What is General Patton doing at Coppola’s?
As 2017 comes to an end I wanted to share a memory of the restaurant. You see our restaurant wasn’t all about my family and I. It was also about our customers. Their memories became our memories. I learned so much from our customers. The following story is about a picture that hung on the wall in Coppola’s Restaurant men’s room. Ever since the picture was hung up on the wall in Coppola’s Restaurant men’s room it stirred up a lot of commotion. The infamous picture was of General Patton on June 6, 1944, when the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy and invaded Europe. The Rhine River was Germany’s ancient line of defense; when American troops crossed the Rhine on March 7, 1945 at Remagen near Cologne, it was all over for the Nazis. General George S. Patton showed his contempt for the Germans by relieving himself into the river. On the rare occasion I went into the men’s room the only thing that I noticed about that 8 x 10 picture was that it looked oddly out of place lost on a blank wall.
In the early 1990’s before my dad passed away, a loyal customer, the late Jim Quinn, brought in the picture because he said our men’s room needed some sprucing up. I found this extremely odd but it’s a men’s room and what do I know! Suffice to say that not only has this picture become a conversation piece for years but it has also provoked people to steal. The picture had been stolen so many times that we kept copies to replace the stolen copy. What’s funny about it is that they always left the frame! But that picture stirred up so many interesting conversations.
A conversation that really stood out was when an out of town gentleman (here for the Vassar College Graduation) after returning from the men’s room wanted to speak to someone about that picture. My face flushed from embarrassment, I just couldn’t get the words out on what General Patton was actually doing trying to explain the picture. The customer was an older stately gentleman and I kept stumbling for words. It was at the end of the evening so I just directed him to the kitchen to speak to Jim. My embarrassment was all for naught since the only reason he wanted to talk about the picture is that he wanted to share his story that he was there with General Patton. This gentleman was one of the engineers from the 150th Engineer Combat Battalion that crossed that Rhine River many times during WW2. Well, I had to look up what exactly did an engineer do during the crossing of the Rhine River over 60 years ago. After reading about the 150th Engineer Combat Battalion, I was extremely impressed. I thought I would take an excerpt from the information I found so you can be equally impressed!
“It was during this week, in late March of 1945, that the U.S. Third Army under Gen. Patton, began its famous bridging and crossing operations of the Rhine. After the completion of the Battle in The Ardennes, Patton and his Army turned to the south and east attacking toward the Rhine. Without the luck of the 9th Armored Division, further to the north, who were able to capture the only intact bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, Patton’s Third Army faced the necessity of bridging the wide river with their own resources. There had been a total of 22 road and 25 railroad bridges spanning the Rhine into Germany, but with the exception of the Remagen Bridge, they had all been destroyed.
In a special order to his men, Patton stated that from late January to late March, “You have taken over 6,400 square miles of territory, seized over 3,000 cities, towns and villages including Trier, Koblenz, Bingen, Worms, Mainz, Kaiserslautern, and Ludwigshafen. You have captured over 140,000 soldiers, killed or wounded an additional 100,000 while eliminating the German 1st and 7th Armies. Using speed and audacity on the ground with support from peerless fighter-bombers in the air, you kept up a relentless round-the-clock attack on the enemy. Your assault over the Rhine at 2200 last night assures you of even greater glory to come.” (After Action Report, Third U.S. Army, page 313)
The first unit to cross was the 5th Infantry Division that used assault rafts to cross the raging Rhine at Oppenheim (west of Darmstadt and south of Mainz) in the early morning hours of March 23. The 150th Engineer Combat Battalion (EC inflated the floats for the bridge in the rear area, moved them to the river in trucks, and by daybreak had assembled them into rafts. By 1880 that evening, a class 40 M-2 Treadway bridge was taking traffic. The following day, a second 1,280-foot class 24 bridge was completed in the same area. It was later upgraded to a class M-40 bridge. Without the benefit of aerial bombardment or artillery preparation, units landed quickly and established a beachhead that was seven miles wide and six miles deep in less than 24 hours. Several amphibious tanks of the 748th Tank Battalion crossed with the men of the 5th ID.
When daylight came, the Luftwaffe attacked the enclave with 154 aircraft in an attempt to dislodge the foothold on the east bank. Effective anti-aircraft fires brought down 18 of the attacking planes and destroyed 15 more.
By March 27, five divisions with supporting troops and supplies had crossed the three bridges constructed at Oppenheim. The entire 6th Armored Division crossed in less than 17 hours. During the period of March 24-31, a total of 60,000 vehicles passed over these bridges. After consolidating on the east bank, the Third Army continued its drive to the east, capturing Darmstadt on March 25, and arriving in Frankfurt the following day.
Working as a well-coordinated unit, the Third Army relied upon trained veteran soldiers, dedicated leadership, an excellent working relationship with the XIX Tactical Air Command, a logistical train that moved all classes of supplies and personnel replacements quickly to the front.}
* See Barry W. Fowle, editor, Builders and Fighters: U.S. Army Engineers in World War II, Office of History, US Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Belvoir, VA, 1992. See especially Fowle, “The Rhine River Crossings,” pp 463-476]
But on this very night that the engineer from the 150th Engineer Combat Battalion from WWII had dinner at our restaurant and proudly recounted his experience with General Patton, we had an unusual coincidence occur. It was 10 pm and I had just locked up the front doors and turned off the sign when someone was knocking at the door. I didn’t know his name but his face was familiar so I couldn’t turn him away. It ended up being Jim Quinn’s son and grandson to have a drink at the bar. If you remember at the start of my story it was Jim Quinn who originally gave us the picture of General Patton. At the time I was thinking that General Patton relieving himself at Coppola’s is still keeping Jim Quinn alive in all of our memories. I really do believe that Jim Quinn must have telepathically sent a message to his son to come in to Coppola’s and have a Manhattan in his honor while he was remembered by all of us!
May all your traditions and special memories keep your loved ones alive this holiday season!
* After reading this memory to Jim he recalled another General Patton memory. Mind you that General Patton picture was always a conversation starter. This particular time started with accusations! It came from the mouth of a much younger gentleman. He was actually screaming at my husband, calling him a thief. Apparently, this young man’s grandfather was the photographer who took this particular photograph. He said there were only two originals and what was one doing in the Coppola’s men’s room. It took some coaxing to calm the young man down and convince him that it was only a copy! Sheesh who knew that a picture could cause so much turmoil! That Jim Quinn knew what he was doing when he wanted to spruce things up or should I say rile up?
See our popular Broiled Shrimp Scampi recipe from our restaurant menu.
Here’s a popular shrimp recipe from our restaurant menu.
1 1/2 lbs. Colossal shrimp (For information on choosing shrimp see my last blog post)
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sherry wine
1 1/2 cups butter (less butter if you don’t plan on serving over pasta)
1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
Lemon wedges (optional)
1. Peel and devein shrimp leaving the tail on then butterfly the shrimp.
2. Place shrimp in a single layer of a shallow pan.
3. Sprinkle with garlic and salt.
4. Place sliced butter on shrimp and drizzle wine over the shrimp.
5. Sprinkle with paprika
6. Broil 3-4 minutes and turn shrimp, broil 3-4 minutes more until opaque. Remove and place over pasta of your choice. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
Happy New Year!
Each year we participate in the Adams Fairacre Farms Food Shows (held within the Garden Shows) where we are featured along with dozens of local food vendors, sampling of our products and our fellow food vendors’ products. Adams Fairacre Farms offers customers a unique Hudson Valley experience that combines gourmet food with a stunning landscape. Admission is free for all.
Poughkeepsie Adams (765 Dutchess Turnpike Poughkeepsie, NY 12603):
Saturday, March 3, 11am-4pm
Kingston Adams (1560 Ulster Avenue Lake Katrine, NY 12449):
saturday, March 10, 11am-4pm
Wappinger Adams (160 Old Post Road Wappinger, NY 12590):
Sunday, March 11, 11am-3pm
This post is going to be a little different. Different is that I will be living surreptitiously through my sister in this story. Even though she lives thousands of miles away in a different time zone we keep in touch through all the current forms of communication. Not only do we FaceTime on our iPhone, we email, use Skype, WhatsApp and Snapchat. Giovanna and her husband Davide have just recently moved to the island of Ischia, located in the Gulf of Naples. Ischia is our mamma’s native island.
If you have been following my blog, one of my passionate topics I talk about is about my mom and Ischia. My mom, suffers from Alzheimers and can’t remember anymore and because of that we try to remember for her. Growing up we took many trips with my parents to Ischia taking for granted everything mamma told us. Both my sister and I remember bits of things that she has told us and we try to piece it all together by researching. We both read as much as we can about Ischia. I even belong to many Facebook groups that have to do with Ischia.
Now, I will make sure to take full advantage of Giovanna living there. I love taking virtual food tours of Ischia. If I see something interesting, Giovanna will go investigate and/or taste it for me. Not only is Giovanna having fun in Ischia imagining walking in our mom’s shoes and remembering her life but I am too.
Giovanna lives in Ischia Ponte where her apartment faces Il Castello Aragonese (the small medieval castle on a large volcanic rock connected by a bridge). The apartment is in the same neighborhood mamma grew up in. This area is where the “Crimson Pirate” was filmed in 1951 starring Burt Lancaster and Eva Bartok.
On New Years Day Giovanna told me she was going for a walk to Cartaromana. Cartaromana is a small beach about a 20 minute walk from Il Castello Aragonese. It’s a beautiful small beach complete with hot springs. Every time we visited Ischia we made sure to go there. Even when I was older I brought my children there and they had the pleasure of experiencing this beach. We always made sure to eat at Ristorante da Maria on the beach, which is still there. My mom loved for all of us to enjoy the coniglio Ischitana, the famous rabbit recipe that Ischia is famous for. There is nothing like Ischitana cuisine.
While Giovanna took her leisurely walk I asked her to take pictures along the way and share with me. And she did through snap chat! I saved the pictures so you can all experience the walk to Cartaromana through Giovanna’s camera lens and perhaps you will enjoy it as much as I did!
I came across Panettone di Ischia on Instagram. I asked Giovanna about it. She said she has been seeing them in all the bakery shops. I decided to make one so I can feel like I am there. So while I walk with Giovanna through Cartoromana I have been enjoying a piece of panetonne with a cup of espresso. Tell me if it doesn’t look the same! It was delicious. Here’s the recipe I used!
Panettone di Ischia by instagram voraciinsud
My version of Panettone di Ischia. Sip an espresso while munching on this panettone and let’s pretend we are with Giovanna and Davide in Ischia!
See my recipe for slow rise panettone.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, December 2008
1 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons gold rum
2 tablespoons hot water
3-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon warm honey
12-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (10-1/2 tablespoons softened and cut into tablespoons; 1 tablespoon melted, 1 tablespoon chilled)
1. In the small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum and 2 tablespoons hot water, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 8 hours. I also have forgotten to soak raisins overnight so I even have let them soak for just 30 minutes.
2. In the bowl of the stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, lemon zest, and vanilla bean at low speed.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, 2/3 cup lukewarm water, and honey.
4. While the mixer runs at low speed, pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium-low and continue mixing.
5. Add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing completely before adding each. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
6. Drain the raisins, and discard the liquid. Stir the raisins with the melted butter. Stir into the dough with a wooden spoon.
7. Place the dough in the large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a cold oven with the door closed for about 12 to 15 hours, until the dough is nearly tripled in volume.
8. Discard the vanilla bean. Rub your hands with flour, sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with some flour, and turn out onto a floured board. Sprinkle a little more flour onto the dough.
9. Flatten the dough and fold the edges into the center.
10. Place seam side down into the panettone mold. Cover with a damp tea towel (not terry cloth) ( I forgot this step and used plastic wrap and it worked fine too) and let rise in a draft-free spot at room temperature about 3 to 5 hours, until dough is just above the top of the mold. If it doesn’t rise just have patience and wait a little longer. My oven has a proofer so I proofed it for 3 hours and then turned off oven and left in the oven for 6 hours longer. It was perfect!
11. Place the rack in the lower third (closer to the bottom than the middle) of the oven and preheat to 375° (If the dough is too high in the oven, the top will brown before the middle is cooked, resulting in a burned top crust.)
12. Place the dough in the mold on a baking sheet. Use a serrated knife to score and X across the entire surface of the dough. Place 1 tablespoon chilled butter in the center of the X.
13. Bake in the preheated oven about 1 to 1-1/4 hours, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out slightly moist but not wet or doughy. The panettone will be very dark (but should not be burned). At about 45 minutes into the baking, I put a piece of foil over the panettone to avoid getting it too dark.
14. Pierce the skewers all the way through the panettone and through the papers. Hang the panettone upside down over a stock pot or between two objects of equal height. I used wooden skewers and the bread was too heavy for them. Metal skewers are better. I also skipped this step and the panettone was still very good.
2 small bowls
stand mixer with paddle attachment
large bowl, for rising the dough
6 x 4-inch panettone mold
2 (12-inch) metal skewers
Rising plus prep time – 23 hours or more
Cook time – 1 hour 30 mins
Total time – 24 hours 30 mins
The following is what makes the panettone an Ischiatano one!
15. Make a pastry cream – I used this recipe from this web
16. Either make your own candied lemon peels or buy them already made. I made my own Julliene Candied Lemon Peel using the following method
17. Peel paper off of cooled panettone and slice through the middle making 2 halves.
18. Spread the Pastry Cream and put halves together
19. Make a white chocolate ganache
20. Spread the white chocolate ganache on filled panettone. and add Julienne candied lemon peel, chopped candied almonds, and a candied red cherry.
Enjoy! And pretend you are in Ischia!
Just days away from Christmas Eve, I have been thinking about what seven fishes I should make for our traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner. Being that both of my parents grew up near the Gulf of Naples in Italy (my dad from Monte di Procida on the mainland and my mom on the Island of Ischia) fish was a focal part of many meals. My mom came from a long line of prominent fishermen. Her uncles and grandfather were tall strapping men who made fishing their living. While my dad’s family on the other hand, made their living farming. Fishing was just a favorite past time, a perk of living just a mile from the sea. Because of my family’s passion for salt water fishing, my siblings and I spent a major part of our summers fishing on the Long Island Sound. So needless to say, getting fish for our Christmas Eve dinner was always an adventure for choosing the freshest and tastiest fish. All this passion for fish also resonated into our restaurant menu. Our restaurant was one of the first restaurants in the Hudson Valley to introduce calamari to their clientele. For this month’s recipe I thought I would give you our Shrimp Marinara recipe. It’s a simple recipe using our authentic marinara sauce that we used in the restaurant, the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce. As a recurring theme with all of my recipe,s the attention to all the ingredients is what sets us apart from the rest. To make this Shrimp Marinara truly special and mouth watering, I would like to share my knowledge from my family’s passion for seafood. There is so much to know when choosing your shrimp for this recipe!
There are dozens of different species of shrimp. Shrimp are available with the heads and tails on or off, with the shell on or cleaned, and deveined or intact. One can choose from pre-cooked, frozen, fresh, or previously frozen. And then one has to wonder whether to buy shrimp or prawns.
I have included some information to help you decide on some of the following questions:
1.What size shrimp to get?
A shrimp’s size is measured by the number of individual shrimp it takes to make up a pound. A label of 16/20 means that there are between 16 and 20 of these shrimp in a pound.
The smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. These labels like “medium” or “jumbo” aren’t regulated and vary depending on the fish monger. Here’s a general guide when picking shrimp for a recipe.Small – 51 shrimp or more per pound
Medium – 36 to 50 shrimp per pound
Large – 26 to 40 shrimp per pound
Jumbo – 16 to 25 shrimp per pound
Colossal – Fewer than 15 shrimp per pound
2. What types of shrimp are there to choose from?
By color: When one thinks of shrimp you think about the color like brown, white, or pink shrimp.
Brown shrimp mostly come from the Gulf of Mexico, though they’re found down the entire Atlantic coast. They like it warm, so they’re found in shallow waters, and tend to be fairly small with a purple-ish coloring on the tail. Firm in texture, their flavor isn’t the strongest, though they’re thought to have a distinctive mineral-y iodine shrimp flavor.
White shrimp tend to be a little more tender and sweet. With a slightly lighter color and a green-hued tail, they’re found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in shallow, muddy waters. There’s also a good number of white shrimp imported from Latin America—especially Mexico and Ecuador—Thailand, and China, all with varying levels of sustainability ratings (see the seafood watch reports for more details.)
Pink shrimp are some of the tastiest shrimp you can find, mild and sweet without the distinctive ammonia taste some of the brown and white shrimp have. Just don’t expect a vibrantly hued patch of shrimp at the market—pink shrimp can range from white to gray in color. You can recognize them by dark blue coloring on the tail; they usually also sport a spot on either side of the body, about three quarters of the way to the tail.
By name: Tiger shrimp, Spot Prawn, Rock Shrimp
Tiger Shrimp are found mostly in Asia, especially in Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, and China, tiger shrimp have telltale brown striping on their bodies. They can get enormous in size, up to a foot long, and are the most commonly farmed shrimp in the world. Formed or fresh, they can have a distinctly shrimp flavor, you’ll frequently find them frozen in five-pound blocks in Asian markets. These shrimp have a soft texture.
Spot Prawn– Prawn is a word generally used, among English-speakers, in the UK, Europe, and Australia, while the word “shrimp” is more common in North America. Some people may have the mistaken impression that a prawn is necessarily a bigger creature than a shrimp (possibly due to the other meaning of the word shrimp). In reality, there’s no difference between the two words. Yet for whatever reason, even in the US, the spot prawn is always referred to as a prawn and not a shrimp. It’s found along the Pacific coast from Alaska down to Mexico, and is a delicacy in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. A fairly large shrimp, at up to a foot long, spot prawns are prized for their sweetness and tenderness.
Rock shrimp are deepwater inhabitants, growing tough and hardy in the cold waters off the Atlantic coast from Virginia down to the Gulf. A few species also live off the Pacific coast. They don’t look at all like their warm water cousins, boasting a very hard (dare I say rock-like) shell and segmented flesh that looks more like a lobster tail than anything else. It tastes, not surprisingly, kind of like lobster, more firm than other varieties of shrimp, but also sweeter. It’s excellent in preparations that typically call for lobster, and a whole lot cheaper to boot. It’s pretty much impossible to remove that tough shell without a dedicated machine, so it’s usually sold pre-peeled.
3. How do you know if they are fresh?
Shrimp are highly perishable, so it’s important to know how to pick out the freshest shrimp available, not just for taste and texture but also for safety. First off, you don’t want any shrimp that smell like ammonia—this is a telltale sign of spoilage, and it’s worth asking your fishmonger if you can take a sniff before buying. You’ll also want to avoid shrimp that are limp, slimy, or falling apart, all of which are signs of decay.
A more advanced sign if you’re buying head-on fresh shrimp: look for black spots on the head first, then the body.
In most cases, you’re better off buying frozen shrimp, even when “fresh” shrimp are available.
4. Do you get fresh or frozen?
Most shrimp sold in the supermarket or at the fishmonger were deep frozen at sea and delivered to the retailer in that state. That display of “fresh” shrimp you see are just the same bags of frozen shrimp you find in the freezer that have simply been allowed to thaw out in the store before going on display. There’s no way to know how long they’ve been there defrosted, so you’re better off buying the frozen shrimp and defrosting them yourself at home where you have more control over the process and can guarantee that your shrimp don’t spend too long out of the freezer before being cooked. You can also ask the fishmonger for a box of shrimp.
The one exception to the always-buy-frozen rule is when you have access to live shrimp, either fresh from the ocean, or stored in tanks at the shop. In those cases, cook the shrimp as soon as possible after purchasing for best flavor and texture.
5. Block or IQF?
Shrimp tend to be frozen either in large five-pound blocks or by using the IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) method. We recommend opting for the second. IQF shrimp tend to show less damage during freezing. They also make it easy to thaw only the shrimp you need for a single meal at a time.
If you’re buying from a grocery store freezer, take a peek in the little transparent plastic to make sure there is no freezer burn. Freezer burn indicates that the shrimp have either partially thawed before being refrozen, or have been poorly handled during their freeze, both of which are bad for texture and flavor.
6. How do you thaw frozen shrimp?
Frozen shrimp should always be thawed before cooking. To thaw frozen shrimp take them out of their bag and place them in a bowl under cold (not warm) running water. They’ll be good to go in just a few minutes. Dry your shrimp on paper towels before proceeding with your recipe.
7. Do you get them with shells?
I recommend shell-on shrimp. Shelled shrimp are often mangled and unappetizing. Shell-on shrimp also tend to be much cheaper. Finally, those shells pack a sweet, flavorful punch, whether you grill the shrimp directly in the shell, or use the shells to add flavor to the final dish like in this Spanish-style shrimp.
EZ-peel shrimp are already split and deveined—you’ll be able to hold onto those flavorful shells and they’ll make your job that much easier. And they are much more expensive. If you’re making something where the shrimp’s appearance doesn’t matter—dumplings, for instance—go for it. But if you want a good looking array for something like shrimp cocktail, you’ll probably want to peel ’em yourself. In either case, be sure to hold onto your shells: they can be simmered with aromatics to make a flavorful seafood stock, sauce, or oil.
8. Does one devein or not?
The “vein” of a shrimp is actually its digestive tract, typically a thin, dark line aka shrimp poop. It’s not bad if you eat it, but it could be sandy and bitter and it’s easy enough to get rid of it. There are a few methods to devein a shrimp. The first and easiest is to just ask your fishmonger to do it. No tools are required for this method.
But it’s pretty easy to do it yourself, as well. You can, with a paring knife, make a shallow incision right through the shell on the shrimp’s back, from its head to its tail, and then pick out the vein.
9. What about choosing Pre-Cooked Shrimp?
“Pre-cooked” shrimp are usually “overcooked” shrimp. They’re rubbery and bland, and since they’re already cooked, offer no room for flavor improvement and will end up dry when added to dishes. I say don’t bother!
10. Do we check for additives?
Shrimp are occasionally treated with chemical additives designed to increase their thawed shelf life or to get them to suck up and retain excess moisture so that they can be sold as larger shrimp. Check your label and make sure that it lists only “Shrimp” before purchasing.
See our Shrimp Marina recipe.
1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce
1 ½ lb of 12/16 shrimp ( On the chart it would be either a jumbo shrimp or colossal) 5 shrimp per person
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced
¼ cup of sherry wine
¼ tsp of salt (optional)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1. Peel and devein the shrimp washing them in cold water. You can leave the tails on for extra flavor when sautéing. Remember how I said that the shrimp peels are very flavorful.
2. Add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, thinly sliced garlic and shrimp to a skillet.
3. Over medium heat cooks until the shrimp turn opaque to white. Probably takes about 5 minutes. Immediately turn off heat and deglaze with sherry wine and put in parsley.
4. Add jar of 24-ounce 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce. Heat over medium heat until sauce starts to bubble. It cooks quick. Don’t overcook or the shrimp will become rubbery.
5. Ready to serve. You may serve it over pasta of your choice.
Buon Natale e Buon Appetito!
As I reach this new phase of my life with the last of my kids planning her wedding, I wonder how I got here? I think it all started with a bunch of firsts:
I was the first born American in a huge Italian family.
I was the first to go to school without knowing a word of English.
I was the first in my family to eat canned spaghetti. (I had no choice because it was served at the school cafeteria. I had to eat it as the Catholic nun was glaring at me to swallow. I have to say it was the worst thing I ever had and so sad that mamma sent me to school without a bag lunch.)
I was the first to date a non- Italian ( It was a big revolt in the family over that first! There was even a family council over this and major discussions with a wooden spoon. Ouch!)
And I ended being the first to marry the non-Italian ( I fought hard and won. I think all my younger siblings and cousins should grovel at my feet for that. Because gasp! I broke the Italian seal of approval!)
The first to go to college.
The first to get a job that didn’t involve food. ( I became an accountant)
I was the first grandchild to take my Nonna for a drive in my car. (I drove her over the bridge twice because instead of getting off the ramp I continued back on the bridge. Nonna was wondering where we were going while she held on to her rosary beads. I lied and told her we had to take a detour while thinking I need to go to confession!)
Getting my car license really opened up my world of firsts. Because of it, I picked up Mexican take out. It was the first time I ate Mexican and introduced my mom and siblings to tortillas.
I had my first bagel at the Marist College cafeteria. I never tasted anything so delicious. Who knew that bread boiled and baked could taste so good!
Not only have I come a long way but I paved the way for the rest of my American born family! When I think of my own children I am proud that I made their childhood a little more normal than mine. Even what I keep in the refrigerator has changed big time. I go back to one odd memory of growing up. Of course, I didn’t realize it was odd because this is all my brother and I knew! On Saturday mornings whilst my parents slept my brother and I would slyly raid the fridge. Peering in with our eyes wide open, the fridge was an adventure! While Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon played in the background we grabbed a lemon to share, cutting it in half and poured salt over the it. We also grabbed the bottle of olives and helped ourselves to a few. Reaching in further or I should say as I reached in because being the oldest I had the longest reach, I would find glistening in the rear the red, green and yellow hot cherry peppers. Nick and I would grab forks and pierce a pepper each. If we were lucky there were leftover anchovies. What can I say? Was this weird? Or maybe there were other choices but our palates craved for what we knew I need to ask my children what snack did they sneak? I really do hope I gave them more normal options like bagels and cream cheese! Or maybe tortilla chips! Â In honor of my Saturday ritual with my brother, I am sharing our restaurant recipe of Chicken Scarpariello. It’s a little different than most recipes because we only used boneless chicken breasts. Hope you enjoy the hot cherry peppers as much as my brother and I do! Maybe you can put on Rocky and Bullwinkle and make it complete!
PS I love hot cherry peppers so much that I make my own every summer! I pickled them with black peppercorns, bay leaves and peeled garlic this year! Also Scarpariello means shoemaker. Don’t ask! It makes no sense to me why it’s called that.
See our Chicken Scarpareiello recipe.
4 Boneless Chicken breasts about a pound
½ cup of flour
Canola Oil for frying
4 cloves of garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ cup of white wine
½ chicken stock
½ cup of butter
4 hot cherry peppers packed in vinegar (slivered with seeds removed)
4 small Yukon potatoes (peeled and sliced in rounds boiled until tender)
- Cut chicken in chunks.
- Place cut up chicken in a zip lock bag with flour, salt and pepper to taste and shake.
- Place in a colander and shake off flour
- Fry chicken in Canola Oil
- Drain chicken on paper towels
- Slice garlic and
- Saute garlic in 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until a pale brown
- Add wine, chicken stock, and butter and cook on medium heat (salt and pepper to taste)
- Add cooked chicken and potatoes and cook until bubbly.
- You may add a few tablespoons of vinegar that peppers were packed in for extra tartness
- My Pickled Hot Cherry Peppers with black peppercorns, bay leaves and peeled garlic!
One of our most popular dishes that we served in the restaurant was “Spaghetti and Meatballs”. A big dish of spaghetti with 2 large meatballs doused with our delicious tomato sauce was a big seller. Twice a week the chefs would be busy mixing the ground meat in a huge mixer and then rolling 500 meatballs at a time. People loved this dish! Spaghetti and meatballs is a standard Italian dish served at Italian restaurants all over the US. Notice I said the US. It is not a typical dish served in Italy. If you go to Italy, you won’t find this dish on restaurant menus and if you do it’s probably in a tourist spot to make the American tourist happy. Italy does have a version of meatballs called polpettes. But they a very different. They are usually eaten as a meal itself or in soups. They are made with different meat from turkey to fish. And they are as small as marbles or as large as a golf ball. Nothing like the baseball or softball sized American meatballs.
Polpettes are usually found more at the family table than on a restaurant menu. My grandmother made delicious meatballs that I looked forward to on Sunday dinner with the family. Pellegrino Artusi was a Florentine silk merchant who in his retirement travelled Italy and recorded recipes. He became famous when he published the first regional cookbook, The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well for the home chef in 1891. When he talked about polpettes he said “Non crediate che io abbia la pretensione d’insegnarvi a far le polpette. Questo è un piatto che tutti lo sanno fare cominciando dal ciuco,” which translates, “Don’t think I’m pretentious enough to teach you how to make meatballs. This is a dish that everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” So needless to say, Italian version of meatballs was an incredibly easy dish to make.
So, you may ask how did those large meatballs doused with tomato sauce over spaghetti evolve from polpettes. It’s the common story shared by all immigrants traveling to America. They have to make do with ingredients they can find and afford.
Four million Italians (mostly from southern Italy) immigrated to America from 1880 to 1920. Because the majority of Italians that came were from Southern Italy their cuisine made a huge mark on the Italian/American culture. When these poor immigrants came to the US they found that their income increased so that they were able to spend more money on food. They ended up going from eating meat once a week to eating meat every day! And meat was consumed in much larger quantities. So, the small moist polpettes made with 50% bread and 50% meat that they enjoyed in Italy changed to larger denser meatballs made with mostly beef.
I have to tell you as popular as the restaurant meatball was, I preferred my Nonna’s meatballs. There was a huge difference! Nonna’s meatballs were soft and succulent while the restaurant meatballs were large and dense. I think it’s because Nonna made polpettes not the Italian/American meatball. Here are a few secrets to get a truly soft succulent meatball.
- Use 50% meat and 50% bread.
- Use day old bread soaked in either water or milk.
- Overcooking meat for too long gets dry and tough but the bread keeps it moist.
- Do not over mix the meatball mixture. Overmixing make a denser meatball.
Now that I have shared the secret to making a perfect meatball the rest is easy. And this is why Pellegrino Artusi said, “everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” Not only am I going to share my Nonna’s meatball recipe but I will also include a gluten free version, a vegan, and a vegetarian recipe. My Nonna’s recipe includes raisins and pignoli ( very popular additions in Neapolitan cooking). You can omit them if not something that your family may like. The gluten free recipe I developed for my daughter who is on a gluten free diet. They are also very good but not as light and airy as Nonna’s. The Gluten free meatballs are dense like the Italian/American version. Also, some recipes may ask for bread crumbs instead of the soaked bread. These meatballs will be denser. I also included a vegetarian meatball made with zucchini and a vegan meatball made with eggplant. In Italy polpette are made with a variety of ingredients. Enjoy tryin the different versions!
See our recipe for Nonna’s Neapolitan Meatballs.