Pros: Very detailed directions, Nice organization of recipes
Cons: Not enough photographs
I was anxious to get started on trying the new recipes in this book, and it was easy to get started on the same day it arrived with just the items already in my pantry and fridge. The first recipe I tackled was Mom’s Broiled Chicken with Potatoes and Onions. It was precisely what I was looking for – elegant and simple. It was one of those dishes that my family could tell took some effort on my part, and that I cared about them enough to make a delicious homemade meal. While this recipe did call for a 3 ½ pound chicken, cut into parts, I went ahead and used all chicken breasts (bone in, with skin) because that is what my family prefers. It turned out fantastic – and to my family, looked like it took more effort than it actually did.
A great treat for me was being able to make treats ahead of time for Hors d’oeuvres, or as Mike calls them, Bites and Snacks from the Isabella household. I loved the smoked olives. It was simple, easy to prepare the night before, and overnight marinating made for a wonderful complexity of flavor. Then, when guests arrived the next afternoon, I pulled out the smoked olives, a loaf of bread, some cheese and olive oil with balsamic vinegar, and was ready to entertain. Advance meal preparation relieves so much of my stress when entertaining! This not only frees up time, but you could serve them all summer since they are delightful, refreshing, cold snacks. I might be bordering addiction with these olives.
I also tried a dessert. Personally, I love many of the Italian desserts. In this case, I tried a new one. There is a great recipe for Nutella cookie sandwiches. Absolutely delicious, quick and easy, and again good to prepare ahead of time. If you have children, these are a great way to get them involved as they can help spread the filling, make the cookies, and more.
In short, this is a great cookbook. Mike uses family friendly terminology and a simple yet detailed way of explaining directions that doesn’t require a great deal of cooking knowledge. For example, in the cookie sandwiches mentioned above, he tells how to roll out the dough by “rolling from the center out – north, south, east, and west.” What a great visual for those who are unsure of the technique. With the exception of some of the seafood, you should have no problems finding the ingredients in your local grocery store. I highly recommend this as an addition to your shelf of cookbooks to cover the Italian style of cooking. This book would be great for any level of cook. While I did not cover all the recipes in this review he has several more complicated recipes sure to please the more advanced cook, as well as plenty of simple straight forward ones for everyday cooking.
Mom’s Broiled Chicken with Potatoes and Onions
3-3 ½-pound chicken cut into parts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 lemon, zested and then cut into wedges
1 ½ teaspoons plus 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
2 medium-size russet potatoes, unpeeled, and cut into 12 wedges each (scrub them first)
16 white pearl onions, peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt (prefer Maldon)
1.Preheat oven broiler on high and position oven rack in the middle of the oven (8 inches away from the broiler flame is ideal).
2.Remove chicken from refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes while completing the next step.
3.In a small mixing bowl, stir together the olive oil, oregano, garlic, paprika, and lemon zest until it forms a paste.
4.In a separate large mixing bowl, add the chicken pieces, half of the paste, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Use your hands to rub the paste evenly onto the chicken, then season with pepper, and arrange chicken parts skin-side-up in a large roasting pan.
5.In the same large mixing bowl, add potato wedges, onions, and remaining paste and salt. Toss to combine and arrange around the chicken pieces in the roasting pan, being careful not to overlap ingredients.
6.Place roasting pan under the broiler, close the oven door, and broil for 25 minutes.
7.Slowly open the door (BE CAREFUL – do not put your face near the oven door as the smoke and heat can be intense). Remove roasting pan from oven and check the temperature with a meat thermometer. The chicken is done when temperature registers 160°F and the juices run clear. Let the chicken rest at room temperature for 4-5 minutes before serving.
8.Arrange chicken on a large platter and place potatoes and onions around. Squeeze lemon wedges over dish and season with sea salt. Serve family style.
Makes 2 cups
2 cups applewood chips, for the smoker or grill
2 cups mixed olives (Greek Kalamata, Moroccan oil-cured black, Italian Cerignola, Spanish Arbequina, or your favorite olives from your grocery deli)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Peel of ½ lemon (no pith)
Peel of ½ orange (no pith)
5 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped dill
½ teaspoon black sea salt.
1.Soak the applewood chips in water for 1 hour. Prepare a smoker or grill with coals on the bottom. Once the coals are hot, place the soaked applewood chips atop the coals. Heat the smoker or grill to 200°F.
2.Place the olives in a grill basket and smoke for 15-20 minutes. Keep the smoker or grill lid closed so that the olives absorb the right amount of smoke.
3.While the olives are in the smoker, combine the olive oil, lemon peel, orange peel, thyme, and rosemary in a mixing bowl. Add the smoked olives, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
4.Pour the olives and marinade through a fine-mesh strainer placed over a bowl to catch the marinade, which can be discarded or used as a marinade for chicken or shrimp.
5.Place the olives (still with the citrus peels, rosemary and thyme) in a small mixing bowl and stir in the lemon zest and dill. Season with black sea salt and serve.
Note: the olive oil marinade can be saved and used for another batch or to marinate chicken or shrimp. I saved mine for another batch, I just had to add a little more olive oil.
Nutella Cookie Sandwiches
Makes 45-50 cookie sandwiches
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
½ cup sugar
1 cup Nutella, plus more for filling
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ cup raw sugar
1.Preheat oven to 325°F. Have two nonstick baking sheets ready or line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar, sugar, and Nutella on the second-lowest speed for 1 minute or until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Add the butter and mix on the third-lowest speed for 2 minutes, or until whipped and light in color.
3.In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add the flour mixture to the mixer on the lowest speed setting. Mix all ingredients for 2 minutes, stopping halfway through to scrape down the inside of the mixing bowl to incorporate all the ingredients. The dough will come together and pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. It will look a little crumbly – that’s okay.
4.Dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour to prevent sticking. With your hands scoop out one-third of the dough and mold it into a small brick on your work surface. Rolling from the center out – “north south, east, and west” gently roll the dough into a 1/16-inch thick sheet. Dust the surface of the dough with a little flour before rolling. If the dough starts to tear or stick to the rolling pin, dust with a little more flour.
5.Using a 2-inch ring mold or 2-inch circular cookie cutter, punch out cookies and place them on nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheets.
6.Add some dough from the mixing bowl to what’s left over on your work surface and pull it together and roll like you did in step 4. Punch out more cookies and repeat until all the dough has been used.
7.Placing the cookie sheets on the middle and lower oven racks, bake the cookies for 5 minutes, remove them from the oven, and sprinkle evenly with raw sugar. Put the cookies back in the oven, rotating the baking sheets 180 degrees, and switching the upper and lower cookie sheet positions so they bake evenly for 5 more minutes.
8.Remove the cookies from the oven, let rest on the baking sheets for 1 minute, and use a clean offset spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack
9.When cooled, fill a piping bag (or Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off) with Nutella. Pipe 1 ½ teaspoons on the flat surface of half the cookies, and top with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate in a sealed container for 1 hour before serving.