Veal Scallops in Foil Pockets

This is a very elegant recipe that can be prepared very quickly.  It may seem like a lot of fuss, but is quite easy to prepare and doesn’t take a lot of time.  An added bonus is that you cook the veal in little foil pockets which eliminated scrubbing the baking pan. The cream sauce does need watching to not end up with lumpy scrambled eggs but it is very light and tasty.  Photo courtesy of Nicole Solera, taken in Sorrento, Italy.

Easy to read recipe:

VEAL SCALLOPS IN FOIL POCKETS

4     Thin veal cutlets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & pepper to taste
8     TBL chopped onions
½    Pound sliced mushrooms
Chablis

Pound veal cutlets.  Season with salt & pepper.
Make 4 aluminum foil pockets slightly larger than each cutlet & brush w/oil.
Place cutlets inside pockets & sprinkle evenly w/onion & mushrooms.
Pour enough Chablis over each cutlet to moisten well.  Pinch top of each envelope closed.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, add more Chablis, bake additional 20 min.

Lift veal scallops from pockets, place in  buttered serving dish.  SAVE pan juices from foil pockets in small bowl for sauce.

CREAM SAUCE FOR VEAL SCALLOPS

¼        Cup half & half cream
2         Egg yolks
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine the cream & egg yolks in top of double boiler, blending well, then stir in pan juices from bowl.  Continue stirring until sauce has thickened.  Serve over veal.


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My daughter returns home

After Niki graduated from college she moved home for a while and had apparently picked up some expertise in a cooking class that she took while in Florence.  Then I caught her red-handed.  I walked in on her while she was watching a cooking show on tv!  Who was this person?  Could she have any of my genes?  Why was she watching cooking shows?  Although she’d tried to help in the kitchen many times when she was young, she’d never really shown any particular aptitude in that area.  Usually the results were edible although presentation definitely needed some work.

Niki’s come a long way since this colorful birthday cake and she actually does enjoy cooking.

Thinking that she might like to try more interesting recipes, Niki brought home Giada’s Kitchen by giada de laurentiis.  I knew things would be very different in our kitchen.  When I showed my husband this cookbook, he took one look at Giada’s picture on the cover and declared that she looked like a really good cook.

I agree with my husband that Giada looks really good, as a cook or otherwise and although I hardly look like Giada I decided to try one of her recipes.  I started with her chicken piccata because I actually could identify all of the ingredients and it seemed fairly easy enough for me.   I served this over wide noodles and it was absolutely delicious!  Definitely one to repeat.

Since I got so many compliments on this dish (see how devious my husband is – compliments my efforts so I’ll do it more often), I decided to also check out her website on the food network.  If the chicken piccata was delicious, I can tell you that the chicken with marscapone cheese was out of this world.  This is definitely my go-to recipe for company or when my daughter comes home now for some comfort food.  If the chicken marscapone wowed John and Niki I can tell you that I got a standing ovation for Giada’s chocolate honey almond tart!  I’ve since served these dishes to guests and had so many requests for the recipe that I finally typed them up to copy on request.  And that’s how it all started….

When my daughter moved to her apartment she would call me to find out how I made various dishes.  Rather than just write them down, she would call me again when she wanted to make the same thing.  I finally just started a recipe file of all the likely recipes that she might ask for which I would then email to her.

Last Christmas it occurred to me that I had a decent recipe collection and hundreds of photos from Italy.  As I’ve mentioned I love playing with photos and decided that a collection of these photos with family recipes overlayed would be a nice gift for her and save a lot of time on the phone.  I made 8.5 x 11″ photos and stacked them in an acrylic frame which can be hung on her kitchen wall.  When she needs a recipe, she can just move that to the front of the frame & it protects the photograph from splatters.  This particular photo is one that Niki took from the Venice canals of a very unique dress shop.

The Recipe, courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis :

CHICKEN WITH MUSTARD MASCARPONE MARSALA SAUCE

1 to 1 ½ lbs     Boneless chicken breasts
2 TBL              Olive Oil
5 TBL              Butter, divided
1 Cup             Chopped sweet onion
1 lb                  Mushrooms – cremini or baby portabella
2 TBL              Garlic, minced (more is fine)
1 Cup              Marsala wine (or I’ve sometimes used Vermouth
1 Cup              Marscarpone cheese
2 TBL              Natural stone ground mustard (seeds)
2 TBL              Chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Serve on wide noodles or fettuccine

Directions:
Pound the chicken breasts to tenderize, then sprinkle salt & pepper.  Heat oil in heavy skillet over med-high heat.  Add chicken until just browned (about 4 min each side).  Move to a plate & cover to keep warm.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter to the same skillet over med-high heat.  Add onion & sauté until tender (about 2 min).  Add the mushrooms & garlic and sauté until the mushrooms are tender & juices evaporated (10-12 minutes).  Add the Marsala wine or Vermouth and simmer until reduced by half (5 minutes).  Stir in the marscapone and mustard.  You can serve the chicken as cutlets or slice into slices.  Return chicken & juices to the skillet.  Simmer, uncovered over med-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through & the sauce has thickened slightly (just about 2 minutes).  Sprinkle with parsley and top with fresh Parmesan cheese.

After cooking pasta, melt remainder of butter (3 TBL) on top.  Serve chicken & sauce on top of pasta.

(This may seem like a bit of work but it really isn’t and it cooks up fast so have the pasta water boiling.  It is the most delicious sauce I have ever had!)

Artichoke Dip-Transforming a recipe into a family photo

This is where I love to get creative combining a favorite recipe with a photo.  One of my favorite party dips is this artichoke dip.  It fills a casserole dish and serves lots of people.

ARTICHOKE DIP

2      Cans regular artichoke hearts (14 oz)
1      Jar marinated artichoke hearts (6 oz)
2-4   TBL minced onions
2      Large cloves garlic, minced
2      Lbs. cream cheese
3      TBL chopped fresh basil
½      Cup Parmesan cheese, grated  plus extra for sprinkling on top (good quality makes a difference)

– Cook onion & garlic in sauté pan until transparent

– Place artichoke hearts & cream cheese in mixing bowl.  Use your hands to crush the artichoke hearts into the cream cheese.  Add onion/garlic mixture, continue mixing until combined, leaving only a few chunks of artichokes remaining.

– Add basil and Parmesan cheese and combine.

– Place in oven proof baking dish. Top with small amount of butter & Parmesan cheese.

– Bake at 400 until top is golden brown. Serve with warm pita bread or toasted French bread.

Funny story about the first time I made this dip.  It was late afternoon Christmas Eve and I was busy trying to prep food for Christmas, cleaning the house, wrapping gifts & also doing the laundry.  This dip was for a party we were going to that evening.

Since I was flying around trying to put this together while doing other things the dip was sort of put together piecemeal.  When I got to the part about grating the cheese I just couldn’t find it.  I knew I’d taken it out of the fridge so I thought maybe I had it in my hand while I was going from upstairs, to the pantry, to the laundry room… I retraced my steps & actions right down to looking inside the dryer for this large block of very expensive Parmesan cheese ($26 worth of cheese to be exact).  Believe me this is critical to this recipe.  As I stood there scratching my head I realized that I hadn’t seen Lola (remember the 85 lb. of Bernese Mountain Dog?) for a while.  She is an eternal optimist so is always underfoot when there’s food around.  Hmm…. very odd that I hadn’t been stepping over this small pony/dog for a while.   I think you can see where this is going.  I found her upstairs in her typical Berner bear skin rug mode but looking very sorry and like she might have a little bit of a belly ache.  I mean let’s face it, an entire block of Parmesan?  In case there is any doubt in your mind,  yes, I found the plastic wrapping on the stairway and I was a little surprised that that didn’t go down the hatch too!

Lola, the cheese thief !!!!

I was very lucky that the store was still open & my husband was willing to make a quick dash for another block of Parmesan.  Normally this recipe is not all that expensive, but I do recommend a high quality Parmesan for the best results and if you happen to have a Berner that you keep the cheese in the fridge until it’s time to use it.

Once I’ve decided on a recipe I love, I choose a favorite photo that reminds me of a special holiday where I’ve made the dish, or possibly a photo that just seems to “go” with this recipe.  In this case, Niki and I have made this dip for Christmas Eve parties.  Niki had returned from Italy before Christmas but downtown Florence had been decorated and she took this picture of the lights in the city which I love for it’s simplicity and elegance.

After choosing a photo, I use my photo software to fade out the background, playing with different shadings.  For example, this is a 30% transparency effect of the entire canvas:

After deciding the effect of the background, I overlay the recipe on top of the photo:

After overlaying the recipe onto the photo I add it to Niki’s recipe collection in an acrylic box frame.  New pictures can be added to the front to display or you can move the recipe you are making to the front and it’s protected by the acrylic frame.  Another idea is to slide each photo/recipe into a plastic sleeve and keep in a notebook.