Sikes: “Italian-American dishes are winners” | Food-and-cooking
When we met for cooking classes in August, we were treated to examples of Italian Italian American cuisine.
The idea was to examine the recipes that Italian-American immigrants brought with them to the United States and how they had to adapt them to what was available at the time.
The meats and vegetables they were used to weren’t all on hand. Not the same meats. Certainly not the same vegetables. It was a learning experience to make grandma’s recipes in the new environment.
The other thing we talked about was an extension of what we called Italian-American cuisine. What has developed before too long is “American” Italian-American cuisine. What we did to Italian recipes to do a little more to our liking. Or we’ve created new dishes entirely to add to the Italian-American experience.
The first thing we looked at matched the bill here perfectly. Garlic bread. An American creation that has become a staple of what we call Italian-American. Our approach was simple: don’t use butter. We use mayonnaise, olive oil, garlic, Parmigiano, salt and pepper.
The result of our technique has received rave reviews. This version is excellent straight out of the oven, at room temperature or after cooling. We enjoyed some in advance and more with other dishes as we liked. There were never any leftovers.
One of the great Italian-American restaurants that is still going strong is Rao’s. It opened in 1896 and hasn’t missed a beat. Food writer Mimi Sheraton described their food as “exquisitely simple Italian cuisine”. Nowadays, we would extend that description to Italian-American cuisine. They do it so well. Frank Pellegrino and his family understand the cooking.