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Friday, February 1, 2013

Deconstructed Cannoli--Playful and Fun

 Photo by Jennifer Haas

Note:  Special thanks to my friend Jennifer Haas, who merrily snapped photos for me while I was teaching class!  And also a big thank you to so many of you who emailed me or commented on my last two posts about the Rancheritas and their project.  Much appreciated.

Deconstructed Cannoli--Playful and Fun!
by Victoria Challancin

I've yet to figure out exactly what it is about "deconstructed" food that so appeals to me, but clearly it does.  I'm not necessarily talking about the über-modern displays of molecular wonders of deconstructed food made popular in the 90s, but rather the simplification of a classic dish into its parts.   Is it because it is often imaginative and modern-feeling?  Is it because it is fun and playful?  Is it because I am too lazy to make a recipe the original way?  Is it because classic recipes just naturally morph over time and reinterpretations are inevitable?  Truly, I don't know why.  But it is true, I do love deconstructed recipes.

I have in the past deconstructed coconut cream pie, chicken pot pies, lasagna, beef Wellington, black forest cake, eggplant Parmesan, and more--each new reinterpretation containing the classic components found in the original dish, just put together in simpler ways.  I realize that often deconstructed food is reassembled in insanely creative ways that stretch the talents and imaginations of the creators--just take a serious peek at some of the modernest Spanish food to get an idea.  But my own versions take a more uncomplicated route.

What is "deconstructed" food?
What exactly is "deconstructed food"?  The "deconstruction" element is simply a riff on the term coined by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his works on semiotic analysis.  When turned to food, instead of philosophy or literary theory, elements that are traditionally combined to make a dish, are broken down, often served separately, resulting in a new dish that uniquely different. Take this one step forward and you emerge in the world of food genius Ferran Adriá, who single-handedly created a food trend whereby the newly created dishes transcend the realm of what is possible or even conceivable.   Some of the modern deconstructed dishes retain all of the flavor of the original, but bear no resemblance to it physically.  Others are a simplification.  We have all seen plates that are an absolute marvel of creativity, sometimes silliness, but always interesting.  However, in my own kitchen, deconstructions are usually a simplification of the original dish, whereby I make the original classic something simple, yet less-, rather than more-time-consuming to make, as in this cannoli dip with fried wonton crisps standing in for the original dee-fried pasta tubes.

Photo by Jennifer Haas

What is cannoli?
Simply put, cannoli is an Italian pastry dessert consisting of deep-fried pastry tubes filled with sweetened ricotta, nuts, chocolate bits, and candied fruit.  According to Wikipedia, cannolo (the singular of cannoli) means "little tube."  An essential part of Sicilian cuisine, they are known in Italy as cannoli siciliani, or Sicilian cannoli.  Originating in Palermo, these pastry treats, which vary in size, were historically prepared during Carnival season (Carnevale), but later became a year-round staple throughout Italy.  And what American can forget the classic line from "The Godfather," where the character Peter Clemenza, who had just overseen the killing of a Family traitor, says to his partner,  "Leave the gun--take the cannoli."

 Photo by Jennifer Haas

Deconstructed Cannoli Chips and Dip
Chef Jeffrey Mauro, on an episode of Food Network's From Italy with Love, created this simple, but delicious recreation of the classic dish.  He calls it "Deconstructed Cannoli Chips and Dip."  What could be easier, especially if you don't have the tubular molds required to make the original dish?  In my version, a slight variation of Mauro's, fresh, rather than candied fruit, is used along with chocolate chips, pistachios, and non-candied orange zest.  Light, crispy fried wonton triangles stand in for the cannoli tubes.  Whipped cream lightens the ricotta filling, making this an edible symphony of classic flavors, given a new twist.

 Photo by Jennifer Haas

The Recipe:  Deconstructed Cannoli Chips and Dip
(Recipe by Jeffrey Mauro, Food Network, From Italy with Love)

Canola oil, for frying
1 package (about 36) square wonton wrappers, cut diagonally in half
2 cups whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons orange liqueur or Marsala wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup maraschino cherries (or substitute fresh raspberries)
1/2 orange, zested

Pour enough oil to reach a depth of about 2 inches in a frying pan or pot.  Heat to 350 degrees F.

Fry the wontons in one layer, not overcrowding the pot.   Flip the wontons once or twice until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the wontons with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on a large wire rack set over a shallow pan.  Repeat until all the wontons are fried.

Mix the ricotta, sugar and liqueur until well combined in a large bowl.  Whip the cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks form, using a hand mixer.  Fold the whipped cream and 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips gently into the ricotta mixture.

ADd the ricotta-cream mixture to a medium dip bowl or 8- x 9-inch baking dish and spread evenly.  Starting from the left side of bowl, make a row, from top to bottom, of pistachios, followed by a row of the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips, then the cherries or raspberries.  Grate fresh orange zest over the bowl and plate the wonton chips on the side.  Dust the chips with confectioners' sugar and serve.

Parting Shot:  
A mural on the wall in a local village

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life and love, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using text or photos.  Thanks!


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I think that deconstruction appeals to me because it's a different way of looking at something and in some cases, sprucing it up. But for these, deconstruction is so clever! The pastry would never get wet or soggy with your delicious cannoli! :D

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

What a great idea and perfect for a party.

Eha said...

[Smiling] Until today whenever I have seen the word 'deconstruction' I have kind'of turned the page! With your gift of teaching I have actually read every word here, appreciated what you have said and, at least, taken the first step in trying to understand :) ! The 'fun' and 'playfulness' do appeal!

Hotly Spiced said...

I love the look of this. Deconstructed food is becoming so popular! All those fresh berries with the cannoli is really appealing xx

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