Holiday Entertaining: Mamma Mia!

Abbondanza: Thanksgiving dinner for the Le Cirque clan includes squab for Sirio.Photo: Beatriz Da Costa

What do you do when the man of the house won’t eat turkey, and his sons won’t settle for anything else, at least for Thanksgiving? If you’re Egidiana Maccioni, wife of Sirio, mother of Mauro, Mario, and Marco, matriarch of the Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo clan – and genetically predisposed to please everyone – you conjure up your own delicious truce.

Newly arrived here in the sixties, the Maccionis put an Italian spin on Thanksgiving, a holiday as unknown in their native Tuscany as 22-pound Butterballs. “In Italy, people eat turkey,” says Sirio, “but it’s wild, three pounds max.” He prefers squab, even on Turkey Day. Egidiana indulged him – until Mauro turned 3. “He had a fit,” she recalls, “crying, All my friends have the big bird! Where’s the big bird? I want the big bird!’

Needless to say, he got it, and, as an extra treat, something his schoolmates could envy

in return: Egidiana’s unapologetically rich chestnut stuffing, the anti-Stove Top, dense with mortadella, sweet Italian sausage, veal, chicken liver, Parmigiano-Reggiano – even a few celebratory morsels of black truffle. In most families, carving the turkey presents one of the holiday’s bigger challenges. It gets much easier, Egidiana discovered, when the butcher removes the bones (see box, opposite, for information). “You slice straight through,” she says, “so you get the stuffing and meat all in one.” While the Maccioni-family Thanksgiving has evolved into an Italian-American tradition, it’s one that translates equally well in any language. Make it yourself, from recipes that couldn’t be simpler. Or book a table at Le Cirque, where Egidiana’s stuffed turkey with all the trimmings will also be on the menu.


Chicken-liver crostini
Red onions in vinegar
Black olives
Wine: Prosecco

First Course
Semolina soup
Wine: Gaja Chardonnay Rossj-Bass

Main Course
Boneless stuffed turkey
Stuffed squab
Small white onions sautéed in balsamic vinegar
Sautéed carrots with garlic
Sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic
Mashed potatoes drizzled with olive oil
Wine: Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio 1997, Castellare

Orange tart
Mrs. Maccioni’s fruitcake
Wine: Muffato, Castello della Sala, Antinori 1997


Chicken-Liver Crostini
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
6 fresh sage leaves, or use dry leaves, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped chicken livers
3 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup coarsely chopped anchovy fillets
1/4 cup coarsely chopped capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Tabasco or red pepper (optional)
1 baguette or 1/2 loaf Tuscan bread

Heat the oil in a sauté pan. Add the onions and sage, and sauté for 3 minutes; then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chicken livers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and the tomato paste mixed with 1/4 cup water, and simmer until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat. (The mixture can be prepared in advance up to this stage, but must be reheated before proceeding.) Add the butter and allow it to melt, then stir in the anchovies and capers. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco, taking care not to oversalt. Slice the bread into small bite-size portions, and toast lightly. Spoon the warm mixture onto the bread, and serve immediately.

Semolina Soup
1 large red onion
1/2 medium-size leek
2 ribs celery
2 large carrots
2 plum tomatoes, halved
2 sprigs parsley
1 large stem basil leaves
4 peppercorns
1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds, skinned
12 ounces beef shank, on the bone
1 teaspoon salt
1 cube Knorr chicken bouillon (optional)

Semolina frittata:
7 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
1/3 cup cream of instant farina
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Broth: Lightly roast the onion and leek over a gas flame or under a broiler until they start to char, turning occasionally. Put all the vegetables, the herbs, and the peppercorns in a cheesecloth bag, and tie with string. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large stock pot. Add the chicken, beef, salt, and bag of vegetables to the pot, return to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the broth, and add the bouillon cube. (The stock can be kept in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for a month. If broth is refrigerated, skim the fat from the surface before reheating.)

Frittata: Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter. Pour into a bowl, add eggs, farina, cheese, and seasonings, and whisk together well. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick pan over medium heat. Pour the frittata mixture into the pan.

Once the mixture has set, turn the frittata over. Set aside to cool on a paper towel, before cutting into 1/2-inch cubes or thin strips. Return the broth to a boil, add the diced frittata, and cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Mrs. Maccioni’s Boneless Stuffed Turkey
3 1/2-inch-thick slices white bread
1/4 cup milk
1 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
1 and a 1/2 pounds veal, cubed
1 and a 1/2 pounds Italian sweet sausage
2 and a 1/4 cups finely chopped onion
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
14 ounces chicken livers
1/4 cup white wine
14 ounces mortadella
1 and a 1/2 pounds cooked, peeled fresh chestnuts (frozen or canned may be substituted)
14 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
2 ounces black truffles, cut into 1/4-inch dice (optional)
3 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 10-to-12-pound turkey, boned but with wings, thigh, leg bones, and skin intact
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons Madeira wine

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Break up the bread into a bowl. Add the milk, and set aside to soak. Chop the bread and parsley in a mixer until fine.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat, add the veal, and sauté until it begins to brown. Remove from pan, and spread out on a sheet pan to cool. Add the sausage meat, and cook until browned, remove from the pan, and add to veal. Heat a little more oil in the skillet, add the onion and garlic, and cook until translucent; then add the chicken livers and cook until the livers are firm. Remove contents of skillet and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the wine, and reduce until almost dry. Add the reduced sauce to the chicken-liver mixture.

Place the veal and sausage meat in a food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped; remove to a large bowl. Place the chicken liver-onion mixture in the processor, along with the mortadella and chestnuts, and process until coarsely chopped. Add to the chopped meats along with the cheese and truffles, stir in the eggs until well combined, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Using fine butcher’s twine and a large trussing needle, sew up the neck openings of the birds. Set aside a little of the stuffing for the squab (recipe below), and stuff the turkey with the remainder. (Any left over can be put in a small baking dish, covered with foil, and cooked along with the turkey.) Sew up the rear of the turkey to enclose the stuffing, and tie the turkey legs together with string. Brush the skin of the bird with melted butter, and season with salt and pepper. (The bones from the turkey can be used to make a stock for the gravy.)

Place the stuffed turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and roast for about 3 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Baste with pan juices every 30 minutes. (Cover the skin with foil if it starts to brown too much.) Place the bird on a warm platter, and set aside to rest for about 15 minutes. Pour off juices from the roasting pan, and skim fat from the surface. Deglaze the pan with Madeira, and add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pan juices and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Boil until slightly reduced, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stuffed Squab
1 squab
Softened butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Clean the squab, reserving the livers and giblets. Chop the liver and giblets fine, adding them to the same stuffing used for the turkey. Stuff the squab, and tie the legs with string. Rub the bird with melted butter, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the pan along with the turkey at 400 degrees for 1 hour, basting occasionally.

4 pounds carrots, peeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

Boil the whole carrots in a large pot of salted water for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. (May be prepared a day ahead.) Slice the carrots into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the garlic, and sauté over medium high heat for a minute. Add the carrots, cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste, and sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

White Onions Sautéed in Balsamic Vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds small white onions, peeled
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onions and balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan, and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. (May be made a day ahead.)

Broccoli Rabe

4 pounds broccoli rabe
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim the hard stems from the broccoli rabe. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add broccoli rabe, and boil for 15 minutes. Drain the broccoli rabe; squeeze dry, and chop coarsely. (May be prepared a day ahead.)

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the garlic, and sauté quickly, but do not let it take on any color. Add the broccoli, and sauté for a few minutes to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sauté for a further minute.

Orange Tart
Mrs. Maccioni’s pie pastry:
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sugar
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon
2 egg yolks

2 large, firm seedless oranges
5 thin lemon slices
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/2 to 1 cup orange marmalade (non-chunky type)
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Place the butter in a heavy saucepan and place over low heat until melted. Set aside to cool until almost at room temperature. Place the flour in a mixing bowl and add the sugar and lemon rind. Blend with a wire whisk. Add the egg yolks, and gradually whisk in the butter. Blend and knead the dough until it is homogenous and smooth. When ready to use, lightly butter a 9- or 10-inch tart pan, flour lightly, and shake out excess flour. Place the pastry in the center of the pan, and, using the fingers, press and smooth the dough to the edges of the pan and up the inside rim. The layer of dough should be as even as possible. Refrigerate until ready to use. Slice the oranges as thin as possible, discarding the peel from either end. Arrange the orange and lemon slices in one layer on 2 baking pans with rims (the oranges should just fit in the pan; otherwise, they will dry out). Sprinkle lightly with the sugar, then with the Grand Marnier.

Bake the slices for 10 to 15 minutes, taking care that they do not burn. Turn the slices and continue baking about 5 minutes longer or until they are sticky and a little crisp. Remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Arrange the orange and lemon slices in neatly overlapping circles in the center of the prepared tart shell. Melt the marmalade, and brush it over the filling. Bake the tart for 5 minutes before reducing the oven temperature to 350 degrees; continue baking for a further 30 to 35 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Mrs. Maccioni’s Fruitcake
1 cup mixed candied fruit
1 cup raisins
6 tablespoons cognac
2 and a 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) butter, plus extra for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for pans
4 whole eggs, separated
3 egg yolks
1 and a 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Soak the candied fruit and raisins in the cognac overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 loaf pans, about 10 by 4 by 4 inches.

Place the 7 egg yolks, butter, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk until pale and creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until stiff. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Drain the cognac from the dried fruit, and toss the fruit and zest in the flour until coated. Gently fold the fruit and flour into the butter-egg mixture until combined. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Transfer the mixture to the 2 prepared pans, and bake for about 1 hour, or until cake is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out dry. FOOD STYLING BY RORI TROVATO AND MICHAEL PEDERSON; PROP STYLING BY ROBYN GLASER AND DARIENNE SUTTON.

Holiday Entertaining: Mamma Mia!