Have you ever suffered from DPHIS – Dinner Party Hostess Insanity Syndrome? You invite people over and while they are visiting you are running around like someone’s chasing you with a hot poker! Your choices are usually either serving a great meal or enjoying the company of your guests, never both. As you try and serve the perfect meal (the one your friends will rave about for years to come) you realize that you have no time to enjoy your friends or the meal. I have the solution for you!
For your next dinner party, I have designed a menu for you that will have your guests wondering how you ever found the time to serve such a spectacular meal. (They’ll wonder if you secretly hired a caterer.)
As you welcome your guests at the door, they are greeted by the warm and deliciously intoxicating aroma that tells them someone has been in the kitchen cooking a mouth-watering meat entree with a warm and velvety rich gravy. They will instantly be reminded of the smells that escape from the kitchens of the finest dining establishments they have visited.
The main course is Osso Buco. These are braised veal shanks, a classic Italian meat dish that does take hours to cook. As your guests take their bite of succulent and juicy meat that falls off the bone, they will never guess how you found the time, unless you tell them.
Osso Buco takes time to cook, but what your guests will never know is that preparing the entire meal takes less than thirty minutes. The rest of the time, the stove, the pot and the ingredients do all the work for you. As you leisurely get ready for the big night, the meat is becoming more and more tender as it absorbs the flavors and nuances of the vegetables, spice and herbs. You are also creating a sauce that is so rich and smooth, it can only be produced by hours of simmering and reducing. (Don’t forget that you are relaxing while all this happens.)
As if that is not enough, you will serve them a version of Tiramisu, described as “heaven in your mouth”. The Italians were so wowed by the original recipe they named this delicious concoction Tiramisu, literally meaning “pick me up”. My version of the classic Italian dessert has a secret chocolate ingredient that will have you wondering why no one has done this before.
When your guests have finished the last morsel of Tiramisu, and they will, you will have your wish: A dinner party your guests will rave about. The fact that it takes only thirty minutes of real work will be our little secret.
Braised Veal Shanks
4 veal shanks
1 large onion
4 celery stalks
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs of thyme
One tsp minced rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
36 ounces of beef stock (preferably in the carton)
4 TB olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp cornstarch in a little cold water to thicken sauce, if necessary.
1. Chop onion, carrot and celery into medium dice
2. Salt and pepper shanks generously. Heat 2 of the 4 TB olive oil in a large pot over medium high to high heat. Sear shanks on both sides and remove to a plate.
3. Add other 2 TB of olive oil. Season vegetables with salt and pepper and saute until onion is translucent.
4. Remove vegetables to a bowl.
5. Pour white wine into pot to deglaze.
6. Put vegetables back in pot with veal shanks on top.
7. Pour stock over shanks and add bay leaf, thyme and rosemary.
8. Bring up to a simmer and cover, allowing to simmer for 2 to 3 hours.
(You may do all this a day ahead and store the entire pot in the refrigerator.)
The day you are serving, heat back up (slowly) until it begins to boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer until shanks are reheated through. Remove shanks and reduce, reduce, reduce the sauce down by 75%. Add cornstarch slurry, if needed and bring sauce to a boil to thicken.
Serves 4-6. (I could not finish one shank by myself.)
Basil and Rice Stuffed Tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup rice (uncooked)
1 medium onion, finely minced
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2-3 large tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste.
2 TB olive oil
2 cups chicken stock, heated
1. Cut the tomatoes in half along the diameter. Using a tablespoon scoop out the insides. (You can save this for sauce some other time.) Sprinkle a little salt in each one and turn upside down on a cookie sheet to drain.
2. Mince onion and saute in olive oil over medium heat in a 2 quart saucepan. When onion is translucent, add dry rice and saute for a minute to soak up flavors. Add heated chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste and turn heat to low (cover it) until rice is fully cooked.
3. Take rice off heat when done and let cool for a few minutes. Add the parmesan. Cut the basil into small strips (chiffonade), and add to rice.
4. Fill up the tomato halves with the cooked rice mixture. Add a little extra parmesan on top, if desired.
5. Bake filled tomatoes in a casserole dish (put a little water in the bottom of the dish to help steam them) at 350 degrees F for about twenty minutes, or until tomatoes are heated but not falling apart.
You may do the first 4 steps the day before and simply bake them right before your guests arrive.
(You may purchase pasteurized eggs for this dish if you are concerned about raw eggs. I’m not.)
3 large eggs, separated
8 oz mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
1 TB instant coffee
A few drops of Kahlua extract (optional)
1/8 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
2 bags of Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies
1 cup of prepared coffee in a small bowl
1 12×12 baking dish
1. In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the sugar and mix with a wooden spoon until creamy. Add cheese, coffee and Kahlua extract and mix until incorporated.
2. Whip egg whites with a pinch of sugar until stiff peaks form.
3. Fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture. Set aside.
4. Dip each Milano cookie in the prepared coffee (for just a second) and cover bottom of baking dish with a layer of the cookies.
5. Put half the cheese/egg white mixture over the cookies. Sprinkle cocoa powder over the top.
6. Place another layer of coffee soaked cookies in the dish. Cover with remaining mixture. Sprinkle with cocoa.
7. Chill for at least an hour.
(You can easily make this a day ahead.)