When Cuisine Solutions’ Chef Del DiPietro started working in kitchens under French chefs, he had to explain that he was not simply playing with his food when he made Sicilian Easter baskets—he was carrying on centuries of tradition.
“My grandma’s grandma made them with her grandma, and I make them with my daughter,” DiPietro says. “The egg is like fertility and new life, and in old times in winter when there wasn’t a lot of food around, you’d give them to your distant family to nourish them.”
DiPietro, of course, adhered to tradition when he made the baskets with his daughter and sister this April. First, they shaped and braided an unyeasted “dead dough” into a basket shape, then they nested two hard-boiled eggs in the center. To finish, they adorned the baskets with artichokes and dough roosters with peppercorn eyes.
“I made one with almonds one time, and she yelled at me,” DiPietro says of his sister, laughing. “She was like, ‘What are you doing!’”
These homespun baskets might seem to have little in common with sous-vide cuisine, but both are created with precise techniques refined by years of practice.
“I see a direct correlation because you invest a lot of time and energy into doing this by tradition,” DiPietro says of making Sicilian baskets. “Here [at Cuisine Solutions], we make sure the same love and care goes into every single dish, even if we use science to ensure it.”
Before DiPietro became a sous-vide expert for Cuisine Solutions, or cooked at Blue Hill in New York or Zaytinya in DC, he learned Sicilian food traditions from his grandma. She taught him to can food, garden, and appreciate fresh ingredients, like the pears, figs, and broccoli that grew around her home in Albany, New York.
“Whatever you’re cooking has to be something you love,” he says. “Making my grandmother’s meatballs and tasting all those flavors that bring me back to her makes me happy—so does trying totally new things.”
Tradition is a huge part of his cooking foundation, but experimentation, especially with sous-vide, keeps him in love with the kitchen.
“It gives you a chance to watch and experiment—sous-vide a whole chicken and have fun with it,” DiPietro says. “And if someone tells me it’ll make half the mess and dirty half the dishes, then the lazy part of my brain is like, ‘Let’s do that.’”
Cutting down on mess is paramount with a two year-old. At home, DiPietro shares traditional foods with his daughter, like his grandma’s garlicky broccoli, and embraces traditional foods from his wife’s Kazakhstani family, like shashlik (kebabs, often made of lamb).
“A mentor once told me, ‘It’s not about complexity, it’s about doing things simply.’ If you do one thing perfectly, then you can do the next thing perfectly,” DiPietro says.
DiPietro’s theoretical last meal incorporates all his simple culinary loves: “A lot of red wine—preferably Barolo. Lots of grilled lamb, my grandmother’s stuffed artichokes, raspberry and hazelnut gelato. Then leave the bottle of Nutella.”