NEW: Random Beer Trivia

June 28, 2010 Menu No Comments

This one’s for the books!

On May 4, 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of the Guinness Breweries and Cliff Clavin-esque tavern know-it-all, became involved in an argument over which was the fastest game bird in Europe, the koshin golden plover or the grouse. That evening he realised that it was impossible to confirm in reference books whether or not the golden plover was Europe’s fastest game bird.

Beaver knew that there must be numerous other questions debated nightly in pubs in Britain and Ireland, but there was no book with which to settle arguments about records. He realised then that a book supplying the answers to this sort of question might prove popular.

Beaver’s idea became reality when Guinness employee Christopher Chataway recommended student twins Norris and Ross McWhirter, who had been running a fact-finding agency in London. The brothers were commissioned to compile what would become The Guinness Book of World Records.


NEW – Grilled Chicken Breast stuffed with Crab Meat

June 25, 2010 Entrees, Menu 1 Comment

This dish is a two-for-one special. The seasoned chicken breasts and the crab meat filling are delicious stand-alone recipes. Other options for the crab meat filling are stuffing it in flounder or tomatoes, or serving it up with crackers as a dip. Honestly, I probably ate half of the crab meat filling alone while gazing out my kitchen window, waiting for my grill to heat up.

Yet the taste of the seasoned chicken with the crab meat filling gives you the best of both worlds. Enjoy!


4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
8 oz. canned crabmeat*
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Old Bay Seasoning to taste

Heat butter in a pan until melted. Add onions and celery; heat until soft. Add crab meat, wine and lemon juice; stir. Add breadcrumbs; stir. When warmed, remove from heat, place crab meat filling in a bowl; set aside.

Butterfly cut** the chicken breasts, fill with crab meat filling, fold closed and secure with tooth picks.

Drizzle both sides of chicken breasts with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning (eyeball seasoning to your liking).

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Spray grill grates with cooking spray to avoid sticking. Place chicken breasts on grill, close lid. Flip every so often until chicken breasts are completely cooked on all sides and throughout, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Serves well with grilled asparagus and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

*I suggest buying the large, 16-oz cans of crab meat that are located in the seafood section of your supermarket. While they can be a bit pricey at times, they are packed with 100% crab meat. The smaller cans that are found near the cans of tuna are packed with about 1/3 water, so you are getting your money’s worth with the larger cans. You will use 1/2 of a can for this recipe.

**To butterfly cut the chicken breasts means to slice the breast open horizontally, almost but not completely through, so you can fold the two pieces open. For specific instructions on how to butterfly a chicken breast, click here.


NEW: Shepherd’s Pie Italiano

Ciao, fellow foodies. Our goal with “The Mamma meets the Cucina” is to keep the Italian recipes and traditions going in future generations of our now American families. We’ve got the rich heritage, but unfortunately, not many of us have real live nonne and small Italian village marketplaces at our fingertips. That’s why there’s “The Mamma meets the Cucina!”

So, we decided to kick off with a recipe that puts an Italian twist on an American classic – Shepherd’s Pie Italiano! Shepherds pie is one of those comfort foods…well, to me, Italian food is ALWAYS comfort food! It makes you feel warm and fuzzy (wait – maybe thats the vino…?) In any case, a hearty meal like this really makes me think of my grandparents and great grandparents. Before they came to America, they ate regionally. By this I mean that they ate whatever foods naturally grew in the climate and soil of their small towns. (Here, I must give a shout out to Guardia Lombardi – my grandparent’s small, small, small town near the tip of the boot) They lived off their land and used those regional ingredients to come up with such amazing dishes. To them it was peasant food – to us, it’s a delicacy hard to find in the states.

I always say – until I retire and move my family into our Italian villa on the Amalfi coast, the burden rests on me and my generation (as usual) to let these traditional style recipes live on in the future. It gives us a link to our past; it acts as a tribute to our ancestors; it keeps us hungry for more… (there’s gonna be a lot of that around here!)

So with an Italian touch, we turned a bunch of meat in a pie shell into a rich, hearty Italian sausage scallopini casserole type thing with a polenta topping! A regular old peasant dish, right?! Tell me your mouth is not watering already? Watch as Chef Condo reveals his Cucina secrets play-by-play for all of you paisans out there….


For this recipe, I’m taking the traditional Shepherd’s Pie (beef and vegetables in a brown gravy topped with a mashed potato crust) and am adding an Italian spin to it. I’m talking sausage scallopini topped with polenta.

This dish is done in three stages:
Stage One – the scallopini
Stage Two – the polenta
Stage Three – combining and baking the two to make the pie

The scallopini (stage one) can be done ahead of time and refrigerated (up to a day). There is a lot of natural flavor coming from the garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms and sausage, so you don’t have to season much at all. I added a bit of black pepper and some Italian seasonings, and did not use salt at all. You can season to your liking.

The polenta (stage two) requires some time and effort. There’s only four major ingredients (water, cornmeal, salt, parmesan cheese – I also added a bouillon cube for extra flavoring), but you have to be committed for 20 solid minutes of continuous stirring. Otherwise you risk burning the polenta or having it turn out lumpy. You want a nice, smooth texture What I suggest is to get yourself into a zone. Create a relaxed and happy atmosphere to help those minutes just breeze by. Throw on your favorite CD (my go-to is either the Best of Dean Martin or Dave Brubeck’s Time Out), pour a glass of wine and have at it. You’ll reap the rewards, I promise you!

Stage three is the easy part. Pour the scallopini mixture into a medium baking dish, spread the just-done polenta on top, and let it bake for 20-25 minutes. You can hit it under the broiler for a minute or so to crisp up the polenta, if you like. Let sit and cool for a few minutes before serving.

1 lb. ground sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 tblspn olive oil (plus more if needed)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 portabella mushroom cap, chopped
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
fresh ground black pepper
Italian seasoning
1 cup corn meal
3 cups water
1 tspn salt
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan on medium-high heat, add garlic, heat for one minute. Add ground sausage, breaking up in pan, stir occasionally. When sausage is evenly browned, add onion and peppers, stir. Add mushrooms, stir. When peppers and onions become crisp-tender, add tomato sauce. Season with some fresh ground pepper and Italian seasoning (adjust seasoning to your liking). Stir, cover and simmer on medium-low for about 20-25 minutes, until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside (you can prepare the scallopini portion earlier in the day and refrigerate to save time).

In a large sauce pan, place three cups water and bouillon cube, add salt, bring to a boil. Lower water to medium-low. Slowly add cornmeal a little at a time to water, stirring as you add. Do not add cornmeal all at once, or else it will clump. Stir cornmeal into water continuously for 20 minutes. You have to keep up with the stirring to avoid the polenta mixture from burning. About mid-way through, add parmesan cheese, continuing to stir. After 20 minutes, remove from heat.

Pour scallopini mix into a mid-size baking dish. Scoop polenta mixture on top and smooth out (like a cake frosting) to completely cover scallopini. Bake in oven uncovered at 350º for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, let sit for a few minutes. Serve and enjoy!


The Mamma and the Cucina….who are these people anyway?

Now that our collaborative project is officially off and running, what better way to start than by officially introducing ourselves!

Tiffany (Pusateri) Longo was born into a loud, loving Italian-American family with strong values and deep traditions. Today, Tiffany relates her childhood stories and traditions in her own family in simple, everyday ways. From birthdays to baptisms, and feast days to ‘onomasticos,’ Tiffany never passes up the opportunity for a true Italian festa! To the Longo family, even the littlest holiday is a reason celebrate their heritage. As a result, Tiffany has joyfully burdened herself with the responsibility of helping today’s generation of Italian-Americans accomplish these same goals for their children.

As a freelance writer, Tiffany’s articles appear in La Voce Italian-American newspaper under the column “Mamma Mia!” She also keeps up her blog regularly, where you will find everything from recipes to projects to humorous Italian commentary for other mammas and the whole family.

Tiffany grew up Italian, is married to an Italian, and is now raising four little Italians of her own. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband Dominic, her son lil Dom, and her daughters Gabriella, Gianna, and Maria. With all the chaos of four kids (all under the age of 6, mind you!) she finds consolation in her family being together, and, of course, eating together. No matter how crazy her household may be, it’s never too busy to boil pasta.

Dominic Condo was born and raised in an Italian-American household in South Philadelphia, and currently lives in the Philly suburbs of Drexel Hill with his wife, Daria, and their two daughters, Julianna and Ava. He started his blog, Cucina Domenico, in the fall of 2008 as an opportunity to share his family stories and memories and many of the recipes that would go along with them. Not only does he like to make the traditional dishes, he also likes to experiment by adding his own simple twists. Being a descendent of various Italian regions (Calabria, Naples, Abruzzi and Sicily), he finds it very important that his children are aware of their heritage and the creativity that the Italian culture has to offer, and hopes that someday his blog serves as a memoir for them.


Recent Comments

  • Tom Casey: Can't wait for the book to come out Dom! I know it will be ...
  • Dom: I'm very happy to hear that! Thank you for reaching out to m...
  • M. Melillo: When I was growing up, this was the only stuffing my mother ...
  • Gale: This looks absolutely amazing! Cannot wait to try it!!...
  • bob minardi: My mother made this bread, and my sister kept up the traditi...
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