Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Giambotta (Vegetable Stew) – My Childhood Summers in a Bowl

The night before I left New York, my mother and I were invited to my Aunt Joyce’s for dinner. When I heard she was making “Cha-bought,” I knew I had to bring my camcorder to film this unusual and delicious dish. As a child, I probably had this for lunch 3 times a week during the summer at my grandparents. Everyone (at least all the Italian-American families) had backyard vegetable gardens; so fresh green beans, zucchini, sweet and hot peppers, and herbs were always plentiful.

This simple vegetable stew was pronounced “Cha-bought” by my grandparents. I’ve always wondered what it meant, or what the actual Italian name was. Thanks to Scott from Boston I was informed that the dish I had grow-up on was really called "Giambotta." Scott says this translates to "everything/a mess," which makes a lot of sense due to the array of vegetables that can and were used in this stew. He said his mother dropped the “a” from the end, and called it "Giambott.” So, to make a long story even longer, what I called “cha-bought” was actually a mispronunciation, of a mispronunciation.

Now, what made this dish so unusual was that it was made with hot dogs! That’s right, an ancient Italian vegetable stew made with 100% pure American hot dogs. Why? Here’s my theory. This dish was originally made either with all vegetables, or with the addition of Italian sausage. Growing up, I do remember this being made with sweet Italian sausage occasionally, but most of the time it was hot dogs. I believe that hot dogs were simply the least expensive sausage available, and so my grandparents, needing to feed many mouths without many dollars, chose this lower cost alternative. The strange thing is, it really works! It tastes wonderful no matter what sausage you chose, and since I grew up on it I think I actually prefer hot dogs, even to this day.

For me, there is no better mid-summer meal than a large bowl of steaming Giambotta and a couple slices of Italian bread. Of course, that’s not all we ate that night. Aunt Joyce and her friend Steve also made grilled sweet corn, and a beautiful fresh mozzarella tomato salad (all pictured above). It was a great meal, and a great way to end my visit to New York, and to re-connect to my culinary roots. Enjoy!

4 oz sweet Italian sausage (optional)
1/2 onion sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbl olive oil
Slowly sauté above ingredients on low heat until onions and garlic turn translucent (do not brown garlic)

Then add (as seen in the video)
about 36 oz. tomato puree (any combination of whole peeled tomatoes, plain tomato sauce, or canned tomato puree) ERROR ALERT: IN THE CLIP I SAID "JUST OVER 2 QUARTS" BUT I MEANT ONE QUART...OOPS
3-4 zuchinni
3-4 russet potatoes
2 bell peppers
1/2 pound green beans (*blanched)
2 pounds hot dogs (or any sausage)
1/2 bunch fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

*I’ve read that adding raw green beans to a tomato sauce can cause the beans to “toughen” as the acid in the sauce reacts with the fiber in the beans. So it may be better to blanch the beans for a few minutes before adding to the sauce. Having said all that, I have added them raw and they are OK, but I do think the texture is better if they are blanched first… someone get me Alton Brown’s phone number!


Chef John said...

BTW, if you are also a second generation Italian American that had a version of this dish I would love to hear how it was made and what it was called!

samoanguy said...

man that looks so delecious..i cant wait to eat this someday..my cousin told me they have a garbage plate at some resteraunt in tacoma washington...

julianwang4 said...

We have no Little Italy, but we have the North End! (in Boston)

Connie said...

This looks wonderful. I love veggies. I think I would make it with the sausage though. It sounds like you had some "good eats" while you were gone.

Catherine said...

Oh wow, I'm going to use this recipe a lot when I finally have my garden.

I wonder how it would taste with turkey sausage?

Chef John said...

It will taste amazing I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

MMmmmmm... I wish i could just grab that bowl and eat it!

Scott - Boston said...

Not sure if you have an alert to responses to day old blogs but here goes...

I'm glad I could help. Thanks for the mention! You're giambotta looks absolutely identical to my mom's! I'm in a position here to say YOURS tasted great, but my mom might have my legs broken... suffice to say, yours is as good as mom's!

Scott - Boston

Chef John said...

thanks, thats the highest compliment!

Hunter said...

We pronounce it "Jumbotha" and Ive never had it with the sausage in it but it looks great - cant imagine it with hotdogs though!

Judy said...

I have been asking people about this recipe for years. Nobody knew what the heck "john bought" was. It looks just like my Mom's john bought. I can't wait to make it for my family and to taste it again after so many years. By the way, my Mom used hot dogs too or bologna if she had no hot dogs.

Debraw0117 said...

I and also my hubby are second generation italians. My Dad and his Mom made this when were kids - minus the meat and with eggplant (which is today one of my most favorite veggies thanks to this recipe) and with lots of fresh crusty italian bread that we would dip! Unfortunately my Dad never wrote down the recipe so it was lost until now. I searched and found this recipe on your blog and we recently made it with sausage and it was fabulous - thanks so much for the recipe - it was great and tasted so much like my Dad's!

Debi - Boston, MA

Keli Ata said...

I love this dish, however it's pronounced! My mom said her mother called it "Jumath" or "Jumbat."

When I'd ask my mother what we were having for dinner she'd say: "We're having potatoes, tomatoes..." LOL.

She typically used hot dogs too or chopped up pieces of pepperoni, which adds an incredible flavor to it! Sometimes she'd add a little rice as well.

Axel14222 said...

Chef, this recipe really brought back childhood memories. My Italian grandmother used to make it and taught my non-Italian mother how to make it and I make it now. Ours always had wieners in it, sometimes Italian sausage too. We pronounced it "jum broth" and were more likely to have it in colder weather than in the summer. Until now, I never really heard of anyone else making it. Now, the mystery is over. Thanks again.

banconcina said...

My great-grandmother (in NYC) made this for my grandmother and we passed the recipe down four generations. We called it ciambott' but my cousins called it frankfurters ciambott'. It was a stew made with hot peppers, hot dogs and tomato sauce. My grandmother would take the insides out of a loaf of bread, stuff the bread with the stew, and use the insides of the bread to make a "cap". In the region where my family is from in Italy, they make a vegetable ciambott' with potatoes, tomato, and eggplant and they stuff it in bread, as well. I thought we were the only faily who used hot dogs!

anitamarie said...

My mother made this often when I was growing. We called it giambott and she made it with hot dogs but no potatoes. However, she would poach eggs on top. The combination of the yolk and tomatoes was delicious even if it sounds strange. After making this dish myself i found it challenging to cook the eggs without overcooking the vegetables. I'm glad I found other who have heard of this dish.