the holy trinity + 1.

In our little red well-intentioned but ultimately unfinishable homemade cookbook, there's a page titled THE HOLY TRINITY. This refers to three courses that, if served in succession, will almost definitely make you feel better about everything except your diet and your breath.

They are: caesar salad, tortellini alfredo, and shrimp dijon. Three classic examples of Ohio River mining country Italian-American home cooking that my spellchecker wants me to capitalize in order to make them sound fancy (Caesar, Alfredo, Dijon).

But capitalization would make it seem like they're supposed to be an implementation of some "authentic" dish, while in reality these are very much their own pretty classic Americanized things that just happen to be saddled with some Europeanized monikers.

Here's also where we'll put the TNC recipe, though it's not officially part of the trinity. As I pointed out earlier, of course you could sex this up with fancy cheese and other modifications, but the one below is the version that provides the expected and necessary comfort.




THE HOLY TRINITY recipes are all from the Mara side of the family, which is why I mention the Ohio River Valley, but to be honest I haven't yet tried to track down the exact provenance of these versions. I don't mean provenance like the legend of Caesar salad or fettuccine Alfredo: I mean, more like when did people start making this specific version and exactly where does it still get made like this. 

I'm curious b/c I suspect that there are some things about these recipes that are specific to Italian immigrant cooking in mining country (specifically in our cases Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania). And I suspect this simply because so many of Mara's family recipes have turned out to be highly geographically specific, such as pepperoni buns (this whole NYT article has lots of good Italian miner background) and fiadone.

Fiadone are especially interesting in this regard because, the last time I looked, I could find almost nothing about them online. Of course, I was spelling them "fiadune" because that's the spelling I somehow came up with from Alverta's recipe card, and it was highly probable that my spelling was incorrect.

Oh, right: what are they....as I know them, made by Alverta, they are little ricotta-filled baked raviolis. Not very sweet, not very savory, just niiice. Googling around here in 2010, my first hit is Clotilde describing fiadone as a Corsican cheesecake, sounds like a promising avenue, especially if you consider that up in northern Ohio there used to be a town called Corsica. And that the food of the "real" Corsica is pretty Italian-influenced. 

But all of this turned out to be a Googhole smokescreen or cheesescreen or some kind of screen. Some further careful Googling reveals that fiadone con ricotta are a well-known specialty of Molise, which is next to Abruzzo, which is where Mara's family is from, so yes. They brought them with them. So did other Abruzzini, it looks like.

And I just wasted about an hour learning all kinds of things about Corsica.


the caesar salad.

1/4 cup good olive oil
1/8 cup good red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp anchovy paste, or 2 mashed anchovies
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 head romaine lettuce
1 cup (just to be safe) pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated coarsely

Combine first 8 ingredients, dress lettuce leaves, top with cheese and possibly more black pepper. Serves 4.


the tortellini alfredo.

1 cup crème fraîche
1 cup pecorino, grated fine
2 tbsp butter, softened
2-3 cloves good fresh garlic, pressed
salt and pepper to taste
enough tortellini for 2 people

Put pasta in salted boiling water, combine sauce ingredients in a bowl. When pasta is done, drain, and put back in saucepan, add sauce, serve. Serves 2.


the shrimp d'jo3n.

24 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup clarified butter
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup bread crumbs or crushed toasted almonds
1/4 cup pecorino or other hard cheese, grated
paprika for dustimg

Melt butter in saucepan and divide between two round shallow baking vessels. Add 2 cloves of garlic to each vessel, let's say it's a ramekin because vessel sounds weird. Divide shrimp among ramekins, turning once to coat with butter/garlic. Top with bread crumbs and pecorino, and a sprinkle of paprika. Place under broiler until attractively browned. Commence to placing of teeth upon said shrimpuses. Serves 2.


the tuna noodle casserole.

1 can tuna packed in water, drained (if packed in decent oil, reserve)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil (if tuna didn't come packed in oil)
1 cup pecorino, grated fine
3 cups noodles, cooked

Saute celery and onion in olive oil, or 1 tbsp oil from the tuna can. Combine celery and onion with rest of ingredients in a baking pan, maybe sprinkle some more cheese on top. Bake at 170C for 30 minutes. Serves 2 or 3.



Klary Koopmans said...

I think the garlic high would leave me feeling less than comfortable!

Mark said...

It's kind of like only getting "really drunk" once or twice a year. Everything in moderation, including non-moderation.