When I was in Milan many years ago, I didnt like it. Out of all the fair cities in northern Italy, I thought Milan was the stuffiest, snobbiest, most un-Italian city I had seen. This, of course, was merely the bitterness of being torn from Bergamo the day prior, which I found to be one of the fairest, most interesting cities I had ever been to.
I found one saving grace in a restaurant late one night called Lo Spifferro (or something) with my brothers and sisters; we had all drunk too much at lunch and fell asleep until 11 p.m. It was the only restaurant still open on a Sunday night in our neighborhood, and we were treated like gold.
A picture of the four of us hangs in the restaurant to this day. They gave us free grappa and stayed open late just to feed us. This is where I first ate pork medallions in balsamic reduction sauce, and one of the best penne alarabiatas I have tasted. The medallions are simple and easy to prepare and if made properly, will melt in your mouth. Serve as a second course after a light, meatless pasta, and follow with sauteed greens (I like fresh spinach in olive oil with lemon). Red wine is the only thing to drink with this.
6 pork medallions, or boneless pork steaks of any variety
1 cup of flour
A small twist of fresh oregano
1/2 cup (or so) of dark balsamic vinegar
Chop the oregano coarsely and set aside. Cut salt and pepper into the flour and put in a paper bag. Pound the medallions until they are thin, but not decimated. Put them in the bag and shake until each piece of meat is covered evenly. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large cast iron frying pan on medium-high heat. Once it starts spitting if you sprinkle a dash of water in it, carefully shake the medallions off and place them in the pan. Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on how thin they are. After you have flipped them over and the other side is done, sprinkle with the oregano, and add the vinegar. It will spit. Wear hot mitts and stand back. Reduce the heat to medium, and let cook for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and serve hot with some of the balsamic reduction drizzled over the top. It looks nice with a little spray of the oregano on the side.
If youve done it right, the pork will have an interesting balance between crispy and juice on the outside and tender in the middle. If youve done it wrong, it will be soggy and gooey. If it ends up like that, throw em away and do it again. If you go to Milan, make sure you stop by Lo Spiffero (if thats what its really called) and order this dish. It will be well worth your troubles to get there, and they might give you some free grappa, too. Plus, the gigantic golden Virgin Mary atop the famous cathedral is pretty nice to look at.
From the May 11-17, 2005, issue