Category Archives: POTATOES

POTATOES STEWED IN TOMATO, PATATE IN UMIDO, WITH GARLIC AND OLIVE OIL

12924567_1312429585441165_3820909032551130529_nDo you have a dish that brings you back to your childhood kitchen table?  I’m sure , like me, you have many.  Most of mine are simple dishes that my stay at home Mom fed us day after day and while they all left an impression on me some were just more special to me.  Coming in from P.S.26 in Staten Island, NYC at 3:10pm every day would always be made better when the aroma coming from Mom’s kitchen reached out..grabbed me by the nostrils and pulled me in.  These are things you don’t ever forget.  Let me not bore you AGAIN with my ethnic background, OK, I’ll bore you..I’m ItalianAmerican, second generation born in the U.S. and our meals were mostly Italian foods, or ITalianAmerican foods and peppered up with American and other international cuisines.  Mom gave us a great meal every night (not so much on breakfast, Mom hated the mornings). Come Spring I start to miss Mom more than usual (#italianamericanmommasboy), she loved her Spring and all the holidays it contained.  March is a bridge month I think.  A little Winter , A little Summer.  It takes us from the cold barren ice into the budding green and flowers.So winter or colder weather dishes are still great thru the month.  PATATE IN UMIDO…Stewed Potatoes, doesn’t sound to great does it?  Let me change your mind.  I’d eat this dish every night. On it’s own with a nice piece of Italian bread.  In the Summer when Dad’s garden was bursting she’d throw handfuls of his many varieties of green beans into the pot as well.  In that one move she took the hearty Wintry Patate in Umido and turned it into a Summer’s dish.  I smell her Aqua Net shellacked hair do along with her perfume as she’s passing me by as I write this. I’ll bet she wants to make sure I don’t screw up her dish as I share it with you!  LET’S COOK!!!

3 lbs of peeled potatoes

3 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 cloves of garlic

1 can of San Marzano tomatoes, run thru a blender to puree or 2 cups of Passata

pinch of dried Oregano

salt, pepper

3 fresh Basil leaves

water as needed

Pecorino Romano, or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated to taste

Peperoncino, to taste

Like most rustic Italian dishes not a lot of ingredients, all of these are very obtainable.

Cut potatoes into equal but cubes or slices.  Heat, in a heavy bottomed pot 2 Tbs. Olive Oil.  Pinch of salt, a bit of the Oregano, a bit of the pepper. Now add the potatoes and let them cook for 5 minutes stirring as you go.  Add the garlic and saute’ till fragrant.  Blend well.  Now season the potatoes with salt and pepper and then add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil.  Stir.  Now let this pot simmer for 40 minutes.  Test a potato for doneness. Make sure you gently stir without breaking up the potatoes. If they are cooked through you are done.  Remove from the heat.  Tear up 3 basil leaves and gently blend in. DONE!  This makes large servings for 4, or a side dish for 4-6.  Check the dish for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper as needed/to your liking.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the pot. Let your diners add their own peperoncino and Grated Cheese.

Thanks again for stopping by and HAPPY COOKING!!

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SICILIAN STYLE SAUSAGE MEATBALL STEW..SPEZZATINO CON POLPETTE DI SALSICCIA

img_3252SPEZZATINO!!!! The Italian word for STEW…although the word STUFATO means stew also, don’t ask, I don’t have an answer for that.  I think SPEZZATINO sounds nicer.  On the island of Sicily they have a SPEZZATINO culture, over in the Palermo region where they stew meatballs with potatoes.  Sounds like heaven.  A few years ago my friend Rose Marie Trapani, a native of the Palermo, Sicily region talked about her Mamma’s Meatball and Potato stew.  I had to make it. I loved everything about it.  In Sicily they also use the term SPEZZATINO AGGRESSATO DI POLPETTE CON PATATE…more new Italian and Sicilian words to increase your culinary vocabulary!! I like!!!  However, the stew I made last night was BASED on the principles of the Spezzatino Aggressato but I must drop AGGRESSATO from my recipe title.  My meatballs in this recipe are made from Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage Meat.  Into the stew I add Broccoli Rabe, Onions, Potatoes, diced Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Borlotti Beans and a nice red wine from Sicily, from REGALEALI, a NERO D’AVOLA.  What flavors in this stew! Notice I say Sicilian Style only because I created this dish in my kitchen with things from my pantry and fridge that went well together, it’s not a bona fide Sicilian dish.  I try to be careful about my Recipe titles. When I had a bowl of the Spezzatino the next day  I added some ricotta to the mix.  WOW. Not only did it taste better like all stews do the second day but the ricotta was a very tasty addition!  I’d advise making this on one day, and serving it the next.  Truly remarkable Italian-Siclian flavors.  It has that “Grandma” taste..are you with me here? Capisci??? Good.  Now we can start to cook.img_3231

First, we make the POLPETTE DI SALSICCE…the Sausage meatballs, made a bit smaller than a Sunday Sauce meatball.

TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS, prep and cooking                              SERVES: 4

1 LB LOOSE ITALIAN SWEET FENNEL SAUSAGE MEAT

1 BEATEN LARGE EGG

1 CUP STALE ITALIAN BREAD, SOAKED IN MILK AND SQUEEZED

2 TBS CHOPPED ITALIAN PARSLEY

1 CLOVE FINELY MINCED GARLIC

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PROVOLONE OR CACIOCAVALLO CHEESE

1/8 CUP RED WINE ( A RED SICILIAN, LIKE NERO D’AVOLA FROM REGALEALI IS FANTASTIC)

(do not add any salt to these meatballs as the sausage meat is already salted/seasoned and we are adding grated cheese)

Blend the garlic, parsley, bread with the beaten egg.  When combined, add the sausage meat and blend everything until it is well mixed.  Let it sit for 15 minutes covered, then form into small balls.  Fry the balls in Olive Oil. Reserve in a bowl. You will need to cook in batches.  Deglaze the pan with 1/8 cup of the Red Wine scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the meatballs.

for the SPEZZATINO:

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 DICED MEDIUM ONION

6 QUARTERED CREMINI MUSHROOMS

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1 DICED AND SEEDED TOMATO

2 CUPS of GREENS (chopped Swiss Chard, broccoli Rabe, Turnip Tops, Escarole, Spinach)

1 CUP of diced peeled POTATOES

2 CUPS OF COOKED BORLOTTI OR CANNELLINI BEANS

1 CUP OF RED WINE

2 CUPS OF CHICKEN STOCK

SALT, PEPPER TO TASTE

In a large heavy bottom pot heat the olive oil.  Add the onions,mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and then add the potatoes.img_3232 Let this cook for about 10 minutes   stirring frequently. Now add the tomato and the greens. Cook for 5 minutes, Add the garlic and when fragrant (about 2 minutes) add the beans.

img_3233  Mix.  Now add the wine first and bring to a boil.  The aroma is amazing at this point. Stir and then add the chicken stock and add stir. Add the Sausage Meatballs and any of the liquid that has collected in the bowl of sausage balls. img_3234Gently stir and bring to a boil again. Then reduce to a simmer.img_3236Now let this simmer until much of the liquid is reduced.  You want a sort of thick stew here rather than a soup (and that’s why it’s a SPEZZATINO!!!). This process should take about 40 minutes.  Keep an eye on this so it gets to the right consistency.  Frequently stir the pot.  When it’s done let it sit at least 3 hours before serving. Next day is even better.img_3238

Before serving, drizzle lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, peperoncino if you like, and of course grated Parmigiano or Pecorino. A hearty bowl of flavors with a Sicilian Twist.  Potatoes and Meatballs in a stew…Sicilian genius and comfort food.  A few other ingredients and it’s Minestrone meats Sicilian Meatball Stew…fantastico!!!  A nice Sicilian Red, like the Nero D’Avola you used in the Spezzatino goes great with it…img_3241

 

 

 

 

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..

 

POTATOES AND EGGS, ITALIAN AMERICAN COMFORT FOOD

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Today we go back to Italian-American cuisine, that oftimes misunderstood, sometimes terribly gone bad cuisine that is the evolution of Immigrant Italian’s cuisine with their new country, America.  Let me first say that most of the offensive forms of Italian-American cuisine are created in the corporate board rooms and kitchens of large U.S. corporations.   Red Bell Peppers are not part of a Sunday Tomato Sauce for pasta,  here or in Italy. What seems to have happened is that a single ingredient that IS part of Italian cooking gets thrown into everything that a corporate type or misinformed American thinks SHOULD make a dish Italian. Like that completely un-Italian dried mess known as “ITALIAN SEASONING”.423047_2817814366881_1304531591_32126981_153248436_n  The ONLY thing ITALIAN about that mixture is the word ITALIAN on the label, after that, it’s an AMERICAN convenience food idea of what constitutes a mix of herbs used in Italian cuisine.  Rarely will Italian cooking contain a mess of more than 2 herbs, and with the exception of dried Oregano, dried herbs are NOT used in Italian cooking.  Dried Oregano yes, that’s authentically Italian, fresh is hardly ever used, it’s a more modern addition to recipes if you see it.  Dried Rosemary, Basil (NEVER!), Tarragon, Savory, whatever else they blend together in those spice factories is not Italian.  Rant over. It’s 2015, most people live near big supermarkets which carry fresh herbs, all the time. Seek them out rather than a dried mess in a very non-Italian blend.  The number one way you produce outstanding dishes starts with the raw materials/ingredients.  So speaking of ingredients this brings us to the point of this blog..POTATOES AND EGGS, a frittata, scrambled egg-ish mix of cooked fried potatoes, beaten eggs, with only a few other ingredients added. Traditionally this is tucked into a good Italian hero roll or Italian bread, or can be eaten on it’s own.  It’s Italian-American comfort food.  Clearly it’s the evolution of a simple frittata from Italy.  The quality of this dish comes from the quality of the ingredients.  Start with the best eggs you can find (at the risk of sounding like Ina Garten’s teleprompter).  Eggs should not cost 1.87 @ dozen.  Cage Free, Organic, these are some labels you should be looking for when purchasing eggs.  Best?  Farm fresh, but seriously expounding that notion is quite romantic but ridiculously impractical.  If there’s a local farmers market where you can access those types of egg that’s perfect.   548528_2971219081903_1304531591_32189688_1417227459_n  So that’s living ina perfect world for buying your ingredients.  Not practical though, so seek out what are the best in the market you are going to.

POTATOES AND EGGS, A FOOD OBSESSION’S VERSION

SERVES: 4                                           TIME:  20 MINUTES

2 PEELED AND DICED BAKING POTATOES,COOKED IN SALTED WATER TILL  JUST ABOUT TENDER, DRAINED AND COOLED.

8 FRESH EGGS, CRACKED INTO A BOWL

GROUND BLACK PEPPER or PEPERONCINO

KOSHER SALT

3 TBS. GRATED PECORINO ROMANO

2 TBS. GOOD OLIVE OIL

In a non stick frying pan heat 1 tbs. of the olive oil and pan fry the potatoes, sprinkling about 1/8 tsp of salt over the potatoes.  Fry them until the are just light golden brown on both sides.  While the potatoes are frying beat the eggs with the cheese and 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper or a pinch of Peperoncino NOT BOTH!!.  Add  additional tsp. of olive oil to the pan when the potatoes are done and swirl the new oil in the pan gently around.  Now pour the egg mixture over the potatoes.  When the sides have started to set leave the pan on medium heat and in 3minutes, with a rubber spatula, check the bottom of the eggs to see if they are not only set but lightly browned.  Slide the eggs onto a plate, cooked side down. Then invert the plate over the pan and slide it back into the pan..cooked side up remember.  Let this cook for no more than 3 minutes.  If using a flameproof pan, you can run the eggs under a broiler for 2 minutes and skip the “inversion” process.   When it’s done simply slide back onto the plate and cut in quarters to serve.

Did I just hear someone say…”What about the onions?””What about the peppers or mozzarella???””No herbs??”  Here’s the deal.  ALWAYS learn the basic version first.  This is how it was done originally, then the bits and pieces from the fridge started to show up..maybe cooked onions, or peppers, or both.. (Peppers and Eggs is another distinct dish from the same school) bits of salami, mozzarella, scamorza, swiss, ricotta, oregano, parsley, zucchini, etc. all found there way into this delicious mix.  Try the basic to start.  Add it to some good Italian bread for an awesome sangwich. I sprinkle some Peperoncino and a little Pecorino over it..do that, or not..up to you. Simple. Basic.  Italian.  Try this out and tell me how you like it!!

In the lead picture I added some fresh picked oregano for color to make LA BELLA FIGURA for a nice shot.  A little chopped fresh oregano is very tasty on this. Since I make this basic and with fridge additions as well, the day I decided to snap a shot of the dish, i had some cut onion in the fridge so it went into the potatoes and oil. I’ll leave that all up to you.

 

POTATOES CREATE AN ELEGANT CAKE, THE GATTO’, NAPLES’ POTATO CAKE

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This blog post will take us again back to Naples, Italy.  I’ll admit that the cuisine of Naples just makes me happy.  In large part it’s the cuisine that I grew up on along with the other regions my grandparents came from, but Naples in particular just makes me happy.  So many associate potatoes with the Northern European cuisines like Irish, English, German, Russian, etc. but the winds of exploration brought potatoes as well as tomatoes over from the Americas many centuries ago.  Italian cooking throughout the boot and it’s islands incorporates regional potato dishes from simple to more complex, yet, as with most Italian cooking the complexities are layers of flavors, not intricate and difficult cooking techniques only a top chef can master.  This is what I think makes Italian cooking so popular, only a few ingredients, a little fuss or none at all and you have platters of outrageously fabulous food.  Take the star of this blogpost..the GATTO’ (gah-TOH)a Mashed Potato cake mixed with some savories and eggs and baked. It comes from the kitchens of Naples, handed down from the old days of Bourbon rule when the French imparted some of their skills and styles to the wonderful ones that already were in place.   For those of your who are familiar with the French language, GATTO’ is simply the Italian (Neapolitan) word for GATEAU, or cake.  This recipe is basically 2 recipes in one but I’m only going to focus on the GATTO’.  The mix can be turned into another Napoletana dish, PANZAROTTI DI PATATE also known as CROCCHE’ DI PATATE, breaded Potato Croquettes.  Let’s save that for another day.  My Mom made this in a springform pan which I used as well until Sandy took that sentimental relic from me so when I made this one I used a 9 inch cake pan.  The cake is rich as it’s a mass of eggs, cheese, potatoes and cured meats.  A little goes a long way.  It’s beautiful when cut and served on a plate.gatto 008  Love the “action” shot of the diced sopressata falling out of the cake slice (I cut it while it was too hot, but, it is what it is…lol).  If creamy potatoes dishes and Italian flavors excite you this is perfect for your palate.  It’s time to walk into my kitchen and cook with me, my mother, and my grandmother (virtually as they both have passed but are ALWAYS with me at my stove).

FOR A 8 INCH CAKE PAN which will serve 4-6 people

Time: 2 days (hold on you thought I said simple, well there’s 2 parts..i truly believe that the mashed potatoes need to be made a day ahead of time and chilled overnight in the fridge..why?  I’m going to get a little Alton Brown here, I could be wrong, just my opinion but it always works out..something about the moisture in the potatoes that just makes them easier to use when they are day old.  Maybe it’s an absorption by the natural starches?  Sounds good, I’ll stick with it.)  On actual day of cooking, it will take about 1 1/2 hours.

2 LBS. OF MASHED POTATOES, MADE A DAY AHEAD OF TIME AND CHILLED IN THE FRIDGE OVERNIGHT.   Make mashed potatoes using 2 lb. of peeled Russets.Simply mash with butter, salt, and pepper to taste.  Do not add liquids like cream, milk, half n half. You can either rice them if you have a ricer, or mash or whip them well.  Tightly cover and keep over night in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO (MY PREF IS ROMANO)

3 BEATEN EGGS

3 TBS. CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSELY

1/8 CUP FINELY CHOPPED SALAMI, OR SOPRESSATA (SWEET NOT HOT), OR PROSCIUTTO, OR PROSCIUTTO COTTO

1/2 CUP GRATED SMOKED SCAMORZA (IF YOU CAN FIND IT IT’S THE REAL DEAL)

1/2 CUP DICED MOZZARELLA (IF USING FRESH, PURCHASE IT A DAY AHEAD)

KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS. MILK

BUTTER FOR GREASING THE PAN, 6 PATS OF BUTTER TO TOP THE CAKE

ENOUGH COARSE BREAD CRUMBS(PLAIN) TO COAT THE PAN

you can use an 8 inch SPRINGFORM PAN, or CAKE PAN.  Heavily grease the panwith Unsalted butter (definitely use butter for this for flavor). Then coat the pan with a light layer of the coarse breadcrumbs.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

gatto 001 Add all the ingredients to the Mashed Potatoes and blend in well, MAKE sure all the cheeses, meat and parsley are not CLUMPED up.  Want to cook more professionally?  That is one of those details that many times causes a dish to fail.  Incorporating ingredients like this sometimes when not done carefully will cause all the flavors to clump up in spots and not be equally distributed throughout the mixture.. TAKE YOUR TIME, there’s no rush!! A well blended mixture should look like that picture above.  “PAGEENZIA” (Pazienza in proper Italian, PATIENCE) would be what my Mom would say…that was a common outburst of her’s dealing with us kids AND my father…Alright, back to work now, after the mix is done press it into the pan keeping the top smooth.. Top with breadcrumbs and some grated pecorino or parmigiano.  Today’s Naples will most likely use Parmigiano.  The world I learned to cook from which is the southern Italy of the very early 1900’s used Pecorino for most things so that’s the taste I expect when eating this.  Use either one, Pecorino Romano will always be a more sharp taste, Parmigiano will be somewhat nutty.  Now dot the top with a few pats of the unsalted butter.  Why unsalted all the time?  Because this dish contains 3 different cheeses and salted cured meats.  Nothing worse than OVERSALTED food, under is bad too, but you can always add more to adjust that, oversalted is a kitchen FAIL.  There is no going back. Now bake this GATTO’ for 30-40 minutes or until it looks like this:gatto 003 I’m sure you want a piece.  Well you can’t.  PAGEENZIA!! which of course I didn’t have.  No wonder why Mom kept saying that to me!!  Please, let this cool for 20 minutes in the pan on a rack.  Then remove it from the springform or gently remove it from the cake pan as you would remove a layer cake from it.  Then invert it back onto the plate for serving..see, Like this:gatto 004How great does that look!!??  On one of my Mom’s plate too…all is right with the world on this one. Now slice it into wedges for serving.  gatto 007   Some recipe writers out there refer to this as a sidedish, ok, it CAN be but it’s more of a main dish.  That’s the big difference with how us American eats and how they eat in Italy.   Much of what we pile onto a table is meant to be eaten as a standalone I mean, this is a hefty group of ingredients and you really want to enjoy the flavors. OR add it to a buffet service.  I like it being served on it’s own with some greens and tomatoes.  That will be up to you.  Either way, a great idea for something to be made ahead of time too.  It reheats really well. Most of all enjoy yourself while making this and of course while eating it.

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