Monthly Archives: February 2018

CHICKEN VESUVIO, ITALIAN AMERICAN CLASSIC DISH FROM CHICAGO

tarteflambvesuvio 011Italian American cuisine is so widespread through the USA and often there are subtle or major differences in the same dish based on the region.   Sometimes it has to do with ingredient availability and often it’s just the style made popular by a chef or cook in a regional ItalianAmerican restaurant borrowing from their own home kitchens.  Such is the case with the Classic ItalianAmerican dish, CHICKEN VESUVIO.  At it’s base is a bonafide Southern Italian chicken preparation.  Chickens were not a popular food  as they were more prized for their egg laying.  Chicken cutlets were definitely not historical to Southern Italy’s cuisine.  The heritage chicken dishes were usually stewed or slow roasted dishes which helped tenderize the chicken’s meat after it was no longer producing enough eggs for the family.  Think Chicken alla Cacciatora…or Chicken roasted in a pan with a strong acid (to help make the meat more tender) like Wine, Lemon, or Vinegar.  Into that pan herbs that were growing wild or around the house  would be added with a good amount of onion or garlic..sometimes both.  Potatoes and sometimes other vegetables would be added as the chicken baked and it was all mixed with lard or olive oil.  I don’t think there’s an ItalianAmerican who didn’t grow up on a version of this dish.  Scarpariello is a version of this dish.  Vesuvio is a version of this dish.  Why Chicago? Why Vesuvio?  As with all foods this one is steeped in many legends.  I’ll just give what I think could be the reason.  In the 1930’s there was a restaurant in Chicago called VESUVIO and many fingers point to this dish being served on the menu.  It became popular and in time became a Chicago dish made in restaurants in that city both Italian and non-Italian.  One of the most popular versions of the dish is made with the addition of peas.  That’s how I first had it in Chicago and that’s the version I love the most.  I’ve also had it with Mushrooms and/or Artichoke Hearts, but I had the version with peas most often.  All versions start off with searing/browning the chicken in hot olive oil first.  This is key because that pan frying creates a specific taste.  Then the chicken is transferred to a baking dish with all the other ingredients and baked till tender.  My recipe is pretty much an adaptation from the Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse version.

Serves 4-6                                                   takes 2 hours

4 LARGE RUSSET POTATOES

3/4 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

8 CLOVES OF GARLIC Gently bruised

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, finely minced

1 5-6 lb ROASTING CHICKEN cut into 8-10 pieces

2 TBS KOSHER SALT

1 TBS BLACK PEPPER

1 TBS  OREGANO, or 2 TBS MINCED ROSEMARY OR THYME

1 TSP. GRANULATED GARLIC

1/3 CUP CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 1/2 CUPS DRY ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 CUP CHICKEN STOCK (LOW SODIUM)

1 CUP FROZEN GREEN PEAS, cooked

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Peel the potatoes and cut them into wedges.  Heat some of the olive oil in a large Skillet and salt the potatoes.  When the skillet is hot add the potatoes and get them golden on all sides.  Add 1/2 the whole garlic and let this cook for only another minute.  REmove the garlic and potatoes to a platter.  Add more olive oil.  Now Season the chicken with salt, granulated garlic, 1/2 the oregano or herbs, black pepper. Fry the chicken just until golden on all sides, Takes about 8 minutes. Then deglaze the pan with the Wine.   Let this cook for 10 minutes, making sure you’ve scraped all the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan.  Pour the Chicken into a baking pan and add the potatoes and all the other ingredients except for the peas.  Roast this until the chicken reaches 155 degrees F.  Takes about 40 minutes.  At the end, add the peas and blend in with the dish.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Make sure the potatoes are tender as well.  Baste the dish with the pan juices before you serve.  The temperature and time should ensure you not losing juices in the pan BUT if it looks that it might happen then add more wine or stock.  A salad or a nice platter of sauteed greens goes great with this ItalianAmerican Classic.  Happy Cooking.

SWEET GRILLED THAI CHILI SHRIMP

thaishrimp 003Looking for a simple Shrimp Dish?  Fantastic.  You’ve found the right blogpost.  Let me help you out here.  GRILLED Shrimp with a Sweet Thai Chili Sauce is a great way to start.  A few ingredients and some good Shrimp and we are on our way to a spicy and refreshing meal.  One of the first things I looked for when I went to Thailand was “Sweet Chili or Chilli Sauce” since so much of our USA Thai inspired food includes that.  Sweet Chili Sauce was everywhere.  Some very thin. Some quite thick.  Every thing we had seemed to come with a few dipping sauces which revolved around hot chiles, something sweet or sour or both, fish sauce, some soy, garlic or shallots.  Clean tasting and simple.  In the Patong Beach Night Market on Phuket Island we enjoyed their Thai Fried chicken which came with the Sweet Chili sauce.  Later that night we had grilled local seafoods which came with a vingary pungent chili sauce and another version of a sweet chili sauce.  A name for the Sweet Chili Sauce is NAM CHIM KAI.    Let’s start with the sauce because it will be much tastier if it sits overnight.

4 Thai, Fresno, or Red Chiles plus 1 tsp dried hot chile flakes (optional)

5 whole cloves of garlic

1 TBS. Rice Wine Vinegar

1/8 cup Honey

Salt to taste

1 tbs. Ketchup

1/2 tsp. Fish Sauce

Add the Chiles and garlic and pulse in a food processor until they have coarsely broken down.  Now add all the other ingredients and pulse until they are blended.  Pour into a container and cover.  Let this sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Bring to Room Temperature before using on Day 2.

for 4 people.

24 16-20 size Wild Shrimp, Peeled and deveined

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp. FISH SAUCE

1 minced Thai Basil (or regular Sweet) leaf

2 Tbs. Sesame Oil

Kosher Salt

White Pepper

 

Vegetable Oil

Chopped Romaine Lettuce, about 2 heads.

2 chopped green onions

Marinade the Shrimp for 30 minutes in a mixture of the fish Sauce, Basil, 1 tbs. Sesame Oil, salt, pepper to taste.  Drain.    Toss them with the remaining sesame oil and grill over a medium flame only for about 2 minutes on each side.  Or, you can pan “grill” them in a hot cast iron pan or grilling pan just be sure to oil the surface before you heat it up.   Add the Lime juice to the sauce.  Pour the sauce into a stainless steel mixing bowl large enough to add the hot fried shrimp. Make sure each one of the shrimp is nicely coated with the sauce.   Serve on top of beds of Chopped Romaine.  Top with green onions.  Done.  Serve with sticky rice.  HAPPY COOKING!!

 



 

SFINGI DI SAN GIUSEPPE PALERMITANI..SAINT JOSEPH’S SFINGI PASTRY, PALERMO STYLE

palmsunday16 044I get excited many times during the year in anticipation of a Holiday or Celebration and the foods that are part of that season, day, or time.  One of my most favorite is the annual Catholic celebration of the Feast of St.Joseph which Southern Italian culture has created a beautiful day of Springtime foods only eaten on March 19.  San Giuseppe is especially  revered in Sicily where he is one of their most beloved patrons.  Huge Celebrations in all the towns and homes flow out into the streets and special savory and sweet foods are made.  No where in Italy is this celebration as exhuberant as in Sicily, but don’t worry, the rest of Italy celebrates it with many different sweet and savory treats as well  This post deals with my most favorite of them all, the SFINGI DI SAN GIUSEPPE.  Sfingi is a term meaning a fried sponge of dough.  Sfingi are also the name for what people in Naples called Zeppole.  However….when the talented Sicilian pastry makers started immigrating to the USA in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s some things made some changes.  I have no idea why or how this happened because at St.Joseph’s time all Italian Pastry shops made 2 types of “St.Joseph’s Pastry”. They are now sold from the beginning of Lent thru Easter with peak production on and about March 19.  The two types are the Sicilian Sfingi which has morphed into a large, sometimes oversized cream puff, baked then filled with a Ricotta Cannoli Cream.  The top of the Cream puff is placed back on and a then a rosette of Cannoli cream added.  To this crushed pistachio or nuts, candied cherry and orange peel are added.  Crowned with powdered sugar.  The other pastry is from Naples, and is called the ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE.  Using a pastry bag and a rosette tip a circle of the cream puff dough is piped out then slid into hot oil and fried.  It’s split and a Vanilla Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticceria) is added to the center, The top is placed on it and a rosette of the cream topped with a sour cherry (Amarena) goes on to finish it.  Both are amazing.  But so strange that the formerly fried SFINGI is now the baked one.  Whatever.  All delicious.  This is a dish that my mom made.  She loved making cream puffs.  She filled them with all sorts of fillings, puddings, whipped cream, italian creams, ricotta cream, chocolate cream.  But for San Giuseppe she made the Sicilian sfingi (she was not Sicilian!) and I watch intently as she went thru each step.  Let’s push this even further as in Palermo they leave the top off, sort of a Sfingi on the Half Shell.  These are the ones I”m showing you here.  Let’s go into the kitchen and bake!!!

First, you need to make the filling.  CREMA DI RICOTTA SICILIANA

1 lb DRAINED WHOLE MILK RICOTTA

1/2 CUP CONFECTIONERS SUGAR

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon or one very very very SMALL drop of Cinnamon Oil.

3 tbs. fine chopped CITRON

2 tbs. small semi sweet CHOCOLATE CHIPS

BLEND TOGETHER UNTIL VERY SMOOTH AND CHILL OVER NIGHT

SHELLS: GLI SFINGI

1 CUP WATER

1/2 CUP BUTTER OR SHORTENING

1/8 TEASPOON OF  KOSHER SALT

1 cup TIPO 00 ITALIAN FLOUR OR 1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE UNBLEACHED FLOUR

3 EGGS

GARNISH:  CANDIED CHERRIES   CANDIED ORANGE PEELS  CRUSHED PISTACHIOS

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Bring a cup of water to a boil.  Add the butter or shortening and the salt.  Stir until the butter/shortening is melted and comes back to the boil.  Lower the heat and gently add all the flour in at once and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the flour leaves the sides of the pan.  Remove from the heat.  Now add one egg and beat into the hot mixture until it’s fully incorporated.  Do the same with the next two eggs beating thoughroughly after each egg addition.  Place a parchment sheet on a baking pan.  PLace the mixture in a pastry bag and press out a mound about 2 inches wide.  Or form the same with tablespoons.  Bake for 20 minutes in the hot oven.  Then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on racks. When cool slice in half.. Remove any wet dough from the inside it there is any.   Fill each 1/2 with the Ricotta cream.  Top with a candied cherry, slice of candied orange peel and some crushed Pistachio nuts.  Chill for 2 hours before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 doz.   BUONA FESTA DI SAN GIUSEPPE!!!