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UNLUCKY #13 – I HAD ONE GREAT MEAL IN ITALY – THIS IS NOT IT!!

Guardia as I mentioned before is no tourist mecca.  A small town with a population of about 5000 people and the average age is 46.  An interesting statistic with possibly no bearing on my next statement;  There are 3 – 3.5 restaurants in Guardia Sanframondi so where to dine out is never a real dilemma, take your pick, 1,2, or 3.  Peter wanted to have dinner at a restaurant that was practically across the street from our apartment- Le Meridiana (The Sundial).  The dining room was very large with a bar area adjacent in the rear.  I think one of the attractions for Peter was that three walls were glass from floor to ceiling.  It was a Thursday evening and we arrived around 8:00pm, not early but perhaps not as late, as we Americans have been led to believe, when Italians eat.  The entire restaurant was EMPTY!  Naturally we chose a table near the windows.  I was flabbergasted that no one was there except for a couple of girls and a guy in the bar.  Well clearly, service wasn’t going to be an issue.

la-meridiana

Lovely, Large and Empty!

I freely admit that I’m not an adventurous eater, I don’t usually put anything in my mouth that I’m not somewhat familiar with (dangling preposition).  However, here I am in the fatherland, so there should be no problem finding a delicious dish.  Also we are in the part of Italy known for their wine, cherries, grapes and fresh meat because as Raphael told us, “We are a people married to the land.”, agriculture is the main industry.

I look forward to using my limited Italian to order for both of us;  Peter order a fish with a name that unrecognizable in any language let alone Italian,  I opt for what I think will be a juicy pork chop-taking advantage of an opportunity to have some pork which is something along with veal and lamb we don’t eat in our home because Peter isn’t comfortable with eating anything as smart as a pig or as young as a calf or lamb.  Hey, it’s his thing, I just go along with it at home, lol.  Of course we must have a prima piatti (first dishes);  I don’t remember what he ordered but I had a very delicious tagliatelle with wild mushrooms.  So good, looking forward to my main course.

The fish arrives with its head and tail on and so I inform the waiter with some Italian and lots of hand gestures that he must remove the head and tail and bring it back hopefully filleted.  My dish is served and there all by itself on a large plate is a very darkly grilled, very thin, not flat piece of meat.  It is obviously a pork cutlet, maybe I didn’t read the menu correctly.  A pork cutlet would be okay but NOT a pork cutlet that has been grilled well beyond well done and is now very tough!  Aha, well, we are not in New York City and there are no vegetables accompanying the cutlet, actually there is no nothing on the plate!

I ordered vino rossa locale which was good but not nearly as good as Pasquale’s father’s wine.  The final disappointment came with dessert.  I ordered their ricotta cheese cake and when it was put in front of me, it was clear that this small triangle of  what did not taste like ricotta and was topped with some strawberry syrup and a blob of Redi-Whip on top, WAS NOT HOMEMADE.

I’m not saying that the food was not good, it just wasn’t great for me, Peter loved his meal.  And why was it empty? Well Thursday night out isn’t a pre-weekend, find a date for the weekend, night.  That and this is a town where if your Mama isn’t cooking you a delicious dinner, then your wife certainly is.

It was definitely time to go home and go to sleep.  We are weary from our busy day and can’t wait to get into bed.  

                                                                                            to be continued….

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Tonight  it’s snowing in New York City, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  It’s pouring here at the shore and has been most of the day and I thought what a perfect night for some real comfort food.  I made New England Pot Pie.  Earlier in the day, I thought about asking our friends, Dick and Jane to join us – it wouldn’t be the first time I prepared a dish that I never made before.  Thank goodness I didn’t follow through on that impulse.  NOT because the dish wasn’t good or that the recipe didn’t make enough;  No, it was definitely both, BUT it took me longer than I thought and it was totally my own doing.  

When I read the recipe two days ago or actually just skimmed through it concentrating mostly on what ingredients I would have to purchase, I didn’t realize how much prepping was needed.  A good chef knows the importance of mise en place, and I do know that very basic rule of good and efficient cooking, yet somehow just never gave it a thought.  So what happened was that I was working my way through the steps, I had to stop and prep the ingredient so I could use it.  NEXT TIME!  I think New England Pot Pie is a great dinner guest meal;  Once it’s in the oven, you are free to join you guest for a pre-dinner cocktail.

Comfort Food for a cold winter night

Comfort Food for a cold winter night

INGREDIENTS:

Olive oil for the baking dish

2 medium russet potatoes (1 lb) peeled and cut into 1/2 ” pieces

Kosher salt and pepper

6 slices of bacon cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 8-oz bottles of clam juice

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 TBS fresh thyme leaves

1 lb. medium peeled and deveined shrimp, tails discarded, shrimp halved

1 lb. skinless white fish fillet (such as cod, hake, pollack or haddock) cut into 1 ” pieces

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3 oz pkg) thawed

1 large egg, beaten

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 400º.  Lightly oil 8 10 oz ramekins OR a 2 quart baking dish

Place the potatoes in salted cold water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes  are tender, 5-7 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in large skillet ( I should have used my braising pan-my skillet a bit small) over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 4-5 minutes.  Spoon off and discard all but 2 TBS of the drippings.  Add the onions, season with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Gradually stir in the wine, then the clam juice and cream.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 5-6 minutes.

Add the potatoes along with the peas and carrots, corn, parsley and thyme and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and gently fold in the shrimp and fish.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry.  Using a 4″ round cookie cutter, cut out 8 pieces OR cut one 10 x 14 ” rectangle.  Brush the edges of the ramekins or baking dish with water.  Lay the pastry over the seafood mixture and press pastry against edge of dish to  seal.

Lightly brush pastry with egg and if making the rectangle, cut 3 diagonal slits in the middle of the pastry.  Place dish(es) on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the crust is deep golden brown and puffed in the center, 30-40 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

recipe from Woman’s Day

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