POLPETTONE AL FORNO

*photo credit La Cucina di Lorendana*

Today we’re going to cook one of my favorite recipes. Easy to prepare and always loved by the guest. Flatten the meat mixture on a sheet of cello wrap for easy handling when folding over. With cooler weather approaching this makes for a wonder dinner main course. Keep cookin’!

Ingredients:

1lb. ground beef
1lb. ground pork
1 medium onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, chopped
4oz. raw bacon, diced
3 slices sourdough bread
1/2 cup (scant) heavy cream
3 whole eggs
3oz. parmesan cheese
5oz. crushed pistachio nuts
5 slices ham
5 slices provolone cheese
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Method:

Saute onions and garlic with the raw bacon, cool and hold on side.  In a large bowl, soak the bread in the cream. Add the seasoning, beef, pork, eggs, cooked onion, garlic, bacon, parmesan cheese and mix. Flatten mixture and place slice of ham, provolone cheese and crushed pistachios down the center. Fold sides over to make a stuffed loaf. Rub lightly with olive oil and back at 375 degrees approximately 45 minutes or when internal temperature is 160 degrees.

Serve and Enjoy!

Chef Len

Chef Len’s Famous Sub

I grew up in Claymont, Delaware just 20 miles south of Philadelphia. Long before fast food became popular, subs, meatball and cheese steak sandwiches were the staples of the day. My favorite sub shop, as they were called back then, was “Sharpies” on the Philadelphia Pike. A sub sold for about $1.00.  Add a Tasty Cake, Grape Soda and small bag of Wise Potato Chips and you had a great meal.

After my service in the Army, I moved to Taft to teach food services (ROP) for the Taft and Maricopa school district.  In 1973 my cravings kicked in for a good east coast sub.  I invited eight of my closest friends to the house for a sandwich tasting party with the sub shop favorites I grew up with. My mom shipped a dozen rolls to me from Phili so that the finished sandwiches were as authentic as possible. The party was a huge success with everyone encouraging me to open a shop in Taft.  In August of that year, Gentieu’s Pantry was born and launched my restaurant career.  After an investment of just $7,000 with our opening day sales of $128, we were off and running. The little 800 sq. ft. shop on the corner of North and Third Street serving these east coast delights was an immediate success.  Our six foot sub, delivered on a motorcycle, was the talk of the town.  Two years after opening, we made the world’s longest sandwich listed in the 15th edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. The mammoth sub, 464 feet long weighed in at over 1600 pounds. Watch Video on You Tube: search World’s Longest Sandwich 1975. The rest is history.
                           PREPARATION KEY POINTS FOR THE ABOVE VIDEO
1.  Very important — the roll: Purchase rolls or french bread wrapped in paper or sold loose.  NO cellophane or poly bag packaging. For this demo, I purchased individual Mexican Torte rolls at Albertsons. If using a whole french loaf, scoop out some of the inside after slicing open as it usually is too much bread.
2.  Meats and Cheese: All sliced very thin but not shaved. Provalone cheese, Cotto or Genoa Salami, Capacola and boiled ham. Have the deli person give you a sample slice to determine thickness.
3.  Other ingredients:  Thinly shredded Iceburg lettuce and brown onion. Sliced dill pickle, Pepperoncini, Roma Tomato, Oregano, Olive Oil, dill pickle vinegar and salt and pepper.  NO MAYO OR MUSTARD!  Never used on authentic east coast sub — it would ruin it.
4.  Very important: Cut the roll 3/4ths through hinged at the back. This allows meat and cheese to be placed on both sides with the rest of the ingredients in the center.  It creates better texture and mouth feel when eating. This simple step makes a huge difference compared to what many sub sandwich restaurants do by cutting the roll totally in half. They place the meat and cheese on one half with the rest of the ingredients on the other. When taking your first bite, the layer of meat and cheese don’t mix well with the other ingredients and often times will cling to the roof of your mouth.  The results are not a good texture or good mix of all the flavors in the sandwich.
CHEF’S NOTES:  Prepare your subs as close to serving time as possible. Better yet, set up a prep station with all the ingredients and make a party out of it. Make them to order with your guests. Subs should not be made more than 15 minutes ahead as the bread will begin to get soggy (not a good texture).  If you want to have the best outcome, make them to order then serve.  It’s worth it! Good eating – yumm!

Simple Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is more popular than ever. Early in my career we often made it as a side dish or a hot item on buffet service. It’s preparation began with making a béchamel sauce ( white sauce made with roux and milk) then adding cheddar cheese and seasoning turning it into a cheese sauce to pour over the cooked macaroni. I have simplified the whole preparation and end up with a better end product.

Method:. Cook off the Macaroni in large pot of boiling salted water. During the first few minutes be sure to stir constantly to keep from sticking. After Aprox. 10 minutes of cooking the macaroni should be tender , don’t overcook it will become mushy. Good test is to remove a sample from the pot and bite in half , tender but still holding its shape.Strain off water reserving a cup of the starchy water to add back to the sauce.

Place the cooked Mac In a lightly greased casserole dish big enough to hold it all . Pour in the starchy water and heavy cream to cover the Mac completely, ( heavy cream is a must it adds richness and helps thicken ) Season with salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning blend. Add grated cheeses of your choice. I use the the Costco three blend of Mozzarella, jack , and cheddar . To that I also add a sharp cheddar, Parmesan and 8ozs. of softened  cream cheese. Place a few slices of thin provolone cheese on top . Place in 325 oven until hot and bubbly and browned on top usually half hour.

Chefs note:  any number of other items can be added to this basic recipe. Crisp cooked bacon, shrimp, chicken , lobster are just a few. Get creative and add one of your favorite items. Enjoy. Simple but really tasty!

Chef Len

Don’t forget to subscribe to receive blogs straight to your inbox! Check out this awesome dish to pair this with here.

Eggplant Parmesan

This week we are going to cook the perfect dish that goes with last week’s Tiramisu! You can find that recipe here. Eggplant Parm is a very simple recipe to prepare. The dish can be served as a side or great as a main course with some pasta.

Begin with the sauce. Most red sauces will will work and there are some very good ones offered in the grocery store. If you want to make yours from scratch and have a favorite that’s great. I begin by reducing a cup of red wine by half in a sauce pan then pour a bottle of red sauce in. Add to that a small ham hock and let simmer on the side (we call this doctoring up a store bought product).

Method:

Slice the eggplant across in about a quarter inch thickness leave the skin on. It should be sliced the last minute before frying as it will darken . Most people like a serving or three or four thin slices rather than a couple thicker ones.

Break 4 or 5 eggs in a bowl and whisk . Take a couple cups of flour and season with salt and pepper and a little oregano. Dip the sliced eggplant in the egg then toss in flour to coat. After breaking place on the side not on top of each other ready to fry. Note: if you like it to have a heavier crust texture do the breeding process twice.

In a large frying pan take vegetable oil and cup of olive oil adding flavor to about a quarter inch deep in pan. Heat to frying temp Aprox. 350 degrees. If it begins to smoke it is to hot. The oil must be up to temp before browning of the breaded eggplant. Toss a bread cube in to check , it should bubble and brown quickly but not jump out of the pan when first placed in. If oil is not hot enough your eggplant will soak up the oil and you will have to start over throwing it away. Oil frying temp VERY IMPORTANT !

Fry the eggplant until a golden brown on both sides. Happens very quickly , less than five minutes. When cooked place on tray with paper towels. To finish arrange eggplant on service plate in fan shape with slight overlap ( 3 or so slices depending upon size of eggplant)  or on a tray ( presented family style at table)  then top with ladle of sauce as needed. Grate fresh parmesan cheese on top as you like ( don’t be skimpy here) . I also like to place a couple thin slices of provolone cheese on top . Place in a hot oven or under the broiler to lightly brown then serve immediately.

Yum !

Chef Len 

Tiramisu | Wonderful Italian dessert

This week we’re bringing a bit of Italy right to your kitchen. Let’s get cookin’!

Make a Zabaione ( Italian egg custard):

Ingredients:
7 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
1Tb. Vanilla

Method:
Place in stainless bowl and cook over double boiler Aprox 10 minutes hand whipping the whole time. The mixture will thicken and turn a pale shade of yellow. If you don’t whip you will end up with sweet scrambled eggs. Let cool and hold on side.

Other Ingredients:
1  1/2  cups room temp mascarpone cheese. ( May sub. softened cream cheese with little heavy cream whipped in to thin couple Tb’s )
2  cups whipping cream ( cold and a cold bowl to whip it in)
3 packages of lady fingers
1 cup cold espresso or extra strong brewed coffee.
1/2 cup dark rum or Marsala wine.
Coco powder for dusting.

Method:
After making the Zabaione hold on side
Whip the cream in strong peaks
Dip portion of lady fingers in coffee and lay on bottom of baking dish ( Aprox. 9in square or suitable baking pan glass or stainless)
Mix wine or rum with cheese and fold into cooled Zabaione
Take small amount of whipped cream and gently fold into mixture with rubber spatula ( this method is called a liaison and prepares the mix for the adding of the rest of whipped cream)
Add the remaining whipped cream by gently folding it in to keep the mix airy. DO NOT WHIP ! Use rubber spatula
Pour portion of mix over lady fingers , gently smooth out. Add another layer of coffee dipped lady fingers and pour remaining mix over top, gently smooth out. Dust with little coco power using fine mesh hand held strainer as pictured.


Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

Chef’s Note: can be made in individual service ware.

Optional : served with drizzle of chocolate and dollop of whipped cream.

Great dish for anyone’s sweet tooth, enjoy!

Looking for a great dinner to pair with this dessert? Check my amazing lamb dish here!

Gentieu’s West

August of 1978 Gentieu’s West was opened in the Safeway shopping center in the former Tims Steak house location. It was quite the expansion from the Pantry on third st. From the start it was a huge success. We actually opened on Thursday and had to close on Sunday to restock food due to the volume of business.

The ice cream creations were introduced and named after the local school mascots. Our ice cream sales were so great Dryers out of Fresno delivered two upright freezers at no charge to store the large inventory of ice cream needed to satisfy demand . Close to the high school and college sports venues we were always busy after local sporting events and football games. Those were the days we would have lines out the door with a waiting list durning dinner and again at 10:00 pm after a game. Our staff was remarkable rising to the occasion everyday to serve the people of Taft and surrounding area. Many have commented to me years later that working at the restaurant was a great experience and it taught them how to work, preparing them for work experiences later in life.

It was a big financial investment for me borrowing close to $200,000 by the time we added the two spaces next to us expanding our square footage to almost 6000 sq ft. Our first years sales projection summited to the bank to help secure the loan was $750,000 we closed the first full years sales at $785,000 and the following years sales eclipsed $1.1 million. With the highest priced item on the menu a T-bone steak at $9.95 these sales were incredible, securing our place as the top restaurant in town .

A look back for me and sharing this with you, I realize what a special time that was within a wonderful town filled with great customers and friends. I will always remember, cherish and appreciate that wonderful group of people that comprised the staff at Gentieus. Truly a place in time that cannot be duplicated but can always be remembered with fondness and warm feelings.

Thank you all for being part of those memories.

Chef Len

Fresh Boiled Shrimp | 2 Sauces

I had the Papagallo hauled out in Ventura for inspection. A fishing boat came to the yard with some mechanical issues and they still had some of the catch onboard. The captain handed me a container of shrimp and asked if I might prepare them for some of the yard workers. I told him of course I would be glad to. There is no comparison between freshly caught shrimp and frozen. These were going to be good eating.

Method:

In a large pot bring water to a boil with slices of fresh onion and celery , couple cans of beer and some pickling spice or old bay seasoning. Place the shrimp in when pot reaches a boil. Do not over cook! They will take five or so minutes depending upon their size. They are done when turning red in color and flesh is firm and white when you cut a sample in half. Undercooked the flesh is translucent and not real firm. After the cooking time is reached always cut one in half to check for doneness. Can be served warm or after cooled in ice water. Boil with shell on ! On this day I boiled them off right at lunch time so the guys could enjoy them hot and steamy for lunch. What a hit and a real treat they talked about during my stay in the boatyard.

Sauces:

I prepared two that day.

-Melted butter with squeeze of fresh lemon juice and 10 cloves of chopped fresh garlic.

-Cocktail sauce : mix : 4 cups of catsup , juice from 2 lemons, few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup of prepared horseradish. Chefs note: I find good horseradish at the Smart and Final store. With the large amount of horseradish it will give the sauce a more orange color than a deeper red you see in most restaurants. This recipe also has a wonderful kick to it which most people like. If too hot add more catsup.

Good quality catsup and good quality horseradish are keys to getting good results.

Yum!

Chef Len

Check out last week’s recipe here!

Flaming Coffee A’la Gentieu

Ready to WOW your guests?! This Flaming Coffee recipe is sure to do the trick!

To begin, you will need glassware that can withstand the heat of burning rum. I use a 17.5 ounce Libbey 8418 Bolla Grade wine glass that has worked well for me over the years. You can find them, here.

Ingredients: 

Brewed Coffee
Kahlua
Bacardi 151 Rum
Baileys Irish Cream
Ground Cinnamon
1 Fresh Orange
Sugar
Fresh Whipped Cream

You will also need a flame, preferably from a candle. Start by quartering the orange and using one piece and rim the edge of each glass with it’s juice. Dip each orange-rimmed glass into sugar placed on a small plate as if you were rimming a margarita glass with salt. Next, pour a scant ounce of rum into a one-ounce ladle. I prefer Bacardi 151 Rum, a highly flammable variety that’s 75.5 percent alcohol.

Holding the ladle in one hand and the glass in the other, run the ladle under the open flame to ignite it. Place the burning ladle of rum halfway into the glass. Carefully lift and tilt the ladle upward and out of the glass, catching the burning rum in the glass. When the ladle empties, blow out any remaining fire in the ladle. Swirl the glass with the burning rum as if it were a red wine. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon into the fire to create a colorful sparkling effect.

The rum should burn for several seconds, but don’t let it burn too long as the glass will become too hot. Pour the coffee into the glass by resting the edge of the coffee pot or container on the edge of the glass. When you begin pouring, move the glass in a downward motion and the coffee container in an upward motion. this causes a stream of coffee to flow through the air to half fill the glass and extinguish the flame.

Add shots of Kahlüa and Baileys, a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and sprinkle with cinnamon. When handing the drink to the guests, caution them about how hot it is. This dish exists in many versions using a broad range of ingredients. Once you’re comfortable making it, experiment with coffee syrups, other liqueurs and chocolate.

This coffee service is even more spectacular performed in the dark. The rum burns with a beautiful blue flame and sprinkled cinnamon adds a “Fourth of July” effect. Just be sure there’s enough light to let you see what you’re doing!

Enjoy!

Chef Len 

Check out last week’s recipe!

Abalone Ambitions | Sauteéd Abalone

I drive north from Morro Bay, nine miles along Highway 1 to buy abalone, a key ingredient in one of my favorite special dishes. Abalone has been cherished for centuries for its delicate flavor, beautiful shell and, among other believers, its aphrodisiac qualities.

The drive to the Abalone Farm on the north end of Cayucos at Estero Point, along some of the most scenic coastline in California, is as wonderful as the succulent mollusk I’m procuring. Turning left off Route 1, I soon detect the smell of wild sage and rosemary. Cresting the last steep hill of a winding, bumpy dirt road, the farm comes into view. Scores of cement salt water tanks filled with kelp and abalone stretch across the tops of the cliffs above the crashing waves of the blue Pacific below.

The Abalone Farm is the oldest and largest producer of farm-raised abalone (halitosis rufescent) per year, which it supplies to restaurants and ships all over the world. If I arrive during lunch, I may catch a soccer game between teams made up of the farm’s largely Hispanic work force. Brad, the General Manager, usually meets me in the lower parking area, from which we ascend to the production building to pick up my order.

In the production area, six to eight women seated at worktables and armed with tenderizing mallets pound away at the abalone flush to make it tender enough to eat. Brad usually reaches between the falling mallets to grab a couple small steaks for us to sample sashimi style. After dipping them in a mixture of rice vinegar, soy sauce and red chili oil, we down the delicious slices with quick chew.

I like to sauté abalone when I’m not using it for sashimi or sushi. Preparing sautéd Abalone is very simple; however, the trimming is critical. Chris Jones, a long-time friend, taught it to me more than 40 years ago. Chris liked to dive for wild abalone at a time when they were still plentiful along the Central Coast.

Let’s get cookin’!

Sauteéd Abalone

 

Ingredients

Abalone

Eggs

Saltine Crackers

Clarified Butter

Lemon

 

 

Begin with pounded pieces of abalone steak. Dip them in whole beaten eggs, then place them in crushed saltine crackers, breading the abalone on both sides. To sauté, bring clarified butter up to temperature. Place the abalone steaks in a large pan, taking care not to crowd them. Lightly brown the steaks, approximately 40 seconds per side. At the last minute, squeeze a fresh lemon over them and serve immediately, ladling a little of the now browned-butter over them. Any overcooking will cause the abalone to toughen and dry. 

What I like about the dish is its simplicity. There’s no reason to even accompany it with a sauce. The light cracker crust seals in the abalone’s delicate flavor. We serve the dish on our charter yacht, the Papagallo II, and always to rave reviews. 

In 2012, I was hired as a guest chef for a video shoot in Monterey, California, to introduce Dreaming Tree Everyday, a new wine varietal brought out by Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthew’s Band. I prepared Sautéd Abalone for Dave and his winemaker as a part of the shoot. Dave said it was one of the best things he had ever eaten.

Enjoy!

Chef Len

Rack of Lamb | Garlic/Tomato Reduction & Date-Fig Mint Jam

Nothing elevates the simplest of get together’s like a rack of lamb. Let’s get right to it as this is a lengthy one, but well worth the detailed instruction. Your next get together will be a hit!

Ingredients:

  • Frenched rack of lamp.
  • Garlic, chopped
  • All-purpose meat rub spice
  • Butter
  • Roma tomatoes, diced
  • White Wine
  • Dried Dates
  • Mint Sprigs
  • Red chili peppers, dried
  • Mint jelly
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary

Instruction:

Remove any excess fat at the base of the rub bones of the Frenched rack or on the rib eye itself. Don’t remove all the fat, as it’s an important part of the cooking process; supplying flavor to the finished dish. Season with a dry all – purpose spice rub, or add salt and black pepper with a little rosemary. Rub the seasoning over the entire rack up to three the bones have been Frenched. If the rack is to be charbroiled, wrap the exposed bones in foil to protect them from blackening. If the lamb is to be roasted in the over, the foil is not necessary. If broiling outside on he BBQ grill, start the seasoned rack on the hot part of the fire and brown quickly on both sides. Then move it to a cooler part of the fire to finish cooking, which could take up to 40 minutes depending on the BBQ. Ideal doneness is achieved at an internal temp of 125 to 130 degrees for medium rare. Like most steak – cut meats, the rack should not be cooked to the well-done stage, which greatly reduces the dish’s quality.

If roasting, place the seasoned rack in a hot oven at 425 degrees for the first five to ten minutes, until the meat browns. Reducte the temp to 375 degrees to finish cooking, which will take approximately 20 minutes, or when the internal temp reaches 125 – 130 degrees on a meat thermometer half way to the center of the thickest part of the eye to get an accurate reading. The reading should climb the scale steadily, and slow when reaching the desired level. If it climbs too fast, you’ll likely over cook the lamb. Remember the lamb will continue to cook a little after removing it from the oven or broiler.  Paying close attention to the lamb’s temp and how it rises can make all the difference.

When the rack reaches the desired temp range, remove it from the heat and let it rest a couple of minutes before carving. To serve, cut four two-rib portions by running a sharp French knife between the bones and completely through the eye, creating beautiful medium-rare two-bone chops. Crisscross each two-bone pair in the center of the dinner plate to serve with your choice of side items.

In years past, lamp was always served with a small portion of mint jelly, a practice some restaurants still follow, but many more creative sauces and garnishes are available to enhance the flavor of this dish, including two of my favorites –  a garlic and roma tomato reduction and date-fig mint jam.

Prepare the garlic and tomato reduction by warming half of a stick of butter in a saucepan. Add eight cloves of chopped garlic and two dices roma tomatoes, also known as plum or Italian plum tomatoes. Cook down slightly, then add half a cup of white wine and reduct by half. Season with a little salt and pepper, and serve as a reduction or pureed to a velvety smoothness and ladled under the chops.

For the date-fig mint jam, place half a cup each of dried figs and dates in a food processor. Add a few sprigs of fresh mint and a teaspoon of fried red chilies, and blend into a paste. Stir in half a jar of mint jelly until the mixture acquires the consistency of jam. Thin, if necessary, with a little warm water, and serve on the side.

Bon Appetite!

Chef Len