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 This dish was originally made either with all vegetables, or with the addition of Italian sausage.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 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!