• Tommy Centola

Staples in Grandmother's kitchen

I was blessed to have my mom as my mentor when I first started cooking. I can trace many of her dishes back to her mentor, my grandmother, Ole. Every Christmas evening, the cousins would gather at her house to exchange gifts. Her tables would have a variety of sweets for us to snack on.

I only remember cooking for my grandmother once. I guess I remember because it did not turn out as I planned. I was preparing Stuffed Shrimp for the first time. I had made the stuffing but did not allow it to cool. This resulted in the stuffing not sticking to the shrimp. Ever since, Stuffed Shrimp is a dish I have always stayed away from.

Today I want to share with your two recipes that were staples in my grandmother’s kitchen, Roast Leg of Lamb and Chicken Fricassee. These dishes will always be near and dear to my heart. I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I do. Here are the recipes.

I will always associate Leg of Lamb with my grandmother. Whenever she would find a nice leg of lamb, I was always invited for dinner. To this day, every time I pass the lamb section in the meat section, my fond memories of my grandmother brings a smile to my face.

Leg of Lamb

1 whole leg of lamb about 6-9 pounds

20 cloves garlic large ones cut in half lengthwise

Fresh rosemary

Fresh thyme

Creole seasoning

Olive oil

Red wine

Prep

Prepare leg by removing most of the visible fat. Cut slits into the top portion of the roast with a small sharp knife. Insert garlic clove into each slit and push down with finger until it is no longer visible. Rub the herbs and Creole seasoning all over the surface. Do the same with olive oil. Splash with wine and rub again. Cover and let meat marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Removefrom refrigerator 1 hour before roasting.

Roasting

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the lamb leg in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 10-15 minutes for initial searing, and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Continue roasting for 8 minutes per pound for rare, 10 minutes per pound for medium, or 18 minutes per pound for well done. Baste occasionally with pan juices. Remove roast from oven when done. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest 10-20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, reduce the liquids in the pan and deglaze to get all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Add wine or water if necessary.

This recipe is one I don’t remember my grandmother cooking. My cousin asked me about my grandmothers Chicken Fricassee. I started playing with the idea and here is my result. I wish I had a memory to compare it too.

Chicken Fricassee

1 hen, about 4 pounds, cut into serving pieces

Creole seasoning to taste

2/3 cups vegetable oil

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped bell peppers

4 to 5 cups chicken stock

2 bay leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

3 Tbsp chopped green onions

Season the chicken pieces generously with Creole Seasoning. Set aside. In a large black iron or stainless steel pot, make a roux by combining the oil and flour over medium heat. Stir constantly for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is dark brown. Add the onions and bell peppers. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat well with the roux mixture. Cook for about five minutes. Slowly add the stock. Add the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about two hours, or until the chicken is tender. Adjust seasonings. Remove the bay leaves. Add the parsley and green onions and serve immediately. Makes about 8 servings.

I wish I had more memories of cooking for my grandmother. However, the only way to get better in the kitchen is to try. You may make mistakes, but you will learn how to make adjustments and corrections. It’s a tasty way to learn.

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