Oca in Onto & Insalata Bizantina – A Traditional Venetian Menu For San Martino

In Venice these days, children celebrate Il santo che divise il mantello e fece tornare il bel tempo … the Saint who by sharing a piece of his coat with a beggar made the sun return to Earth. In Venice, there’s a special tradition reminding us of this Legend, enacted on 11 November every year …

Late autumn is a time for Feasts in Venice. Venetians traditionally have been celebrating with poultry dishes. Some eat faraona and anara (duck)The tradition of eating bigoí co’l anara (thick Venetian pasta with duck sauce) belongs to this season.

While children walk around and look for the Sanmartin de Pastafrolla, a sweet cake, in the pastry stores and bakeries, adults also have a favorite dish eaten on 11 November. Oca in onto is very much en vogue these days. It’s rather heavy, based on an ancient recipe from the Venetian countryside. But then, in Venice, dishes were usually enriched with spices.

In the Veneto, you can find a special goose breed, l’oca del Mondragon, raised around Treviso. There’s even a Facebook Page dedicated to these geese.

A dinner on San Martino Night would start with crema de suca (squash cream soup) or even, minestra de oca, a spicy vegetable soup flavored with pieces of goose. The soup could be followed by a starter plate of warm and cold antipasti, like crema di baccala’, polenta, oven-baked slices of persimmons and potatoes flavored with rosemary, raisins and lots of black pepper.

My grandparents celebrated San Martino with goose, grilled polenta and vegetables enriched with spicy and fruity flavors. So here we share our recipe for Oca in onto alle erbe, pera speziata e castagne con amarene – Herb-flavored goose, spicy pears and chestnuts cooked with amarena cherries.

Grandmother prepares traditional Venetian goose, oca in onto, based on a recipe from her family cooking journal. She cuts off the fatty parts of the goose into tiny cubes and melts them in a pan. Then she adds mortadella sausage cut in dices and herbs such as parsely, rosemary, laurel leaves, and spices (cloves, coriander seeds and juniper), salt and black pepper. She bakes the goose in the oven until it turns golden brown, adding olive oil when required.

We have adapted this recipe and here is a less fattening alternative if you must eat goose.  Cut cut off the fat entirely, it could be used it for any other purpose like flavoring bread soup or to eat with polenta. Fry the goose in a little olive oil instead, add the herbs and spices mentioned above, a hint of red curry or a berbere spice mixture. Then bake the goose in the oven until golden brown. We’ll cover the berbere spice mixture in our next blog post.

To complete this special day’s menu, serve the goose with pears cooked in water or red wine with spices like cinnamon, cloves and mustard seeds. Serve the goose with castagne arrostite (cook chestnuts in a pan for about 10 minutes, then roast them in olive oil with salt, mustard seeds and pepper and garnish with canned amarena cherries).

Our vegetarian menu, which is also a fine contorno (side dish) is insalata bizantina! This is a warm spinach salad, flavored with a topping made from figs, raisins, pinoli, lots of black pepper and grapes. Fry spinach leaves in olive oil, add the toppings which consists of dried figs in dices, grapes, pinoli and the spices, fried in another pan in olive oil.

As dessert, we would eat a piece of the Sanmartin de Pastafrolla. Take a look at how Pasticceria Majer bake theirs:

Join us and discover Venice on the Night of San Martino in this blog post in our Venice Travel Section.



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