They seemed to be on every corner in Queens - the red-checkered-table-clothed Italian-American restaurant. Chianti bottles with candles and identical menus no matter which restaurant you were in. It was coming home when you stepped into these restaurants.
I loved those places. I loved the comfort it gave my young-self. These Italian red-sauce restaurants were certainly not "authentic" or upscale - we couldn't afford upscale. They were the restaurants developed from a large immigrant population that did not have a food specialty store with ingredients flown in from Italy. The ingredients came from wholesalers that were similar to the local Key Foods or A&P. You recreated recipes - that had never been written down - through memory and available ingredients. The makings of red-sauce was widely available!
I still adore those places - although they are harder to find. Maybe it's genetic - this love of peasant food. Or maybe I just need a visit to my childhood.
In 1990, Artie Cutler opened up Carmine's Restaurant in Manhattan paying homage to those southern-italian flavored restaurants. He wanted fresh, old-school comfort food that he would have at Italian weddings.
In December, St. Martin's Press offered me a copy of Carmine Celebrates for review. I very seldom take any offers anymore - but a red-sauced cookbook? Hard to refuse. Ironically, we are still low-carbing it! But we did manage to blow through Grilled Shrimp with Fennel (yes), Roasted Eggplant Dip (another yes) Scallops and Shrimp Scarpariello (yes again) and the Chicken Francese noted below.
It did not disappoint. For the record, I did not use the 3/4 cup of oil; I simply lined the pan with it and let the chips fall where they may. They fell very nicely, thank-you.
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used a lot less)
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/8 teaspoon cracked pepper
3 extra-large eggs beaten
5 tablespoons fresh, chopped Italian parsley
3/4 cup canola oil
1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut scallopine (I just pounded them thin)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
It's pretty low-carb (not low-fat), very comforting for a boneless chicken breast meal and delivers lots of bright flavors which I crave during the winter. Bunny rabbit food does not work for me come January. Comfort is essential. Ease is even better. Flavor is necessary.
1. For the chicken: whisk flour, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper in a shallow bowl. In shallow bowl, whisk eggs and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Heat the canola oil in a large sauté pan until the oil reaches 325 degrees F. (I wait until it sizzles when I throw a drop of water in it).
In batches, dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess. With tongs, dunk the chicken in the egg mixture, let excess drip off and slide into the hot oil. Fry briefly until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels.
2. For the sauce: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter under medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent. Add the white wine and simmer until it is reduced by half. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper and cook until the liquid has again been reduced by half.
While simmering, add lemon juice and whisk in the remaining butter. Return the chicken and any juices to the sauce and cook until it is warmed through. Put chicken and sauce on platter, scatter with remaining parsley and serve.
This is excellent with spinach sautéed in olive oil and garlic.
Stay tuned: Another recipe from Carmine Celebrates will be coming your way this week. Any suggestions? The Marinated Beef with Cipollini Onion Sauce? The vegetables? Chocolate Torta? Pasta Quattro Formaggi?
Yes, it's winter. And although we have had a lot less of it than the east coast (hello, Boston - do you need pasta and chocolate?), we do get the odd week of arctic air. And then the cats chill. Or rather - warm. Actually, Pippin and Cioppino-bambino are just pretending to get along.