb accents. Light- to medium-bodied and expressive, with a long, racy, mineral-laced finish. Furmint, Hárslevelü, Sárga Muskotály and Zéta. Drink now through 2025. 2,917 cases made. From Hungary.—Alison Napjus
Auslese Burgenland Cuvée 2017
Score: 90 | $28/375 ml
WS review: This shows a great balance between the slightly bitter, honeyed green tea flavors and rich apricot jam notes. Light yet creamy, expressing a prominent herbal essence on the finish. Chardonnay and Welschriesling. Drink now through 2027. 1,000 cases imported. From Austria.—A.Z.
Riesling Yakima Valley Ice 2018
Score: 89 | $15
WS review: Offers a burst of sweet fruit, balanced by lively acidity, offering supple and viscous pineapple and spiced honey flavors. Drink now through 2024. 2,890 cases made. From Washington.—Tim Fish
DI MAJO NORANTE
Moscato Molise Apianae 2015
Score: 89 | $22/500ml
WS review: This is burnished gold in hue, featuring exotic hints of coconut and mango, layered with honeyed apricot and candied almond notes, accented by citrus peel acidity. Up front and appealing, with a subtle finish. Drink now. 1,300 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.
Salina Tenuta Capofaro 2017
Score: 89 | $45/500ml
WS review: This mouthwatering sweetie layers orange granita and grapefruit sorbet flavors with accents of lemon thyme, stone and ground cardamom. Lightly sweet and silky, just passing off-dry toward dessert. Try this with foie gras. Drink now through 2023. 833 cases made. From Italy.—A.N.
Muscat de Rivesaltes Croix Milhas NV
Score: 88 | $15
WS review: This sweetie offers refreshing acidity that binds the tangerine, lychee and rose water flavors, detailed with floral, honey and almond details. Drink now through 2024. 50,000 cases made. From France.—Gillian Sciaretta