What do the families of Val di Chiana Senese bring to their table on Christmas Day? The traditional menu that generations of housewives have handed down each other has much to tell about the history of this area of the Province of Siena in Tuscany. The cuisine of Val di Chiana Senese has poor origins, but at least during the festivities, the peasants could afford to eat more elaborate dishes, even though still not too expensive. This is partly because the mouths to feed were not few; dozens of families gathered around the Christmas table and easily reached the number of 60 or 70 people, sometimes more.
Besides, between the mid 18th century and the end of 2oth century, there were no huge super markets, with food from all over the world, able to throw even the most experienced housewives into doubts about the choice of the dishes to prepare. Once, the ingredients available to the housewives were not so many, but certainly they were all locally grown, because it was the field where they were grown to provide them, along with poultry and livestock. From a single capon (or cockerel), it came almost the whole of the Christmas dinner menu. Do not you believe us? Look at this:
Crostini with chicken livers: Tuscan bread soaked in chicken stock, or toasted, topped with a sauce made of chicken livers, extra virgin olive oil and capers.
Tagliolini in chicken stock: homemade egg pasta, finely chopped and cooked in the above-mentioned chicken stock.
Stuffed chicken neck: skin of the neck of the capon stuffed with a filling made of minced pork, soaked bread, eggs and little more.
Panpepato: dessert made of dried fruit, honey and spices.
Definitely, not the gargantuan menu of today’s Christmas, but something incredibly typical and genuine, which the housewives often enrichened with something more. For example, Cinta Senese cold cuts and pecorino cheese as starter, pici or tagliatelle with duck sauce as “encores” of first dishes, stuffed duck along with the capon, and cantucci and vin santo to finish with more sweetness.
From the farmyards of Val di Chiana Senese, we wish you a Merry Christmas!