Friday, April 22, 2011

What a great idea!

      I've got to have these! Toss that roll of cooking twine!  Toss those awkward trussing needles that never hold the turkey legs together anyway!  Forget losing stuffing out of your pork chop in the sauté pan, or under the broiler or on the grill!  These handy little bands can stand heat up to 600 degrees F (according to the hype). 
      Here's where you can get 25 of them for only $6.00 (and I SWEAR I get no commission or even honorable mention out of this!)  AND you can read all the hype.  Online at Sur La Table!

Osso Buco Siciliano

I love the Italian dish known as osso buco, but in the past, at least in Memphis, the cross cut veal shanks needed were generally not easy to find. Now that I’ve found them available even at Costco, I would love to share a version I made recently for friends.

The term osso buco means hollow bone in Italian. One of the best parts of the dish is the marrow in the bones, scooped out and spread on bread. There are special scooping spoons made for this, but the only ones I could find here are quite pricey. I find a cocktail fork works almost as well, but the little scoops are on my shopping list for my next trip to Italy.

This is a tough cut of veal, but the long oven braising gives a really rich and flavorful sauce. It could also be braised on top of the stove at a very low temperature. Many Italian homes, even today, don’t have large ovens and would do that. But then you’d have to check it occasionally to make sure there’s enough liquid, and that the shanks aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. So much easier to put the pan in the oven and forget it!

The classic standard is "Osso Buco Milanese," with white wine, vegetables and tomato. I wanted something a little different, and tried it with dry Marsala, to give it a more Sicilian feel. With the standard version, the traditional side dish is saffron risotto, but I used grilled polenta. Rice or mashed potatoes would be equally tasty and less work. Even chunks of crusty bread would be great to soak up every bit of the tasty sauce.


1 ½ cups dry Marsala, divided
½ cup golden raisins
1 cup flour
1 tsp. each salt and pepper
6 pieces veal shank, cut about 1 ½-inch thick
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup onion, diced
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme (see note)
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Minced parsley or more thyme sprigs, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pour ½ cup of the Marsala over the raisins in a small bowl and let set until needed.

Mix the flour with salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add the shanks one at a time and shake to coat. Remove each to a wire rack while coating the others. Toss any remaining flour into the trash.

In a Dutch oven just large enough to hold the shanks in one layer, heat the olive oil over medium heat. In batches, brown the meat well on both sides. Remove to a plate and reserve. Add the garlic, stir a couple of times then add the onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the Marsala and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits. Add the chicken stock.

Return the veal to the pan with any juices on the plate, making sure the smaller end of the bone is facing down (so the marrow doesn’t fall out). Add the raisins with their soaking liquid, scattering evenly. Tuck the thyme and bay leaf around them, cover tightly and bake for about an hour. Stir the balsamic vinegar into the cooking liquid, replace the cover and cook another 15 to 30 minutes, or until veal is very tender.

If you’d like a thicker sauce, remove the shanks to a plate and keep warm while reducing the liquid over medium heat. Serve in flat soup plates with the sauce ladled over it. Garnish with additional thyme sprigs or chopped parsley.  Serves 6.

Note: If you don’t have fresh thyme substitute two tablespoons fresh or one tablespoon dried rosemary leaves. Dried thyme would not work well in this dish.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A great brunch, lunch,supper...whatever dish!

      I’ve been going through a stack of cooking magazines lately, trying to cull out the ones I want to keep and those that can be discarded. It’s a really big stack, and I keep getting distracted by recipes and articles I can’t wait to make.
      One that had lots of things I liked the looks and sound of was a two-year-old Cuisine et Vins de France. It had an article with lots of quiche and tart recipes. All sounded delicious but I had everything it took to make one of them…so I did.
      I made the crust from scratch, following their instructions to replace half the ice water with balsamic vinegar and it was delicious. But the filling was so tasty that you could easily use a pre-made crust from the supermarket dairy case, as I usually do. I had made too much filling for the tart pan I used, so I did just that and made another one to take to work the next day. It reheated well, and it disappeared in a hurry.
     It could be served in small servings as an appetizer, or in larger servings with a nice salad for a brunch or supper main course. Either way, I think you’ll enjoy this as much as everyone at work apparently did.


1 pie crust, either from your favorite recipe, or pre-made
3 tbsp unsalted butter
4 large onions, sliced thinly
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp sugar
½ cup dry red wine
5 eggs
½ cup half-and-half
Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley, for garnish

      Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Fit the pie crust into a buttered tart pan*. Prick all over with a fork and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
      In a wide skillet, melt the butter over very low heat. Add the ginger and stir a couple of times. Add the onions, stir well and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until soft. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir. Raise the heat to medium. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions are nicely caramelized, about 15 minutes.
     Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the cream and the nutmeg and whisk until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the onions over the bottom of the tart crust and pour the egg mixture evenly over the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown. Let set a few minutes before cutting.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving.

Makes 12 appetizer servings, or 4 to 6 main course servings.

*For the pan, I prefer one with a removable bottom but a 10-inch pie pan would work as well.
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Friday, April 08, 2011

My herb garden

As many of you know, we moved into a beautiful zero lotline home at the end of June last year. In my former house, I had a big space on the side with tons of herbs, including some unusual ones. Just outside the back door was my "kitchen garden" in a pot: one or two basil plants, one sage plant, one oregano and some thyme that sort or wormed its way around beneath it all. I could lean out the back door and get what I needed for immediate needs, but in the side garden I grew enough basil to provide frozen pesto for the winter, and herbs to freeze or dry to get me through until the next year. 

Last year when we moved in I planted a few plants in the bed at the edge of the back patio, but something ate them. I planted a few in a pot but by then it was too hot for them to do well, but at least they escaped the herbivore, whatever it was. So this year, we got some very attractive pots, filled them with enriched potting soil and planted lots of herbs. I think I'll have enough for pesto, too. I got the irrigation system tech to make sure they'd be watered nicely.

One pineapple sage plant. It produces lovely red blossoms which are great in salads, and the leaves may not taste very pineapple-ish but they are very good. And then two regular sage plants. I really dislike dried sage that you buy, but I can cut this and hang it and find my home-dried sage quite acceptable. The two  plants will give me more than I need to cook with and I will cut tops off to dry. That way the plants will bush out and give me way more sage than I'll need for the summer. And it will come back next year!

Basil. This may be a bit crowded. I have six regular basil plants arranged around the back. In front are one cinnamon basil, one Thai basil and one lemon basil. I'm pretty sure I have too much in this pot but if I keep them trimmed back, which I will, since basil is my very favorite herb, they should be okay.

One Greek oregano plant, one thyme plant and one rosemary. The oregano won't spread much. The thyme will, but it will be low. The rosemary will also grow into a big bushy plant, but there should be plenty of room in the pot for it.  It may live over the winter but if not, will come back next year.

And the last is out in the full sun. Mint. No self-respecting Louisville girl would have a garden without mint. For juleps of course. And lamb. But you gotta keep it in a pot or the entire neighborhood will soon be one big mint bed. Well maybe I exaggerate. But not by much! I will keep you posted as the summer progresses!