First, a disclaimer - I am aware that summer is well over and done, and we are all in full plans and preparations swing for the upcoming holiday season. But that doesn't mean we still can't dream and cook with the whimsy of summer and enjoy it everyday of the year. Rules my friends, are meant to be broken. In Part 2 of my Sayounara to Summer Salads Series I wanted to bring it back home. Back to the simpler times of simpler meals. Back to my memories of many, many meals shared with my Italian-American family over cookouts, holidays, and Sunday dinners. For this salad, I took a classic homestyle Italian pasta dish and morphed it into a potato salad for those of with an aversion to the typical mayonnaise dressing nearly every summery potato salad contains.
Pancetta and peas is one of my all-time, favorite childhood comfort foods which I hold in the highest regard because it utilizes three of my favorite foods: ricotta cheese, bacon, and pasta. Ah, the holy trinity of taste and satisfaction. The Pancetta and Peas Potato Salad is prepared very similarly to the pasta dish except instead of boiling pasta, this dish requires roasting Yukon gold potatoes.
5 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 cup chopped pancetta
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Wash and skin the potatoes.
- Cut the potatoes into 1"-1 1/2" pieces.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Spread 2 tblsp of olive oil on the baking sheet. Put the potatoes on the baking sheet and using your hands, coat the potato pieces with the olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over
- the pieces and roast in the oven for 18-20 minutes. You want to roast them until a fork easily pierces the flesh but you don't want the potatoes to brown at all.
- In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, put in the 2 cups of ricotta cheese. Let it come up in temperature and using a whisk, mix in the chicken stock. Continue whisk every two minutes. Add the grated parmesan cheese and continue to whisk until you reach a creamy, smooth mixture-about 8 minutes. Keep over low heat until the dish is nearly complete and whisk occasionally.
- In a large pan over medium heat, add the pancetta and cook until caramelized, approximately 5 minutes. Add the frozen peas and cook 2-3 minutes more.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven (remember to check them with a fork to ensure their doneness) and add the pieces directly to the pan of pancetta and peas.
- Mix together and let cook all together 3-4 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and take the ricotta cheese mixture and pour it into the large pan. Mix the ricotta cheese mixture in and transfer to a large bowl.
- Serve immediately as a warm salad or let cool for 1 hour and serve cold.
The second half of this series requires pairing the salad with an Antinori wine and a low-fat
protein completing a full meal. For the Potato Pancetta and Peas Salad I went for two different proteins for two entirely different meals. First, Chianti Braised Chicken Thighs with Fried Capers. Second, a turkey hot dog. Yup, that's right a turkey hot dog.
If you can't eat your potato salad with a hot dog than it just is not a good potato salad. Period. Hot dogs are good, old-fashioned, American comfort food and in my Italian family a chianti wine was the everyday, comfort wine.
Each night at our table whether we were having eggplant parmesan or sausage sandwiches, the wicker encased chianti bottle opened up and dinner began. The sentiment of home and the Italian traditions of my youth came rushing back when I first smelled and then tasted the classic chianti Peppoli 2006 from Antinori Wines. This full wine first has the puckered tartness of the grapes followed by bursts of currant and raspberry flavors rounded out by the robustness of coffee and sweetness of vanilla. In addition to being a staple wine to drink, chianti is an excellent cooking wine which in-turn motivated my super easy Chianti Braised Chicken Thighs with Fried Capers.
4 skinless chicken thighs
1 cup Peppoli Chianti
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tblsp capers
2 cloves garlic
- Marinade the chicken thighs in the chianti and chicken stock for 1 hour. Afterwards, let the chicken and marinade mixture come up to room temperature.
- Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan and add the roughly chopped garlic cloves. Cook about 2 minutes.
- Place the marinaded thighs in the oil and sear on both sides, 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the marinade and braise the thighs for 10-12 minutes more.
- In a small sauce pan, heat 2 tsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add capers and cook 3-4 minutes.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and serve over the chicken thighs.
With the braised chicken thighs, I served the warm Pancetta and Peas Potato Salad. With the turkey hot dog, I served it cold. This salad is easy to make and even easier to eat. And although both meals were polar opposites in style and formality, the Peppoli chianti dressed up or dressed down enhanced the flavors of the salad as well as the chicken thighs (ok, and the hot dog for real) and sent me on delicious trip down memory lane dropping me off at my mother's dinner table.