This journey started over a year ago when my sister, Judy, approached me and asked if I would be interested, with her help, in donating a gourmet dinner for six to be auctioned off at the First Annual Jaime Vick-Moran Golf Outing. Without hesitation, I said I would be glad to. Well, nerves did not set in until we arrived at the outing in 2014 and saw how many people attended and were interested in a gourmet dinner. A lovely couple, Barb and Mark Turner, won the dinner. They are from Oakdale Pa, about an hour from where I live. So the adventure begins. We arrived at the Turner’s on September 14, 2014. The dinner was a huge success and everyone, including my sister and I, enjoyed the evening. We arrived as strangers, were welcomed as friends, and left that evening as family. Fast forward to 2015. We were asked again to donate a dinner for six to the auction, and again, without hesitation, Judy and I said yes. I could not attend the event this year because I was in a cast up to my knee. So Judy went to represent us both and to support the outing. Before Judy left to go to the outing, I jokingly said to her, wouldn’t it be great if the Turner’s won it again. She laughed at me and replied “I just had the same thought.” Later that evening, Judy called me from the outing and says “you’ll never believe it, the Turner’s won again!” So on August 14, 2015, we found ourselves in Oakdale cooking for the same group of people plus 3. We were home again.
Last year’s menu was Land and Sea. It contained dishes that I had learned to cook while on a culinary tour of Italy along with a few I never made before that night. Crazy. I know. Especially when you arrive at the house to prepare the meal, and the host informs you that there will be a retired chef attending the party lol, NO Fear!
The first course was a Tomato Basil Tart. This is great to make a day ahead and is served at room temperature. The tart was followed by a butter lettuce salad with a citrus lime vinaigrette. The fish I had never made before that night. It was a recipe for Black Cod, but I substituted Wild Alaskan Flounder for the cod. The Filletto Alle Nespole was a dish I learned to cook while at the Hotel Majestic-Sorrento. This was accompanied by homemade Potato Gnocchi tossed in a brown butter sauce. The main course was followed with an assortment of imported cheeses and fruit. Dessert was a homemade Tiramisu. No one went away hungry. Before the guest arrived, Barb asked if I would mind serving the entree family style, and I replied “not a problem”. She smiled and said “thank God you’re not formal and stuffy.” We all had a great laugh. She and her husband, Mark, stayed in the kitchen and talked to Judy and I while we cooked. The Turner’s and their friends were so welcoming that we felt like we were at home with old friends.
Please Note that the following recipes are a bit unorthadox. I was taught how to make these dishes when I was on a School Culinary Tour of Italy.
Filletto alle Nespole: for 6
6 1/2 in thick beef filet’s (room temperature and patted dry)
Slice (4) nestles (sugar pears) or (2)peaches (Note: I have used a combination of peaches and sugar pears in the recipe, also if you cannot find sugar pears, you can sub Bosc pear.)
Dredge beef filet in flour seasoned with kosher salt and fresh crack pepper and brown in about 2 tablespoons of Olive oil. While browning you will add to the skillet 3 cloves, couple sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper. This will take about 3 minutes per side, make sure the skillet is nice and hot to insure a good sear. When you turn the filet over to brown the second side, this is when you will add the spices. Next, deglaze the filet with white wine and beef broth, about 1 cup of each, add the nespoles or peaches. Cover and simmer until beef is medium done, around 7 minutes give or take. Total cook time is about 13 minute.
Tiramisu: makes 10 servings
2 quart round soufflé dish.
3/4 cup Espresso coffee, brewed fresh ( you may use instant if you must..lol)
3 tablespoons of Dark Rum or Amaretto
2 large organic eggs (room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 16 oz container mascarpone cheese (soften)
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
18 Savoy biscuits (Savoiardi) about 3/4 7oz package, or regular ladyfingers
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated, about 1/3 cup, plus additional for serving, optional.
In small bowl combine espresso and liquor of your choosing; set aside. In a medium size metal bowl combine eggs, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the espresso mixture. Using a hand held mixture at low speed, beat mixture for 5 to 7 minutes, add vanilla to the mixture; increase speed to high. Beat about 7 minutes or until mixture has doubled in volume and is glossy and slightly thickened. With mixer at low speed beat in mascarpone just until blended. Using rubber spatula, gently stir in heavy cream just to blend. Arrange half of Savoy biscuits of bottom of 2-quart round soufflé dish. Cutting to fit if necessary. Brush with half of the reserved espresso mixture: spoon half of mascarpone mixture on top; sprinkle with half of grated chocolate. Repeat layers, using remaining biscuits, mascarpone mixture, and grated chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours or over night to allow biscuits to soften and flavors to blend. Spoon into dessert glasses to serve, sprinkling with additional grated chocolate, if desired. Makes 10 servings. I have doubled the recipe and prepared it in a 9×13 pan. Note: I know some people can be weirded out by using raw eggs; if this concerns you two things can be done. 1. Use pasteurized eggs. 2. Place your mixture of eggs and sugar over simmering water, you will beat this mixture for 5 -12 minutes or until the instant read thermometer registers 160 f or 71 c. Add the vanilla to mixture; increase mixing speed to high. Beat about 7 minutes or until mixture has doubled in volume and is glossy and slightly thick. Remove bowl from the double boiler; cool slightly. With mixer on low incorporate the mascarpone just until blended. Gently stir in heavy cream and proceed as instructed above putting the tiramisu together. If you are going to use the double boiler method, be very carful not to scramble the egg mixture
Dinner Party Friday, August 14, 2015: We are back at the home of Barb and Mark Turner. I was so excited that they won this auction item again this year. It was like coming home. But the comfort I felt cooking and being with people I truly admired and loved disappeared as panic set in – how in the world was I going to top last years dinner? No one else had worries except me. I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to believing in myself and my talent. I had over a month to think about a menu because I was still in my cast. I decided to go big! I came up with an original appetizer, did a twist on veal Osso Buco, created a cold potato leak with arugula soup, made saffron polenta with Gruyere cheese, and sautéed baby green beans with garlic, lemon and olive oil. We once again served assorted imported cheeses and fruit and then for dessert an Italian Limoncello cheese cake. They all took a walk around the neighborhood between the cheese course and dessert. The evening was a blast. The diners enjoyed everything, and the most touching thing was when Barb asked if I would mind if they prayed for me and ask for healing of my foot. It was also decided that this Dinner Party would be a annual event regardless if they win the auction or not. I am truly blessed with family and friends and the best sous chef, my sister, Judy.
Chicken Osso Buco
Dutch Oven or deep electric skillet
9 bone in skin on organic chicken thighs
1 cup of diced celery
1 cup of diced carrots
1 large sweet onion diced
1 red bell pepper diced
8oz package of mushrooms diced
1 smashed clove of garlic
seasoned flour ( equal parts bread flour and parmesan cheese, salt and pepper )
2 cups or half a bottle of a dry white wine
1 box of organic chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of Olive oil
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken thighs and dredge in the season flour; place and brown in the heated pan. Remove the chicken from the pan, turn down the heat slightly and add the vegetables starting with celery, carrots, onions, peppers, mushrooms and garlic. Sauté until vegetables start to soften; then deglaze with the wine. Place chicken on top of the vegetables, add the chicken broth and the can of diced tomatoes; cover with lid and simmer. If using an electric skillet set your temperature to 250 f or 130 c, if using a Dutch over turn the heat down to medium-low for a gentle simmer. Cook for a minimum of 45 minutes, but the longer you cook it the more the flavors will meld together and the chicken will fall off the bone. I served this over saffron and cheese polenta and garnished the chicken with an Italian Sofrito made with parsley,lemon juice, lemon zest,white wine, garlic and extra virgin olive oil
My Italian Sofrito
1 bunch of flat leaf or Italian Parsley
juice of one lemon
1 clove of garlic
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Put Everything in the food processor, pules you don’t won’t it to be to smooth, you want to see bits of parsley and lemon zest.
Limoncello Italian Cheese Cake Serves 12
Bake at 350 f or 180 c for 1 hour and 15 mn
8 inch spring form pan
1 tablespoon of soften unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of sugar mixed with 3 tablespoons of plain dried bread crumbs
32 oz of whole milk ricotta cheese (place in a strainer for 30 minutes
16 oz of cream cheese cut into chunks and soften
2 large eggs ( room temperature slightly beaten)
2 tablespoons of unsalted Matzo Meal
1/2 cup of Sugar ( I use sugar in the Raw)
1 1/2 tablespoon of Limoncello ( I used VILLA MASSA PIANO De SORRENTO ITALY)
1/2 Tablespoon of real vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon of salt
powder sugar for dusting (optional)
Coat the spring form pan with the tablespoon of soften butter, then add the sugar and bread crumb mixture. Make sure the whole pan is coated and dump out the excess and set aside. In a food processor puree the ricotta cheese for 15 seconds, scrape sides down and puree until smooth. Add the cream cheese, puree until smooth; scrape down the sides. Add the remaining ingredients pulse, scrape down the sides and puree for 30 sec; pour mixture into prepared spring form pan. Bake at 350 f or 180 c for an 1 hour 15 min. It will be giggly. Note I placed a cake pan underneath with water when baking. Remove from oven cool completely before refrigerating. Serve chilled. Dust with powder sugar top with your favorite fruit and enjoy. I served mine with a cold fresh blue berry sauce.
Enjoy! Stay tuned for my next blog, I had my first special request regarding Doughnuts