Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

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Chicken Soup Italian Style

Monday, October 28th, 2013 by Mario

As it has gotten colder over the past week, my need for things warm, brothy and delicious has grown exponentially. Just the other day, I asked my wife her thoughts about me making some chicken soup for dinner. Her reply was that she was not that fond of chicken soup. I asked how that could be, and she replied that she never really enjoyed it when her mother made it when she was younger. I set out to remedy this situation with my usual Italian spin that makes things delicious, lots of Pecorino cheese!

soupHere is my fairly quick recipe for Chicken Soup:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 quarts chicken stock  If you make your own, great! If not, some good quality purchased stock will do fine.

1 Tablespoon Grapeseed oil

2 celery ribs, small dice

3 medium carrots, small dice

1 small onion, small dice

1 leek, small dice

1 package frozen cheese tortellini

Lots of Pecorino cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Start by bring the stock to a simmer in a large soup pot.  Add the chicken breasts, whole.  Let them simmer for about 35-45 min or until they can easily be shredded.

Remove the chicken breasts, strain the stock and reserve.  Add the grapeseed oil to the pot over medium high heat.  Once hot, add the onion, leek, carrots and celery.  Saute until they just start to brown. Deglaze the pot with a small amount of the stock, scraping up the brown bits, otherwise known as “fond”.  Add the rest of the stock to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Shred the chicken breasts and add to the pot.  Simmer just until the vegetables start to soften. Add the tortellini and simmer just until they are cooked through. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

Serve in large bowls, top with lots of grated Pecorino Romano cheese and enjoy!

My wife loved the soup and wants me to make it again this weekend.

What’s your favorite broth-based soup?

 

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Mario Scordato is the Culinary Training Manager and a Chef Instructor at The Chopping Block. In addition to teaching, he is responsible for overseeing the training of all chefs and class assistants, as well as the scheduling of the culinary staff. Mario is an accomplished Sushi Chef of over 12 years, working both in Denver and Chicago, but his food interests and kitchen prowess don’t stop there. He grew up in a fairly traditional Italian family and has not lost his love for true rustic Italian fare. Mario has spent many an hour in several butcher shops perfecting his skills in butchery and charcuterie. When not in the kitchen, chances are that Mario is in the shop creating and working on his custom line of knives.

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Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Mario

Birthdays in my family are typically a big event. It’s not that we hold aging a year in such high regard, but mostly just an excuse to eat a ridiculous meal and spend some time together as a family. Just recently, we celebrated my mother’s birthday, and as a treat to her, my sisters and I did all the cooking. We usually like to do something on the grill. Now that it’s fall, there’s not that much time left to be outdoors, as winter will be knocking on our doors soon enough.

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Mario & his Niece Ella

This year, Mom asked us to make Bistecca alla Fiorentina, and it took no convincing for me to be 100% on board. This has got to be one of my favorite Italian dishes to make and to eat. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is simply a very thick cut (I’m talking like 4 inches thick) porterhouse steak cooked and seasoned in the Tuscan style. That may seem a bit daunting, but it is really quite simple. I’m going to walk you through the process.

First, you have to find somewhere to acquire such a large piece of meat. There are several butcher shops around the city that will be able to help you out with this. Paulina Meat Market and Gene’s Sausage Shop are two of my favorites. Just tell them what you are making, and they will know exactly what you need. On the other hand, if you happen to be a bit on the crazy side like myself, you can order a whole short loin and cut them yourself, which I enjoy thoroughly.

steakrawThe real key to cooking a steak like this is not to think of it as a steak. This gets in the way for a lot of people that try to make this dish. With the size of this hunk of meat, it is truly a bone-in roast, and when cooked as such, becomes an amazing meal. So much of Italian cuisine is about cooking and eating family style. In the true Italian style, rarely would you see 8 people getting together for dinner and each person having their own steak. They take up too much space on the grill, and they cook relatively quickly. The meat does not get nearly enough time to absorb all the wonderful flavors from the grill and from cooking on the bone. Besides, taking your time and letting something cook for a while also allows everyone to do what we Italians do best… argue with each other about absolutely nothing!

Here is my recipe for Bistecca alla Fiorentina:

1  Porterhouse Steak (roast) cut 3-4 inches thick

3 Tablespoons Grapeseed Oil

4-5 sprigs fresh Rosemary

3-4 Tablespoons Sara’s Sea Salt, Tuscan Blend

Start by coating the roast with the oil and rub the seasoning all over it very generously. Finely chop 1 sprig of the rosemary and rub it into the roast as well. It may look a bit over seasoned. That’s okay. Remember, this is a very large piece of meat and it will need that much seasoning to bring out the flavors. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, 2 hours if possible.

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Next, fire up your grill.  Use charcoal if you can. This will result in the most flavor. We used my Big Green Egg… soooo good!  You want to get your grill very hot to start, at least 500°.

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When the grill is ready, place the roast over the flame and let it sear for 3-4 minutes. Turn it over and do the same on the second side. Remove the roast. Reset your grill for indirect cooking and get the temperature to around 300°.  Toss the rest of the rosemary into the fire and place the roast back on the grill and let it cook until it has an internal temperature of 110°, which will take 30-40 minutes.  This will result in a perfect, true medium rare.  Let the roast rest for at least 15 minutes before you carve and serve.

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Mario Scordato is the Culinary Training Manager and a Chef Instructor at The Chopping Block. In addition to teaching, he is responsible for overseeing the training of all chefs and class assistants, as well as the scheduling of the culinary staff. Mario is an accomplished Sushi Chef of over 12 years, working both in Denver and Chicago, but his food interests and kitchen prowess don’t stop there. He grew up in a fairly traditional Italian family and has not lost his love for true rustic Italian fare. Mario has spent many an hour in several butcher shops perfecting his skills in butchery and charcuterie. When not in the kitchen, chances are that Mario is in the shop creating and working on his custom line of knives.

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Simple & Fresh Ingredients = Memorable Meals

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 by Patrick

diveI was blessed to be able to spend a week in one of the most picturesque and beautiful places in the world recently, the Cayman Islands.  While the week was filled scuba diving and kayaking, I was also able to take in a few flavors of the islands.  Each meal was a constant stream of fresh seafood prepared in the most simple ways. Whether it was a grilled Grouper sandwich served on a basic roll with lettuce and tomato or lightly fried Conch fritters, the simplicity and freshness stands out in my mind.

It took going out of the country to paradise to open my eyes and get me back to the basics. I realized that too often when I am cooking, I get carried away trying pair flavors or add layers upon layers of different unique tastes. There were a couple of eureka moments I had on this trip that encouraged me to get back to cooking the way I love.

restaurantAt a harbor side restaurant called Breezes in George Town, I ordered the Conch fritters (which was my official food on this vacation) and was blown away. Typically when I order any sort of fritter, I expect a very dense, bread filled ball with very little “meat,” but these were different.  When I split these open, the first thing I noticed was the large chunks of Conch and little else. They were buttery in texture with a crispy shell and had a subtle sweetness that only the freshest seafood can have.  They were fantastic!

diningroomThe other dish that stands out in my mind from Grand Cayman was an Italian meal, of all things, at a small place called Ragazzi’s.  Every local resident I asked recommended Ragazzi’s as the best place to eat on the island, so we had to check it out.  I started out with unbelievable mussels served in a Chardonnay tomato broth, but it was the main course of Lobster Penne that stole my heart.  When you hear “Lobster Penne” you’re probably thinking of a complex, rich dish swimming in an alfredo style sauce and I would’ve agreed with you, but this was different.  The penne pasta was cooked perfectly and so was the freshly caught lobster, but the sauce was a simple blend of cheeses and just enough cream to lightly coat the pasta. This sauce complimented the lobster and pasta in ways rarely seen anymore. It was like a condiment highlighting the other stars on the plate verses trying to overpower them. Again, simple and basic, with few ingredients all working in conjunction with each other rather than fighting created a memorable meal that I will not soon forget.

The moral of this story is to take advantage of fresh ingredients that are readily available to you and prepare them in a simple ways to highlight each one. We are blessed to live in the Midwest where we can get a wide range of local fresh produce, so let’s reinvent how to use them by getting back to the basics and keeping it simple and fresh.

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Patrick Foerster is the Store Manager of The Chopping Block Lincoln Square and has a profound passion for food. His favorite part of his job is sharing his cooking experiences with customers to assist them in creating culinary masterpieces. When Patrick is away from the store, you can find him taking his two dogs for a hike or unwinding on the golf course.

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Backyard Patio Al Fresco

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 by Mario

If you have been reading my posts, you know that my wife and I recently purchased our first home. Over the past month or so, we (really I) have been spending every free moment working on home upgrades, namely a stone patio in our backyard.  We are very near to completion and with the beautiful weather we have had in the last few days, we decided to take advantage of our new space, al fresco style.

MarioWith a very limited time frame as the sun was setting pretty quickly, I set out to make something quick, summery and easy.  I fired up the Big Green Egg and checked the fridge.  I found what you might mind in a lot of chef’s fridges… some vegetables, a nice piece of skirt steak, some tortillas and a bit of cheese.  What is it with us chef’s affinity toward Mexican staples? Not sure, but either way I came up with what my wife now calls Italian Tacos.

I will give you more of a description rather than a recipe, as you can adapt to whatever ingredients you might have at home.

I started by making a quick seasoning rub for the steak. I like to use an all purpose blend that I make with onion and garlic powder, paprika, salt, white pepper, and a few dry herbs… usua, tlly thyme and oregano. I rubbed a bit of grapeseed oil onto the steak and generously seasoned it with the blend. I grabbed some veggies, your usual “Italian” mix: zucchini, red onion, Portobello and a tomato. I cut them into large pieces, seasoned them the same way as the steak and put them all on tacothe grill.  When the veggies and steak were done and rested, I cut them all into 1” pieces, put it all in a big bowl, heated some tortillas on the grill, and cut some fresh cilantro from the herb garden.  To assemble the taco, add a bit of the steak and veggies to your tortilla, top with some crumbled queso fresco cheese and finish with clantro.  Then sit outside on a gorgeous July evening, crack a few beers, and enjoy your new (almost completed) patio.

What’s your “go-to” summer meal? Share your ideas.

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Mario Scordato is the Culinary Training Manager and a Chef Instructor at The Chopping Block. In addition to teaching, he is responsible for overseeing the training of all chefs and class assistants, as well as the scheduling of the culinary staff. Mario is an accomplished Sushi Chef of over 12 years, working both in Denver and Chicago, but his food interests and kitchen prowess don’t stop there. He grew up in a fairly traditional Italian family and has not lost his love for true rustic Italian fare. Mario has spent many an hour in several butcher shops perfecting his skills in butchery and charcuterie. When not in the kitchen, chances are that Mario is in the shop creating and working on his custom line of knives.

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It’s All Green Sauce

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 by David

Salsa Verde (Spanish), Sauce Verte (French) and Salsa Verde (Italian) all translate to the same thing – Green Sauce.  While the names are the same, the sauces, though similar in some ways, are quite different representations.

verdeLet’s start with the more familiar Spanish Salsa Verde.  The main ingredients are tomatillos, jalapeños, white onion, and cilantro and lime juice.  Tomatillos, while in the same family as tomatoes, are actually more closely related to the gooseberry, which explains the sourness that comes from the fruit.  Whether raw, cooked or my favorite, smoked over an open flame, the ingredients are pureed together and used as a condiment for everything from tacos to tortilla chips to grilled seafood.  It can be served hot or cold, mild or spicy.  Either way, it’s a great accompaniment to all Mexican food.

Next up is the French Sauce Verte, a traditional bread sauce that dates back to the Renaissance.  Romesco is another bread sauce you might have heard of.  Before emulsions, bread was a common thickening agent used in sauces.  As it absorbed any moisture or oil in a sauce, it would break down and add body to the sauce.  The traditional Sauce Verte was made using bread that had been soaked in vinegar and pureed using a mortar and pestle.  Then fresh chopped herbs like tarragon, chervil and parsley were added.  Olive oil was then used to thin the sauce out to the desired consistency.  This was typically served with seafood or vegetable.  Now, mayo is used in place of the bread for a more stable sauce with a smoother texture.

chix with verdeItalian Salsa Verde is probably my favorite.  This sauce includes parsley, garlic, shallots, capers and anchovies that have all been chopped up and added to vinegar and olive oil for a simple yet delicious vinaigrette.  Try with grilled fish, poultry or potatoes for added brightness and flavors for otherwise simple dishes.

Another variation of the green sauce includes Argentinian Chimichurri, which is a twist on the Italian style.  Instead of anchovies and capers, cilantro and oregano are used to create a flavorful sauce for grilled meats.

All these sauces are based on some of the same principles: fresh ingredients, simple preparation and a wide range of pairings options.  Each one offers a completely different set of flavor profiles to compliment the cuisine it was designed for.  Try one or try all, these sauces are a great to add fresh flavors to a wide range of food.

What’s your favorite way to use Green Sauce?

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David Indriksons is a Lead Class Assistant at The Chopping Block with a background that goes from small scale bistros to large scale catering and everything in between. In addition to a great love of food, he is a self-admitted travel junkie that enjoys hanging out with locals around the world and trying new cuisine. Outside of TCB, he enjoys skating, snowboarding, and playing with his dog, Caesar.