Sunday, September 30, 2012

The family stew

I'd like you all to meet two of my favorite people in the whole world. The handsome one (on the right) is my aunt Laura. The not-so-pretty one with the glasses? That's my cousin John, her son.

Laura (aka "Queen of Doughnuts") can make me laugh without ever speaking, and when she does speak her words are what "proper" people often refer to as "colorful." She is also one of my go-to consigliere in matters of traditional family recipes, and so Laura and I have talked a lot on the phone through the years, often while working in our kitchens.

I love my aunt a whole lot.

John makes me laugh too. His language (like mine, I'll admit) is a lot like his mother's. So are his kitchen skills. My cousin and I have always been close. As younger men we engaged in dangerous activities together, doing (let's face it, John) idiotic things that could have gotten us hurt or shuttled to a place upstate where they don't know from an aglio e olio. Even though we have grown older and more mellow, my cousin and I continue to seek each other out. This makes me happy.

Because I love him a whole lot too.

I haven't actually seen my aunt or my cousin since early in the summer, and yet they have been with me in my kitchen a lot these past couple of weeks. The "googootz" in my garden (best you click here for an explanation) have been plentiful this season; I have been cooking with them a lot. Nobody digs the 'gootz more that these two do. I can't lay eyes on one of the odd-looking Sicilian squash without thinking of Laura and John. Just isn't possible. Believe me, I've been at this a long time.

If it weren't for them, in fact, our family's oldest stew might long ago have been forgotten. They're the only two people I know who will not allow a single summer to pass without preparing at least a couple pots full of giambottaGiambotta is an Italian vegetable stew but when using googootz (all right, the squash's actual name is cucuzza) my family has always added chicken. I don't know why that is. Neither do any of them. I've asked.

Anyhow, I posted the recipe for my giambotta some time ago now, but since these two relations of mine have been so much on my mind of late, I decided to allow them to share theirs. Googootz are not very easy to find (here's a link to the cucuzza plantation in Louisiana where most of those you'll find in the U.S. come from). If you can't get your hands on a googootz, I suppose a couple large zucchini will work just fine. They just won't be nearly as much fun.

Here's a taste of the stew, by the way.

And here are my handsome relatives again, just about to cook up a new batch.

I wish that I were with them. But am guessing that maybe I am.

Laura & John's Giambotta

1 chicken breast quartered
1 medium onion (vidalia) sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
4-5 carrots, sliced in good-sized chunks
2 celery stalks & their leaves, sliced
1-2 potatoes, chunked
1-2 googootz (squash)
Water or chicken broth to cover
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, hot pepper flakes to taste
A diced fresh tomato or two if you like

Cut squash into 4"-6" lengths, then peel, seed and cut into chunks
Brown chicken in olive oil, then add onions and cook until tender
Add squash, carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic
Cover with water or broth (add more during cooking, if needed), bring to boil, then lower to a simmer and add salt, pepper, herbs
Cook partially covered for 30-40 minutes
Check water level during cooking (it should be not quite a soup, more like a stew in consistency)

A word from John: This recipe is good for 2 hungry eaters. But giambotta is even better the next day, and so I always up the ingredients and make extra.

A word from Laura: Shut up and eat already, would you please!


Anonymous said...

awesome post as always! love the pictures and would love a big dish of giambotta right now! my aunt nancy was the giambotta maker in our family and like you i think immediately of her when i see the ingredients.thank god for family and memories but i sure do miss all that have passed away.


Ciao Chow Linda said...

I just love how you write about your family with such warmth. The love must come through in the terrific taste of those recipes too.

Claudia said...

I can't even get a hold of a large zucchini these days! The boxelders must have eaten them. I am considering turning in my family for yours.

And oh - yes, I'd love the stew.