Cream Bread

Sometimes you stumble upon something so unique that you immediately and without any hesitation need to try it.

That’s how it was one Saturday morning when I wandered into D’Amici’s bakery. “what’s that round loaf of bread all about?” I asked. ‘cream bread’ was the answer. Apparently made with cream instead of eggs?? I am no bread maker and my mind was already racing with possibilities. I just had one wrapped up for me and ran home, stopping off only at the store to pick up a few ingredients…I had the perfect sandwich in mind.

cream bread

The bread has a really even, dense but tender “crumb” and a mild flavor. It’s like a really good quality white sandwich loaf.

 

…please meet the BEST patty melt you ever had:

patty melt

 

Caramelized onions, griddled beef patty, swiss cheese, griddled bread….. I can’t go on…

I have to go recreate this meal again, NOW!

Sully’s Sauce

My husband always said “Sully made the best sauce!”

“Sully” (a nickname for his last name of “Sullivan”) was good friend of my husband’s father and a central figure from the neighborhood back in the day, so when my husband mentioned that Sully’s daughter Karen had recently come across the recipe card for his sauce, I knew immediately I had to make it.

What better way to pay homage to fathers who are no longer with us then by recreating something so special and lost in time?

sullys recipe

I just love the “here’s what’s cookin” part of this card – don’t you?!

I asked if there was a “back-side” to the card that might give away his technique but no such luck. Only Sully knows how it all went together originally, but I took my best guess and here is how I did it…

I used 85/15 blend ground beef and started it browning in a hot, dry pan so that I could decide how much fat I wanted to leave in the pan. I got the meat browned and decided to spoon off most of the fat. I chose to re-hydrate some fat back in the meat in the form of the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I am not sure at what point in the process Sully would have used the olive oil, perhaps right at the beginning while browning the meat? or maybe he used it to get the onions and garlic started first? Wish I knew.

Anyway after the olive oil went in, I added in a dash of salt/pepper, onions (2 cups!) and garlic and let those soften a bit before I added in the dry spices to toast a minute. After that I added in the tomato paste and gave that a minute to cook a bit. I de-glazed the pan with the wine. (1 whole cup!)

Next up: the tomatoes. I am certain that by Sully noting that these were “imported” he meant the famed “San Marzano” tomatoes so that is what used and I do think it makes a difference. Also I know that everybody has their own texture technique – some squish the canned tomatoes in their hands, some break them up with a spoon, some use scissors. I broke up 4 of the 6 cups with kitchen scissors, cutting up the whole canned tomatoes into small chunks right in their own sauce from the can. For the last 2 cups I actually used my immersion blender to puree it (not too much) so the whole 6 cups I added in ended up being saucy but with small chunks. I hope Sully would approve.

By now the whole creation was thick, yummy and begging to be tasted, so I did and adjusted the salt and pepper and turned the heat down to barely a simmer. I let it simmer with the lid on tight for about an hour. (keeping the lid on keeps things from drying out, but if it looks too dry, just add in a little water) I let it simmer another hour with the lid slightly off to allow it to actually thicken up a bit as mine was pretty juicy.

By then the delicious smell wafting through the house was more than we could take, so we boiled up some pasta and it was time…

sullys sauce

A special thank you to daughter Karen for letting me have the privilege to re-create her father’s famous sauce! And a happy father’s day to all the dads out there – the ones with us and the ones who have left us.

 

Interested in more ‘Irish-Italian” cooking?? Me too… read more about it here!

 

Author’s note: If you don’t want to use the Chianti wine – I would recommend using a cup of low sodium beef stock with a generous splash or two of red wine vinegar to give it that tangy richness that the wine adds.

 

Let It Rest

Isn’t that the title to a Beatles song?

Oh wait that song is actually “Let It Be” – still… both are words of wisdom!

In my case “let it rest” usually refers to some big cut of meat like a roast or chicken or something, but in this case it refers to lasagna!

Good Old Fashioned "All American" Lasagna!

Good Old Fashioned “All American” Lasagna!

Letting lasagna rest is a must for a clean, neat cut and so you don’t burn the roof off your mouth!

This lasagna was inspired by the green baking dish it was made in. I received it for Christmas this year from Aunt Barbara and I have been cooking in it a couple of times a week ever since! Mac and cheese, lasagna, you name it!  How did I ever live without this perfectly sized dish with handles!!

Production Notes

I used standard lasagna protocol here – nothing crazy or exotic. 3-4 layers of regular meat sauce, ricotta and noodles.  This time I used standard “boil first” noodles, but I have done it both ways… here and here.

From Hungary With Love…

hot paprika

hot paprika

My parents traveled quite a bit and although I was the lucky recipient of many of these trips, I did not accompany them on a trip to Hungary a couple of years back. But they did bring me back some of Hungary’s possibly most famous souvenir… Paprika.

I keep it sealed tight in a dark cabinet and it has continued to keep its bright, pungent, hot flavor.

And what better to make with Hungarian paprika than “Hungarian goulash” of course!! Now if you grew up in the northeast than surely you know this dish as “American Chop Suey” or perhaps as a form of “Marzetti” or maybe you have no idea at all what I am rambling about!

Just brown up some beef, diced sweet green pepper and onion. Add the spices: I used a liberal amount (3 heaping tablespoons to my pound of beef) of SWEET smoky paprika and about a teaspoon of my HOT smoky paprika. Use more if you like it spicy! I also added some black pepper and salt, ground cumin and garlic powder – just a 1/2 tsp or so of each.

along with a few other spices...goulash often contains browned ground beef, sauteed green peppers and onions with chopped tomatoes and of course plenty of paprika!

along with a few other spices…goulash often contains browned ground beef, sautéed green peppers and onions with chopped tomatoes and of course plenty of paprika!

De-glaze the pan with a hefty splash of Worcestershire sauce and 1 can ( 28oz) of whole tomatoes with juice that I broke up first. Add in a 1/4 cup of ketchup for sweetness and tang. Let it simmer for 20 mins if you want to serve right away over hot buttered egg noodles or rice. I like to mix mine with a box of pasta cooked “al dente” and then top the oven-proof dish with a bit of cheese and bake in the oven (350 degrees) for 30 mins.

It gives it that nice crusty top and edges that everybody loves! Kinda like the crispy lasagna edges!

Anyway if you have never explored the wide world of paprika, you should. It goes way beyond just a sprinkle onto deviled eggs! A specialty spice store ( online or actual) would be a great place to start.

ready for the oven with cheese on top!

ready for the oven with cheese on top!

Production notes

You can adjust the amount of noodles or beef according to your budget and desires. “Stretch” this dish with lots of pasta for a big family or a local potluck event. “Make it meaty” with lots of ground beef or even ground turkey or pork.

The Master of Gravy

THE masterYup that is the one we are talking about.

I know what you are thinking…

… “who uses that product and who uses it in meatballs?!”

Well my Father-in-law did and since he made some great Italian meatballs for a learn-to-cook–later-in-life Irish guy, I use it too. Unfortunately we never accurately got his recipe before he passed away.   (readers take note… this is important stuff to do before it is too late!) So I am always fiddling around with my meatballs to see if I can capture his essence.

www.gravy.com will tell you that the product has “NO chemical preservatives, artificial color, flavors or additives are ever used.”  I am not sure it is health food but it doesn’t seem terrible – check out the website and you can make your own decisions about this.

As for my meatballs – they turned out great, even if I say so myself. I took the time and care to chop and use fresh herbs  (makes all the difference) and I also measured everything and wrote it down so you could try them too. And they are baked, so they are just a tad easier and healthier than the pan-fried ones!

The recipe

1 lb ground pork

1/2 lb ground beef (80/20 blend)

2 garlic cloves, super finely minced/mashed (use 1 clove if you are not a huge garlic fan)

pinch hot chili flakes ( don’t leave this out – it needs it)

yah I know I use a fork - I just don't like getting all messy!

yah I know I use a fork – I just don’t like getting all messy!

1/2 TB dried Oregano

1/4 cup fresh, finely minced fresh basil

1/4 cup fresh, finely minced fresh flat leaf parsley

plenty of salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 TSP Gravy Master®

2 cups freshly ground bread crumbs (about 1/3 of a day-old Italian loaf) mixed with 3/4 cup of milk to form a thick oatmeal consistency.

Gotta test the first one!

Gotta test the first one!

Preheat oven to 425 Degrees. Mix it all very lightly in a bowl. Heat a small skillet on the stove and cook one up real quick as a tester for flavor. If it needs anything more, make the adjustments, and start forming the balls.

I personally like small ( 1″ diameter) balls. They cook quick, fit nice on my sheet pans, and tuck perfectly into leftover meatball subs. They can also be pressed into action out of the freezer ( fully cook, then freeze) as perfect little reheated  appetizer with toothpicks stuck into them for dipping!

Take the time to make them even size. rounder is nice too but hey... sometimes they are gonna be a little "square"

Take the time to make them even size. rounder is nice too but hey… sometimes they are gonna be a little “square”

Line them up in even little rows on parchment lined sheet pans and if you are paranoid like I am about them sticking anyway, spray the parchment with a little cooking spray first. Bake them  for 14 mins. Feel free to turn them halfway thru if you think you can manage not to break them apart in the process. You may want to add another minute or two to cooking time to make up for time spent outside of oven turning.

This general cooking time assumes that you will be putting them into red sauce for a little further cooking and heating. And although the baking in the oven yields them fully cooked – they are just so.. kinda like al dente pasta… so if you are not going to simmer them any further in some sauce – feel free to leave them in an extra 2 mins or so.

Cool and freeze any that don’t go into the sauce. Yields 36 balls. (including the tester)

Enjoy over a heaping mound of pasta with some extra cheese on top!

dinner is served 2

Snow Day Chili

Chili and a blizzard go hand in hand. So that is what I made this past weekend when the “blizzard of 2013″ hit our Boston area!

After hours of digging out, (but kudos to the neighbors with snowblowers for doing most of our heavy lifting!!) coming in to chili to warm us from the inside out was perfect!

Chili is such a great thing to eat in general but it is always good on hot dogs, burgers, tortilla chips,salad and my favorite: baked potatoes! I remember when the “Wendy’s” restaurants arrived in New England with their salad bars and baked potatoes. (Yup Wendy’s had salad bars and a good ones too at that time.) My dad and I would sneak down there on the night it was his turn to make dinner and get the salad bar with a cup of chili and the chips. We would crumble up the chips and pile on the cheese. Sometime we got the baked potatoes with the chili and extra fresh chopped raw onion of course! They still offer a “taco salad” and the baked potato with chili but somehow it is just not the same.

My version is fancied up with a little sweet Italian sausage and a can of “Ro*tel” to keep it easy. It is also not crazy spicy (like some of my other chili’s – Holy Mole!) so everybody can enjoy and add their own level of heat with hot sauce of their choice.storm day chili

Production Notes

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, out of casing and crumbled

1 lb ground beef (leaner is nice)

1 onion, chopped small

1 lg garlic clove, minced

1 can (10oz) original “Ro*tel”

1 can (13oz +/-) red beans or black beans or whatever bean you like

2 Tb ground cumin ( less if you don’t love as much as me)

2 Tsp ground chili powder

2 Tsp smoked paprika (sweet not spicy- or spicy if you like it)

2 Tsp ground Ancho Chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 Large can (28oz) crushed tomatoes

2 Tb brown sugar (you can omit or cut in half if you don’t want it too sweet)

1/2 a can ( the 28oz one) of water

Brown the meats (no extra oil needed) in a heavy bottomed dutch oven, until done. Scoop meat out and set aside. Pour out about 1/2 the fat. In the remaining fat in the pan add the onions and garlic and saute a few minutes. Add all the dry spices and kinda toast for a minute. Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes and Ro*tel. Add the meat back in, stirring to combine everything. Add the water – you may want less for thicker chili or more for thinner chili – also depends on how long you want to/plan to simmer. Add additional hot sauce at this point – I like a good vinegar based one like Tabasco or Texas Pete but you can use your favorite. Add the beans (drain them first) and simmer on low for anywhere from 1- 4 hours to let flavors develop and deepen.  This could be transferred to a low slow cooker for the day too.  Serve with all the fixin’s! Freeze the extra until the next snow day! It makes a lot!

Even the trash needs shoveling out!

Even the trash needs shoveling out!

Meatloaf # 225

Fair-warning: This is a tomato-lovers meatloaf.

I consider meatloaf the ultimate in “cabinet stews.”   You can hide put anything into them; use up all kinds of odds and ends!

My plain Irish husband secretly wishes I would just stick to one boring, plain meatloaf recipe but over the years he has learned to be a good sport about my experimentation and many versions. I can’t help it – I am all about variety!

Someday I am going to compile all my versions into a book titled: 365 days of meatloaf!

really it is just another version of “corn and tomatoes!” 

The recipe

Based on crazy odds and ends that I had in my kitchen at the time

1/2 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs -The loaf was a very moist and but not very firm – perhaps more bread crumbs for a firmer loaf?

1 tsp seasoned salt ( I like Penzey’s brand)

3 springs of fresh basil, leaves only – chop fine (about 2 tablespoons)

3 springs of fresh oregano leaves – chop fine if leaves are large (about 2 tablespoons)

small onion grated (yes GRATED)

1 6oz can of tomato paste

1/2 cup of  tomato juice (you could use a V8)

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Mix lightly but thoroughly and put into a loaf pan. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 45mins or so until done. It should smell good and the edges will be a little crispy. Use a meat thermometer to be sure, and remember it will be pink in color no matter what because of the tomato juice and paste!

I served it with oven roasted potatoes and corn. Simply tossed with oil, S&P, and some dried herbs of your choosing. Start the potatoes with the meatloaf and add the corn in about halfway. Toss a couple of times during cooking.