My ears always prick up when either of the girls request a dinner, and Willa surprised me recently when she asked for “fishy cakes” over a year after I first tried making them (a seemingly unsuccessful try at the time). I prefer to use salted cod rather than a fresh white fish when making fishcakes—the curing process for the fish brings out a concentrated fish flavor without being too “fishy” (as my mom would say, and contrary to Willa’s name for them). After rehydrating the fish for a few days, the saltiness disappears but that latent umami remains.
I’m a mutt, three-eighths Irish by blood but closer to 100% by temperament. I’ve always had mixed-feelings about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Aside from New Year’s Eve, it is my least favorite day to be in a bar (though if you must, The Scratcher in NYC is about the best you can do). Thankfully with kids in the picture now, heading out to a bar is not even on the table, but perfecting a corned beef and cabbage recipe has crept up the list of important goals in life. Yeah, yeah—it’s not even traditional Irish food. But it is Irish-American food, which gives me carte blanch to do whatever the hell I want.
There have got to be more than a million recipes for meatballs and spaghetti, but this one is near-and-dear to our hearts. Willa and Phoebe’s grandmother, their Nona, grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn; her father was off-the-boat from Italy as a young boy. Nona has passed this family recipe down to my wife and her sister, which we now follow as faithfully as possible every time we’re in the mood for the truest comfort food we know. This sauce is a good-old Brooklyn-style gravy, as they like to call it on our current neighborhood. My wife’s family just calls it “red gold.”