Doug and I catered our second big event this past weekend, and all in all it turned out to be a great success. My parents had auctioned off a dinner at their home during an Alliance for Catholic Urban Education (ACUE) charity event, and the auction winner donated quite a bit of money to the organization, so my mom called Doug and I in to execute the perfect meal. Kitchen Bitch Catering is officially in the works!
Mom vetoed the homemade ravioli with Italian sausage and kale I wanted to whip up in favor of something more carnivorous. I had spent the weekend before preparing Thomas Keller’s Braised Breast of Veal with Glazed Vegetables and Crispy Polenta from The French Laundry Cookbook, and when my mom saw the photos, she requested that Doug and I give it a go for the auction dinner. Keller’s The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., is one of the best restaurants in the country, and there’s a reason you pay $270 a person for a nine-course tasting menu—every dish is exactingly prepared with the utmost precision and a variety of techniques. The meal pictured here took me two days to prepare and a whole lot of knife skills—and it would have been only one course in said nine-course tasting menu. Doug says it was one of the best meals I’ve ever prepared. Yay!
So off we went in search of veal breast, which in Chicago I had gotten in my local grocery store. In Cincinnati, though, finding veal breast was a whole other beast. We scoured Finley market, called butchers and specialty shops, and even asked around at Kroger’s, Fresh Market, and Sam’s Club. There was no veal breast to be found in Cincinnati unless you called in a special request ahead of time.
The clock was ticking down for our Saturday night dinner, so we decided to change gears. Instead of braising veal breast, I was going to braise veal shanks and make osso buco, which means, “hole in the bone” in Italian—a reference to the marrow hole at the center of the crosscut veal shank. This Milanese dish is veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and veal stock, and then topped with gremolata, a finely minced mixture of garlic, lemon, and parsley (pictured above).
Here’s the final menu we served:
Homemade Olive Tapenade
Fresh Tomato Bruschetta
Mini Jumbo-Lumb Crap Cups
Sweet Pea Soup with Butter Lettuce & Basil
Osso Buco with Gremolata
Crispy Polenta Cakes
With the help of my siblings and Doug, we pulled off an amazing meal. The man who purchased the dinner told us he loved veal, so that was a boon. Unfortunately, I pretty much made up the osso buco recipe, so I don’t have one to share with you. I did the same thing with the soup, which was fabulous. I’m sure I’ll be making it again and sharing the recipe with you when I finally get a chance to write it all down.
The olive tapenade, which my brother Louis made (go Lou!), came from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, as did the Citrus-Berry Terrine I made for dessert. Didn’t I tell you you needed to buy this book? We served dessert in the living room instead of the dining room to encourage conversation and mingling.
Two more winning recipes were the Mini Crab Cups and Bourbon-Caramel Truffles from Cooking Light magazine. If you can make both appetizers and dessert figure-friendly, you know you’re on the right track. I’ve shared the Mini Crab Cup recipe with you below. Make sure and tell your guests: 1) This recipe is light! 2) There’s no imitation crab here—it’s 100% pure jumbo lump crab. The best of the best. Enjoy!
Mini Jumbo-Lump Crab Cups
This recipe originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Cooking Light. Gyoza wrappers are available at Asian markets. If you can’t find them, substitute wonton wrappers. The crab filing can be made up to one day ahead of time, keep chilled. Yield: 15 servings (serving size: 2 cups). CALORIES 108; FAT 4.1g; FIBER 0.5g. Click here to download a copy of this recipe.
1 Tbs. water
1 Tbs. honey
2 tsp. canola oil
30 gyoza skins
½ c. finely chopped celery
½ c. chopped seeded tomato
½ c. light mayonnaise
¼ c. chopped fresh chives
3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. minced seeded jalapeño pepper
1 tsp. grated lime rind
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
Cilantro leaves (optional)
Prepare cups. Preheat oven to 375°. Combine first 3 ingredients, stirring with a whisk; brush mixture evenly over both sides of each gyoza. Fit 1 gyoza into each of 30 miniature muffin cups, pressing the gyoza firmly into base of cups. Bake at 375° for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned; cool in pans on a wire rack. Carefully remove cups from pans.
Make filling. Combine celery and next 10 ingredients (though crabmeat) in a large bowl; toss gently. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons crab mixture into each gyoza cup. Garnish each cup with a cilantro leaf, if desired.