Category Archives: HOLIDAY FOODS

GRANDMA SCARAMUZZI’S EASTER PIZZA DOLCE (SWEET RICOTTA PIE)

PicMonkey CollageSeasonal dishes, they define our lives.  Whether it’s Thanksgiving Turkey or Candy Canes at Christmas or King Cake at Mardi Gras one can often tell the season by its specialty dishes.   Growing up in a Southern Italian American home there were and still are many dishes/foods that are like a calendar smacking you in the head telling you what Holiday or season you are celebrating. Spring. Primavera (it’s the Italian word for Spring, not just a type of Pasta, lol). Easter. Passover. Just a few holiday/seasons that March into May brings to us and in my home, on Good Friday the traditional family RICOTTA PIES would be prepared and baked post 3:00pm and NOT TOUCHED UNTIL 12:00AM EASTER SUNDAY.  This is maddening, although, we are modern now. The Catholic Church’s first Easter mass is around 4pm on Saturday before Easter so feel free to cut into the pie.  Certainly, you may stick to tradition and wait till that clock changed from night to midnight.

A little history with this pie I’m blogging about, in the old days Lent meant no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no NOTHIN!!! Southern Italians devised dishes that were accessible and celebratory for breaking the fast.  Ricotta pies which are known as PIZZE (Pizza is a word for pie…the tomato and cheese one is just another version) are made in both sweet and savory types.  Let’s confuse you further!  Every town and region developed it’s own types of foods..while this confuses many ItalianAmericans because we often think only the way that our family makes something is the right way..there are many versions of all these Easter pies.  Mine comes from my Grandmother’s town of CASTEL BARONIA , PROVINCIA D’AVELLINO not far from Naples.  We call isSWEET PIE, or PIZZA DOLCE and it’s a wonderful baked ricotta pie scented with cinnamon, lemon, orange and anisette.  There are similar pies made in the Avellino area withouth the lemon and orange zest and without the glaze on top.  That glaze is used in baked goods from my Grandfather’s town of Grassano, Provincia di Matera in neighboring Basilicata.  I wonder if Grandma Scaramuzzi’s version melded a few things she picked up from Grandpa’s family.  It’s how recipes evolve but the basic pizza is pure Avellinese.  The crust is a typical PASTA FROLLA, the dough used for many Southern Italian pastry/baked goods.  The first thing we need to do it make the dough. You need time for this, Rome wasn’t built in a day!!

PASTA FROLLA

2-1/2 cups SIFTED all-purpose UNBLEACHED flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1/4 tsp. salt

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

10 Tbs. good  unsalted butter, chilled

1 Xtra Large Egg, beaten

4 Tbsps. milk

Mix all the dry ingredients well.  Cut the butter into a small dice and work it into the dry ingredients until the mix resembles small peas. Now add the egg which you’ve beaten with the milk then add to the flour and butter mixture and stir it all with a fork or wooden spoon until it will hold its shape.  Knead this until it’s smooth then stop. Form the Pasta Frolla into a disk and wrap in “Saran Wrap” or Plastic wrap and into the fridge for 1 1/4 hours.easter16e 021 Don’t get scared, those are disks of pasta frolla for a few pies.

Now we will make the Ricotta filling.

1-1/2 lbs. WHOLE MILK RICOTTA which you’ve drained overnight or earlier in the day in a sieve.  You can also , if available, use the Ricotta which comes in a tin already drained, That’s what I generally use but it’s not available everywhere.

1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/8 TBS ANISETTE EXTRACT

1 TSP. PURE VANILLA

3 TBS DICED CITRONeaster16a 009

1 TSP. CINNAMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 TSP ORANGE ZEST

Beat the eggs, then add the sugar and beat, add the extracts, beat.  Now mix in the Ricotta, cinnamon, the zests, and the citron until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill the pastry.easter16e 006These instructions are for a 9 inch pan.  I double recipe and make it in a larger rectangular.  Up to you.   Lightly butter the pan.  From the Pasta Frolla disk, remove about 1/3 for later.  The remainder you will roll out to about 14 inches and line the buttered 9 inch pan.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You want some of the dough over the sides of the pan.  Press the dough into the sides and then pour in the ricotta mixture.  Roll out the remainder of the dough for the top.   With an egg wash of 2 eggs and 1/8 cup milk brush the rim and then place the top over it.. press the sides to the lid forming a crust and cut away the excess.  Brush the top with the egg wash.  If you truly want a Grandma Scaramuzzi Sweet Pie, turn those bits you just cut off and make a B and a P out of them.  Place them on center of the pie and coat with egg wash.   Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  easter16e 001 What does BP mean?  BUONA PASQUA! Italian for Happy Easter..that makes it a real Grandma memory.  To test for done. use a sharp knife and place in the center going straight into the bottom of the pie.  If it comes out clean, your pie is done. Let this cool for 1 hour to 2 hours.  While it’s cooling it’s time to make the glaze.

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

1/2  tsp Lemon Juice

1/2 tsp Orange Juice

1/2 tsp. milk

1/2 tsp. Anisette Extract

1 tsp mixed Lemon and Orange Zest

multicolored “confetti” or non pareils

Mix all except the confetti until you can drizzle it.  cover with wrap until ready to use.

When the Sweet Pie is fully cooled, don’t rush it…make sure it’s cool!! Then simply drizzle the icing over the top making sure to get some into the sides.  You may have more than you need, use it for something else.  After you’ve drizzles add some of the confetti to the top.easter16dc 031 Now here’s some variations…you can do a lattice top  if you like, just cut the top into strips. Nothing at Easter makes me think, remember, and smile about who I am, where I come from, and who loves me almost as much as this does.  Grandma Scaramuzzi and my Mom are right there in the kitchen with me, guiding me as they once did to teach us this pie.  It’s About Easter, about continuity and the cycles of life, rebirth, family, love. About my ItalianAmerican and Southern Italian roots and sharing that with my multicultural family.  It’s fantastic and thanks for letting me share it with you.  easter16dc 030

 

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VIENNESE VANILLA CRESCENTS…VANILLEKIPFERL

00vanillenkipferlWIENER VANILLEKIPFERL……a very popular Holiday cookie these are AUSTRIAN VANILLA CRESCENTS.  This type of cookie is made all over the world for the Christmas season and sometimes for special occasions thru the year.  Wedding Cookies, Greek Kourabiedes, American Almond Crescents, the list goes on but at their heart they are a butter cookie made with finely ground nuts in the dough.  The nuts can be almond or walnut.  The butter is always present and in the central European countries the Vanilla Sugar is an ingredient as well.  Simply put, it’s granulated or fine granulated sugar infused with vanilla beans and is very fragrant.  So why am I focusing in on this Viennese version?  Well last Summer I visited Vienna and bought a cookbook, in German, called WEIHNACHTS BACKEREI…translates to CHRISTMAS BAKING.ho15577518_10208099303022724_1310207240_nNice looking book, i had to buy it. Cost 6.75 Euros. One of the recipes is the Viennese crescent.  I made them last Christmas using European butter and they were fantastic, so now I share this with you.  The butter I suggest to really make them over the top delicious is butter from Europe.  A little more costly for sure than U.S. butter but they are after all European butter cookies.  A few European brands are LURPAK, from Denmark, FINLANDIA from Finland, KERRYGOLD, from Ireland.  There’s also the US made in the European style PLUGRA.  They are richer than the usual American butter. If you can’t find them the cookies will still be fantastic!

VIENNESE CRESCENTS                            TAKES: 3 hours                    YIELDS: 48-60

the rezipe
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla sugar
1 TBS pure Vanilla Extract
3 egg yolks or 2 extra large yolks
1 cup Ground Almonds (or ground walnuts)
1 CUP COLD EUROPEAN BUTTER (or good quality U.S. butter)
2 TBS vanilla sugar plus 2 TBS Confectioner’s Sugar for coating
Cream the butter and the sugar, then the eggs, then the almonds and flour.All ingredients are quickly mixed to a smooth dough in your mixer and let cool for approx. 1 hour. Cut the dough into a small roll of small, coarse pieces, shape them into crescents and place on a  well greased baking tray or baking sheet. I’d use a SILPAT mat if you have them, or lightly greased parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes till firm and golden. While still warm roll in the Vanilla sugar and confectioner’s sugar blend.
If you like the taste of Almonds in this, add 1 tsp. Almond Extract while you’re mixing the dough.
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 Quantity: about  48-60 piecesbakingnight121915-025bakingnight121915-026
Let fully cool.  Store in air tight tins or in baking tins layered with waxed paper and well wrapped.fulleuropevaca-938Just to show you were I bought the cookbook, this is a roadside scene in the WIENERWALD, or the VIENNA WOODS which lie outside of the city of Vienna, Austria.  A magical land where Wiener Vanillekiperl fall out of the sky!!  Now that you have the recipe you don’t have to wait to take a trip to Austria.  Bring Austria to you own kitchen!!!
Glückliches Kochen!

STUFFED ARTICHOKES…A TRIBUTE TO A BEAUTIFUL SOUL

stufarti4316 006   Cooking is sometimes called a labor of love, you have to love to do it, you have to love the whole process, and you have to love to feed people and satisfy them.  Lots of love.  There’s another type of love and it’s the love you feel because that dish you are making, the aroma, the prep, the taste, the look, all of it combines and fills your soul with someone who has touched your heart.  Many times is a person who is still living…and many times it’s a reminder of someone who has left us.  This is such a dish for me.  Stuffed Artichokes are a very common dish in the Italian-American home.  Their origin is somewhere down south, this preparation anyway.  In many articles Sicily claims it and in others the people from Naples claim it.  Truth be told I’ve never met an Italian-American whose ancestry hails from any of the southern regions that doesn’t make this.  It definitely shows up at every Fall thru Winter holiday table.  It’s festive and there’s a good amount of work in making them, all worth it.  Simply put, they are trimmed, centers are cleaned out, and they are stuffed with any number of breadcrumb combinations, usually the same with some differences from kitchen to kitchen.  Before we tackle these amazing “vegetables” let’s discuss what they are.  For me, they are as common as apples and chocolate candy but I realize you all didn’t grow up in my home.  The ARTICHOKE is the bud of a type of THISTLE plant.  They are cut before the flower blossoms and to cook they are braised, steamed, fried, the leaves are scraped against your bottom teeth to release the delicious “meat”, the bottoms are eaten, and the hearts sometimes are used in salads, fried, baked, grilled.

Here is where this Stuffed Artichoke takes on a special meaning for me.  Whenever my mom made them and my recipe is close to hers it’s not exact, but when she made them she made sure to connect herself with her late sister Luigina (Jean) Scaramuzzi Clark.  You see Aunt Dee Dee (Italian American families have a confusing habit of calling someone 2-4 different names, don’t ask) would add pignoli to her stuffing, and she crowned each stuffed artichoke with a piece of Anchovy and some fennel seeds.  My mom would almost say a prayer as she was doing it.  “This is how my sister Jean would make then”..over and over again I can hear Mom saying that.  auntdede  It was 51 years ago on October 9, 1964 that my Aunt passed away leaving a husband and 2 children.  She was only 39, complications from a surgery.  I have a huge family and each Aunt and Uncle were special but Aunt Dee Dee was something just a little more than special.  That picture is of her in her home Easter 1959.  I think you can see from the picture the loving and fun person she was.  I was only 6 when she passed away but I was heartbroken.  I’ll say my mom never recovered from losing her sister, nor did the other 6 Scaramuzzi siblings.  Aunt Dee Dee let me do things my VERY over protective mom did not, like go around the corner to the store on my own, I know, only 6 but we are talking 1964, very different times.  The Italian store, FAZZINO’S was literally in Aunt DeeDee’s backyard.  I stayed over their home that summer of 1964, so long ago, it may have only been one night but it was like the best night ever.  My cousin Eddie had stacks of horror magazines that he let me pour through, and Aunt DeeDee needed something from the store, it might have been cold cuts so she gave me the money and send me around the corner and watched me go with the list.  What a thrill that was, I was a man now !!  I guess we had a nice lunch or dinner when Uncle Ed and cousin Joyce were home and that’s where that memory of letting me do something like a big kid ended. Dad picked me up and then it was back to waiting till I was a little older to do that again, but I never forgot my Aunt for giving me that thrill.  Only a few short month later she was gone.  However I’m sure I speak for my cousins, we’ve never forgotten her and every Oct. 9 I remember, and this one I decided to make the Stuffed Artichokes “her way”….my kitchen tribute to a loved Aunt who is still missed over 50 years later.

Ok…time to cook.

for 4                    Time: 2 hours

stufarti4316 015  It would be a lie if I said..so easy..artichokes are a pain in the ass to prep.  Don’t ask me for the easy way because Nature is Nature and they are what they are. If they are very prickly you must cut them away with a very sharp knife, trim the bottom and the stem leaves, then smash them onto a hard and flat surface. Then with your hands pry them open. See, it’s really a flower and you can see this as you pry them open.  Into the center you go and at the bottom are 2 layers..one if the choke…and it will do just that to you if you don’t remove it.  It’s a slightly thorny, needle like fuzz that with a spoon, a Grapefruit spoon best if you have one of them (really, who has them anymore?) scrape it all out, using the spoon and your fingers.  The layer under that is the  HEART, the prize, to me, one of the BEST TASTING FOODS ON EARTH. The idea here is to stuff down to the choke and fill in randomly the layers of leaves surrounding the choke.  It’s random RANDOM random…meaning there’s no symmetry to this. Every leaf doesn’t need to have stuffing on it…you’ll see.

  • 4 large artichokes (PREPPED)
  • 3/4  cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated PECORINO ROMANO
  • 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 smashed cloves for the sauce
  • 1/2 mashed filet of anchovy, one filet cut in fourths, 1/2 filet for the sauce
  • 2 tbs toasted pignoli
  • 2 tbs chopped italian flat leaf parsley
  • pinch of peperoncino
  • 1/2  tsp fennel seeds
  • salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 juiced lemon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  •  1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbs EUROPEAN butter, if not, use Unsalted.

Mix the breadcrumbs, Pecorino, Garlic, Mashed Anchovy, pignoli, 3/4 of the fennel seeds (give them a little whack with the side of your knife), pinch of salt, a little of the lemon juice and enough Extra  Virgin Olive Oil to “moisten” them…careful not to over oil.  Fill the artichokes, center first, don’t PACK the crumbs,then the sides.  Chokes are all different sizes so you may need more filling, or less. stufarti4316 013 In a heavy bottomed saucepan that will hold all four Stuffed Artichokes,  add a few tbs. of the olive oil, add the smashed garlic cloves, then the 1/2 filet of anchovy.  Let this saute’ together, then add the water and the wine and the lemon juice. Pinch of salt.  Add the artichokes and make sure the liquid comes at least 1/2 way up the chokes.stufarti4316 011

Top each artichoke with a few fennel seeds and the 1/4 piece of Anchovy.1896946_356315294536777_6420556031303265535_n  NOW  bring to a boil for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to a simmer. Pour some of the cooking liquid over each of the stuffed chokes . Drizzle with olive oil. COVER TIGHTLY making sure there’s no steam escaping, they will steam for 45 minutes minimum.  You will check at the 1/2 hour point to make sure there’s still enough liquid in there.  Add as needed but don’t bring the liquid to the middle of the chokes this time. Cover again .  They should be done by now BUT that’s not foolproof.  Try to remove a leaf from one of the chokes.  If it easily pulls off, you are done, if not go for 10 minutes more.  They should look like this when you remove the cover. stufarti4316 008  The breadcrumbs should have a moist look to them.

Let them sit in this hot pot, COVERED, for 10 minutes.  Remove to a serving platter.  Bring the pan liquid to a boil then a simmer and let it reduce if it hasn’t already. you may not need to do anything.  Remove from the flame and whisk in the butter.  A squeeze of lemon. Done.  Now Drizzle this over each of the Artichokes.  Serve.  And at the end of the eating you’ll be left with the PRIZE, the HEART…I was way too excited to take the picture when I got down to it so, pardon the chewed up look of my plate, but you get the idea.  BTW, that plate, not my Aunt Luigina’s, but it was another beloved Aunt’s, it was my Aunt Angelina DeSiato Scaramuzzi’s.  Food with no history and love is the stuff you eat on the run or when that’s all that is available.  In your kitchen…you are in control and I like to good with my relatives all around me, figuratively.  They made me happy as a child and their memory continues to make me smile, especially at my kitchen table.

Buon Appetito!!

 

POTATOES O’BRIEN…IRISH-AMERICAN RESTAURANT FOOD

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I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine; except for that I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Hmmm…while Brillat-Savarin is one of the culinary world’s historical icons, his view of the potato was pretty low.  Don’t always follow everything an expert tells you is the message to be learned here!  Is there any food that you could possibly think of that is more deliciously nutritious, universally loved, accessible to all, and easier to cook into more recipes than there are days in the year?  A native of the Americas, this potato is grown all over the world and factors in every cuisine.  That’s quite unique to most foods so I like to give it a little praise when I can, sorry Brillat-Savarin,  you’re wrong on this one. Today we will talk about a favorite Potato dish of mine, POTATOES O’BRIEN.  Google it.  There are thousands of recipes and stories about it.  Let’s get to the heart of this delicious American dish, starting with…point of origin.  It’s a  story lost in the annals of American food history.  Could be Boston.  Might be New York City.  Most legends name Manhattan as the point of invention so I’ll run with that premise.

The dish is not Irish but does work well into an IrishAmerican St.Patrick’s Dinner, or any time of the year since a restaurant cook nicknamed “BEEFSTEW  O’Brien” is said to have created it in the late 1800’s at a Manhattan restaurant he worked in.  Legend states that he was tired of serving the all brown HASH BROWNED POTATO and decided to throw in some BLING for color and additional flavor.  Green Bell Peppers and Pimentos along with onions were tossed in the skillet with the browning potatoes, cooking in bacon grease.  Sidebar here…animal fat creates the best crisp texture and color in a fried potato…think fries cooked in duck fat..lush, crisp, fantastic.  But, go one step further, and add some diced bacon to this dish.  Now we are talking.  OK, note to my vegan and vegetarian readers…remove the bacon and bacon fat from this dish and using a vegetable or coconut oil you can create a wonderful meatless O’Brien.  See, Potatoes are for everyone!

This potato dish is quite versatile as well, perfect as a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner menu item.  Make it when the mood strikes and it works great for outdoor grill/bbq meals, with meat, vegetables, or seafoods.

TIME: 1 hour                           SERVES: 4

3 tbs. bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/8 cup diced  bacon (optional, but WAY better when added)
1 12 lb. boiled and cooled  potatoes, cut small cubes or chunks
1 small onion, DICED
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, DICED
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, DICED
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper seasoned to taste
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat 2 tbs.bacon fat in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron for nice heat conductivity. Add the diced bacon and let this take on some color.  Give this at least 5 minutes. Now add the onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and let them cook till soft, about 10 minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove the bacon, pepper, onion from the pan and reserve in a bowl.   Add the last tbs. of bacon fat to the pan and when it is hot again over a medium flame/heat toss in the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and LEAVE THEM ALONE for at least 8 minutes.  Now give the pan a gentle shake, with a spatula turn the potatoes over and let them brown an additional 8 minutes on the other side. Don’t panic..not an exact process, you are just trying to get a nice crust on all sides of the potatoes best as you can. Now add the bacon, onion, and peppers gently into the pan and mix with the potatoes and sort of press the whole thing down into the pan with your spatula without smashing the potatoes. Let this cook for 5 minutes. Turn onto a serving plate and garnish with the parsley, and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.  Done. It’s amazing…
    Want an eye catching dish?  fry or poach a few eggs and top them on the finished Potatoes.  I think we are doing Beefstew O’Brien’s dish justice here.  Happy Cooking!!  BTW, some full disclosure here..the day I took this picture, there was no parsley (shocking) and green pepper in the house, so, that’s why the picture is missing the GREEN.  Just imagine it’s there, work with me here…LOL.

 

ST.PATRICK’S DAY CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE

 

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Growing up there was always an excuse to throw a party, make a special meal…o it wasn’t always a party, life growing had some rough patches too.  However the overall picture always brings to mind large groups of family and friends, special decorations, music, and foods to mark the occasion.  By now you know what my ethnic background is but on the 17th of March each year my Mom would transform the dining room into a wee bit o’Blarney for St. Patrick’s Day.  Living in NYC, with St.Patrick’s Cathedral and the

St.Patrick’s Day parade as cultural landmarks, one could not escape the Erin Go Bragh pins, the Kiss Me I’m Irish shirts, the bar crawls, the scents of Corned Beef and Cabbage wafting from people’s homes.  Staten Island did and still does have a huge celebration in honor of the patron saint of Ireland along Forest Avenue, chockablock with Bars and restaurants, many owned by people of Irish decent.  Tradition was (is) to follow the parade route keeping in step with the bagpipers and going from one bar to another.

At home Mom decorated in the typical bright green colors associated with St. Patty’s Day.  Tablecloths, crepe paper streamers, napkins, plates..everything screamed it’s St. Patty’s Day.  The center of the table would have a vase filled with carnations dyed green.

It was a real festive day and after I started going out with my girlfriend, Debi Cooney

(yes, she’s Irish) my mom would always invite her widowed dad, John Myles Cooney over for her corned beef and cabbage, boiled parsley potatoes, homemade Irish Soda Bread, slices of rye bread, brown mustard, beer, whiskey, shamrock cupcakes, Irish coffee and Irish crème.  Mom always invited him (he became my father-in-law) over for this special day, he got a huge kick out of it he would tell me…”she’s more Irish than what my own family does”, and laugh.  We looked forward to the St.Patty’s Day greeting card Mom and Dad would send us every year after we got married.  I wish more people would follow my Mom’s example and learn and share in other ethnic groups holidays.  Since our children were born in China I am very open to celebrating and learning about all the world’s celebrations and the traditions and foods that are part of them.  Isn’t that more fun than just waiting for your “own” holidays every year?  I think so…stpats 008(One of the many St.Patrick’s Day greeting cards my Mom sent to my wife and I every year.)

Well here’s my gripe with lots of ways Corned Beef and Cabbage is prepared.  It’s one of the fattiest and toughest cuts of beef, the brisket.  Whether you are a bubbe in a Yiddish family, or a Romanian, or an Irish American, if the brisket it not cooked long and slow you will have a tough, fatty and greasy piece of meat.  To often I’ve had corned beef out, especially at some bar restaurants (think Blarney Stone, Pig & Whistle) where it’s just not braised long enough.  You have a mouthful of salty chewy grizzle and meat that doesn’t break up no matter how long you chew it.  What’s the problem and what’s the secret?  It’s all the cook’s fault.  Boiling Brisket should be a capital offense.  It’s the quickest way to toughen up those meat fibers and they only will again relax after a long long simmer in water that is not allowed to boil.  Long cooking gets all the heat and moisture deep into the brisket and begins that process where every piece of connective tissue is broken down into melt in your mouth goodness.  This principal is paramount in making Pot Roasts too.  And like a good soup or stock your braising liquid should be well seasoned full of bright and spicy flavors, sweet, sour.  The other death to your St. Patrick’s Day corned beef is when it’s improperly served, meaning, you didn’t take the time to trim it of all the fat that NOBODY will or wants to eat.  Surest way to keep you from eating corned beef ever again is to put a big floppy piece of corned beef fat in your mouth when you’re not expecting it.   This will put you off from eating this traditional meal FOREVER.  St. Patrick does not want to see that.  He wants you to enjoy this meal that honors his memory. stpats 018How could I write a St.Patrick’s Day blog without one of the most IRISH pictures I took when Deb and I visited the country of Ireland in August of 1982.  This was taken outside of the Derragarra Inn in County Cavan on the way from Northern Ireland to Dublin.

Lastly, for those who are sticklers for authenticity (I count myself in this OCD like group) Corned Beef is not even remotely Irish as in from Ireland.  It’s an Eastern European meat processed  like pastrami, from those parts of Europe that what miserable winters and needed ways to preserve the meat from the fall.  NYC being the initial entry point for most of those waves of immigrants invariably would have various ethnic groups living side by side with each other.  The Eastern Europeans pastrami and corned beefs were commonplace in those early immigrant years.  The Irish that came in those early days were pretty much dirt poor and the meat that they simmered with cabbage was a big piece of bacon, not an American bacon, but Irish bacon, more like a cured pork loin.stpats 002

Corned beef, braised with cabbage and potatoes has since become almost as American as apple Pie (although the origins of that may be in merry olde England or France) and certainly a cornerstone of Irish-American cuisine.

 

CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE THIS ITALIAN-AMERICAN’S WAY

 

Corned Beef, about a 4 -5 lb. piece, (flat cut is the nicest for an even cut)..this will feed about 4-5 people…this is one piece of meat that really shrinks as it cooks…and MUST be cut thin to really enjoy it..i hate big fatty chunks of it…Place the corned beef in a large pot and cover it with water plus 1 cup of beer, 1/4 cup of Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, or Jamesons’, must be real Irish whiskey.  Add 1/2 cup of honey, 2 bay leaves, 2 chopped onions, 6 of the large outer cabbage leaves, torn, peppercorns, 4 whole cloves, 3 smashed cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. salt, 3 tbs. brown sugar, 3 tbs. mustard. 3 chopped celery stalks, 3 chopped carrots.  Add 1 head of cabbage, cored and quartered to the pot.,handful of fresh dill. Blend, bring to a boil, then simmer for 60 minutes per lb, covered.stpats 004

Now you have plenty of time to cook the rest of the meal.  Cube 6 medium sized redskin potatoes. Boil them in plenty of salted water to which you have added 1/2 onion, and 3 smashed garlic cloves.  Cook till done, this takes about 15 minutes

or when a fork or knife will easily slide through a cube.  Gently drain them.  Add 1/4 stick unsalted butter (or get somestpats 024Kerrygold Irish butter if your store sells it…)to the pot.  Dice together 1/2 a red onion and 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley together.

Add them to the butter, it will be melting from the heat of the pot, now add the potatoes, some salt and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.  Keep stirring this and the potatoes begin to “smash”, you will be left with a pot of smashed well seasoned potatoes…don’t over work them, the’ll just turn into mashed potatoes with skins.  Cover and just reheat gently when ready to serve.

The corned beef  needs to sit in its braising liquid for a good 5 hours (even better if you do it the day before and reheat it, then slice it) before you slice it.  If you can push your finger through the meat, it’s done.  Firm Corned beef has no place on your plate.  This is brisket, the same rules apply.stpats 020

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Serve the cabbage quarters on the side, add a little butter if you like, but they are seasoned and savory enough from all that stewing in the meat braising liquid. Cabbage is a tough hardy vegetable..it will stay together for this long cooking.  You want fork tender cabbage, this isn’t Cole Slaw.

And here is Cook O’A Food Obsession with his St.Patrick’s Day Spread…stpats 029

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!   Gaelic for…St. Patrick’s Day Blessing On You!!

POTATO LATKES, FOR HANUKKAH AND BEYOND

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O Chanukah O Chanukah, Come light the menorah

Let’s have a party, we’ll all dance the hora

 

Gather round the table, we’ll give you a treat

Dreydels to play with and latkes to eat

 

And while we are playing,
the candles are burning low

 

One for each night, they shed a sweet light
to remind us of days long ago

Holidays, I love them and the foods they bring to us only for that day or season.  The anticipation of a food or foods that are eaten ONLY at that time of the year taste even better don’t you think?  One of the wonderful benefits of growing up in New York City and it’s 5  boroughs is the whole MELTING POT environment.  Back in the 60’s and 70’s before the harsh overreach of Politically correct took affect, Public schools in the City of New York allowed Christmas/Hanukkah songs to be sung at the Holiday time.  This was not cross indoctrination or promoting any religion, instead it was educational.  It taught this ItalianAmerican Roman Catholic all about some of the Holidays celebrated by others.  In 7th Grade we learned the song I posted at the top and we learned about Gelt (the gold foil chocolate coins, the latkes, the significance of the Menorah, the dreidel).  We had Jewish neighbors and friends who taught us their foods and cultures as being Jewish encompasses many nations and traditions.  Wonderful stuff.  I’ve never forgotten any of it and I appreciate the celebrations by those who follow that religion.  Latkes and Applesauce, the first homemade ones I had were made by Mrs. Miller, a friend’s very Yiddish mother.  She taught me what schmaltz is and how it’s made and used..the importance of onions..and dill..and here’s something about how EVERYONE of us cooks..we bring all those “things” we learned to our kitchen table whether we realize it or not.  When I created my LATKE (shredded potato pancakes that are a symbol of Hanukkah.  The lamp miraculously burned for 8 days and 8 nights on very little oil so foods FRIED in OIL are traditionally made at Hanukkah) recipe i added the onion and dill of Mrs. Miller’s kitchen.  Some do, some don’t, some add no flour, some add mashed potato..again, like with my usual Italian and ItalianAmerican cooking, this is home cooked recipe and it will differ from house to house.  Come, enter my kitchen with me and let’s make LATKES…good luck with having a full platter to serve though…they are incredible when they are still hot…ok, let them cool..enjoy them with a little Applesauce or Sour Cream!!

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TIME: 1 hour                    YIELDS: about 35 Latkes

  • 3 1/2 pounds peeled baking potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose  unbleached flour
  • 2 organic large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill,  fresh..not dried
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • neutral oil for frying, like Vegetable, Canolalatkes 002Now it’s time to make Latkes!  Using a box GRATER, taking care not to grate your knuckles (cooking can  be such a dangerous sport!!), over a large stainless steel bowl grate the potatoes.  After you are done with them, grate the peeled onion into the mix.  Let me stop here…
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    Notice something?  Let’s see if you’re paying attention.  OK, hint..the potatoes in the ingredients list are PEELED.  In the picture, they are not.  I like the peel in them.  That’s a personal preference that’s not shared by everyone. I’ll say more like the fully peeled SO you decide for yourself.  Next…in a paper towel lined colander empty the potato and onion mix into the colander.  Let this drain for 15 minutes. Then, squeeze the mix until it’s quite dry but reserve 2 tbs.  You want to keep some of that natural potato starch.  Put the whole mix back into the stainless steel bowl including the 2 tbs of potato starch water. Add all the ingredients and mix till just blended.latkes 003 Let this sit for about 5 minutes.  While that’s “sitting” heat 1/4 inch of oil in a cast iron or heavy frying pan.  When you can feel the heat coming off the oil, takes about 4-5 minutes gently drop 2 tablespoons of the mix for each latke you will make.  Lightly press into the mound to flatten them a bit.  Fry for about 6 minutes per side.  latkes 007 Drain the latkes on paper towels and lightly salt them while they are draining.  DO NOT CROWD THE PAN…it will reduce the temperature greatly and cause your Latkes to be greasy.  Serve with Applesauce

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    or Sour Cream.  Or both..nice to give a choice.  They are so delicious.latkes 009  A delicious gift from the Jewish culture to our huge world of foods.  To reheat them, never use a microwave or heat them covered.  Into a hot oven, place them on brown paper bags on heavy baking sheets for 5-8 minutes.  Or heat them in a hot cast iron or heavy bottomed un-greased pan.  If making them ahead of time and refrigerating them, remove them a few hours before re-heating.  They will be better if brought to room temperature first. For those who love tradition..here’s the Hanukkah song in Yiddish:

  • Oy Chanukah oy Chanukah, a yontif a sheiner

    A lustiker a freylicher nito noch a zeyner

     

    Alle nacht in dreydlech shpiln mir

    Zudik hesse latkes essen mir

     

    Geshvinder tsindt kinder
    di Chanukah lichtelech on

     

    Zol yeder bazunder bazingen dem vunder
    un tantzen freylech in kohn

  • enjoy your Latke frying!!!  and Thanks to Miss Ericsson and Miss Vogt who taught the 7th grade orchestra and chorus the Hanukkah song at I.S. 51, Markham Junior High, Staten Island, NYC.  Some things we never forget..

 

WARM APPLE COBBLER, AMERICAN CLASSIC

 

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American Cuisine all too often is solely looked at for it’s Processed and Fast Food side.  I’ll have to agree that YES America is the leader in Processed/Fast Foods but one reason is that American culture in many ways fosters the bigger, better, quicker, easier route to get from point A to point B.  Sometimes that’s a good way to live.  Sometimes it’s not.  And most times we can alter that pattern LIKE….cooking from ingredients that are not pre-made for you.  Here’s how I create my recipes, I use my head, my 57 years of cooking, eating, reading, traveling and take that and place it into my kitchen and create.  Then, when I’m ready to actually make something on the spot or have been planning on and commit it to this blog for you to follow I research my cookbooks and online as many recipes as I can to see if I’m still on the right track.  Only then do I title a recipe.  Cobbler is an American dessert that falls into that CONFUSING C WORD category..Crumbles, Cobblers.  Here’s what I’ve come up with..Cobbler is a flour based batter poured over sweetened and sliced fruits baked in a buttered pan.  They are easy.  The most laborious part is peeling and slicing the fresh fruit.  It’s also a wonderful “pantry” recipe.  Chances are, the fruit being the variable, you have all the ingredients in your pantry at all times.  320880_2097459198452_191891307_nApples!! That’s what’s in the pantry this time of year. APPLES!  Delicious baked in treats all year long but PARTICULARLY in the FALL/WINTER.

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This cobbler is my version of a very easy and basic American dessert.

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The farm markets are heady with their scent.  So….let’s buy a few and make an APPLE COBBLER.

SERVES: 8                                      TIME: just under 1 hour start to finish

FRUIT BASE:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups sliced peeled firm tart apples (4-5 apples)
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon zest
  • 1 tbs. fresh lemon juice (throw those bottles of lemon juice away!!)

BATTER TOPPING:

  • 1 cup  unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking powder (check the expiry date on your BP, it might be time for a new one)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted then cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbs. sour cream
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • plain fine breadcrumbs for lining the bottom of the pan

Pre Heat the oven to 35- degrees F.  In an 11X7 rectangular baking pan lightly grease the bottom and sizes with butter.  Dust the bottom of the pan with dry plain breadcrumbs. Set aside.  In a large bowl mix all the Ingredients in the FRUIT BASE portion of the recipe.  Pour into the pan.

Beat together all the wet ingredients of the Batter Topping part of the recipe except for the milk. Then Sift together all the dry ingredients.  Stir 1/2 the dry into the wet.. When it’s combined stir in the milk. When combined stir in the rest of the dry.  When combined stop stirring and pour over the top of the fruit base.  Sprinkle with cinnamon lightly, then into the oven for 30-35 minutes, rotating it once 1/2 way thru. Test to see if the topping is done by poking the center with a toothpick. Do not let it go thru to the fruit.  If if comes out clean, you are done. If not at this point 5 more minutes should do it.

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Sometimes the baker doesn’t cover all the fruit!!! Shame on him !! (ok, that was me)…But this is what your APPLE COBBLER should look like!!  Serve in a few ways, warm (BEST!!!) topped with Vanilla Ice Cream, or sour cream, or whipped Cream…some sugar crystals or Raw sugar crystals, and when warm a drizzle of Maple Syrup (pure)…it’s heaven.. Room Temperature is ok too…Ice cold out of the fridge, not so good…the cold temperature masks all the flavors.

Happy Baking…Happy Eating…Happy Sharing!!

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