Thursday, February 28, 2019

It's Showtime!

Hey, everybody, Connie Staccato is on the air!

So do me a favor.  Tune in at:

And hit the "Listen Live" button.

All week until next Wednesday:  7am, 5pm, and 10pm EST.  (For those of you who are bad at math, that's 6am, 4pm, and 9 pm CST.)

You'll hear stories about food, Chicago, and The Mob, with me and a paisan named Paul, who's pretty nice actually knows what he's talking about.

Buon appetito!


Friday, February 22, 2019

Cooking for a Holiday - Christmas, Part II - The Menu

One part of Christmas that's simple:  The Menu.

What menu, are you kidding?  There's only one thing on the menu:  lasagna.

What else could there be?  Are you going to break with 500 years of tradition?  Are you going to risk the leverage that the Christmas lasagna gives you over la famiglia for the rest of the year?  Lasagna is the reason Italian families are matriarchies.

Now, of course, you're going to have a little something more than lasagna.  But try not to serve anything that requires cooking.  Hey, you've got presents to open!

 So here's the Staccato Family Christmas Day Menu:

Christmas Day Menu

Since YOU make the lasagna, have your husband (or kids or guests or Trader Joe's) do the salad and slice up the cheese.  Who cares?  Get the bread, and maybe some of the cookies, from a good Italian bakery.

And here's the beauty of this menu:  You can serve the meat from the sauce you make for the lasagna, with some leftover noodles and ricotta, for Christmas Eve dinner.  It's that good.  I, myself, would be happy with a little linguine with clams on Christmas Eve, but I did the meat thing one year and now that's all anybody wants.  It's my own fault.  But I think it's worth it when you consider the fact that all the work I do for the lasagna serves two purposes.

Everything can be made up ahead of time.  Lasagna freezes beautifully.  In fact, it may taste even better after it's been frozen.  But it takes up a lot of space in the freezer.  My grandmother had a six-foot-high freezer in the basement, full of lasagna.  (That's a lot of leverage.)  I don't have a freezer in the basement, which means that my Christmas seasons are seriously a life-or-death struggle between the space in my refrigerator and how much food I want to make before Christmas Eve.  I need to fix that.  Because a freezer in the basement is a symbol of an Italian woman's power.  

Power, I'm realizing, that I don't have.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cooking for a Holiday - Christmas, Part I - Spirit of the Season

I have a confession to make.

Here, in the presence of God, St. Anthony, and the ghost of Father Manzoni I confess:  Christmas is not my favorite holiday.

I know.  It should be.  Christmas is stars and bells and songs and bright colors, right?  And parties with your family, and/or your friends, if you don't like your family.  And fancy clothes and cookies.  And White Christmas on DVD.  With cocoa.  Or wine.  Then midnight Mass.  With a choir.  And PRESENTS ("Nino, hand me that gift over there.  Not the big box that looks like it's probably a frying pan.  The little box that looks like it comes from a jewelry store.  Which, for your father's sake, I hope it did.  And I'll have another glass of red.  Thank you.")

At least, that's the Christmas I see everybody else doing.  For me it's bad weather and shopping and cleaning and my hip hurting me.  And decorating and cooking and baking and wrapping and houseguests and Mariah-freaking-Carey 24/7.  And gaining 10 lbs. and trying to find some time to get a haircut.  And those fancy clothes?  They lose a little glam under the down coat and the snow boots, you know?  Especially with the extra 10 lbs. 

Add all this to the fact that Italians, for whatever reason, seem to think they have to celebrate Christmas twice - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  My grandmother was smart enough and bossy enough to demand that everybody come to her house for both days, and she just heated up leftovers.  I'm not that smart, and when I try to get bossy, everybody stops taking to me.

But once Christmas is over - and that means once Baby Jesus goes back in the box, which in the Staccato household is the day after New Year - you're already in January.  This is important.  The days start getting noticeably longer, which helps you to stop thinking about pouring a bowl of spaghetti over your husband's head.  I guess that's the point.  Christmas makes winter shorter.  And you're too busy to file for divorce.

Every year, I tell myself I'm going to keep it simple.  I swear I'm going to do my shopping in September when there's nothing else to do.  And every year, come December, I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Well, I'm making a vow.  Like, starting right now.  Yeah, now.  This way I'm leaving plenty of time for Love, Actually, too.  Don't judge

At this writing, it's the end of February, I'm over it, and I'm taking the first step to this year's Merry Christmas.  

You should, too.  Go to your calendar.  I'm serious.  Go to September.  Write "Xmas Shopping" in the box with the "1" in it.  I just did.  And here's some motivation:  The Connie Staccato Rule of Christmas Shopping says that every fifth gift you buy is one for yourself.

I got that part right.