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Wood Fired Chestnut Pancakes Necci (page 2 of 2)

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This is a recipe I have discovered a year ago and took me a full year to get right. But now I cook it almost once a week so simple, quick, delicious and spectacular it is.
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Now for the cooking, I am sorry to say this is one of those cases where a frying pan on a cooker will not yield the same results as the medieval looking ferri per i necci. These are just a pair of flat iron discs with long handles. In the few shops in this part of Italy that carry this most unusual item, they sometimes have two sizes and a handmade version (here displayed) and a machine cut one. You can very easily order such an item from any water-jet steel cutting outfit. I would go with 3mm thick regular steel, 40cm handles and 23cm diameter. You need the steel to be a bit porous to be able to season it, I don't see how stainless would work here. I do know that I will be flooded by comments in the style of "Ah but my mama is from such and such pistoiese village and she does it on a stovetop, therefore ferri are superfluous", but I tried both and the result on the fire does lend a smokiness that makes a difference.

You first need to season/cure your iron ferri per i necci. Best I found is to mix an egg yolk (or several) with oil and roll a cotton towel in a cigar shape and use it to pat the hot steel discs. You can see how it's done in my French Crepes video. alternatively, use a flat piece of bacon to rub it until smooth. This can take some time. If you have handmade ferri they are not flat and you might find that only one side of each ferro will stick close enough to the other, so you choose your side and from now both opposite faces will be facing the fire.

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Start by heating your ferri in the fire. No need to wait until they get red hot or even bend in the fire, all you want is them hot enough to melt the bacon you'll rub. I'd say start with 10-30 seconds or so and then let the ferri tell you when they are too hot.

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Rub the inside faces with a piece of bacon or pancetta...

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... then pour a ladleful of batter inside. Start with about 50 millilitres for a 20cm pancake (1/5 cup for an 8'' pancake). I reckon the temperature of the ferri at this stage is between 160C and 200C whenever I measured (320-400F).

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Then close the other ferro like a lid, oiled face down, and use a piece of wood to press it down in several places to squeeze your pancake flat. No need to add a weight, the batter does not spring back (!). As you do this an intriguing squeal will come out as the batter protests by sendin jets of vapor...

Put the two ferri back on the fire for a maximum of about 60 seconds, turning them upside down halfway through.

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If you seasoned your ferri like Francois told you to, and oiled them with pancetta before each neccio, after a few trials your necci will peel right off without further ado.

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One of the traditional condiments for necci is based on a piece of ricotta...

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... which you reduce to a paste using a fork ...

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... then season with rose water...

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... just a drop will do ...

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... some cream to make it smoother ...

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... and as much sugar

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... until you have a nice, smooth mixture.

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After you fill it, you can add a little strawberry jam for color ...

... and finally fold it and serve.

Necci were traditionally eaten with cheese and salumi by Tuscan peasants, but the canonical form today is to serve the necci with ricotta mixed with sugar and some rose water. Very light and delicious! But unless you are from the Frati della Strettissima Osservanza della chiesa del Slow Food, you can definitely change the dish to use it with many cool toppings such a strawberry jam. The taste is really amazing and since they cook quickly in such a poetic and visually arresting way, it makes for the kind of entertainment one nevery really tires of.


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60 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Ari
There are no such ferri or wood fires where I am, but thank you for letting us cook necci with you through the beautiful pictures and witty write up!
  • FX's answer→ These are vicariousi then!

  • #3
  • Comment by Adrian urlea
First of all, it is a very pleasant surprise to see you back.
I might not have the wood fire and the cast iron plates but you gave me an idea about what I am going
to do with a jar of chestnut puree...I believe I am going to turn it into a batter for pancakes...
Thank you and best regards.

Adrian
  • FX's answer→ Good luck Adrian, and thanks for your comment!

  • #5
  • Comment by Clarisa
Welcome back! Thanks for the recipe!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks!

  • #7
  • Comment by Randi
This looks amazing!   Can't wait to try these at home.

Those photos are gorgeous.   Welcome back!
  • FX's answer→ Glad you like them!

  • #9
  • Comment by Cesar
Que alegria tu vuelta!!! es lo mejor de la semana!! fantastico! espero que publiques unos reportajes tan buenos como antes.
Un saludo!!
  • FX's answer→ Muchas gracias! Es como se dice en Inglès, "Praise from Caesar", un complimento de Cesar. Un saludo a tu tambien!

  • #11
  • Comment by Bi
I have ATTEMPTED to make this flour, since my grandma has a large chestnut tree. I used them cooked (since it was what I had at hand at that moment, processed and then dried in a pan (I'm sure it was not the best way to obtain the flour, but it yielded some interesting results) I have tried making raviolis with a mix of white flour and the chestnut flour. Hard dough to work with, but results were really good.
  • FX's answer→ You can make chestnut flour by drying the chestnut whole, peeling the brown skin, then put in a small tabletop flour mill, I do that regularly

Great photography. Especially the first shot. Beautifully lit. I have been making socca which is essentially the same thing. I add espelette, olive oil and herbes de Provence to the mix and also cook over an open fire.  I prefer them plain but used to serve them as an amuse bouche with whipped goat cheese and ratatouille made from brunoised vegetables.
  • FX's answer→ Merci François! I see that you are playfully teasing me, comparing this to a "bouillabaisse", both excellent dishes no doubt. Socca is not less than 10mm thick I think, and cooked in an open dish, whereas this is 3mm and cooked between 2 steel plates. But you are right they are both made with 100% gluten free flours. I am interested in the way you serve it, do you put the goat cheese in a siphon or just whip it with cream?

  • #15
  • Comment by Hazri
Welcome back Francois! :)
I am at lost for words knowing you are back.
Good to see you back. *cries*
  • FX's answer→ Wipe the tears and start cooking! Thanks!

Looks great ! So glad you're back !!! Keep up the good work !!!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks!

  • #19
  • Comment by Sganarelle
So glad you're back FX! I see the photography on this site is as stunning as ever!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Sganarelle, I am still trying to improve the lighting though!

  • #21
  • Comment by Ian
Welcome back! lovely to see you posting again, I enjoy everything you share with us and look forward to reading many more.

Greetings from Canada :)
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, I am sometimes cooking Canadian recipes from the Pied de Cochon actually!

  • #23
  • Comment by David
I missed you so much! :-) Welcome back!
  • FX's answer→ Thank you David!

  • #25
  • Comment by Calliope
Welcome back dear FX. It feels as nothing has changed: the superb photographs and the extraordinary tools and recipes. Thank you for giving me back  the pleasure of reading your blog.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, there a over 250 articles now so you can dig in the old articles using the keywords for more FXcuisine while I prepare new articles!

  • #27
  • Comment by Nikki
Your timing is wonderful, Francois, it is great to see you back! Now that I have more idle time, it's a chance to be able to follow you again and try your recipes. I missed doing that, especially since you're one of the few bloggers I like to follow. Sending lots of hugs to you!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks and glad my articles brought a ray of sunshine in your day!

  • #29
  • Comment by David
Very happy you're back and publishing fascinating articles again! If FX Cuisine was a half hour format TV show, it would have a big following (hint). A book or e-book of your food adventures would also be fun and make a great gift for foodies. I know I sound like a capitalist pig but learning about the culture of food is so much more interesting than just watching someone cook. You do it well. Glad you're back!
  • FX's answer→ Well why not, a small TV appearance is scheduled soon, we'll see where this leads! Not sure about how to go about a book but would love that too. Thanks for your kind words!

  • #31
  • Comment by Catherine
FX, how great to see you back! I hope this will be a long-term return!
  • FX's answer→ Well thanks Catherine!

  • #33
  • Comment by buzz
so glad to see you post! in our house we a "i wonder what happened to fxcuicisne" conversation a few times a year!
  • FX's answer→ Ah this is fun to hear! Glad that the conversation now has a resolution. I'd rather not know about the more sinister theories (kidnapped by North Korea, on hunger strike, etc....)!

  • #35
  • Comment by Burt
Welcome back! Very happy to see you blogging again. I'm looking forward to drooling over your postings.
  • FX's answer→ Burt, drool no more and start cooking!

Francois! My friend, it is so wonderful to see you back online. You were missed. Looking forward to more of your excellent work and adventures.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks again Cynthia

  • #39
  • Comment by Patrick
Welcome back! your photos are as beautiful and your article is as precise and dryly funny as ever  I heard that you had climbed a mountain to find a bunch of herbs, carrying only a small knife and 20kg of photography gear and had not been heard from since.
  • FX's answer→ Well nearly so! The necci required a rather long search to get those ferri, which I found in Lucca, and then the chestnut flour, not so adventurous but still!

Querido Francois,
Que bueno verte de vuelta y poder disfrutar de tus tan especiales aportes, tu mundo magico, estetico y sabroso.
Desde las colinas de Judea te deseo prolificidad culinaria
  • FX's answer→ Gracias Daniel

  • #43
  • Comment by ivan
Welcome back. Great to see your bright writing style, and great photos!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Ivan!

  • #45
  • Comment by Erika
I am *extremely* happy to see you posting again! Keep the posts coming!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot Erika!

  • #47
  • Comment by Mads
I sit one morning with my te, and suddenly the are two post showing in my rss feed that i must use three seconds to understand where come from. And now you are back!!
It was such a big loss when you stopped.
Welcome welcome welcome, and thank you!
  • FX's answer→ Ah resurrection almost! Very glad that it brought you a ray of sun with your morning tea...

Chestnuts flour? I didn't know that this type of flour really exists. And I found it here too! Thanks.
  • FX's answer→ Yes, it is not always easy to find but no doubt that Romanians eat chestnuts too!

  • #51
  • Comment by JasonBB
Thank you for coming back.  I always enjoyed your posts and the beautiful photos.  I have been seeing recipes for a few different things that contain chestnut flour for many years and these beautiful photos have inspired me to hunt some down in my city (Portland, OR) Thanks again and happy cooking.
  • FX's answer→ Yes this is one of the few really seriously good recipes I have tested based on chestnuts, I think you will be pleased with the results!

  • #53
  • Comment by James
Finally! You've inspired me many times over the years (not only to cook some things in your post, but also to visit some of the places) and I am glad you're back, so I can formally say thank you! No idea where you went but you could start a post where we commentators can post our theories . . . just an idea!
  • FX's answer→ James this is very nice to hear! Well I can already deny the numerous reports about my adbuction by aliens or by North Korean special forces! Taking pictures and publishing articles such as those here take a really long time, this is not done offhand at the diner with an iphone, so at some point I wanted to do other things too... but I never stopped cooking and researching unusual food so there is plenty to show and tell...

  • #55
  • Comment by Ruth
What a pleasure to have you back, FX. Thanks for doing the work and come up with beautiful pictures and an interesting story. Love it! Thank you from Australia.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot! Hope all is well!

  • #57
  • Comment by Bill Hanscombe
Dear FX

It's wonderful to have you back!

like so many of your followers, I have missed you blogs, and I am greatly inspired by them.

But wishes

WLH
  • FX's answer→ Thanks a lot for your kind words Bill!

Hi I am glad and very thankful to you for a comeback , I have an tip for seasoning the pan and make it non stick which I learned during my training time when I was in college.
Take one egg with the shell and slice one red onion medium size including  the outer skin heat the pan and spread the slice onions on the pan and break 1 egg with shell and spread evenly let it burn untill the onions and eggs turns black.
Remove it after some time and wash it with running water
Your pan is ready to use now.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, great tip!


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