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LAGANE E CECI, PASTA STRIPS AND CHICK PEAS, BASED IN BASILICATA, CREATED IN MY KITCHEN…

0041Back to Italy we go for our dish today….follow me down south to the regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Campania and this recipe known as LAGANE E CECI will show up in kitchens that stick to the old ways.  Certainly that doesn’t mean it’s a stodgy musty old dish, in fatto, with this recipe you will feel very Hipster Brooklyn.  Get that?  OK..  A dish of this LAGANE pasta which is sort of somewhere between Lasagne sheets and a wide Tagliatelle.  The actual LAGANE are a rustic pasta made with no eggs and unless you make them yourself you’re out of luck in the USA finding that pasta.  No worries.  I’m giving you MY rendition of this delicious dish.  Use Lasagne noodles. Cooked just till al dente. You want some chew to the pasta.  When thinking MEDITERRANEAN DIET this has got to be a dish that shows up.  It’s yet another Italian pairing of Beans or Peas and Pasta with a flavorful base.   In the wooded hinterlands between Calabria and Basilicata there use to be roaming bandits  called I BRIGANTI.  They were known as thieves who ate copious amounts of pasta, specifically LAGANA or LAGANE and were given the name “SCOLALAGANE”.  Don’t you love Food history?397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n(the looting SCOLALAGANE in a picture from the internet).  In my ancestral homeland of Basilicata often Sage or Rosemary is the aromatic herb used to flavor the dish.  In my kitchen I prefer using fresh Rosemary.  Up to you! Of course with roots in Calabria and Basilicata you KNOW there will be a chile component to the recipe.  Diavulicchiu or Peperoncino, Calabrian hot dried peppers..any of them work.  The earthy herbs and chick peas and the chewy pasta with the chiles are Italian regional food magic.  It’s an addictive dish.  And easy.  Let’s cook!

LAGANE E CECI ALLA A FOOD OBSESSION

TIME: 1 HOUR                                SERVES: 4-5

1 lb LASAGNA , cooked AL DENTE, then cooled on a rack. Then slice lengthwise into 1 inch strips.  OR us 1 lb PAPPARDELLE, also cooked AL DENTE, drained. OR `1 LB MAFALDE

2 CUPS COOKED CHICK PEAS (CECI), drained

3 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1   TBS TOMATO PASTE

SALT to taste

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY or 3 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

3/4 TBS CHILE PEPPER FLAKES (PEPERONCINO) or adjust to your heat tolerance.

GRATED RICOTTA SALATA or PECORINO , about 1/2 cup

In a wide heavy pan heat 2 tbs of the olive oil. Then add the garlic and peperoncino and let this get JUST to the point of lightly browning.  Add the tomato paste and blend in.  Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 2 empty paste cans of water.  Let this come to a boil after you’ve gotten all the paste, garlic and water smooth.  Now add the beans and the fresh herb Bring to a simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the “LAGANE” to the pan and heat through for about 5 minutes.  Shut off and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  Drizzle with the remaining tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the grated cheese.  Blend well.  Serve with extra cheese if you like and more peperoncino…

Enjoy this dish from the interior of three of Italy’s Regions.  I’m sure back in the late 1890’s one of these houses on my maternal Grandfather’s street in Grassano, Basilicata had a pot of this on their stove.  BUON APPETITO!!

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Grassano, early 1900’s..as painted by my late cousin Professore Luigi Paone who lived and died in Grassano.  This painting was given to me by his wife, the late cousin Rosetta on August 15, 2006 in their living room in Grassano.  CHE BELLI RICORDI!!!

 

 

 

 

 

MEATBALLS WITH A SICILIAN INFLUENCE, CREATING A RECIPE, POLPETTINE IN BIANCO

0041Meatballs….one of those perennial favorites, all kinds, all types, all cuisines.  One of my missions with my food blogging and Social Media posting is that people open their minds to meatballs other than the usual suspects. Oh I’m not saying that your favorites aren’t fantastic but instead I’m saying look beyond the familiar and there’s a world of other types to enjoy.  Standing at my stove last night it was St.Joseph’s Day (Festa di San Giuseppe) which is celebrated with much fervor by Italians, specifically Sicilians.  You see the good San Giuseppe saved Sicily from all sorts of bad things and as most religious legends and traditions  do, there is celebrating on the days these saints are honored.  For Sicily there’s a host of foods, and since March 19 falls during LENT when meat was forbidden to be eaten, all the dishes are meatless, emphasis on seafood and fish.  Confused? Asking yourself, um, then why a meatball post?  BECAUSE.  These are not meatballs for St.Joseph’s day but, as with all recipes, they have a development genesis. Ground chuck in the fridge….one daughter who doesn’t like anchovies in her pasta (which was the one of the St.Joseph’s entrees I made)…killing two birds with one stone meant to have something for my daughter, make meatballs out of that chopped chuck.  Easy. Then the recipe developer in me took over and I paired the Sicilian-ness of the day with my meatballs.  No these aren’t a traditional Sicilian meatballs but, again, recipe development has many influences and the Sicilian holiday gave me the inspiration.  Ground Chuck.  Sicilian Oregano.  Pecorino cheese. Black Pepper.  Eggs. Plain Breadcrumbs. Red Onions. Mix, roll, fry in Sicilian Olive Oil and simmer in a mix of that oil, red onion, basil and Marsala Wine, also from Sicily. Sicily’s cuisine does not always contain garlic, oh yes it’s used but Onion will show up more often.   Originally I was going to use White Wine and I named the dish Polpettini in Bianco.  Instead  I switch last minute to the made in Sicily fortified Marsala.  Still in Bianco because that Italian Culinary term means NO TOMATO.  See, more pearls of Italian culinary wisdom.  You’re Welcome.548528_2971219081903_1304531591_32189688_1417227459_n From my hometown of Staten Island NYC comes this picture courtesy of the Staten Island Advance of the San Giuseppe (St.Joseph’s) Procession.    How does any of this factor into developing a recipe? Again, my opinion only, but a good recipe is developed organically…things that should belong together create a special harmony and when you’re in a certain mindset you become even more creative. E COSI’. Let’s make POLPETTINI IN BIANCO.

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                    YIELDS: 25 WALNUT SIZED MEATBALLS, approx.

 

1 LB. GROUND CHUCK (80% lean, 20% fat)

1 LARGE EGG

3 TBS. FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 SMALL CALABRIAN RED ONION OR SHALLOT, finely minced

1/2 TSP SICILIAN DRIED OREGANO rubbed between your hands, or any good dried Oregano

1 TBS SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL or another good Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1/2 CUP DRY PLAIN BREADCRUMBS moistened (hydrated) with 3 tbs milk or cream

1/2 CUP FRESHLY GRATED CACIOCAVALLO OR PECORINO CHEESE

1/2 TSP SEA SALT

1/2 TSP BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS OLIVE OIL (or use the same you used above)

1/2 CUP MARSALA WINE OR WHITE WINE

1/8 CUP STOCK OR WATER

2 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

In a large bowl beat the egg and add the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, all but 1 tsp of the onion, salt and pepper,the tbs of Extra Virgin Olive oil. When this is well mixed together, add the meat and gently blend till it’s all one mixture. Let this rest for 5 minutes. Form into Walnut sized balls and line on a foil or wax paper or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  In a large wide and heavy skillet heat the 2 TBS of Olive Oil and in batches add the meatballs and let them fry for about 6 minutes,397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n then turn, fry for another 4 minutes.  remove them all to a platter keeping them covered until done.  In the pan add the remaining onion and saute for 3 minutes then add the stock and the Marsala, bring to a boil.  Add the basil leaf then the all the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Let this simmer for 15 minutes but stir a few times.  Done.Remove from the flame and  give gentle stir.  Let them sit for 15 minutes…then serve.  Wonderful with roasted potatoes and a green sauteed vegetable.  Enjoy making these PURPETTINE CU’BIANCU….what’s that?  POLPETTINE IN BIANCO in Sicilian.  More fun saying it that way I think.  Happy Cooking!!

PEPERONATA, SOUTHERN ITALIAN PEPPER STEW

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PEPERONATA

 

Italian Cuisine is full of simple dishes that require one rule….look for the best ingredients you can find.  That basically translates into cook with the seasons.  In the USA we can access foods out of our regional seasons at any time of the year.  Making an out of season peperonata will still be a delicious dish but never as good as when peppers are in season.  That rule applies across the board.  Me?  I make peperonata whenever I feel like totally realizing that a Peperonata made in May will take delicious, but never as good as one you make in August thru November.The most basic form of this PEPERONATA, which is a PEPPER STEW, is  slow cooking strips of different colored peppers in Olive Oil  with onions and garlic.  Then it splits off from there into many variations.  Give this dish about 2 hours of your time and you’ll be making it over and over again.  Use a nice heavy and wide pot fot this dish, a dutch oven.  I add the umami of Anchovy to the mix.  The dish is southern Italian so as long as these are combos that appear in other regional dishes you are not committing Italian Food Heresy. 006Home grown produce that’s still warm in your hand and seconds from picking it will ALWAYS be the optimum way to get your ingredients. In the real world only a handful of us have that treat.  Next best idea is to have a local farmers or farm market where produce truly is local, from the surrounding area.  Living at the Central Jersey Shore we have quite a few great places that for those of us who don’t grow in our own gardens and the seasonal selections are fantastic. This is where I purchased the peppers for my PEPERONATA. http://www.deliciousorchardsnjonline.com/….DELICIOUS ORCHARDS in Colts Neck N.J.  Beautiful selection of local bell peppers, seasonal bell peppers from other areas, local cubanelles, cheese peppers, hot cherry peppers, Italian long hots, Italian Long Sweets, and dozens of chile pepper varieties.  For this dish we use a mix of multicolored bell peppers.  The long stewing transforms these ordinary tasting peppers into a complex and velvet like vegetable stew.  About the variations, if the core of the dish isn’t a slow cooked down pot of pepper slices with olive oil and onions and/or garlic it’s just a saute’ of peppers. A little tomato in the mix adds to the complexity.  I use a tablespoon of Imported Italian tomato paste..rich and concentrated. Lidia is telling us “layers of flavor” in most of her shows and this dish is an example of how a crisp raw pepper and some other ingredients turns into something so much greater than it was before you made the Peperonata.  Get excited!! This is an exciting tasting dish. Here is my version of PEPERONATA!

MAKES ABOUT 5 CUPS                             TAKES: CLOSE TO 2 HOURS

1/2 cup OLIVE OIL

8 MULTICOLORED SUMMER BELL PEPPERS, seeded, cored, ribs cut out, and cut into as uniformly sliced cuts as you can get.

2 MEDIUM SLICED ONIONS

3 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/2 TSP. CRUMBLED DRIED OREGANO

1 TSP. RINSED SALTED CAPERS

1 ANCHOVY FILET (ok, optional if you refuse to enjoy the umami that those delicious little fish give without making it taste like fish…just sayin…)

1 TABLESPOON OF TOMATO PASTE (i use imported Italian tomato paste)

2 TABLESPOONS OF RED WINE VINEGAR

1/8 cup WHITE WINE

SEA SALT

PEPERONCINO

In a large heavy pot(Dutch oven) heat 1/2 the olive oil and add the peppers. Season the peppers with salt  and make sure to coat them well with the oil.  This really helps with breaking them down.  Let this cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.  Now add the onion, garlic, anchovy, oregano and pinch of peperoncino, pinch of salt and blend well with the peppers.  Let this cook for 10 minutes.Add the wine and tomato paste  the rest of the olive oil and the capers and blend well.  Continue to cook on low for 1 hour, stirring frequently. When the peppers are nice and soft, add the vinegar and stir.  Taste. Check for seasonings at this point. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 3 hours or over night. Then use either at room temperature or gently reheated.

Some people add olive to this.  I prefer not too.  Up to you.  TUTTI I GUSTI SON GUSTI!! meaning everyone to their own tastes!!

So what are we using this in?? Again, on it’s own as a main or side with bread…in eggs, frittata, over an omelette, mixed with potatoes, on sandwiches,  with sausages and pork, over grilled chicken..on flatbreds, pizzas, bruschetta and crostini…0002More local peppers…these are from another fantastic local farm market I frequent… MATT’S FARM MARKET in Lake Como, NJ…  http://www.mattsfarmmarket.com/

 

Remember, these are not fried peppers, or sauteed peppers, they are stewed peppers, a 2 hour investment will pay off in high culinary dividends!!

 

 

 

 

 

ANOTHER ITALIAN PASTA SAUCE..FROM BASILICATA,SUGO L’INTOPPO

004There couldn’t be a more appetizing picture for me than a pot of any  of Italy’s many tomato based pasta sauces.  Add a regional spin to them and now I’m even more excited.  Today is Sant’Innocenzo Day383468_3036299628876_1304531591_32215781_825528770_n in my paternal grandfather, INNOCENZO SCARAMUZZI’s Southern Italian town of his birth.  He lived in Grassano, Matera, Basilicata until he immigrated to NYC at the age of 25 in 1915.  What better day than September 22 to share a sauce that comes from his region?  FYI, not sure if he ever made this as Basilicata is a region with 2 provinces, Potenza (West) and Matera (East) and this sauce is made in and around both Provinces. Potenza is probably where it’s native to. It’s called in proper Italian… SUGO L’INTOPPO….in Basilicata or Lucanian dialect it’s called ‘NTRUPPC.  Sidebar here for a second…reasons why Italians are always arguing that THEIR version of any is the right one is because there’s never ONE definition, word, or pronunciation ,let’s just nod our heads and say, “I got it.”  Please do not call it a meat sauce or Bolognese or Ragu’Napoletano because there are many similaries in method and ingredients but there are some differences that make it a wonderfully unique regional sauce.  I will, on this patronal feast day remember my grandfather 156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_n by blogging a wonderful sauce from his region.  What better way for a grandson who cooks and reveres his grandfather’s memory then to blog a new recipe for you all?  Right?  I thought so…Let’s cook.

 

SUGO L’INTOPPO   or  LU ‘NTROPPC…..SAUCE WITH OBSTACLES or A HITCH…what does that mean?  no idea…i’ll guess maybe all the meats in it are being called obstacles SINCE, most Pasta dishes in Italy serve the meats from their sauce as a secondo. Here the meats are served in the pasta so, they are “obstacles” to the pasta…That’s my thoughts and I’m sticking with them. ENJOY!!

1 1/2 LBS SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL SAUSAGE sliced or removed from their casings

1/2 LB STEW BEEF, MINCED

1/4 LB VEAL STEW, MINCED

6 14 oz CANS OF IMPORTED ITALIAN POMODORINI (most come from Potenza which is probably where this sauce originated), or 3 28 oz Cans of San Marzano DOP tomatoes.

1/4 cup OLIVE OIL

2 DICED MEDIUM ONIONS (Don’t even think of adding garlic)

1 TSP PEPERONCINO (DRIED RED CHILE FLAKES)

SEA SALT

HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL

In a large heavy stock pot heat a 1/2 the olive oil and sear all the meats until they are nicely browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl or platter and add the rest of the olive oil to the pan.  Add the onions and rapidly stir them around..why?The liquid in the onions will release all the nice caramelized bits from the meats at the bottom of the pan.  It will also give the onions some color and flavor.Add some sea salt and the peperoncino.  Slowly cook this until the onions are soft, NOT BROWNED.  When the onions are soft, should take about 10 minutes…then add the tomatoes.  Stir.  Bring to a boil then add the meats, bring down to a simmer.  Add some basil.  Pinch of salt.  Let this simmer for 3 hours stirring occasionally.  Drop in the remaining basil leaves and let the sauce sit for about 2 hours before using. Done.

Now what pasta is most traditional?  STRASCINATI which you can make or buy in good Italian markets and pork stores.  It’s a flour/semolina and water rustic pasta that resembles a stretched out orecchiette or cavatelli.  BTW, in lieu of STRASCINATI orecchiette or cavatelli are fine .plenty of PECORINO ROMANO over the servings.003The finished dish using STRASCINATI I bought in a local Salumeria (Italian Pork Store).  Fantastic!!!

The recipe yields enough sauce for up to 3 lbs of Pasta.

Enjoy this view I snapped while coming down the road from Grassano in 2008.

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On the road in Asia

 Asia.  A vast area comprised of thousands of ethnicities, countries and regions with many common traits yet with even more differences. Much of the globe is taken up by Asia and this year our family vacation set out to visit some of those countries. Our July vacation began with a long flight from JFK in NYC to Taipei, Taiwan. This was only a layover on our way to Bali, Indonesia so we only were in the airport. Of course what do you do between flights?  You eat. The biggest misconception with the Asian cuisines is that they are all the same. False. We absolutely loved the bit of Taiwanese cuisine we were lucky to enjoy during our short stay. Wandering around the airport after a full day of work then a 1:30am flight for 15 1/2 hours made us pretty spaced out but we were hungry. And A Food Obsession was very excited to try some Taiwanese food.  The first dish was a bamboo steamer filled with Taiwanese soup and pork dumplings. I’ve had them at home before and love them but these were a few notches higher on the flavor chart. A wonderfully rich and hot steamy broth caught between the soft dumpling and the lightly seasoned pork filling filled them up. What made them even more delicious were the cooks . The dumplings are called XIAO LONG BAO. 

 Wouldn’t you enjoy a meal cooked by them?  Here one of the workers is preparing a bowl of   Wanzhou dumpling soup. This soup was a rich chicken broth with these large filled thin skinned pork dumplings simmering in the mix. Some greens and mushrooms were added as well to the broth. Another dish we sampled was steamed Pork ribs in a carrot and black bean sauce. Fantastic. The plate came with loads of steamed rice. Tofu stir fried with chiles. Edamame. And a sliced and chopped green pickled vegetable.  That plate cost me 7.00 US. At the top of that picture in the left was another Taiwanese favorite. Beef Noodles Soup. Made with beef braised in soy and aromatic then mixed with noodles is rich and satisfying. It’s called HONG SHAO NIU ROU MIAN. So glad we tried all these dishes in our short time in Taiwan. By the way this was all eaten for breakfast at around 6:16am  I love the different way different cultures eat breakfast. Many times it’s the same dishes you have for lunch and dinner. A host of Taiwanese sweets to choose from. The desserts for me are no where near as good as their savory foods. When traveling though try as much as your comfortable with.  These are great memories to bring home. 

The stronger US dollar is making this trip quite the bargain. My family ate this huge lunch which also included water spinach sautéed in garlic and oil and delicious Taiwanese iced tea. I don’t think we spent 22.00 us.  I’m bringing home a treasure chest of new ideas and dishes to my kitchen.  Nothing tastes as delicious as travel. Next up….Holiday in Bali. 


CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE

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CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE BY A FOOD OBSESSION

One of the most delicious recipe styles is “SCAMPI STYLE”.  Generally it means a saute’ of Shrimp but the style can also be used on other seafood and poultry.  Chicken has that amazing ability to retain it’s distinctive poultry flavor yet take on all the flavors you’re cooking it with.  Versatile is the word! Garlic, Olive Oil, a bit of Butter, Wine, Lemon, and Parsley are the typical ingredients in the “sauce” that is created for Shrimp Scampi. Just replace the Shrimp with Chicken, in this case cut pieces of Boneless Chicken Breast.  OK, let A FOOD OBSESSION voice his very opinionated OPINION on white meat chicken.  It’s delicious when you are using good chicken (I use Organic chicken) and when you season it well and don’t overcook it.  Oh I like thigh meat and bone in thigh pieces for various Chicken Dishes as they will perform better in certain recipes than White meat, especially off the bone.  This is a showcase recipe for the unjustly maligned Boneless breast.  Sorry, you’re not getting FOODIE points from me if you bash white meat chicken..lol. Everything has it’s place.  By the way, I once tried this preparation with boneless thighs.  There’s a reason why THEY aren’t in the picture above.  Key to any dish being its best is the quality of the underlying ingredients.  Use that rule and your dishes will excel!!  Now talking to one of my inner food circle friends, he thought this dish sounded a bit like his idea of Lemon Chicken.  I make Lemon Chicken about 1000 ways as does everyone else, it’s one of those recipes that’s just a name of any recipe of chicken and lemons.  I’m pretty much keeping to the Scampi style here so I gave this that name.  Now there are some Chicken Scampi recipes on the WEB that simply have nothing to do with the agreed on recipe or method of SCAMPI STYLE.  Sauteed Peppers and Onions in the mix do not a Scampi make.  Call me closed minded but that would be Chicken with Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Wine, etc.  Next order of Shrimp Scampi you get, check to see if it comes loaded down with peppers and onions (hello, sometimes restaurants do that just to bulk up a dish…so, just putting that out there).  Don’t confuse my recipe with the one that comes from that ItalianAmerican chain restaurant…just saying.  What would you serve it with?  As much as I love Pasta this dish LOVES Rice or oven roasted potatoes.  Those would be my choices, you like the Pasta? use the Pasta. Quinoa, CousCous..Israel CousCous..all go nicely too.  The choice is yours…now let’s cook!

TIME: 1 hour   SERVES: 4

Ingredients:

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts cut into 3 pieces and lightly pounded
1 CUP Seasoned  All Purpose Flour (Seasoned With Salt, Pepper, Granulated Garlic)
4 Tablespoons  EXTRA VIRGIN Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, SLICED THIN or MINCED
1 Cup White Wine
Juice From 1 Lemon,  5 thin lemon slices, for garnish.
1 Cup  ORGANIC LOW SODIUM Chicken Broth, preferably homemade
1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh ITALIAN FLAT LEAF Parsley, plus some sprigs for garnish
Kosher Salt , Fresh Ground Black Pepper

SPLURGE HERE:  3 TBS. of EUROPEAN BUTTER, UNSALTED for finishing the sauce.  (no interest in the Euro-Butter?  ok, any unsalted butter will do. But that EuroButter….)

This recipe works best with pounding the chicken pieces.  Pound them to about 1/4 inch, no thicker.  Dredge them in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess.  AFO NOTE: why are we flouring them?  creates a moister chicken at the end of the saute’, helps create some body for the pan sauce without making it “thick”.  In a wide pan, add the olive oil and heat. Saute’ the chicken for about 4 minutes per side, till golden.chicscampi 025

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chicken dredged, going into the heated olive oil and browning for 8 minutes.

Remove the chicken which you’ve cooked in batches  ( AFO NOTE: crowding creates cooking chaos!!! the oil will drop in temp, the touching of the chicken will create steam pockets and there will be no browning.  Are you in a race?  OK, good, take your time cooking.  That’s what makes a dish..attention paid to all the details!!!) to a bowl or platter and tent with foil.

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That’s what the chicken should look like after it’s been sauteed.

Deglaze the pan with a little of the White Wine and pour it over the chicken.  Now add 2 tbs. of ExtraVirgin Olive oil to the pan and when it’s heated add the garlic and saute’ just till fragrant, only takes about 1 minute.chicscampi 020 To this add the wine and the broth, pinch of salt, and when reduced by 1/4 add the chicken back to the pan. Bring this to a boil then IMMEDIATELY reduce to a simmer.  Let this cook for only about 4 minutes then add the Lemon juice and the parsley.  Mix.  The move the chicken to the sides of the pan giving you a small area in the center to melt in the butter. As soon as it’s melted (takes only seconds) make sure it’s incorporated into the whole pan and all the chicken is coated.  Remove from the heat. Gently mix in the parsley and season to taste with the salt and pepper.

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how good does that? look..oh, wait..it’s going to look even better!!

Serve immediately.  AFO NOTE:  if you over heat the butter, it separates immediately and doesn’t thicken your sauce. Make sure you don’t over heat it!

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I told you it would look even better.  Thin lemon slices and parsley garnish this dish.

Enjoy your CHICKEN SCAMPI STYLE…btw, always test the chicken for it being fully cooked by slicing into a piece, it should be easy to slice into, the juices should run clear.

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and there’s the money shot..all dressed up and somewhere to go…into your mouth!! That’s the Chicken Scampi served over Rice and Broccoli Rabe, with a side of Zucchini Marinara.

 

TOASTED RAVIOLI FROM ST.LOUIS

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American cuisine is a mashup of practically every food culture on Earth.  There’s nowhere else that can boast so many layers of immigrant cuisines that make up the very complex notion of the United States of America.  Take one immigrant group..the Italians.  They came in droves to the USA in search of better lives and many times fleeing abject poverty and oppression.  Wherever the Italian settled in the USA there was lots of employment and it  certainly did not stop in NYC or the other usual suspects.  Italian immigrants settled all over the US and one midwest city, St. Louis, Missouri was certainly no exception.  Italians from the far North, from Milan and Lombardia  were the majority but there were sizable immigrations from Sicily and other parts of the south.  The Milanese settled in the area still called the Hill and the southern Italians settled along the river.  Eventually the river area was fully claimed for warehouse and businesses and the old Italian enclave there was destroyed and scattered the rest of St.Louis’ downtown Italians around the area.  Notable St.Louis Italians are Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola, American Baseball greats.  Many of the displaced Italians moved up to the Hill which is still a great place to walk around and sample some of St.Louis’ particular brand of Italian-American food.  Like the TOASTED RAVIOLI.  It’s just a fried ravioli served with sauce.  I’m sure you’ve seen them in places other than St. Louis, but here they are called TOASTED rather than Fried (which is what you’ll see elsewhere). They are generally a locally or house made meat, parmigiano, spinach and other vegetable filled small square.  One of the finest versions, and the one used in many of St.Louis’ eateries is made by the Mama Toscano Company.  They contain an old family recipe of Beef, pork, spinach, carrots, onions, celery, Parmigiano and eggs and they are fantastic.  For those outside of St.Louis you can order on line.

http://mamatoscano.com/store/

Back to the Toasted Ravioli story…During an evening in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s the new cook at Oldani’s, now called Mama’s on the Hill mistakenly dropped some ravioli into hot oil. The owner tried to salvage them with some Parmigiano on top…and so the story goes, and so the legend goes.  I love to have my Toasted Ravioli (they are on EVERY MENU in St.Louis, Italian and non-Italian restaurants) at Charlie Gitto’s “Pasta House” downtown.  It’s the epitome of an old school Italian American restaurant.  It’s a movie set.  It’s just perfect.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Now doesn’t that say old school?  Family owned, local workers and a mix of traditional Italian American food with the St.Louis twist.  Meat Ravioli with that greens and beef filling are more “Northern”.  To “Milanese” a dish is to flour, bread and fry it.  So you see those characteristics here in the “toasted” ravioli.  The addition of the Marinara to dip in is most likely a Southern Italian influence.  Together they make a fantastic appetizer, a party food, a first course or an entree.  More importantly the dish is a living legacy of an immigrant story coming to the United States.  Let go to St.Louis now and make some TOASTED RAVIOLI.

SERVES: 4-6                                TIME: 45 minutes-1 hour

3/4 to 1 pound small  square  FROZEN MEAT Ravioli
3 large  organic eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk or half n half
2 cups  plain breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh  Italian parsley
1/2 tsp. oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Mix the cheese with the breadcrumbs, oregano and parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

1/2 cup sifted flour
Marinara sauce, for dipping. about 3 cups

Lay out in pans or trays one with flour and one with the breadcrumbs. Dust the ravioli with the flour, then into the egg letting excess run off, then fully coat in the breadcrumbs completely covering them.  Lay them out on a baking tray.  When completely done place them into the fridge to stay cold.  Heat a heavy pan with high sides, a cast iron pan works great for this, with about 2 inches of oil.  Bring to 400 degrees if you have a thermometer or test with a cube of bread.  It will “dance”  (i love that..lol) and start to toast immediately if the oil is at the right temperature.  Make sure you have pans with paper towels or racks over them and take the ravioli out of the fridge.  Now start frying.  This should take about 1 1/2 minutes total..and they need to be turned after the first minute to make sure they don’t burn.  Only add about 5 at a time or you will reduce the oil temperature too much and then they don’t cook evenly. Serve with extra chopped parsley and Parmigiano over them along with a small cup of warm Marinara.

 

There…done.  Just like Charlie Gitto’s, Mama’s, Kemoll’s, and all the other classic and new restaurants in St.Louis do.  Enjoy this recipe.  SIZE IS EVERYTHING.  Stick with the meat…stick with the regular square size, not the big round ones or the tiny soup ones.

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Buon Appetito!!