I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern when I make my comfort food. I always think that no one will like it. Yet when I bring it into the English teacher workroom, everybody wants to try it, and lo and behold, they dig on it. I’ve never had anyone, and I mean anyone, not like these fritters unless they’re lying bastards, which they could be without a doubt, especially in my English department.
For whatever reason, I think my pessimism is residual bashfulness from my childhood. My family was different from the “normal” American family, whatever that means. My pop, who has a thick accent, never watched football on Sundays because he was rebuilding classic MGs and couldn’t care less about football. I could be late for anything, including church and school, but not for dinner. I might belabor this point if I didn’t know there are a shitload of “You know you’re Italian if…” lists out there, so you get the point.
Personally, I never brought a girlfriend to a family gathering until my late teens/ early twenties. I think I was self-conscious because I thought she wouldn’t like the food or would think I was abnormal based on the family. That first time I did bring her to a family party, right after we left she said to me, “You know how different your family is, right?” I realize now that she meant it as a compliment…something of which I should be proud. I got offended. I told her that America is a melting pot, goddammit, and that we are part of the fabric. I was right, but we are “different” too. I have since lightened up quite a bit, obviously.
After My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out, I remember my cousin asking me, “Did you see that movie?!? It’s our family!” So true was she, except that we’re Italian and not Greek. At our family gatherings, everyone yells and gets passionate, yet we’re not pissed at each other…most of the time.
Even now at our family gatherings, everything centers around food and drink, and I think the biggest difference between my parents’ generation and mine and my brothers’ is that the guys cook in this generation. And with only one girl in this round of grand kids, I think that tradition will continue.
My pop said he and his buddies would buy fried treats in Naples at little fry shops called friggitorie. My aunts, nonna, and mom made these regularly and they are absolutely delightful.
Frittele di Cavolfiore (Cauliflower Fritters)
Makes a bunch of ’em…enough for six I would think.
1 big head o’ cauliflower, stemmed and broken into florets (I am guessing a bag o’ florets would work too, but you’d be ghetto and lazy, of course)
1 to 1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup of milk
salt and pepper to taste (1/2 tsp. of each works for me)
Vegetable oil for frying
First, you need to parboil the cauliflower, so steam the florets for about 10 minutes and drain. They’re ready when you stick a fork into a floret and it splits, but it isn’t mushy; they’ll have a moist firmness to them.
Then, as my mom told me, you need to make a savory pancake batter. Mix the flour, eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. It shouldn’t be too thick, so that’s why you have to feel how much flour you need. Add in the drained cauliflower and mix it well, breaking up the florets with a metal spoon’s edge so there are chunks, rather than florets, of cauliflower in the batter.
In a big skillet, pour enough oil to fry, about 1/2 cup. Get it hot enough so that a drop of water pops, dude. Working in batches, drop 1/4 cup or so of the batter mix in the hot oil, and let it get golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes or so. Using tongs and a fork, flip them carefully and brown the other side. Drain them on paper towels and season them more with salt and pepper, but be careful not to over-salt them. You should get this:
Everyone except me eats them as is. I love to dip them in ketchup mixed with sriracha or tabasco because I’m ghetto like that. Truly, they need nothing, as you will taste.
Raise the glasses! Say it aloud and make the guests repeat!
Acqua fresca, vino puro, fica stretta, cazzo duro.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013