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Quick And Easy Chinese Spicy Shrimp August 4, 2017

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The Martin Yan cookbook I snagged a month or so back at a rummage sale for a buck continues to pay dividends.

Tonight I concocted a slight variation on one of his shrimp recipes, and came up with the following:

  1. Peeled/deveined about 3/4 pound of large-ish shrimp (16-20s)
  2. Tossed ’em with a pinch or two of kosher salt, one minced garlic clove, and a couple of pinches of red pepper flakes
  3. The shrimp and seasonings would then get stirfried until practically done in a wok, maybe 4-5 minutes.
  4. Added the premixed sauce: 2 1/2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp ketchup, 1 tsp hot chili paste, 2 tsp honey.
  5. Thickened it a tad with maybe 1/2 tsp of cornstarch in 1 tsp water.

AND THAT WAS IT.

This was amazingly easy to throw together, and tasted just great. Hints of sweetness with the honey, followed up with a sneaky increase of heat and then a finish of the garlic.

Yan’s version leaves the shells on the shrimp and dusts ’em with cornstarch before wokking ’em with dry red chilis and garlic. But the sauce is the same. The texture on his version would be different, but I’ve never been crazy about leaving the shells on shrimps. If you fry ’em enough and they crispy, fine, but I didn’t trust myself. And I still got what I wanted – shrimp in a thick, clingy spicy sauce.

A recurring motif in this Yan book is also the use of balsamic vinegar and hoisin sauce to create sweet/sour effects underneath chili heat. The Kung Pao recipe uses this, as well as some others, and I discovered it worked rather well. Despite large amounts of chili paste with red pepper flakes on top of it, the dishes do not come out overly hot, but well balanced.

AND my copy is an autographed first edition! Not too bad for a buck.

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A Quick Post For A Quick Recipe August 18, 2016

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vintage spaghetti catThe On Top Of Spaghetti cookbook from Providence’s Al Forno begins to pay off.  I started with a slight variation on their simple “mother” sauce recipe, and it came out great.

So here’s what I did:

  1. Minced up 3 big garlic cloves, for about a tablespoon’s worth, and sauteéd it in a little more than 1/4 cup of olive oil until it began to turn golden, maybe two minutes over medium-low heat.
  2. Carefully (to avoid splashing) added 2/3 cup of chicken broth & 2/3 cup of red wine
  3. Brought it to a boil, then reduced to a simmer and let half the liquid boil off.
  4. Added 1 28 ounce can of crushed plum tomatoes
  5. Brought it back up to a  boil, then let simmer for about five minues
  6. Salted to taste (about a half a teaspoon), added a tablespoon of dried basil

… and that’s it! The sauce finished in those five minutes, and then I added it to some seasoned ground turkey I browned up before finishing some penne with it. The rest of the basic sauce went into refrigerator & freezer portions. This makes about 5 servings, and took a total of maybe 10-15 minutes.

DON’T EVER HAVE SAUCE FROM A SUPERMARKET JAR AGAIN!

Just What I Needed! Another Italian Cookbook! August 11, 2016

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Vincent-spaghetti-ad-vincent-price-1168556_268_371Why only have 27 when you can have 28? (Yes, I counted them when I got home.)

How many more recipes could I have on hand? How many could I actually eat before my inevitable death due to pasta-induced obesity?

Check the current over/under in Vegas & put me down for ten bucks on “over.” Too much is NEVER enough.

So finding On Top Of Spaghetti… by Johanne Killeen and George Germon while rooting around a Burbank thrift store I took as a SIGN FROM THE ALMIGHTY.  Killeen & Germon are the owners of Al Forno in my special-origins-issue of Providence, Rhode Island. Al Forno is probably the most famous of what I’d term the fancy/schmantzy upscale Italian that began appearing in the 1980s, existing alongside the old school red sauce places ubiquitous throughout the state. (If there’s a cookbook out there somewhere for Mike’s Kitchen, located inside a Cranston VFW post and my pick for best Italian in the state, I’d certainly love to hear about it. This is probably as close as I’ll get. One night long ago when I went to dinner there, we saw Germon eating there and chatting with Mike.  In Germon’s earlier book, they published Mike’s polenta recipe, which is a good’n. Mike is 85, and he’s had his perch at that VFW since my college days. May he live forever!)

Anyway, I’ll glance at all sorts of cookbooks at thrift stores, yardsales, library sales, you name it… my usual rule is that if I can’t find more than one recipe I’d want to cook while browsing through the book, I put it back for the next glutton to come along. Suffice to say that a book of original pasta recipes would be enough to pique my interest. And whenever I come across one that has a Rhode Island connection, I figure it’s a cosmic message.  It happened many years ago at a yardsale, when I came across a copy of We Called It Macaroni by Nancy Verde Barr. Barr grew up on Federal Hill and offers up a nice mix of family recipes and the cultural background of that old Italian neighborhood.

Authentic Rhode Island! THAT’S what I want on my dinner table! All that’s missing is Jimmy Two-Times to go get the papers get the papers.

The other books? I’d rather save focusing on them for different blog posts in the future. I’ll try to check back in with different ones after I cook some amazin’ recipe from them.  I have several focusing on different regions of Italian cookery from north to south, some from eminently trustworthy Italian chefs like Lidia Bastianich or Marcella Hazan, some from other great Italian restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and other cities…..

Yeah, I make Italian food a lot.

Which is why I agree with the title of this article, and ignore its final paragraphs.

It WAS The Best Bean & Cheese Burrito I’ve Ever Had August 10, 2016

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la-gold-burritos-al-and-beas-20151103I had a day to ride the rails for free, thanks to a Metrolink promotion, so I organized some errands for downtown Los Angeles (most notably a visit to The Last Bookstore) and took note of whatever other stuff was worth visiting that laid close to train stations.

While temped to ride the spiffy new line to Santa Monica pier, I put that safari off for another day and decided instead to think about lunch.  Something new. That meant passing on the best pastrami in the world at Langer‘s (right near a Red line train stop) and instead venturing to sample Al & Bea’s Mexican Food, within a a couple of blocks of a Gold line stop.

This place has been there for literally fifty years, serving up old school Mexican, specializing in burritos. Supposedly it has the best bean & cheese burrito in Los Angeles.  My pick for best LA-area foodie Jonathan Gold certainly thinks so. Twenty first century Criswell-wannabe stat cruncher Nate Silver came to the same conclusion.

And so did LA Weekly.

I’ve been trying to remember an episode of St. Elsewhere, when Howie Mandel & Stephen Furst go out to Los Angeles, and ex-pat Angeleno Dr. Ehrilch (Ed Begly Jr) begs them to bring him back a burrito from some specific place…. I keep wondering if it was Al & Bea’s. I only remember the shot of Begley unwrapping the burrito outside the hospital on a cold Boston winter night, and smelling it in heavenly bliss.

So I hiked from Mariachi Station in Boyle Heights, admiring the wonderful hilltop view of the downtown LA skyline in back of me, and ordered the bean & cheese with red sauce the other day.

The first bite. Just ONE bite and my reaction was an immediate “Lives up to the hype!”

And then I basically inhaled the thing.

I tried to peg down the secret. The beans had a definite home made vibe to them. Looser and goopier than the pasty-style refried beans you get in some burritos or other dishes. Made the thing a sloppy mess to eat, but I wasn’t exactly in tie & tails. Not a lot of cheese in the thing, which kept the cheese flavor and melty texture from overwhelming the thing. And the red sauce? My guess it that the red sauce was practically pure hot pepper mash, but – and here was the MAGIC – while the hotness pervaded each bite, it did not overwhelm. The main flavor consisted of the mild flavor of the refried pintos, with the cheese and hot pepper moving in and out of. And let’s not forget the tortilla – slightly thinner than other flour tortilla burtitos I’ve had, but with enough of a chewy al dente type bite – not too gummy, not too chewy, but with enough substance to be a dry framework for the thing without being too dry or going soggy. An impressive piece of culinary engineering, to be sure.

I love the old school stuff at Henry’s in North Hollywood, and any time I have to schlep to the stupid airport, I try to make a stop at Tito’s. But I gotta give this one the top rating.

Oh, and if I keep eating this stuff, by all means buy stock in Glaxo/Smith-Kline, makers of Gas-X.

Fifty Shades Of Pasta August 11, 2014

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frankava

Yes, that’s it… gently with the linguine…. it must be al dente for it to be just right…. oooh yeah….

More baby more!

Now the thick spaghetti, you know how I like it thick…. I’ll stuff your bucatini fulla loooove….

And the safety word is gemelli.

Someone asked me for some Italian recipes, so I thought of pasta. Now that I’m going easer on the whole low-carb thing I can make it far more often.

If only I had a penne for every time I made pasta.

Okay, now that you’ve barfed & made some room, here are some ideas. And to be specific, they’re really ideas on what to have WITH pasta – they’re not recipes for making your own homemade pasta (which is pretty easy, actually: 1 cup flour to 1 egg/2 tbs water/1/8 cup olive oil ratio for each portion. Mix up, knead a bit, wrap in plastic like Laura Palmer for at least a half hour, then roll out & cut using machine or a rolling pin).

Real men like meat with their pasta. At least that’s what I’ve been told over cups of herbal tea in our circular discussions of Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Wait, now I’M barfing.

Anyway, just like the construction worker inquired as you walked on by, if you like Italian sausage, I’ve got something good for you. Take the sausage (hot or sweet, whatever you like & also depending on the construction worker’s personality) and cut it open, raw, squeezing the meat out into a bowl (unless of course the construction worker yells “gemelli!”). Add some wine, red or white, and mix up. Brown this up in a saute pan with some olive oil and use a wooden or plastic spoon to break it up into decent sized chunks, not too big, not too small. Then simply add some basic marinara to it. The meat is already seasoned and spiced, so this is basically pasta & sausage without pieces of sausage but instead with more of a ragout angle.

I posted a recipe for meatballs elsewhere on this blog, but lately I’ve been doing it a little differently: I still use ground turkey, but I start with a piece of white or Italian bread, minus the crust, torn into tiny shreds by hand & then soaked with red wine. I mash this with a fork into a red paste of sorts, maybe about 1/4 cup worth for the 1/3 pound of ground turkey I’m using. Then I add salt, pepper (ground black or red pepper flakes, whatever you like), garlic powder, parmesan cheese, dried basil and maybe a tablespoon of olive oil to it all, mix it up until the consistency is uniform & then make 6-8 meatballs with it. These go on a pyrex pie plate & into the microwave on high for 3-4 minutes. I’ll finish cooking them in a saute pan with a little olive oil, browning them on a few sides, and then adding marinara & simmering it all for 15-20 minutes before dressing pasta with it.

Low-Carb variation: In either of these cases, I added sun dried tomatoes during the cooking of the sauce & mozzarella cheese at the end to thicken, giving me more of a thick meaty stew. I’d increase the meat portion (something else the construction worker suggested), eat it in a bowl along with a salad & some wine.

I tried a new trick with a mushroom marinara the other day as well – I sliced up the mushrooms & sweated them down in a saute pan with some olive oil and a pinch of salt, but this time once they browned & shrunk, I didn’t add the marinara right off. Instead, I added about 1/4 of port wine and cooked it down until the wine remnant was syrupy, where you could see a trail when you dragged the spoon through it, and THEN added the marinara. I used to throw some port into my marinara to give the illusion of fresher/sweeter tomatoes, and by infusing the ‘shooms with it, this had the same effect, only more noticeable in the end. And this can easily be accomplished with the run-of-the-mill cheap twisty cap supermarket port – you don’t have to use that 1963 bottle of tawny that ran you several hundred dollars. Unless you want to…. but the only way I’d ever spend that kind of money is if I’d forgotten the safety word.

Mangia!

In Search Of The Best Banana Bread July 17, 2014

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zaiusIt ought to have been an episode of the old Leonard Nimoy TV show. I think I’ve tried at least a half a dozen variations on banana bread recipes over the years. They’ve ranged from decent to very good, but never to SWOON, which is what I always look for whenever picking whatever will be the version to be put into permanent rotation.

And speaking of Nimoy, I’d like to see this in heavy rotation. Or not.

 Banana Bread Version 1 is the more traditional recipe and prep, and it’s sort of the “baseline” I work with whenever trying a new one.

Dry: Mix 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt (not kosher salt) in a bowl.

Wet: Mash up 3-4 overripe bananas in another bowl. Add 1/4 cup of plain yogurt or sour cream (I like to use greek yogurt), 2 beaten eggs, 6 tbs butter that’s been melted & cooled, and 1 tsp of vanilla.

Fold the wet into the dry until combined.

At this point, you can fold in some chopped walnuts or (my preference) 1 1/4 cups of dark chocolate chips that have been lightly dusted in flour (that keeps ’em from sinking during the baking)

Pour the batter into a lightly greased or buttered 5×9 loaf pan. One hour in a 350 degree oven, test with a toothpick, you know the drill. Then let cool.

Banana Bread Version 2 is a little more complex, but it came out pretty decently. I saw it on America’s Test Kitchen, probably my favorite cooking show out there. I might play around with it a little to increase the sweetness.

Dry: 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda & 1/2 tsp salt (not kosher) in a bowl

Wet:  Prepare the bananas: 4-5 overripe bananas put into a microwave bowl, cover with plastic, poke a few holes in the plastic to allow steam to escape. Microwave for 4-5 minutes. Strain the cooked bananas, stir them around to get all the liquid out & reserve the liquid. Reduce the liquid over a low-medium flame in a saucepan until it’s down to under 1/4 cup, almost syrupy. Add back to the bananas. Mash up with a potato masher.

Then whisk in 8 tbs (a whole stick) of melted/cooled butter, 2 beaten eggs, 1 tsp vanilla and 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar. Mix until combined.

Add wet to dry, fold in until combined.  Fold in walnuts or chocolate, same as the other recipe. Pour into the same greased or buttered loaf pan.

Now, on the Test Kitchen, they sliced up one more banana, shingled the top of the thing (avoiding the center where it rises) and sprinkled 2 tsp of sugar on top. I did not do this and probably will try it next time since it will add more flavor & sweetness. I had thought it would be overkill, but the unshingled version I did do hardly differed from version 1 in taste, only in color due to the brown sugar.  I also thought that adding the white sugar to the mix might increase sweetness and also provide some chewiness by mixing with the brown sugar. We’ll see about that next time. But their trick of microwaving the bananas & reducing the resulting flavor-packed liquid to a near syrup added sweetness and maintained moistness without overdoing the balance (hence dropping the yogurt – you’re basically subbing more banana for it in version 2.)

So the experimentation will go on…. vprice

 

Clear As (Borosilicate versus Soda Lime) Glass July 14, 2014

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Vincent-cooking-3I learn all sorts of odd things via my geeky students and former students. This time it’s what chemical mix goes into glass bakeware. I’d never really thought about it.

This weekend I went to a nearby estate sale where grandma’s house was getting sold. Hardly any books, next to no tools in the garage, mostly little figurines and far too much sewing material, but I figured as long as I was there, I’d comb the place from top to bottom.

After I got past the slightly tempting stack of Ice Capades programs dating back to 1972 (Good God, I’m old enough to remember Jo Jo Starbuck), I checked out the cluttered kitchen. Denied my usual estate sale entertainment of people trying to sell various canned pantry contents with 1990s expiration dates, I noticed a TON of bakeware, all of which was immaculately clean.

And some of it immaculately CHEAP, my favorite. I grabbed four purple-tinted (!) baking dishes – 2 were Pyrex, 2 were Anchor Hocking –  maybe $100-125 retail altogether, for $10. (Also a nice deal on a sweeper broom that I used to FINALLY sweep out my garage, but that’s another story).

The purple tint told me the stuff had to be 20-30 years old, but it’s all immaculate – unlike the stuff I already have, not a baked on greasy spot in the bunch.

And then a former student told me on Facebook that since it’s so old, it must be the old school Pyrex made with borosilicate glass – the same kind of glass used in labs, the kind that can stand extreme heat and not shatter when heated and cooled rapidly. Evidently when Pyrex got sold off in 1998, their new owners switched to soda lime glass (the kind used by Anchor Hocking for 2 of my purchases). Turns out soda lime glass handles oven heat as well, but can break easier when temperatures switch too quickly.

This happened to me once – I took a hot glass pie plate and ran it under water in the sink to clean it, and the difference in temperature shattered the damn thing in my hands.

I’m not sure I’ll really notice the difference the same way I notice the difference between using cheaper stovetop material versus upper end stainless or my beloved All-Clad nonstick, but I found it interesting to consider the chemistry in something I hadn’t given second thought to.

I’m too busy thinking about the purple color. I’m thinking it’ll go great if I remodel the kitchen with some avocado green appliances, bright red countertops and some screamin’ monkey-puke yellow colored cabinetry so the place can look like something out of The Brady Bunch. I’d like to think of Alice cooking a lasagna in one of the baking dishes, though I’d rather think of sharing spaghetti with Marcia Lady & The Tramp style, until I leaned in too quickly and broke her nose.

I knew I should have cooked for Adrienne Barbeau instead.

How I Lost Weight & Improved My Health, Until I Get Hit By A Bus July 11, 2014

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s1tj89

A bus falling out of the sky, too. It’s just how my life works.

A few months back, I got bored waiting at a supermarket pharmacy counter, so I sat in one of those free blood pressure measuring chairs to see where my numbers would land.

I’ve always had relatively low blood pressure, anywhere from 110-120 over 60, never gave it much thought compared to other health related issues nearer & dearer to my experience.

Such as my genetically from dad ulcer-vulnerable stomach. Or the lurking fear that I’d wake up one morning and find a note pinned to my pillow from my penis after it had finally abandoned me for greener pastures.

So when this thing gave me a readout of 155/85, I wondered WTF? I hadn’t been overly stressed lately. I don’t smoke. I hardly ever drink coffee. And I hadn’t eaten a fifty pound bag of rock salt for lunch.

I figured it was a faulty machine, at least hoped it was a faulty machine. On my way home, I stopped at a different supermarket that had a pharmacy and a blood pressure video chair. Rolled up my sleeve & sat in it…. and 155/85 again.

A real kick in the ass – I’d been meaning to drop some weight and had never made a real commitment, but this put me into a small panic as I envisioned my post-stroke self, drooling in a wheelchair, thinking of endless dick jokes and unable to speak ANY of them. Truly a fate worse than death.

Getting more exercise was easy – that simply meant going back to my old habit of taking long walks after dinner. And there’s certainly a variety of walking routes & paths where I live. So, it was a 2-3 mile walk nearly every night, maybe anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour of brisk walking, some uphill, some flat, some downhill.

But you want to know how I lost somewhere between 15-17 pounds in 2 months, right?

It’s the practically-no-carb diet. It really works. Practically no carbs, no sugar, and all the meats, cheeses, veggies, nuts, etc. as you want. The more protein, the better for not feeling hungry. For a couple of months, I cut out as many carbs as I possibly could – no rice or bread or starchy sides with my dinners. No more potatoes or mac ‘n’ cheese. I made larger salads with more veggies and often added hard boiled egg white for protein. I cut out all pasta – this was the toughest thing to do, considering I would normally make it 2-3 times a week – did I mention I’m a gourmet cook and specialize in Italian food?

Oy.

One way around the pasta-less diet was to prepare some of the same sauces for pasta and have them only with the meatballs, sausage or seafood. I’d up the amount of meat and add sun dried tomatoes and/or mozzarella to thicken the sauce. Eventually I cut back on cheese since I wanted to avoid cholesterol.

I read labels studiously and figured I probably cut my carbs by 90% or so – I’d have a fiber-loaded cereal bar in the morning or a banana, but that was about it. No desserts except for small amounts of dark chocolate now and then.  Plain yogurt with actual fruit instead of the flavored kind. The other helpful thing has been a high protein shake I’d get at costco that, along with almonds or peanuts, would pretty much be lunch. Dinner would consist of some meat with spices, sauces, veggies and a salad. No beer, but wine was okay, also the occasional Jack Daniels and water with a touch of lemon. Can’t have a good meal without a drink.

Oh, and lots of beans. Not only are they low carb and high fiber and help lower blood pressure, but evidently living with all my farts has added years to my life, according to a new study.

10-best-meals-in-the-movies-4

Made a lot of varied en papillote recipes – basically, I’d spice up some beans or lentils (spices, chopped tomatoes, etc) and use them as a bed for seasoned/herbed medallions of boneless chicken or fish, drizzle with olive oil (that keeps it all moist), and seal in a foil pouch in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes (chicken) and 20-30 minutes (white fish). This & a salad made a solid dinner.

I watched my weight come down, slowly but steadily, after an initial faster clip (not sure why that happened, there’s probably some medical explanation for it). Lost 7 pounds in the first two weeks, and then about 5 pounds a month for the 2 months following. Then I started to ease carbs back in, even pasta, only in smaller portions than before. I’ve been maintaining the weight.

I cut back on salt for the blood pressure, but I’ve never been a huge salt consumer, and a blood test showed normal sodium levels.  I upped the amount of potassium in my diet by eating more bananas (despite the carbs in ’em) and spinach.  I’ve been taking two different supplements that supposedly lower blood pressure – turmeric (also from costco) and COQ10. I take small amounts of each with my usual vitamin in the morning. I have NO idea if they’ve been having an effect along with the diet & exercise, but I have no side effects from them and feel fine. The turmeric supplement mimics eating a lot of Indian food I guess, and COQ10 is produced by your body anyway, usually boosted by meat eating. 200 mgs every morning is all I take.

Quite fine, in fact. A month after I started this, my blood pressure was 135/75. A couple of weeks later, it was 125/70.

And the other day, I weighed in at 17 pounds lighter with a bp of 115/65. SCORE!!!!

Though if it drops below 90/50 and Hawkeye starts pounding my chest while screaming “Don’t let the bastard win!” I guess I’ll alter my routine.

Why am I posting this? Well, I figure I must have readers who want to knock their own numbers down. This worked well for me, it might work for others. This required a consistent discipline, but once I got used to the dietary change after a few days, it wasn’t that big a deal to alter my grocery shopping slightly and to get more creative with some recipes. I knew once I hit my target weight I’d have my beer and pasta back, but I’d have to be mindful of them and moderate. I’ll have to keep the discipline as far as the exercise goes, but I don’t see how that’s a bad thing – I like going for walks.

All without meds. Hopefully it will stay that way.

Your mileage may vary – but good luck with this – it worked for me, and I’m not selling or endorsing anything for a royalty (DAMMIT!!!! I want that MONEY!!!!)

Best. Latkes. Ever. December 11, 2012

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latka

No, not THAT Latka.

Whenever a Jew holiday rolls around, I inevitably think of potato latkes.

The magical taste of fried potato, and not just the lightly-French-Fried variety… no… this is deep brown crispy golden serious kettle cooked potato chip type frying. It’s what makes it all so so much better.

I’ve tried a few different recipes, but when I thought about the subtleties of what separates the good latke from the great, it all came down to some very simple stuff. Great latkes were bigger & spongier, basically, offering a better interior texture than something that felt more like deep fried mashed potatoes.

So the secret is…. hand shred the potatoes using a box grater. Do NOT use a food processor. I don’t care how much easier it might sound. DO NOT DO IT.

Here’s the Wagstaff method:

  1. I use decent sized Russet baking potatoes, with a ratio of 1 potato to 1 beaten egg in mixing the batter. I’ll get 2-3 large latkes out of each potato, maybe 3 inches in diameter.
  2. Hand shred those peeled russets with a box grater. If you like the latkes with a sweet addition like applesauce, mixing in a small amount (maybe at a 1:4 ratio) of hand shredded sweet potato works well.
  3. Take those potato shreds, throw ’em in a tea towel, and wring the ever lovin’ CRAP out of them to dry them out. You want to remove as much water as you can.
  4. Mix the dried potato shreds in a bowl with the following ratios per potato: 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of flour, a pinch or two of salt & pepper, and 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion.
  5. And here’s the trick to getting the inner consistency right: Add 1/2 tsp of baking powder & 1 tsp of white vinegar to the mix. If you usually have the latkes with sour cream like me, I substitute 1 tsp of a vinegar-based hot sauce like Cholula for the vinegar, and cut down a little on the black pepper.
  6. Mix to form a batter, form patties with your hands similar to hamburger patties, and then fry in a wide pan (in batches if you’re doing a lot) in enough olive oil so that the oil will come up the sides of the pancakes slightly, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. The pancakes as they cook will absorb the oil.
  7. Fry about 5 minutes a side on medium heat, and then turn repeatedly until you get the level of brown you want.
  8. Drain on paper towels, keep warm on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven if necessary.

The baking powder/hot sauce or vinegar combo will give you some rising action when you cook them, the interweaving shreds of hand-chopped potato & slightly translucent onion cooked inside give you a great inner texture – you get a smooth & creamy potato flavor, but with some bite…. I guess you could call it “al dente.” And you get the wonderful dark brown crispy fried potato goodness on the outside.

And for me, the hint of hot pepper flavor in ’em with the Cholula combined with the sour cream & onion makes it all very very nice indeed.

And am I the only one out here who thinks that giving chocolate coins to Jewish kids on Hanukkah only confirms a Jewish stereotype? Back when I was a kid, I far preferred the Milton Bradley “Control The Media” board game, myself.

I think the Maccabees did, too. Now eat, bubelah, eat!

Mamma Mia! That’s A Spicy (Turkey) Meatball! September 5, 2012

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Purists have sneered at yours truly for substituting ground turkey for beef/pork mixture in making meatballs for spaghetti. I did it partially for health reasons, although as you’ll see in the recipe that follows, I’ve sorta destroyed a lot of that aspect to get the flavor & texture I like.

Whatever. I’m downing a near bottle of wine every time I make this, and that’s good for me, right?

Right?

Even if it isn’t, who the hell cares, right?

Damn right.

Anyway, I recommend giving this one a try – it’s easy & quick, and is authentic enough for my tastes. I don’t think Clemenza would scoff & refuse any, never mind strangling me with piano wire.

  1. I start with 1/3 pound of regular ground turkey, the 7% fat version. This will make 8 medium sized meatballs for 1 big appetite like mine.
  2. It goes into a mixing bowl with the following rough measurements of things I generally eyeball: 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste, 1/2 tbs dried basil, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tbsp of grated parmesean cheese, and most importantly of all…. 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs saturated to mushiness with a medium bodied red wine, like malbec, sangiovese, tempranillo, or chianti. The crumbs should be like a wet sponge without a film of wine left over.
  3. Mix all that together, and then divide up into 8 meatballs. Don’t overmix or the meat gets stringy. Just enough to evenly distribute everything.
  4. I put the meatballs on a pyrex pie plate, put a paper towel on top, and start them in the (EGAD!) microwave for 3 minutes on high.
  5. Have a pan, preferebly non-stick ready with a minimal coating of olive oil, on medum. Remove the 80% cooked meatballs from puddle of liquid fat in the pie plate – this removes most of the fat & leaves the olive oil/breadcrumbs/cheese behind as the moisture holder – and brown them ever so gently on a couple of sides in the pan, to get “edges” on them. This only takes a couple of minutes.
  6. Add a good basic tomato sauce to the pan – I have a recipe for one on this blog linked here – bring to a simmer, cover and let cook for 15 minutes or so. That’s all the time you really need, with a stir or two. Then dress your favorite pasta with it.

That’s it! It takes very little time & makes great sorta-healthy meatballs.

And the more wine you drink with ’em, the healthier they are. Isn’t that convenient?