Category Archives: food blog

SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER AND POTATO CROQUETTES, CAZZILLI DI VRUOCCULI E PATATE

12301481_523460571155581_6765352164488669537_n Italians love fried little bits…fritti…and the fritti come in many forms.  Depending on the region you will often find little street stands or stores that specialize only in Fried Foods. Stop.  I see your eyes rolling.  Life’s too short not to enjoy a fried treat now and then.  The list of Italian fried bits is very long AND delicious but let me introduce you to this one from Sicily.  The CAZZILLO.  Plural, CAZZILLI.  Now pardon my comments here but Sicilians love the bawdy and love things that make you laugh in embarassment.  Cazzo is Italian for the male organ…Cazzilli is Sicilian for, well, a little one LOL.  Are you embarassed and shocked?  The Sicilians have done it again.  Have some fun, life’s too short not to laugh a little.  This dish combines the Sicilians love of a good joke with a few of their favorite foods, potatoes and cauliflower.  VRUOCCULI is actually a type of cauliflower, a little greener than our pure white American Cauliflowers.  This CAZZILLI recipe is a version of the typical Sicilian potato croquette combined with mashed cauliflower.  Sicilians make their potato croquettes either simply rolled in flour and fried OR breaded and fried.  Generally when I’m making a Napoletana style Potato Croquette (Panzarotti) I will bread them. But when making Sicilian ones I don’t bread them.  These Cazzilli have a hefty helping of grated Caciocavallo cheese in them.  Now Caciocavallo is not available everywhere so instead you can use the more accessible Provolone or Pecorino.  See, I”m not going to give you a recipe that you can’t reproduce in your kitchen.  Truth be told most cooks in their homes will use what’s on hand to make a dish so it’s fine to use any one of the three.  Caciocavallo is most Sicilian.  If you have a good cheese store by you see if they carry CACIOCAVALLO RAGUSANO, from Ragusa, Sicily. It’s amazing.   Now here’s a few tips.  Start with leftover or day old Mashed Potatoes.  Many recipes tell you to make it all the same day.  No.  There’s a magic that happens when a cooked starch sits overnight.  Trust me.  ItalianAmerican Moms and Grandmothers would make their versions of Potato croquettes usually with leftover mashed potatoes from the day before’s dinner. Same for RiceBalls (Arancini).  The end result is just better, and they don’t fall apart.  You’ll need 3 cups of mashed potatoes of this recipe.  Steam the cauliflower the day before as well.  One head of cauliflower for 3 cups of mashed potatoes.  When the cauliflower is still warm, mash it well.  set it in a strainer and let it drain overnight.  OR if you have leftover cauliflower, simply mash it.  So those are the starting points for these CAZZILLI.  Let’s get cooking now!!

TIME: 24 hours                   SERVES: 6 (up to 3 per person)

3 cups chilled day-old Mashed Potatoes

1 mashed steamed Cauliflower head

2 beaten eggs

1 1/4 cup grated CACIOCAVALLO or PECORINO or PROVOLONE cheese

2 tbs. All purpose flour

1 tbs. minced flat leaf Italian parsley

salt, fresh ground black pepper

Olive oil for frying

Lemon slices for serving

Simply blend ALL the ingredients and season with salt and lots of black pepper until you can form a small oval shaped croquette, about 2 inches long.  Roll each one in flour, and then chill for 1/2 hour.  In a large heavy high sided pan (pull out the cast iron skillet for this!) Bring 2 inches of  oil to 360 degrees F and start frying the Cazzilli.  DON’T CROWD THE PAN!!! 5-6 at a time works well.   Fry till golden on all sides, takes about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.  When done frying transfer to a nice serving platter and garnish with lemon slices.  They are wonderful hot or at room temperature.  Enjoy your CAZZILLI!!! HAPPY COOKING.

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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!!

 

 

KENTUCKY DERBY WALNUT AND CHOCOLATE PIE…FOR DERBY DAY AND BEYOND

1907996_284906375011003_4427021404753604595_nIn the city of Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday of May each year the horserace known as the KENTUCKY DERBY is held.  It’s pretty much become a national event but no where is it more celebrated than in Louisville.  I remember going there 3 days after the event a few years ago to visit clients and remember all the decorations and banners that were still up for the “RUN FOR THE ROSES”.  In true A FOOD OBSESSION style I came home with a few new food ideas and some local cookbooks.  I also made my way over to the BROWN HOTEL to have the American classic sandwich, the HOT BROWN, named for it’s location of birth.  A Hot Brown is a broiled open faced sliced Turkey breast sandwich on thick white bread with Mornay Sauce, Parmigiano, Tomato and Bacon.  It’s amazing.  That trip introduced me to another Louisville cuisine creation, the DEBRY PIE.  Let’s get something out of the way first.  Unless you buy one from Kern’s Kitchen, the business which invented it in 1950 by Walter and Leaudra Kern at their Melrose Inn , Prospect , Kentucky, you cannot call it DERBY PIE.  In 1968 they smartly trademarked the name and while there’s no crime in creating a pie that is similar, you can NEVER call it DERBY PIE. So there you go.  Instead call it anything you like, but since it’s part of Kentucky Derby food culture  I will call it KENTUCKY DERBY WALNUT AND CHOCOLATE PIE.  Whew. Now I’m safe.  The Kern’s have sued over 25 times to protect there trademarked name so remember, you don’t want to be the next victim.  LOL.  The pie is sort of a mashup of a southern Pecan pie with chocolate and a Toll House Pie, sort of.  The recipe I use came from the Washington Post:

SERVINGS: 6 – 8
INGREDIENTS
  • One 8- or 9-inch unbaked pie shell
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh whipped cream for garnish(optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have an 8 or 9-inch pie plate at hand.

Place the unbaked pie shell in the plate. Sprinkle the bottom of the pie shell evenly with chocolate chips.

Whisk together the eggs, 1 cup of sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. Gradually mix in the butter, then add the nuts and vanilla extract and bourbon. Carefully pour mixture over the chocolate chips, in a circular motion so it does not disturb the chips. Bake for 1 hour, until the filling is set.

Should be served warmed up…top with the Whipped Cream, over even better, which a good Vanilla Ice Cream….a drizzle of hot chocolate sauce, maybe whipped cream too, up to you.  It’s delicious..and it’s fantastic all on it’s own, it’s rich.  HAPPY KENTUCKY DERBY DAY!!!

FRIED STUFFED MEATBALLS, ITALIAN AMERICAN STYLE, MY SISTER’S IDEA

0000HOW GOOD DOES THAT LOOK?  Of course you  are agreeing with me.  ItalianAmerican style Stuffed FRIED Meatballs, but here’s the thing, these are not simmered in sauce after frying.  These are filled, breaded, then fried.  Served on their own or on a bed of Sugo di Pomodoro (ok, I’m getting European here, that means Tomato Sauce).  At Easter dinner hosted by my sister Joann and her family she made a version of these for the antipasto. Delicious.   I took that idea and put some A FOOD OBSESSION touches into the mix and made them a week later.  Big hit.  And….they are great for entertaining.  Party apps or Antipasto for a dinner.  You can even use them as an Entree’.  So my version of my sister’s POLPETTE FRITTE RIPIENE contain ground beef, ground pork, Red Wine, Garlic, Soaked breadcrumbs, parsley, eggs, lots of grated Pecorino Romano, black pepper, a cube of either Scamorza (my preference) or mozzarella in the center.  Let’s stop here, if you follow me on Social media you know I love to use Scamorza cheese.  For those who are unfamiliar with it Scamorza is a Southern Italian cheese which starts its life out the same as mozzarella. Mozzarella is eaten fresh.  Scamorza is aged for a minimum of around 2 weeks and it becomes sort of the consistency of a Gouda cheese.  Yet it’s mild like mozzarella.  It’s actually the cheese that Southern Italians use in many “al forno” or baked dishes the way Italian Americans use Mozzarella.  It’s low in moisture and melts beautifully.  It’s perfect for these meatballs but mozzarella works too.  Scamorza looks like a small bag and it’s slightly yellow/gold in color.  Lasts a while in the fridge.  So thanks to a great meal and idea from my sister here’s my version of Fried Stuffed Meatballs.

FOR 24 MEATBALLS                                 TIME: 1 3/4 HOURS

1 LB. GROUND CHUCK

1/4 LB. GROUND PORK

2 BEATEN EGGS

1 1/2 CUPS STALE BREAD CUBES, OR 1/2 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS, SOAKED IN MILK OR WATER, THEN SQUEEZE THE LIQUID OUT IF USING THE BREAD, OR JUST ADD ENOUGH MILK, CREAM, OR WATER TO HYDRATE THE CRUMBS AND LET THEM REST FOR 8 MINUTES.

1 1/2 CUPS GRATED PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

2 TBS MINCED FLAT LEAF ITALIAN PARSLEY

2 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC

2 TBS. ITALIAN RED WINE

1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT

1/2 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

24 SMALL CUBES OF SCAMORZA CHEESE,  LOW MOISTURE MOZZARELLA, OR DAY OLD FRESH MOZZARELLA. (TIP…USING FRESH MOZZARELLA THE SAME DAY IT’S MADE WILL RELEASE TOO MUCH LIQUID, USE IT ONE DAY LATER)

1 CUP SIFTED FLOUR

1 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS MIXED WITH 1 CUP PECORINO ROMANO AND 1 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY, SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE

3 BEATEN EGGS WITH 1 TBS MILK

OLIVE OIL FOR FRYING (YES YOU CAN FRY WITH OLIVE OIL)

MARINARA SAUCE, OPTIONAL

 

Finely mince the garlic and parsley.  In a large bowl, add the beaten eggs, the soaked bread/breadcrumbs, the wine, the grated cheese. Blend well.  Now add the meats and blend well.  Let this sit for 10 minutes.  Now make 24 -26 meatballs slightly bigger than a golf ball.  Insert a cube of the cheese into each one carefully making sure that you cover it well with the meat.  Roll the meatballs in the flour, then the egg/milk mixture, draining of the excess.  Then coat with the breadcrumb/grated cheese mixture. Place all the completed balls on a tray and chill for 10 minutes.  Using a heavy frying pan heat up 1/4 inch of Olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches keeping the heat on medium.  You want these to cook full so don’t have the oil so hot that the crumbs will burn and the insides stay raw.  Gently roll the balls until all sides are toasty golden.  Drain on paper towels. Should take 10 minutes.  Don’t over crowd…the oil temp drops and you will have steamed soggy meatballs.  They can be made ahead of time too and then gently reheated in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.  As a serving suggestion, you can plate them or serve them with Warm Marinara sauce.  Personally I love them as they are but I know many of you enjoy the sauce idea so serve them however you want.  HAPPY COOKING!!!

 

MY PIZZA CHIENA, THE SOUTHERN ITALIAN PIZZA RUSTICA, MY VERSION

{4F8CC669-34CC-4732-9E5D-2A5CCED9AE0C}05212011_Movie_Godfather1_slideshowSpring, Daylight Savings Time, Easter, Warmer weather, NO MORE WINTER…these are a few of my favorite things at this time of the year.  However one thing above all is my most favorite…and it’s the PIZZA CHIENA or PIZZA GAIN or PIZZA PIENA or PIZZA RUSTICA. We called it the second one in my house..2 generation ItalianAmericans usually from Napoletana ancestry use the Napoletana name for this pie.  PIZZA CHIENA.  CHIENA is Napoletana for the word PIENA, which means FULL.  Let’s stroll back to the real old days.  Lent in Catholic countries was a very serious affair.  No Meat or Dairy was consumed for 40 days.  This pie is an exhuberant celebration of all the foods that were “forbidden”.  It’s special.  It’s rich.  It’s wonderful.  SIDEBAR HERE:  This is my version of this pie, it’s not THE version of this pie because that doesn’t exist.  However it’s made in kitchens where the tradition is kept, that’s the “right way” to make it because it’s a personal family or regional tradition that you are keeping up with.  I’ll say that my version is a close one to that which my maternal grandmother made.  Her kitchen style was a blend of Avellino and Naples, she lived in both those towns, with a heavy dose of influence from my grandfather’s town in Matera, Basilicata.  My own research on the PIZZA CHIENA NAPOLETANA shows that our family’s version only deviates slightly.  Ours included sliced or chopped roasted Sweet Fennel Pork Sausage in addition to the cured salumi.  We encase ours in the southern Italian short crust pastry known as PASTA FROLLA with the addition of some black pepper to the dough.  Delicious.  Some call this pie (pizza) a type of quiche.  The difference is the cheese is dense in this pie, not a smooth custard.  All the cured meats give a little bit of their flavors up to the Ricotta and/or Basket Cheese that the base along with a heavy dose of cracked Black pepper.  It’s amazing.  TANTE MILLE GRAZIE (A thousand thanks) to my family for teaching me this wonder of a dish.  Again, there’s no SET ingredients, but a core that is constant and from that you have some wiggle room.  My ingredients are Eggs, Ricotta, Diced Mozzarella and Provolone, Cracked black pepper, Diced DRY sausage, roasted sweet fennel sausage, sweet sopressata, sometimes prosciutto cotto.  Let get into my kitchen and make this Pizza which “can only be made after 3pm on Good Friday”.  Mom’s words, not mine.  Fantastic way to remember those who we’ve lost…It’s like having them next to me as I make this.

 

SERVES:  LOTS                       TIME: 5 HOURS (included dough making and resting)

 

Pasta Frolla

4 c. flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2tsp. salt

1 3/4 cup shortening or Lard

1/2 c. water (iced)

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. vinegar

Blend flour, sugar, salt and shortening. Mix water with egg and vinegar; add to dry ingredients. Divide into 2 balls. Wrap in Plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Then.  Roll out each with a rolling pin. Yield (top & bottom) crusts.  Makes enough for an 11 X 13 pan.  Use one for the bottom, and one for the top.  Pasta Frolla can be TEMPERMENTAL but patches back up easily for any screw ups.  I have plenty when I make this but the end product always is great.

Credit for this crust goes to fellow StatenItalian Gloria Delio Glickman.  I tried her Pasta Frolla once and have used it ever since!

FILLING:

6 Sweet Fennel Sausages, roasted until cooked, then sliced or chopped.

1 cup diced Sopressata

1 cup diced Dry Sausage

1/2 cup Cacciatorini sausage or 1/2 cup Prosciutto Cotto or 1/2 cup Salami

1 lb. diced Mozzarella (here I use PollyO type, WHOLE MILK, it holds up better in the baking, trust me. )

1/2 lb Diced Provolone (Auricchio or the same quality type of Provolone that’s FROM ITALY, not the American made one.)

6 beaten eggs

1/8 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

1 1/2 tbs. cracked black pepper (my personal addition. you can scale back if you wish…why would you though? LOL )

3 lbs. DRAINED RICOTTA

Mix the eggs with the ricotta till smooth.  Now blend the meats and cheese with the grated cheese.  Fold that mixture into the ricotta mixture till well blended.  Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Pour the mixture into the pan you’ve layered with one of the dough.  I roll to about 1/4 inch.  Needs lots of flour on the table/board. Then lay the other dough over the top.. Cut around the sides and crimp the top and sides together. Trim any excess.  Decorate with a cross or other decoration you chose to make with excess dough, or leave it plain   Now do what Grandma did…Poke 5 holes in the top..i do it where you can’t see it.  These holes signify the 5 wounds of Christ on the Cross.  In our home this pie is made after 3pm on Good Friday.  So much historic and cultural significance you can’t help but love it!!  Bake in the middle rack for at least and hour and 1/2 or until the a knife inserted in the CENTER comes out clean.  Let the pie rest and don’t you dare cut into it until 12:00am Easter Sunday morning.  Mom’s rules. She’s gone now 19 years but these Easter cooking rules she taught me still hang tough in my mind.    Writing this recipe and story down is like they are all here around my kitchen table.  Having “American” coffee or Espresso (demitasse), Wine, the big meal, and knibbling on this Pizza Chiena along with the other Easter traditions.  Makes it special.  Enjoy making my recipe!!

SIDEBAR:  Let this fully cool down before cutting it.  Can be served at room temp, cold, or lightly heated. GREAT dish on a buffet.

 

 

CHICKEN SCALOPPINE WITH MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH

IMG_4141 Chicken Scaloppine (notice my Italian spelling of the American Scallopine, how’s that?  lol).  There’s no “recipe” for Scaloppine because it refers to the way the meat/poultry is cut.  Thin Slices of meat/poulty in Italian are called SCALOPPA, and thinner ones are called SCALOPPINE.  In Olde English Collops meant slices of meat so somewhere in Europe this word originated.  Scaloppine in Italy generally means a veal dish as the chicken and turkey scaloppine in the US is an ItalianAmerican creation.  Chicken Scaloppine could be the most popular of all, but any thin sliced meat or poultry can be used.  Ok, enough with the food history. How and why am I blogging this version?  Audience request!  I made this one night for dinner after work using items in the fridge and then posted it on social media and…..WHERE’S THE RECIPE ??? comments started poking me with notifications.  So..here’s how I made this Chicken Scaloppine with Mushrooms and Spinach.  I served it over plain steamed white rice.

8 thin sliced and pounded Chicken Breast cutlets (boneless)

1/2 cup sifted flour

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic

1/2 tsp Hungarian Sweet Paprika

1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 1/4 cup Chicken Stock

Olive Oil

1 1/4 cups sliced button or Cremini Mushrooms

3 sliced cloves of garlic

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups rinsed and dried baby spinach leaves

2 tbs. unsalted butter

 

Use your heaviest and largest skillet/pan for this.  Add 2 tbs of Olive oil.  Heat to medium.  Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, granulated garlic.  Dredge the cutlets in the flour on both sides, gently shaking off the excess.  In batches saute’ the chicken for about 5 minutes per side.  remove them to a platter loosely covered with foil when they are all done  Do not stack, lay them out flat.  Add the mushrooms and 1 more tbs. of olive oil to the pan.  Raise the heat to medium high.  Sprinkle the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper…Toss making sure all the mushrooms have been coated with the hot oil. Now saute’ the mushrooms till they start to take on color and are soft.  Add the garlic.  Saute for 2 minutes and then add the wine.  Bring this to a boil and let it cook for 2 minutes. Now add the Stock and bring that to the boil. Stir well to combine all the pan ingredients.  Let this boil for 3 minutes then lower to a simmer.  In a cup or container add 2 tbs of the flour and then add , stirring while you add about 1/4 cup of the pan liquid.  Keep stirring until all lumps are dissolved and you have a nice slurry.  Stir the liquid in the pan and swirl in the slurry,  keep stirring and gently bring the pan back to the boil THEN reduce to a simmer.  It should be lightly thickened by now.  Add the chicken back and top with the spinach.  Cover the pan for 5 minutes.  The spinach should have wilted and gently stir that into the chicken and mushrooms.  Your chicken should be tender now and the sauce well blended and seasoned.  Of course, check for seasoning at this point.  Add any extra salt or pepper you think it needs, if any.  Now add 2 tbs of unsalted butter to the pan and blend it into the pan.  This adds a nice finish to the pan and extra flavor.  Serve over Steamed rice.  Happy Cooking!!!!

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.