16 joined me for my 39th birthday Q this morning at the WIB. So many limitations on what I could dream up for a circuit this morning due to:
- Apparently there are aggressive women patrolling Lilac from 5:30-6:15 so the Lurker is now off limits
- Rain was in the forecast and I have a recurring nightmare about a tsunami strike that swallows up me and my family. Relevant because that takes the greenway out of play.
- Due to Fish’s restraining order we couldn’t get within 100 feet of the playground areas so no owl bars for pull-ups
So right to the middle of it all for:
Mosey into park and gather at stairway to heaven for COP (SSH, Merkins)
Circuit is as follows:
- 25 Dips on the wall, up the stairs
- 10 outboard / 10 inboard supine pull-ups on the rails
- Down the hill to the benches for 20 Merkins
- After every 3rd time, hot lap around the lake
Repeat until 6:08
Mosey to the dumpster
- 5 Burpees at each crosswalk and speedbump, to the stop sign
- Merkins IC x 7, MC IC x 10, Stagger Right IC x 7, Stagger Left IC x 7
Fish and Curly got in 9 full circuits. Nabisco got 7. The rest of us got 2.5. Strong work gentlemen.
Revolution begins this Saturday March 10th 7:00 am at Revolution Park. Westside connection.
Our main man Checkpoint woke up one day last week, checked his files, and realized that he had not yet qualified for the 2019 Boston Marathon. So he consulted the race calendar and sees that Myrtle Beach is hosting a marathon this past Saturday. Sheeeetttt! Why not just head down there and check that box. 3 hours, 25 minutes, and 17 seconds later, BOOM, done and done. His last 3 miles were 7:40, 7:20, 7:10.
Thanks for the takeout CP, you are an inspiration to us all.
CT, I’m about to litter your WIB BB with more nonsense. Thanks for the chance to lead…
It’s complicated. So complicated that even the title needs changing.
There, that’s better… wait, no, actually…
Boom, nailed it. But first a bit of background. My man Fish came up with the bright idea of a breakin’ style battle right on this here website a few weeks ago. Instead of showing off our sick pop and locking skills, our pens will do the talking. He won the flip and went first…
Ninety percent of this is wrong (though so much fun) in more ways than I can even comprehend. But there are some truth nuggets that we can draw from. The first being that I am in fact an I-talian-American with roots in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and lower Westchester region. Which is to say I am about as common as creepy counting at one of Fish’s Qs. My people all came to New York from southern Italy in the early part of the last century. Strong peasant stock. God only knows why they left. Anybody ever been to Italy? It’s pretty over there. Seems like trading that for a tenement apartment in Harlem would be a step down. But I guess they had their reasons. So along with millions of others, they got in a big boat and came through Ellis Island. Being the good Catholics that they were, these people turned their millions into tens of millions in no time, and hence a bunch of third and fourth generation greasy guys like me running around sayin Fugghedaboutit!
Why all the genealogical background? Because if you ask any one of these I-talians about pasta, or food of any kind, each one of them is going to have their own family story to tell. And although there will be many similarities in each families’ practices, there will also be deep seeded disagreements around technique and preference. This history is mine and mine alone, but if you must know, it’s also the absolute correct way to think about the best thing you can put in your body.
Sundays are for macaroni. Always have been, and always should be. And the earlier the better. No need to wait around until 5 or 6 o’clock for dinner. Serve it up at 2:00. Shit, make it noon. You can have a snack before bed if you are feeling peckish later on. Or just dip back into the meatball bowl. But notice I said macaroni. That’s what we called it. Not pasta, not spaghetti… macaroni. We never even really ate spaghetti. Maybe some linguini with clam sauce, but that’s another story.
Little Thin Slice: “Ma, what are we having tonight?”
Ma: “Fat macs with gravy?”
Fat macs = Rigatoni (and not some weak ass penne rigate posing as rigatoni. Good old fashioned Ronzoni cooked so al dente that you can practically blow bubbles with it. Look at the size of those things!)
Gravy: Tomatoes; whole peeled or crushed (more on that later), aromatics, MEAT.
This is where we run into our first point of contention. Many will refer to this as a “red sauce”. I’m not gonna say that is wrong. I refer to it as red sauce myself these days, but back then, this was gravy. Sauce was “marinara sauce”. That’s a weekday event: Tomatoes, maybe a bit of basil, NO MEAT.
But Sundays was gravy, the real deal:
One of my earliest memories in the kitchen is standing on a chair, doing the stirring as my Mom constructed a gravy.
My Mom learned from her Mom, Frances Elia, née Mirabella. The base of their sauce was always whole peeled tomatoes. Those get pulsed in the blender (but not too much or the tomatoes get too aerated and turn orange) and added to the pot of simmering minced onion and garlic in olive oil. The whole peeled tomatoes give the sauce a bright flavor and color even with all of the meat that is about to be added. Add your other aromatics (oregano, parsley, basil, touch of crushed red pepper) and your browned meat. Meat consists of meatballs, sausage (sweet Italian and, if you like, hot Italian. Note: Be careful with the hot Italian sausage in the sauce. It will, in fact, make your sauce spicy. A little kick is okay, but this is not a fra diavolo. That is something different. Pro tip: If you choose to mix sweet and hot, leave your sweet sausages long and cut your hot ones shorter. Bam! No guessing as to whether you are about to serve the baby a hot sausage. Fact: Babies love meatballs. By six months you should be breaking up a bit of meatball for your kid to let them get a taste of it.) My mother and Grandma were also known to brown a couple of bone-in pork chops and throw them into the sauce along with everything else. Since that gravy is going to simmer for hours, that chop braises to the point of falling apart and then you are left with little chunks of pork throughout the gravy. F*cking Genius!
Grandma Quaranta, née Colantuoni, hails from Coney Island, Brooklyn. She still calls the Subway by their proper titles. The IRT, the Sea Beach Line, the Canarsie Line. Ridiculous. You take the F, the N/R/W, or the A/C to south Brooklyn Grandma. Everybody knows that. What’s this lady talking about?
Differences: Canned crushed tomatoes, red wine, and lots and lots of meat. This is some high octane shit. The sauce takes on an almost purple hue and has an intense beefy flavor. No bits of garlic in her gravy. Grandpa Quaranta (full name Romeo Modesta Quaranta! Seriously, that’s your name homey?) is averse to garlic. Likes the flavor, but it bothers his stomach. So Grandma takes each individual garlic clove, scores it with a fork, then removes it from the sauce after cooking, prior to serving #dedication. The Q sauce also gets shallots rather than onion. Meatballs, sausage, plus:
Braciole (pronounced bra’zhole) – A butcher helps for this. You will need thin slices (not roast beef lunch meat thin, but thin, like a 1/4” thin) of top round or shell steak. Make a paste of breadcrumbs, garlic or shallots, parsley, grated cheese, and olive oil. Smear that on one side of your meat, roll it up, tie it with string, brown the outside, and drop it in the sauce.
My Dad tells me that growing up, his grandmother, Grandma Q’s mother, also née Colantuoni (wait, how does your grandmother and her mother have the same maiden name? Well, Great Grandma and Great Grandpa may or may not have been cousins #yikes #explainsalot #oldcountry), would make fresh pasta from scratch every Sunday. Usually cavatelli (pronounced Gah-vah-deel). You see, that’s pasta. Freshly rolled and cut just prior to cooking. I would imagine that the idea of taking the time to make fresh pasta went away as the post WWII convenience culture took hold. These people didn’t make the full jump to Chef Boyardee, but dried macaroni replaced fresh pasta except for on special occasions.
So where does this leave me? What will my kids remember when they think back on their Sundays.
Thin Slice Style
- Put a generous amount of olive oil in a big pot, heat on low.
- Mince 3 shallots and add to pot with a pinch of salt. Sweat those until translucent. You don’t want color on these.
- Add a few squirts of tomato paste. Get the stuff in the tube since you only use a bit at a time. Let that cook.
- Add 1/2 cup white wine, let the alcohol cook out.
- Get yourself 4 or 5 cans of whole peeled tomatoes. These days I go for the San Marzano DOP’s. They cost a little more, but it’s good quality and makes it taste better. Pulse in blender (see above about over blending). Add to pot, turn up heat.
- Add garlic powder, oregano* (fresh or dried), more salt.
* I was watching a tv program one time where Mario Batali went to Italy and was cooking pasta with tomato sauce with some old grandma he found in the hills. He notes that the only herb she added to her simple sauce was basil. No parsley, and most importantly no oregano. Well you know what, my mother ALWAYS added? Oregano, probably too much of it, so f*ck you and your restaurant empire, I’m adding oregano.
- Mince a fist of garlic (smell like garlic the rest of the week), add that. Note that I add the garlic at this point rather than in the olive oil before adding the tomatoes. Why? Because I can’t count the number of times I added my garlic, walked away for 3 minutes and came back to a bunch of browned bitter garlic in the bottom of my pot. Then you gotta start over. Kill yaself. Simple solution, add garlic after the tomatoes.
- Depending on the tomatoes, at this point, I may add a few pinches of sugar. Cuts the acidity in the tomatoes.
Your sauce is now ready to simmer away.
- Herbs get added at the end, about 15 minutes before dinner. Basil and Parsley.
Meatballs and Sausage
Get good meat. I shop at the Windy Hill stand at the Atherton Mill market on Saturday mornings. Dana and Charlie take care of me. Grass fed, no antibiotics or hormones. Good stuff.
In a bowl:
- 2 lbs ground beef, 1 lb ground pork
- salt, garlic powder, oregano
- Two eggs, beaten (for meatballs, you beat the eggs, for meatloaf you don’t. why? cause that’s what Grandma Elia told my Mother who told me)
- 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs (because gluten is frowned upon by the woman to whom I am related by marriage, I use a few tablespoons of almond flour in place of the breadcrumbs… crowd moans… yes, I know)
- One shallot and three cloves of garlic minced and sautéed in olive oil and a splash of the sauce you just made
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Mix all of this together with your hands.
- Roll out about 35 golf ball sized meatballs. You can make them bigger if you like, but I like them this size.
- The best thing to do is brown these meatballs in olive oil in a frying pan, but it makes a big mess and your whole life will smell like meatballs for the next week.
- I put these suckers on baking sheets and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Drain on a plate with paper towels, then dump in the sauce.
The sausage can get the oven treatment as well, drained and then dump in the sauce.
A minor note about meatballs. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you bite into a meatball and find raisins and/or pignoli nuts on the inside, DO NOT BE ALARMED. You are simply in the presence of some real live Sicilians. Just go with it!
As mentioned above, it seems that gluten has become the devil’s work over the last few years, at least according to our family nutritionist (aka my wife). And to be fair, it does bother my stomach a bit, so the Quaranta house has switched to… wait for it… Rice Pasta. GASP! I know, I know, my ancestors are rolling over in their graves. But not any rice pasta, only one brand is good:
You can get it at the Fresh Market or Whole Foods.
Boil in a large pot of salted water. The bigger the pot the better. And DO NOT OVER COOK.
Is a must. Pecorino Romano, Locatelli brand is best. Not Parmigiana cheese.
The difference: Pecorino is made form Sheep’s milk, parmigiana from Cow’s milk. Pecorino has a much sharper flavor than the sweeter parmigiana. Pecorino doesn’t melt when you sprinkle it over your macaroni, parmigiana does and gets stuck to your fork.
To be served AFTER the macaroni.
Buy and wash your own lettuce. It’s better than the boxed stuff. That’s it, just a nice head of red leaf.
In a jar:
- Spoonful of Dijon mustard
- Garlic powder
- Fill jar half way with vinegar ( a mix of champagne/red wine and balsamic is good)
- Fill rest of jar with Olive Oil (looking for a 1:1 oil to vinegar ratio)
- Shake, pour over greens, and toss
We don’t do it anymore because of the aforementioned gluten situation, but if you must, follow Grandpa Elia’s advice:
“You know you have a good loaf when breadcrumbs fly all over the kitchen when you are slicing it”
That’s it, that the list. Gold stars to anyone that made it this far. Triple gold stars to anyone that gets after it this Sunday. Tell me how it is.
Back at ya Fish