Summary and Main Features
This book is so much more than a cookbook. Joey’s own story, intertwined with the history of his famous restaurant is filled with such heartfelt passion for good food and the joy of living, that even the reader who might never prepare a single of its dishes will find it a fascinating an enjoyable book to read.
To put it in Alec Baldwin’s words’ “remember… if, in the end, you buy this book and you discover you can’t cook like Joey DeCuffa, don’t worry about it. The answer is Joey’s restaurant, off Carrier Circle in Syracuse, New York.”
Nothing describes the essence of this book better than:
Cooking, According to Joey
1. Buy, grow. beg, or borrow the very best ingredients.
I am convinced that the key to Italian cuisine lies in the quality of ingredients – what you bring into the kitchen is more important than what you do in the kitchen.
2. Buy in season whenever possible.
Fresh food and vegetables are available to us from all around the world. But just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s flavorful. Grapes imported from Chile in January are every bit as good as grapes from California in June, but a cantaloupe picked ultra green in Central America in March will never have the sweet taste of summer like a locally grown melon in July.
3. Buy local, whenever possible.
Supermarkets have become wonderful sources of ingredients, but don’t forget local farmer’s markets and farm stands that dot our country roads. On average, food in America travels 1,500 miles from its original source tour plate, and it doesn’t get any tastier or more nutritious along the way.
4. When you do buy imported products, treat yourself to the good stuff.
This is especially true with traditional Italian ingredients like prosciutto de Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, San Marzano tomatoes, and olive oil. The Italians are artists when it comes to preserving foods, to the point where it’s actually illegal to claim that something is authentic if it hasn’t been produced in the prescribed manner. Seek out these superior products, and you’ll taste the difference.
5. Learn to boil water.
Seriously! It matters, especially with pasta.
6. Don’t be afraid of onions and garlic, fresh of course.
Peel ‘em , chop ‘em, sweat ‘em, then sauté slowly, in a little olive oil, to release their wonderful flavors. These two ingredients contribute the lion’s share of flavor in the Italian kitchen. I have to chuckle when I see a package of pre-chopped onions or a jar of minced garlic in the supermarket. How much time does it take to peel and chop an onion or smash al little garlic? Trust me, what yousave in time you loose in flavor.
7. Make friends with your butcher, fishmonger, and cheese supplier.
They know their stuff and are flattered when you share their passion and seek their advice. They will always be happy to fill special orders for you.
8. Cook with – not just for - your family and friends.
Italians consider cooking a family affair and a treasured (though not necessarily always peaceful) tradition. Pass it on. Someday your kids will cook with their kids... And they will get sentimental about their memories of cooking with you.
9. Keep it simple.
The beauty of Italian cooking is that it is not complicated. When I was in Tuscany, I was asked to cook for a group of “locals” and guests that included a very elegant surgeon who grew up in Florence, lived in New York, and had eaten in the world’s finest restaurants. That night I served a simple dinner of roast pork with roasted potatoes. We had a great meal, and we a had a great time, including yours truly because I didn’t have to spend the whole night in the kitchen.
10. Find the fun in cooking.
It’s not just means to an end. The Food Network is thriving, because cooking is both entertaining and therapeutic. Think of your time in the kitchen as your time to slow down, recharge, and be creative. If it were to quit my “day job” at Joey’s I would go home and cook, for the sheer pleasure of cooking.
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