The most traditional dish in Friuli Venezia Giulia
If you think about Italian food, I’m sure that pizza and pasta are the first things that come up to your mind. They are so widely known everywhere that’s easy to assume that they are the only traditional dishes of all Italy.
What you will read in this post:
A different kind of Italian food
Each Italian region has very different typical dishes, culinary traditions, and local products.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is located in the northeastern corner of Italy. Half of our territory is steep and rocky. Alps frame our region and oftentimes clouds gather over our land.
So, if you associate Italy with the sun, think again because, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it rains hard. Rain favors the harvest of excellent potatoes favors grass growth. Cows eat that savory grass, produce excellent milk and farmers produce superb cheese.
Stir this mixture with influences from northern and eastern Europe and you have all the ingredients you need to cook the most traditional dish of Friuli-Venezia Giulia: frico.
What is Frico
To put it simply, you can compare frico to a rösti with cheese. But Frico is more than a tasty rösti. Frico carries on its greasy crust a world of associations and daydreaming. Frico is a portkey to the warmest spot of your heart.
Although it is served in almost every restaurant in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the first frico one usually tastes is Grandma’s. And from that moment on, no other Frico can compare.
Yet, family is not the only string that frico is likely to touch.
Frico tastes like summer festivals and ballroom dances.
It’s the comfort food that makes you calm when you had a bad day at work.
It’s the go-to dish when everything else on the menu sucks.
It’s what you eat near the fireplace in winter, but also in summer with 40° in the shade. Remember, it’s never too hot for frico.
To me, is the reward I treat myself with after long hikes and high elevation gains. I’ve tasted hundreds of fricos, cooked in the most beautiful mountain huts while staring in marvel at the mountains and the powerful beauty of nature. My favorite mountain hut frico is the one you can eat in Rifugio Brazzà or Malga Pozof.
What’s the original and official recipe for frico?
No one knows exactly. Each person and household has their own that is transmitted down from grandma to nephew, from mouth to mouth. It may sound weird but there are endless ways in which you can mix potatoes and cheese together and create the perfect result to your taste. Depending on the ingredients and the pan you use, results can change dramatically. The optimum recipe must be determined by trial and error.
My frico recipe
Last year, Stefano and I moved into our house and, on New Year’s Eve, we cooked our first frico together. The result was good but not as good as we wanted to and thus it became our mission to find the perfect doses and create our mixture.
It took us a whole year to get it right, but, in the last hours of 2021, magic happened.
I think that magic is just about what everyone needs right now.
I’m finally able to share my own frico recipe. My advice is, don’t worry if it doesn’t work the first time, like all good things, it will if you keep trying.
Ingredients for two people
- Half onion
- 500 gr of potatoes
- 500 gr of Montasio Cheese (2-4 months old)
- Butter and oil
Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat and add a few drops of olive oil and a flake of butter. While the butter melts, dice the half onion and add it to the butter when it’s hot. While onion stews (add a tablespoon of water if needed), peel the potatoes and dice them.
Many people boil the potatoes but that would be cheating. Take your time and don’t rush. Look after the potatoes. Alternate medium and low heat and again, if needed, add a tablespoon of water. Season with the salt and grind of black pepper to your taste. While the potatoes cook you can shred the Montasio cheese. Cheese is a very delicate matter when it comes to Frico.
According to how seasoned the cheese you’re using is, you can get completely different outcomes. There’s no right or wrong, it depends on your taste. If you like savory dishes, you may want to use more seasoned cheese. If, on the other hand, you want something softer, you can opt for less seasoned cheese.
For my version, I used 450 gr of 2-months-old Montasio cheese and 50 grams of more seasoned cheese.
Potatoes are ready when you’re able to smash them with a fork and some have crusted. Once they are ready, add the shredded cheese and witness magic happen.
Incorporate the cheese with a spatula or a wooden spoon and distribute it filling the pan bottom.
Lower the heat and let the frico cook.
As the cheese melts, it penetrates the potatoes and together they create a burning mixture that tastes like the end of the world.
When the bottom is nicely crusted, but not burned, it’s time to invert our cheese and potato cake.
Shake the pan to loosen the cake, place a large plate on top and invert. Cook until crust forms also on this side.
Slide the frico onto a plate and serve immediately with polenta.
Beware of other recipes you can find online
To write this article I did some research on what was already available on the English-speaking side of the internet.
Lidia Bastianich is the undisputed queen of Frico on the internet but the first recipe you see from her is not frico at all. To be honest, it’s a recipe that would make any Italian cringe, not only people from Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
Frico does not include eggs or peppers. Besides, Asiago is a traditional cheese from Veneto, is not the right cheese for this recipe, as it is too soft and less tasty than Montasio. Do not use it.
This is the correct recipe: https://lidiasitaly.com/recipes/frico-potatoes-montasio-cheese/