Foodie Movie Friday: Goodfellas (with red sauce recipe)

Goodfellas. In our opinion, one of the best movies of all time, and one we can watch over and over. Good thing, too, since lately it seems to be on AMC every day! As you probably know, it's not a movie about food, but about a group of friends who work their way through the hierarchy of the Italian Mafia in New York during the 1960's and 70's. However, food has a supporting role in the movie, as it does in the lives of most Italians we know. Here are the top three food scenes we love from Goodfellas, followed by a recipe inspired by one of the scenes. Mangia!

First food scene we love:

It's well past midnight, and Jimmy, Henry and Tommy have just killed a made man. He's in the trunk of their car, still alive (unbeknownst to them). The boys decide to make a pitstop at the house of Tommy's mother (played by Martin Scorsese's mother, Catherine) to borrow a shovel. Like the good Italian momma she is, she putters around the kitchen to prepare some pasta so they can eat before going on their way (to bury a guy), saying, "I'll make you something to eat!" Mrs. Scorsese has since put out her own cookbook.

Second food scene we love:
Toward the end of the movie, Henry has been doing cocaine, is paranoid, and has a long list of errands to run, during which he keeps seeing a helicopter that he is convinced is following him (it is). In the meantime, he is trying to prep a huge meal at home: "You see, I was cooking dinner that night. I had to start braising beef, pork butt and veal shanks for the tomato sauce. It was Michael's favorite. I was making ziti with the meat gravy and I'm planning to roast the peppers over the flames and I was gonna put on some string beans with some olive oil and garlic and I have some beautiful cutlets that were cut just right that I was gonna fry up before dinner just as an appetizer..." While Henry runs his errands and is chased by helicopters, his brother is brusquely admonished, "...not to let the sauce stick - keep stirring it." It's 10:45 p.m. by the time the family sits down to dinner. But what a meal!

Third food scene (the one we love the most):
Henry and Paulie are in prison, but they are seen in a small room with a few other "wiseguys" and plenty of ingredients to make dinner (including steak and lobster). As Paulie preps and Vinny cooks, Henry narrates: "...he had this wonderful system for doing the garlic. He used a razor and he used to slice it so thin that it used to liquefy in the pan with just a little oil. It was a very good system." They make the meatballs with veal, beef and pork, because the pork is "where the flavor is." When the scotch and red wine arrives, Paulie announces, "Okay, now we can eat." Apparently prison for "goodfellas" is a little different from prison for everyone else.

We love that last scene so much, whenever we need a good red sauce, we use Paulie's system:


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves (sliced with a razor, naturally)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup red wine (we like a deep red Valpolicella)

In a deep cast iron skillet (this is key), place the sliced garlic. Add the olive oil and heat over medium heat until garlic begins to liquefy. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, and cook, stirring (remember to stir the sauce!), until onions become translucent. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the red wine and simmer for another 15-20 minutes and serve over pasta, with or without meatballs.


Asian Dumplings

By whatever name you call them, (gyoza, mandu, pot stickers), Asian dumplings are humble, satisfying, delicious morsels. We've ordered them in countless Asian restaurants, and have been tempted, then disappointed, by a few frozen versions.

This week we wanted to make them ourselves. But, it being a weeknight, and having recently made homemade ravioli on a weeknight, we decided it was necessary to cheat a little bit and used Nasoya brand wonton wrappers instead of making them from scratch. For the filling, we chose a traditional pork and cabbage mixture; our recipe is below. We assembled for what seemed like forever (it's amazing how far a pound of ground pork can go!), and were left with about six dozen little packets of yumminess. 

We pan-fried a few to taste, dipping them in a (store bought) soy-ginger dipping sauce. The rest we froze for later, for more pan-frying, steaming, or to put in soup.  The dumplings were not at all difficult to make, nor were the ingredients particularly expensive. What they were? Satiating, savory, scrumptious. We have plenty of them to enjoy, and to share. Best of all, we know exactly what's in them.


1 lb. ground pork
3/4 cup Nappa cabbage, chopped finely
3 green onions, chopped finely
1/4 cup chopped water chestnuts
2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 packages Nasoya brand wonton wrappers
small bowl of water

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except wonton wrappers. One by one, lay out a wonton wrapper and place a teaspoon of the mixture in the center. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water and fold into desired shape. Fry, boil, steam and/or freeze as needed.


Clams on the Grill

70 degrees. In March. In Connecticut. We've been blessed with a taste of summer lately and we're taking advantage of it. Grilling steaks and seafood, eating on the deck, working on the lawn, enjoying the sunshine. Who knows how long it will last? One of our favorite things to do is to stand by the grill waiting for littlenecks to cook in their own juices and open up to reveal the briny, tender clam inside. We twist them out of the shell, dunk them in clarified butter and eat them then and there. It's a great prelude to whatever we may be having for dinner, and gives us a taste of the warm months approaching. Heavenly.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

We enjoyed our St. Patrick's Day early, having a Sunday dinner at the house of our good friends and neighbors, D and J. They made the traditional corned beef and boiled vegetables, served with Black-Green-and-Tans. We made green cupcakes with green flour frosting (gotta love food coloring) and brought those, with some Irish soda bread. Happy St. Patrick's to one and all!


Rose Shrimp Farfalle: Bertolli Tastemaker

One recent afternoon, there was a package on the steps. We hadn't been expecting anything -  what could it be? It was addressed to us, attention "A Couple in the Kitchen." Hmmm...interesting. It was obviously food-related, and just in time for dinner! Hungrily, we ripped open the box and inside were two jars of Bertolli sauce, "Four Cheese Rosa" and "Arrabbiata," both neatly packaged with a letter inviting us to try them as part of Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program. What could be more perfect on a hectic weeknight than a quick and easy pasta dinner?

First, we decided to try the Four Cheese Rosa, an alfredo sauce made with Romano, Aged Asiago, Parmesan and Ricotta cheeses mixed with tomatoes. Then we rummaged through the fridge for ingredients we might use to make this into a well-rounded meal. We turned up a pound of frozen shrimp for protein and texture, a jar of sundried tomatoes for rich sweetness, garlic because you just have to have garlic, and some fresh baby spinach for a serving of vegetables and color. All of these, with a few shakes of red pepper flakes for a touch of spicy heat,  we thought would go well with the  cheesy, creamy sauce. We tried it. We loved it. While we aren't normally users of jarred sauces, we plan to buy more of this unique and tasty pink alfredo. It wasn't a just quick and easy dish, but it was simply delicious! Thank you, Foodbuzz and Bertolli!


1 pound large, raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped (equal to 1/2 of an 8.5-ounce jar)
1 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 jar Bertolli Four Cheese Rosa
8 ounces farfalle
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sundried tomatoes and saute until garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until shrimp just begin to turn pink. Add sauce plus one ladle of pasta water. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring, until shrimp are cooked through. Add spinach, stir, and immediately turn off heat. Drain pasta and toss pasta with shrimp and sauce. Serve garnished with grated parmesan if desired.


Foodie Song Friday: Sinkin' Soon

Amy writes:

I had my I-pod on "shuffle" this morning and listening to the song "Sinkin' Soon" by Norah Jones got my stomach grumbling (although it could have been the fact that I didn't eat breakfast). I rewound and listened to those beginning lyrics again, and thought they'd make for a good "Foodie Song Friday." Enjoy!

We're an oyster cracker on the stew,
And the honey in the tea.
We're the sugar cubes, one lump or two,
In the black coffee.
The golden crust on an apple pie,
That shines in the sun at noon.
We're a wheel of cheese high in the sky,
But we're gonna be sinkin' soon.


In Praise of Real Maple Syrup

Spring is springing. It's a slow process, particularly here in New England, but we recently had five whole days of sunny, almost-60-degree weather, and yesterday we spotted crocus leaves peeking out of the ground by our driveway. Among the other glorious things that happen in spring is that the sap runs, which means it's sugaring time! Warm days and cold nights - the perfect formula for producing that sweet golden nectar we know as real maple syrup.

Up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Amy's cousins run Maplehurst Farm, a family-owned and operated dairy farm and sugarhouse. Their maple syrup is all natural, organic, and the best we've ever tasted, (although we may be a tiny bit biased). Amy recalls visiting "The Farm" as a child during sugaring time and happily sitting in the corner of the sugarhouse, breathing in the sweet-smelling steam, taking "shots" of the warm amber liquid, and pouring the hot syrup on snow for a sticky, delicious treat.

Growing up with the real deal means that to this day the "fake stuff" can not be tolerated by our family's delicate palates. If we're having breakfast out, we'll never order pancakes or waffles because the server might assault us with some ubiquitous mass-market maple "flavoring" made with various unpronouncables. Each household in our family always possesses at least a half-gallon of real maple syrup at any given time and God forbid we run out (although thankfully, The Farm now has online ordering since it's a 5-hour drive to get there from here!). 

By the way, real maple syrup isn't only a condiment for those aforementioned pancakes and waffles (or ice cream), but also, or maybe especially, for savory dishes (ever have a scallop wrapped in bacon and dipped in real maple syrup? amazing.), baking (maple pecan pie, anyone?), and beverages (a dash of maple syrup in a hot toddy will do you just right on a winter's eve).

As foodies, we believe in the power good, natural ingredients have to escalate food from edible to fabulous. Real maple syrup does exactly that. Is it expensive? Sure. But most high quality, organic, gourmet ingredients are. Consider the fact that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, and the cost just makes sense. Try some real maple syrup from Maplehurst Farm or any New England sugarhouse. Along with a food lover's enjoyment of  a natural, fine, versatile ingredient, you'll also get the satisfaction of supporting real farmers engaged in good, honest work.

For more information about real maple syrup, check out the official website of Vermont Maple Syrup, the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, or the maple syrup page of the World's Healthiest Foods website.

Once you go sap, you'll never go back.


Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin The Sequel

So, what to do with Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin leftovers? Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin "McMuffin" with Egg for breakfast! Oh. So. Very. Delicious.


Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin (**Award-Winning***)

As soon as we heard about the Sweet Potato Bloggers Contest, we went to our favorite produce market and picked up two of the biggest sweet potatoes we could find. Sweet potatoes work well as a substitute for regular potatoes in most recipes, and we intended to change our muffin-tin potato gratin recipe to use these orange beauties.

Chris sliced the potatoes nice and thin using his favorite chef knife, and as he laid them in the muffin cups, I did the assembly: a little bit of salt, a little bit of white pepper, a pinch of pancetta and a pinch of shredded gruyere. He kept slicing and I kept assembling, until the muffin tins were close to overflowing (photo below). Two tablespoons of heavy cream needed to go on top of each individual gratin, and then, into the oven they went.

Fifteen minutes later and the fragrant scent of melting cheese and roasting potatoes began to fill the kitchen. Another twenty minutes and they were done (photo, below). We let them cool a bit so we could get them out of the muffin tin, and voila! We were so pleased with the great balance of sweetness from the potato, sharp tanginess from the gruyere, and smokiness from the pancetta. A delicious, albeit decadent, side dish!


1 large sweet potato
6 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded
4 ounces pancetta, diced small
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
white pepper

Special equipment: 12-cup muffin tin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the sweet potato into thin rounds. Put one slice of the sweet potato into each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin. Top with a pinch each of the shredded gruyere, the diced pancetta, salt and white pepper. Top with another slice of sweet potato, and continue to layer as described above until the muffin cups are close to filled. Pour two tablespoons of heavy cream on top of each cup and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from muffin tin and serve as a side dish to your favorite main course.

Yield: 12 individual gratins


What to do with Leftover Rice? Rose-Cardamom Rice Pudding

A night of Chinese take-out left us with a full pint of leftover steamed white rice. We didn't want it to go to waste, so we decided to use it to make rice pudding - just enough for two. Rose water and cardamom added a bit of Middle-Eastern flair, making what could have been a boring, old-fashioned pudding into a rich, creamy, exotic dessert.


1 pint steamed white rice
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1 1/2 tablespoons rose water
2 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios or slivered almonds 

Place rice, sugar, milk, rose water and the seeds from the cardamom pods in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 35 minutes, continuing to stir often. Pour into desired serving dishes and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate. When chilled, garnish with nuts if desired and serve.