Friday, December 7, 2012

Is It Sauce, Gravy or Marinara?

Every single Sunday morning when I was growing up, aromas of Italian sauce (marinara for non-Brooklynites and gravy for the 'real Eye-Talians') would waft right into my bedroom. Then of course, the smells of meatballs frying would also follow, but right now, let's stick to the "gravy". If you're making a marinara without meat, you don't have to cook it eight hours like us gumbas do, but if you do have a few hours so spare, 2 - 3 hours of leaving it on the burner on low is a wonderful idea. Grandma used to lug her canned tomatoes from Brooklyn all the way upstate to where we grew up. She also would lug those puppies back. Don't ask. She made a helluva' sauce though. Her tomatoes in the can were whole tomatoes, so she would throw them in the blender. Mom would use crushed tomatoes. Voila - easy peasy marinara. Later on when I was a teenager, Dad used to make his own sauce using real tomatoes - I mean, peeling and chopping REAL vine tomatoes. Was he crazy or wha? Anyway, I took a little of everyone's recipe and made it my own. For instance, Grandma used a little sugar for her sauce. Mom never did. Mom also was against onions in her sauce. Dad chopped his tomatoes and used a little wine. He also made his garlic chunky, which I prefer. So here is my recipe, taken down from the three best cooks I know.

Get a big pot. No, seriously. BIG.


Chop your goodies: fresh parsley, fresh basil, fresh garlic, fresh chopped onions...did I say fresh? I will admit, I have cheated when it came to running out of parsley and used the dried stuff, but never, ever, ever garlic. If you don't have fresh garlic - don't make your sauce. Period. 

Pour a little olive oil in the bottom of your pot. Sprinkle some salt, pepper, oregano (yes dried and sparingly), garlic powder and chopped red pepper. Throw all your FRESH ingredients into the oil and stir on high. If it gets TOO bubbly and hot, just turn it down a tad so it cooks evenly to a slightly golden color -- not even. I don't even let it turn gold before adding the next step...
Get dem' chopped and diced tomatoes in there. I use vine tomatoes and chop them on a cutting board until it becomes like the picture above. Let that cook and simmer for about 15 minutes or so. Then, I add crushed tomatoes --- I use Luigi Vitelli.  Add a tablespoon or two of sugar depending on how much gravy you're cooking. Stir.

As you're sipping your vino, might as well add a bit of it into your sauce. Two birds.

Don't forget to add a bit of parmesan cheese. This enhances the salt factor and gives it a richer flavor. It also thickens it up just a tad. You can add a little extra salt and pepper or any other herb into your mix to your liking. It all depends on your taste buds. Alter it. The reason why I use sugar and wine in my sauce is because it helps reduce the acidity in your gravy. I get heartburn more often than not, and this is the best way to ensure I'll have a GERD-free night.  If you want to add meat to your gravy, do so. It makes that much better, but remember, the cooking process should be much longer than just two hours.

Thanks, Grandma, Mom & Dad! I couldn't have done it without them. Cheers & bon appetit!

For Deb's main blog, visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bok-Bok-Bok-Bokkkk!

Yep. I'm tawkin' chicken today. My favorite chicken is dark meat, however, you can also throw in some white meat to suit your taste. As a kid, I never really liked dark meat, nor roasted chicken at all. It had to be cutlets, McNuggets and all that greasy fried crap. My taste had eventually evolved when I was in my twenties trying to maintain a healthy weight, yet somehow, make the chicken taste as sinfully as can be. I'm surprised with all of these chicken recipes online - they seem so incredibly bland. Their ingredients: salt and pepper. And while less may be more, it certainly will not satisfy your inner fat kid. So let me show you some ways to make your chicken dishes (even roasted) taste spec-tackkkk-yule-larrrrr!

Clean. Clean. Clean.

First, (and I know this is debatable) -- CLEAN your chicken. I know many people feel that the cooking process alone will kill all the bacteria and leave your sink with less salmonella, but in my experience, washing it carefully, and very thoroughly makes your chicken taste so. much. better. There is a huge difference. I don't let the chicken or water splat in my sink and afterwards, I wash everything down, as long as it takes --- make sure every inch of your sink and even your soap bottle is washed off. Clean off all counters and any time you place the packages of chicken onto your counter, make sure it has a paper towel under it. That's just how I roll.

First start stabbing your chicken. I know, totally going all "Jodi Arias" on you --- but stab all your pieces until you have enough entries for the marinade to reside in.

Then, rub your chick. I mean rub that bitch till she is clucking like a crazy loca. We call this "adobo'ing" your bird. And it's not the generic salty shit you get at the ethnic aisle of the grocery store - this is your own... Salt, pepper, brown sugar, garlic powder and basil flakes. RUB till it pays you a tip.

My ~love potion~ consists of olive oil, white wine, chicken broth, orange zest, garlic, fresh parsley, salt, pepper and lemon juice. I even pour a teaspoon of honey in there so all the ingredients 'stick'.  I mix it into a small glass, enough to slather it onto the chickadees. After rubbing them all down and getting them prepared for the oven, I sprinkle on some parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. This gives it a 'fried chicken' kinda' feel. I let them marinate in the fridge for about 5+ hours or, even overnight.

When it's time to throw these birds into the oven, make sure you give it a double whammy with the lemon. Cook it for approximately 1 1/2 hours on 350 and for the last 15 minutes, broil them on high to give it that extra crisp. I always make sure that all pieces are 180 degrees. You can serve this with anything. I usually make a big organic salad with avocados and onions or you can make a rice pilaf or whatever side dish you prefer. This happens to be also delicious on top of linguini. So bon appetit! Hope you like it.

For Deb's main blog, visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter.