Monday, May 16, 2011

Leave the gun, take the cannoli

The Godfather is one of the most classic movies ever made and my favorite!  (Tied for #1 with the Wizard of Oz, technically.)  

Before we get into the food we need to talk more about The Godfather…

My dear Aunt Josephine actually scolded me for watching the movie.  Unbeknownst to me, there's a rule in our family that we do not watch the Godfather!  As Josephine says "it makes our people look bad".  The story goes that Josephine and some of our other family members (keep in mind that we are Sicilian) went to see the movie in the theater when it first came out.  They didn't need those silly English subtitles to translate the conversations in Italian.  When the movie was over some family members were thrilled that the familiar Italian-American culture was on the Big Screen!  Joesphine  they demanded that nobody else in the family see it.  That was what, almost 40 years ago?  You can feel free to take a poll of my family to see how many people stuck to that rule, I wouldn't bet that very many have disobeyed!  

I personally didn't know we weren't "allowed" to see it when I first watched.  It wasn't until my 19th year on this Earth that I saw it.  The first time I watched it was on a portable DVD player on a Greyhound bus.  You can imagine the scene with the oddball bus riders surrounding me as I'm gasping in horror while Woltz finds that lovely present in his bed.  From then on I have been obsessed.

If you haven't seen it, watch it and then talk to me about it like it's your favorite too.  Otherwise, we're not friends anymore.  Unless, of course, your family has a rule too!  One of the most famous scenes and lines of the film involves another of my favorites: cannoli.

For your viewing pleasure:  (I have no rights to anything, just borrowing this clip from youtube!)

Now, the cannoli…

Did you know the word cannoli means "little tube"?  I just found that out!

Cannoli is not easy to find in Hawaii.  The one and only place I’ve spotted  prepared cannoli is at Whole Foods, since they literally have everything.  Appropriately enough, I was meeting someone at a grocery store (Foodland Market City) on official Friends of Italy Society of Hawaii Board Member business.  That’s when I saw heard a box of cannoli shells, screaming my name!  There was no question, the cost of the item never crossed my mind and I was in the express check out faster than you can say “mangia mangia”!

Our family has, in addition to a rule about mob movies, a family tree/cookbook.  I went there to learn about cannoli, thanks to my Great Aunt Lena!  I had no idea the delicious filling was made with so few ingredients, it’s like magic!  In general, you should always read a recipe from beginning to end before you get started.  Apparently our family cookbook is the exact reason why!  Keep reading…

Cannoli Filling
1 lb. ricotta, well drained*
1 cup of sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cinnamon to taste
4 Hershey chocolate bars, broken or ground into tiny pieces (I used leftover milk chocolate from my cupboard)

*To drain: (the recipe says casually…) Place ricotta in spaghetti strainer inside of another pan.  Cover with plastic wrap, store in fridge.  2 to 3 days minimum.  WHAT?! 2 to 3 days minimum?  I’ve never, ever heard of such an absurdity.  As much as I didn’t want to, I followed Aunt Lena’s rules.  On Saturday I began to drain the ricotta and on Wednesday, 4 days later, I made the filling.

Ricotta cheese, after 4 days of draining, looks like this:

Adding powdered sugar:

The star of the show, chocolate!

Mix ricotta and sugar until blended, with hand mixer. 
Add vanilla and cinnamon. 
Add candy. 
Adjust cinnamon. 
Let set overnight.  No, I’m sorry.  I can not wait any longer.  I skipped this step.
Filling should “stand up to a spoon”.  I don’t know what that means, but I said I’m not waiting any longer!
Fill shells, dip ends in crushed walnuts and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  I filled the shells, using a zip-loc bag, then skip, skip, skipped the other steps!

The recipe also notes a few other options:
  • use Gran Marnier, Kahlua, or preferred liquor in place of the vanilla
  • use less candy
  • substitute candied fruit
  • dip shell in melted chocolate and chill before filling

Ready to fill the shells!

Filling one side...

And the other...

They're beautiful!

This post has become almost as long as the first Godfather movie so I’ll wrap it up.

The cannoli was amazing!  It tasted perfect.  I had a random outburst of tears before I ate it because I miss my Pap-Pap and he loved cannoli, too.  (Remember I ate them on his birthday last year?)  Typical over-emotional Italian, huh?  I’ll certainly be making, and probably crying over, more cannoli in the near future.  Mangia!

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