Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sausage Patties Aeolian Style 1




I mentioned this in comments on Anerio Cincotta's recipes. One of the fondest food memories I have of the islands is the sausage.
That really is not true. The fondest memory is going to Grammie's childhood home, picking lemons from the tree and from the ground and making lemonade all week so that we could harvest the seeds to take home with us. My sister Mary, Mildred and I had a lot of Lemonade that week! It was all for naught though. There was not a single mature seed in any of the lemons. Seeds were not in fact having a good year that year. I remember that Mildred and Sis bought seeds for San Marzano tomatoes and other things in Florence. When they got home, it was the worst year for gardening that I remember...I do not think they got much from the seeds.

Anyway, back to the sausage. John and I were in Salina and desperate since it had been a bit cold to eat outside while everywhere else had been rather warm. It is a maritime climate there, and while it rarely gets truly cold, the damp chill can get to you. I made a nice breakfast for us and we ate it outside on the terrace(I cannot remember the Aeolian word) with the volcano towering above us. Fried eggs, grilled local bread, fresh squeezed OJ from the tree by the back door(mixed with Blood Orange Juice) and these sausages. They were in sausage form, but who takes the time to stuff sausage at home these days. For that matter who likes handling raw pig's intestines?(artificial are available) These were not thick sausages, being somewhere between an Italian sausage of our experience and a breakfast sausage.

Here is a way you can try this at home. These are not exactly bland, but rather plain. Cooking is not quite so spicy and fiery over there as we picture it here with our Italian American cooking.

Also, this is the closest I can come to this recipe based on tasting it with John and with Sis and Mildred.

One pound of unseasoned sausage meat(if you can get it) or ground pork.
Place it in a bowl and fluff it up, separating the ground meat into granules with a fork.

Add salt and pepper in moderate amounts.

Take several medium or large cherry type tomatoes and cut them in half.

Remove all the seeds with your finger and lay the cut halves on a paper towel or drainer to dry for about an hour. You can dry these more by sprinkling the cut sides with salt before draining them but watch out for the salt content from then on. You could also roast them to intensify the flavor as American tomatoes are less flavorful than Italian San Marzano tomatoes. You could also blanch the tomatoes to remove the skins, But I do not think they did this there on the island. Another option would be Sun Dried Tomatoes drained of oil so they are fleshy but not wet.
The tomatoes you find occasionally in the markets that are about the size of a golf ball would be perfect if they are ripe.

Chop the tomatoes into half inch dice and squeeze them to release more moisture.

Place in the bowl with the pork.

Finely chop two cups of fresh Arugula or freshly gathered baby Dandelion leaves. Saute them in a bit of olive oil to wilt and add to the pork.

Fold the ingredients all together to get a nice distribution through the pork.

Form into patties and fry like any sausage.

These sausages were not very fatty but if preferred, you could add extra pork fat or ask for a fattier grind from the butcher.

Additions might be finely ground Bay Leaf or Parmesan cheese. I do not think there was any garlic in these, but they would clearly be good that way, very finely slivered so as not to be found in large chunks in the sausage.

See also the post titled "Sausage"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Anerio (Sonny) Cincotta's Stew


You will need:
Large heavy bottomed Pan 8-10 Qt.
Extra Virgin olive oil
Chunked Lamb or Beef
Flour
Salt and Pepper
Potatoes, Onions, Carrots and Celery

Film the bottom of the large pan with 1/8 cup of oil. Extra Virgin is not really necessary for this as much of the olive flavor will cook away with the heat.

Add meat 2-4 lbs and brown on very high heat. Best done in three batches as the meat will steam of it is in a big pile.
Add flour for thickness. Add as much as you like for a THICK OR THIN GRAVY.
Add water to about 3/4 of the pan.
Add Vegetables: Red Potatoes with skin, 3 Onions, 2 stalks of celery. I use baby carrots, a large bag usaully or two smaller bags.
Salt and pepper.

Add a small can of tomato sauce, for flavor and colour.

IT IS VERY INPORTANT TO COOK ON a very LOW FLAME SO THE STEW DOOESN'T STCK TO THE BOTTOM. Of the pan, not your bottom!

I have poured this over a plate of Linquini UMMM GOOD!

If you have the extra time, use tomato paste instead of sauce. Do this before any vegetables are added, either with the meat at the end of the browning, or remove the meat temporarily and return it later. Allow the tomato to brown on the bottom of the pan while stirring constantly till you add the liquid.

Suggested herbs. Garlic and Rosemary with lamb. A bay leaf or two and even cloves for Beef. Parsley and thyme are a good all around combo. Mint or oregano would be good with both. Lemon or lemon rind might be pleasant with parsley or oregano especially...you cannot go wrong with plenty of garlic. Sonny seems to do his plain, and I trust him to do good things.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bill's Very Easy Meat Pies and Short Pastry.

I have made many Cornish Pasties before, using traditional recipes.  They are wonderful, but a bit of a challenge if you do not do them often.  I suppose that the English and Welsh housewives did them so often that they became just routine.  They do use up scraps well, and you can do a thousand variations depending on what is in the refrigerator.  Use any meat, being especially careful that chicken is well cooked.  It is just as good to be made with a mix of meats if you have a bit of everything available.   Beef, veal, chicken, pork, turkey...all would work well.  The English enjoy fish pie.  I confess that I know nothing of these, and how to make a good filling for them.  I suppose shrimp with spinach and onions would be good.  Perhaps a fish with garlic, saffron, onions and chunks of tomato would work.  Take a clue from recipes like Bouillabaisse 
The one drawback to using leftovers, is the extremely gentle cooking of the meat that leaves it especially tender.  If the meat is precooked before it goes into the pie, it is not the same.  Also, you have to remember that pork and chicken are especially good at draining the flavor out of everything.  So, over-season them a bit to compensate for the extreme blandness.

Pastry

All ingredients should be cold!  Very cold if possible!


Measure out 10.5 ounces of flour.  You really need a good scale if you are to get superior pastry.  The general rule of thumb is about twice the weight of flour to butter, then add a bit more butter.  You could us the pastry I have in the pie recipes posted elsewhere, but this is much better for this purpose.

Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Cut 6 ounces of butter into very small cubes, and drop into the flour.  I cut the sticks of butter into quarters the long way and then cut the long sticks up into cubes.


Using your fingers, coat all the butter cubes with the flour, tossing them with your two "claws" like tossing a salad.   Continue by smearing the cold cubes of butter into the flour by pinching each one once or twice, then continue to pinch the entire mass till the butter is completely broken up and the pastry is fairly uniform.  It should retain bits of butter about the size of lentils or smaller.  Do not over do.

Add up to 6 tablespoons of icy cold water a tablespoon at a time.  Add three, then stir with a fork.  Add another tablespoon and stir again.  Stop before the 6 tablespoons are in if it seems that the dough will gather up easily.

Gather the dough up into a ball, pressing it together but do not work the dough in any way.  Flatten the ball slightly and put into a large plastic sandwich bag or a covered bowl or Tupperware.  Set in the refrigerator for half an hour or more to allow the moisture to distribute itself evenly through the dough.

Take it out of the refrigerator and let it warm for about ten minutes.

Dust the counter with flour, rub the rolling pin with flour and dust the top of the pastry with flour.

Tap the ball repeatedly with the pin in all directions to get it to flatten into a disk.

Roll the dough out into a large 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick sheet.

Cut the sheet into quarters and line four to six tins, tiny pie plates, or ramekins.  I use oval ramekins about 6 inches by four.  Cornish pasties are rather long and narrow, so I guess I like the look of the oval ramekins as a result. 

Press the pastry into the containers evenly leaving the rest of the dough hanging over the sides.

Fill the pastry with the cooled filling without over filling it.

Draw all the pastry over the edges and toward the middle like a drawstring bag, covering as much as possible of the filling except a space in the center to allow steam to escape. I do not take particular care with this. It looks ragged and draped rather than neat.


Brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, then reducing the temperature to about 350 till the pies are a deep golden brown and the filling is completely cooked.  This could be up to another 20 minutes.

Serve hot, warm or cold.  Do not refrigerate if you can help it, but if it is not going to be eaten soon, refrigerate only when completely cold.  It is better to freeze it instead of refrigerating.  Warm briefly in the oven when thawed.



Filling.

  Of course you could use anything from fruit pie filling, apples, sliced peaches or plums or meats just as described below.  You could also do this with any partially cooked vegetable you like, such as a vegetable stew, eggplant and tomato chunks, pumpkin and onions, Caponata...Whatever.  Caramelize a large quantity of onions then cook in a bit of tomato paste and Oregano.  Mushrooms grilled till browned and mixed with caramelized onions(with or without eggs) and oregano.  The Italians would use a Nepeta that grows wild in Italy, but Oregano is good too.  How about braised greens like endive, dandelion, chard, Good King Henry(which you can grow in your garden as a perennial if you can find the plants) etc., mixed with onion and ham, with or without egg to bind.


I save all the trimmings from bizarre looking pork chops, the rib meat from the chicken etc.  Sausage would be good and there is some interest in England in onions and bacon.  Pancetta or Prosciutto cooked with Spinach, onions and olives, and feta and beaten egg added when cooled, would make a great pie. 

Drop about 2 cups of meat into a food processor and chop coarsely.  Some chunks should remain, but not too large.

Cube one large onion and three or four carrots.(Add potato cubes and/or , shreds of cabbage or turnip if you like, especially if you are short on meat)

Brown any meat bones you have from the trimming job you did to get the meat, in olive oil.(I try to use as much olive oil as possible instead of butter because it is much healthier.  However, butter is much better tasting.)  When the bones are about half cooked and nicely browned, add the onions and carrots.

Brown the veggies along with the bones, add a couple of minced garlic cloves for the last minute or two of cooking.  Add water just to cover.  Add a bay leaf, a rounded teaspoon of thyme and sage and a pinch of cloves if desired.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer covered, till the veggies are nearly cooked through and the water has nearly disappeared.  These pies are not meant to have a gravy like a pot pie.  The regular pasties are meant to be wrapped in a napkin and taken off to be consumed in the mines or fields.  Dribbling sauces would not be appropriate.

Add the chopped meat and continue to cook at a VERY low temperature, just till the pink or raw is all but gone.  Less is best.  If you dare, omit the cooking of the meat and let it do so in the pie instead.  After all, it is in such small pieces, it should cook through without too much trouble.

Pick out the bones VERY CAREFULLY and remove the bay leaf.   Then cool the filling till just warm or cold.

Spoon the filling into the pastry and top with a chunk of butter.

If you can find Quail eggs(not the most common or economical of ingredients, which spoils the economy of the recipe), soft boil and peel them, and nestle deep into the filling so they are not seen.  Otherwise, if you like egg, hard boil(a little undone in the center of the yolk is best) a couple of eggs and quarter them.  Nestle the quarters into the filling as you fill the pie.

Now, if you want to be absolutely correct about this, divide the dough into four or six pieces.  Roll each piece into a round.  Place filling in the center and fold the dough over in half.  Dampen and seal the seam and crimp decoratively.  Lay the pie on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, or just lightly greased.  Brush with beaten egg and poke a couple of steam holes in the top.  Bake as described.  serve with a big dollop of Dijon or Coleman's mustard.


Sausages and vegetables from Anerio Cincotta





















In a large preheated frying pan pour:

1/4 cup of olive oil

Heat till you can just start smelling the oil and the surface seems to shimmer.

Add:

3 or 4 Sausages of your choice cut in 1/4" or 1/2" pieces. You can't beat Dom's in Malden as that is where many of our family settled, but a local establishment could supply you garlic and cheese, hot or sweet sausages. If you go to Malfa, the butcher there makes a great sausage with minced tomato and bitter herbs like Arugula or Dandelion greens. They are simple and heavenly. (Note from Bill: I usually remove the sausage casings when I do this as the shreds of casing make for an odd texture in finished dishes.)
Brown the sausage and drain off at least some of the fat. You can easily push the sausage to the side and tilt the pan where you can absorb some of the fat with a paper towel. Try not to remove the lean juices.

Add at medium heat:

2 medium size onions cut up. (White are traditional in Italy, but Red makes a milder and sweeter dish that is also common in Italy. Though not as common in Italy, yellow onions are fine.)

2-3 peppers green, red or yellow cut up

2 table spoons of minced garlic (Howards)

2 bunches of broccoli or cauliflower or both broken or cut into florets.
Broccoli Rape would also be great in this.

Mix all together and brown slightly and add:

1 cup tomato sauce

reduce the heat to low and simmer covered till the vegetables are cooked to the desired tenderness. The vegetables and meat will exude more juices to make a sauce along with the tomato.

Salt and pepper to taste.
Oregano if desired.

When I see variations of this in Italy, I am often disappointed. They tend to over cook the Broccoli, Cauliflower and any number of other vegetables in Italy. Keep tasting this till your veggies are just a bit underdone. It will continue to cook after the heat is turned off. Be especially careful with Broccoli Rape as it can be quite bitter when overcooked.

Serve with any starch and grated cheese

Perhaps you could add a few red pepper flakes if you and your guests can take it.

Finito

You could also do this with a cut up frying chicken, chicken breast or thighs(whole or boneless). Mixed with cooked Penne or Ziti, this would be a wonderful buffet or Pot Luck dish.

Split open crusty rolls, whole Italian or French loaves and brush the cut sides with olive oil. Toast under the broiler briefly then pile a layer of this dish onto each side. Grate a nice mild melting cheese like Buffalo Mozzarella or Fontina over the mounds of veggies. Bake just till the cheese melts then fold them over to assemble the sandwiches and cut into slices or half rolls to serve. This will make a lot of sandwiches for a picnic tailgate party or a last minute, what the devil do I serve this crowd, party.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Spinach Pie

I have no claim on this at all. It will be eventually posted in the section at the end with recipes by Stranieri.

This is absolutely wonderful. Of course it helps that I make a fabulous pie crust, but every other part of this is good too.

Make and chill pie crust(found elsewhere in the blog) for a two crust 9 inch pie.

Mince two large onions and saute in 4 Tablespoons of butter till they are soft and golden brown. Add three minced cloves of garlic in the last two or three minutes.
Add 3 tablespoons of flour and cook till the raw flour taste is cooked out. Do not brown it. Add 2 cups of warm milk or a mix of milk and cream. Add a dash of cayenne to taste and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir till all is smooth and continue to stir till it thickens to a thick onion Bechamel. Set aside to cool with a skin of plastic wrap on top.

Saute a pint or more of button mushrooms, or mushrooms of your choice, cut into quarters till they are golden and tender. Salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Thaw two packages of chopped spinach. Chop it finely with a large knife then squeeze very dry. Put it in a sauce pan with about a third of the bechamel and stir constantly till it is incorporated and the spinach is cooked. Do this on very low heat. Set aside. Salt and pepper.

Cut one inch chunks of cooked ham(good quality), or have ready about half a pound of sandwich ham from the deli or about 1/3 pound of prociutto crudo.


Roll the chilled dough out into a large rectangle about the size of a jellyroll pan on a surface covered with flour. Trim any thick edges and uneven pastry off and save till the end for decoration. Transfer the dough to a cookie sheet, but make sure it is far to one side with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper under the half of the dough that will hang over the edge, parallel to the length of the pan and pastry.

If you have sliced ham or prociutto, lay it all over the dough up to about an inch and a half from the edges. The chunks of ham can go on along with the mushrooms.
Place half of the spinach in a long flattened line in the middle of the length of one half of the dough. In other words to the right or left side of center. Stop about and inch and a half from the ends. this should be neatly done and there should be a depression the length of the spinach, so that any liquids from the next layer are trapped in the depression.
Arrange the mushrooms and any pan juices evenly in the layer of spinach, perhaps pressing them slightly into the spinach.
Cover the mushrooms with another layer of spinach.
Brush the exposed pastry rim with beaten egg.
Fold the unfilled side of the pastry over the top of the filling and seal all the edges well , tucking the seamed double layer under so as to look seamless.
Brush the entire pie with beaten egg.
Roll out the pastry trimmings and cut into quarter inch strips. Lay the strips diagonally one direction then over that in the opposite direction for form a diamond pattern. Seal or tuck in the ends to make it all very neat.
Brush the decoration with beaten egg and place in a 375 to 400 degree oven(depending on your oven) and bake 35 to 40 minutes or till dark, golden brown.
While baking, reheat the Bechamel. If very thick, add a bit more milk. Grate in at least a cup and a half of your favorite cheese. I might use Gruyere or Swiss, mild cheddar or a blend with perhaps Parmesan and Fontina...really any not too sharp cheese will do if it will melt. Melt in the sauce till smooth, thinning as necessary...this should be quite thick.
Allow the pie to cool and run a pallet knife or spatula under the edges. Lift it off the sheet with a couple of spatulas onto a platter and slice crosswise at the table. Serve the onion and cheese Bechamel on the side to pour around, not on top. you do not want to hide the marvelous, decorated pastry.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pork Chops from Anerio Cincotta, son of Jake and Rose


Honey Brown Barbecue Sauce
6 Pork Chops Center Cut
Med.size bag baby carrots
4 large sweet peppers
3 good size onions
4 baking potato's sliced into 1/4 " PCS
Lay the Chops flat on bottom of a12-18 inch pan
Baste the sauce over the chops
Boil carrots first until almost soft
Add to pan when ready
Cut up the peppers into 1/2 inch slices
Cut onions in 1/2 inch wedges
Add all to the pan and baste again w/ sauce
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 3/4 hr with 
1/4 " water bottom of pan
Why would this not work for chicken breasts, thighs or legs or a whole chicken, butterflied or cut up.  Also substitute any commercial sauce you like.  A-1 has a number of bottled sauces, or use your own tomato sauce.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bill's Shepherd's Pie...Made with real shepherds!










There have to be a million recipes for Shepherd's Pie. Most are extremely simple. Fry up onions and beef with salt and pepper. Layer with cooked corn. Top with mashed potato. Bake till the top is brown. Sounds good for a dorm room. It is a fairly simple recipe, but that is my challenge. I just can't leave simple things alone!
Lamb, of course, would be the logical choice for this, and it would be wonderful with the shifting of a few herbs.(I just cannot deal with lamb for some reason.) In fact, shifting a few herbs and spices can give this dish a rather international quality. There is no reason, because of the herbs and broth in my version, that you could not play with this and choose different meats to get an Oriental, Italian, American, French, Greek or any other regional variation. You could even substitute a layer of macaroni and a cheesy white sauce for the potato.


Peel two to three pounds of potatoes. The way the quality of the potato goes in the markets, you may need more. I find tons of waste when I buy in the market. Wash, and cut them into two inch chunks. Boil till tender. While you are boiling the potatoes, chop one very large white or yellow onion in half inch pieces.(Bell peppers would also be good.)
Saute the onion in olive oil till transparent. Add 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef(drain off the fat if the fat content is high)and brown while breaking it up in the pan. Add two minced cloves of garlic and allow to cook briefly. When the meat is brown, make a clear spot in the pan, and lower the heat. Add two tablespoons of tomato paste to the cleared center, and stir till the tomato browns a bit. Add salt, pepper, 2 teaspoons of Thyme,(cinnamon if desired) and one can of beef broth with red wine added to make two cups total.(You might also like Worcester Sauce in this. The measurements may vary according to your taste. Boil the liquids away while preparing one tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup of red wine or water. When the liquids have reduced leaving the level about half as deep as the meat, add the cornstarch mixture, a cup of thawed frozen peas and lower the heat again. cook till the starch flavor has cooked out and the mixture is quite thick. Set this aside to cool a bit.
An alternative to this method would be to add dry flour(1-2 Tablespoons) to the pan after the tomato paste, and stir to cook it through.  Add the liquids after and stir till the sauce has thickened.(This will darken the sauce if you allow it to brown slightly again after the tomato. Don't over do.)

Vary this whole production by using lamb with cinnamon, oregano or mint,(lemon juice if desired) and garlic....Pork with garlic,white wine and rosemary or the Mexican mix of oregano, garlic, cumin and chile peppers....and so on.

Thaw and cook two cups of frozen corn in the microwave. Set aside to cool.
Or, precook a cup of diced carrots.
Another addition would be two cups of quartered mushrooms of your choice, cooked in butter or olive oil.  see also the post on Mushroom Caviar posted elsewhere.

Mash the potatoes with a cup of milk(more if needed)or Half and Half, one stick of butter, one cup of Parmesan or other grating cheese, salt and pepper. They should not be runny, but should be pleasantly soft.(Adding the flesh from a whole roasted head of garlic will send this out of the park especially if you use unpeeled red potatoes.)

Grease or spray a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Spread the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan. Make a second layer of corn on top of the meat. Then carefully spread the mashed potatoes as a top layer. Rake the top of the potatoes with the tines of a fork in a decorative pattern. This looks glorious if you pipe the potato on top with the largest star tip and a forward and backward motion. Sprinkle with paprika. Place in a 400 degree oven for 35 minutes or till the top is nicely browned and the center is hot.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pork Chops


Do you remember Shake and Bake. Perhaps it is still on the shelves now. I have not seen it lately. My only reaction to that memory is: "What were we thinking?"
Horrible stuff! To tell the truth, every day pork chops were not the gourmet delight they could have been. We were all so afraid of Trichinosis that pork chops were sprinkled with oregano and garlic and baked till they were like jerky. I actually liked them that way, but these days Jerky and my teeth would have a long and drawn out battle. What I remember as a bright spot in the pork chop annals were the chops Mom stuffed.

The thickest chops you could buy were split from fat to bone(we could not afford the boneless chops) and stuffed with regular Bell's stuffing, with all the sauteed vegetables and raisins. Of course there is not much in the way of stuffing varieties that you could not use. Something with dried cherries would be nice, and I often do them that way. Here is an interpretation of her other efforts, more in the Italian line.

Use chops that are at least an inch thick. Split each chop from the fat edge of the chop, all the way to the bone. Some cooks will make a pocket in them with perhaps a one or two inch slit in the fat, opening inside to open as much inside area as possible. That is not nearly enough stuffing for me...Open those babies up like a book.

Mix a stuffing of stale bread crumbs(small cubes are perfect rather than tiny crumbs)

Saute minced onions and two or three cloves of minced garlic till tender.
Deglaze the saute pan with a cup of chicken broth and add a handful of raisins or other dried fruit.
Add a tablespoon of Rosemary and simmer for a minute or two to plump the raisins and soften the rosemary.
Add the bread crumbs till a mushy mass forms and cool. This is not meant to be like baby food, but moist and lumpy. You have the option of adding an egg to provide more moisture and bind it together.
Add a beaten egg(optional)when cool.
Add a small amount of parmesan or similar grating cheese, salt and pepper.



Stuff the bread mixture into the cavities loosly and place in an oiled loaf or similar pan large enough for the number you are making, standing up with the stuffing showing on top. Any extra stuffing can be forced around the chops to keep them more or less upright. Drizzle all with olive oil. Cover the pan tightly and bake at 250 degrees for at least and hour. Raise the oven temp to 350 and put back into the oven uncovered till the fat browns a bit and the stuffing has a nice crust. The chops should be nice and moist.

This would be very good with the bread, cheese and raisins mentioned elsewhere. This was common at home.

If you like your chops more exposed to the heat and the meat more browned, lay them flat in a lasagna pan or even on a rack off the bottom to cook. Covered for at least half of the time. Just keep the temperature down and make sure there are no colored juices coming out of the meat. Check with a meat thermometer if you are not sure.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Less Italian Italian Stuffed Peppers.

You know that when peppers are served at lunch places where all the legislators show up on lunch breaks in Boston, they are not quite the same as those you see on your Nonna's table.  But they are pretty good, and not really a far cry from some Greek recipes on my bookshelf.  I use any Marinara or left over sauce from the day before.  Today I used the sauce I made with cubed round steak, cooked forever till the meat fell apart.  That was perhaps overkill as the stuffing has meat in it too and all that nice meaty sauce becomes redundant.  But that is what I had, and I did not have time to make fresh sauce.  It was a sauce that was a little thinner than usual, and that was a good thing, because it lets the rice absorb more moisture.

Bring four cups of water to a boil.  Do not add salt as the rice will absorb what is in the sauce and you want to control the salt when you can. 
Drop in 1 1/2 cups white rice.  Arborio would be excellent, but it would be expensive and you will have to play with the texture and correct doneness...if that is a word.
Boil at a reduced temperature for 10 minutes and drain.

Put one pound of ground beef or lamb in a bowl.  Add salt, Pepper, plenty of finely minced Garlic, 1T oregano, 1T basil, 1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms(or canned if you have nothing else) and one whole, finely minced onion. 
Drain the rice and put it on top of the meat mixture.  Stir and fold this all together till fairly uniformly mixed.
Meanwhile, halve four peppers top to bottom.  Remove the core, seeds and vanes.  Lay them into a lasagna pan and stuff the filling into them.  Mound the stuffing slightly but remember this will expand a bit more in the oven.
Pour sauce over the peppers and into the pan.  If it seems dry, add a bit of water or broth, but not too much as it will make it's own sauce.
Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Check to see if the peppers are tender...I like them almost collapsed...baste the sauce over the peppers half way through. 
When nearly done, baste again, and sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs if you like, and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes. 
Serve with crusty bread and a nice red wine!

Try small zucchini, eggplants, onions or big tomatoes instead of peppers.  Hollow out and chop the flesh of the veggie into the stuffing.  Squeeze out the seeds and juice from the tomatoes.  If the zucchini or eggplant are really big, be selective as seeds may have developed, and you do not want that in your stuffing.

Remember that you are trying to bake the moisture from the meat, vegetables and sauce into the half done rice.  If this seems dry at any point, add some sort of liquid to keep the moisture up in the baking pan till the end.

Mom used to do her stuffing as just meatball mixture alone...that is wonderful, but it really requires a starch to go with it.

Sandy's Pork Chops



I went to visit our Friend Sandy H. last night.  I put a light up in her kitchen.  What a disaster coming home though, the GPS took me to parts of Boston that I had never even heard of, let alone been to.  She lives in a great townhouse in Chelsea for a few weeks a year and rents it out the rest of the time to return to Florida. 
She thanked me with a great meal of roasted red potatoes and her mother's Vinegar Peppers and Pork.
She has a difficult time getting the vinegar peppers outside of Boston.  I am sure they exist, but it is difficult to find someone who stocks them.
In this case, Sandy uses Vinegar Peppers from Pastene  Very simple green peppers preserved in plain vinegar.  What kind of vinegar, I could not tell.
She ordered thick pork chops, and she ended up with prehistoric pig sized chops.  They were huge!
Anyway, she slivered an onion over the pork chops in a baking dish, and topped them with strips of the vinegar peppers and some of the liquid.  She added salt and pepper and slid them in the oven for an hour.  Use a fairly low oven for this.
After an hour, it was great. 
You could easily just marinate peppers in vinegar yourself if you cannot find them in a jar.  Perhaps just bring the vinegar to a boil and pour it over your sliced(green) peppers and cover to marinate for a day.
I often use Balsamic vinegar with pork, along with Rosemary and Garlic cloves. 
If you wanted this to be more Sweet and Sour than just acidic, you could experiment with adding a Tablespoon of sugar to the liquid.  Adjust each time you do this till you get the balance you like.
Personally, I have always loved vinegar, and if my mother had done this when I was young, I would have begged for them...Plus vinegar is so good for you!  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lazy, El Cheapo, Bachelor Meatballs in Sauce

Ok...so you do not cook much...you love meatballs, but hate the idea of making sauce(Your mother always told you never to use bottled sauce!!! or she would haunt you to your grave.  Why betray her and your Italian heritage...even if you are not Italian.  Maybe you have dated an Italian...that is close enough.),  then poaching the meatballs in the sauce...or frying or baking them if that is your family tradition, the expense of buying Parmesan or Romano, cleaning the burnt sauce and the bottom half of the meatballs off the pan when you have not been watching the temperature. You are not going to fool your mother with this!  But you can use it for a weeknight meal, a party dish or pot luck.

1 1/2 pounds of ground beef

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I use chopped bread including whole wheat rolls, old croutons, leftover garlic bread, etc. for this if the cupboard is bare.  Be careful of salt because some pre-made products can be salted already.)

2 eggs  This will make cast iron meatballs.  you won't damage them serving or getting them out of the pan, serving with toothpicks for a party, etc.  For a more tender and delicate meatball, add more bread and use only one egg.

salt  Use a little more than you would normally use because I do not include the cheese in this recipe(part of the cheap moniker).

Ground pepper

Red pepper flakes

5 finely minced or crushed garlic cloves.  (Mash the cloves on a counter or a cutting board with the side of a broad knife or a thick bottomed glass, either alone or mixed with a bit of salt till it becomes a paste.)  Substitute garlic powder if you find it more in your ability range.

1/2 cup water or wine(The wine is not me, but it might charm you. Besides, if you are a bachelor, there are probably a few open bottles hanging around.)

Chopped parsley, or if the cupboard is bare of this too, use a little Italian seasoning.

Mix all together in a bowl with your  wet or oiled hands.(see below)

Roll egg sized clumps of the meat mixture between your palms to make about 2 inch meatballs.  If you are squeamish about a mess on your hands, dampen or oil your hands before doing this.  Keep a bowl of cold water beside your work area for this.

Grease or spray a small baking pan, just large enough to hold the balls with a quarter inch or less to spare between each of them.  If you are in the habit of leaving half finished food in the pan and throwing it into the fridge, use a glass pan.  Acidy tomato products can eat right through your metal pans in time.  You can taste the metal as well.  For the same reason, do not store open cans of tomato products in the refrigerator. Take it out of the can and put it in plastic, ceramic or glass containers.  Also cover with plastic instead of foil for storage.  If you are really lazy, use a covered casserole or your large cook pot with a cover.  The temperature is fairly low, and stove-top pans do not usually suffer if the temperature stays in the 300s or less.

You may continue with the raw meatballs or slide the pan into the oven for twenty minutes before adding the sauce.

Pour over the meatballs:

One can of crushed tomatoes, plus a little water from rinsing the can.  Or vodka...(very good) and you probably have this hanging around too.  If you do use vodka, stir in a little cream before serving...no you cannot use artificial creamer, but cream cheese, sour cream, old onion dip etc. all work.

A finely chopped onion,

2 minced garlic cloves,

1T basil,

1 1/2 T oregano,

salt,

pepper,

2 bay leaves.

Make sure the sauce is down between the meatballs, separating them so they do not join into a big bumpy meatloaf.  Cover with foil and bake in a 375 oven, reducing the temperature to 325 after about 20 minutes, and continue to cook for another 40 minutes to an hour.  If you are not an actual lazy bachelor, you might consider scraping the sauce away from the sides of the pan once or twice in this time, but it will really be OK if you don't.

If I have them, it is nice to thinly slice and spread the top of the sauce with green or red peppers.  Use up the cut one in a baggie in the refrigerator.

Alberta's Pork Chops and Sauerkraut


Brown pork chops in oil or butter if you want a more colored dish.
Wash sauerkraut and drain.
Pour sauerkraut over the chops.
Add 1/2 cup of water or beer.
Cover and cook on top of the stove or in the oven for one hour or more at 325 to 350 degrees F.
Salt and pepper to taste...watch out for the salt with the Kraut.


Note from Bill: you might try caraway seeds and sliced onions browned with the chops in this as well.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thanksgiving is Coming Turkey Gravy





















I am afraid that this is a rather poor image but alas this is all there is. This is the planter with the bay/laurel tree. these grow all over the place in Italy. They use them for hedges and topiaries, much the same way we might use hollies or other evergreens. I was always stripping the trees there and dropping them in sauces when I got home. I could always say that the bay flavor in this sauce was from Hadrian's Villa or the Roman Forum etc.
John had a day off after a long period of working every day. He decided that he wanted Thanksgiving now while he had a chance to show our new room mate Nathan a nice day. He bought a Turkey breast. That, of course was not going to yeild a lot of liquid for gravy. So, I had to remember an old recipe that would give us some nice gravy by supplementing it with other ingredients. I started the gravy and while I looked on I made Nathan do most of the grunt work.
I like a thin gravy and some like a thick gravy. Use your common sense with this using my measurements for a thin gravy and adding more flour for thick. You could also mix a bit of cornstarch into cold broth or water and stir more into the thin gravy if you want it thicker. Cornstarch gravies are OK if you like to do them, but there is nothing like the gravies made with flour for a more Old Fashioned taste.
Having the herb garden in the yard makes all the difference in this and similar recipes. Taking a walk out to the herb garden in the back of the yard gives you a pleasant break through all the rush of cooking a big meal, and the flavor of fresh herbs is so much nicer. Remember though, dried herbs, though definitely inferior, can be quite strong compared to the "un-condensed" fresh versions. It sometimes really looks like you are using way too many herbs when using fresh, but be brave and don't skimp.
If you do not have the herb garden, or the frosts have taken them already, get a big concrete Planter...Really big!, and fill it with nice soil and transplant your favorite herbs or buy new herbs to plant in it. Find a nice south window and put it there for the winter. Remember that many herbs like a slightly dry and inhospitable atmosphere compared to houseplants. Do not over water or over fertilize...in fact you might not want to fertilize at all. Over fertilized plants can produce lush but flat tasting herbs. I have three planters in the living room in the winter. One has my four foot tall Bay tree, one has Sage, and the third has a mix of plants. The smaller planters are about 18 inches tall and round. They have an embossed pattern of oak leaves on the sides in a foot wide band. The big planter is oval, about three feet long and 16-18 inches high. It has a renaissance pattern of rose garlands on the side...very Italian looking. They can go outside as garden features in the Spring.

Go out to the garden to collect at least a dozen leaves of Sage. While you are there, don't forget Lovage to add to the stuffing, Chives for most anything and Parsley for garnish as well as here and there throughout the meal.

See...Isn't that fun already?

With canned mushrooms:

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter(You want this to be very rich.)

Add one diced yellow onion and saute on medium heat till the onions begin to break down. Add three whole or chopped garlic cloves and continue to cook after two or three minutes more, add one small can of mushrooms drained. Stack the sage leaves and slice crosswise in 1/4 inch slices. Add to the pan. Continue to cook till the scent of the sage becomes obvious. Add 2 tablespoons of white flour(unbleached is always best) and stir constantly to cook the flour for a couple of minutes.

You should have drained the baking juices from the turkey or chicken by now, and put them in a separator if you have one. If you don't (shame on you) skim the fat off the juices. Add enough chicken broth to make about two cups. When the flour is cooked, pour all the juices into the pan at once and stir till all is smooth. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat stirring often till the gravy thickens...You may add another tablespoon of butter at the end to make it look glossy. salt and pepper to taste.

With fresh or dried re-hydrated mushrooms:

Mince one and a half cups of the mushrooms fairly coarsely, but if you are using exotic wild mushrooms you may want the pieces to be a bit larger to be recognizable. Start with the butter as before and add the mushrooms and onions at the same time allow them to cook and brown just as in the first case above. You may need to add more butter, as the mushrooms will absorb a lot of butter and liquid. Add the garlic near the end of the frying time so it will not have a chance to burn. Continue as above.

About the Garlic. In my family, we fought for the cooked garlic cloves in the spaghetti sauce, in the roast drippings etc. We adored the garlic cooked that way. The garlic is very mild when cooked that way. It has none of the sharpness that garlic haters abhor. If you just cannot deal with the big pieces of garlic, mince them up and be sure to watch that they do not burn.



You could always make this with just chicken stock and use it as a baking sauce for pork, chicken, veal or turkey dishes. It might be lost in a beef dish.

You can easily substitute THYME or CALAMINT(Very Italian with mushrooms..ask your nursery man) for the sage, but do not mix the two.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Anerio Cincotta's Zucchini with Chicken






















chicken legs or thighs
zucchini grated, chopped or sliced
yams or potatoes
Provolone cheese (sharp)
Italian seasoning(or your own blend)
bread crumbs (Italian or Pani Caliatu)
eggs

Use an 8x12 baking dish.

This is how I prepare this:

Preheat the oven to 350-375 degrees F.

Mix Italian seasoning with all of the crumbs.

Put a light sprinkle of bread crumbs in the pan.

Place chicken in the pan over the crumbs.

Place yams on the other side of the pan in 1/2 in. slices.

Bake for half an hour.

In a large bowl mix the zucchini with eggs and the remaining bread crumbs to make a light paste.

Place the zucchini and paste over the chicken and potatoes.

Cover tightly with foil.

Bake again for one to one and a half hours.

Layer the Provolone over the zucchini and chicken and bake all till melted and browned well on top.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mushrooms and Beef on Toast

Sorry, no pictures of Amsterdam in digital.

In 1970, I went to Europe alone. I went everywhere and had a great time. I lived in Paris and made trips out from there. I really knew very little about the foods of the countries I was visiting, so it was all an adventure. I loved Croque Monsieur purchased from street vendors in Paris. People had tiny shops with windows on the street. They would just open the windows and the grill for the Croque Monsieur was literally on the windowsill. You would buy the slices through the window. Also in Paris, there were carts selling Hot Dogs. There was a little steel tube protruding from the top of the cart. They would cut the end off a baguette, and slide the tube through the cut end of the bread. Then they would step on a pedal that shot a burst of steam into the bread. This opened the bread up and heated and steamed it at the same time. Then out came a very long, skinny hot dog or some similar sausage. Holding it with tongs by one end, they would dip it into a container of hot mustard, then using the hot dog itself, paint the inside of the bread with the mustard and drop the hot dog inside. That was all and it was all you needed.

The memorable part of the dish I would like to tell you about here, really depends on the beer. I am not talking about cooking with it, but to go with it. I had this with Old Bruin beer. A very dark beer with Orange. I suppose any dark beer would do, but they went together so well, it sticks in my mind despite the thirty nine years that have passed.

I was in Amsterdam. This is one city that anyone would love. Beautiful, canals everywhere, history surrounding you. Kids want to go there because drugs are tolerated and Marajuana and prostitution is commonplace. But it is so much more. Art, Anne Frank house, lovely people and food, both Dutch and Indonesian.

I sat down at a canalside cafe. It was a tiny place with just two windows and a door facing the street and the canal beyond. I ordered something I did not quite understand for the adventure of it.

In a few minutes, out came a bowl with grilled bread smothered with finely shaved steak and mushrooms swimming in a butter sauce. That was all to go with the orange dark beer. I did not even care about mushrooms, but I could not get enough of this.

Trim all the fat from a half pound of tenderloin or other well marbled beef cut. Put into the freezer for about twenty minutes till it has started to firm but is not frozen.


You will need a very large skillet. Cast iron would be a great advantage.

Use any mushrooms you like, but these were probably Criminis. Wipe to clean and slice thinly.

Pour a generous film of olive oil into the preheated pan. Toss in the mushrooms, but do not overcrowd them. Saute at medium high heat. Add one or two minced cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and saute till the mushrooms have dried and browned.

Remove and hold the mushrooms keeping them warm but uncovered.

Reheat the pan to near smoking, then add more oil. Shave the steak as finely as possible and toss into the hot pan. (By this time it should have warmed to near room temperature as you shave it.) Saute the beef till the edges have browned and the pink has disappeared. Again, do not overcrowd the pan. It must brown not boil. Add salt and pepper(Thyme or a mix of mint and oregano, is a good addition if you like, but this had none.

Return the mushrooms to the pan and when reheated, add half a stick of butter, allowing it to melt in and form a sauce with any pan juices. Add a few drops of lemon juice at the end. Pour this over slices of grilled or toasted, thick sliced, coarse bread.(Add more or less butter as you like.)

Serve topped with chopped herbs of your choice.

Options:

Top with a mild cheese.

Caramelize onions along with the mushrooms.

Add a pinch of cayenne or pepper flakes.

Splash brandy or sherry in before the butter, and flame.

Split an entire loaf of peasant bread. Rye, Italian, French or whatever appeals to you would work. Run the open sides under the broiler then pour the mushroom and beef mixture over the bread, juices and all. Then mound up a layer of lightly dressed spring greens or arugula on top and close up the sandwich so the heat of the filling on both sides wilts the greens just slightly. Cut into large chunks to serve with or without a mild cheese or Parmesan.

Virginia Good's Pot Roast

There is very little that I will say that is positive about Virginia Good. She was my Mother-in-Law. She ruined both of her children, was terminally self centered, and raised her daughter to be her old age companion. She did all she could to separate us from before the marriage so that she could keep her hooks in her daughter. Too bad. she was a bright woman and could be a wonderful person if she had only tried.
However, she had three wonderful attributes. She had excellent taste in decorating. Not that I would do the same things, but her house was always beautifully done.
She had an excellent pedigree, having been descended from people like Shakespeare and Francis Drake.
She was a great cook. She had some of the failings of the cooks of the fifties and sixties with their penchant for fake potatoes, high calorie meals etc., but her traditional foods and family recipes were truly wonderful. I wish I had more of them available to me. Cole Slaw, Sticky Buns, Apple Dumplings, Ham-cheese-Cauliflower-Potato Casserole, Crab Cakes, Steamed Shrimp with Old Bay. The most requested of her meals was Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie. I have to assume that they knew much more about the Pennsylvania Dutch than I did, but I do not have any reason to believe that this was a specifically Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. The only convincing element of this recipe that would make me believe, is the use of a double starch. Though that is not necessarily an attribute of Pennsylvania Dutch, the argument was that this was a meal that like many other farm meals that was meant to fill up hungry farm hands. So, I am willing to believe despite the meagre evidence.
In this case, they had the habit of making an egg noodle recipe, roll and stretch it out thin, and boil large squares, the size of your palm, in the broth at the end of the meal or for the second day or both. I suspect that the real South-German or Swiss(The Pennsylvania Dutch were actually Swiss for the most part.) recipes might include Spaetzele, which are actually easier to make.
This is nothing like a traditional New England Pot Roast, but is much more flavorful.


Use a Bottom Round Roast
Remove all the fat, silver skin, membranes separating the lobes of meat and cleaning those as well. There should be nothing but meat, the chunks usually ending up about the size of a man's fist or smaller.

I used a pressure cooker. The nice thing about the pressure cooker was that is was relatively narrow and deep. There was enough room on the bottom to fit all the meat, and the resulting liquid did not spread out so it covered the meat.

Film the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat till the smell of the oil becomes strong but it is not smoking.

Press the meat into the oil slowly so as not to cool the pan too much. Keep the temperature up.

Leave it in the oil till the meat is very brown, then turn to repeat till all sides are browned.

Reduce the heat to low.
Sprinkle the top of the meat with Italian seasoning.
Sprinkle generously with powdered bullion or crushed cubes.
Add carrots and onions(she used pearl onions when available).
1 or 2 bay leaves.
Pepper(NO SALT TILL LATER ON TO TASTE)
(I add half a dozen garlic cloves though that would absolutely horrify her)
Add a couple of cups of water if water does not immediately accumulate in the bottom.

Cover the pan tightly(I did not use the pressure function of the cooker) and reduce the heat to a bubble(190 degrees is the ideal) After about an hour, liquid should have accumulated.
Add potatoes (peeled)
Continue to cook for a couple of hours at least. The meat should flake easily.
Remove the vegetables and potatoes if the are getting over cooked, to be added just before the end of the cooking process.
Drain the meat and vegetables and return the broth to the pan.

Make egg noodle dough and roll out and stretch on a lightly floured surface VERY thinly. Cut into 4 inch squares. Dry for an hour or so, then drop a couple at a time into the broth to cook. It will take only a couple of minutes. The flour on the noodles will also thicken the broth very slightly.

Serve all in a large serving bowl.

They would also do the browning and half cook the meat, then remove the broth and meat to large shallow pans, seal them with foil and bake for a couple of hours at a very low temperature. This was done when there was a large gathering. They would do several roasts in separate batches, then put them all together in one or two pans the size of the oven.

In a way, this is not a great way to cook meat. Everything is wrong..The meat separates into strings, the surface is dry and crusty...but somehow, this is a wonderful dish...It tastes marvelous. The leftover meat steeps in the leftover broth and can be sliced across the grain of the meat for delightful sandwiches on buttered bread. Perhaps this would be at its best if done one day, then reheated the following day to serve.

Pasta dough

2 cups all purpose flour(unbleached)
2 cups semolina flour(Or use all, all purpose)
generous pinch of salt
6 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil


Make a mound of the mixed flours and salt.

Make a crater in the middle and break the eggs into it.

Ad the oil.

Beat the eggs with a fork, and slowly beat in flour from the mound a bit at a time till all is incorporated. Add a bit of water if dry, a bit more flour if wet.

Knead the dough on a floured surface till smooth and elastic. Alloow to rest ten minutes if it refuses to work without being springy.

Leave on the counter with a mixing bowl upside down over it till it has rested at least half an hour.

Roll out on a floured surface or run through a pasta machine according to the manufacturers instructions.

Cut the noodles and dry on a floured towel for about half an hour before cooking.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hard Not Boiled Eggs

I just thought this was a neat technique. I am constantly doing something with eggs in the microwave. Perhaps I just cook off the white or yolk when I have an excess of one or the other and give it to the dog with his lunch. But you know the results if you are not really careful. It blows up. Working a couple of nights a week at a local hotel, I see how they set up their breakfast. It includes hard boiled eggs, but they do not have a stove. I bet this would be a help when preparing a big feast and do not have the time to do the eggs on top of the stove or just have a stove top full of stuff and no room for another pan. Here is how they do it.

You will need:

A shallow microwave safe bowl big enough to hold a dozen eggs in a single or nearly single layer (It is OK if they overlap a little, but I think a second full layer would not work out).

A microwave safe plate like Corelle or glass.




Place the plate upside down in the microwave. Put a dozen eggs in the bowl and cover them with water by about a quarter inch. Place the bowl on top of the plate to raise it off the bottom of the microwave.

Microwave on High power for 8 minutes. Remove the bowl and cool naturally. Peel as usual. However it is a little more difficult to peel than traditional. I would just do these if people were peeling them themselves or if you somehow cannot do them on the stove.

Corn Oysters

No, it has nothing to do with seafood, except when done correctly, this will look vaguely like a cooked oyster.
There are probably as many different variations of this as there are Pennsylvania Dutch. I will just do a simple variation here.
The question is, what do you do with all those left over ears of corn in corn season. If you are anything like my ex-wife's family, there is a real feast when the corn comes in. There are always a few ears left over. You can do this with fresh, uncooked ears as well. Face it, the corn is just as good raw as cooked, so use either.

Cut the kernels from the ears of corn with a sharp paring knife. Stand the ear of corn in a shallow bowl and cut from the top to the bottom of the upright ear, letting the kernels fall into the bowl.

Toss the kernels with a tablespoon of flour(remove this from the total flour being used) to separate them and to dry up some of the juice coming out. Use just enough to dust them, no extra.

Separate three eggs. Reserve the yolks. Beat the whites of the eggs to a light froth and add salt and pepper.
Continue to beat till they near the soft peak stage.

Stir the yolks into the corn and add finely minced sauteed onion or chives to the batter. Fold in three quarters of a cup of flour,two teaspoons of baking powder, just till combined.(these can be made without flour, but are much lighter, a bit like an omelet)

Fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Again, just till combined and do it gently so as not to deflate the whites.

In a heavy skillet, put a large knob of butter to melt. When melted and hot, use a large mixing spoon to drop mounds of the egg mixture into the butter. They will rise as they cook. Allow to cook through and serve or turn over and cook till firm on the second side. Remove to a hot serving platter and serve when all the batter has been used up.

These will look a little like a pancake with a raised center(Like a ravioli when cooked flat like this). It will have that little hat brim like an oyster.

Alternatively, shallow fry these in lots of lard, shortening or oil. Turn them as they brown. This will look like a fritter.


You may also use minced green or red pepper or chopped scallion in this. Even a few minced chilis or cayenne would be good.

Double or triple the recipe so there is a generous amount of batter to surround the corn.

You can also use your favorite pancake batter with the corn and other veggies mixed in. I would try to do this without the sugar in the batter as the corn is very sweet already.

Puffy Omelets


Another thing that Mom had no time for was omelets of any kind. Omelets are very easy for anyone to do. Except for me for some reason. I do not have the touch. I do them of course, once in a great while, but I just cannot keep them from sticking. Perhaps it is because I do not have a well seasoned Omelet pan. It really does help. Or, I just don't have that twist of the wrist or something that it requires. I can do it...really I can, but it is not in my nature.
Now, Puffy omelets are another story. One of my great regrets, and I know you have read a few of them, is selling my long handled omelet pan when I divorced.
When I was cooking over the open fires at the museum, I had a forged iron pan with a five foot handle. It was great. It was seasoned from two centuries of use, and things tasted great in it. I could do omelets in that without even thinking.
That pan was much like the ones used at Mere Poullard's in Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. Famous for their puffy omelets made form eggs gathered that morning, they had great copper pans to whip the egg whites in. There was a rhythm of clack-clack-clack-tap over and over again as they whipped the whites in the copper. Much like the rhythm you get when forging Iron on the anvil. The copper made the whites rise to impossible heights. It serves us better however to do them in a regular bowl here in the United States. I find the beautiful puffy omelets a little under done for my taste in France. There is that word again...Baveuse....a soft quivering mass of egg. They browned nicely on the outside, but the top never cooked enough for me, and when folded in half, the beauty, though incomparable, was only a disguise for undercooked eggs.
So, to please my palate, lets try a variation that is more likely to please the masses.

Separate three eggs. Beat and reserve the yolks on the side. If you had the big pan like I had, you could easily do a dozen, but to my mind, they never cooked well and you really need the second option below.

Place the whites in a copper bowl(If you have one, and it is scrupulously clean) or another large bowl which allows plenty of arm room. Alternatively, you may use a mixer for this, but there is something about the whipping of eggs that is much like kneading the bread dough that is very satisfying. With a balloon whisk, beat the egg whites to a froth, add a bit of salt to taste(or sugar if you want a sweet omelet.) and continue to beat till peaks nearly form. These should be very, soft, and if they start to dry, your cause is lost. See Corn Oysters post.

Season the yolks with salt, pepper, sugar, Liqueurs (like anisette or Grand Marnier), finely grated citrus fruit peels, or anything that you fancy.

Pour the yolk mixture over the top of the whites. Fold in till the color is nearly uniform. Do this by plunging the sharp edge of a rubber scraper or similar instrument to the bottom of the bowl along one side. Slowly raise the bottom mixture up from near the middle and allow it to drape itself loosely over the rest of the mixture. Continue this process while rotating the bowl till all has been mixed. The object is to work lightly and gently so as not to deflate the whites.

Using a very large skillet, preheat it over medium heat. When the pan is quite hot, pour in some clarified butter(discussed elsewhere), remove from the heat, and wipe the entire pan using a paper towel. Coat the entire pan with the butter.

Return it to the heat. and add a large knob of butter to the pan. When it has melted, pour in the egg mixture. In France, the omelet would not be allowed to sit still at first. When the movement of the pan shows that the omelet has not stuck to the pan, you can stop shaking. You might prefer to simply lift the edge of the omelet after a few seconds to release it. You will have to experiment with the pan you are using, and a non stick will help. Allow the omelet to cook over reduced heat for several minutes, till the bottom is nicely golden brown.

A. Make sure the omelet is released from the pan, Drop condiments on the top, and slide halfway out of the pan onto a serving plate. Before it leaves the pan, turn the pan nearly upside down toward the omelet to fold in half.

B. Alternatively, you may place any condiments on top and run the whole pan under the broiler to brown the top. Either fold as above onto the serving plate, or slide out onto a plate to serve like a cake.

Condiments:

Brown a little white sugar on top under the broiler if you have used a sweet liqueur. Perhaps a sprinkling of minced candied peel. You could also add Moscarpone to this.

Jam on top with a sweet omelet.

Caramelized onions, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, Spring onions etc..

Caponata

Cheese. Moscarpone or ricotta, either mixed with Parmesan or sugar depending on savoury or sweet eggs,

Sliced, grilled tomato and mozzarella with pesto or basil, or perhaps a garlic infused oil.

Truffles planed on top.

Truffle oil.

Gruyere and chopped toasted hazelnuts.

Rosemary ham. Not that much more than regular ham at the deli, but WOW what a difference. Avoid any other flavors with this. Delicate but delicious. Also good shaved rice paper thin and mounded on top of grilled bread with the omelet. Add an asparagus tip or two.

Ham, asparagus, Hollandaise.

Bacon and cheese.

Grilled mushrooms with Gruyere.

Slivered almonds(toasted), jam and Brie cheese.

Finely crumbled Feta, black olives, grilled cherry tomatoes and spinach grilled with garlic.

Lamb or tenderloin of beef thinly sliced and grilled just till pink in the center with scallions and topped with Parmesan.

Do not use large amounts of very strong cheeses with this, or other sharp flavors. Limit anything strong that you do use as the whole dish is mild. Just a touch of filling is enough. If you want a stronger all round flavor, mix a bit of the minced filling in with the egg yolks.

Poor Alberta Burrill. I served this to her once, and she looked at me like I had placed an Iguana on the table. For all her attempts at worldliness, she found such things a real shock to her system. You should have seen her when I took her for Pizza at Al's Restaurant in Houlton.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bracciole



Mom and I at Revere Beach after Dad died in 1955.

We already know how to make bread and cheese stuffing so there is no need to go into detail with that. This always had soaked Raisins, Pignole or almonds mixed in though.

Mom used to use Flank steak. This used to be a pretty inexpensive cut of meat as it was tough as leather if you were not careful. I guess that was before people found out that it was very lean and relatively healthy. Many recipes for Bracciole call for round steak. This is and excellent choice, but I find a round steak to be a bit irregular. It usually has a number of lobes of meat with connective and fat tissue between. When it is pounded, it is easy to get thick and thin places and portions of meat that seem separate from the body of the steak. I really like to pound the living h--- out of it, so any weakness in the fabric of the meat will challenge you when you try to roll it up and secure it shut. Flank steak is very even, and when pounded flat it comes out fairly uniform.
Using the whole flank steak, it might be a good idea to split it(butterfly) so that you begin a little thinner to begin with. Of course we did not have plastic wrap years ago, so this was just a piece of meat on a counter or chopping block beaten with a pan bottom, tenderizing hammer, or a very heavy wine bottle. Perhaps a good champagne bottle would be good. Don't do it on a stone surface with a bottle though...you may not be happy picking glass out of your steak!
Place a layer of plastic wrap on the counter, then the meat and another layer of plastic. Beat the steak vigorously all over, breaking up the fibers of the meat and flattening it out to a uniform thickness. Don't be ridiculous, but make it as thin as you dare. Watch out for thin spots that appear from over vigorous beating.
Remove the plastic wrap and spread a uniform layer of bread and cheese stuffing on the meat, leaving an inch or so border around the edge, and about two inches on the narrow end. Fold one of the bare narrow ends over the stuffing then roll it up till you reach the other end. Secure the roll with butcher's twine tied every couple of inches for the entire length of the roll. Alternatively(I never keep string in the kitchen)you can secure the roll with toothpicks through the outer layer, into the second layer and back out again to the surface. This is one of the reasons not to beat the steak too much as this would never hold otherwise. Heat a large pan like a chicken frier or a heavy dutch oven shaped pan or stockpot you will make sauce in to a fairly high temperature. Put a film of olive oil on the bottom of the pan. You really should not use Extra Virgin oil for this. Other oils or even butter(clarified is best)(not a traditional item) would be good as you can add good olive oil later on. I do not know about your house, but the only olive oil I ever saw in my grandmother's kitchen was Philip Berio in the great big can. If you cut the top off the can when it is empty, it makes a great waste recepticle with a plastic bag inside. Make sure you file or flatten the cut edge with a hammer to avoid getting cut. It was plain yellow oil and she and my mother used it for everything, including on her scalp! When the scent of the oil becomes obvious, lay the roll into the oil. DO NOT OVERHEAT OILS, ESPECIALLY THE SO CALLED HEALTHY OILS AS THE CHEMISTRY CHANGES AS IT GETS TO THE SMOKE POINT. If you have preheated the pan and heated the oil, this should not be a problem because it should not stick. Turn the roll over and over till it is well browned. You are not trying to cook it through. Just look for good color. Pour your best effort vegetarian sauce over this, though pepperoni added makes a nice flavor. Remember you are cooking beef in this sauce, so make sure you have added a few cloves to the sauce early on. Once the sauce has begun to boil, reduce the heat till the sauce is barely moving. Like a good pot roast, it can be about 185+- degrees Fahrenheit. You could also put it in a very slow(250 degree)oven covered. Simmer this for at least and hour, but the longer the better as a rule. Just keep checking this so that the meat does not fall apart. You want a roll, not Pate'. Baste the uncovered portions of the meat with the sauce periodically.
Lift the meat out of the pot gently and allow to rest and cool. Slice as pinwheels and serve as a main course, using the sauce over spaghetti or other pasta as a Secondo. The toothpicks and string will not tenderize enough to eat! Remove them as you slice them. They may hold things together while you are cutting, so it might be wise to remove them after the meat is on the platter. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil...the good stuff this time.

It would not be unusual to use eye of the round slices or other small portions of tough meat to make small Involtini or miniature Braccioli as a main course or as Antipasti.

Many recipes for Bracciole call for a sort of pesto made with parsley and slivers of garlic laid in bands across the narrow width of the meat, alternating with blanched carrots,hard boiled eggs laid end to end, olives or any number of other stuffings. This is the version I remember best though...Complete with Raisins! By the way. The raisins that would be most authentic would be Sultanas or Golden Raisins. Malvasia grapes are gold.

You could easily do this in a beef broth heavily laden with crushed tomato, wine and herbs. Nothing is stopping you from using other meats like pork or veal. Keep the herbs you use in mind when you change meats. Sage.... garlic and Rosemary...Think of traditional pairings.

Eggs in a Frame and other egg dishes I remember.




You can tell I am Italian when one of the moments I remember most about the movie Moonstruck was Olympia Dukakis(a Greek) made Eggs in a frame with fried peppers for herself and for Cher(an Armenian and Native American). I love that movie. There are things about it that are a little stereotypical...but then we are Italian; most of our stereotyped behaviors are very endearing. And of course the scene when Cher starts crying at La Boheme..a story about French young people in Paris acting like Czech youth, written by and Italian, sung in Italian and played by old, fat, conservative people. I will admit it, I cry at opera...Hell, I cry at store openings. Then at the end of the film, everyone toasts with champagne cocktails in the kitchen: "alla Famiglia!" The tears flow. That is part of the heritage I guess. There is that great line in "Gosford Park", an Agatha Christie knock-off....The Sister-in-law of the dead man cries bitterly about the death of the...Dead Guy....and her husband says:"Would you be quiet. One would think you were Italian!"
So...Eggs.
Mom did not have time for Eggs in a Frame, but she tried it because I hated eggs as a kid. I still would rather have tea and toast than an egg dish in the morning, but I have been more receptive in the last few years. One great advantage is that despite rising prices, eggs are a great value for the money and filled with protein. They had a bad reputation for a few years because of the yellow fat bomb in the middle. However, (That being the only part of the egg I like) the whole egg has become less of a threat in moderation than it used to be. I understand that consuming the entire egg is fairly healthy...Just beware of raw or undercooked. Despite the fact that they do lose some of their nutrition and volume over time they do keep rather a long time compared to many things.





















As I was terribly small when we moved from our little farm in Littleton, I do not remember the deprivation that the rest of my family suffered when mu father was sick and we lived miles from town. The things Mom could count on were those that were near at hand on the farm. There was some maple syrup from trees on the property.(Once they were big enough). There were potato fields across the road, and you can eat potatoes at many stages of their growth. Elsie gave them milk. And, a quick trip to the henhouse netted eggs. Sometimes so many eggs in fact that they made Sunshine Cakes to get rid of them all. But chickens are notorious for not laying in certain conditions. This is not from a real knowledge of the rearing of chickens that I say this, but just some descriptions of chicken keeping. There were of course the chickens who did not lay well or slowed in production. They provided other forms of protein associated with an ax. By the time I was three, we had left the farm, and I never knew the joys or sorrows of that culture.
Stay away from cheap...or expensive for that matter...grocery store white bread and go for cheap Italian bread. The shape is not as easy to deal with, but most any other bread than regular sandwich bread works very well, will be more nutritious, and will taste better. The piece you cut out can be fried alongside, dried and made into crumbs or be used for party sandwiches. Just toss them into a bag and then into the freezer. See a post on herb butters elsewhere.

Choose the bread you like best. Perhaps sweet breads including those that are naturally sweet because of the type of grain, should be avoided for this application.

Lay the bread on a counter or cutting board and use any fairly large sized cookie cutter to remove the center of the bread. Stars, circles, moons, holiday shapes are great for kids...or for any of us for that matter. Just be sure that your cut out area of the bread is large enough to hold an entire egg. You can also just tear out a circle of bread.

Film a large skillet with a generous amount of olive oil and put it on low heat.

Drop in a sliced garlic clove and sweat the garlic till it is soft, but not colored. Add more than one clove if you like. Then remove the garlic when the flavor has infused the oil.

Raise the temperature of the pan. Lay the bread slice(s)into the oil. Drop a whole egg(hopefully you realize that it would not be so good in the shell) into the hole in the bread.

Allow the bread to toast, and the egg to solidify on the bottom, then flip the bread and egg over and cook the egg till it suits your taste...see how I skillfully avoided what I consider to be a pseudo word....Doneness...

Serve with grated cheese.

Variations:

Separate the egg, beat the whites to break up only, mix in Parmesan or similar cheese, chives, Thyme, Chili flakes or powder, Parsley, basil shreds,Oregano, Tarragon...any combination you like. Drop the white and a single yolk into each bread slice and continue.

Can you afford Truffles? Use a few drops of Truffle oil especially in the yolk, and if you cannot afford that, grill a few sliced mushrooms...your choice. Truffles are supposed to be a perfect marriage with eggs...of course they are usually shaved over softly scrambled eggs. But who can afford truffles. It might be cheaper to go to Umbria, buy a dog, hike through the oak groves and try to smuggle a few home on the plane.(November is best.)

Caramelize sliced onion, Red and green peppers and sliced sausage(Pepperoni was the choice at home). Serve on top, on the side or mixed into the egg white as above.

Chopped sun dried tomatoes(In oil or soaked in water)

Large flakes of Parmesan made with a potato peeler on top.

Grate your favorite cheese on top. Fontina, Provolone,(PRO-VOE-LONE-AY not PRO-VOE-LONE) Cheddar or others that suit the filling. How about Pepper Jack with a pinch of chili powder, parsley and cumin in the egg and salsa on the side? Top with sliced Avocado...It is fruit...eat it in the morning!(How about a few slices of fresh chili pepper?)

Olympia served hers with roasted red peppers fried beside the bread.

More Eggs Breakfast on Saturday





















Paul McLaughlin loved doing these and was the one I always remember doing this.


THE BIG SPECIAL BREAKFAST that my parents had on Saturday mornings or for lunch if the mood struck them was a simple variation of Eggs in a frame.
Just caramelize peppers(Red were far too expensive and a bit rare in the fifties and sixties in Maine) and onions in olive oil. The plain yellow oil was all there was. You can always drizzle a bit of extra virgin on top when you serve it, but why destroy the flavor by frying with it.
Add sliced Pepperoni while the veggies are finishing up. I soak up some of the fat, tasty as it is. The pork fat is better left out at least partially and a lot of fat comes out of the pepperoni.
Then beaten eggs were scrambled into the mix.(the proportion was very high on the egg and less veggie and meat. We did not eat underdone eggs, but light, fluffy eggs(mix with a tablespoon of water per egg when beating)(water not milk) in a very soft scramble would be wonderful with fresh cracked pepper and Parmesan.
Grilled or toasted bread was served on the side.

You can do this with a bit of cream in the egg instead of water, but it is rich and heavy and truly should be left in a very soft state like a pudding. This is truly the time to use truffle oil. Do not fry with it, just use it as a condiment.

I remember Graham Kerr using a wonderful word for the texture...Baveuse.

Just to add another odd note to this series of recipes: I no sooner finished posting this than I went to watch TV for a while. There on the Food channel, was Graham Kerr. It was a program I remember seeing when I was living at home in the
60s or early 70s. It confirmed that he was the craziest and most over the top personality ever. As I understand it, he was half drunk through most taping sessions and consumed more on air. Funny, funny, guy and My Hero!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cutlets With My Cousin Jennie DeFina

I have been trying to get recipes out of my cousin Jenny for a very long time.  I went to visit her yesterday after working in Dedham for a while.  The highway was crammed southbound, so it was really the only thing to do, added to the fact that I love seeing her.
She really didn't give me any of her recipes, but I tried to PUMP HER for information as we ate.

Cutlets

Jennie evidently has the butcher cut a roast into very thin slices.  In this case it was pork, but veal would do just as well, and this would translate well into chicken breasts butterflied, or sliced across the grain in a smaller format, or turkey.

Even though she has asked for the thin slices, she pounds them even thinner, and indeed these were as thin as perhaps a few playing cards.

The dips them into flour and shakes off the excess, then she coats them with beaten egg.  Then into a mix of bread crumbs, parsley, garlic salt(I might use garlic powder and salt myself, but that is just me, because I do not keep the garlic salt) and cheese.  Parmesan or Romano would be good. 
With a good coating of these, you can allow them to sit on a tray or cooling rack to firm up or dry to a nice coating.  You can then layer them up with waxed paper and wrap them for the freezer, using what you want for the first meal. 
Take them out of the freezer and thaw briefly in the microwave or on a counter.  Fry toll golden and perhaps with darker spots in olive oil.  My family has used Phillipo Berio regular olive oil.  Extra virgin is best for fresh, uncooked uses.

Top with marinara and Mozzarella.
Grill red and green peppers and onions till soft and serve with the cutlets in a sandwich.
I like roasted red peppers and other pickled veggies with mine.  The tiny grilled Cippolini you get soaked in balsamic vinegar would be terrific, as would olive salads, giardinera, mushrooms etc.  Add a glass of red wine and thank heaven you are Italian!

Mom's Stuffed Stuff


I have dozens of recipes here for stuffed peppers, eggplants, tomato, onions etc. Many of these come from my travels to Europe, specifically Greece and Italy. We know that many of the Sicilian and island traditions come from Greece and from the Mid-east. The spices, raisins and dried fruit in many of our recipes come from Arabic and Jewish links. Many of the others come from Greece. Of course many of Italy's traditions come from early Greek influences on Etruscan and other tribal contacts. In fact much of Etruscan culture reflects Greece. Today it is easy to find some of the best Greek temples and city ruins in places like Syracusa, Agrigento and Paestum. These are often better than anywhere in Greece. There is no question that rice was an important crop back through our history, so do not feel slighted if I do not include rice in the recipes of this post. It may be a very important part of the family's culinary history. This post is about my immediate family, and we just did not do rice. I would encourage members of the family to contact me with variations on any of these recipes because all of them are important and I would like to include them so that I reflect the entire family and not just mine.

Stuffed Peppers

Choose block shaped green peppers for this.
Check that there are bumps arranged on the bottom of the peppers that will allow the peppers to stand firmly upright. If you plan to do enough of these to fill the bottom of your cooking vessel, this is not so important, as the crowd of peppers pushed together will support themselves.

Four medium sized peppers, tops cut off level, and the internal vanes and seeds removed.

One pound of ground beef, veal or pork. (A mix of the three works well as mentioned in earlier recipes.)

Bread crumbs made from grated stale bread, crushed dried bread or processed(in a food processor) fresh bread. White bread especially French or Italian preferred.

Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese(finely grated)

One beaten egg

One eggshell full of water

Parsley

Salt and Pepper

Recipe for meatless sauce elsewhere in the site or your favorite meatless sauce. However, pepperoni or sausage goes particularly well with the peppers.

Put the meat into a large bowl. Pour in about one third the volume of the meat in bread crumbs. (Fresher bread will require more volume and much less water) add an equal amount of grated cheese. Put in the egg and seasonings. Be careful of the salt as the cheese will be very salty. Romano and cheaper cheese will be saltiest. Mix thoroughly with your hands till a more or less smooth paste has formed. Fry a tiny patty of the mix in a frying pan and taste. Adjust the seasonings, amount of water, bread and cheese at this point. This will affect taste as well as texture.
You could easily mix in the minced tops of the peppers and perhaps minced onion as well. Mom was adamant that her meat mixtures needed no garlic. I never had a reason to complain. I really love garlic, and I never missed it. The peppers get a lot of flavor from the sauce. Be especially careful of jarred minced garlic, as it gets old after a while. The meat mixture is just poached and might not kill off any culture that has grown in the garlic. Mom often used powdered garlic in Northern Maine especially as a correcting seasoning late in the process. Fresh garlic was very expensive in 50s Northern Maine. Again, she never used garlic in the meat and bread mixtures.

When the sauce is ready and bubbling away, stuff the meat mixture into the peppers loosely as it will expand from the water in the sauce. Lower the peppers into the bubbling sauce, and lower the heat to just about 185 degrees. In other words it should just barely be moving. Cook at low heat till the peppers are tender.

These would work well when the peppers are cut in half vertically, stuffed and placed in a lasagna pan. Pour the sauce over it, cover and bake in a low oven till the peppers are tender. Arrange sausage or other meats around and between the peppers. Sprinkle with Mozzarella in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Serve alone or with pasta. In Italy, you would have this after a salad or similar antipasto and pasta using the sauce from the peppers. The peppers would be served as a separate main dish perhaps quartered and arranged neatly on a large plate with a small amount of the sauce and perhaps a sausage.
You could use this recipe and other stuffing recipes inside hollowed out eggplants, tomatoes or onions, and baked. This is very Greek, but they would likely mix rice into the meat and stuff very loosely(there might be some allspice or cinnamon mixed in as well.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bill's Lasagna and variations


Lasagna al Forno...is there any other kind of Lasagna...Well Yeah...I am still hoping that there will be some other members of the family that will submit other styles of sauce. I have many times heard people call my mother's sauce what is known as Gravy. There as many different sauces as there are towns in Italy. Probably there are more. The sauce makes a big difference in the quality and character of a lasagna. For that matter, it is the same story for every different dish that uses sauce as a component. So the best I can do is tell you to start with my mother's sauce with ground beef or Sausage and plenty of pepperoni as seen elsewhere in the site. A nice marinara is good with the sausage or ground beef layered into the lasagna.

briefly before the assembly:
One package of lasagna about half cooked, drained and soaking in cold water.
One recipe of Sauce with beef and pepperoni. This is even better with beef cooked till it falls apart.

1 pound of ricotta placed in a strainer lined with a coffee filter, cheesecloth or a paper towel.

Parsley
1 1/2 pounds of shredded Mozzarella.
1 egg
1 1/2 cups parmesan or Pecorino Romano finely grated
grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the drained ricotta, half a cup of parmesan, one egg, and the parsley


Ladle one cup of sauce over the bottom of a lasagna pan.
Lay lasagna noodles the long way in the bottom of the pan, trimming to fit if necessary. Do not overlap.
spread a small amount of sauce over the noodles and then layer them with half of the Ricotta cheese mixture and 1/4 of the mozzarella.
place another layer of Lasagna on top.
lay on a thick layer of sauce and top with 1/4 cup of mozzarella
another layer of noodles
Top with a bit of sauce and a layer of Ricotta and 1/4 of the mozzarella.
a last layer of noodles topped with sauce, Mozzarella and parmesan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes covered with foil and 25 minutes without. You may put toothpicks in the lasagna to keep the foil off the surface.

Cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.


Vartiations:

Place a half of a cooked sausage in the lasagna where each served square will be.

Layer in breaded fried eggplant and/or zucchini into the center layer of the lasagna.

Replace the noodles with the eggplant or zucchini(recipe elsewhere).

Put a layer of Caponata or Caponatina in the center layer.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Cut boneless chicken breasts horizontally, first removing the tenders.
Pound each slice and tender with a meat hammer to flatten.
Dip each slice in flour to coat.
Dip in beaten egg with a bit of water, salt and pepper.
Fry on both sides at a very low temperature in a mixture of butter and olive oil.
Layer into the center of the lasagna with sauce and cheeze.