Sunday, October 27, 2013

Labor of Love

Cleaning the house. Folding the laundry. Crossing off the to-do's on that never-ending to-do list. So what's a girl got time for:

Peeling tomatoes in 20 easy steps, obvi!

OK. Just hold your horses. It doesn't REALLY require 20 takes to get a delicious fresh tomato saucy outcome, but  getting down and dirty with a few pounds of plum tomatoes, a pot of bowling water and another pot of ice cold ice water could seem a bit tedious to those of us feeling crunched on a spare moment.

I so meant to post this post back in August, when all of you do-gooder home-gardening types were harvesting your bushels of tomatoes. There ain't a green thumb to be found in this house. Piano thumbs and shopping thumbs are all I gots.

But, I do know how to make a totally delish fresh tomato sauce. So I'm providing you with my process complete with pics and instructions. Yay, me! One of these days I will be seasonally correct. But you can totally use this with the imported plum  tomatoes that are lingering in your grocery right about now. And stash this for the summer when the fresh tomatoes are at their peak.

I used this sauce to make my Chicken Parm with Fresh Tomato Sauce. SO much tastier than reg chicken parm, for sure!

So here's the dilly-o: To peel a tomato skin off a tomato, you need to cut out the core, score an X on the side opposite the core, plunge that sucker into boiling hot water, wait around for 2 to 3 minutes, scoop out the hot tomatoes into a bowl of ice ice baby ice water, swirl it around, peel off the skin, chop.

You got that?

Is it a pain in the bootie? Well, maybe. But I'm the type who clears my mind in the cucina, so tomato peelin' is all good in my hood. In addition to my tutorial, I will provide you my totally awesome fresh tomato sauce recipe and how to roll it all together in a chicken parm that is SO much better than that slop you pick up at your go-to takeout joint. I swear on my life, my glass of wine and the good ole' Bible, that I will repost this in July when the Jersey tomatoes are large and in charge.

Getting ready to take care of business. 
Here's how to peel plum tomatoes:

Step one: With a paring knife, cut out the core on the end of the tomato. 
On the opposite end, cut a small X. (See above)

In batches, plunge about five or six prepared tomatoes into a large pot of boiling water. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until skin becomes loose.

Using a spider ladle or a slotted spoon transfer cooked tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water. 

Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove from ice water.

Gently peel off the skin of each tomato.

Chop until your heart's content.

Cook a fabulous sauce. My recipe is below!

Fresh Tomato Sauce

2 to 3 lbs. peeled plum tomatoes (See process above)
8 fat cloves of garlic, sliced
15 to 20 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add garlic, cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes if using. 

Add tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add fresh basil.

If cooking pasta at the same time, add a few ladles of pasta water to thin out the consistency of the sauce.

Serve over chicken or pasta.

Chicken Parm with Fresh Tomato Sauce

(Serves four comfortably)

1 to 1 1/2 pounds thin-cut chicken cutlets (6 to 8)
2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
1 1/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs (Cento rocks!)
Olive oil
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh tomato sauce (see above)

Set up an assembly line as follows: Chicken cutlets lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, bowl of beaten eggs; plate of bread crumbs. Dip each cutlet in the eggs, then the bread crumbs. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat up a 2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. Brown chicken cutlets for about 4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil. Repeat with remaining cutlets.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the cutlets are cool enough to handle, transfer to a clean baking sheet. Top each browned cutlet with a handful of shredded mozzarella. Top with a couple of spoonfuls of sauce.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melty and delicious. Serve with your fave pasta and more sauce!