Chicken Scallopini alla Francese

cartoon chicken ala francese  “My dad was the first of his brothers to leave the apartment life over the restaurant to buy a house in the countryside.   The first day in our new home was both exciting and scary.  Living only with our immediate family without all of our Italian speaking aunts, uncles and cousins was an entirely new experience for us!  I even got my own room!! Mornings were so quiet!  No more dishes, pots and pans clinging and clanging!  As much as it was strange for us to go from an apartment dwelling with my huge Italian speaking family it was strange for our neighbors to have Italian immigrants that barely spoke English move into their community.  

     The first little girl I met was a pretty red haired girl the same age as I was! I was intrigued by her beautiful straight red hair!  She was just as awestruck by my long unruly curly hair and olive complexion.   My first day of school was a little intimidating. It was hard for me to fit in.  My parents were really stuck on making sure I knew my roots and were afraid that I would lose my Italian heritage if I became Americanized. It wasn’t only my Italian heritage; my dad had this old world opinion of what girls should be allowed to do. Because of my parents’ immigrant mentality and old world views they were reluctant to allow me to participate in childhood activities that my friends were accustomed too.  But my new friend made things so much easier.  She introduced me to her four best friends.   But instead of ignoring me my little group of friends accepted me for who I was.  On the other hand, it wasn’t as easy with my classmates.  I learned early on to hide a part of myself.  I was known as the shy quiet girl.

   That little red haired girl and her friends were the only ones that got to know the real me.  I was myself with them.  I couldn’t help but let the loud Italian me out! They understood the struggles that I had with Italian and American culture and they helped me assimilate.  The little red haired girl taught me how to feed oatmeal to her baby sheep.   My short,  cute friend shared her beautiful Ukrainian Easter Eggs! My Hungarian friend shared her family ghost stories!  My other friend introduced me to cheese danishes. And then there was my friend who lived on the other side of town;  she showed me that Dads came home at 5 o’clock with dinner waiting for them!  I learned that I too could fit in the American melting pot!

  The bond that I made 50 years ago with those friends was never broken! In fact we still are the best of friends and love hanging out with each other. We are all grown up now with children and grandchildren. As different as we all became, living in different states with a menagerie of careers, we are exactly what the old saying says,”The more things change, the more things stay the same!”  We all share that one thing that has kept us together all these years – the willingness to accept each other for who we are.

  Some of us  met up this summer and spent a few days together. We went to the little red haired girl’s lakeside home and I cooked for them!  Please read on as I share the recipe I made for them!!”

Paula, Jodie, and Mary!!

Paula, Jodie and Mary!!


 

Francese Sauce

finished frances dish

 

Ingredients:

1 cup of chicken stock (unsalted)

5 TBSP butter

Juice of 1 ½ lemons (1/4 cup)

3 dashes of Tabasco

3 oz of sherry or white wine ( milder)

½ tsp salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

2 sprigs of chopped Italian parsley

*Prepared Chicken Scallopini

 

Procedure:

Add all ingredients to prepared chicken scallopini and the whole wedges of lemon. ( you also prepare sauce seperately and add chicken later)

add all ingredients to francese

and simmer on medium heat until reduced and slightly thickened about 10 minutes. Remove chicken  and wedges of lemon and finish simmering until thickened.  Just about 2-3 minutes.

francese reducing

 

This sauce can be used for veal, chicken, shrimp, filet of sole, soft shell crabs….

Plate chicken and pour sauce over.  Garnish with a sprig of parsley.

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*We used chicken for this recipe:

  A package of 2 skinless boneless breasts. Depending on the size of the breast…slice it into 3 horizontal slices .  Take each slice and cut it in half.  You will have 6 pieces.  Sometimes the meat departments will sell the chicken already in large scallopini slices which you will still have to slice in half.    

     Take one of the slices and put it in a plastic gallon size freezer bag ( freezer bags are thicker than the regular storage bags) using the flat part of the meat cleaver pound 3-4 times on one side and then flip to pound the chicken on the other side.  Do this to all the other 5 slices.  Using plastic freezer bags makes it easier to keep your kitchen clean and sanitary.

    Beat up three eggs in a bowl and put ½  cup of flour (you may need more)  in another bowl.  Salt the slices of chicken on both sides, dredge in flour and then in the beaten egg.  These slices are then fried in a pan with vegetable oil until  golden in color.  Don’t worry if they aren’t cooked through because we finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.  After all the chicken has been prepared we set it aside and make the Francese Sauce.

Buon’ Appetito!!

and as my friends taught me to say:

“Dig In”!

 

 

Deviled Crab Meat Stuffing

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      Trying to wake up my memory from the 1960’s when the restaurant first began I decided to study the first dinner menu. I counted 183 menu items.  In fact there was nothing anyone could want that wasn’t listed on that menu.  Not only were there many items but they were really odd entrees. On the cold appetizers category I noticed they had tuna packed in oil. (Did people really go into a restaurant and ask for tuna packed in oil on a plate?) Oh and let me point out that we had a California Fresh Fruit Cup listed on the menu!! (Is California fruit better than Florida fruit? Why not local fruit?) They also served veal kidneys, tripe and chicken livers! There was even a category for omelet’s. Through the years  the menu was shortened and thankfully they dropped the word California from fresh fruit cup. We stopped serving pizza and organ foods except for chicken livers. We tried to take chicken livers off the menu but the customers revolted and we apologetically put it back on the menu.

     The chicken livers entree on the menu was always a surprise to me. In the latter years these 2 lawyers came to the restaurant  that I recall serving when I was a little girl. They had retired to Florida and met up for a lunch date to relive the olden days and they both gleefully ordered the Chicken Livers Marsala. I was thinking to myself “Are you kidding me?” With all the most delicious things on the menu that the restaurant is famous for they ordered Chicken Livers????

    As I perused through the whole menu, I noticed that a lot of the menu consisted of Italian-American foods. Most of the entree are not served in Italy. My family is from Naples, Italy. I wanted to find something, anything that came from their hometown. I found that the menu represented a melting pot of items of all the places that my dad and his brothers worked before they opened up their own restaurant. They worked in American pizzerias, French restaurants, American Grilles, and Italian/American restaurants. They also consulted with their uncle Zio Monico who had a restaurant (The New Corner Italian Restaurant) which to this day is still open in Brooklyn from 1936. They used the uncle’s menu for ideas too! Now I know why the restaurant menu had 183 items. Not only did it represent every eatery they worked at but also their uncle’s Brooklyn restaurant.

  There were many different pasta and sauces. And lots of parmigiana entrees and even spaghetti parmigiana! But what exactly is parmigiana and did that come from Italy? I remember one year when we all went to Italy on vacation, we went out to eat and an American friend that came with us wanted Chicken ala Parmigiana. We were in Capri at a small local restaurant. You have to understand that in the Naples area when you go into a small restaurant there are no menus. The patriarch, aka my dad, asks what they have. For appetizers, it’s always the staples, some charcuterie and cheese or fresh caught octopus, shellfish etc…. For secondo- it’s always the pasta of the day that they prepare. And then the entrée is just a plain bistecca or some fresh caught fish. Sometimes they may have roasted chicken. I felt bad for my friend when he asked for Chicken Parmigiana. The waiter in his typical Napolitano way, hunched his shoulders, put his cupped hand up in a gesture, and with a look of utter disgust exclaimed in Napolitano “Where do you come from!”

     With a little research I found that Parmigiana has nothing to do with cheese or the Parma region! Parmigiana is a southern Italian dish based upon melanzane alla parmigiana, what we call eggplant parmigiana. (My family doesn’t put tomato sauce on eggplant parmagiana, it is individual servings of eggplant where an egg cheese mixture is sandwiched in between eggplant dipped in eggwash, floured and fried.) Adding veal or chicken in place of eggplant is an invention of the Italian immigrant communities in the U.S. The name itself may come from a Sicilian word, parmiciana — for the slats of wood in a shutter, which overlap in the same way as the slices of eggplant in the dish.

       Okay! I am beginning to understand the thought process to this menu. But where is our Italian Napolitano roots represented in this menu! There must be something! In my last blog I was surprised that they didn’t even call espresso by it’s name but by demitasse.

     And there it was! At a quick glance I thought it was a typo…..but over and over …..like a glowing firefly in the dark. There it was! The very essence of my Napolitano roots!! Finally!!!

     I wished they highlighted it or capitalized the letters. Or maybe they should have made the font bold and huge! Wait for it!! Here it comes!!

They spelled mozzarella….muzzarella!!!

     Muzzarella is the Napolitano pronunciation for mozzarella. Muzzarella is like music to my ears. It is home! And there it was on the first menu…… Muzzarella! The only thing Napolitano on that first menu that represented the three immigrant chefs!!

You will never see that word written! But  you may hear an Italian/American say that word in it’s shortened version…..Muzz!


Deviled Crab Meat Stuffing

“This stuffing has been a favorite amongst our customers through the years.  It has been a sought after recipe.  The only reason of  our reluctance to share was only that there are so many steps in making this coveted dish.  I believe this recipe originated from a dish served at one of the restaurants that the brothers had worked at in the 1950’s.  I want to say it comes from Nick Beni’s Anchor Inn. I am sure it has been tweeked from the original recipe. Take your time and enjoy!!”

Ingredients:

16 oz Crabmeat (lump or claw)

9 oz Sherry

3 large mushrooms

1 medium onion ( 2cups of finely chopped onion)

1 ½ sticks of butter ( 12 TBS butter)

1 quart of whole milk

¾ cup of clam juice ( reserved from 4 cherry stone clams) or buy clam juice in a bottle at grocery store

4 cherry stone clams finely chopped, optional

19 oz flour

10 oz corn starch

10 oz shortening

1 ¼ tsp egg food coloring

¾ cup of water

11 oz water

1  TBS salt

1 ½ tsp ground black pepper

1 ½ tsp oregano

Utensils:

2 medium pots, 1  large (2 gallon) pot 1 bowl, whisk, knife,  measuring cup, measuring spoons.

Procedures:

  1. Finely chop onions. Set aside.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 052
  2. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Slice and dice whole mushrooms (stems and all). Set aside.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 054
  3. Coarsely chop crabmeat. Set aside.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 057
  4. Combine the 2 cups of finely chopped onions, ¾ cup of water, 12 TBS butter in a pot over high heat until it comes to a boil then lower the heat to simmer.  Continue simmering  on low heat while the rest of the ingredients are put together.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 053
  5. Corn Starch preparation: In a bowl with 1 cup of cold water  slowly add 10 oz of corn starch whisking vigorously to avoid clumping.  The mixture will set up and become thick. Set aside.  Don’t worry if corn starch sinks to the bottom.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 058
  6. Rue: In a very large pot ( all the ingredients will be combined in this pot)  melt  10 oz of vegetable shortening on low heat. Turn off heat and remove pot from the burner. Slowly add flour  until all the flour is mixed in and the  rue becomes thick.  End product should be the consistency of a thick paste.  Deviled crabmeat stuffing 059
  7. Clam Juice: Either buy a bottle of clam juice found at your grocer. Or shuck 4 cherry stone clams reserving ¾ cup of the juice and chopping the clams and adding it to the mixture. One may even add small tiny shrimp to this.  We have done both in the restaurant.
  8. In a separate pot warm 1 quart of milk with 1 ¼ tsp of yellow food coloring over medium heat.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 060

 

      At this point there will be 3 pots and a bowl.   You will have the large pot with the rue, smaller pot with onion mixture, small pot with the yellow warm milk and a bowl of cornstarch mixture.  At this point we will start combining the prepared ingredients.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 062

 

  1. To the pot with the onion mixture add the 9 oz of sherry , chopped mushrooms, chopped crabmeat, chopped clams (optional) and  ¾ cups of clam juice.  Keep simmering on low heat.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 061
  2. Start warming up the rue again and when it starts to bubble slowly add the yellow milk mixture and vigorously whisk so that no lumps form and the yellow mixture is thickening. Keep stirring until you take it off the heat or it will burn. It should become a very thick and smooth.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 063
  3. Turn off heat on onion mixture and slowly pour into the yellow rue and stir until smooth.  Bring to a boil.   You will see bubbles and popping.  Turn off heat.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 066
  4. Add the seasoning: 1 TBS salt, 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper, 1 ½ tsp oregano
  5. Taste it and see if it to your liking. This is the time to adjust the seasoning. Add a little more salt if you like.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 067
  6. Stir the cornstarch mixture in the bowl. If the cornstarch sank to the bottom and will be hard just keep stirring until it is all blended again.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 058
  7. Put the yellow mixture on medium heat until it becomes bubbly again. Add the corn starch mixture in small doses ( like in 10  parts) .  Whisk the corn starch continuosly. Continuosly stirring and completely incorporating the cornstarch during each addition. It will become very thick where it is hard to turn the whisk. You may want to have someone hold the pot in place as you stir.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 068Deviled crabmeat stuffing 069
  8. Let it cool and then place in refrigerator to set.

 

This is a large batch and it yields 11 cups of stuffing. You can freeze it.  But it needs to be portioned out in balls and wrapped  individually and put it freezer.  We never froze it in the restaurant but for the home cook these are large portions.  I even stuffed clams shells and wrapped each one and then froze them.  The frozen balls can then be put on shrimp or wrap filet of sole around them and placed in oven.

** Suggestion:  Timing is critical in this recipe.  Have all the ingredients and utensils ready.  Please be sure to have all the pots of ingredients boiling hot when they are added except for the milk. You can turn off the heat while you get to next stage but be sure to bring to temperature when you are ready to add to the final stage.  (Milk should be hot but not boiling as it will burn.)

 

For  stuffed clams the oven is preheated to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle paprika on stuffed clams and drizzled with olive oil. Bakes 20-30 minutes depending on size and amount of stuffing.  I generously stuff the clams.  Bake until the tops of clams are light brown and crispy.  Then serve.Deviled crabmeat stuffing 070

 

For stuffed shrimp:   Roll a large a heaping table spoon of stuffing into a small log and place in the middle of a shrimp. 3-4 shrimp per person.  Put in a casserole with a little water on bottom top with mozzarella cheese and drizzle with melted butter.  Bake in  350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Buon Appetito!!


 

“Un Caffé” and a Alfredo Sauce Recipe

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      “Maybe it’s because I grew up bilingual but I always took a great interest in words.   It was always a language challenge to grow up in a bilingual household. The spoken word was not always what it was meant to be. So much so, that I would always double check before something came out of my mouth whether it was English or Italian. But what was even more perplexing was the written word, for example, the restaurant menu.  As a little girl I would often hear the wait staff ordering demitasse.  Like what the heck is demitasse?  I looked on an old 1960’s menu and there it was  “Italian Demitasse for two”!  Demitasse is the French word for small cup.  It also the word used for serving coffee in a small cup. I read somewhere that demitasse is also the name for Turkish coffee.  But why would an Italian restaurant run by Italian immigrants refer to espresso as demitasse?  As the years went by, demitasse was soon replaced on the restaurant menu as expresso!! What was going on?  Was it a typo from the printers? I do remember everyone calling it expresso.  Didn’t they know how to pronounce espresso?  Was this typo causing customers and wait staff to pronounce it wrong?  Even at that young age I accepted  that everyone was language challenged! Maybe the reason the wait staff referred to coffee as either brown or black was to avoid mispronouncing espresso!

    Through research I found that it was the norm in Italian restaurants to spell espresso with an x until the 70’s when there was a huge revolt.  So it wasn’t a typo! Ordering an expresso in the 1970’s was so cringe worthy to baristas that they would wear t-shirts with the “There is no X in espresso!” slogan.  So in the 70’s the restaurant menu went through another metamorphosis and listed  Italian coffee as espresso.  Phew!  It took a few years but all is right with the world now!

  All this fuss over an espresso.  In Italy it is quite simple.  They don’t even say espresso!  Italians elbow themselves up to a coffee bar utter a greeting followed by “un caffé”.  It is served quickly in a very tiny cup filled half way up with rich dark coffee and a layer of foam. The Italian without sitting, downs the espresso and is on his way.  Oh wait!  Is that why in America it’s referred to as express….o?

   Oh!  By the way, expresso is served in Spain, Portugal and France. But let it be known that the way espresso is made was invented and perfected in Italy. So it’s settled!  Espresso it is!!!”

alfredo sauce 021

Alfredo Sauce

Ingredients:

1 tsp salt

1 pint of heavy cream

1 tsp flour

2 egg yolks

10 TBS salted butter

4 dashes of Tabasco

3 heaping TBS of grated imported Peccorino Romano Cheese ( grated Parmagiano cheese can also be used)  (The imported Pecorino Romano cheese is saltier )

White pepper is optional

1 tsp of chopped parsley

Procedures:

Whisk together egg yolks, cream, flour, salt and Tabasco in a bowl.

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Melt butter in a skillet.

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Slowly add cream mixture to skillet while whisking the whole time. 

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Add the Imported Pecorino Romano cheese and contimue to whisk while simmering.

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As the cream thicken large bubbles will form.  Turn off the heat.

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The Alfredo Sauce is ready.  You may add cooked fettucini to the skillet and toss.  Serve with chopped Parsley.

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In the restaurant we would also use this sauce on ravioli!  We would even add shrimp to the Alfredo Sauce.  The shrimp needs to be sautéed separately in olive oil and then add to the Alfredo sauce.

Buon Appetito!

Piccata Sauce ( Chicken ala Piccatta)

 

 

chicken piccata blog title

 

     “My brother and I would savor our tomato juice for what seemed like an eternity. We lingered as long as possible at that booth.  Long and narrow with booths on the right and tables on the left, “the restaurant” was dark except for the light streaming from the front window and the light streaming from the back through the kitchen doors. The booth that my brother and I sat it was located just outside the kitchen.  Mamma would sit keeping an eye on the front door while folding napkins. Sitting facing the kitchen my brother and I were practically on top of each other, just barely tumbling out of the booth,  peering into the kitchen.  It was our chance to find out firsthand what really went on in there.  Our mouths were wide open as we gazed through those doors. The only sound we heard was from the knives.  We didn’t hear any voices what-so-ever.  The knives sharp, shiny and gleaming were busy.  Looking at each other we spoke only with our eyes, “OOOOOO   AAAAHHHH!” We had to stay quiet or Mamma would think to bring us back upstairs with our cousins. We listened for the different sounds of chopping. Like the rhythmic sound of a beating drum, the parsley was prepared for the day. Zio’s knife made clicking sounds like a typewriter, chopping garlic. With speed and precision Papa’s knife  had an even faster beat while slicing the mushrooms.  While all this was going on there a slow methodical thumping sound as veal and chicken were pounded into scaloppini. All these sounds together resembled a symphony.  Just when we heard it all, the sound of cymbals clashed when the parsley hit the sizzling garlic! It was early morning but my brother and I wished we could hear Mamma sing out in her beautiful soprano voice “I’m ordering!” and Papa answer in his baritone voice “Pick up!”  Now that would complete the musical symphony  inside “the restaurant”!


Greetings  all!

       Thank  you for taking a walk down memory lane with me with tales of  “the restaurant”.  Staying along the path of garlic and oil based recipes, I thought I would share the recipe for Piccata Sauce this time. You will find that “the restaurant” sauces are different from same named sauces prepared in other establishments.  You may think you are ordering the same dish but don’t be surprised to find the flavor is not the same. In fact you will probably be disappointed.  “The restaurant” sauces pack a lot of flavor and use ingredients not often found in typical recipes.   In this recipe I am going to serve the Picatta Sauce over chicken but we also used this sauce over egg battered filet of sole, shrimp, and broiled salmon.  Before I continue I want to inform you all that these recipes are from my husband Jim that were handed down from my dad.  I am converting them into recipes for the home cook. Jim was the chef at “the restaurant” for a great part of the latter years.  As you continue to walk down memory lane with me you will learn how this all came to be.

   *The following recipe serves 2-3 people.  We used skinless breast of chicken.  Depending on the size of the breast…slice it into 3 horizontal slices .  Take each slice and cut it in half.  You will have 6 pieces.  Sometimes the meat departments will sell the chicken already in large scallopini slices which you will still have to slice in half.    

     Take one of the slices and put it in a plastic gallon size freezer bag ( freezer bags are thicker than the regular storage bags) using the flat part of the meat cleaver pound 3-4 times on one side and then flip to pound the chicken on the other side.  Do this to all the other 5 slices.  Using plastic freezer bags makes it easier to keep your kitchen clean and sanitary.

    Beat up three eggs in a bowl and put ½  cup of flour (you may need more)  in another bowl.  Salt the slices of chicken on both sides, dredge in flour and then in the beaten egg.  These slices are then fried in a pan with vegetable oil until  golden in color.  Don’t worry if they aren’t cooked through because we finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.  After all the chicken has been prepared we set it aside and make the Piccata Sauce.


 

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Picatta Sauce (Chicken Scallopini ala Piccata)

(serves 2-3 people)

Ingredients:

1 large clove of garlic thinly sliced

2Tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbs of chopped Italian parsley

4 Tbs salted butter

Juice of 1 lemon (yields ¼ lemon juice)

Pinch of red pepper

¼ sherry wine

 2shakes of Tabasco sauce

1/8 tsp of salt

6 slices of prepared chicken scallopini (*see above paragraphs)

 

Procedure:

Saute garlic and oil until golden take off burner and throw in the chopped   parsley.                     

garlic and parsley

Add the rest of the ingredients and put back on burner.

chicken piccata v2

Add the prepared chicken scallopini.

chicken piccata sauce 2

 Cook for 13 minutes over medium heat.  The sauce will evaporate until about half the original amount. 

chicken piccata sauce 3

 


Bon’appetitto!


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Linguini White Clam

        linguini wc illustration

      “Mornings were the best part of the day! We got to go to work with my mom!  My brother and I couldn’t eat breakfast fast enough to get ready!  Sitting by the bathroom door we patiently watched my mom put on her lipstick. I loved the sound she made after carefully sliding the lipstick around her lips, pursing her lips together.  That pop sound signaled, “Let’s go!”      

   Working was going down to “the restaurant” to help set up all the tables for lunch.  While my brother and I carefully placed the paper placemats at each place setting, my mom methodically placed the silverware in their proper spots. Watching her balance all those butter dishes I marveled at how she tossed the plates like Frisbees landing perfectly over the butter knives!  I secretly hoped that one day my mom would let me set up the tables all by myself.

   Finally after setting up all those tables we got our much anticipated reward! We followed my mom into the kitchen where she pulled out two little cans of tomato juice out of the refrigerator.  As we continued to follow her to the salad pantry where she lifted up the gleaming stainless steel top to pull out a lemon cutting it into perfect wedges we  caught a glimpse of my dad and his brothers busy at work!  My brother and I stood very quietly as we didn’t want to distract them from their work. The restaurant kitchen was sacred!  Grabbing 2 small glasses, my mom had us sit at a table adjacent to the bar. As we slid into the booth my brother and I gleefully opened up those little cans of tomato juice pouring it into little glasses and squeezing wedges of lemon into them!  I can still remember the taste of that tomato juice!  To this day no tomato juice has ever compared to what we sipped on back then in “the restaurant” sitting next to my mom after a productive morning!” My brother and I felt great satisfaction knowing that we too did our share in “the restaurant”! “

 Hello!

   Have you all been practicing making your garlic and oil sauce?  Don’t worry if you have had to practive a few times to get it perfect.  It’s all in the timing of getting the garlic a perfect gold color and then stopping the cooking by adding the parsley cooling it off.

   Now that you have mastered the basic recipe of Garlic and Oil Sauce the next sauces will be easy.   Linguini White Clam was another very popular dish at “the restaurant”.  It uses the same ingredients and the same exact method as the garlic and oil recipe with the addition of clams.  We will be omitting the salt since the clams are already salty.  In the restaurant we used cherrystone clams (big clams) instead of  the littlenecks (baby clams).  We liked using the cherrystone clams because they had the most clam juice and also because they yielded the most clams with the least amount of shucking. We don’t recommend canned clams.  To get “the restaurant” flavor always use fresh clams!

4819e21d1b8e7a245892fa8051bcbd26Shucking a clam doesn’t require strength.  It requires a little knowledge to get the clam knife through the opening of the clams cutting the muscle that keeps it shut tight.  Once the clam knife penetrates into the cavity of the clam then you turn the knife upwards to cut through both ends of the muscle that attach the clam to the shell. If you feel intimidated by shucking a clam you could always ask the fishmonger at the seafood market to shuck them for you.  Also another trick is to put the clams in the freezer for an hour which will relax the muscle that keeps the clam shut tight.  The clam knife will be easier to wedge in between the clam shell. An even easier way is to put the clams in the freezer for 3 hours. Then bring them out and let them thaw.  As they thaw they will open up for you.

 

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Linguini White Clam

(Served over 1 pound of linguini)

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Ingredients:

A dozen cherrystone clams ( shucked and save ½ cup clam juice)

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs chopped Italian parsley

4 medium cloves of thinly sliced thin

Pinch of red pepper flakes

 

Procedure:

           Wash and scrub the clams. Shuck the clams and save all the clam juice. Put the clam juice aside to allow all the sand and clam bits to settle.  Chop the clams well.  Pour off the clear clam juice discarding the sandy settlement. Saute the garlic in the extra virgin olive oil until golden.  Take the skillet off the burner and throw in the chopped parsley.  Pour in the ½ cup of clear clam juice, the chopped clams and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Return to medium high heat. The clam sauce will foam as the clam juice evaporates.  Keep stirring.  Once the foam forms to the center of the pan the clams will be cooked (probably around 3 minutes).   Add a ladle (1/4 cup)  of starchy pasta water from your pasta that has been cooking  to the white clam sauce.

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     Cook the pasta according to your liking.  We  always make our pasta aldente! You may either add the sauce to the pasta or you can add the pasta to the skillet to soak up some of the sauce and then pour it all in a big pasta bowl and serve. Depending on whether you want to serve this dish as a  first course or main course, it can serve anywhere from 2-6 people.

 A variation of the White Clam Sauce is Red Clam Sauce.  It is the same  recipe except for one ingredient.  Instead of the 1/4 cup of pasta water, at the end you add a 1/4 cup of marinara sauce.  Use the 825 MAIN Marinara! I promise it will be the exact taste of “the restaurant”!

Aglio e Olio

  spaghetti garlic and oil 002 

After  the lunch crowd my mom would come upstairs to the apartments.  As she climbed up the steps we heard the faint jingling of coins. My brother and I  would jump up with joy running to get hugs!! As mom sat down at the kitchen table with her two sisters to compare notes  of what the day brought she would pull out wads of dollars from her uniform pockets dividing it out equally between the three of them.  My brother, my cousins, and I would often sit quietly near watching this daily ritual. Sharing was so easy between the sisters.  While my mom worked the sisters would take care of the children. They were all in it together.  

   It didnt happen everytime but sometimes my mom would scoop up her change and my eyes would widen as she poured her fist full of change into my cupped hands.  I was the oldest and I was entrusted with the important task of dividing the change amongst all the children.  As soon as the kids observed this transaction everyone ran to get the piggy banks. This next part I remember quite vividly.  I am almost blushing as I think back. Although I counted out the coins evenly I kept the shiny silver ones for myself while my younger brother and cousins got the brown coins.  Placing the coins in our piggy banks my coins kerplinked while everyone else’s coins kerplunked!”

 

Hello everyone! 

     As promised I am sharing the first 2015 recipe.  I have thought long and hard about this.  Which recipe should I start with?   There are so many.  I finally narrowed it down to the sauces.  We made more than 50 sauces throughout the years in “the restaurant”.  I am going to start with the most basic of all the sauces that is often used as the  base of many of the other sauces. The following sauce is very  simple yet difficult to achieve perfection. Allow me to introduce our first recipe for 2015….Spaghetti Garlic and Oil or as we would say Spaghetti Aglio e Olio!  Just 5 ingredients – extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, parsley and red pepper flakes. But I am going to share the secrets to getting it perfect.    Garlic is the most important ingredient and should be treated with the utmost care. First it has to be fresh!  (Do not use the chopped garlic that comes packed in oil.)   When picking out the fresh garlic you will have the option of choosing between American garlic  or Chinese garlic.  Most of the American fresh garlic is from California. It is the best.  You can tell the difference because California garlic still has it roots and stems.  It is much more dense and heavy.  The American garlic flavor far surpasses the garlic from china.

 

garlic pic

     After peeling the garlic you need to choose whether to chop, slice or crush the garlic. Garlic contains a sulfur compound. The more you chop and crush the garlic the more sulfur compound is released.  ( Imagine all the sulfur smell trapped in one of those jars of chopped garlic packed in oil!  That’s why fresh garlic is best!)  Depending on how intense of a flavor you want in your cooking will lead you to your preference of chopping, crushing, or slicing.  “The restaurant”  recipe for Aglio e Olio  was to get a sweet mellow taste to the sauce.  So we thinly sliced our American garlic.  We put the sliced garlic in a small skillet with the extra virgin olive over medium heat.  Carefully watching the garlic until it reached a golden color, we then added the chopped Italian parsley taking the skillet off the burner. ( Make sure the parsley is the flat leafed italian parsley.  Curly parsley has no flavor.)  This is another secret that most people don’t know about.  Throwing the chopped parsley in the skillet just as the garlic turns golden will stop the cooking process keeping the garlic from turning into the dreaded dark brown color. (Turn off burner taking the skillet off the burner)  The dark roasted garlic has a bitter burnt flavor that will ruin the sauce! After the parsley add red pepper flakes and salt. Now it’s all set for you to either pour over the pasta or you can add the drained pasta to the skillet to coat it.  If you prefer it to be extra moist you can add a ladle of starchy pasta water.

garlic sizzling

Aglio e Olio

served over 1 lb of pasta 

Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 medium cloves of garlic thinly sliced

1 tsp of salt

2 Tbs of chopped fresh Italian parsley

Red pepper flakes

Procedure:

Sauté thinly sliced garlic in extra virgin olive oil until golden yellow. garlic sizzlingTake it off the burner and  add chopped parsley followed by adding  red pepper flakes to taste  (we just added a pinch) and 1 tsp of salt.garlic and parsley

Add this to your choice of pasta aldente.  Some like to add some pasta water to the sauce.  But I prefer it with just oil.  That’s the way we always served it in my family.

   


 

What are Capers? A staple in Italian Cooking

capers and leaves

Caper Berry Plant

what-are-capers_thumb

This past weekend at a seminar I found myself trying to explain what exactly is a caper.  These little pungent Mediteranean capers come from the bud of blossoming bushes.  I actually had the pleasure of seeing caper bushes.  It was many years ago when  my brother and I visited our grandparents at their home town on the island of Ischia. They took us for a leisurely walk through town and we visited the Castello Aragonese, a medieval castle built on volcanic rock. As we walked up to the castle, clinging to the cracked walls and cliffs were these unusual and attractive ornamental shrubs.  They were thriving in the sunny hot dry climate of Ischia. As you can see from the picture the castle is nestled on volcanic rock in the middle of the sea. So these caper shrubs are evidently salt tolerant as well. My Nonno (grandfather) pointed out the capers on the shrubs. The bushy plant had a thick cluster of thorny branches and fleshy, egg shaped leaves. They were as high as five feet in some places, but most were sprawled out over rocks and soil.

castel in ischia

Castelo Aragonese – A medieval castle on volcanic rock off the island of Ischia in Naples, Italy

Nonno explained that from April to June, the caper shrub’s tiny buds flower into large, sweet-scented, pink blooms clustered with long, violet stamens. The plants harvested for capers, however, rarely blossom. Instead, workers endure hot sun, sharp thorns and rugged terrain throughout the summer to pick the precious buds as they ripen.  It was a beautiful walk as we gazed out to sea. My Nonno walked ahead explaining all the sites while my Nonna (grandmother) ambled behind slowly carrying her large purse under her arm.  Nick and I found our Italian grandparents amusing.  At one point it started sprinkling as was common in the afternoons in Ischia, a sun shower.  Nonno slowed down and turned to ask my Nonna if she was ok.  In his tongue in cheek manner he just shook his head as he found Nonna pulling out  a clear plastic rain bonnet for her head and a sweater for her shoulders out of that large white purse of hers.  My brother and I were hysterically laughing not just at my Nonna but at Nonno’s reaction.  What a special caper memory.  I think of them whenever I use capers in my cooking.

Capers are enhanced enhanced by a pickling process fundamental to their cultivation, their tart and briny flavors enrich sauces, spreads and garnishes.  Capers are a staple in the Italian kitchen. The tiny, piquant buds are enjoyed from region to region, from the north to the south.  In Sicily capers are served in caponata, a summer side dish in which their saline bite cuts through the rich taste of tender, slow-cooked eggplant.  In Naples they adorn spaghetti alla puttanesca, one of the sauces I made at the seminar where the capers are combined with tomatoes, olives and anchovies in a pasta fredda to create a light yet assertive sauce. The tangy orbs are often sprinkled over pizza, pasta, and fish dishes as a flavorful garnish, and they appear in a variety of sauces.

Most capers come from wild plants, though in Spain and Italy—the two largest producers—they are cultivated. Sicily and the Aeolian island of Salina produce the majority of Italy’s capers. The best, though, come from Pantelleria. On this tiny island, halfway to Tunisia, volcanic soil and the heat of an intense Mediterranean sun create ideal growing conditions. The berries are also picked, and both are pickled for use as a seasoning and garnish. The bud, or caper, is pickled in salt and vinegar brine, then sold in vinegar or packed in salt. The berry—the larger, plump, mature fruit of the plant—resembles a green grape with faint, white stripes and, like olives, is served in pastas, salads or even as a garnish in martinis. When choosing capers, look for dark green buds packed tightly in sea salt, because those submerged in vinegar lack the subtle, natural taste of the salted ones. The smaller buds have a more delicate flavor while the larger ones have less taste and could be frauds—sometimes the similar-looking buds of the nasturtium plant are passed off as capers. The French term nonpareil is commonly used to denote the smallest buds; surfines are the next largest. True Italian capers, though, are sorted by millimeter with mechanized screens. They range from 7 millimeters to 16 millimeters. Unfortunately in stores their size is not often marked.  Be sure to look for buds not larger than a raisin. If using salted capers, soak them for five to ten minutes and drain to remove excess salt. Those in vinegar only require rinsing.

“All About Pasta”

 "All About Pasta"

Featuring:

 825 MAIN Marinara and Pizza Margherita Sauces from Poughkeepsie, NY

Delverde Pasta  from Abruzzo region –  pure waters of the Verde river –  Majella National Park on the Adriatic side. Bronze die cut pasta. This is not an artisanal pasta although it is bronze cut.  The cost is less compared to an artisanal bronze cut pasta.  But compared to the Teflon cut pastas Delverede Pasta is more expensive.  Bronze cut pastas are generally more expensive because of the labor costs to make it.  Cooking time 11 minutes.

Pastificio Artigiano Cav. Giuseppe Cocco  Artisanal bronze cut pasta.  All the ingredients in Giuseppe Cocco’s pasta  are genuine. Made in Rara S. Martino, Abruzzi, Italy.   The pasta is characterized by its coarse appearance, typical of bronze die extrusion, and when cooked has a firm and elastic consistency, with excellent resilience. They also use the water from the Verde River. These fully manual and traditional methods require more time and space; hence the small production quantity. The traditional pasta taste and flavor are guaranteed. More labor intensive pasta requires a higher price point. Cooking time 18 minutes.

Pastifficio Riscossa – made in Bari, Italy.  Teflon cut pasta. Bright yellow smooth to the touch pasta.  Requires less drying time after it is made, therefore companies are able to mass produce much more quickly.  Mass production less labor intensive yields are less expensive product.  Teflon cut pasta is much cheaper than bronze cut pasta.

La Bella Pasta  from Kingston, NY.  Fresh pasta made from semolina flour and eggs. Much more delicate pasta requires less cooking time.  Only 2-4 minutes.

1. How to eat spaghetti?

  1. Don’t cut it with knife and fork
  2. Don’t slurp it
  3. Don’t twirl it so there is so much on the fork that it doesn’t fit in mouth
  4. Pick up a few strands and twirl with the fork resting on the side of a pasta bowl with a rim.

Or:  if you have a flat plate or a deep bowl with no sides use a spoon and twirl the spaghetti inside the spoon picking up just a few strands of spaghetti

2.      What types of pasta are there?

                a.  Dried pasta

  1. Teflon cut – smooth and shiny and the color is amber  because it is a quicker drying time at higher temperatures.  All American made pasta is Teflon cut.  Sauce tends to slide off of shiny smooth pasta.
  2. Bronze cut  (cut refers to the die or mold) – rougher and more porous,  The color is much lighter yielding a pale yellow color. It is cooked at low temperature and longer drying time which maintains the aroma and flavor of the wheat.   The low temperature also maintains the wheat nutritional value as well as the wheat protein. Bronze cut pasta allows the sauce to cling to it.

   b. Fresh pasta – has a delicate texture.  Most of the fresh pastas are made with eggs.  It requires half the time of dry pasta.  Its delicate texture is best with light butter sauces and herbs or a light tomato sauce.  While dry pasta can handle a heartier sauce or put into soups and easier baked.

 3. What are the ingredients?     

a. dry pasta is made of durum wheat  ( semolina durum) salt and water.  The most important quality of durum wheat is that it contains more protein than common wheat.  It is important to produce high quality pasta – a pasta that remains firm or al dente when cooked.  The grinding of durum wheat produces a coarse flour called semolina.  1967 a law was passed in Italy that required only durum wheat to be used in making all dried pasta.  Dry pasta is prevalent in southern Italy because of the climate.  The mild sea breeze  and hot winds from the Vesuvious  was perfect for drying the pasta without getting moldy. Durum wheat is grown in many regions of the world ..including Mediterranean countries, north America, Russia and Argentina.  In Italy it grows mostly in the southern regions – mostly notably in Puglia which produces the finest pasta in the world.

b. fresh pasta is made of from eggs and “00” high-gluten flour.  Machine  rolled and hand cut is better because sauce sticks better  and is absorbed by the pasta to the hand cut pasta versus the machine cut.  Some fresh cut pasta is also made without eggs.

 4. How to cook Pasta?

1 gallon of water per pound of pasta. Put on high heat.  Once torolling boil add 2 tablespoons of sea salt. Add pasta all at once.  Separate pasta before it comes to a boil again with a fork.  Keep it moving so it doesn’t stick. Test it 3 minutes after it comes back to a boil for fresh pasta and after 5 minutes for dry pasta. Test it if it is to your liking.  It should be just slightly hard to the teeth – “al dente”.  Strain quickly in a colander and put in bowl…without loosing all the water.  Not too dry.  Better yet use fork or tongs and pull out of water.  Or use a strainer that is part of a spaghetti pot.

After cooking a good pasta should look moist not gummy.  Cooking in too little water makes a gummy pasta.

Transfer pasta to a bowl quickly and add some sauce stir coating, all the pasta. Don’t douse the pasta.  Just moisten with the sauce and then a ladle on top for presentation.

 5. How to serve it. 

      Italians serve it as a 2 oz portion while Americans serve it as a 4 oz portion.  Italians is served as a first course while Americans serve it as a main course.  Italians eat it everyday sometimes twice a day.

7. The Pasta War  –

     Controversy began in 1975 between the USA and European Econimic Community  EEC subsidized  exports of pasta to get the price down so it can compete with American pasta companies.  Because Durum wheat was so much higher priced than the regular flour American were using to make pasta .  High tariffs were issued making the Italian pasta more expensive.  But then in turn the Europeans issued high tariffs on American lemons and walnuts.  But EEC continues to subsidize exported pasta to make it more affordable.

8. “Fare la Scarpetta” 

       Fare la scarpetta is a phrase in the Italian language that’s close to the heart of everyone who has enjoyed a delicious plate of pasta with sauce. Meaning “make the little shoe,” it refers to the small piece of bread used to mop up the last of the sauce on your plate.

 

 

Please enjoys today’s 825 MAIN Sauces with the pasta and be sure to “Fare la Scarpetta”!