Tag Archives: Italian Cooking

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO…SHRIMP WITH RICE AND SAFFRON…COOKING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO….SHRIMP WITH RICE AND SAFFRON. This is not a Risotto, the process is different, the Rice itself is different. For this dish I use a Long Grain Rice. This is also the first in a series of blogs on the foods i’ve created and cooked for my family while in self-quarantine during the 2020 Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic Cooking not only nourishes those you feed but it creates an activity, something to look forward to while being housebound. Certainly once the pandemic is over enjoy making these dishes whenever you wish. I created this dish early in March 2020 when we were first told to shelter-in-place, staying home except for going out for essentials. I keep a stocked pantry so there was lots to chose from, like Gulf Shrimp in the freezer, Red Bell Peppers, Baby Arugula, Grape Tomatoes, etc. I used some Vermouth in this dish because it’s aromatic flavors compliment seafood. Hoping everyone is coping and complying as best as they can. Let’s cook!!!

GAMBERI CON RISO E ZAFFERANO

1 HOUR 10 MINUTES APPROX START TO FINISH 4-6 SERVINGS

1/2 TSP GOOD SAFFRON THREADS

1/3 CUP HOT WATER

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 1/2 LBS 16-20 SHRIMP, PEELED, DEVEINED, PATTED DRY WITH PAPER TOWELS

2 CUPS LONG GRAIN RICE, i like to use Jasmine.

2 CUPS SEAFOOD OR CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

1/2 CUP SWEET VERMOUTH

1 MEDIUM ONION, SMALL DICE

1 MEDIUM RED BELL PEPPER, SMALL DICE

4 QUARTERED CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES (OPTIONAL)

SALT, BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

2 TBS BUTTER

1/2 CUP CHOPPED BABY ARUGULA

1 LEMON

Grind the saffron in a mortar and pestle until it’s all broken up. Add that to the hot water, You can alternatively rub the threads with your hands, you’ll just get some yellow on your palms. Mix the water and leave it for 5 minutes and it will change color. Should be a bright orange. Heat a heavy bottomed pot or sklllet with the oil. Add the shrimp and cook only for 3 minutes till the edges turn pink. Remove to a platter and cover loosely with foil. Add the peppers and onions to the oil, season with salt and pepper. Saute’ till just soft, about 8 minutes, then add the rice and blend. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the Saffron Water, blend in. Add the Stock and the Vermouth, stir well. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and tightly cover, cooking it for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is fluffy. With a fork fluff the rice and then add the shrimp, gently blending the rice and shrimp. Cover for 5 minutes. Add the butter and the chopped arugula. Gently mix and taste for seasoning. Serve each portion with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh squeeze of lemon and a grinding of black pepper. If using the tomatoes, add them with the peppers and onions.

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

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

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

SERVES 4-6 APPROX. TIME 2 HOURS

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

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

1 CUP WHOLE “PELATI”, PEELED ITALIAN PLUM TOMATOES

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE VINEGAR

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

2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 SPRIG FRESH ROSEMARY

4 FRESH SAGE LEAVES

1 ANCHOVY FILET

PINCH OF PEPERONCINO

1/2 CUP CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE STOCK

SALT TO TASTE

OLIVE OIL, AS NEEDED

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

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI, POTATO CROQUETTES NAPLES STYLE, AS MADE BY MY MOM

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANI!!  Potato Croquettes made Naples style, Grandma Scaramuzzi and my mom Assunta “Sue”Battaglia’s style could be one of my most favorite foods on Earth!  Grandma Scaramuzzi taught her daughter (my mom) how to make these culinary delights from the city she lived in before she immigrated to Staten Island NYC to marry my grandfather.  Now let’s discuss the word PANZAROTTO/PANZAROTTI (plural) shall we?  In every other part of Italy a Panzarotto is a “pouch” of filled dough.  They are baked or fried and depending on the region will be filled with all sorts of vegetables, cheeses, and meats.  Google PANZAROTTI PUGLIESI and you’ll see what I mean.  But for some reason, and this happens all over Italy one word will have a million different meanings regarding food.  In the language and dialect of Naples Panzarotti means a fried Potato croquette.  Growing up I watched Mom make these and she had a specific way of making them.  First of all they usually were a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes.  Certainly she’d make them on their own as well but NEVER with potatoes cooked the same day.  Something happens to the potatoes when you cook and mash them on day one and on day two form the Panzarotti and fry them.  She had some rules.  Only bits of  diced mozzarella, not too much.  Lots of Pecorino and black pepper in the mix.   Only egg yolks in the mix.  The whites would be for later when breading.  And the breading always PLAIN breadcrumbs, not the Italian Seasoned type.  Are you with me here?  Are you ready to take a stroll down the streets of Napoli and eat the foods that are sold in the Fry shops?  For those who want to be further confused they are also called CROCCHE’ DI PATATE and if you go to Sicily, they are called CAZZILLI where they can be either fried without the breading or with the breading.  Confused yet?  Don’t be…Italian and Italianamerican cuisine has lots of variations, twists and turns.  Whenever I decide to blog a new recipe or a traditional family recipe I do lots of research to see if my family simply creating these rules on their own or if they are following a hallowed ritual.  Happy to report that mostly all the recipes from Napoli I’ve researched dip the floured formed Panzarotti in beaten EGG WHITES and then into PLAIN BREADCRUMBS.  Moral of the story…don’t ever disagree with a Napoletana Mother and Grandmother!!!

PANZAROTTI NAPOLETANA      NAPLES STYLE POTATO CROQUETTES YIELD ABOUT 24

3 LBS RUSSET BAKING POTATOES   PEELED AND CUT INTO QUARTERS

3/4 LB MOZZARELLA DICED SMALL

1/2 TSP. KOSHER SALT

3/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PECORINO ROMANO OR PARMIGIANO  (MOM USED THE PECORINO)

1/2 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 CUP FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1 WHOLE EGG AND 2 YOLKS, RESERVING THE EGG WHITES FOR BREADING

1 CUP UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/2 CUP TIPO 00 FLOUR OR 1/2 CUP SIFTED AP UNBLEACHED FLOUR FOR DREDGING

3 CUPS OLIVE OIL, PEANUT OIL, OR CORN OIL   (WE PAN FRY OURS)

First we make the potatoes.  In a large pot filled with well salted water and bring to a GENTLE boil then simmer for at least 15-20 minutes.  Do not overcook.  When a fork easily pierces the potatoes they are done.  Drain the potatoes and place on a FLAT pan in one layer. Let this cool to room temperature, then  cover with foil and refrigerate for no less than 5 hours, preferably overnight.  Trust me.  Then bring them back to room temperature  and mash or rice them.  Beat the whole egg and yolks.  After you’ve mashed the potatoes, add the eggs, the cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper.  Blend well making sure your mixture isn’t too wet or sticky.  If so a little flour will tighten that up, just a little.  Now form the mix into about 24 equal sized panzarotti.  About 3 1/2-4 inches long in the shape of a cylinder.  Place on a baker’s pan lined with parchment.  Loosely cover and chill for 1/2 hour.  Now set up a station of the flour….then the beaten EGG WHITES…then the breadcrumbs.  Gently dredge the croquettes in the flour,, then into the eggs carefully letting the excess drip off, then into the breadcrumbs, make sure they are completely coated.  Line back up on a parchment paper coated tray.  Heat 3 /4 in of oil till it gets to hot, about 350 degrees F or when you place a cube of bread in it the cube sizzles and starts to brown.   Gently add the croquettes no more than 5-6 at a time DO NOT CROWD THE PAN!!!  Use a heavy high sided wide one.  When one side is done, takes about  2 1/2 minutes or less per side, turn gently. When all golden brown you are done.   Transfer to either a cooking rack or lots of paper towels.  Add more oil and wait between batches to let the oil come up to temperature again.  There’s a nice amount of mozzarella in there so you maybe have a little mozzarella burst thru but if you don’t overfry you should be fine.   

Serve them immediately, or you can reheat them when ready to serve uncovered in a hot oven for only a few minutes.  Here’s some other ingredients you can add….Provolone, thin strips or fine dice of sopressata, dry sausage, salami, prosciutto.  If using the cured meats just a small bit will work and the finer you dice/mince the better.  What a treat to have these on their own in a paper cone from  a Friggitori in Naples or on your own table at home.  Now you’ve made NU BELL PANZAROTT o CROCCHE’.  Eat like a Napoletano!!!

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

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

FOR 24 POLPETTINE:

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

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

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

1 LARGE OR JUMBO EGG BEATEN

2 FRESH SAGE LEAVES FINELY MINCED

2 CLOVES FRESH GARLIC FINELY MINCED

1/4 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

1/4 TSP. GROUND BLACK PEPPER

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

1/3 CUP RED WINE

1/3 CUP CHICKEN STOCK

PINCH OF SEA OR KOSHER SALT

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 TBS. CRUSHED ITALIAN TOMATOES

A FEW EXTRA SAGE LEAVES

1 PEELED FRESH GARLIC CLOVE

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

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

SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS STUFFED BREAD

IMG_4252Stuffed breads are Iconic Italian-American food.  They are sold everywhere ItalianAmerican live and then some, sometimes known as one of their most popular names “STROMBOLI”.  Food Legend says the Stromboli was invented as the American cousin of the PIZZA IMBOTTITA, the Stuffed Pizza, also part of the CALZONE family.  In true ItalianAmerican fashion there’s a bunch of cousins, they are all related yet they are all different.  Strombolis usually have Italian Cold cuts and cheeses with a thinner rolled out dough, then rolled up (jelly roll style) and baked.  It’s sliced in thinner pieces or in half for serving.  Pizzeria culture in American serves it with a dipping sauce, usually a marinara.  Homecooks make these stuffed breads in any one of a few popular styles.  My Sausage, Peppers and Onions stuffed bread is somewhere between the Stromboli and Calzone style.  I like a thinner bread to hold the sausage and peppers in .  The last thing you want is a stuffed bread that’s just…bread.  Or too thick and you don’t taste the filling. Balance.  Pane Imbottito (Stuffed Bread) is popular in Campanian/Napoletana Cuisine.  Often the filling is distributed through the dough,  sometimes it’s thinly rolled out then spread with the filling and tightly rolled (Rottolo di Pane) and often a thicker dough with the filling tucked inside.  Italian food=many variations.  ItalianAmerican communities are known for homecooks and businesses that specialize in all variations of these stuffed breads.  My favorite of them all is when I make it with a filling of chunky roasted Sweet Fennel Pork Sausage, fried onions and Cubanelle peppers, olive oil, pinch of oregano, pinch of Peperoncino, dash of Red Wine Vinegar, small dice of Provolone.  When baked in a delicious dough it’s amazing.  Let’s make a stuffed bread with Sausage and Peppers…oh the things I learned in my Mom’s kitchen.

FOR THE DOUGH:

2 1/4 cups SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR, or my preference, 2 1 /4 cups TIPO 00 FLOUR

1 cup warm water

1/8  cup Whole Milk

1 TSP Kosher Salt

Black pepper (coarse)

1 1/2 TSP HONEY

1 packet YEAST

1/4 CUP LARD

OLIVE OIL

In a bowl add the water, yeast, honey and leave it for 15 minutes.  When it’s fragrant and bubbling on top it’s ready.  In a large mixing bowl add the flour , salt, 1/8 cup of lard.  Using a mixer or a fork blend the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast/water mixture.  Gently blend the dry into the wet and when it’s all come together knead it for 5 minutes.  Roll it into a rectangle.  spread 1/2 the remaining lard over it.  Sprinkle with black pepper.  Fold it over and roll it into a rectangle again.  Repeat with the remaining lard and the black pepper.  Fold it over and then knead it for 5 minutes.  Cover with a light coating of olive oil  and a kitchen towel over the bowl.  Let sit for 2 hours.  Should double.  While that’s doubling..let’s make the filling.

1 1/2 LBS of FRESH SWEET FENNEL PORK SAUSAGE

1 LARGE SWEET ONION,SLICED

3 SLICED CUBANELLE PEPPERS (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS)

2 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/2 CUP SMALL DICE IMPORTED ITALIAN PROVOLONE

PINCH OF OREGANO

PINCH OF CRUSHED FENNEL SEEDS

SALT, PEPERONCINO

PLAIN BREADCRUMBS

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

GRATED PECORINO, BLACK PEPPER

1 egg beaten with some heavy cream for an Egg Wash

Roast or pan fry the Sausage.  Let it cool. Then cut into small chunks.  In a heavy wide frying pan, heat 2 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive oil, add a pinch of Peperoncino and then add the Fennel Seeds.  Let this saute’ for about 1 1/2 minutes then add the peppers and onions…the oregano, salt…and saute’ till the peppers and the onions are soft.  When that happens, add the sausage and the collected drippings and simmer for 10 minutes.  Then let it sit and cool down.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F or as high as it will go.  Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or two smaller ones.  Sprinkle them with some grated cheese and breadcrumbs (helps keep the dough from getting soggy).  Then layer in the sausage and peppers on 3/4 of the rectangle. Scatter the cubes of provolone over it. Starting at the left side where you’ve layered the sausage gently roll up.  with some pf the egg wash press the roll into the end of the dough.  The egg wash will help it adhere and not pop open in baking.  Pinch the ends of the roll doing the same.   Then brush the whole top with egg wash and sprinkle with black pepper, grated Pecorino, and kosher salt.  Lay onto a well oiled baking pan and into the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes checking to see it’s not burning.  All ovens are different.  Remove from the oven when the bottom is hard and well baked and when you tap on it it sounds hollow.  Let this cool for 15 minutes before cutting.  Use a serrated knife.  Eat as is.  Slice in whatever size you want.

As seen in the above pic I like to make party apps out of them.  I make them a day ahead, then slice and bake as needed.  Enjoy!!!

 

 

 

CHICKEN CONTADINA, MY VERSION

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

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

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

1/8 CUP SEASONED FLOUR

OLIVE OIL

1 LB. SWEET ITALIAN FENNEL PORK SAUSAGE

1 DICED ONION

4 SLICED CLOVES OF GARLIC

3/4 LB SLICED OR QUARTERED BUTTON MUSHROOMS

1 SLICED RED PEPPER

1/4 CUP ITALIAN WHITE WINE

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

1/8 CUP WATER OR CHICKEN STOCK

1 BAY LEAF

PINCH FENNEL SEEDS

ENOUGH FRESH THYME OR ROSEMARY TO MAKE 2 TBS. CHOPPED

KOSHER SALT AND FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

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

 

 

CHICKEN SCALOPPINE WITH MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH

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

8 thin sliced and pounded Chicken Breast cutlets (boneless)

1/2 cup sifted flour

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic

1/2 tsp Hungarian Sweet Paprika

1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 1/4 cup Chicken Stock

Olive Oil

1 1/4 cups sliced button or Cremini Mushrooms

3 sliced cloves of garlic

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups rinsed and dried baby spinach leaves

2 tbs. unsalted butter

 

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

PASTA ALLA NORCINA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARich, Earthy, as tan and brown as an Umbrian landscape, I give you Pasta Alla Norcina.  Let me start
by telling you that this was again me playing “CHOPPED” with what was in my refrigerator.  The
entire recipe started with 2 fresh sausages and a container of unsauced leftover Cappellini.  Just  so
you know, Cappellini(Angel Hair)  is not the right pasta for this dish, so, there, now it’s out there and I can’t take it
back.  I will not apologize for this breach of the recipe contract only because the largest breach of
contract comes from not utilizing everything in your refrigerator.  I will give myself points for that one.
The refrigerator also had 1/2 pint of cremini mushrooms that needed my attention and 1/2 cup of
heavy cream that also was screaming to be used.  Everything came together when I remembered the
classic dish (sauce) from Umbria for pasta called NORCINA.  Norcia is a town in Umbria, most
famous for being the birthplace of the brother and sister duo, Benedict and Scholastica, who founded
the Benedictine order of Monks.  The other is the intense food culture which has pigs at it’s center.
So hallowed is the Pig in Norcia that the word NORCINERIA is given to butcher shops where the em-
phasis is on pork, especially sausages.  The other claim to fame are their truffles and mushrooms.
All of these factor heavily in their food ways and this sauce seems to be a real triumph of all those good
things.
Start with the sausage..unlike the Southern Italians, Umbrians do not use fennel in their sausage, just
pork, pork fat, red wine, salt and pepper.  Umbria by the way is a region in Central Italy.It’s sort of a bridge
between the tomato and olive oil South and the butter, cream and polenta filled North.   For Pasta alla
Norcina for 4-6 , you will need 4 links of Italian Sweet Sausage, without Fennel.
Slit the casings with a sharp knife and remove the meat.
In a large wide skillet, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil then add the crumbled sausage meat.    Dice a medium
sized onion and set aside.  Move the sausage around so it doesn’t only brown on one side.  After
10 minutes on medium heat, add the onions, and 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, and 1 tsp. fresh
chopped thyme.  The sausage already is seasoned with salt, so only add a little to season the onions.
Move the onions and sausage around the pan, add 1/2
tsp. of peperoncino and cook this for a good 7 minutes. Chop 6 Cremini or Porcini Mushrooms into
a fine dice and add that to the pan.  Let this saute’ for a good 5 minutes, make sure those mushrooms
are diced finely…or it will throw the cooking of the sauce of…Now add 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic…let
it get fragrant (i love saying that…because it does!!) about 2 minutes.  Now, add 1/2 cup of White Wine,
deglaze the pan all around so all the bits of meat on the bottom.  This is sometimes referred to as the
FOND (that really means the deglazed pan juices, but many use the term to denote the bits that are
caramelized on the bottom of the pan)..regardless of the technical term..it’s a boatload of immense
and deep flavor.  Through out those over salty boullion cubes…this is where you will get concentrated
flavor from.   Make sure you use your wooden spoon or spatula to pull those bits off the bottom and
turn the wine a nice brownish color.  Let the mixture cook on medium for at least another 5 minutes,
or until the onions turn soft and translucent.
Now pour the cream into the pan and stir it around.
Are you noticing that I’m not using any addi-
tional fat like butter, or thickeners like flour to create this cream sauce….??  How can you make such
kitchen magic you say?  Ha…I’m no magician, a full bodied natural product like Heavy Cream and slow
heat will perform that magic for you.  This “trick” I absolutely learned in Italy.  There was something
different in Italy with their cream sauces for pasta..and that something is ..it’s just cream.  Let this
simmer with eh sausage and mushroom mixture and in 20 minutes, it will have reduced considerably
and will have changed into a thick and deep colored sauce.

Now like SO many Italian and homecooking recipes, this Classic will have variations from cook to cook
or chef to chef or family to family.  I researched as much as I could on this sauce and these were the
ingredients that came up the most :  Umbrian sausage, onions, small bit of garlic, olive oil, Heavy Cream,
Parmigiano, mushrooms, wine, sage and/or thyme, a bit of hot dried chile pepper..Truffles showed up
very frequently, but since mushrooms did as well, and I had them I added the mushrooms to my dish…less
frequently, but still common to many recipes was anchovies, peas, parsley, pancetta.  I had some frozen
peas so I thought it would be a nice touch.  For those who are non-pea lovers, omitting this is not a mortal
sin. For those who like peas (I LOVE PEAS!) add 1/4 cup frozen peas into the sauce, just let it simmer for
another 5 minutes, then turn the sauce off.  That’s right..FLAVOR MELDING WILL NOW HAPPEN.  Push
the sauce to the back of the stove while you cook 1 lb. of Penne (most proper for the dish) or Cappellini
as I did here according to the package directions just till al dente (are you sick of me saying that yet? un-
fortunately, that’s too bad, it’s the way macaroni is meant to be eaten, you will not serve mush on my watch).

Isn’t that awesome?  We are
not done yet…drain the pasta and then add it to the pasta and on a low flame, for only about 3 minutes,
warm the pasta in the sauce.
Remove from the heat.  Stop, no eating yet.  Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to this
masterpiece you just created.  Always add the cheese at the end, especially with a cream sauce.  Mix
well and let this sit for a few minutes so the cheese becomes part of the dish.
Time to eat..for 4-6.  A wonderful dish of pasta and meat for you and your family or friends.  Buon Appetito
from the Umbrian countryside…or New Jersey,

Add a little extra cheese when serving if you like…I like..

ITALIAN STUFFED CABBAGE…FOR THE COOLER MONTHS…INVOLTINI DI VERZA

0001When you hear STUFFED CABBAGE you think of cuisines like various Middle Eastern, Polish, Ukranian,Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian, Czech, Greek but never Italian.  Many people thing cabbage is not vegetable used in Italy.  Oh there are many cabbage dishes up and down the boot.  Savoy Cabbage is a milder and thinner leaved type of cabbage.  There’s less of that “cabbagey” sulphuric stench to it.  I don’t mind the strong smell, I love cabbage, any way, any cuisine, from Germany to Korea it’s a vegetable that’s help keep the world from starvation and yes even from disease. Cabbage is loaded in Vitamin C.  Have I made you a convert yet?  What if you were to stuff a Savoy Cabbage leaf with a southern Italian meatball flavored filling adding rice to the mix and then baking them all in your usual Marinara?  Are we good now?  Good.  I grew up in a Polish section of Staten Island NYC and Stuffed Cabbage was verrrrry popular. Delicious.  Even as a kid I loved it.  My Mom turned that Polish Golumbki into an ItalianAmerican pan of deliciousness.  The filling was ground beef and pork, rice, and then the usual meatball suspects, garlic, breadcrumbs, lots of pecorino, black pepper, salt, parsley and an egg.  As I began to cook more often I started taking Mom’s recipes as a base, some by memory alone, and the adding or subtracting to them.  Over the years I’ve played with this, with different meats, cheeses, herbs, sauces and i finally came back to only slightly changing Mom’s.  The cheese I use in this is Provolone..It’s bold taste really works well with the meat and cabbage.  Whenever I make some adaptations to what Mom made I will always stay within her flavor profiles.  She knew how to cook.  So let’s make some INVOLTINI DI VERZA…stuffed Italian Cabbage Rolls.  Tis the season, cabbage tastes best in the cool/cold weather months.

SERVINGS: 4                                   TIME:  2 1/2 HOURS

1 LARGE HEAD OF SAVOY CABBAGE, bottom core taken out

1 1/4 lb mixed ground Chuck and ground Pork

1 cup cooked long grain rice, cooled

1/2 cup plain Italian Breadcrumbs moistened with 2 tbs heavy cream or water or milk

1/2 cup fine dice PROVOLONE

3 finely minced CLOVES OF GARLIC

3 TBS FINELY MINCED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/2 TSP OREGANO

1/2 TEASPOON KOSHER OR SEA SALT

1 TBS FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 EGGS, BEATEN

2 TBS WHITE ITALIAN WINE

2 1/2 CUPS MARINARA SAUCE

3 TBS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

OLIVE OIL

Preheat your oven to 380 degrees F.  Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. salt the water.  Gently place the cabbage head into the water and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove 14-16 leaves from the cabbage head and lay them out on paper or kitchen towels.  While they are cooling make the filling.  In a large mixing bowl add the eggs then all the ingredients  except the meat and the sauce.  Blend well then add the meat and blend with your hands until it’s the consistency of a meatloaf or meatball mixture. Now get your baking pan ready.  Drizzle the bottom of the pan with some olive oil, then a layer of the marinara, maybe 1/2 inch. READY TO ROLL!!! Using about a handfull of the meat place it at the bottom of one of the leaves. Fold the side in and then roll it up placing it SEAM SIDE DOWN into the sauced pan. You may need more meat or less, don’t over or understuff. And here’s something that many recipes never tell you.  I’m not giving you an EXACT measurement for the meat filling ? Why?  No, not because I’m’ being a jerk.  LOL…Because that head of cabbage yields different sized leaves. The magic of Nature!! You may need more, you may need less.  Get a feel for what you are cooking organically and not just using exact measurements.  You’ll be alot less stressed too!!  Once you’ve filled the pan with the rolls cover with a layer of sauce and a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.  Tightly cover with foil and into the oven they go for 50 minutes.  Uncover, test for tenderness….if not ready, cover and bake an additional 10 minutes but you should be good to go at this point.  So uncover and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.  Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.  DONE!!  Oh this is another dish that is much better tomorrow than it is today.  If you can wait,  serve this the day after you make it.  It’s MUCH tastier.

Making these dishes for me is like cooking with Mom in her kitchen.  When I’m done I look up at her picture and smile.  Thanks Mom, you taught me well!!

 

 

 

TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA, my wife’s version..with Prosciutto Cotto, Peas, Cream, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

dellanonna 006Things go in and out of fashion in all facets of human life.  Music, Clothing, Styles, FOOD, etc.  Some dishes have a white hot flash in the pan #hashtagged Social Media celebrity status life for a few months, years, decades while others are looked back on with a scratch of the head or maybe a sentimental hug.  Where do I place this dish that was one of the most popular ItalianAmerican restaurant dishes in the late 70’s-early 80’s?  TORTELLINI DELLA NONNA.  That era boasted a sauce called DELLA NONNA, which in true Italian fashion can point to 1000 things at the same time.  None of which are even closely related but the name is a term of endearment given by a cook to a dish when it evokes feelings of one’s Nonna, or Grandmother.  The French term many dishes “Gran Mere” in the same way.  Something your Grandmother made, or close to it, however in my case, My Grandmothers were both in Italy (one in Avellino and one in Sicily).  There was no cream saucy pasta being made in their kitchens.  That was restaurant food or the food of Central and Northern Italy.  To them, those regions were the same as saying “Austria,  Norway, or the North Pole”.  dellanonna 006  Even the use of Tortellini was unheard of in my family’s kitchens.  This was a pasta introduced to the ItalianAmericans of southern Italian ancestry via the American Italian restaurant.  Without those “Northern Italian” restaurants introducing these foods and dishes from Italy’s Central and Northern regions unless we travelled there, we’d be unaware of the complete treasures of the full Italian landscape.  So much food, So little time!!  During those years I mentioned one could order these dishes and recipes would be posted in magazines and in cookbooks or written down on a napkin by a cook in a restaurant to diners interested in making the dish at home.  I’m not sure when or how my wife Debi got this recipe.  Did I give it to her?  I can’t take credit for that. She’s not sure but maybe one day we’ll both remember.  She loved the dish, although prefers it with Cappellini.  Me?  I prefer it with Tortellini.  I feel it just married best with that. She enjoys Cappellini with everything.  After 42 years with her I’m not going to change her pasta eating habits no matter how hard I’ve tried. 00 There she is, our little Della Nonna Sauce maker with our two daughters. So consider this recipe a compromise, like any good marriage.  Her sauce with my pasta choice.   I hope you love her recipe for Della Nonna Sauce as much as I love her….and her sauce.

Time: about 1 hour              Serves: 4

 

1 lb. Cheese or Cheese and Spinach Tortellini

2 1/2 TBS. UNSALTED BUTTER

8 OZ. PROSCIUTTO COTTO (COOKED SLICING HAM), DICED SMALL

1 LARGE FINELY DICED SHALLOT

1/8  CUP VERMOUTH

1 1/2 CUPS HEAVY CREAM, ORGANIC WOULD BE OPTIMAL

1 CUP FROZEN PEAS

3 FRESH BASIL LEAVES

KOSHER SALT,  FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

3/4  CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR ASIAGO, GRATE IT FINELY

EXTRA PARMIGIANO/ASIAGO FOR TOPPING

1 LB. TORTELLINI OR TORTELLONI FILLED WITH SPINACH AND RICOTTA OR PROSCIUTTO, COOK TILL AL DENTE.

 

Start with melting the butter in a wide high sided heavy pan/skillet.  Add the shallots and season with some salt and pepper.  Do not let them brown, takes about 2 minutes.  Now add the ham and cook for about 3 minutes, moving the meat around in the pan.  Add the wine and let this cook for 5 minutes.  Now add the heavy cream and gently stir until all is mixed. Add a few basil leaves and the peas.

Let this simmer for 20 minutes stirring frequently.  The sauce “transitions” from a loose liquid into a thicker liquid.   KEEP STIRRING!!  Now add the tortellini and coat well.  Add the grated Parmigiano and blend it into the pasta.  Taste.  If it needs more seasoning, add more cheese, or more salt (never both) and a nice grinding of the pepper.  Blend.  dellanonna 005How does that look?????  And it tastes even better.  Now here’s my style of saucing this pasta, there will not be a pool of sauce in the bottom of the bowl.  I make this like these pastas are made in Italy.  With a wonderful coating of the sauce on the pasta, not enough for the pasta to go swimming.  If you like more “sauce” in your bowl, increase the Heavy cream to 2 full cups.  So if you want my wife to cook for you, this is basically her recipe with a few of my notes thrown in.  Make no mistake, I’m the daily cook in the house, she had zero interest in cooking. Which is another reason why we are together for so long, the kitchen is mine. LOL. When she does decide to cook I enjoy my plate of Tortellini and she enjoys her Angel Hair.  All the ingredients in this dish work well together, like any good marriage.  Happy Cooking.