Mom’s Pizza

mom pizza plated

Homemade pizza is really so simple. Every time I make it, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. I guess it’s because I’m always cooking for a crowd when I make pizza, but if you’re only going to make a pie or two, it’s quite easy.  Any Italian bakery will provide excellent dough, so no need to make you own. It only takes a few ingredients, and in just a few steps, you will have an absolutely delicious, authentic pizza.

My mom was famous for her homemade pizza. My cousins would come over on Friday nights (meatless in those days), and she would produce pizza after pizza until we were all too full to move. Even though she hasn’t made pizza in nearly 10 years, she is still famous among those who were lucky enough to have tasted it.

My sister, daughter and I have watched my mom make pizza numerous times, trying so hard to figure out what her secret was.   Is it the oven temperature?   Is it the amount of tomatoes? They way she slices and places the mozzarella? The amount of oil drizzled on top? Even though we believe we have mastered all the steps to perfection, we all admit that we miss the mark just a tiny bit. There is something missing.   But we keep trying.   However, if you have never had my mom’s pizza, you won’t know the difference and will be absolutely delighted with the results of this recipe.

Remember……always use the best ingredients.

RECIPE:  2 pies

2 lbs pizza dough

1 can Italian plum tomatoes (must be San Marzano)

8 oz mozzarella ( depending on your taste, you might want more or less)

grated Parmesan cheese (you can use Romano cheese as well)

extra virgin olive oil

oregano

salt and pepper

1.  Let dough rise in bowls.  I first put a little flour in the bowl and then a little flour on top of the dough.  I cover each bowl with plastic wrap.  Then I cover all the bowls with a wool blanket, just the way my mother always did.

2.  Place the can of tomatoes in a saucepan and cook for 20 minutes.  Let it cool.

3.  Slice the mozzarella into thin slices.

4.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

4.  Once the dough has risen, gently roll it out on a floured surface until it is rectangular and can fit nicely into a cookie sheet.

5.  Lightly oil the bottom of the cookie sheets.  Gently place the dough in the cookie sheet and work it a bit until the fit is perfect.

6.  Using your hands, grab a whole plum tomato from the saucepan and squish it to release the juices.  Then place the pulp of the tomato on the dough.  Continue until you have the desired amount of tomatoes spread on the pie.  The key here is not to use the juice of the tomatoes as it will make the pie very mushy in the middle.  You want to use the pulp only.

7.  Add some salt and pepper ( go lightly).  Then place the mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, placing it as desired.

8.  Sprinkle with some grated cheese.

9.  Add some oregano, as much or little as you like.

10.  Drizzle with olive oil.

11.  When oven is preheated, place pies in oven.  After 5 minutes, lower the oven to 450 degrees.

12.  This is the only tricky part…. keep an eye on the pies.  All ovens are different, and the oven temperature is really key to turning out a perfect crusted pizza.  I always switch the pies around on the racks midway through the cooking process, as my mom always did.

13.  Depending on your oven ( and lower or raise the oven temp if you see the need), the pies will be done in about 15 minutes or so.  But keep your eye on the pies. 

14.  Let cool slightly in pan before cutting into pieces.

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Congo Squares

congo plated

While looking through my mother’s folder of torn and stained recipes (a habit that I just love), I came across a neatly typed recipe for “Congo Squares.”   I could tell this was a very old recipe, and I vaguely remembered the name. As I read through the ingredients, I started to recollect the taste, which is somewhat similar to what I think we now call “Blondies.”   I remembered my mother baking these bars for parties and company.   I decided to give them a try and bring them to a Super Bowl party. They were yummy! And I was very nostalgic over the taste. It brought me back to my childhood, as tastes often do.

I couldn’t help but wonder where the name came from so I “Googled” it, and was just amazed to see the exact same recipe came up for “Congo Squares.”  I thought that perhaps the name had been made up by whoever had typed this recipe for my mother.   It turns out that this was a very popular recipe in the 1950s, put out by Nestle’s Chocolate.

I think you will enjoy these, if you don’t already have a similar recipe. I might make a change or two the next time I make them. I think the addition of some unsweetened coconut could be quite good. I also might add a tsp. of vanilla for flavor.  Also, I deviated from the pan size in the recipe. I used a 9 x 13 baking pan instead of the 10 ½ x 15 ½ baking pan or cookie sheet suggested. I thought I would like the bars to be higher. I’m now second guessing my decision, and am wondering if they might not be tastier if they were thinner and chewier.  You can decide for yourself. I don’t think there really is a wrong choice.   Even the batter is delicious!!

RECIPE:

2 3/4 cups sifted flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup butter or shortening

2 1/4 cups (1 lb box) dark brown sugar

3 eggs

1 cup nuts, such as walnut or pecans, chopped

1 6 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1.  Mix together and sift the flour, baking powder and salt.

2.  Melt the butter or shortening and mix well with the brown sugar.  Let cool a few minutes.

3.  Add  eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4.  Add dry ingredients, then nuts and chocolate.  Mix well.

5.  Pour into greased  pan about 10 1/2 x15 1/2 x 3/4 inch.  Or 9 x 13 pan.

6.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  If using 9 x 13 pan, you will want to bake it 5 to 10 minutes longer.

7.  When cool, cut into squares.

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TRADITIONAL MEAT SAUCE (OR “GRAVY” OR “RAGU”)

meat gravy **

Last Sunday I was making my very first post on this blog, “Little Nonni’s Baked Spaghetti” for a family dinner celebrating my daughter’s birthday.    I then realized that my recipe for traditional meat sauce (or “gravy or “ragu” as we Italians call it) is hidden within this recipe, way back in the archives of this blog.  It is very difficult to find.  My family recipe for meatballs is also hidden there.    I decided that I needed to make these recipes much more accessible to all of you.  I apologize for keeping these two very important Italian dishes so obscurely placed.  Now they will be at your fingertips, and I hope you enjoy them over and over.  While you are at it, why not give “Little Nonni’s Baked Spaghetti” a try.  It is the very first post under the “Pasta” category.  You won’t regret it!!   I also would love for to try making braciole to add to your sauce.  I spent years watching my grandfather roll and tie these with tender loving care.  They are delicious, and add to the sauce, but not absolutely necessary, so don’t worry if you don’t feel like giving them a try.  I don’t always add them either.

Calling this Tradtional  meat sauce, is really quite brazen of me.  I should say that this is my family’s traditional meat sauce.  All Italians have their own family version of this wonderfully meaty sauce that would grace our tables on Sundays.  Who doesn’t remember the aromas swirling around the kitchen on Sunday mornings? Who among us hasn’t stolen a hot meatball, freshly draining from the fry pan?  It wouldn’t be Sunday, if you didn’t sneak a piece of fresh, crusty Italian bread and dip it in the gravy,  The memories go on and on.  What I love the most about making this sauce on Sundays is that my family is still stealing meatball; still dunking the bread in gravy; and still filled with happiness to smell this pot of meat and tomatoes cooking on the stove.   Traditions are a wonderful thing.   I believe them to be one of the best gifts you can give to your family.

Nonni’s Ragu

4 cans of Italian plum tomatoes, 28 ounce cans…..make sure the can says “Product of Italy”.

1 6ounce can of tomato paste

1 onion, chopped

1 to 2 pounds of pork spare ribs

1 to 2 pounds of beef ribs or any beef on the bone

1 pound of Italian pork sausage

1/2 cup good olive oil or lard…of course, Nonni used lard and I will sometimes use this or one part olive oil / one part lard

1 1/2 cups of red wine

salt and pepper to taste

In a large, heavy pot heat the oil and /or lard over medium heat.  When oil is warm, add the various meats in batches and brown, turning occasionally until brown on all sides.  Remove meat as it browns and continue adding until all the meat is browned well and out of the pot.  Now add the chopped onions and sauté for 5 minutes or so.  Add the wine and then stir and turn off the heat.  Now add the tomatoes, which have be “squished” in your hands until basically you have pureed tomatoes.  If you prefer, you can pulse them once or twice in a blender instead, but little Nonni would never have done that!  Turn the heat back up to medium and cook for thirty minutes.  Then add the tomato paste. Clean out the can of paste by swishing a little water around in the can and add it into the pot, stirring to mix the paste in well.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Then put the meat back in the pot and cook for another hour, at least.  the longer the better.  Make sure you stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom.

Nonni’s Meatballs  

1/2 pound each of ground beef, veal and pork
1

1/2 cups of Italian style breadcrumbs

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/2 cup fresh, Italian flat parsley, minced

salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil for frying meatballs in a skillet

Combine all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large mixing bowl.  Using your hands, mix thoroughly. Really get in there.   If consistency is too wet, just add more breadcrumbs.

Once they are the right consistency, wash your hands, but leave them slightly wet for rolling the balls.  I place them on a cookie sheet as I go along and then fry all at one time.  She always used a cast iron heavy skillet to fry the meatballs and so do I.  But any skillet will do just fine.  Heat the oil.  Add several meatballs at a time, but keep an eye not to burn.  Keep turning until they are nicely browned.  I line another cookie sheet with paper towels and this is where I put the meatballs to drain as they come out of the pot.  This will get rid of the excess oil.

PAPA’S BEEF BRACIOLE

1 pound beef bottom round, cut into ½ inch think slices (this should give you around 6 slices)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/3 cup  chopped parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

cooking twine for tying, or toothpicks can be used

1. Pound the meat to tenderize.

2. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper

3 Spread the garlic, parsley and grated cheese on each slice.

4. Roll the meat the short way and tie with string or use a toothpick to  secure.

5. Brown the meat  on all side in the hot olive oil.

6. Place in the sauce and cook for at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better.

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meat gravy browning 2

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Can I tempt to to try Little Nonni’s Baked Spaghetti???

meat gravy pie

Diane’s Ginger Pot Roast

ginger pot roast plated *

I recently saw the movie “One Hundred Foot Journey,” and smiled when I heard the lead character, who was brought up cooking with his mother in a family restaurant in India say,  “food is memories.” I couldn’t agree more. That has been the main idea behind this blog. With each recipe or aroma, I have a bevy of memories so eager to come forth and remind me of the person or the time and place I first encountered the dish. The warm nostalgia that I feel as I recall times past, is something I wish for all of you. It has added so much to my life.

When I smell the spicy aroma of ginger and beef and onions, I am brought back to the early 1970s and a cozy kitchen in Bordentown, New Jersey.   I was newly married, and one of my “kitchen idols” was my sister-in-law, Diane. I loved watching her cook, and I especially loved indulging in whatever it was she prepared. We’d sit for hours in her kitchen, talking and laughing and watching toddlers play. It was truly the hearth of the house. So much love happened here, and I was grateful to be a part of it.

I have treated my family to her recipe for Ginger Pot Roast countless times. As I chop and brown, and add ingredients, I can still see the image of that happy kitchen of the 1970s as if it were yesterday.  I hear our laughter, see our smiles,  and I feel happy.

“Food is memories.”

RECIPE:

4 lb bottom round roast

3 small onions

2 bay leaves

1 cup red wine vinegar

13 (not 12) ginger snaps, crushed

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 tsp ground cloves

3 TBSP vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups water

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Season meat with salt and pepper.  Brown meat and onion in oil.

2.  Add the celery, carrots and garlic and one cup of water.  Simmer on low for one hour.

3.  Add the vinegar, cloves, bay leaves and rest of the water.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

4.  Add the crumbled ginger snaps.  Simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour.

*Serve with mashed potatoes and applesauce.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake

cream cheese plated 1

Before you start your New Year’s resolution of weight loss and no sugar, please have one last splurge, and let it be this cream cheese pound cake.   You won’t regret it. This cake is light and airy, yet dense and complex. It can stand alone or with some whipped cream and berries.   It’s great with a cup of coffee, yet elegant enough for a dinner party. Have I sold you on it yet?

I remember the day that I typed this recipe. It was 1973, and I was preparing to graduate from college and get married a few months later. I wasn’t worried about exams or graduation. But I was on a mission to make sure my recipe files were in perfect order and contained my favorite recipes before embarking on married life. As you know, my love of recipes is still a large part of my life, but when I think back on the maniacal way I began my “career” in the kitchen, I just have to laugh.

I’m not sure whose recipe this one was originally……perhaps Ginny or Anne. It could have been any one of my mom’s friends who loved to bake. Each time I make this cake, I’m taken back in time for some reason. It reminds me of simplicity and wholesomeness.

I hope you enjoy!

RECIPE:

1/2 lb. cream cheese (at room temperature)

1/2 lb. butter  (at room temperature)

2 cups sugar

6 eggs

2 cups Presto self rising flour

1 tsp vanilla

juice of 1/2 lemon

lemon zest

1.  Cream the cream cheese and butter together.

2.  Add the sugar and cream some more.

3.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well.

4.  Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest and Presto and mix very well.  Batter should be fluffy.

5. Grease and flour a tube pan.  Add batter.

6.  Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for one hour.

7.  Let cool in pan.  Turn out onto cake rack to continue cooling.

8.  Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.  Serve alone or with fresh whipped cream and berries.

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Ida’s Vinegar Peppers (Sort of)

peppers plated **?

Italian stuffed vinegar peppers are a Christmas favorite of mine.   I don’t recall my mother or grandmothers ever making these, but I do know that they are a family tradition for many Italians at this time of year. I was first introduced to this tradition over 20 years ago, and once again, it was love at first bite.   These stuffed vinegar peppers were the focus of my husband’s family Christmas Eve celebration.   His mother, Ida, made dozens of these delicious peppers every year for family and friends. She was famous for them, and everyone waited in high anticipation for their share of the crop.  She made sure that every one of her children’s families had a plate of her famous peppers. They were absolutely delicious. She combined the flavors of sweet and sour to perfection to create a taste that no one can forget.

Now that she is no longer with us, several family members have tried to replicate her recipe. One or two have succeeded. My husband tries every year to get as close as possible to his mom’s recipe. It’s very heartwarming to see him try to keep her memory alive through this ritual each Christmas.  A lot of love goes into this attempt.  Some years he gets close, and other years , not so much.   Regardless, they are always delicious, and we think of her and all she did for her family as we enjoy this family favorite.

There are several challenges to this recipe.The biggest challenge is always finding the vinegar peppers and the Vino Cotto, but if you have a good Italian market near you, you should be able to find them, especially at this time of year. The other challenge has been getting the peppers as soft as hers. If you cook them too long, they tend to burn. We finally believe we found the secret, even though we haven’t tried it out just yet. She would gently fry the peppers in a little olive oil after she stuffed them, and before she put them in the oven. Now this is a lot of work, especially when I think of the dozens of peppers that she made each year! We will definitely try this with next year’s batch, and let you know if it makes a difference.

So this is my husband’s version of his mother’s stuffed vinegar peppers.

RECIPE: makes 2 to 3 dozen stuffed peppers

 2 to 3 dozen jarred Italian vinegar peppers, sweet or hot (be careful of the hot!)

2 cups ground pecans ( bread crumbs consistency)

2 cups jarred chestnuts, chopped

1 1/2 cups golden raisons, soaked

1 cup olive oil

2/3 cup vino cotto  plus some for baking ( this year he used fig balsamic vinegar in the mixture and it worked well)

1.  Prepare the stuffing by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.

2.  Prepare the peppers by rinsing them under water.  Then cut of the tops.  With a spoon ( he uses a grapefruit spoon), scoop out the insides, especially all the seeds.

3.  Prepare the baking pans (cookie sheets) by spreading some olive oil and water on the pans.

4.  Stuff the peppers and place on the prepared pans. (if you want to try gently frying them, you would do so before putting them on the pans).

5.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and drizzle each pepper with the vino cotto.  Leave uncovered and bake for another 15 minutes.

6.  Before serving, drizzle once again with the vino cotto.  Serve at room temperature.

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Florence’s Stuffed Clams

clams plated

With Christmas Eve just around the corner, I start counting my fishes. I count my blessings as well, but Christmas Eve is all about fish….seven different types of fish, to be exact. So I begin planning our menu for this feast of feasts…the mother of all feasts.   Most Italian families consider Christmas Eve to be the holiday, and Christmas just naturally follows.   Weeks of preparation goes into this celebration, especially the preparation of the food, Our tradition is that we must have seven fishes on the menu for Christmas Eve. How this tradition got started is not exactly known. Is it to represent the 7 sacraments? Does it represent the 7 hills of Rome? Or perhaps it because the number 7 is repeated over 700 times in the Bible.   Whatever the reason, this tradition began in southern Italy, and is still carried on today in most Italian families. Mine is one.

We have our family favorites that we stick to each year, but we always add something new just to keep the interest level up. Many years ago, I added “stuffed clams” to the antipasto portion of this meal.   They are “Florence’s Stuffed Clams,” to give credit to where credit is due. Florence is my son-in-law’s mother. She is the mother of nine, and grandmother to nearly 20 children. I was super impressed when she served this elegant looking appetizer to us at a family dinner party.  I remember thinking to myself, that if she has time to make these beautiful and delicious stuffed clams, then I most certainly can give them a try. I must say, I was intimidated, but she assured me that they were very easy.   I was indeed amazed at how easy they were to make.

You do need to ask you fish store for empty clam shells.  They usually have plenty, but if your fish monger is not as friendly as mine, you can buy clams, and just boil them until they open.  Clean out the clams from the shells, and you can actually use these fresh clams in the recipe as well.  After your guests feast on these delectable little morsels, all you have to do is wash out the shells, and put them away in a plastic bag or Tupperware until the next time.

My family loves them, and it’s a simple, scrumptious way to count clams towards one of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve.   Now all you have to do is come up with six more fish dishes.  Have fun!!

RECIPE: makes 2 dozen small or medium stuffed clams

4 cans (6.5 ounces) chopped or minced clams

1 cup clam juice or water

2 TBSP olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves minced

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 1/2 ( plus or minus) cups breadcrumbs ( seasoned or not)

1 TBSP chopped parsley   ( or more if desired)

2 tsp. oregano

salt and pepper to taste

cream sauce:  1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup cold water, mixed)

1.  Saute garlic, onions and celery in olive oil until soft.

2.  Add clams, liquid and seasonings and parsley.  Simmer 20 minutes.

3.  Add crumbs and mix well.

4.  Add the flour and water mixture.  Simmer on very low heat for a few minutes, until well combined and thickened.

5.  Fill clam shells and place on a cookie sheet.  Spray with olive oil spray.

5.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top.

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English Trifle

trifle finished

Happy December! The Christmases just keep coming faster and faster every year.…or at least that’s how it feels to me.   I feel like I just put away all the Christmas ornaments! But here we are again. It really is such a wonderful time of year.   I love the hustle and bustle and all the festivities associated with the Holidays. I don’t have to tell you that I especially love the baking and cooking for family and friends. You know me now, and how much I love to feed and entertain my loved ones. I love spending time browsing through all my recipes and cookbooks, trying to come up with the next best dish that will become the new “Holiday favorite.” However, I always seem to be drawn to recipes from times past.

I recently was making a dessert for a pre- Thanksgiving party that a friend was giving.   After much perusing through my stacks of recipes, I came upon a recipe for English Trifle that was given to me many, many years ago by a friend. It’s one of those desserts that you taste once, and then know you absolutely must have the recipe.   I remember making it for my very Italian family one Christmas, and it was the hit of the dinner.   I’m not sure why I only make this at Christmas time, but I think that the red strawberries against the white whipped cream makes it look very festive and seasonal. I hadn’t made it in years, but the taste was just as divine as I remembered. It’s also very easy, yet looks so elegant. If you’re looking for a beautiful and delicious dessert this holiday season, I highly recommend this one.  But let me just say that it doesn’t have to be Christmas nor do you need to be English to enjoy this classic trifle recipe.

RECIPE:   this easily serves 10

1 package yellow cake mix (angel food or sponge may be used)

1 package (16 oz.) frozen strawberry halves, thawed

1 package vanilla pudding (2 cups)

1 cup chilled whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/4 cup (approximately) sweet sherry

8 whole strawberries ( for decoration)

1.  Bake the cake in 2 9 inch round pans as directed , using only one cake and freeze the other for another time.

2.  Cut the cake in 8 equal pieces and arrange in a round glass bowl.

3.  Sprinkle half the sherry over the cake.

4. Pour half the thawed strawberries over the cake.

5.  Pour half the pudding over the strawberries.

6.  Repeat cake, sherry, strawberries and pudding.  Chill for 8 hours.

7.  Beat the cream and sugar until stiff.  Spread over trifle.  Sprinkle with almonds.  Garnish with the whole berries.

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Tortellini en Brodo

tortellini closeup *

I love Thanksgiving Dinner! Who doesn’t? Well, I guess vegetarians and vegans might not, but then again, just think about all the wonderful vegetables and sides that even they can eat.   I think it’s one meal that has something for everyone, and too much for those like me. I enjoy everything on the table. I especially love how everyone has their favorite dish.   Heaven forbid you don’t prepare everyone’s favorite.   There’s just one problem with this. If every Thanksgiving you have to make the same favorites, how will you ever get to prepare something new, which could turn out to be the new, next “favorite.”

In my family, every so many years, someone throws a new dish into the mix.   Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. I introduced our family to mashed turnips many years ago, and to this day, they all still hate turnips, but I love them, and bring them to every Thanksgiving table to which I’m invited. Several years ago my sister introduced Brussels sprouts and a stuffing made with panetone, and now a year doesn’t go by without them.   Many years ago, when several of us decided that we just couldn’t face Lasagna before turkey and the trimmings anymore, there was a slight revolt. “No pasta? It’s a Holiday!” was the lament. So my mother came up with the brilliant idea to make some chicken broth, and put some tortellini in it. This would satisfy the crazed pasta lovers and the rest of us could enjoy something light at the beginning of the meal. I really enjoy 3 or 4 tortellini in some delicious, hot chicken broth. Of course the crazed pasta lovers have just a little broth and maybe a dozen tortellini or so.   They just have to have their pasta fix!

This dish can be even easier than you can imagine if you buy your chicken broth already made. But making broth is pretty easy. You just throw a chicken in a big pot of water with some onions, carrots, celery, salt and pepper, and simmer it for an hour. Strain the broth and save the chicken for another time. You can make this days ahead.  It’s up to you how easy you want to make this.  If I’m cooking this enormous meal, I always buy the broth. Who needs more to do!

RECIPE:  serves 8 to 12 people (depending upon how “pasta crazed” your guests are)

3 quarts of chicken broth, store bought or homemade

2 lbs cheese torlellini

grated Italian cheese for serving

1. Bring broth to a boil and then simmer till desired heat.

2.  Cook tortellini in a separate pot of boiling salted water.

3.  Combine.

4.  Serve hot with passed grated cheese.

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Mom’s Thanksgiving Candied Yams

yams cooked closeup*

My mother’s candied yams were the highlight of Thanksgiving for me each year.   I think this was true for most of our family, except my grandparents, who didn’t quite understand this dish. To them something this sweet and gooey was supposed to be dessert, not a side dish. While my grandparents were alive ( they both lived to be 103 years old), our Thanksgiving dinner was enough to put a person in the hospital from over-eating. Honestly, some years I really felt like I needed to go to the emergency room after this feast. We began at the table with my grandfather’s homemade mozzarella, still warm and right from the water in which it was made.   The next course was either Little Nonni’s baked spaghetti ( you can find that recipe in the blog archives) or her lasagna.   I’m not lying! Then out came the turkey and all the fixings.   Seriously? Any mere mortal would be full at this point. It was hard to imagine digging in to all this after all that. Nothing really excited me about turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, but I ate it, especially out of duty to my mother. This was her contribution to the meal and she worked very hard. I felt an obligation to her and the pilgrims. It seemed ridiculous to be eating spaghetti on Thanksgiving. It almost felt un-American. So we all managed to stuff ourselves even more.   Then one year out of the kitchen came these candied yams.   We all were so responsive to this new addition, that they became an important part of the Thanksgiving meal every year going forward, and they got better every year. She always brought them with her if the holiday wasn’t in her house.   We just had to have these yams.

Sadly the year came when she no longer cooked, and we had to figure out how she made them. She had never written the recipe down on paper. She knew it by heart. My daughter decided to tackle this dilemma one year, and she did so rather successfully. We tweak it every year in an effort to get it even closer to hers, and I think we are just about there…although not exactly.

We no longer stuff ourselves on lasagna or baked spaghetti. Once my grandparents could no longer come to Thanksgiving dinner, we sadly (but good for the digestion and waistline) replaced it with Tortellini en brodo.   The candied yams are still the highlight of this feast for me!

RECIPE:   makes 2  9 x 13 pans of yams

4 extra large yams  (I just learned from “Produce Pete on Channel 4 that yams are sweeter than sweet potatoes)

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 1/2  stick salted butter

2 9 x 13 inch pyrex or pans

1.  Scrub the yams, but do not peel.  Place potatoes in a large enough pot to cover them with water.

2.  Heat to boiling and reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for abut 5 to ten minutes.  They should still be firm.

3.  Drain and let cool.  Once they are cool enough to touch, peel them.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4.  Slice in half width-wise, and then into about 2 inch slices.

5.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, and stir in the brown sugar.  Whisk until combined to make a syrup.  You can adjust the sugar or butter if needed.

6.  Line up the yams in the pans.  Drizzle the syrup over them.  Cover the pans with foil and put into a preheated 350 degree oven.

7.  Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, basting often.  The more you baste, the more syrup that will seep into the yams.

8.  Once the yams seem soft (not too soft)  and gooey (gooey is good), turn off oven; uncover and leave for another 5 minutes.

9.  Give the yams one good last baste before serving.

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