Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Matt Allegro’s Italian Fried Shrimp with 2 Dipping Shots for Mother’s Day from Cleo Coyle

For over a decade now, Matteo (Matt) Allegro has been entertaining readers of our Coffeehouse Mystery series. 

A globetrotting coffee hunter and occasional playboy, Matt is a half-Italian espresso junkie who dearly loves his octogenarian mother—the woman who owns the century-old Greenwich Village coffeehouse where our series is set. 

If Matt were going to cook a Mother’s Day feast for you (or your mom), my husband and I are pretty sure these Italian fried shrimp would be on the menu, and we’re happy to share his recipe. 

Matt would likely serve these shrimp with "shots" of two delicious dipping sauces, and we’re sharing easy versions of those recipes, as well. 

May you eat with joy!

~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle has a partner
in culinary crime-writing—
her husband. To learn about
their books, click here.
Matt Allegro’s
Italian Fried Shrimp
with 2 Dipping Shots

via author Cleo Coyle

Our readers have been asking for this recipe ever since they saw Matt cook it up in Holiday Grind. And here's why he does it...

Frustrated with the diet-conscious fare at a New York cocktail party, Matt is famished. But he has a plan. Abandoning his plate of leek-wrapped water chestnuts, he ducks into the hotel’s kitchen, pays off a line cook, and makes off with a bag of jumbo shrimp. He then heads home to fry up a batch of these babies for himself, his daughter, and his ex-wife, Clare Cosi.

Though Clare is no longer Matt's partner in marriage, she has agreed to be his partner in the coffee business—and he occasionally partners up with her in solving perplexing New York crimes.

As for the crime of ruining perfectly good shrimp, Matt’s recipe gives you some clues to avoiding disaster. Follow his tips and, with luck, you’ll have the same beautiful results as Matt. 

And now, here is our character Matteo Allegro to guide you through his recipe...

To download a free PDF of Matt's recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here

Makes 12 large shrimps,
which will feed...

2 people with big appetites, or
3 people with average appetites, or
4 people for appetizers, or
24 underwear models (they'll each eat half a shrimp and order more martinis)


12 extra large or jumbo shrimps

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 eggs, lightly beaten with fork

Olive oil for frying (1/2 inch high in a large skillet)*

*Note: Because of the expense of extra virgin olive oil, it's perfectly fine to use a regular olive oil or light olive oil for frying. You can also mix the olive oil with a regular vegetable oil to get the amount needed for this recipe.


(1) Peel and devein - Start with jumbo or extra large shrimps. (I don’t believe in anything puny.) If your shrimp is frozen, you need to thaw it. If your shrimp is not "deveined," you will need to remove the vein and take off the shell. I like to leave the shell on the tail, but that's your call.

Peeling and deveining shrimp are easy steps, and you should enjoy your first glass of wine as you do them. For a quick tutorial, watch this vid from an old acquaintance of mine. He's a pretty good chef, too... 



Lightly rinse the shrimp and allow to drain on a paper towel. The shrimp should not be completely dry, a little dampness is good for step 3.

(2) Now we butterfly - This gives the shrimp the most surface area for the breading and frying, which brings the flavor. 

If you're a virgin at this technique,
you've come to the right man. 

Be firm…but gentle. 

Take the shrimp in your hand as shown. 

You want the shrimp's groove (where the vein was) to be pointing up. 

Run a knife lightly along this crevice, splitting the two halves a bit more but without slicing all the way through the soft, delicate flesh. Use your fingers to gently pry open the eager shrimp (think butterfly with open wings). Press firmly on that special spot (see photo) to flatten.

(3) Prep flour, eggs, and bread crumbs – This trinity of breading is a no-brainer for longtime cooks, but (once again) if you’re a virgin at this, I'm more than happy to be the man who shows you how it's done...

Place your flour in one bowl. Your eggs in a second bowl. Your breading in a third. Italians often add cheese and herbs to their breading and we Allegros are no exception. Mix the cheese and oregano into the pre-seasoned bread crumbs. (Yeah, I think that extra shot of oregano is superb with the seafood. You'll notice the bright, herbal aroma as you cook.) 

BTW - If your bread crumbs are not seasoned, you will need to add more herbs and spices at this stage. Mix in oh, about 3 T. of your favorite Italian dried seasoning mix, which most spice merchants carry, including the ones who stock your grocery store's spice section.

(4) Bread the shrimp – Time to have another sip of wine, and (one at a time) dip a butterflied beauty in the flour and shake off the excess. 

Next dip the flour-coated shrimp in the egg 
and allow excess egg to drain off. 

Finally drop the egg-covered shrimp in the bowl of bread crumbs. Coat well, turning the shrimp and using the fingers God gave you to get those seasoned bread crumbs to hug as much of that shrimp surface as you can.

(5) Perfect pan frying – This is not deep frying. It's pan frying, so place only about 1/2 inch of your oil in a skillet or sauté pan. The key to great frying is the oil temperature. It must heat up first. If you start with oil that's too cold, your breaded shrimp will absorb too much grease and the breading may be soggy (and nobody likes soggy).

Hot is good, but in this case, too hot is not... If your oil is too hot, your breading will burn on the outside and your shrimp will be cold in the center—not a very romantic prospect. Watch the oil closely. As it begins to ripple, test it by adding a few drops of water to the pan. If the water "dances" on the oil, it's ready. (And who doesn’t love to dance? Ladies? Shall I put on the music?) If the oil smokes, however, you've blown it. It's far too hot and your shrimp will likely burn.

No crowding, please. You want an intimate gathering... The more shrimps you place into the oil, the more you are reducing the oil's temperature and risking a soggy end (we spoke about soggy, remember?).

Once those breaded beauties hit the oil, you should see some hot tub action, yes, the oil should bubble like a fizzy Prosecco. 

Fry quickly, about two to three minutes, flipping them in the process so both sides cook evenly. When golden brown, remove from pan and drain on paper towels, as shown below...

This is (admittedly) a tricky endeavor. You may need to decrease the heat a bit if your lovelies are cooking too quickly. Conversely, you may need to increase that heat if the temperature in your pan is dropping too fast. (There's a relationship lesson in here that transcends cooking, but that's another post.) 

If you are making more than one batch (for a larger gathering--or those two-date evenings), hold finished shrimps in warm (200 degree F.) oven while you cook additional batches. 

If you're cooking many batches, the oil will need to be replaced. When it becomes brown or full of crumbs, pour it out, wipe the pan and start with new oil. (And, yes, I see a relationship lesson there, too.)

Serve hot (of course) with...

My dipping shots (recipes below)
A little wine (fruity Chianti or bubbling Prosecco)
Some music (suggestions here and here)
Low lights, a fire in the hearth, and...

We’re ready for a perfect evening.

* * * 

Matt's Dipping Shots

(1) Easy Mexican-Style Chipotle
Dipping Sauce and Sandwich Spread

Get the recipe by
clicking here.

(2) Fast Garlic Mayo
Dipping Sauce

Directions: Peel and gently smash 6 cloves of garlic. Sprinkle the smashed garlic with sea salt. Place ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil and the 6 cloves of garlic in a small pot and heat over LOW fire until the oil begins to simmer (3 to 5 minutes). Cover with a tight-fitting lid and remove from heat. Let stand and steep for 30 minutes or until oil is cool. Remove (or strain) the smashed garlic and discard. Stir this garlic-infused oil into ¾ cup mayonnaise. Add 1/8 teaspoon cumin. Blend until smooth.
To download a free PDF
of this recipe that you can print,
save, or share,
click here, and...

Have a Deliciously 

Happy Mother's Day!

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

Now a National
Bestseller in Hardcover

A Coffeehouse Mystery 

*Starred Review* -Kirkus

"Top Pick"  -RT Book Reviews

"...a highly satisfying mystery."
-Publishers Weekly

See the book's
Recipe Guide
by clicking here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
13 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


(with mini plot summaries)
clicking here.

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* * * 

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Make Meatless Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes: A post for my Dad (Tony Alfonsi) by Cleo Coyle

I swear this 2-hour meatless sauce will fool anyone into thinking it was simmered for 6-hours with meat. The rich depth of flavor is amazing and well worth a Saturday afternoon making it the way the "old timers" did. Even if you make it only once in your cooking life, the experience is one you'll never forget.

For those of you who've made pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes, you know the very smell of the sauce cooking is like nothing else on earth. With all my heart, I wanted to experience that little piece of heaven again to bring back some very sweet memories of my father, Antonio "Tony" Alfonsi.

Dad went into the hospital a week after Father’s Day and never came out again. He passed away on June 27 and we laid him to rest July 3rd at the age of 83. 

Dad was born a poor boy, the son of an Italian mounted police officer and his wife who emigrated here from Italy. But Dad didn't need money to lead a rich life with plenty of family and friends who loved him. 

He was a tough guy with a tender heart who served in the Army Air Corps then worked for years in a Pittsburgh area steel mill...
My Pop, Tony, with his mother Grazia.
(You can see the steel mills in the background.) 

My Father and Mother,
Antonio and Rose Alfonsi

For over 30 years, Tony was a faithful husband to my late mom, Rose. He raised two daughters with her: one a medical doctor (and assistant professor), Grace; and the other a journalist and New York Times bestselling author (yes, me, Alice, aka Cleo). 

As one of his nurses said to him in the last few months of his life, "You did good." I think so, too, and count myself very lucky to have been his daughter.

My sister, Dr. Grace Alfonsi, during her
time serving as Community Health Director
in Bethel, Alaska. 

During the Depression, my father's father kept his large family fed by working a small farm from which they sold produce. Every spring, my dad helped plant 2,000 tomato plants for his family, so he had no problem tending the 100 or so tomato plants he sowed for our own little family every summer.

Fresh pasta sauce was part of that yield, which is why I'm dedicating this post to my father. My husband and I also dedicated one of our Haunted Bookshop Mysteries to him, as well as our 13th Coffeehouse Mystery, Billionaire Blend, the book we were writing when he passed away. 

Finally, I'd love to tell you how the Chianti in this picture got into this recipe, but that’s another story (thank you, Maria)! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the recipe. May you cook it with love and make lifelong memories of your own...

Eat with (everlasting) joy,

Alice Alfonsi,
who writes The Coffeehouse Mysteries
as Cleo Coyle with her husband Marc Cerasini

8 pounds (about 23) peeled and de-seeded
fresh tomatoes will cook down to about 1 quart (4 cups),

which is what I use in the sauce recipe below...

Cleo Coyle's
Meatless Italian Spaghetti Sauce 
from Fresh Tomatoes for my Father...

To download this recipe
in an illustrated PDF
 document that you can print,
save, or share, click here.

What kind of tomatoes should you use for this recipe? While Roma (aka Italian plum) tomatoes are traditionally used for sauce, you can use any kind for this recipe. Whether you grow your own, pass a farm stand with big baskets for sale, or simply see a summer sale at your grocery, you can make this sauce out of any tomatoes you find or even mix the varieties--as long as they're ripe, you will eat with joy! 

~ Cleo (Alice)

Makes about 1-1/2 to 2 quarts
(depending on your thickness preference)


8 pounds ripe garden tomatoes

   (about 20 to 25 tomatoes)
5 celery ribs
2 carrots
1 large white onion
1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley leaves (curly or flat-leaf)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried basil (or 3 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade.)
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of your favorite red wine (I’m using Chianti this go-round)

1-4 cups vegetable stock (in a pinch, simply use water)

Step 1- Prep the fresh tomato base: The taste of fresh summer tomatoes in this sauce is truly amazing, but you must first properly prepare the tomatoes. The process of peeling, de-seeding, and pulping those little round orbs may sound difficult, but it’s very easy—and once learned, the techniques can be used in a lifetime of cooking. See my instructions at the end of this recipe.

Step 2 - Prep the veggie aromatics: Roughly chop the celery, carrots, parsley, and onion. Add them to a food processor with the olive oil and pulse until very finely chopped—but do not puree or liquefy.

Step 3 - Add the spices and ignite: Add this veggie mix to a large pot with the spices (garlic powder, fresh or dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper) and sauté (while stirring) over medium heat for about 10 minutes to release the flavors. Be sure to stir to keep the mixture from burning.

Step 4 - Add tomato pulp, wine and simmer: Add the quart of tomatoes that you have peeled, de-seeded, and cooked down into pulp (see instructions at end). Pour in the wine and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every so often to prevent scorching. After 1 hour, the mixture will have thickened into a beautifully condensed and very flavorful sauce. Now all you need to do is thin it out a bit...

Step 5 - Finish with stock (or water): To thin out this very thick sauce, stir in 1 to 4 cups of vegetable stock (or water). Continue cooking and stirring for another 20 to 30 minutes. If you like, use an immersion blender to smooth out any remaining chunks before serving. (We do!)

Depending on your own taste, continue adding more stock (or water) and/or cooking down until you get the consistency (thinness or thickness) that you prefer. 

Storing: This sauce will stay fresh about 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

How to Prep Fresh Tomatoes for Sauce 

Peeling and de-seeding tomatoes will remove bitterness and unwanted textures from your sauce. Because this step brings your sauce to a higher level of taste, it’s truly worth it—and it’s very easy to do. To watch a chef from the Culinary Institute of America perform this very easy process, click the arrow in the window below and watch the YouTube video.



1 - Peel your tomatoes: Remove stems and shallowly core as shown in my photo. Slice a small X at the bottom of each tomato. 

Place a few tomatoes at a time into a pot of simmering (or boiling) water. After 15 to 30 seconds (no more) remove immediately and drop in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. 

Using your fingers, gently peel the skin off the tomatoes. (You can save the skins to make a delicious condiment "sun-dried tomato flakes," click here for that recipe.) If you have any trouble with peeling a tomato, simply place it back in the boiling water for another 15 seconds and repeat the process. 

2 – De-seed your tomatoes: Cut the tomatoes in half--make sure you cut it as shown, crosswise, along its equator. Using a small spoon, gently dig out the seeds and discard. (You will not get every single seed out, and that's okay, just get as many as you can and you'll improve the sauce flavor.)

3 – Pulp your tomatoes: Place a large pot on the stove. Using a clean hand, roughly crush each peeled and seeded tomato over the pot and toss inside. Cook down the tomatoes over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every so often to prevent scorching. Continue mashing the tomatoes with a large spoon as they cook

Cook until the excess water has evaporated and you are left with tomato pulp. 8 pounds of tomatoes will give you about 4 cups (1 quart) of tomato pulp. 

While the tomatoes are cooking down, begin the Meatless Spaghetti Sauce recipe, starting with Step 2, and when you're finished, be sure with joy!

A daughter may outgrow your lap,
but she will never outgrow your heart.
I love you, Dad. Rest now and
I will see you again...

~ Alice Alfonsi
(Cleo Coyle)

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me now, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 
To learn more, click here. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.