27 February 2010

Vintage North End ...

Did I tell you that I love Italian food? Did I mention that northern Italian cuisine is the very nearest and dearest to my heart? Well ... as far as Italian grub goes, anyway.

Several years ago, I happened upon a cookbook compiled by a lady from Boston's North End. It started out landing on the 'new offerings of local writers' table at the small bookstore that I frequent. Shortly thereafter, it made it to the local Borders shelves and the tourist stalls at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Who knows if it made it to the national bookstore market. All I know is that I snapped it up because it had a recipe for pignoli cookies and I DO love a good Pignoli cookie! In fact, one of my son's girlfriends brought me Pignoli cookies from a bakery in New York's Little Italy and instantly won my heart, but that's another story. Back to my initial intent here...

Of course, I got said cookbook home and found many more recipes that got me excited. I've been using this unassuming little local cookbook ever since... and one recipe that I L-O-V-E is Chicken Brachiolettini with Mushroom and Wine Sauce. Thank-you, Marguerite DiMino Buonopane!

Tonight, I'm making it with an easy plate of chopped kale that is sauteed in some olive oil, red pepper flakes and kosher salt and then tossed with little cubes of Yukon Gold potatoes that I will fry up in a bit of Canola oil until they are crispy and golden.  An easy and totally delish offering...topped off with a nice bottle of wine to accompany. A nice celebratory meal for my little brother, Jim's and Silent Bob's hiking jaunt into the snowstorm-whipped White Mountains ... they need a hot meal before heading out in the morning.

Now, back to the northern Italian thing... I wonder if this recipe originated in the north of Italy. There are no tomatoes in this recipe and heavy use of tomatoes reminds me of southern Italy. The prosciutto, mushroom, and Marsala wine treatment seem like indicators to me, but hey, what do I know? I like to think of Catherine de Medici ordering this up from her house cooks, though. She'd no doubt have one of her minions do a taste-test (that would be me...) to make sure there was no poisin in the sauce. I'd assure her that 'something' tasted off, as I plowed my way through the dish... all she'd see is the design on the plate. I would, however, save her a bread stick... ah, the fantasies that hanging around in a kitchen nourishes... whatever, enjoy!

PS- So, I was a good doobie and took some prep photos, but when the food was ready, we were SO hungry that we forgot to photograph the finished product ... a shame because it was a beautiful dish ... and it tasted fantastico! You'll have to take Jim's, Silent Bob's, and my word for it!

Chicken Braciolettini with Mushrooms and Wine Sauce - printer friendly

Chicken Braciolettini with Mushroom and Wine Sauce
courtesy of The North End Italian Cookbook – 4th edition
                                                                                                                                        serves 6


6 large boneless chicken breasts
1 large clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press and smashed in a mortar/pestle
freshly ground black pepper
¼ c. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
¼ lb. shredded Mozzarella of Fontina cheese
¼ bunch of fresh parsley, chopped (reserve 1 tbsp for garnish)
6 thin slices Prosciutto
1 stick butter
¼ c. olive oil
1 c. Marsala wine
½ lb. whole button mushrooms or thinly sliced mushrooms

Making the Dish:

1. Pound the meat to break up the tendons and even out the thickness.

2. Lay the breasts out on a clean, flat surface. Rub each piece with the garlic paste, sprinkle liberally with black pepper, sprinkle on the grated cheese, shredded cheese, parsley, and a slice each of prosciutto.

3. Roll the breasts jellyroll fashion, tucking in loose edges, and secure with toothpicks or small roulade skewers.

4. Heat the butter and olive oil in a deep, non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the oil/butter is hot, brown the braciolettini on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a casserole pan.

5. Bake in a 350º oven for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked moist-tender.

6. While the chicken bakes, make the sauce – empty the oil safely from the pan and return the pan to the stove.

7. Raise the heat to high and add the wine, stirring to take the bits off the surface of the pan.

8. Add the mushrooms and stir. Cook for 1 minute, shaking the pan to keep the mushrooms moving in the sauce. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add a bit of flour to some wine and stir into the sauce to thicken. If you prefer more sauce, add some chicken broth to increase sauce amount.

9. When chicken has finished baking, remove the skewers or toothpicks, pour the mushroom sauce over and around the braciolettini, garnish with reserved chopped parsley and serve.

Potatoes and Kale 'Verduras' - printer friendly

Potatoes and Kale ‘Verduras’

2 bunches of organic kale
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp black pepper
¾ tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. olive oil (for the kale)
3 tbsp. Canola oil (for the potatoes)
3 tbsp butter
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes

Making the Dish:

1. Wash the kale and trim out most of the central stalk from the leaves. Roll the leaves and chop into ½ inch wide slivers by cutting across the rolls.

2. Wash and cut up 2 large potatoes into ¾-inch cubes.

3. In a large non-stick pan, heat the Canola oil over medium-high heat until it is very hot. Add the potatoes and turn until they are golden and crispy and tender.

4. When the potatoes are beginning to crisp, heat another non-stick pan and add the olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic, toss for about 30 seconds to release the aromas, add the washed and prepped kale and toss to wilt, continue tossing until it is deep green and glossy. Keep and eye on the potatoes!

5. Add the butter and salt and pepper to the kale, cover and lower the heat to steam finish.

6. Meanwhile, finish the potatoes and drain them on a plate that is lined with a paper towel.

7. Place them in a warm oven while the kale finishes …

8. To serve, bed the kale on a platter and place the potatoes in a mound on top. Toss at the table and serve immediately so the potatoes remain crispy.

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