ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Saturday, January 30, 2010

♪ ♪Nothin' could be finer than to be in Carolina, ♪ in the m-o-o-o-o-r-nin'! ♪ ♪
     This is what we awoke to this morning. In North Carolina!! YAY!! For this family of northern transplants, it was a sight for sore eyes. I walked into the family room to find my youngest offspring in boxer shorts, a bathrobe, and snowboots-he was good to go!
We had been warned for the last several days that this was coming (not that we believed it for a minute!). Coming from New York, we find it exceedingly amusing when there's any hint of winter weather even remotely possible here in central NC. We've been told that some years back there was a freak snowstorm that dumped 22 inches of snow. HERE! I can't even imagine. For the last 3 years the kids and I have busily put up Christmas lights wearing t-shirts while the man of the house mowed the lawn. Anyway, this 22 inches apparently completely incapacitated our lovely town. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING-schools, businesses, schools, stores, schools (notice what I obsess about?)- closed down for TWO WEEKS! Now, where we came from 22 inches would have been a 2 hour delayed opening while the roads were plowed. Our school bus drivers were my heroes. Never mind the mailman with his "not rain, nor snow, nor dark of night"- HE didn't take my kids to school. 

And get them out of my kitchen.

 And referee their squabbles.

 But our bus drivers?

 They were my heroes.

   So today, while they all sledded, and slid and tubed and soaked each other with sleety snowballs, I did what any self-respecting Italian mama would do. I locked myself in the bathroom and gave myself a facial cooked. (I can dream, can't I) Somehow, in between cleaning up the nosebleeds (he got hit in the face with the sled), and drying wet jackets every half hour, I decided that today was the day for something warm and substantial. Fresh bread was already on my agenda, pork chops and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and for dessert- custardy bread pudding topped with meringue and an Italian vanilla bean Torta.

Tomorrow will be my day for making Italian bread. Today I decided to try a new white, sandwich bread. I used the basic soft white bread recipe from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. Now, I make a LOT of bread. All kinds of bread, although I do, obviously, have a special fondness for Italian breads. But my kids, being American born, and my husband, being too darn picky...ummm, I mean Irish- well, they want the Wonder Bread.

So being the indulgent Italian mama that I am, I am always on the hunt for the perfect homemade Wonder Bread recipe. Rose's is actually quite close to the recipe I've used for the past several years. I'll be doing a bread post in the near future-I'll let you know if this cuts it with my Wonder-loving bambinos.
    This particular pork chop dish is one that my husband, in particular, enjoys. Breaded, pan-fried chops are laid atop a bed of caramelized onions and garlic which has been infused with fresh thyme and a bit of wine. Topped with another layer of onions and baked till fork tender. I top mine with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
 Husband holds his nose and declares that I've "ruined a perfectly good piece of meat!"
  The bread pudding is an easy way to use up the remains of the bread made 3 days ago, and the Torta is for my youngest who informed me this morning that I "never make anything vanilla". Yes, this is a family of chocaholics, but my son and his grandparents much prefer a non-chocolate option.
First, we gather our ingredients. Fresh, quality ingredients equal memorable meals. Good, fresh pork is an excellent and healthy alternative to beef, yet makes a hearty man-pleasing meal. Historically, meat in Italy (and Europe as a whole) was cooked for far longer than we. as Americans, are accustomed to. Italian immigrants to America found many uses for the fresh and readily available pork they found here.
Onions, garlic, thyme, butter, olive oil, sauerkraut and wine- and of course, some nice, thick pork chops. Boneless is preferable, but not absolutely necessary
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Pat the meat dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper
Set out 3 bowls. In one put some flour. In the second, beat a couple of eggs with a few tablespoons of water. Whisk in some parmesan cheese, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper. In the third, put some dry bread crumbs (I mix regular and Panko crumbs) seasoned with Parmesan cheese, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper, and a bit of seasoned salt.
Dredge the chops in flour, dip in egg mixture, and coat in bread crumbs. Set on a sheet of waxed paper for 10 minutes
Heat a bit of canola oil with a bit of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chops, without crowding and allow to cook without moving till golden on the bottom. 
Flip and brown, then remove to a rack to drain. Drain excess oil, leaving just a couple of tablespoons of that lovely flavored oil.Toss in a tablespoon or two (depending on how much you're making) of butter and swirl it around there. Slice a couple of large onions and add to pan. Cook till translucent and significant other starts to hang over your shoulder  drooling
Add 2 or 3 cloves of finely minced garlic, lower heat a bit, and allow to caramelize. If you have an Irish husband who claims he HATES garlic but seems unaware that it's in absolutely everything he eats because you can NOT cook without garlic because it's against the LAW- now is the time to distract him.
How can any rational person hate garlic?? Blasphemy!
Here it comes.

The best part.

 Are you ready?

Now pour one for the cook. It's another Law. 
Let this cook for a minute or two till the wine evaporates

By the way, dessert is cooling.. the vanilla bean makes it smell amazing!
Okay, now drain one or two cans of sauerkraut VERY WELL. Everytime I prepare a meal with sauerkraut, I think of my northern Italian Nonna. Every summer when we went for our annual 2-4 month "visit", she would ask what I wanted to eat while I was there. I always asked for the same 2 things. One was a risotto that was a specialty of a particular restaurant that was a favorite of my grandfather's. It was the most AMAZING risotto with truffles. While we ate, my Nonno would entertain me with stories of the various ways the truffles on my plate had been found. 
But this is for another post.
   The other request was for my Nonna's sauerkraut soup. Now I know this doesn't sound typically Milanese, or even Northern Italian, but she was well known for this very special soup. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a recipe before she died and I have spent 30 years looking for a something similar. 
Back to the pork! After draining the sauerkraut, add it to the onion mixture and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add some chopped fresh thyme and cook for another minute. 
Take a deep breath-this is smelling VERY good! 
Put onion/sauerkraut mixture in a greased casserole dish and top with pork chops. Now, I usually top the chops with some caramelized onion that I keep in the fridge. You can saute some onion separately from the sauerkraut mixture for this purpose or you can remove some onions from the pan before adding the kraut.
Of course that's if you're WAY more organized than I am and you can actually remember to save some onions

Bread pudding is ready-YUM. Humidity level is not ideal-the meringue is not happy
Cover pork chops tightly with foil and put in oven for 40 minutes. remove foil and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes. Allow to sit for a minute, then remove chops carefully to another plate. The casserole will have  a lot of liquid from the meat which has released it's juices- and some fat- onto the bed of onions (SO good!) 
But since I AM a trainer and I DO lecture people every day on eating healthy.....
CAREFULLY pour off most (not all) of the liquid, replace the chops, and serve

Torta is ready to chill- the vanilla bean smells SO good

Now - this is where I'm supposed to show you the end result- a platter of fall-apart tender chops, smothered in onions on a bed of thyme and garlic infused onions and kraut. 

And I would be showing you that picture.

 IF I didn't turn my back to wash a plate leaving my beautiful casserole unguarded from the marauding hordes in this house.

"Oh. Were you taking pictures for that blog thing? Sorry. I thought it was DINNER". 

How about a slice of Torta?

As always, 
Buon Alimento, Buon Amici

xoxo Allie and Pattie


  1. Patti, YOu are quickly becoming one of my favorite go to sites for exciting recipes! I am definitely going to make this wonderful pork chop recipe! WOW! This looks fabulous! Your children do not know how good they have it! I always cooked for my kids ( and still do, see Saturday's menu) and all the other kids that sat at my table. Food does equal love in our house!
    Alli- I hope you are learning like a sponge from your mom!

  2. I loved every word in your post! I so related to communities being paralyzed by snow. We have moved to an area with very mild winters and giggle at what happens when we do have snow. The dinner you made for your family sounds marvelous. I'm sure they enjoyed every morsel. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  3. WOW!!! Magazine worthy...again!! : )
    And I loved the bit about the Bus Drivers being your heroes. Too funny!

  4. I'm so excited I found your blog! Your recipes sound amazing! Can't wait to try them!


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