My grandfather Dominic came to America in 1905. He traveled from Reggio di Calabria to Naples where he boarded the Liguria which brought him to New York. The voyage took two weeks and the ship held 1050 passengers. 50 1st and 2nd class on the upper decks and 1000 immigrants in steerage class on a deck just below the water line. I found this picture of his ship on the Ellis Island database .
I also got to see the page of the ship’s manifest that he was listed on. It indicates that he had $30.00 when he arrived in the USA. The minimum an immigrant had to have to enter the country at that time was $25.00. He sold Italian groceries and fruit. My mother grew up living over the grocery store at 282 Mott Street in New York’s Little Italy.
My wife Bridget and I went to four bars in the New Orleans’ French Quarter to try Sazeracs and take away the best recipe. This was our favorite but after four Sazeracs I could only remember the recipe and not the name of the bar where I got it – maybe the Hotel Monteleone? Ingredients:
Preparation: Put ½ shot of Anisette in a small rocks glass. Coat the sides of the glass with it and then add some ice. In another small rocks glass add: a few dashes of Peychauds Bitters and 1 tsp of simple syrup. Mix, add ice and stir. Add a shot of rye and stir. Empty ice and excess Anisette from 1st rocks glass and strain mix of Peychauds, syrup and rye into it. Float a few dashes of Angostura on top. Serve cold without ice. Three aromatics, sugar and Rye – that’s a Sazerac.
*Simple syrup – Heat one cup of sugar in one cup of water. Stir until it’s clear and liquid.
This is a round whole wheat loaf, baked, cut in half, then baked again. It’s thin, very dry, crisp and crumbly. It’s about 6 or 7 inches across. You can get them in a good bakery in Bensonhurst in Brooklyn or on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx.
Dip it in, or hold it under running hot water to soften it a little. Shake off excess water. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried oregano and drizzle with oil. You can stop right there and eat it as is or you can add:
sun dried or fresh tomatoes,
shavings or provolone or parmigiana,
red pepper flakes,
etc. (you get the idea)
Serve it with a knife and fork like any open face sandwich. I’d be very surprised to ever see this on a restaurant menu.
“If you get the knack immediately, these are the easiest and prettiest desserts to make; if you don’t – you are doomed.” – Nicki
In order to make the rosettes you must have the “irons”. These can be purchased in any good house ware store. Irons come in different shapes and sizes, but I only use the rosette shape, probably because it is the only one I have had for the past 30 years.
Mix all the ingredients well in a small bowl. Let it stand for five minutes. Place Crisco (not oil or butter, nothing but Crisco. I once tried vegetable oil and had to throw them away. I was not happy, so don’t even try anything but Crisco. I don’t know why it works so well, but if it was good enough for my mother and it works, it’s good enough for me.) in a deep frying pan. The Crisco must be very hot and deep enough to submerge the iron to heat it thoroughly.
When the iron is very hot take it out of the Crisco and put it into the batter. IMPORTANT: Do not cover the top of the iron with the batter, just up to the rim. Then dip the batter-covered iron into the hot Crisco. Hold the handle steady and the batter will fry and the rosette will come off the iron. They may need a little coaxing with a fork. Immediately dip the iron back into the batter. (If the Crisco is hot enough, the iron is hot enough and the gods are with you this will go very smoothly.) Turn the rosettes when they are golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Place the drained rosettes in a pretty platter, drizzle them with honey and a good dusting of powdered sugar. They are crisp delights and go well with Asti.
Taken verbatim from the 1861 Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton, Chapter XXXIII. Milk, Butter, Cheese and Eggs. I followed the “Mode” exactly, whisking over low heat until it thickened. The flavor was reminiscent of eggs Benedict. My father’s version of Scotch Woodcock is scrambling eggs with anchovies and milk, frying in butter and serving it on toast (see below). He said Scotch Woodcock was a late night snack that used to be served at bars in the 1930s and 40s along with Welch Rarebit.
My father’s recipe:
Sauté five or six chopped anchovies in four pats of butter and then add 1/4 cup of milk. Let it rest off the heat for about five minutes. Reheat, add four scrambled eggs and cook until done. Serve it on toast, salt and pepper.
For Italians, the celebration on the Eve is more elaborate than Christmas Day. It a seafood dinner because until not too long ago it was a religious ‘day of abstinence.’ Some people call it the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I never counted but I think we have it covered.
My Aunt Lena got this recipe from a chef in Salerno. He told her the idea was that a woman could be out with her boyfriend all day and serve this to her husband when he got home – with him thinking that it took her all day to cook it when it wasn’t cooked at all.
4 large tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped basil
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
Salt & coarse black pepper
½ cup olive oil
Put the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes until the skin cracks, then run cold water over them and peel off their skin. Cut them in half across the core and squeeze out the seeds. Finely chop and put them in a large serving bowl. Add garlic, basil, parsley, salt & pepper and cover with ½ cup of olive oil.
A few optional additions: chopped anchovies, drained capers, chopped olives.
The ingredients should all be at room temperature before mixing with 1 lb. just cooked spaghetti. The heat from the hot pasta will be all it needs.
Raw Puttanesca is kind of a light and delicate summery sauce that’s almost a salad, so no cheese unless you must.
Bridget and I were bike riding in Cape May and came across a yard sale. There were some nice old kitchen utensils among other thing. I saw a stove top deep fryer labeled, “$1.00 – Made the Best Crab Cakes.” The woman who was running the sale told me it was her mother’s. I said that if she gave me the recipe I’d buy the fryer and continue the tradition.
Here it is, Elaine Walls’ Cape May Crab Cake recipe:
Sauté onion & celery (S&P) in butter until translucent. Add flour, mustard, cayenne, Worcestershire and milk (slowly). Cook until really thick. Add drained crab and sauté until dry enough to make patties. Cool and shape into 8 patties- dip into breadcrumbs, dip into egg wash and dip into breadcrumbs again. Let rest about 20 minutes, re-shape and then deep fry in Canola oil.
There are some places that want to be perceived as diners and others that are intrinsically and naturally diners. The latter, which are usually family run, can be recognized by very large menus, a few traditional Greek dishes on those menus, a huge selection of Danish, muffins and elaborate cakes displayed on and behind the counter and never letting your coffee cup get less than half full. They serve breakfast twenty-four hours a day and fast service is provided by people who are professional waiters and waitresses. Their coffee-to-go is usually in a blue and white paper cup with, “It’s Our Pleasure to Serve You,” framed by two Ionic columns.
Lately, in New York City, mostly Manhattan, a new type of chain diner has been opening. They try for a 1950’s retro style featuring Doo Wop interior design with old signs and maybe some muscle car parts hanging on the walls. Their menus list items with cute names that they want us to believe mythical Eisenhower-era Americans lived on; burgers, shakes and sundaes. Was there ever a “Malt Shop” in New York City? Maybe there was in television land where the Nelson boys and Donna Reed’s kids hung out after school but no, not New York. No matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” sipping coffee in any of these Disneyfied places. There’s something contrived about the “new” diners that I would hate to see catch on.
I hope tourists don’t have a BLT at one of these theatre sets and think, “Wow, I’ve eaten in a New York City diner!” because they haven’t.
Some of the old favorites are gone now; the Market, Munson and Cheyenne, but there are enough of the originals left to easily give anyone who wants it, a genuine diner experience.
A handful of them still have waitresses with teased blond hair who will ask you, “What’cha havin’, hon?”
How could anyone give that up for a second-rate copy?
Porterhouse, the king of steaks, has a strip steak on one side of the bone and a tenderloin on the other.
Sprinkle with lots of salt and let it (1 ½ to 2 inches thick) sit at room temp. Heat skillet very hot with a little oil. 3 minutes on one side and remove to board, crust side up.
Cut the loin and sirloin in thick slices straight down and perpendicular to the bone but leave ends attached to the bone.
Dot with lots of butter and put it back together in the pan curst and butter side up.
Place under a preheated broiler for 3 minutes. Spoon melted butter over it and remove from pan or it will continue to cook.
Roasted Tomahawk Steak
1 -2 ½ to 3 inch thick tomahawk steak *
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Blot room temperature tomahawk dry with paper towels and season with pepper and lots of salt; let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°. Dot roasting pan with 3 tbsp. butter.
Put1 tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot add steak to skillet. Cook until seared on all sides (including edges), 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer to the roasting pan. Roast in the oven, turning halfway through cooking and basting with the melted butter, Cook for 10 minutes for rare.
Place in a serving platter and pour the melted butter fron the pan over it. Cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serves two.
* A tomahawk steak is a rib steak with the entire rib bone intact.