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The food we really like to eat

David Rosengarten, author of the cookbook "It's All American Food" shares some family favorites that we really like to eat.
/ Source: TODAY

Many of us are spending a lot of time in the kitchen with the holidays. But what are people really cooking at home?  David Rosengarten, author of the cookbook "It's All American Food" shares some family favorites that we really like to eat.

Boiled Shrimp for Shrimp Cocktail
Here's a new discovery: when you cook shrimp quickly in a salt-and-sugar-water bath, then let them sit for a few hours in the cooled-down bath, you end up with the juiciest imaginable cocktail shrimps, which also happen to be beautifully seasoned. Start this great recipe about three to four hours before dinner-time and you'll be all set.Yield: 8 first-course servings

Ingredients8 cups water
4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons coarse salt
2 pounds large shrimp (about 48), unpeeled

Place the water in a large saucepan over high heat. Swirl in the sugar and salt. Bring to a boil.
Add the shrimp, all at once. Remove saucepan from heat. Let stand until shrimp are cooked. The time will vary depending on many factors, but usually it takes no more than 2 minutes. Keep testing until shrimp are cooked as you like them (I prefer just-cooked-through shrimp that are springy in texture).
Drain shrimp, reserving both the shrimp and the broth. Run shrimp under fresh cold water and place in bowl in refrigerator. Place the broth in another bowl in the freezer to cool quickly.
When the broth has cooled, pour it over the shrimp in their bowl in the refrigerator. Make sure the shrimp are covered with the broth. Hold in refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.
Remove shrimp from broth and serve with favorite sauce. You may either serve the shrimp unpeeled (each diner peels his or her own) or peel them and serve.

Favorite Sauces for Shrimp CocktailI go with the American flow here: my all-time favorite shrimp cocktail sauce is the spicy, red ketchup-horseradish one. To make it, just mix together 3/4 cup of ketchup, 3 tablespoons of prepared horseradish, 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a few drops of Tabasco sauce (if desired). Some people prefer a pink sauce; I like it too. Mix together 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and 3 tablespoons of ketchup —and serve both sauces, letting your guests make their own choices.

Spaghetti and MeatballsYou will find meatballs in Italy — polpettone — but you will not likely find those meatballs with spaghetti. Why? Because the pairing appears to have been devised here, under some very unusual circumstances. In the early twentieth century, Italian immigrants to America were merrily preparing their healthy, Mediterranean cuisine — so the story goes — when government social workers became concerned about the lack of protein in this immigrant diet. "Just carbohydrates and tomatoes? You need to add some meat to that diet, make it healthier!" This may well have been the birth of spaghetti and meatballs. By the end of the century, of course, the original plate of spaghetti alone was deemed healthier — and nothing was more firmly buried in the dustbin of outdated dishes than spaghetti and meatballs. Nevertheless, when it's made properly — with light, fluffy meatballs, not the bread crumb – dense belly bombers one is usually served — it's a treat as delightful as it is nostalgic. Forget your white-truffle-and-pasta-fresca ways for a few hours and innocently relive the 1950s experience.Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients1 large egg1/3 cup milk1 1/2 cups soft bread cubes (torn or cut from plain slices of white bread with crust)1 pound ground beef1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for serving1 teaspoon very finely minced garlic1/4 cup very finely minced parsley1/4 cup olive oil6 cups tomato sauce, warmed (my choice: the Longer-Cooked, Very Garlicky Marinara Sauce recipe follows)1 pound spaghetti2 tablespoons butter

Beat the egg in a large bowl, then blend in the milk. Add the bread cubes, stirring to coat them well. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Using a fork, mash the bread cubes until they've formed a rough paste. Add the ground beef to the bowl and, working with your hands, incorporate the rough paste into the beef. Add the pecorino Romano, garlic, and parsley and blend evenly with the meat mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste (you can taste by frying a little bit of the meat mixture).
Using wet hands, form the meat into balls the size of golf balls or a little smaller. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs to the oil to brown on all sides. Don't crowd them in the pan; you may have to brown them in batches. As they are finished browning, transfer them to the saucepan that holds the warmed tomato sauce. Bring sauce to gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
When the meatballs are nearly done, drop the spaghetti into a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook until spaghetti is al dente, about 8 to 9 minutes. Drain spaghetti in a colander, then return it to the pasta cooking pot over medium heat. Ladle enough sauce from the saucepan to just coat the pasta; stir well. Add the butter and stir well. Keep the pasta in the pot for a total of about 1 minute. Then divide the pasta among six wide, shallow bowls. Top each mound of pasta with a few meatballs, then ladle some more sauce over all. Serve with grated pecorino Romano on the side.

Longer-Cooked, Very Garlicky Marinara SauceIf you cook marinara sauce a little longer, you lose the bright tomato taste. But if you make up for that by adding a megadose of garlic... the results are delicious!|The following is a version of the sauce developed at Trio's Ravioli Shoppe in Boston.Yield: About 9 cups

Ingredients3/4 cup olive oil3/4 cup finely minced garlic2 (28-ounce) cans tomatoes in tomato puree6 cups water2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley1 1/2 tablespoons sugar2 teaspoons salt1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it's lightly golden.
Add the contents of the tomato cans, juice and all, squeezing the tomatoes with your hands to break them up as you drop them into the pot. Add the water, basil, parsley, sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Serve immediately, or freeze for future use.

Southern Banana PuddingFor its amazingly high pleasure-to-work ratio, this dessert has most others beat. It is a totally unfashionable vestige of the old South, the kind of dessert you might find at those wonderful cafeterias: banana slices layered with a vanilla custard, vanilla wafers, and meringue. The way these ingredients fall together into a dreamy, creamy, utterly seductive whole is simply astonishing. Now, you could work a lot harder on this thing —by making your own custard, even making your own vanilla wafers. But the following recipe — given to me by a friend from the South whose family makes it all the time and calls it nanner pudding — beats any hard-work "gourmet" version I've ever tried. So break out the Nabisco wafers and the Jell-O — and remember that cooks should be judged only by how good their cooking tastes.Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla wafers2 boxes Jell-O vanilla pudding (not instant)4 cups milkPinch of freshly grated nutmeg4 very ripe bananas (make sure they have brown specks on the skin)1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup raw, unbeaten egg whites (from about half a dozen eggs), room temperature2 tablespoons sugar1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Line the bottom and the sides of an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish (about 2-quart capacity) —oven safe and nonreactive — with a layer of the vanilla wafers. They should just cover the bottom of the dish.Prepare the vanilla pudding according to the pudding directions on the package (you will need the 4 cups of milk to do this). While the pudding is still hot, stir in the nutmeg; set the pudding aside to cool for 5 minutes (but no longer).Preheat oven to 500 degrees.Peel 2 of the bananas and slice them into rounds that are 3/8 inch thick. Top the layer of cookies in the bottom of the dish with the banana slices. Top the banana slices with a second layer of vanilla wafers. Peel the remaining 2 bananas, slice them into rounds that are 3/8 inch thick, and distribute them evenly on top of the second cookie layer. For the final layer, top those bananas with another layer of cookies.Pour the still-warm pudding over all. Shake the dish carefully, and tap it on the counter, to remove any air holes within the layers.Make the meringue. Add the egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice to the medium-size bowl of a standard kitchen mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk the mixture on medium speed until it just holds a peak. It should be light and fluffy; do not over mix it.Using a rubber spatula, top the entire surface of the pudding evenly with the meringue. Dip a spoon into the surface of the meringue and pull it out quickly to create little peaks all over the top of the pudding. 8. Place the pudding on the top rack of the oven. Bake just until it is nicely browned on top, about 3 minutes. (It can burn very easily, so watch it carefully.) Remove the pudding from the oven and let it cool down for 1 hour on the countertop. Then place in refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours, but not more than 5 hours.

Excerpted from “It's All American Food: The Best Recipes for More Than 400 New American Classics” by David Rosengarten. Copyright © 2003 by David Rosengarten. Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Time-Warner, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.

For many more of David's great American recipes and holiday entertaining tips, you can visit