Coda Alla Vaccinara with spincah gnocchi

Tasting Rome’s Coda alla Vaccinara ( Braised Oxtail)

Coda Alla Vaccinara with spincah gnocchi

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 Rome came 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.

Tasting RomeAs 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 .

Spincach gnocchi prep

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.

Braised oxtail in pot

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

Tasting Rome's Coda alla Vaccinara ( Braised Oxtail)
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Roman
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
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
Ingredients
  • 2½ oz lardo (cured fatback) or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3½ lbs oxtail, cut into 3 inch segments
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 2 celery stalks cut into 3 inch pieces
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon Cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. Render the lardo in a large pot over medium -high heat , or heat olive oil until its shimmering.
  2. Add the oxtail segments and cook until browned all over, then remove from the pot and set aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion, garlic, and cloves.
  4. Cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic has just turned golden, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste and cook until it turned a deep brick red, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until the alcohol aroma dissipates, about a minute, then add the tomatoes.
  7. Return the meat to the pot and cover three-quarters of the way with the beef broth.
  8. Cover and cook until the meat is just falling off the bone, 5-6 hours, adding more broth if the sauce reduced too much.
  9. Toward the end of cooking, add the celery, raisins, pine nuts, and cacao, mixing well. Simmer for 20-30 minutes more.
  10. Turn off the heat and allow the oxtail to rest for at least 30 minutes., ideally overnight, in the refrigerator. Serve on its own. Use any leftover sauce to dress Gnocchi di Patate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coco Questionnaire… Five Questions with Eugenia Cheng

Eugenias Bach sheet music

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.

How to Bake Pi


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.

Thank you Eugenia,

Coco

 

 

 

 

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Old El Paso Deep Fried Quesadillas and Salsa for Game Day

 

Looking for a tasty crowd pleasing treat for Game Day? These Old El Paso Deep Fried Quesadilla’s and Salsa treats will be be welcome treat. I confess, I’m not a huge sports fan, but I always make sure Certain Someone and any guests we may have lack for nothing in the food and drink categories. Using some Old El Paso ingredients, I created this appetizer of a quesadilla’s  that’s amplified by frying .

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This recipe has just a few uncomplicated steps with a little going a long way.

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Old El Paso Deep Fried Quesadillas and Salsa for Game Day
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 40 pieces
 
Take the basic quesadilla up a notch on game day. Cut into wedges, and deep fried until golden and puffed, these will provide a tasty and filling treat as you root for your favorite team.
Ingredients
  • 1 package of 10 Old El Paso Soft Tortillas
  • 8-9 oz of grated Queso Chihuhua or any Mexican Style Melting Cheese
  • 1 12 oz jar Old El Paso Sliced Jalapeño Peppers
  • 2-3 eggs beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 oz Panko style bread crumbs
  • Canola Oil for deep frying
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 16 oz jar of Old El Paso Thick and Chunky Salsa
Instructions
  1. Assemble 5 tortillas with the grated cheese and a minimum of 4 jalapenos on each one. Do not over stuff with cheese, but have enough.
  2. Top each with other tortilla and prepare to grill on a dry skillet, indoor grill or Panini maker.
  3. Grill each quesadilla lightly until cheese has melted and fused the tortillas, but not very crispy. The grilling time should be a little less than how you would normally grill a quesadilla.
  4. Remove and continue until all 5 are grilled.
  5. Let cool.
  6. Using a sharp knife cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges and set aside. You should have 40 wedges.
  7. Preheat deep fryer or frying pan with oil to 350-370 °
  8. In a small bowl beat the eggs and milk together.
  9. Dip a few wedges at a time into the beaten egg mixture. Coat both sides.
  10. Take the egg covered wedge and then dredge through Panko Crumbs making sure it’s evenly coated. If you want it extra crunchy, repeat the process and double dip.
  11. Deep fry a few at a time in small batches until deep golden and slightly puffed.
  12. Drain on paper towel lined tray and sprinkle with salt.
  13. Keep warm in warming oven at 200 ° until ready to serve.
  14. Serve with Old El Paso Thick and Chunky Salsa as a dip.
Notes
Be creative with the cheeses. You can buy jalapeño infused cheeses.
If you want to really dress these up, serve also with guacamole and Sour Cream.
These can be made ahead in stages ( grilling and cutting), then deep fried right before serving.
Or these can make together entirely hours before, and reheated in a 375 ° oven until hot.

Please be sure to check out the Old El Paso site for more great ideas.

Disclosure: I have been compensated by General Mills to develop recipes for the  Old El Paso  product line. My opinions are my own.

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Pillsbury Chocolate Almond Crescent Rolls

How was your Thanksgiving ? I have to say its one of my favorite cooking holidays, even if I’m just cooking for two. Things are picking up at this time of year, and I love quick tasty ideas to whip up. Certain Someone and my new work colleagues declared this recipe for Pillsbury Chocolate Almond Crescent Rolls a winner. I adapted a hero recipe from Pillsbury and added my own flair to it. It immediately took me back to my favorite snack as a student in Paris, Pain au Chocolate, with a luxurious almond twist, so perfect for the winter holidays.

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The Pillsbury Chocolate Almond Crescent Rolls take one back to a French Boulangerie. Warm flaky Crescent Rounds filled with chocolate and almond paste are sure to be holiday breakfast or brunch treat.

Check out some more Pillsbury Crescent recipes here.

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Pillsbury Chocolate Almond Crescent Rolls
Author: 
Recipe type: Pastry
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Package of Pillsbury Crescent Rounds
  • 7 oz or less of Almond paste
  • 1/ 2 cup milk or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 teaspoon heavy cream
  • ½ cup blanched slivered almonds
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Take out a non stick baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat
  3. Carefully unroll the Pillsbury Crescent Round Dough,
  4. Taking each round, unroll it to make a long strip.
  5. Add pinches of almond dough along the strip and top with chocolate chips.
  6. Carefully roll back into a round and place flat on the baking sheet.
  7. Seal edges.
  8. In a small bowl beat egg and cream to form an egg wash.
  9. Brush the egg wash over tops and sides of each roll.
  10. Top each roll with blanched slivered almonds.
  11. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
  12. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
  13. Dust with confectioners sugar.

Happy Holidays. I really enjoy thinking outside of the box and creating these recipes for General Mills. Don’t stress these holidays and learn to utilize tasty shortcuts when the occasions call for it.

Disclosure

*I have a received compensation from General Mills and my opinions are my own.

 

 

Pillsbury Crescent Rockefeller

Pillsbury Crescent Rockefeller… Ideas for Holiday Entertaining

Certain Someone and I love Oysters Rockefeller. It’s one our favorite steakhouse appetizers. I love the elegance and refinement of bubbly oysters baked in their shells on a salt bed with spinach, a splash of Pernod, butter, cheese and garlic. The origins of the original dish are clouded in a veil of secrecy. It was created at the famous Antoine’s in New Orleans and named in honor of the richest man in land, John D Rockefeller because the secret ingredients were so rich. Many have tried to replicate it, but no one has, as the original recipe is a secret. Some say there is no spinach, while others say watercress and spinach. All we do know is the sauce is a blend of green  produce and the chefs at Antoine’s insist there is no spinach. Most versions I have sampled have spinach and it works all right for me and is easily attainable for the average home cook. One day I hope to have the real deal.`An anise flavored spirit like Pernod is optional, but I would highly urge you to use , as it pairs wonderfully with shellfish.

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Oysters Rockefeller has always been a special treat when dining out, or for a special occasion, like the holidays. Here I take a classic variation of Oysters Rockefeller and take out the fuss of shucking and shells, by using Pillsbury Crescent Rolls as a bed for luscious oysters and tasty stuffing. This will make a wonderful addition to holiday table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pillsbury Crescent Rockefeller
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Seafood
 
A variation of the classic Oysters Rockefeller
Ingredients
  • 1 package Pillsbury® Crescent Butterflake 8ct
  • 4 tablespoons butter salted
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3/ 4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley chopped
  • ¾ cup fresh spinach
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • ⅛ teaspoon celery seeds
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan plus an additional ¼ for topping
  • ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod
  • 1 small approximately 8 oz jar of fresh shucked pasteurized oysters
  • Non stick spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the minced shallots, garlic and soften for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chopped parsley, spinach, kosher salt, pepper, fennel seed, and celery seed. Cook and stir until spinach and parsley have just wilted. This will take only about 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. In a glass bowl, add the spinach mixture, ¼ of the parmesan cheese, Pernod, and the Panko bread crumbs.
  6. Pulse until smooth with an immersion blender. You may also use a food processor with this process.
  7. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Set aside.
  9. On a clean surface, unroll crescent rolls.
  10. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with non stick spray.
  11. Using two serving spoons take a triangle of dough and fold to fit into spoon curve. Add some parmesan on both sides and press spoons together to form.
  12. With each dough shell pressed and molded, lay at an angel in the muffin tin. You can continue to press edges together with fingers. This is your crescent dough shell.
  13. Add a oyster to each “crescent dough shell”.
  14. Add a generous spoonful of spinach mixture to each oyster on crescent dough shell.
  15. Top with more shredded parmesan cheese.
  16. Place in oven and reduce heat to 375 F after 2 minutes.
  17. Bake for 8 minutes until the dough is very golden and the oysters start to bubble.
  18. Remove from oven.
  19. Carefully remove each Crescent Rockefeller from muffin tin and place on a baking sheet with lined with parchment or a silpat.
  20. Place back in oven for an additional few minutes to crisp up the edges and underside of the dough base.
  21. Serve with lemon wedges immediately.
Notes
There may be some additional filling or oysters. The recipe can be easily increased
Pernod is traditional is Oysters Rockefeller and works well with oysters. It can be omitted, but will alter the traditional taste. Other anise flavored spirits can used as an substitution.

 

Disclosure

*I have a received compensation from General Mills and my opinions are my own.