Cugine Corner - The Johnny Meatballs Blog
Cugine Corner - The Johnny Meatballs Blog
Table Talk From My Table
I often turn facebook conversations with my friends into blogs. I love seeing the pictures and recipes my fellow foodies post and partaking in the interesting discussions (and even occasional disagreements) that we have.
I think it’s safe to say that my cooking circle all agree that a few of the TV chefs out there have ruined the idea of what the “home cook” should be—especially one in particular who does “semi-homemade” cooking. (Name rhymes with Sara Lee.) I’m not one of these pretentious nose-in-the-air types, I’m all for old-school comfort food. I feel that while you may not have the time to grind your own sausage, at least learn how to dice an onion and sauté it.
You may not be making your own mozzarella, but buying a “pizza kit” with jarred sauce and a pre-shredded “pasteurized processed cheese product” is ridiculous to me.
Take my paisan Anthony who posed this question on facebook: “I know there are people out there doing it…But, let’s be honest, how many people that you personally know pickle lamb’s tongues, cure and smoke bacon, cure and hang pancetta, confit duck legs, make homemade ricotta and mozzarella, brew beer, etc.” To me, Anthony is beyond the home cook, he is the executive chef whose fine dining restaurant is his home kitchen. I put him in the category of an Alton Brown type. Meticulous and by-the-book, but always testing himself with techniques and seeking out exotic ingredients. It’s his passion and that’s what counts. The only thing I think would make him happier is if he lived on a farm in Sicily and was able to grow everything he used in his recipes. Let’s face it though, the general population out there isn’t making their own mozzarella at home.
My grandparents had an enormous garden, they jarred their own tomatoes, made wine in the garage, hand-rolled gnocchi twice a month, grinded sausage in the basement and made lots of other beautiful things. Christmas meant fresh-caught eels swimming in the bathtub before heading to the pan. Easter meant raising a live baby lamb in the yard—now that’s really fresh! With each generation, these extra steps disappear for many reasons. But a “pizza kit” is pointless. Might as well just nuke a Mama Celeste.
See, there are different levels of cooks and chefs. I consider myself a modernized home cook with basic old-school values. What I make is inspired from growing up and watching my mother, grandmothers and aunts at the stove, with influences from books and TV which enable me to add my own influences. I think what I do is homemade (call it “semi” if you wish, and I don’t take offense). Making your own sauce with just a few easy steps and with love is genuine quality—not popping open Ragu. That is NOT semi-homemade, that is doing nothing. Out of the 43 blogs I published last year, there were at least 25 recipes. None contained jarred sauce or a pasteurized processed cheese product. I do use canned stuff here and there or frozen vegetables in my cooking (not talking microwavable veggie side dishes), but overall, I try to make as much from scratch as I am capable of.
Italian-American classics are my forte, but classic all-American is as well. I love a burger or a dog almost as much as bracioles or zuppa di pesce. I love preparing Buffalo wings, ribs, pulled pork and broiling up a steak any day of the week makes me a happy camper. Maybe I’ll eventually expand into whipping up other ethnic delights too but for now when I want foods of other nationalities like sushi, Chinese (or Mexican to name a few) I usually dine out for them. You have to understand, with my Italian roots traced to the mainland, Sicilian riceballs were a “foreign” dish when I first made them for my mother. I do make more than just food in “ball” form—if you are my facebook friend, you can see all the pictures I post.
My wife is a fantastic cook as well, and I’d say we share cooking duties 60/40 in our home. And we love cooking for our family and friends. Last year we hosted Thanksgiving (did turkey with about a dozen sides and also had a macaroni course) and we also hosted Easter (did a leg of lamb with homemade tzatziki, a Virgina ham, and yes, at least a dozen sides). Preparing the Feast of The 7 Fishes on Christmas Eve has not been passed on to me yet, that’s still in my mother’s hands and we actually went out to eat on Christmas Day. Today, I’m gonna share a little compilation of some of the best dishes that I think I create in our kitchen using chicken, turkey, veal and pork so there’s something different every day. These are just a week’s worth of the many recipes I feel that I’ve perfected (my cookbook is coming soon—I promise!) All are real simple and real friggin’ tasty…
SUNDAY: MEATBALLS & MACARONI DAY
Ok, you had to know this would be here. As my faithful “Meatball Minions” know, Johnny’s Meatballs are made with the holy trinity of veal, pork and beef, my savory “special 10-spice blend” and sweet caramelized onions. It took a lot of trial and error to master this recipe but I have it down to a science now and no other meatball can compare. If you aren’t gonna roll your own it’s ok to pick up a six-pack of Johnny’s Meatballs. I know this may contradict what I said earlier, but unlike any frozen dinner on the market, mine are 100% natural and made exactly how your nonna would do it. Whether you can it sauce or gravy, this is what Sundays are all about for me. Period.
Accompaniments: Any cut or size dry pasta or some Star Ravioli stuffed shells. What a pairing!
MONDAY: VEAL ROLLATINE
Season veal cutlets with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Wrap each cutlet with a slice of fontina cheese, followed by a sage leaf, a slice of prosciutto di Parma and secure with toothpicks. Dip in flour. Melt butter in a large skillet and add in the veal when the butter starts to foam. Cook until there is a slight golden crust on both sides, and then pour in about four tablespoons of organic low-sodium chicken broth and a half cup of Pinot Grigio (careful—there may be flames!) Wait until wine reduces, and then add in another half cup of wine. Allow to simmer for fifteen minutes on a low flame. Remove from pan, drizzle sauce on top and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Is that a breeze or what? Why pay $22 in a restaurant when you can do it at home?
Accompaniments: Rice pilaf or orzo are superb sides. Keep in mind, this dish also works well with chicken (or even pounded out flank steak) and any kind of meat or cheese combo you select—such as provolone and salami, Swiss and ham, mozzarella and pepperoni.