Chasing JoJos

Still trying to recreate the mythical JoJos of my youth.

If you haven’t had or heard of JoJos – you can read my last posting about them here or if that is too much clicking here is a short review…

Potatoes, scrubbed but skin on, cut length-wise, quarters and maybe quarters again. Coated in a delicious crispy coating, crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

But these are not steak fries. They are JoJos – think “chicken fried potatoes.” Except the real ones are “broasted!”

But on this JoJo day I was inspired to make some crispy coated, oven-baked versions.

Mary was my husband’s uncle’s mother-in-law (better take a minute on that one) and she apparently made the best potatoes. One time last summer I actually had the pleasure of meeting her and of course I managed to work the topic into conversation and although no real recipe was given – I gleaned enough to get the idea that she was basically making an Italian oven-baked JoJo.

From what I could gather there was butter and lots of it. Some breadcrumbs. The seasoning – Italian blend in her case. And don’t “fahget the Paaaarmm Ma.” (That is Massachusetts vernacular for “don’t leave out the Parmesan cheese mom.”) And plenty of tossing and turning in the pan during cooking time.

So I blended up a mix of seasoned bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, some seasonings (mostly Italian in nature) that I annoyingly and uncharacteristically forgot to write down and tossed the raw potato wedges in hot melted butter before coating them in the breadcrumb mix and baking in a hot (400-425 degrees) oven. I tossed them carefully, several times, during cooking to ensure even crispy-ness and to make sure no butter got left behind in the pan. About a total of 30 mins +/- Basically until the thickest wedge is fork tender.

They were delicious!

Crispy and delicious, but definitely not "broasted!"

Crispy and delicious, but definitely not “broasted!”

“Vesuvio” Erupts Again!

yup that is right…”Vesuvio” as in “Chicken Vesuvio!”

Most likely this dish originated from the “Mount Vesuvius” region of Italy. That is the one that covered Pompeii and Herculaneum.

It was so delicious the first time around that I saved the leftover “au jus” and froze it. (Is that weird? Or maybe just excessively frugal?)

So I threw that in a slow-cooker with a couple of chicken breasts and about an hour before serving time; sliced up some potatoes into thick wedges and roasted them. Some folks call these “steak fries.”   Around these parts we call them “jojos.”

I threw in some frozen peas just to complete the look and voila…instant, easy dinner!

Chicken Vesuvio

I have a new “crush.”

Don’t tell my husband but I am head over heels about  The Sandwich King, Jeff Mauro. Besides being the latest Food Network Star winner and a fellow mustard-enthusiast; he is an all American good-guy, happily married with a little boy and can pop the top off a beer with his ring. You just know he is the coolest guy at the office. His recipes on his new show are making me want to book an “eating tour” of Chicago!

Recently, he featured a sandwich based on an entrée called “Chicken Vesuvio.” (That is his thing- turning meals into sandwiches.) I was already  drooling over the tangy garlic-lemon chicken cooked over potatoes that were essentially Jojos and then he topped it all off with some homemade giardiniera. This was my kind of meal!

Than a light went off in my head! I had some of that in my cabinet! I am ashamed to say that I can’t remember who gave it to me and when. It had no label but I immediately remembered that it must be homemade giardiniera. It has been hanging out in my cabinet waiting for just the right moment to be used!

The time is now!

So I got busy and hit the store for a few missing ingredients like chicken. I came home and proceeded to make “Chicken Vesuvio.”  Although his sandwich recipe looked great I wanted more of a Sunday dinner. So I made the meal version.

It turned out pretty darn good and of course my favorite part was the tangy, vinegar-y giardiniera on top of the browned and braised chicken! The fact that it includes peas and mushrooms in the recipe made my pea-loving husband very happy.

Now if only I could remember who gave the giardiniera to me so I can get another jar……

Jojos on the grill

Ever had a Jojo? How about grilled Jojos?

That’s what I thought. You aren’t even sure what a Jojo is. When I had my first Jojo I didn’t know what they were called but they were delicious.

A Jojo is essentially a potato that is cut in quarters, lengthwise with skin left on. Than it is coated in a light, crisp, highly seasoned coating and fried. The best ones are actually “pressure-fried” as in “broasted.”

Now I know what you are thinking…”steak fries, I have those all the time.” Nope these are not steak fries – they are Jojos. (steak fries are thinner and don’t have a coating.)

The first ones I ever had, and these are the stick by which I measure all others, had a coating similar to fried chicken but not as thick. My mouth waters just thinking about it. And to think that was over 30 years ago at a very small town convenience store in the middle of rural New Hampshire!

My husband had his first Jojos about 15 years ago at a local joint in his neighborhood of Cambridge, MA.  A place that happens to have the best fried chicken in the area. No surprise there – they go hand in hand.

Anyway this past weekend I thought it might be fun to try a “grilled Jojo.” I coated the cut potatoes in oil and after perusing several variations of the coating recipe on the web, I settled on simple coating of seasoned salt and granulated garlic powder. I didn’t want to try to grill a potato coated first with a light egg wash and then lightly coated in seasoned flour, but that would have been much more traditional. If I was frying or even oven-baking that is what I would have done. But since I was grilling I didn’t want to risk it.

They came out pretty good and even my neighbor thought so when we shared a few across the fence. I will admit that although delicious, they were more like a grilled steak fry and not as much like the crispy, coated “fried” Jojo of my youth that I was hoping to recreate. Once this heatwave is over – I will be firing up the indoor kitchen and making some proper fried Jojos!


Author’s Notes:

I felt it only made sense to serve these with grilled brats as a nod to the Wisconsin origins of the original “broaster” machine that has made so many delicious Jojos throughout the years.

Also a little roasted corn on the grill is always delicious.

This lovely blog (click here) posted a similar nostalgia for Jojos back in January 2008 and has posted a great recipe as well.