Thursday, October 18, 2012

Crazy Good Italian

Chicken Wings with Pepperoni Sauce.

Yeah, I know, right?  When I first heard that, I kind of pictured a chicken wing with pepperoni stapled to it or something. 

But it's not the result of some mad scientist.  Chicken wings with pepperoni sauce are the creation of Mike Isabella and can be found in his book, Crazy Good Italian, which just became available this week.  And there were no staples, super glue, or magnets involved, just a great recipe.

Well, yeah, I converted my version of these wings to the grill because that's what I do.   But first a bit about the book.

Mike Isabella is the Chef of Graffiato in Washington DC and you probably remember him for his bold appearance on Top Chef:  Las Vegas (Season 6).  Crazy Good Italian is Mike's idea of blending old world Italian, his New Jersey roots, and modern Mediterranean cuisine and I think he totally nails it.

If you don't think that Italian cuisine and grilling go together then you have been eating too much Americanized "Italian" food.   The first thing that comes to mind for me is the Tuscan grill, cast iron grates used to cook food over the hot coals of an indoor or outdoor fireplace.  While this is not a "grilling" book, Mike definitely covers some live fire cooking in his selections, including recipes for things like:
  • Smoked olives (great idea for upcoming holiday parties)
  • Mozzarella panini with portobellow and artichoke pesto (grills are great for making panini)
  • Ricotta with charred asparagus and harissa vinaigrette (fire makes veggies better)
  • Clam bake with braised kale and pancetta crumbs (originally created for the grill)
  • Grilled whole bass with warm tomato vinaigrette
  • Pig in a box with sour orange relish (a whole hog recipe)
Many of the other recipes could easily be converted to the grill but I have so many more non-grilling recipes from this book that I want to try!  I could go on about Crazy Good Italian you won't read that, I know how it is.  So I'll just bulletize what I like about it.
  • Not just recipes but also techniques (like how to make your own cheeses, gnocchi, etc)
  • Photography - not just the finished dishes but also demonstrating some of the techniques like making agnolotti or cooking a whole hog in a la caja china (12 pics of that alone)
  • Helpful tips in the margins
  • Family based recipes with a modern spin
So back to those wings - those "crazy good" wings.  Here is a link for the recipe, I'll just tell you what I did differently for doing them on the grill.  It's not a lot because it worked just fine.

I set up my Big Green Egg for indirect heat at 375f degrees.  Grilled the marinated wings for 30 minutes, flipped them and cooked another 20 minutes.  Then I tossed them in about half of the pepperoni sauce.  "Toss" is not just a saying.

Funniest face ever, right?  Think I ever miss one?

Ummm....yeah, "WING DOWN!"  Make that an order of 23 wings.  PS:  Don't read my lips.

I put them back onto the grill and let them (minus 1) cook another 10 minutes to crisp up the sauce.

I served them with the rest of the pepperoni sauce for dipping and they just disappeared.  

Oh yeah, one last thing.  Instead of using pre-sliced pepperoni, I like to slice my own from links for this recipe.  That way you don't lose those essential oils that make that pepperoni sauce so flavorful.

I think Crazy Good Italian is a great book for learning how to cook Italian cuisine the way your nona would have taught you...if she was Italian.    If your nona wasn't Italian then please disregard that last statement.  

I'm looking forward to trying many of these recipes, especially the agnolotti. 

[Standard Review] I received a review copy of Crazy Good Italian from the publisher.  But I posted those goofy face pics that make me look like a dork so I consider it a fair trade ;)