Category Archives: COOKING WITH WINE

CALABRIAN POTATOES AND PEPPERS…PIPI E PATATI..A TRADITIONAL DISH FROM SOUTHERN ITALY

Italy is loaded with wonderful vegetable combo dishes that serve either as antipasto…..as a contorno (side dish) or as a secondo or primo…first or second course. Many of these regional dishes are even amazing as sandwich fillers. Growing up Pepper and Onions and Potatoes was not an uncommon dish that would be placed in Italian bread. Long Hots, Sweet peppers, endless possibilities. In Calabria in Italy’s deep South this melange’ of Potatoes with a mix of Sweet and Hot Peppers, garlic, onions, good olive oil, herbs and it’s sort of national “regional” thing. Every Calabrian will probably make it a little different and every cook/chef will add their own twist or style to it. It’s pretty basic WHICH is one of the hallmarks of Italian Cuisine. Out of a few GOOD, WELL SOURCED ingredients comes a dish with amazing flavor. Try it as a side or addition to grilled sausage, meat, poultry or seafood items. Fantastic.

PIPI E PATATE FOR 4 TAKES 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES APPROX

2 SLICED AND CORED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 SLICED AND CORED RED BELL PEPPERS

2 SLICED AND CORED ITALIAN LONG HOTS OR LONG RED OR GREEN HOT PEPPER

5 PEELED AND SLICED MEDIUM SIZED POTATOES

1/2 SLICED RED ONION

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, CUT IN HALF

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

PINCH OF GOOD ITALIAN OREGANO

SEA SALT OR KOSHER SALT

1/8 CUP of WHITE WINE

1/8 tsp DRIED CALABRIAN CHILE (or any good crushed hot pepper flakes)

In a dutch oven or heavy pan, add the olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes, season with salt, and cook over medium heat. After 8 minutes add the onions and cook until they start to soften. Now add the peppers, pinch of Oregano, and raise the heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt then add the garlic. After 5 minutes, add the wine and cover for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated and you’re left with the flavored oil. Taste for seasoning and make sure the Potatoes are tender and the peppers are like velvet. Add the Calabrian Chile and you are done. HAPPY COOKING!!! I want a sangwich of this right now!!!!

FROM UMBRIA, FRICCO’ DI POLLO, CHICKEN IN TOMATO, WINE, VINEGAR

IMG_9516Internet surfing and research sometime turn up the most amazing unknown to me new recipes.  It was October 4, Feast of St.Francis of Assisi and so I thought I would be fun to make something from his homeland, UMBRIA in Central Italy.  I knew I had chicken parts in the fridge, some San Marzano tomatoes, so something that used those items would work.  Now I could have just made an ItalianAmerican Chicken Cacciatore, I had a bit of a craving for that.  But no.  I wanted to celebrate the day and the region in St.Francis’ honor after all my middle name is Francis.  After a full Google search of Chicken and tomato dishes from Umbria one dish kept coming up to the top of the search.  FRICCO’ or FRICO’, apparently it’s spelled both ways showed up more than once and with two versions.  One version is BIANCO, meaning in a white wine and herb sauce.  The other was ROSSO, meaning Tomato is in the mix.  Sounds like Chicken alla Cacciatora to me right?  Well, the process is the same but they take a bit of a turn which is just enough to make this not your usual cacciatora.  Pancetta or Guanciale or Prosciutto and Anchovy in the mix.  I was SOLD and couldn’t wait to come home from work and create this wonderful sounding dish! By the way, FRICCO’ or FRICO’ is Umbrian for the French word, FRICANDEAU, a type of stew. Many versions of this are made with a trio of meats..Lamb, Rabbit, and Chicken. Others are made with just one. This Umbrian version doesn’t bear much resemblance to the French beef or veal versions, but love how they word was borrowed and localized. Other names for this dish are Pollo all’Eugubina or Pollo di Gubbio, Gubbio being a major city in Umbria. Don’t you find a dish is more exciting to cook and tastes even better when there’s a wonderful history behind it?

FRICCO’ DI POLLO EUGUBINA GUBBIO STYLE CHICKEN WITH CURED PORK, TOMATO, HERBS, VINEGAR, WINE AND A LITTLE ANCHOVY

SERVES 4-6 APPROX. TIME 2 HOURS

1 LARGE CHICKEN CUT INTO 8 PIECES, PATTED DRY WITH A PAPER TOWEL

1/8 LB DICED OR SLICED PANCETTA, OR GUANCIALE, OR PROSCIUTTO WITH SOME FAT ATTACHED

1 CUP WHOLE “PELATI”, PEELED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR

1 CUP DRY WHITE WINE, USE ONE FROM UMBRIA, LIKE AN ORVIETO

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

4 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1 ANCHOVY FILET

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL, AS NEEDED

Season the chicken with salt. In a heavy skillet or dutch oven heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the chicken skin side down and let it get a good sear over medium heat. Takes about 8 minutes. Flip and sear that side for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 the wine. Remove with the pan juices to a bowl. Add more olive oil to the pan and add the cured meat, saute’ for 6 minutes until it starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and the rosemary and peperoncino, and the anchovy. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and vinegar and 3 of the sage leaves. Bring to a boil and add the tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to the boil and add the chicken pieces skin side down. Add the stock and again, bring to a boil then reducing and letting this braise on a simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Taste the sauce for seasonings and adjust as necessary. When the chicken it tender and cooked throw in the remaining sage leave and remove the sprig of rosemary. There’s such umami in this dish with the cured pork and anchovy, there’s a bit of “agrodolce” going on too. That’s sweet/sour. What to serve it with? As you can see in my picture I made it with Parmigiano and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Roasted potatoes, Rice, Pasta, up to you….but…the mashed were amazing with it. Chicken will taste best if you leave it to sit for 1 /2 hour before serving. You’ll thank me. Garnish with the pan juices, olive oil and fresh rosemary. HAPPY COOKING!!!

BACCALA’ CON PEPERONI, POMODORI, CIPOLLE ROSSE…DRIED SALT COD COOKED WITH PEPPERS, CHERRY TOMATOES AND RED ONIONS

BACCALA’. The Italian word for DRIED SALTED COD. A gift from the Northern Europe where the cod is caught, then salted and dried this fish became a staple in the poverty stricken homes across southern Italy. It became the most popular Christmas Eve seafood as it was cheap and available to both rich and poor in Italy’s south, from the sea up into the mountains. Every family has it’s Christmas Eve tradtional Baccala’ dish. Probably the two most popular are the simply Fried Baccala’ and the Baccala baked or pan cooked with tomatoes, peppers, olives. There’s a host of dishes that can be made with Baccala and Italians aren’t the only ones who love this fish. French, Portuguese, Spanish, Caribbeans, Northern Europeans…every cuisine has wonderful dishes. Most important when cooking Baccala is that you give the dried fish enough time to hydrate and rid itself of the excess salt. My standard rule is 3 days of soaking in cold water, left covered in the fridge with 2 changes of water per day. Pat dry on day 3 and now you’re ready to use it. This recipe is one I made up one Christmas Eve when I wanted something different from my usual preparations. The Cod is lightly floured and seared in hot olive oil. Removed. Then in that pan a saute’ of Sliced Cubanelles (Italian Frying Peppers), Red Onions, Sliced Fresh Cherry Tomatoes, a pinch of salt and black pepper. When the vegetables are soft, add some white wine and then add the cod back. Top with toasted breadcrumbs, pignoli and fresh basil. It’s Delicious!! Let’s COOK!!

1 3/4 lbs (original dry weight) of 3 DAY SOAKED BACCALA, CUT UP INTO MEDIUM CHUNKS.

2 TBS. ALL PURPOSE FLOUR SEASONED WITH BLACK PEPPER (NO SALT!!!)

OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED SEEDED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING) PEPPERS

1 LARGE SLICED RED ONION

1/2 PINT SLICED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

HANDFUL OF CHOPPED FRESH PARSLEY

1/2 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

3 TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 1/2 TBS TOASTED PIGNOLI

In a heavy pan, like a cast iron or heavy bottomed one heat 2 tbs of olive oil till you see the waves in the pan. Dredge the baccala’ chunks on all sides shaking off the excess and sear on all sides till the cod is golden. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil In the same pan add the peppers, onions and tomatoes and saute’ on medium until they are soft. Takes about 10 minutes, Don’t rush it. Add the peperoncino and 1/2 the parsley. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, Add the Baccala’ back and cook for only 6 minutes. Finish with the toasted breadcrumbs, basil, parsley and pignoli. Remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. ALTERNATE METHOD, after you’ve added the cod back, top with everything and place into a hot oven (400 degrees F) until the breadcrumbs begin to brown, then remove.

Serving suggestion….this dish can be served hot, or warm/room temperature. Serve with good seeded Italian or Sicilian Bread. Make it anytime you want a taste of Italian seafood whether it’s Christmas eve or not. BUONA CUCINA!! BUON APPETITO!!!

CONCHIGLIE CON POMODORO, ZUCCHINE E ROSMARINO..PASTA SHELLS WITH TOMATO, ZUCCHINI AND ROSEMARY…

ZUCCHINI!!! I call it a wonder vegetable because I can find a million ways for create a meal around them. In Italy they are known as ZUCCHINE, small squash…in America was spell it ZUCCHINI. Drives Italians nuts but it is what it is, I try to use both spellings so everyone is happy. Isn’t it better to sit a table happy than to be arguing? I think so to. This dish will keep everyone happy. Cooking historically is about what’s convenient and available. I have nice local zucchini I purchased this week from Holmdel NJ’s Dearborn Market ( https://dearbornmarket.com/ ) and have quite a bit of fresh Rosemary that I’m growing in my yard. The kids were home from college for the weekend and wanted Daddy’s Chicken cutlets (seriously, who doesn’t want chicken cutlets??) so I came up with this dish . I used a sprig of fresh rosemary, do not use dried. The taste pairs well with the onions and zucchini in the tomato and wine. It all works. Let’s get into your kitchen and make a pan of this!! BTW, I sauce it like an Italian in Italy sauces it. The pasta will take the whole pan of sauce, try it this way. It’s not a Sunday Sauce/Gravy kind of dish. Time to cook!!

1 14 oz box of Imported Italian Crushed Tomatoes (i used Cirio brand, the plain version not the flavored ones)

2 tbs. extra virgin OLIVE OIL

2 MEDIUM ZUCCHINI, RINSED AND DICED

1 ONION, DICED

SEA SALT

1/4 TSP. PEPERONCINO

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

1/8 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 LB. MEDIUM SHELLS (CONCHIGLIE) IMPORTED FROM ITALY, COOKED JUST TILL AL DENTE

PECORINO ROMANO

In a large dutch oven or high sided cast iron skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onions and zucchini and peperoncino. Season with salt…blend everything in the pan. Then cover and let cook on medium for 7 minutes. Carefully uncover and stir. Cover again for 5 more minutes. The zucchini and onions should be close to soft by now. Add the sprig of rosemary and deglaze the pan with wine. Cover again for 10 minutes. Uncover and add the tomatoes. Stir. Bring to a boil THEN reduce to a simmer and stir intermittently. Let this simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Then add the al dente pasta shells to the sauce, make sure they are gently blended into the sauce and well coated. Let this cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in about 1/8 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then serve. That’s all folks. Enjoy this dish. Zucchini is love.

SCALOPPINE VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO….CHICKEN SCALLOPINE WITH SAGE, PROSCIUTTO, TOMATO AND FONTINA

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SCALOPPINE in ITALIAN, SCALLOPINI in AMERICAN, both are words to describe a sliced and pounded piece of meat or poultry, quick sauteed in butter or olive oil and then finished in a sauce of various styles, ingredients. Endless possibilites in this style of dish which is infinitely popular in ItalianAmerican restaurants allowing resourceful chefs and cooks to turn kitchen ingredients into new or traditional plates. One dish that I learned when I worked with a caterer was his VALDOSTANA chicken or veal. More often clients ordered the chicken, myself I would order the veal first but love the chicken as well. The dish’s origins are in Northern Italy, the region known as the Val D’Aosta. An Alpine region of high mountains, snowy peaks, verdant meadows and all thing COW. Can you hear the cow bells now echoing thru the valleys and canyons? No? There, now you must hear it..aren’t you craving someting with FONTINA? Why Fontina, that creamy light yellow cheese with a wonderful tang and buttery finish? Because it’s synonymous with the Val D’Aosta. A cow’s milk cheese, Fontina has been produced in the region since the 12th Century. It must be good. And it is. Traditional VITELLO VALDOSTANA is simply a Veal Chop or cutlet filled with Fontina and Prosciutto and served as is or with a light white wine sauce. The caterer I worked with added diced fresh tomatoes to his dish, as I said, mostly was served as Chicken Valdostana but he also added Mozzarella to the mix. That’s pure ItalianAmerican and It was good but I felt his dish could be tweeked, and tweeked it was. I created my version of SCALOPPINE DI POLLO ALLA VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO. It’s amazing. Using diced shallots and prosciutto along with butter (remember this is a Northern Italian flavor profile), some Olive oil so the butter doesn’t burn while sauteeing everything and the earthy notes of Fresh Sage (SALVIA in ITALIAN) and sauce is created with White Wine and the chicken is finished in the pan sauce, topped with ParmigianoReggiano, Fontina and a ripe tomato slice. It’s going to make you very happy. Serve it over spinash leaves and let them wilt from the heat, mingle with the sauce.. oh…this is a winning dish for you. Enough babbling from me..time to cook!!!

SCALOPPINE DI POLLO ALLA VALDOSTANA CON POMODORO

FOR 4 TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS

8 TRIMMED CHICKEN CUTLETS POUNDED TO 1/4 INCH

1 CUP SIFTED AP FLOUR, OR TIPO 00

SALT AND PEPPER FOR SEASONING THE FLOUR

1/2 CUP UNSALTED BUTTER

1/8 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 SHALLOTS FINELY MINCED

1/4 LB PROSCIUTTO FINELY MINCED

10 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1/4 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

8 TOMATO SLICES

1/8 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

8 SLICES OF FONTINA CHEESE ABOUT 1/8 INCH THICK

FRESH SPINACH LEAVES

KOSHER SALT AND CRACKED BLACK PEPPER FOR SEASONING

First we’ll start the chicken. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess. In a large wide and heavy pan heat 2 tbs of butter and 1/2 the Olive oil. Saute’ the chicken till golden on both sides. Takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Do not crowd the chicken, you may have to do this in two batches. Keep checking that the butter/oil isn’t burning, add more if necessary..adjust the heat if needed. Loosely cover the sauteed chicken on a platter with foil. Add the rest of the butter and olive oil and keep at medium heat. Add the shallots and the prosciutto and gently season ( not too much salt because the Prosciutto is plenty salty. Let this saute’ for 10 minutes stirring occasionally so there’s not burning or browning. Now add 3 tbs of the white wine, 2 minced sage leaves, and let this cook on simmer for 15 minutes. This is now your pan sauce base. It’s important that the shallots are fully softened. Now add the rest of the wine and bring to a boil. Lay in the chicken and (BIG TIP HERE) make sure you pour all the accumulated juices on that platter into the pan. That’s extra flavor there!!! Baste the chicken with the pan sauce and then…sprinkle the Parmigiano evenly over the cutlets. The top each piece with the tomato, season with a little salt and pepper, then top with the fontina. Let the chicken simmer in the pan covered just until the cheese is melted. Takes about 8 minutes. Let the chicken sit in the pan for 5 minutes…then serve. Top each slice with a fresh sage leaf and extra sauce from the pan, serving them on a bed of fresh spinach. Oven Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Potatoes. Enjoy!!! and HAPPY COOKING!! Have a little (OR BIG) piece of TiraMiSu’ with espresso for dessert. After all, you’re dining in Northern Italy with this meal!!

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO….VONGOLE AL FORNO ARREGANATA

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO!!! This dish SCREAMS “I’M ITALIAN AMERICAN”. Certainly these clams have their genesis in the Southern Italian food style of adding a topping of seasoned breadcrumbs to seafoods, vegetables and then baking them in a hot over to brown and crisp the tops. The ingredients of the breadcrumb mixture will differ from cook to cook but there are some basics. It’s called OREGANATO or ARREGANTA indicating that there’s oregano (dried) mixed as a seasoning. Add to that Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, peperoncino, olive oil, chopped parsley and a nice finish with fresh lemon. All too often the dish is overshadowed with too much breading and you lose the sweet little clam hiding under all that coating. LITTLE NECK CLAMS Are the usual size for this dish. They take no time at all to prepare and are a wonderful dish for the homecook as a starter to a meal or on a seafood buffet.

BAKED CLAMS OREGANATO SERVES 4 TO 6

3-4 DOZEN FRESH LITTLE NECK CLAMS, SHUCKED OR LIGHTLY STEAMED JUST UNTIL THE SHELLS POP OPEN SLIGHTLY. REMOVE THE TOP SHELL, DISCARD.

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 CLOVES OF GARLIC, 1/4 CUP FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY FINELY CHOPPED/MINCED TOGETHER SPRINKLED WITH A LITTLE KOSHER SALT.

1/2 TSP PEPERONCINO

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO

1 TSP DRIED OREGANO CRUMBLED BETWEEN YOUR HAND TO RELEASE ALL THE OIL, SICILIAN OR GREEK OREGANO IS BEST IF YOU CAN FIND IT.

2 TBS. WHITE WINE

1 1/4 CUPS PLAIN (UNSEASONED) ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

JUICE OF 1 LEMON (NOT MEYER, USE REGULAR LEMONS)

LEMON SLICES

KOSHER SALT

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees F. Mix the breadcrumbs, the oregano, garlic and parsley, the cheese, peperoncino. When it’s blended then add 1/2 the olive oil and the wine, blend in. Fill each of the clams with a bit of this mixture, maybe a teaspoon or just a little more. Lightly pat the crumbs down..Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and into the oven they go. Bake until the crumbs are browned, takes about 12-15 minutes. drizzle a little lemon juice over the tops just before serving. Careful..they are hot…!!! Serve with the lemon slices.

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO…LONG EGG NOODLES WITH CHICK PEAS, SAUSAGE AND TOMATO

TAGLIATELLE CON CECI, SALSICCE E POMODORO

TAGLIATELLE….long mid-thin ribbons of egg pasta dough made all over Italy, so delicious. I think you’ll love this dish I came up with combining the tagliatelle with delicious ceci (chick peas), sweet Italian fennel sausage meat, and sweet Italian imported tomatoes. Fresh basil, onion, olive oil, a little white wine. Do I have your attention now? Good. I’m really excited to share this one with you and you’ll want to put this into your recipe rotation. Layer of flavors is something many chefs and cooks talk about and I’m a big believer in that method. Part of layering is not rushing everything and adding it all at once. Cooking is chemistry. The amount, the ingredient, the type of cooking method, the length of time, and when to add the next item are CRUCIAL in pulling out the inteded and full flavor you want from your dish. This isn’t a difficult dish, it’s pretty straightforward but you need to pace your process. The pasta of choice is also important. Using a fresh made tagliatelle is optimal, but we all don’t have time as a luxury and certainly there are so many wonderful brands out there you can use an exceptional egg tagliatelle for this dish. That brand is Cav. Giuseppe Cocco. About 10.00 @ lb. for the egg pasta. Big however here, if you can only find a regular supermarket brand of Tagliatelle I suggest you stick with ones from ITaly. If that’s not an option use the best American brand you can find. Please don’t use Store brands or “Cremettes” or Mullers. Thank you. And before you ask, this dish was conceived for Tagliatelle, so your options are Tagliolini, Fettuccine, Linguine, Pappardelle. But if none of those are available, use what you like. Of course I think i’m developing something unique and original but like most recipes, if you know the basic and many of the food traditions of a cuisine chances are someone else has made a similar version long before you did. There are examples of Pasta with tomato, chick peas and sausage in Italy so I’m keeping this one with an ITALIAN label on it rather than ITalianAmerican. Us Italians/ItalianAmericans, we love the pasta/bean combo. For those who are carb-averse, simply move on..lol.

SERVES: 4-6 TIME: PREP AND COOKING, 1:15 HOUR APPROX.

1 LB. LOOSE SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT.

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED SMALL

1/8 CUP DRY ITALIAN WHITE WINE

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

SMALL HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL LEAVES

1 CUP COOKED CHICK PEAS (CECI)

1 28 OZ CAN SAN MARZANO DOP TOMATOES OR OTHER IMPORTED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES (KNOWN AS POMODORI PELATI ITALIANI)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

1 LB EGG TAGLIATELLE COOKED TO AL DENTE RIGHT BEFORE SAUCE IS DONE

PECORINO ROMANO, GRATED, TO TASTE

LET’S COOK!!

In a heavy wide pan, like a cast iron or a dutch oven, add 1 tbs of olive oil and heat. Add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and let them cook for 10 minutes..stir frequently so they don’t brown. Add the sausage meat and let this cook still the meat has browned, taked about 10 more minutes…add some of the basil and then the wine deglazing the pan and pulling up the bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil then reduce. Add the Chick peas. Let this cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a bowl. Then add to the sausage, onions, and ceci Blend well. Bring to a bowl then reduce. Let this cook on simmer for 1/2 hour. Towards the end of that cooking time make your tagliatelle. Taste the sauce for seasoning. Make any adjustments you need. When the tagliatelle is al dente drain and add to the sauce and cook in the sauce for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Drizzle with olive oil and tear in more fresh basil. Mix… Then add about 2 1/2 tbs of Grated Cheese, mix. Now serve with more grated cheese and cracked black pepper on the side. A delicious Pasta dish.

TRY A TASTE OF AUSTRALIA’S CHILLI MUSSELS

A BOWL OF CHILLI MUSSELS, CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO, CERVANTES, W.AUSTRALIA

CHILLI MUSSELS…a find on the last vacation we went on. We spent a few days in Western Australia’s city of PERTH where because of a recommendation from Australian travelers we met in Bali we learned of these Mussels in a Tomato, Hot Pepper, and Wine Sauce. Sounds like Mussels Fra Diavolo? Sounds like a typical ItalianAmerican seafood dish? Since I’ve come back from vacation I’ve been trying to see where this dish originated. I’ve found out a few things. You can find them all over Australia, yet on line research always points to Perth and Western Australia. Australia’s proximity to Asia had me thinking these were possibly an Indonesian or Thai or Chinese style of mussels. No. They are decidedly Mediterranean in their style and flavor. Are they different from ItalianAmerican mussels in hot pepper spiked tomato sauce? When That bowl was placed infront of us in Western Australia’s seaside town of CERVANTES my head said..oh, it’s our Fra Diavolo with an Australian name. Sitting in the CERVANTES BAR AND BISTRO after a full day of driving up the coast I can tell you I was in for a great culinary surprise. These had a bit of sweetness to them. I detected maybe sugar in the mix. There were fresh sliced chile peppers in the mix. Aha. That’s it. Quite possibly with Australia’s large Italian Immigrant population this was a creation made by them with some changes as often happens in immigrant communities. There’s a style of cooking called AustralianItalian, just like we have ItalianAmerican in the States. Now you’ll say, what’s the difference??? Why would the dried chile pepper flakes (peperoncino) taste different than the fresh. Well…taste both for yourself. There’s a difference. And this is not a one is better than the other conversation, this is me telling you my foodcentric friends that there’s new dishes to be had when you change an ingredient. Fresh Chiles is possibly more Asian in it’s flavor profile. It’s a bit fruity. There’s a texture the ItalianAmerican mussels don’t have. It was amazing. Travel Food surprises are always welcome. Simply switch out fresh chiles for the peperoncino, add a pinch of sugar, or brown sugar and you’ll get the chilli mussel experience. Most important, use mid sized fresh mussels. Those enormous Green ones don’t work here. For a recipe, since I’ve not made my own version of them yet, here’s a link from Australia’s great Travel magazine, GOURMET TRAVELLER. I fell in love with this magazine after my daughter bought me one for the beach while we were there.

https://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/recipes/chefs-recipes/mussels-with-chilli-garlic-and-white-wine-9229

POLPETTINE DI SALSICCE E MANZO, BEEF AND SAUSAGE SMALL MEATBALLS WITH SAGE, WINE, PARMIGIANO

POLPETTINE!!! I can’t get enough of these meatballs..the smaller type, from any cuisine anywhere in the world.  There are HUNDREDS of versions and every so often I create my own version based on what’s in the fridge.  POLPETTINE DI SALSICCE E MANZO CON SALVIA, VINO, E PARMIGIANO is just one of them.  How delicious does food sound in other languages?  I think very.  MINI MEATBALLS OF ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND GROUND BEEF WITH SAGE, RED WINE AND PARMIGIANO.  Sounds better in Italian don’t you think?  I’m not reinventing the wheel here, I ‘m creating using a specific traditional flavor combination.  Beef and Sausage are commonly used in meatball making.  Sage is so earthy and Parmigiano’s nutty complex flavor combined with a simmer in red wine, olive oil and garlic are simply amazing together.  Towards the end I added a spoonful of crushed tomato just to balance it all out but not turning it into a pan of meat balls in sugo di pomodoro. Let’s create this delicious pan in your kitchen now shall we?  ANDIAMO.

FOR 24 POLPETTINE:

1/2 LB. FRESH ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE MEAT (NO FENNEL IS POSSIBLE)

1/2 LB. FRESH GROUND CHUCK BEEF (80% LEAN, 20 % FAT)

1/2 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS SOAKED IN 3 TBS. HEAVY CREAM

1 LARGE OR JUMBO EGG BEATEN

2 FRESH SAGE LEAVES FINELY MINCED

2 CLOVES FRESH GARLIC FINELY MINCED

1/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

1/4 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

NO SALT ADDED BECAUSE THE COMBO OF THE SAUSAGE MEAT AND THE PARMIGIANO WILL ADD THE SALTINESS TO THE POLPETTINE

1/3 CUP RED WINE

1/3 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

PINCH OF SEA OR KOSHER SALT

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 TBS. CRUSHED ITALIAN TOMATOES

A FEW EXTRA SAGE LEAVES

1 PEELED FRESH GARLIC CLOVE

In a large stainless steel mixing bowl combine all the ingredients up to the Red Wine.  Mix well, but just until it’s a homogenized mixture. Roll into small walnut sized balls.  Place on a tray.  In a large wide frying pan heat 2 tbs. of the olive oil and place as many meatballs as you can WITHOUT them touching each other.  You may have to do this in 2 batches.  This recipe makes around 24 meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides.  Remove to a platter until you’ve finished frying them all.  Add one more TBS of Olive Oil and the Garlic clove.  Let this get fragrant and then add the wine and deglaze the pan.  Get all the bits off the bottom of the pan and then add 1/3 cup of Chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then add the meatballs all in.  Let them simmer for 15 minutes on medium/low.  When you see most of the liquid is reduced, you’re almost done.  Stir in the tomato.  Pinch of salt.  Remove to a serving platter and add a nice amount of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and garnish with sage leaves. OR, do it all right out of the pan (as shown in the picture).  

Now you’re done.   Serve as is, with bread to sop up those juices.  Accompany with a side of sauteed greens like Broccoli Rabe or Escarole.  Maybe some roasted potatoes or a seasoned Rice. 

CHICKEN CONTADINA, MY VERSION

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s make a chicken dish.  This one is a bona fide Italian dish, and it’s an ItalianAmerican one as well.  Fantastic.  However.  You will probably find a million versions of this  so let me explain what makes a chicken dish “CONTADINA”.  Take the word itself, it means the Farmer’s Wife.  Many Italian dishes are named romantically or literally after the type of person who “invented” the dish.  Invented in quotes because we seldom REALLY know where these dishes actually came from.  Part of the fun with cooking is piece together bits of national tradition and food culture to find a genesis for a dish.  POLLO ALLA CONTADINA is a term used to describe Chicken made in the fashion of a Farmer’s wife or Peasant or Country style.  Cut pieces of whole chicken are seared then simmered with pieces of sausage, onion, herbs, wine, mushrooms, lard (or olive oil), peppers and tomato.  To make it easy, think of this as the famous Chicken Scarpariello with Crushed Tomato added.  Most dishes are interelated.  A specific change creates something new.  I’ve seen recipes for this with cream as well.  I prefer no cream.  My modern version of this dish utilizes Boneless breasts.  Unlike the Farmer’s wife who was chained to her kitchen and home duties all day I’m not, so I often have less cooking time than 10 hours to prep a meal.  You can get this done in under 1 1/2 hours.  Comes out even better when you use boneless thighs with the skin on them but my family isn’t a fan of the dark meat. So I’d be lying if I gave you that recipe…lol.  But feel free to use Bone in /Skin on pieces of chicken or the boneless skin on /skinless thighs instead of the boneless breasts.  Remember, they need longer sear and cooking times so adjust accordingly.  See???  Something for everyone is what A FOOD OBSESSION likes to give you!!  Historically Chicken is not very Italian in the kitchen and the dishes that are traditional usually are whole birds or in pieces because they were old. Old and Stringy, the young chickens were too valuable to eat as they gave eggs to the family with was way more important a food.  And cheap and available to all.  ItalianAmericans created most of the cutlet intense Chicken dishes.  I say that with love, not as it being a bad thing.  It’s wonderful when a cuisine creates a new cuisine.  Honor both!!!   Enough of my babble…time to cook.

TIME:  1 1/2 HOURS                                    SERVES: 4-6

1 1/2 LBS WHOLE BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS CUT INTO CHUNKS OR STRIPS

1/8 CUP SEASONED FLOUR

OLIVE OIL

1 LB. SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL PORK SAUSAGE

1 DICED ONION

4 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

3/4 LB SLICED OR QUARTERED BUTTON MUSHROOMS

1 SLICED RED PEPPER

1/4 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

1 28 OZ CAN ITALIAN PLUM/SAN MARZANO TOMATOES CRUSHED WITH YOUR HANDS

1/8 CUP WATER OR CHICKEN STOCK

1 BAY LEAF

PINCH FENNEL SEEDS

ENOUGH FRESH THYME OR ROSEMARY TO MAKE 2 TBS. CHOPPED

KOSHER SALT AND FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Start by lightly seasoning the chicken  then coating it with the flour.   shake off the excess.  In your largest, widest, heaviest pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tbs. of olive oil and cook the sausage until they are well browned on all sides.  Takes about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the sausage.  Now add more olive oil if necessary and brown the chicken on all sides, in batches if necessary adding more oil as you go (again, if needed).  When done deglaze the pan with the wine scraping up all the delicious bits on the bottom.  Pour this over the sausage you already have put to the side.  Add more olive oil to the pan and saute’ the onions, peppers, and mushrooms, seasoning as you good.  When they are soft (don’t rush it…you want them soft before you go to the next step, give this 15 minutes on medium, stirring or shaking the pan/pot from time to time.). Add the garlic and saute in for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Add 1/2 the chopped herbs and the bay leafand fennel seeds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Now reduce to a simmer.  Add the Sausage, Chicken and all the collected juices.  Add the water/stock.  Let this simmer for 45 minutes and reduce the liquid by almost 3/4.  Stir occasionally, do not cover!!!  You want the liquid to evaporate and leave a deliciously concentrated sauce around the meat and vegetables.  I like to let it almost completely evaporate.  Up to you.  Realize though the longer you cook it the more you need to pay attention since you don’t want to scorch/burn that tomato in the dish.  So many rules  LOL..  Let sit for a bit before serving.   Most of all, enjoy every part of cooking.  Especially the smiles on everyone who is lucky enough to enjoy your meals!  HAPPY COOKING!!