Cervello dei vitelli (Calf Brains)

brains 2

Cervello dei vitelli (Calf Brains)

More serious cucina povera.  This isn’t for everyone. When my daughter Kristina was about 10 years old, I gave her $5.00 to try it. She took one bite, took the money and never touched brains again. But some people love them. The worst part is the preparation. My wife leaves the kitchen until I’m finished (she won’t eat them either). Another hard part if finding calf brains in a market. I live in New York City and any butcher on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx carries them. If you want to try this, ask your butcher to make a special order. Baked Calf Brains Ingredients

Preparation:

Clean the brains – Remove any of the really ugly parts, i.e. brain stem, membrane, etc. Rinse them in cold water for 10 minutes. Bring some water to a boil and put the brains in it for 5 minutes. Change the water and do it again. Now they’re ready to prepare for cooking.

Pat them dry and season with salt & pepper. Coat them with oil and roll them in plain breadcrumbs. Pack them snuggly in an oiled baking pan or cast iron frying pan. Cover the top of them with the following mix: breadcrumbs mixed with finely chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Drizzle, or better yet, spray oil over the top until the breadcrumbs are well saturated then sprinkle the capers over it. Bake them at 350o until the breadcrumbs brown. Serve with lemon, Italian bread and salad.

brains 1

Chicken ’Ncip ’Nciape

Chicken ’Ncip ’Nciape

ci fi chof

My mother’s mother, Nicolina, came from Salerno. The Salernitano pronunciation is chee-fi-choff. My mother’s Uncle Tony lived on Staten Island and had a chicken coop near the back of his property. Every time we visited he offered to kill a chicken for my mother to take home. She always politely refused, preferring the neatly packaged ones from the supermarket.

This is a simple recipe that tastes more complicated than it is to prepare. There are other recipes for ’Ncip ’Nciape with more ingredients and more complicated. But this is the simplest and for me, the best.Inside-the-coop (2)

Chicken 2

Preparation:

Cut a room temperature chicken into 10 pieces, (2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 breasts each cut in half) and season with salt and pepper. Lightly brown in oil and remove (don’t pour out the fat). Lightly brown 5 cloves of garlic cut in half in the remaining chicken fat and oil in the same pot. Add ½ cup of liquid and deglaze the pot. Return chicken with 1/4 cup chopped parsley, cover and simmer on medium low heat covered for 20 minutes turning once. This is very good with a vinegary salad and I also love it left-over and room temperature or even cold. This recipe also works well with rabbit or lamb.predators-at-chicken-coop-460x250 (2)

Pasta alle Vongole – clam sauce

Pasta alle Vongole – clam sauce

clam sauce 2

Although I call this ‘pasta’ with clam sauce. It’s traditionally made only with linguine or spaghetti.

Start by sautéing some garlic in oil, like the basic Aglio e Olio recipe. Let it cool.

Steam 20-24 Little Neck clams in a 10 ozs. of water and when they open remove most of them from their shells but leave a few in their shells to decorate the serving dish. If the clams seem too large you can chop them.

clam sauce 1

Carefully pour the broth from the pot you steamed the clams into the pan with the garlic and oil. I say carefully because there’s sometimes a bit of sand at the bottom of the pot that can be avoided if you pour slowly. Now add the clams to the garlic & oil. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley. Simmer for a little bit and pour over 1 pound of linguini. Sprinkle with a little more chopped parsley and don’t even think about putting any cheese on it.

You can substitute cockles or mussels for the clams.

If you unfortunately happen to be someplace where you can’t get fresh shellfish you can use a can of clams (Doxie or Cento) and a bottle of clam broth (again, Doxie or Cento).   (I don’t recommend it but If you must have red clam sauce just add a couple of ladles of simple marina sauce before serving.)

 

gallo 5 (2)
Larry & Joey at a Senate hearing discussing the consequences of putting cheese on clam sauce. Kid Blast wasn’t subpoenaed.


 

PASTA AGLIO E OLIO

Pasta Aglio e Olio (garlic & oil)

 

Spaghetti Olio e Oglio Aglio e Olio

 I’ll start with the simplest form, a basically 2 ingredient sauce. It’s very quick and easy to make – an inexpensive meal in a hurry.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (more if you like), thinly sliced
  • Salt, black pepper and red pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti

Preparation:

Boil salted water in a 3 quart pot. When the water boils add the pasta and cook until al dente. As the pasta cooks, heat the garlic in oil. Add S&P and red pepper. Add about 6 ozs. pasta water to the garlic & oil. Toss pasta in the sauce. That’s it – pretty simple! And it’s the base for lots of other sauces including clam sauce.

Any left-overs are good for a Spaghetti Aglio e Olio Omelet. Cut the leftover pasta in 2 – 3 inch pieces. Brown slightly in oil, add some scrambled eggs, fold and it’s done.

Although it’s traditionally made with spaghetti or maybe linguine, you can also try it with Japanese buckwheat noodles (obviously not traditional but very good – don’t tell Grandma).

buckwheat noodle

You can add:  chopped parsley for a little color and/or chopped walnuts before adding the pasta to the sauce. If you want you can add a can (about 12) anchovies and dissolve them in the hot oil before you add the garlic. Also try about 3 table spoons of rehydrated golden raisins or currants.


Calabrese Aglio e Olio

My mother’s father was Calabrese. Calabrese housewives who ran out of preserved tomatoes during the winter could always come up with some tomato paste. Start same as above but add about 2 or 3 tbls. of tomato paste to the garlic & oil. Fry it for about 5 minutes and then add a cup of pasta water. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. You can sprinkle with some toasted bread crumbs when serving.

paste


Basilicata Aglio e Olio

My father’s parents came from the town of Laurenzana in Basilicata which is where this recipe originated. When the garlic is frying add a heaping tablespoon of powered pepperoncini and 6 ozs. of pasta water. The sauce should be watery and pink in color. When the pasta is almost done, put it in the pan with the sauce to finish cooking. If you’ve put enough pepper the pasta should turn slightly pink.  Very spicy! Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs.

pepper
Powdered red pepper Basilicata style.

Traditionally, these dishes are not served with cheese.


 

Chili

Chili

Where ever you go you’ll get an argument about how chili should be made – with beans/without beans, ground meat/cubes, etc. Here are 2 recipes from both ends of the chili spectrum. Both good but different. Try each and then improvise.


  Cowboy Chili

cowboy chili

The idea of this one is that a cowboy always had access to some beef that he could fry in its own fat and he could easily carry a few dried peppers in his saddle bag. And maybe he could find a wild onion out on the range.

onion

Boil to rehydrate 6 or 7 anchos in 1 ½ cups water. Strain, saving liquid. Remove stems and chop roughly.

Green = Poblano
When it’s fresh and green it’s a poblano.
Dried pobano = ancho
When a poblano is dried it’s an ancho.

Cut 1 lb. sirloin (cowboys has access to good cuts of beef) into cubes and brown lightly over high heat (add some oil if you need it) with salt and pepper and remove. Lightly brown small chopped onion (optional) and add the chopped peppers.  Return meat and juices and simmer 5 minutes on low heat. Add ancho liquid and stir, scraping up brown bits from pan. Simmer another 5 minutes and it’s ready.


North East Chili

north east chili

I got this recipe from a friend from Massachusetts. Then I made it for someone from Colorado and asked her what she thought of it. She said, “Not bad – tastes like North East chili.”

This recipe can serve a large group – cut it in half if you want. It’s good left over.

In batches, brown 2 lbs chopped beef and 1 lb. of cubed chuck (seasoned) in oil and remove. Brown  1 large chopped onion, 2 cloves chopped garlic and salt and pepper.

Add 1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes and 1 sm. can chili powder. Return meat and juices.

Simmer 2 hours and then add 3 cans of beans (1 each pinto, kidney and black). Simmer another 20 minutes. It’s better made a day in advance and then re-heated and served.