Wednesday, April 3, 2013

two hundred seventeen

I grew up painfully aware of my parents' obsession with mostly organic, totally vegetarian diet (except for me; the doctor prescribed Toddler Michele lamb for anemia.)  Every day, come lunchtime, my tofu became the main topic of conversation and speculation.  "What is it?"  "Is that bread or tree bark?"  "Does your mom know how to cook?"  I can't even count the number of times I heard, "Wanna trade?  'Cause I don't!"  My routine pleas for normal food went ignored for so long that I finally accepted that I was going to be a lunchtime outcast, and that was that.

So, I'm sure you can imagine how shocked I was when a few years after my parents' divorce my brother moved in with my dad, and my mother and I started eating out for dinner near daily.  We ate restaurant food with no abandon, and her concern about grains and non-meat protein flew out the window.  It was during the Time of Restaurant Foods that I learned that I love most everything spicy--as well as anything in the form of nachos.

Fast forward a few years when Mr N and I were visiting for the holidays.  My mother offered to take us out for dinner.  Naturally, we accepted.  She recommended we try Travinia, an Italian place down the street from her house, a suggestion that made my nose crinkle in disgust.  You see, last time I had eaten there, I ordered fettuccine alfredo, which would have been decent had the sauce contained cheese instead of just butter and cream--which would have been acceptable, had they not told me I was wrong and that they would not make me another.

After my mother assured me that the restaurant was under new ownership, we were on our way.  Despite her promise of better food, I still refused to order pasta and opted instead for an appetizer, except... nothing looked very good.  I was about two seconds away from ordering a salad when I saw it.  I knew what I wanted and I knew that, if they didn't screw up the sauce, it would. be. epic.  And oh, how epic it was.

Oh, you mean you want know what it is?  I'll share, but be warned: once you've had it, you'll find yourself with near constant cravings and, possibly probably, a larger waistline.  Alright.  If you're sure, you can find it behind the jump...

Italian Nachos

Minus the olives.  I was out. :-(

Notes: The restaurant's version is also topped with banana peppers, so feel free to add some should you feel so inclined.  You can make homemade alfredo sauce, but I've found that the sauce you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store is just fine for this recipe.  If your budget is a concern, Romano works in place of Parmesan for a fraction of the price--just don't use the cheese in a can!
6 oz (24) won ton wraps, halved diagonally
oil for frying won ton wraps
1 lb bulk Italian sausage, spicy or mild
2 large tomatoes, seeded 
3 oz. (1/2 can) large olives
1 bunch scallions, roots removed
4 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
about 1 1/2 cups alfredo sauce

Fill a large saute pan about halfway with vegetable or olive oil.  Start heating the oil over medium heat, but keep an eye on it.  If the oil begins to smoke or bubble, reduce the heat immediately.  If the oil doesn't look shimmery, increase the heat very slightly.  I've found that just below medium works on my gas range, but don't take that as fact.  When in doubt, use a fry thermometer to ensure the oil remains at 350*

Place a single won ton triangle into the hot oil to double check the temperature.  If it begins to bubble and slowly turn golden, you're good to proceed with the other 47 triangles.  (For reference, I manage to fry six at a time in my medium sized pan.)

One at a time, gently place four to six won ton wraps in the oil.  Allow them to fry until golden (flipping if necessary) but do not allow them to get too brown in the oil.  Quickly remove the won ton chips to a paper towel lined tray and allow the oil to drain.  Repeat the process with the remaining uncooked won ton triangles.  Let the chips rest until ready to assemble the nachos.

Dice the tomatoes; set aside.  Slice the scallions into 1/4" rounds; set aside.  Slice the olives into about four pieces; set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the Italian sausage until browned.  Be sure to break it up into little pieces with your spoon as you would with ground beef.  Once the meat is thoroughly cooked, drain the fat and return the meat to the pan.  

If your sauce is homemade but cold, reheat it in a small pot over very low heat while you cook the sausage.  If you're using store bought sauce, reheat as directed on the package once the sausage is cooked.

Arrange the won ton chips on four dinner plates or on a large tray.  Sprinkle the chips evenly with Parmesan cheese, then top the cheese with browned Italian sausage.  Spoon or pour the alfredo sauce over the topped chips, then top the sauce with tomatoes, scallions, and olives.  

Serve immediately.

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