Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baltimore, Maryland - May 2013

The youngest child of my sister Jan, Andrew, graduated high school this past May.  To celebrate The Bracalente & Carlson families reunited for a graduation party or an excuse to get together to cook.

Our weekend of cooking started with a trip down to Highlandtown in Baltimore with a visit to DiPasquale's Deli - your place for everything Italian.  If you're within 100 miles of  Baltimore stop and Eat here!  Eggplant parm, oven-fired pizzas, pasta fagioli, Tuscan chili, bruschetta, and their specialty sandwiches to name a few.  I settled on The Real Italian - salami, pepper ham, mortadella, capicola & provolone with all the toppings between a whole loaf of crusty Italian bread fresh from the oven.  I mean this - it was the best I've ever tasted to this day.  The combination of the meats and cheeses with their blend of grated cheeses and spices, lettuce, onions and mild hot's with the crunch of some of the best bread anywhere will remain in my memory, until I run into something better.  Inspiration #1 for our party - a deli tray from DiPasquale's.  The owner sliced us two types of salami, sharp provolone, pepper ham, paper thin prosciutto, a medley of olives and stuffed red peppers and mortadella wrapped up to be
assembled later.  Oh yea - while the meat was being assembled we tried a pastachio and a chocolate chip cannoli - can't wait to go back to DiPasquale's.  Homerun!
After a visit to an Asia market for some ingredients, the wine store for some Italian Reds & we were ready to get serious about our menu.

My uncles, Bob and Mepe Bracalente were in for the occasion and we love to listen to their stories of my late Dad and growing up in Atlantic City. We can sit for hours drinking red wine listening to them reminisce.  My wife, Zan, my sister, Jan, my Mom, Bea and I put our heads together on the menu.  We were cooking for 25.  We settled on the following recipes and went to work:


      Aunt Sue's Oven Fried Chicken

      Bea's Potato Salad

      Cannellini Bean Salad

      Jan's Orzo Salad

      Feta Salsa

      Watermelon Cucumber Salad

      Insalata Caprese

      DiPasquale's Meats, Cheeses & Olives

What a Line up

What a line up.   Needless to say, it got real quiet when everyone started eating.  It was a success and Andrew graduated and went on to Mary Washington College - we're proud of him.

Enjoy these recipes as we have and share them with friends.  These are great sides individually or do them all together for a big party.  They are simple to prepare and fun to prepare with your cooking partners.

Happy Eating and Dress well - Cheers!

Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E.


Aunt Sue's Oven Fried Chicken

Serves 8


2 whole chickens cut up; chicken breast split
All purpose flour
10 eggs beaten
2 bags Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix


My Great Aunt Sue would "slow cook" this chicken for 4 hours and nobody has been able to figure out how she did it, but it rates at the top in our family.  I think most of us cook it at 300 - 350 degrees until the top is brown - cooking times will vary depending on your oven.  Start checking at 40 minutes and adjust accordingly.  Cook your wings in a separate pan because they will cook quicker.

Line up your ingredients in separate pans.  Dip chicken in flour with salt & pepper mixed in, egg wash second and then roll in Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix.  Spray your pans with non-stick spray and cook breasts, thighs and wings & drumsticks in separate pans.  The breasts and wings will cook a little quicker than the thighs and drumsticks.  Place a pat of butter (not margarine) on each piece of chicken before going into a 300 degree oven.  The cooking time varies but normally around 1 hour everything will be finished.  Place chicken pieces on a wire rack when finished.  Eat hot or cold and refrigerates well for a couple days.  I try not to eat a lot of salt, but this chicken is great with a "pinch" of Kosher salt on top.

Bea's Potato Salad

Serves 8
16 red potatoes skin on
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-4 scallions sliced thin
1 grated carrot
2 Tbsps. fresh dill
1Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 tsps. pepper
Boil red potatoes until tender, strain and let cool.  After cooled, quarter and place in a large bowl to mix.
Incorporate the sour cream, mayo, scallions, carrot, dill and salt and pepper into the potatoes.  May have to adjust your mayo and sour cream to taste.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Jan's Cannellini Bean Salad

Serves 8
3 cans Cannellini Beans
2-4 Tbsps. Balsamic vinegar
2-4 Tbsps. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 garlic clove diced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/3 cup fresh basil chopped thin


Drain beans and place in a bowl.  Add the balsamic vinegar, EVOO, garlic clove, red pepper and basil.  Can cover and leave out or refrigerate.  Good for a few days in refrigeration.

Jan's Feta Salsa

1/2 lb. feta crumbled
2/3 cup sundried tomatoes in oil
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata Olives
2 Tbsps. fresh dill
3 Tbsps. parsley
2 Scallions
1/2 cup good olive oil
Mix ingredients together and serve with crackers.

Jan's Orzo Salad

1 Box of Orzo
1 cup of feta cheese
1 cup Olives - preferably Greek
3-4 tomatoes cut in 1/4 in. pieces
2-3 scallions diced
fresh dill
Orzo is a rice shaped pasta also know as risoni.  It's in most supermarkets, yet not many use this small pasta. I think it's because it looks too much like rice.  It boils quickly - within 2 minutes its done.

Boil orzo, strain and add a splash of olive oil and mix with the orzo to keep it from sticking together and let cool.  Place orzo in a large mixing bowl and add the feta, olives, tomatoes, scallions and fresh dill.  I like to refrigerate for a couple hours to let the ingredients meet each other.

Andrea's Watermelon - Cucumber Salad

Jan's great friends Andrea and Charlie are always a welcome site when we visit Baltimore.  Andrea is Greek and threw this great Greek inspired salad together for the party.
2 cups cucumber in 1 in. chunks
1 thick slice of stale country bread
1 med. red onion thinly sliced
3 cups cold watermelon cut into 1 in. cubes
1 cup feta cheese
1 tsp. sherry or raspberry vinegar
ground pepper
fresh mint leaves for garnish 
Place chunks of the bread in bottom of bowl.  This will absorb the watermelon juice.  Layer all ingredients.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Serve cold.

Insalata Caprese

In Italy, unlike most salads, it is usually served as an antipasto (starter), not a contorno (side dish).  We used it as a side dish with our chicken.  Because this salad is so simple, fresh ingredients are important. 
Fresh sliced mozzarella cheese sliced 1/4 in. thick
4 lg. Tomatoes sliced 1/4 in. thick
1/2 cup Fresh Basil leaves
3 Tbsps. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher - salt to taste
Pepper - fresh ground - to taste
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

On a large platter, alternate and overlap the tomato slices, mozzarella cheese slices, and basil leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  We like to add a drizzle of aged balsamic on our Caprese.

 DiPasquale's Deli Meats and Cheeses

Large Deli Tray:
1/4 lb. Salami
1/4 lb. Sopressata 
1/4 lb. Mortadella
1/4 lb. Prosciutto
1/8 lb. each of Sharp Provolone, Blue Cheese, Fontina
1/2 cup mixed olives
4 stuffed red cherry peppers
marinated eggplant
marinated asparagus
This is always my favorite dish, not only to shop for, but because there is no wrong way to buy the ingredients for this dish.  Assemble and get creative and watch your company be amazed.

Happy Eating and Dress well - Cheers!

Chip Bracalente - T.P.H.E.

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