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If you follow me on social media, you may have seen recently that I got a few cookbooks for Christmas. My wishlist is a lot longer but I couldn't have been more thrilled with these three. Giada De Laurentis is one of my favorite Food Network chefs. I actually like her recipes best of all the cooks on that channel followed by Rachel Ray. I've had my eye on A Kitchen In France for a while and I want to do something really special with it but haven't figured out what yet. Last but very not least, the topic of discussion today and every Wednesday moving forward, Stanley Tucci's first cookbook. We both come from Italian backgrounds and value family and food very much. I knew as soon as I unwrapped this book that I was going to do something big with it. That's where "Cooking With Stanley" was born.
Last Sunday (the first of 2015), I held my first family dinner with a menu prepared from this cookbook. I've actually scheduled meals for every Sunday in 2015 using every single one of the recipes in this book, even the ones that terrify me like Baked Whole Fish (yuck). What I'm hoping to accomplish with this new series is bringing family together once a week for a good meal, reconnecting with my Italian roots by using recipes from Stanley and his family as well as recipes from my family and just eating really good food. I want to share these experiences with you guys, the good and the bad. Just wait, in a few weeks I have a bloopers post scheduled and even though I've only cooked for two Sundays so far, I've already got plenty to share. I won't be sharing Stanley's recipes out of respect for his work but I will be sharing a glimpse into me preparing and cooking the meals as well as the final results. So...are you ready? Because here we go!
Cooking With Stanley Week 1 Menu
Appetizer: Chicken Soup with Tiny Chicken Meatballs
Main Course: Pasta with Gianni's Basic Tomato Sauce
Side: My family's homemade bread
I decided to start out easy for my first week because I was experimenting with photos and video and what should I cook first and then second. It was a whole thing and I made myself ten times more manic than I needed to be. I had originally planned to make one of Stanley's bread recipes but the weekend before I tried my own family's recipe and the dough didn't rise. I decided that I wasn't going to try Stanley's bread until I could master my own family's which has a total of five ingredients. Second time must be the charm because it worked!
The soup was a three step process. First, I had to cook the chicken and some of the vegetables, second drain everything while keeping the broth so I could eventually add it back into the soup and last cook the meatballs before adding them to the soup. So after the first step was done, I started on the sauce which was delicious and very simple. The best thing about soup and sauce is that you can leave it simmer and the flavors will only be enhanced. It's a win-win for all.
I personally thought the soup could use a little more flavor. I followed these recipes to a tee but the great thing about Stanley's cookbook is that a lot of the recipes have little additions or changes you can make. Also, this book isn't meant to be followed religiously. It's meant to serve as inspiration so if you make tweaks here and there, that's ok! You're the one eating the food so you better like it. Next time I make this soup, I'd like to only use about 75% of the liquid that's required and substitute half the water for chicken stock. It just gives the broth (the base) more flavor. I'll also be adding twice as many veggies and some garlic too because we love garlic in my family.
In the pasta section of the cookbook, there are a ton of sauces, or gravies as we call them in my family. I decided to start with Gianni's Basic Tomato Sauce because it was simple, basic and I felt it would compliment the soup well and it did. I loved this sauce. I liked that it was chunkier and I loved the fresh basil. The flavor was incredible and so fresh. This is definitely something that would be great for a summer dinner party. It's not heavy but it doesn't sacrifice flavor so you're satisfied without feeling huge.
I'm really excited to continue on this series. I love that it makes an excuse to bring my family together once a week and what a better way to do it than over food. I will say, for having an Italian family, we have a lot of picky eaters. It can be exhausting and, frankly, disappointing to have someone complain about what you make every single time you cook but I'm fighting through because I know I'm not going to like everything either! This weekend I'm making an appetizer that includes clams. I don't like slurpy foods, so this is going to be a challenge for me but I'm willing to at least try it.