I don’t know about you, but I’m longing for the sunshine. In a fit of cabin fever after an endless deluge of frozen rain and snow, I brainstormed this quick recipe using pantry ingredients on hand. All you need is a food processor or extraction bullet type blender to make this. Impress your friends or family with your homemade ice cream that just takes enough time to freeze first, then blend. It’s so easy your kids can help out. It’s all about presentation and taste. No one will know it involved two canned pantry items and some flavoring extracts. Make it kid friendly or grown up with a drizzle of dark rum.
I suggest a deep silicone based ice tray like this for portion control and ease. Two deep cubes make a nice serving. When frozen overnight it still has a slight softness due to fats in the coconut milk. This aides in the way it blends ups creamy.
Serve alone or topped with toasted coconut ( unsweetened coconut toasted in a dry skillet until golden). I used banana extract for added flavor. Use vanilla, banana. coconut or pineapple extracts. Instead of dark rum, try Kahlua, banana liquor, or coconut flavored rum.
I’m going to be brutally honest. A lot of cookbooks are not impressing me these days. They are tritely styled , photographed and promoted. I like a cookbook with real chops, with substance. I want to be inspired and learn a new twist or turn. I want a cookbook that tells a story and really has a soul. Tasting Romecame along and warmed up some inspiration inside. OK, so I’m Facebook friends with Kristina Gil, and wanted to support her work, but it’s something more. When CS and I went to Rome a few years back, this was the food I was looking for. I was told by my friend, that in Italy, Florence and Tuscany beat out Rome culinary wise , but I knew there was layer of old Rome that had amazing food. I had brief glimpses of it here and there, like that famous food from the old Jewish ghetto quarter that I enjoyed in a New York City restaurant around Broadway.
As I flipped through the book I fell upon two recipes I knew I had to try. Both were a longer process, which I love, and involved oxtail. I drove to my favorite Korean store here in Chicago because they really have the best quality and price of oxtails from what I’ve seen. Ones with lots of meat. Oxtail has to be my favorite offal and the dish I’m sharing with you is what you call a Quinto Quarto dish, the “fifth quarter” of the animal, the offal. The first quarter of the animal was sold to the Nobility, the second to Clergy, the third to the Bourgeoisie, and the fourth to the military’s soldiers. The fifth quarter was all that remained for those less fortunate, the others.
It was suggested one eat these oxtails with your hands, like the modern day Italian American style gravy made with neck bones or short ribs. I knew CS would want some hearty pasta with it, so I made some spinach gnocchi with leftover roasted potatoes .
I loved the addition of a curious mix of pine nuts and raisins added at the end. I wondered if that was the Jewish influence on some Roman cuisine? The Coda alla Vaccinara was outstanding and tastes even better the next day.
A few things. The recipe calls for salting the meat with kosher salt a day before. I confess I overlooked that and skipped it. It still turned out great. I also toasted my pine nuts in a dry skillet , as I would advise to always do, because it brings out the flavors and oils on product that may have been sitting on shelves. I freeze my pine nuts to preserve the quality and prevent them from going off. I also did not use celery as CS hates the vegetable. It’s something I have to sneak in when he’s not looking . I did ramp up the garlic factor more than what the recipe called for , because that’s my style. That’s the beauty of the dish. You can really add your own spin to this.
The use of cocoa powder in the end transforms the tomato beefy sauce to the extraordinary. I’ve used cocoa before in savory cooking and it’s always a great little surprise ingredient.
I hope you enjoy this. This recipe just keeps giving and giving. I used some of the sauce , which turns into a rich gelatinous tomato beef stock to make a risotto type dish with barley and lentils . Nothing will go to waste to here. The braised oxtail also freezes very well.
This recipe is reprinted from Tasting Rome Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City, by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Clarkson Potter Publishers New York
Above is a quick water color I did of some Bach sheet music my dear friend and todays subject Dr. Eugenia Cheng posted on her social media after her long awaited piano arrived from the UK. To see her joy reunited with it via Facebook was palpable.
I can imagine to be separated from it must feel like being separated from a loved one or even a limb. It’s a part of Eugenia. The piano was a part of her, that was across the ocean, as she settled into her new role here in Chicago at The Art Institute of Chicago.I met Dr. Eugenia Cheng a long time ago. I lost cost count of the years, it’s been over a decade. Eugenia was and is this brilliant mathematician, who loved to bake, listen to opera and classical music. We met when she became involved on an Opera board I was active in at Lyric Opera Chicago. One would normally feel intimidated by a Cambridge educated classically trained pianist and mathematician. But that’s the beauty of Eugenia, you don’t and that’s why book How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics is an international best seller.
I admire her dedication , passion and focus. You don’t see that passion exuded by anyone, as you will with Eugenia. She has weekly salon called Liederstube where other like minded souls can congregate and create more beauty through song.
Eugenia inspires you and makes terrifying subjects fun and interesting, whether it be baking or math. Did you catch her on Stephen Colbert breaking down Puff Pastry?
1) What food makes you happy?
Almost all food makes me happy! But especially chocolate, very dark chocolate that I make from unroasted ingredients. I eat it first thing in the morning every single day – that’s my only food rule.
2) What food makes you cringe?
Tripe. I’m shuddering even just typing the word. Tripe is a specialty of the region my father is from, and when I went to visit as a child everyone kept giving me tripe to eat as a “special treat”. I discovered that if I held my breath while eating it then I wouldn’t taste anything, but that didn’t stop me from feeling the texture on my tongue…
3) What music do you like to listen to or hum when you cook or bake?
I don’t usually listen to music when I cook as I find it distracting, but if I need to do something for a certain number of minutes sometimes I’ll sing a particular song that I know takes that number of minutes. I went through a phase of singing Strauss’s “Befreit” while whisking egg whites, for example. At Christmas when I’m roasting my goose I will put on Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. I’m liable to gesticulate to the music though, and this can scare my guests when I start gesticulating while wielding a cleaver.
4) Tell me about a culinary goal? A dish you want attempt, a book you want to write?
I still want to perfect the making of macarons! It is driving me slightly nutty that sometimes they come out perfectly and sometimes they don’t, know matter how carefully I control what I’m doing.
5) Where is your favorite place in the world to eat?
Paris. Paris is a magical place for me where I can eat whatever I want and not get fat. I think it’s because everything is so extremely delicious I don’t need to eat so much to be satisfied, and stuffing my face there would seem like a waste of that deliciousness.
Like I said , she’s an inspiration. I only wish I had a strong female influence like this in my life as I tackled the subject of math. Check out her You Tube Channel.
Here is a quick and easy idea for a twist on the usual standard dinner fare. I’m not a big fan of skinless boneless chicken breasts, but utilize them occasionally in cooking. I always have some puff pastry in the freezer left over from catering. This particular evening I had some frozen béchamel sauce I had leftover from making lasagna. As a chef I save as much I can in the freezer to repurpose later in another dish. “Waste not , want not” especially with food costs soaring. Some frozen broccoli, béchamel, chicken breasts, Dijon mustard, and Gouda make for an easy elegant stunning meal. I called these galettes which we normally associate with a free from sweet pastry. Why not savory? The chicken breast stays tender as it cooks up in the creamy sauce and puff pastry. Be sure to use a thermometer to check chickens doneness without compromising the presentation before serving. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165-175 F . Here is quick link for Béchamel , a mother sauce that should be in your repertoire.
Thawed frozen Puff pastry sheets to equal amount of chicken pieces
2 cups Béchamel sauce ( see link in post)
1 cup grated Gouda
2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1 cup frozen broccoli
¼ cup chicken broth
1 egg beaten for pastry wash
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare you béchamel. Add grated gouda and broccoli. Let sit for 20 min until a little thickened and cooler before assembly.
Preheat oven to 375 F
Line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper .
Place a chicken breast atop a piece of puff pastry on the sheet pan.
Add a few tablespoons of thickened cooled sauce and quickly wrap to seal. Brush with egg yolk.
Reheat Béchamel with chicken stock.
One galetttes are browned and chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165-175 F , remove from oven.
Serve hot with more sauce ladled over the pastry.
In other news this has been an amazing week as I go through some career transformations and validations. An illustration I did a while ago and forgot about for my former employers contest, was picked up and reposted on the Cosmetic Brands IG page! For me this is a huge validation of my creative talents and skills .