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When Rach is in New York and wants to eat like she's in Italy, she goes to hotspot Via Carota, run by chefs Jody Williams and Rita Sodi. So, for our Italy episode, she HAD to ask the pair to share some of their simple signature dishes, which include these sauteed mushrooms with scamorza (a cow's milk smoked cheese), Insalata Verde and Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe.
"At Via Carota, we use an assortment of mushrooms—king, enoki, oyster—cooked in clusters on the hot plancha until golden brown. At home, a griddle or a large skillet made from cast iron will give you the same intense heat. We choose scamorza cheese for the way it melts, and we like the subtly smoked variety." —Jodi and Rita
For the fennel seed salt, lightly toast the fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally until fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool. Combine with the salt in a mortar and pound with a pestle until finely ground or use a spice grinder.
Store the fennel seed salt an airtight jar away from heat and direct light; it will keep for about 2 weeks.
For the dried porcini vinaigrette, pour water over porcini in a small bowl. Cover the bowl and steep until the mushrooms are soft, about 30 minutes. Drain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Squeeze the liquid out of the mushrooms into the bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons. Finely chop the porcini and stir into the Via Carota vinaigrette with the porcini liquid. Pull the marjoram leaves off the stems, finely chop, and stir them into the vinaigrette.
The vinaigrette can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
For the mushrooms and scamorza, carefully clean the mushrooms; use a soft brush or damp kitchen towel to wipe the caps and stems. Trim the base of clustered mushrooms where they are woody or dirty. For king mushrooms, keep the stem long, slice the mushroom in half lengthwise, and score the stem a few times.
Heat a well-seasoned griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high and lightly coat with oil (about 1 tablespoon). Cook the mushrooms in a single layer, pressing down on them as they sizzle, to brown as much surface area as possible. Don't crowd the pan; cook in two batches if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and continue cooking until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes total. Turn off the heat and let the mushrooms rest on the griddle to soften; tent with foil to keep them warm.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the cheese slices in a single layer on a sheet pan and broil until melted, golden brown, and blistered, about 3 minutes. Use a spatula to slide the cheese onto a warm plate and lay the mushrooms on top. Sprinkle lightly with fennel seed salt and spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of porcini vinaigrette over them.
Excerpted from Via Carota by Jodi Williams and Rita Sodi. Copyright © 2022 by Jodi Williams and Rita Sodi. Used with permission by Knopf. All rights reserved.