Little Italy


Crawfish Etouffee and Italian Meatballs? Buon Appetito!

Crawfish Etouffee and Italian Meatballs? Buon Appetito!

Etouffee and Meatballs: Comfort Food

When it comes to comfort food, nothing beats spaghetti and meatballs. When I’m craving something a little different, memories of my most recent trip to Louisiana comes to mind. There’s a restaurant in New Orleans that makes my favorite crawfish Etouffee.

Etouffee comes from the French word  “to smother,” which pretty much describes the cooking method in this case.

This popular Cajun (or Creole) dish resembles a thick stew, but is usually made with crawfish or shrimp and served over rice. I like mine with an added side dish of dirty rice and force the two onto the same plate.

I’ve gotten a few raised eyebrows over my heaping mound of food… but there’s no telling when I’ll get back to do this again.  Sometimes you just have to do what you gotta do.

I have a similar obsession with clams.

If I want clams, I’ll drive two hours and go directly past 10 restaurants that also serve clams just to go to the one place I know that makes them the way I like them — with chorizo sausage steamed in white wine,  served with (perfect!) crusted French bread (for dipping into the consume-like sauce).

The same goes with burgers, BBQ,
dim sum, pasta, fish tacos…

I have a favorite spot for every specialty food that I love and it’s always made by someone who takes the same pride as I do in making my own food.

I take great pride in putting my best effort into my dishes. I enjoy the art of cooking and producing something special, particularly if I am having guests at the dinner table.

“Laughter is brightest where food is best.” — Irish Proverb

If you are a true foodie, you’ve got a few favorite restaurants located in a few different cities. As a result, you’ve probably developed a discerning palate over the years, too.

It’s more than just the quality of the ingredients that make these dishes the best; it’s the love and desire to align all the ingredients into something greater than the sum of the parts.

There are plenty of people and places all over the world that make great food. Sadly, there are many more than don’t.

Growing up in an Italian family, it’s a given that you have an appreciation for food. It’s talked about, shared and dissected at every dinner table.

“Italian food is all about ingredients and it’s not fancy and it’s not fussy.” — Wolfgang Puck

I’ve been cooking since I was tall enough to reach the burners on my mother’s stove and there is nothing better than serving up food that others can appreciate. Chief among them, my all-time comfort-food favorite: Italian meatballs.

I know every Italian thinks they make the best meatballs and who am I to disagree?

We all have our own style or recipe passed down from our mothers, fathers, uncles or aunts, and in every case they have every right to say their meatballs are the best. That’s just the way it is with Italians and I’ve had some pretty good meatballs made in other kitchens, too, but not that often.

Mostly, I’ve had really bad meatballs — usually in some restaurant cooked by some chef who thinks a meatball is rolled hamburger meat with added spices.

What goes into making a ‘good’ Italian meatball?

  • A good Italian meatball is about the correct marriage of flavors coupled with the correct texture.
  • A good Italian meatball should cut easily only using a fork, but provide enough resistance to the fork to keep the meatball’s shape. Not too hard and not too soft.

Most folks make meatballs that not only look like golf balls but take on the same hardness and unforgiving toughness the sport does. Usually they’re too spicy or more often — under-spiced.

It has taken over a year to commercialize my Mario’s Meatball Mix recipes so that anyone using good ground meat can make great meatballs easily and without the hassle of having to assemble all the ingredients yourself.

I’ve developed Mario’s Meatball Mix to help anyone without experience make some of the best meatballs you’ve ever tasted or served to your friends and family. All you have to do is add your favorite ground meat(s) to my mix and start rolling.

Serve my meatballs with your favorite sauce and pasta, or on their own with garlic toast and you’re cooking like an Italian. Buon Appetito!

Do you have a ‘foodie’ story to share with us?
Please send it out way!


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