Thursday, January 24, 2008
The whole time I thought of preparing this dish AND during the cooking process, I had this little person on my shoulder whispering in my ear. No - really - I'm not entirely insane - she was there - honest she was! She kept whispering in my ear "why are you even thinking about eating this - it's so fattening and you'll be so sorry you ate all these calories. Why don't you make a salad instead". My gosh -it's my mother still telling me what to eat! "But mother, I said - I'm making your potato dumpling recipe (she calls them "kliskes" - a Yiddishism for Gnocci, dumplings or whatever one's cultural heritage calls it). "Never mind she said - I used to make them for your father - he could eat them - he was skinny".
Call me a rebel - I made them anyways. I figure by the time I hit the age of 50, I could do what I wanted in my own kitchen.
Feeling mighty brave by this point I grabbed the ingredients for the dumplings:
4 or 5 medium sized potatoes (I used russet)
salt and pepper
This is one of those recipes that works from "feel" - it has to feel right.
1. Peel and quarter potatoes
2. Boil until soft
3. Drain and return to pot to allow excess water to dissipate
4. Mash really well or if you have a ricer even better. Lumps are a no no
5. Add beaten egg and begin adding flour about 1/4 cup at a time until you create a dough like consistency (shouldn't be sticky)
6. Liberally flour board to work with your dough
7. Cut dough in quarters and roll each quarter into a snake (I start this with my hands and then transfer to a board and roll it lightly with both palms)
8. Cut dumplings at an angle. Continue this process until all the dough is used.
9. Bring a soup sized pot of water to a boil, add salt and drop dumplings into water - remove as they rise to the surface (as you would with perogies)
Note: I learned a hard lesson with these - if you don't add enough flour and have a solid consistency with the dough, they can quickly become a mush pot. It's that whole you have to feel when the dough is right and not sticky.
The second thing I've learned over time is that I probably should have been born to an Italian family. I love the foods, love the cultural identity, love the sense of family and love the customs. I'm fortunate enough to live in a community that houses many Italian families from new immigrants to second and third generation Canadians. One of the things I've come to love is the September long weekend tradition in our area of going to the local farmer to bring home a minimum of 5 bushels of tomatoes. The garage doors go up, the huge pots come out, the canning jars are all sterilized and one neighbour helps the next as the back breaking job of making sauce tomatoes begins. We seem to have it down to a science - each bushel of tomatoes (depending on the quality of the crop) will usually yield about 20 - one litre mason jars of sauce. So 5 bushels gets you through the winter with enough left over to share with family and friends.
The tomatoes go through an extruder twice and I've come to learn that good sauce is thick and rich - not runny. Mixed with fresh basil leaves (basillica as my neighbours call it) and a good pinch of salt, this sauce becomes the foundation of all wonderful foods Italian.
One of my favourite good things Italian is Chicken Parmesan - easy, quick, freezes well and always makes me feel good when I eat it. What could be finer.
6-8 chicken scallopini (chicken breasts sliced thin)
1 cup bread crumbs (approx. - you may need more)
seasonings for bread crumbs (I use dried oregano, Mrs. Dash, pepper, garlic powder)
2 slight beaten eggs
1-2 cups shredded mozarella cheese (I used provalone)
1. Beat eggs, season bread crumbs
2. Add a good splash of olive oil to a large frying pan, heat to medium
3. Dip chicken scallopini first in egg, then in bread crumbs and add to heated frying pan.
4. Spray oven proof casserole dish and add browned chicken
5. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese (to your taste)
6. Add shredded mozarella cheese to coat chicken (to your taste)
7. Add approximately 1-2 cups of tomato sauce
8. 350 F oven uncovered for approximately 30 minutes
Voila - you're in heaven.