Recipes from 'Lidia's Family Table'

Lidia Bastianich joined "Good Morning America" with some recipes from her new cookbook, "Lidia's Family Table." Lidia demonstrated how to make her mother's special chicken and potatoes, green bean gratinate and apple crisp parfaits. In April, she will launch a new PBS cooking show. Check out Lidia's recipes from "Lidia's Family Table" below.

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My Mother's Chicken And Potatoes with Special Touches

• 2½ pounds chicken legs or assorted pieces (bone-in)

• 1/2 cup canola oil

• 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

• 1 pound red bliss potatoes, preferably no bigger than 2 inches across

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or more

• 2 medium-small onions, peeled and quartered lengthwise

• 2 short branches fresh rosemary with plenty of needles

For special touches -- try either or both:

• 4 to 6 ounces sliced bacon (5 or 6 slices)

• 1 or 2 pickled cherry peppers, sweet or hot, or none -- or more! -- cut in half and seeded

Recommended Equipment:
A 12-inch cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet with 3-inch-high sides or deeper, with a cover.

Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off excess skin and all visible fat. Cut the drumsticks from the thighs. If using breast halves, cut into two small pieces.

Make the bacon roll-ups: Cut the bacon slices in half crosswise and roll each strip into a neat, tight cylinder. Stick a toothpick through the roll to secure it; cut or break the toothpick so only a tiny bit sticks out (allowing the bacon to roll around and cook evenly).

Pour the canola oil into the skillet and set over high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt on all sides. When the oil is very hot, lay the pieces in it, skin side down, an inch or so apart -- watch out for oil spatters. Don't crowd the chicken: if necessary, fry it in batches, with similar pieces (like drumsticks) together.

Drop the bacon rolls into the oil around the chicken, turning and shifting them often. Let the chicken pieces fry in place for several minutes to brown on the underside, then turn and continue frying until they're golden brown on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes or more. Fry breast pieces only for 5 minutes or so, taking them out of the oil as soon as they are golden. Let the bacon rolls cook and get lightly crisp, but not dark. Adjust the heat to maintain steady sizzling and coloring; remove the crisped chicken pieces with tongs to a bowl.

Meanwhile, rinse and dry the potatoes; slice each one through the middle on the axis that gives the largest cut surface, then toss them with the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

When all the chicken and bacon is cooked and out of the skillet, pour off the frying oil. Return the skillet to medium heat and put in all the potatoes, cut side down in a single layer, into the hot pan. With a spatula, scrape all the olive oil out of the mixing bowl into the skillet; drizzle over it a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Fry and crisp the potatoes for about 4 minutes to form a crust, then move them around the pan, still cut side down, until they're all brown and crisp, 7 minutes or more. Turn them over, and fry another 2 minutes to cook and crisp on their rounded skin sides.

If cooking everything together:

Still over medium heat, toss the onion wedges and rosemary branches around the pan, in with the potatoes. If using cherry peppers (either hot or sweet), cut the seeded halves into 1/2-inch-wide pieces and scatter them in the pan too.

Return the chicken pieces -- except breast pieces -- to the pan, along with the bacon rolls; pour in any chicken juices that have accumulated. Raise the heat slightly, and carefully turn and tumble the chicken, potatoes, and onion (and bacon and/or pepper pieces), so they're heating and getting coated with pan juices – but take care not to break the potato pieces. Spread everything out in the pan – potatoes on the bottom as much as possible, to keep crisping up – and cover.

Return the heat to medium, and cook for about 7 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, then uncover, and tumble the pieces and potatoes (and bacon rolls) again. Cover, and cook another 7 minutes or so, adding the breast pieces at this point. Give everything another tumble. Now cook covered for 10 minutes more.

Remove the cover, turn the pieces again, and cook in the open skillet for about 10 minutes, to evaporate the moisture and caramelize everything. Taste a bit of the potato (or chicken) for salt, and sprinkle on more as needed. Turn the pieces now and then; when they are all glistening and golden, and the potatoes are cooked through, remove the skillet from the stove and -- as I do at home -- bring it right to the table. Serve portions of chicken and potatoes, or let people help themselves. Serves 4 or more.

Green Bean Gratinate with Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil

• 1½ pounds fresh green beans

• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

• 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes (about 3 cups), preferably small grape tomatoes

• 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella

• 4 to 6 fresh basil leaves

• 1 cup grated Parmigiano--Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese

• 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

• 3 tablespoons butter

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Recommended Equipment: A shallow baking dish with two-or three-quart capacity

Arrange a rack in the top half of the oven and preheat to 375º. Fill a large pot with water (at least five quarts) and bring it to a boil.

Dump them all into the boiling water, cover the pot until the water boils again, then cook uncovered, for 10 minutes or so, until they are just cooked through ---- tender but still firm enough to snap.

Drain the beans briefly in a colander, then put them in a big kitchen bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of salt on the hot beans and toss them so they're all seasoned. Let the salt melt and the beans cool for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse and dry the tomatoes. If they're larger than an inch, slice them in halves, otherwise, leave them whole. Cut the mozzarella into 1/2--inch cubes. Slice the basil leaves into thin shreds or a chiffonade.

Toss the grated cheese and bread crumbs together in a small bowl. Lightly grease the insides of the baking dish with a teaspoon or more of the butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese-and--bread-crumb mix all over the bottom of the dish.

When the beans are no longer steaming, drop the tomatoes, cubes of mozzarella and basil shreds on top. Drizzle the olive oil over all, sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss together a few times. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheesy bread crumbs on top and toss well, so everything is coated.

Turn the vegetables, scraping up all the crumbs, into the baking dish and spread them in an even layer. Sprinkle over the remaining 1/4 cup of crumbs, cut the rest of the butter in small pieces and scatter them all over the top. Place the dish in the oven.

Bake the gratinate for 10 minutes, then rotate it back to front and bake another 10 minutes. Check to see that it is browning and bake a few minutes more, until the gratinate is dark golden and crusted. (If the crumbs still look pale after 20 minutes in your oven, raise the temperature to 400 degrees or 425 degrees and bake until done.)

Serve the hot gratinate in the baking dish. Recipe serves 6 or more.

Apple Crisp Parfait

For poaching the apples:

• 4 pounds firm, tart apples for baking

• Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

• Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons), freshly squeezed and strained

• 1½ cups sugar

• 1/2 cup water

For the parfait

• 3 cups heavy cream, for whipping

• 2 to 3 cups Brown Sugar Crisp Crumbles (see recipe)

Recommended Equipment:
A large saucepan, 5-or 6-quart capacity, with a cover

Poaching the Apples:

Cut the apples in thick wedges, peel, and cut away the cores and seeds. Slice the wedges into chunks and cubes, an inch thick or larger (don't cut them too small or they will overcook). As you work, put the apple chunks in a mixing bowl and toss with some of the lemon zest and juice, to prevent browning. When you're finished, you should have about 10 cups of apples mixed with all the zest and juice.

Pour the sugar over the apples, and toss gently to coat the pieces. Turn all the fruit into the saucepan, slosh the bowl with the ½ cup water to rinse out all the sugar, and pour that into the pan too.

Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Stir the apples gently (so they're all heating), cover the pan, and cook about 2 minutes. Remove the cover, and continue to boil, reducing the juices, stirring the apple chunks around a couple of times, but not mushing them up. After 5 or 6 minutes, when the apples have softened and turned translucent on the outside (they won't be cooked all the way through), remove the pan from the heat. If the chunks have started to fall apart, turn them out of the saucepan into a bowl to stop cooking; otherwise, let the apples and the remaining liquid cool to room temperature (the chunks will reabsorb some of their juices as they sit).

The apples can be cooked a day ahead and refrigerated; let them warm up a bit before serving.

Assembling the parfaits:

Have the apples, crumbled-up crisp, and serving glasses ready.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form, by hand or in an electric mixer. (No sugar or flavoring is needed, since the apples and crisp are quite sweet.)

Spoon about 1/2 cup of apple chunks into each glass, making a thick layer that fills the bottom. Scatter crisp crumbles on top -- anywhere from 2 to 5 tablespoons on each parfait. Plop 1/2 cup or so of whipped cream on top of the crisp crumbles.

Now repeat the layer -- apples, crumbles, cream -- in each glass. These can be smaller amounts, or as ample as the bottom layers, for an impressive and generous dessert.

Brown Sugar Crisp Crumbles (Makes 4 to 5 cups of crumbled-up crisp):

• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 4 ounces (1 stick) cold butter, in 1/2-inch pieces

• 3 tablespoons cold water

Recommended equipment:
1 food processor or hand-held pastry cutter, rimmed baking sheet and parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

It is quickest to mix the crisp in the food processor, fitted with the metal blade. Put the flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in the work bowl. Process briefly to blend the dry ingredients. Drop in the butter pieces and pulse a dozen or so times, until the butter has been uniformly cut into a sandy powder of small bits. Sprinkle on the water, and process for a couple of seconds only, just to moisten the dough; it should still be rather loose and granular.

To mix by hand, blend the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and cut the butter into the grainy powder with a pastry cutter. Toss the powder and water with a fork to moisten.

Line the baking sheet with the parchment paper. Sprinkle the loose grains of dough evenly – in one layer – in an oval shape about 8 to 12 inches, filling in a any holes and keeping the layer thin; don't compress them.

Bake for about 10 minutes, then rotate back to front, for even heating. The crumbs will have melted together, spread out in a thin layer, and perhaps started to bubble. Bake to another 7 to 10 minuets or more, until the layer is deeply caramelized, golden brown all over (and probably very dark on the edges). It will resemble a giant brown sugar cookie.

Set the pan on a wire rack, and cool until the cookie is very crisp. Cut or break off any burnt edges. Crack the cookie into crispy flakes, an inch or smaller. This is a good size for munching; you can crumble them up a bit more when layering the parfait. Recipe serves 10 or more.

Excerpted from "Lidia's Family Table." Copyright © 2004 by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Visit www.aaknopf.com and www.lidiasitaly.com for more information.

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