Thursday, March 13, 2008

Meatballs....How About Bra-zhul !


Chicago friend Cathy "Cav's" is showing up in Seattle next week, for a drink. I learned to cook meatballs at her house when I was a young girl. No last names but she has an Italian one and although her mom did not have the blood of the boot, she learned how to serve it up right to keep papa Joe and all his brothers in garlic and tomato sauce.

Meatballs are one thing - it was the braciola, pronounced bra-zhul that curled my hair.
A piece of tenderized beef, stuffed with various goodies, tied off, browned - then simmered in tomato sauce for hours. Ambrosia.
The Cav's braciolas, stuffed with hard boiled eggs, were a special treat and the eggs, the prize.

"DINNERS READY".
We take our places at the table and wait for Joe, Mr. Cav's, to come home from the hardware store, wash his hands, sit down and serve himself. Then, we could eat.

First the rich tomato sauce, served over pasta, usually zitti.

So good so rich so much flavor so much beef fat...sometimes the sauce was made with meatballs and sausage and bra-zhul. These were the days before anyone had heard of cholesterol or gave two shits about their mid line.

Ok, next, remove the pasta from the table and bring on the braciola !!! An anxious air hung over the table...who gets the egg this week?

Damn.

I've never made a braciola but I've talked about it enough over the years and last year I cycled with an Italian guy from Jersey whose new girlfriend was pulling her hair out over how to make the perfect braciola so she could be accepted into the fold and win the heart of her man.

Well Honey, try the following recipe which is penned by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. http://www.thatsmyhome.com/venettos/lidsun.htm

This dish is truly an act of love. Check it out...it will take hours to prepare and that jives with my memory of Sunday braciola at Cathy's.

Good luck, enjoy and let me know how it turns out. Jenise

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenise, your blog is very very cool! You have inspired me to re-visit mom's recipe. I haven't made braciole in years, but Cathy forwarded me your blog and I love it. Well, instead of ham & sweet potatoes we had mostaciolli, braciole, meatballs, sausage and salad. Oh yes, and stuffed artichokes for an appetizer. Well the braciole was a hit - thanks for reminding me!!


Lyn (Cathy's sister)
(I'll send you the pastina recipe with a little history too)

Sunday, March 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenise, the smells and tastes of some food, just give you that warm back-home feeling. I know this is a long story, but I thought you'd enjoy the memory as well as the food.

Since my grandparents lived next door when I was four, I would visit them often. I’d walk outside my house, over the little patch of grass, across the driveway, then down the back concrete stairways to my grandparents’ cool, dark, basement kitchen. A kitchen existed upstairs but that one was never used. The one window in the basement barely cleared the driveway. The little patch of light that came through barely illuminated the kitchen sink. Grandma could identify any visitors by the shoes they wore. She’d announce “Here comes Auntie Antoinette and Uncle Charlie” or “Let me put out some
coffee and… Louie and Karen are here.” Of course coffee and..meant coffee with some cake or cookies, it just went unsaid.

Fabulous smells would entice me to their door. When my grandmother opened the door the smell would overtake me. I kissed her on her cheek, my lips slid across it, tasting and smelling the olive oil that moisturized her face each day. My grandmother made her own lemonade. Every morning she squeezed lemons and grapefruit. She told me the secret to her lemonade was adding the grapefruit. She would pour it into one of the jewel colored metal tumblers; blue, green or red. The sweat from the cold lemonade would make the tumbler shine like a precious gem on the red and white checked plastic tablecloth. Grandma would place a bowl of steaming pastina in front of me. It was little pasta dots thickly soaking up a chicken broth. The broth was barely visible. We’d sprinkle grated Romano cheese on top. The steam from the thick soup would steam over the tiny basement window making sunlight gauzy and subdued. When the pastina came across your tongue the warm, soft little pastina would reward your palate with a comforting cheesy flavor.

Then, I would hear my mother across the driveway calling “Lynnie, your father’s home, it’s time for dinner”.


I’ve streamlined Grandma Kay’s recipe for us busy moms.


Pastina

2 chicken breasts
6 Tablespoons chicken bouillon
3 stalks of celery w/ tops
3 carrots
3 Tablespoons onion powder
1 can diced tomatoes
½ package of pastina or star pasta
grated Romano Cheese
1 large pot of water

Drop chicken breasts in cold water. Heat on high. Add chicken bouillon, sliced celery, tops, sliced carrots, tomatoes, (don’t drain) and onion powder. When it comes to a boil, turn it down. Take out celery tops and discard. Take out the chicken breasts and cut them into small pieces, trimming any fat. Place the chicken back in the pot, bring to a boil again. Add ½ package of pastina or stars, stir so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Pastina is done when it has at least doubled in size – you may want to add a little more water if they soak up too much, then cook a little longer.


Cathy's sister, Lyn

Sunday, March 23, 2008  

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