The real star of FX’s ‘Bear’? San Marzano tomato

For restaurant lovers, “The Bear,” a new FX series about a pressure cooker for a professional Chicago kitchen, filled with cute little nods to industry. There’s a biography of a Sydney enjoying her experience in the city’s Michelin-starred Alinea on purpose at the top. There is not one, but two Noma cooking books in the kitchen – “Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine” (2010) and “The Noma Guide to Fermentation” (2018). A chef stumbles upon a James Beard Award certificate tucked randomly into one of these cookbooks.

But my favorite Easter egg is also one of the most popular and influential of the series. Stacked throughout the kitchen, on shelves and under counters, are little pyramids of canned San Marzano tomatoes. Everywhere you look behind the house, there’s a can or six. While at first they seem just part of the background, these canned tomatoes finally make the spotlight.

“The Bear” stars Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carme” Berzato, a culinary genius who leaves his position at “The Best Restaurant on the Planet” to take over his family’s restaurant, The Original Beef of Chicagoland, after his brother (John Berthal) commits suicide. The restaurant is owed to the tune of more than $300,000 and is rocking a C rating from the Department of Health. It’s time to turn things around, which Carmi does with the help of newcomer Sydney (Ayo Ideberry) and a team of veteran chefs who are initially rebellious.

The dominant theme over the series’ eight episodes, all of which are available on Hulu now, is the pushing tension between the way things have been in The Original Beef under Mike – which was convenient, but sometimes substandard – and Carmy’s focus on perfection and profitability, Which was attached to him in punishing fine-dining kitchens.

This focus on quality is one reason why the inclusion of San Marzano tomatoes is such a great touch. Courtney Storer, who was once the chef at Jon & Vinny’s in Los Angeles, is the show’s culinary producer. She helped her brother, series creator Chris Storer, portray the authentic restaurant life, from the phrases used in the kitchen (“Behind!”) to the ingredients on the shelves.

“San Marzano specifically is my favorite tomato in the entire world,” Storer said on a salon call. “I grew up in Chicago cooking with them and I remember finding out who they were — it was probably like the Lydia Bastianic Show on Channel 11. She’s talking about San Marzano and I said, ‘Oh, wait, those are the ones to use.'”

When Storer eventually became a chef, she quickly replaced canned tomatoes in the kitchens where she worked with San Marzanos.

“I’ve been putting together all these recipes — like the classic Marcella Hazan tomato sauce recipe that I love — that call for San Marzano tomatoes,” she said. “In the end, I was like, ‘This is the secret ingredient.'”

“It’s just a standard brand,” said Eric Rivera, a 2021 Food and Wine Game Changer co-owner and owner of Addo. “Maybe through marketing, word of mouth, or just years of being around, that’s the kind of path that people take when they seek to make Italian-style tomato sauce.”

“Maybe through marketing, word of mouth, or just years of being around, that’s the kind of path that people take when they seek to make Italian-style tomato sauce.”

According to food writer and gardener Amanda Bloom, this may come as a surprise to some food lovers. In her words, “Every image we have of the tomato — the ideal, is a slicing machine. A giant house of tomatoes with [a] An oddly proportioned red colour, ready to be sliced.”

Bloom said the paste tomatoes, of which San Marzano is one of the most important, vary by design.

“Instead of the juiciness we give Berkeley tinsel, tomato paste maximizes the flesh,” she said. “It grows elongated to a pointed tip. Yield is the name of the game with tomato paste, for making sauce, sauce, and paste. But even in the world of tomato paste, San Marzano is highly prized among gardeners for its taste.”

It has been prized enough that the name itself is associated with such culinary excellence that there has been a long-running debate about what should and should be called a San Marzano tomato. Food writer Su Jit Lin explains that in Italy, San Marzano tomatoes grown in Valle de Sarno according to certain specifications can be classified as Pomodoro San Marzano del Agro Sarnese-Noserino And you have a “DOP” – or Protected Designation of Origin – logo on the label.

The DOP logo is basically a way for consumers to identify that a particular product comes from a special region, just like how people would like to drink champagne that is actually from the Champagne region of France.

“The United States does not honor the DOP designation until the territories come after us — [for example] “Kraft should change their product to Parmesan because it’s not Parmigiano,” Lynn said. The San Marzano tomato is part of that story. Most of what we get in the United States comes from New Jersey.”

This is the case for the most watched brand in the “Bear” kitchen. The company that makes these cans—which are white with stunning illustrations of tall cherry tomatoes on the side—is called Simpson Imports and is actually based in the United States. It grows and can San Marzano variety of tomatoes, which has been registered as a trademark as “San Mericans”.

It’s the confluence of old-world Italian tradition, American marketing and creativity, all packed into a box

It’s the confluence of old-world Italian tradition, American marketing and creativity, all packed into a box. It’s also a nice reference to the cultural context surrounding “the bear”. Like a large segment of Chicagoans, Carme and his family are Italian-American (or want to be Italian-American, as in the case of his “Polish like f**k” cousin).

And Italian-American food was central to Carmi’s relationship with his brother, Mike.

Every weekend, Mike made his family BracioleA Sicilian dish in which thin slices of meat are wrapped in cheese and breadcrumbs before being roasted. Next, the rolls are finished in a rich tomato sauce (sometimes called gravy or “Sunday sauce,” depending on where you live). Another thing Mike might make for his extended family—meaning the kitchen staff and even some of his customers—was tomato-filled spaghetti, made with San Marzanos/San Mericans.

Lin said that’s a natural choice.

“They are famous for being great in sauces for the fact that they are dense in flavor in a meaty but mild way with less acidity naturally they can be cooked into the sauce – important because tomatoes can become more acidic with prolonged cooking the time they have less liquid.” “Also, these types of tomatoes, like any taller plum-shaped tomatoes, like Roma, will have fewer seeds.”

However, Mike’s spaghetti was a dish Carme initially avoided when he walked into The Original Beef’s kitchen, noting that spaghetti was an exotic item for a sandwich shop to serve in the evening. However, he does not give away the San Marzano tomatoes that his brother used for kitchen stocking; They’re good for other things, like Italian beef roast (a move the real Tempesta restaurant in Chicago uses) and short ribs.

But Karmi eventually returned to the dishes that reminded him of his family. Sometime early in the season, chicken piccata put on the menu that almost resembles a dish made by his sister, Sugar (played by Abby Elliott). In the end, he found a note that his brother had left him before his death.

Doesn’t say much. It’s written on a slip of paper the size of a recipe card. On the front, it reads, “Let it rip,” a shortcut between the brothers to jump foot first in a new challenge. On the back, there’s a recipe for “family meal pasta,” which includes, you guessed it, two cans of those signature tomatoes.

Karmi collapsed, and at her emotional peak, he saw him preparing his brother’s noodles. Slight spoiler: It’s a more valuable decision than Carmi initially thought, and one that makes the viewer realize that these tomato cans are an even bigger metaphor in the series.

In addition to being a symbol of culinary excellence and the Italian Carme heritage, the San Marzanos piles are also a symbol of the way Mike is still around the Carme, though they have had a hard time calling in Mike’s later years. Seriously, everywhere Karmi looks in the kitchen is a can of those tomatoes that Mike left behind.

There’s no word yet on whether there will be a second season of “The Bear,” but if or when Carmi decides to move the family restaurant in a new direction, viewers are pretty confident that Spaghetti Mike will be on the standby – And that San Marzanos will remain a staple in the kitchen there for years to come.

“Bear” is now streaming on Hulu.

Do you feel hungry after watching “The Bear”?

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