Osso Buco alla Milanese

img_3824.jpgOne of my favorite cut of meat is Osso Buco, which literally means “bone with a hole” (Osso “bone”, Buco “hole”). It is the cross-cut of a veal shank with a marrow hole in the center. The veal shank is usually relatively cheap and flavorful, although tough, low and slow braising makes it tender & juicy. The marrow in the bone is silky and smooth, and perfectly caramelized to bring out the amazing flavors hidden in the bone!

This traditional dish from Milan is very easy to make and requires very few ingredients. Also, I understand that veal can be quite hard to find, and some people view it as inhumane to consume it, but both beef and pork work perfectly with this dish. The flavorful braised meat and its semi-sweet sauce are perfect to serve with risotto, polenta or mashed potato

You’ll Need:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cross-cut shanks (about 1 lb each)
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    A Cross-cut of A Veal Shank

    • Veal: the best and the most traditional choice, very tender with a slight sweetness, but very hard to find
    • Beef: easy to find, very flavorful and juicy, can be a bit tough if not cooked right
    • Pork: easy to find, a bit sweet, can be a bit dry are long cooking, lower the temperature a bit
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped pancetta
  • 2 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 stem of thyme
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups veal, beef or chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to make this:

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You want to brown it well so that the flavors of the meat can be brought out

 

  1. Dry both sides of the shanks, and generously season each side of the shank with salt and pepper, then cover with flour to get better browning on the shanks. Heat up a pan over medium-high heat, pour in the olive oil, and right before the oil starts smoking, place the shank in the pan. Sear each side for about 5 min or until they look like this. (It’s very important to brown both sides of the shank, the caramelization brings out a lot of amazing flavors, and help the meat stay on the bone)
  2. Take the browned shanks out of the pan, and in the same pan, add the chopped pancetta, onion, celery and carrot, turn the heat down to medium and cook them for about 10 min or until the onion has turned translucent. Add the minced garlic half way through since garlic burns very easily.

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    Let is slowly braise in the stock & wine mix

  3. Add the tomato paste to the pan, stir and let the tomato paste to cook and bring out some sweetness, then pour in the white wine, stir until the sauce becomes even. (It’s very important to pour in the wine when the pan is hot since the alcohol will be cooked out while the wine’s aroma and flavors can be saved.)
  4. Place the shanks in the pan, and add the broth until they almost submerge the shanks. Cover it and let it slowly braise in a 175C or 350F oven for about an hour, then remove the lid and cook for another 30 min to thicken the sauce. You can add 10 min at the end if you want a thicker sauce.
  5. Serve it with some polenta, risotto or mashed potato. I made Risotto alla Milanese or the Saffron Risotto which is a traditional side for this dish, you can find how to make Risotto here, and Enjoy!

 

 

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Tiramisu

It’s almost Valentine’s Day again, and for those who prefer having a cozy dinner with their loved one at home than experiencing the nightmare of dining out on Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing better to finish a lovely home cooked meal than a serving of the Italian classic, Tiramisu. It’s rich and creamy, but light and refreshing, the liquor might get you a little tipsy, but the espresso will pick you right up, that’s why tiramisù means  “cheer me up” or “lift me up”.

For a dessert this delicious, most are afraid the recipe would be too hard, and if you look around on the internet or a lot of the cookbooks, many recipes want you to make a double boiler to cook egg yolks or make the filling using the same technic as a mouse. Yes, using these technics does make the texture a little bit better, but it just seems too unnecessarily complicated. So, here is an easier and more traditional way to make this beloved desert! It takes about 15 min and makes about 2 servings, you can use a stemless wine glass or a rock glass which fits about 1 serving.

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(*Most recipe uses Marsala wine, which is kinda hard to find and makes the dish a little too sweet. This recipe uses limoncello, which is a southern Italian lemon liqueur, but you can use any liqueur you like, dark rum, Madeira, port, brandy, or Irish cream.)

You’ll Need:

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp limoncello
  • 10-15 dried ladyfinger cookies (cut in half if making cups)
  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
  • 170 g or 6 oz mascarpone cheese
  • cocoa powder and shaved chocolate for garnish

How to make this:

  1. Take all the ingredients out of the fridge and place them on your kitchen counter so that they reach room temperature, this will make the whipping much easier.
  2. Once everything reaches room temperature, separate the egg white and yolk, then mix the yolk with the mascarpone cheese, limoncello, and half of the sugar in a large bowl until they turn into a smooth cream, you can also zest half of a lemon to add some extra lemon flavors (a citrus flavor breaks the fat and makes the cream much lighter)

    Whip until it forms a smooth peak

  3. In another large bowl, whip the egg white & the rest of the sugar until they form a stiff peak, if the egg white is at room temperature, this will only take about 3 min of whipping.
  4. Gently fold the half of the whipped meringue into the cheese mixture with a silicone spatula, after they are incorporated, fold in the other half. (DO NOT whisk because that will destroy all the lovely little air bubbles, thus making the Tiramisu too dense & heavy)
  5. Quickly soak the ladyfingers in the coffee, then place a layer on the bottom of the glass, then a layer of cream and another layer of soaked coffee ladyfingers. Repeat until the glass is filled, then let it sit in a fridge for at least 30 min
  6. Dust the top with cocoa powder, then sprinkle with some shaved chocolate and enjoy!

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Mushroom Risotto

Growing up in China, we eat rice for almost every meal, a warm bowl of congee for breakfast, a plate of savory & oily fried rice for lunch, and some light & fully steamed rice for dinner. Since rice was brought to Italy in the 1400s by spice merchants through the silk road, and most rice dishes around the world have a Chinese root, that’s why when I started cooking in an Italian restaurant, risotto was the first thing that I mastered, a creamy, tender rice dish that is perfect for almost any occasion. It’s perfect as the primo, a dish before the main course; however, it is also perfect with osso buco alla milanese, which is one of my favorite Italian dishes.

Since risotto is a dish that the city Milan is famous for, it requires some butter (most Italian dish uses only olive oil, but not this one), and the lovely mushrooms that can only be find in the northern Italian forests. Some of these mushroom might be hard to find, but I will provide a more common substitute in the recipe.

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You’ll Need:

  • 400 mL or 1 3/4 cup stock (chicken stock image3normally, you can use vegetable stock for vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tbsp or 75 g unsalted butter (replace wit margarine for vegan)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb length celery
  • 30 g or 1 oz  dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water
    • dried porcini mushroom, bold nutty flavor (common)
    • dried shiitake mushroom, earthy & smokey flavors (common)
    • dried chanterelle mushroom, subtle peppery & apricot flavors with firm texture (common)
    • dried morels, strong beefy flavors (rare & expensive)
  • 200 g or 7 oz mushrooms
    • crimini mushroom, mild flavor (common)
    • shiitake mushroom, rich, buttery, and meaty flavors (common)
    • trumpet mushroom, similar to the texture & flavor of abalone when cooked (optional)
    • maitake mushroom, intense fruity, earthy and spicy flavors and absorb companion flavors when cooked (optional)
    • pioppini mushroom, peppery flavors with a firm texture (optional)
    • shimeji/clamshell mushroom, delicate shellfish-like flavor with firm texture (optional)
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 200 g or 7 oz rice
    • arborio rice , short grain, starchy and firm (common)
    • carnaroli, maratelli and Vialone Nano, traditional but hard to find (rare & expensive)
  • 125 mL or 1 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt  & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp freshly Parmesan cheese

How to make this:

  1. Place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with boiling water, this will re-hydrate the mushroom.
  2. Heat up a deep pan over medium-low heat, add half of the butter with the olive oil. Peel and finely chop the celery, garlic and onion, add them into the pan with some salt & black pepper and cook them for about 10 min or until they turn soft.
  3. Add the rice into the pan, lightly fry while stirring it until it turns slightly translucent.
  4. Strain the dried mushrooms, save the liquid. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms, add them into the pan with thyme springs, turn up the heat to medium then cook until most of the liquid are evaporated.
  5. Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid turns viscous, then add 1/2 cup of the mushroom liquid and the stock. Bring everything to a boil and reduce the heat back to medium-low, stir constantly, and cook for about 20 min, add more liquid if need.
  6. Once the rice hits al dente, pick out the thyme and add the rest of the butter with the Parmesan cheese, stir until it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy. Sever it with some extra Parmesan and herbs, and enjoy!

Carbonara

If you ask me what the easiest pasta to make is, my answer would probably be Carbonara. It only needs 5 ingredients, takes about 15 min to make, and it’s absolutely delicious with a creamy sauce made egg, parmesan & pecorino romano. This pasta is so good that I use it as a standardized test for every Italian restaurant I visit, and it is the only pasta that I would make on a daily basis for a quick and delicious meal or snack. Since this dish is originated in Rome, but with some of the ingredients that are very hard to find outside Italy, so I make some recontamination on what to use in the ingredients list.

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You’ll Need:

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 oz freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 oz freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 oz cured pork (options):
    •  guanciale (It’s very hard to find & expensive, but the Romans love it, it’s cured pork jowl)
    • pancetta (Also very hard to find & expensive, but very popular in Italy, it’s cured pork belly)
    • bacon (Very easy to find & cheap, thick cut, smoked and cured pork belly)
  • 3/4 lb dried pasta (options):
    • bucatini (a hollow, thick spaghetti-like pasta, very light, not easy to find)
    • spaghetti (very easy to find and cheap)

How to make this:

  1. Heat up a large pot of water with salt over high heat, and bring to a boil, cook the pasta until it’s just a bit over al dente
  2. While the pasta is cooking, sliced the cured pork of your choice into pieces about 1/4 inch thick by 1/3 inch square, then sauté the cured pork in a large skillet over medium heat until the fat just renders, just so that the edge are crispy but not hard, then remove from heat and set aside
  3. Whisk together the egg yolks, Pecorino and Parmesan in another bowl, season with black pepper
  4. Save a ladle of pasta water, add the drained pasta to the pan, stir it for about 20 seconds, then add in the egg yolk cheese mix, stir constantly, then add a little bit if the pasta water at a time, mix until the yolk thickens
  5. Server with some extra Pecorino or Parmesan

Calzone

I like pizza, but sometimes, it gets quite messy when you eat it on the go. This is where calzone comes in, they are sandwich sized, so they are perfect for lunch, and since they are in a pocket of dough, it’s perfect to eat while on the go. So let’s make it!

You’ll need: 250g flour; 150g water; 5g instant yeast; 2g salt; 1/4 lb sliced prosciutto; 1/4 lb sliced salami or mortadella; mozzarella & ricotta cheese; 1 can tomato sauce; 1 tbsp olive oil; 1/2 sweet onion; 2 cloves garlic; 1 red chili; some basil

How to make this:

  1. Mix the yeast and water together to wake them up. Mix the flour and salt, sift, then add in the water, knead for 3 min, then cover and let it rise for at least 1 hour
  2. After the dough is raised, divide it into 2, knead each dough for another 1 min, and let the dough rest for another 30min
  3. Mince the chili, onion, and garlic, then cook them in olive oil over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce and cook for 10 min over medium heat
  4. Press the dough into about 8-inches wide, then on half of the dough, place on a layer of sauce, then place a layer of prosciutto, ricotta cheese, salami, and mozzarella, then some basil leaves for some extra flavor
  5. Fold the half over, then fold the sides to seal the calzone, poke 3 little holes on the top for steam to escape
  6. Brush on a layer of egg wash, sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, then bake it in a 260C or 500F oven for 14 min
  7. Sever it with a salad and extra sauce

Scialatielli ai Frutti di Mare (Seafood Scialatelli)

If you love pasta, but don’t know what Scialatelli is, you are missing out. Scialatielli is a thick and wide pasta from the Amalfi coast, and it’s perfect with some fresh seafood and arranbiata (angry) sauce! Also, this recipe works for almost any type of thick/wide pasta, fettuccine or linguine will work just fine!

You’ll need: 1 1/2 lb of fresh (or 1 lb dried) wide pasta, 1/2 lb mussels; 1/2 lb clams; 1/2 lb shrimp; 3 tbsp olive oil; 1 small onion; 2 garlic cloves; 1 red chili; 1 12 oz tin crushed tomatoes (or the 2/3 lb fresh tomatoes); 1/2 cup white wine

How to make this:

  1. Finely mince the onion and garlic, seed the red chili and cut into thin slices, peel and devein the shrimp, brush the clams and mussels
  2. Heat a skillet with olive oil over a medium-high, then add the onion, garlic & chili and sauté for 3 minutes
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes and white wine, cook until it simmers, then let it reduce for about 1o minutes. You can boil the pasta while the sauce is cooking
  4. Add in the clams first, cover with lid and let it cook for 4 min, then add the mussels, cover and cook for 2 min more, then add the shrimp and cook for another 3 min, follow this pattern so nothing will be over cooked
  5. Mix in the cooked pasta, sprinkle with some chopped parsley when serving

 

Linguine alle Vongole

As the weather gets better, more and more fresh seafood products are starting to show up in your local market, so, why not take advantage of the fresh ingredients and make some delicious pasta! Also, I know traditionally this dish uses spaghetti, but, my spaghetti attachment on my pasta maker broke, so I made linguine instead, which is not uncommon, and in my opinion, better at scoop up the delicious calm sauce. Since most of the salt in this dish comes from the clams and anchovy, you don’t need to add any extra salt for this dish. It’s super easy to make and this recipe serves 3.

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You’ll need: 1 1/2 lb clams; 1 lb fresh pasta or 1/2 lb dried pasta; 1 tbsp olive oil; 1 tbsp butter; 1/2 cup white wine; 1/4 shallot; 3 clove garlic; 1 red chili pepper; 1/2 tsp anchovy paste; some parsley

How to make this:

  1. Rinse and brush the clams, then finely mince the shallot & garlic, deseed and slice red pepper, and roughly chop the parsley
  2. In a deep, thick bottom pan, heat up the oil and butter, then lightly fry the anchovy paste, shallot, garlic and chili pepper
  3. Then add in the clams, toss them in the pan, then pour in the white wine, cover the pan and let it simmer for 6 min
  4. Cook the pasta while the clams are cooking
  5. Add the chopped parsley into the pan, then mix into pasta
  6. Serve it with some extra parsley and parmesan