Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Little Marrow, a Little Cake, a Lotta Love

There comes a time in a man's life when he simply must celebrate his birthday. And hopefully, he'll do so in the jovial, festive atmosphere of s'kat and DucCat's kitchen.

Dad raised a glass to another year, and requested German as his birthday meal of choice. Side dishes were prepared, marinades were readied, and all that was left was to thaw the freshly-caught venison for a fine and fulsome stew.

However, DucCat went to the market, stocking up on odds'n'ends. Passing by the butcher's counter, he paused upon seeing some meaty, marrow-filled veal shanks. Luckily, he had a cell phone at the ready. A brief conversation ensued, and we changed the meal from a hearty German stew to the penultimate Italian delight: osso bucco.

We began the night with a fine, tasty cheese. I'll update this posting once I've tracked down the name of it, but suffice to say, it was rich and complex like a vintage Parmesan. There was no need to sully the experience with crackers; each bit was simply shaved thinly from the wedge, and enjoyed fully as it dissolved slowly upon the tongue.

Prep-work was undertaken in the presence of a Dante 2004 Chardonnay.
Fruity, buttery, oaky, it was a well-packaged chard, and a good enough start to the evening.

Not every dining companion that evening was as enamored of the marrow as I. Ha! I wasted no time in absconding with all the extra bones.

The accompanying risotto was rife with mushrooms, the perfect canvas upon which to taste that rich, slow-roasted veal, and most importantly, the marrow. Yes, let's get back to that.

Black bone butter. Looks kind of icky and slimy, but the taste is closer to liverwurst, the richest cheeses, or pure cream in flavour profile. It slams into your mouth with an aggressively smooth touch, intense, almost too much, and at the very end, leaving you wishing for just a bit more. Pretend it's butter; soon, you'll be right at home scooping, slathering, and enjoying that most intimate of spreads.

We finished with dinner, but of course, still needed a little something sweet and festive. Bring on the Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake, then!

My Dad is a huge fan of the classic German-chocolate cake. As soon as I saw this recipe from Martha Stewart, I immediately tucked it away for his birthday. As the day drew closer, mindful of past Martha-recipes-gone-bad, I did a test-run of the cake layer.

It came out, literally, like a ton of bricks. Make no bones about it, this was a rich, chocolatey, and decadent ton of bricks- but too dense, too thick, too much. In distress, I did a quick search online, and came up with two more recipes that seemed to promise good, wholesome cakiness: the Epicurious recipe, and the Domestic Goddess version.

I'd meant to try both, but time was short, and I went with Epicurious. The cake layers were thinner, but fluffy and chocolatey, like little floating islands. I used the Martha layer as the base, used both of the Epicurious cake layers, as well as it's filling, and finished with Martha's ganache, garnished with coconut à la the Domestic Goddess.

It looked stunning, tasted great, and most importantly, let a great guy know how special he is to me. Happy birthday, Dad!

Epicurious Inside-Out Chocolate German Cake (I used the cake layers, and the filling from this; in the interest of keeping things simple, I also used purchased dulce de leche.)

Domestic Goddess Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake (This one was also based upon the Martha recipe, and I borrowed her idea of garnishing with the coconut.)

Osso Bucco
adapted by DucCat from the Gourmet Cookbook

8 (12-14-ounce) meaty cross-cut veal shanks, 6-61/2 pounds total)
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 California bay leaf
6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups drained canned plum tomatoes (from a 20-ounce can), chopped
4-5 cups beef stock

Preheat oven to 325-degrees.
Tie bay leaf, parsley and thyme with kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni.
Pat veal shanks dry and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Dredge shanks in flour and shake off excess. Heat 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon oil in large 7-9 quart heavy ovenproof pot wide enough to hold shanks in one layer over moderately high heat until foam subsides.
Add 4 shanks and cook, turning once, until well browned, 12-15 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Add 1 more Tablespoon butter, and brown remaining shanks in same manner; transfer to the plate.
Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to pot, adding a bit more oil if necessary. Cook until just softened, then add wine, bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up the browned bits.
Add tomatoes, bouquet garni, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add shanks, along with any accumulated juices, and enough stock to barely cover shanks; bring to simmer.
Cover pot, transfer to oven, and braise shanks until very tender, about 2-2 1/2 hours.
With a slotted spoon, transfer shanks to a roasting pan (leave oven on). Keep them warm, loosely covered with foil. Pour braising liquid through a large fine-mesh sieve into a heavy saucepan, pressing on solids; discard solids and skim fat from sauce. Bring to a boil and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 3 cups, about 15 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat.
Baste shanks with some sauce, then bake, uncovered, basting 3-4 more times with sauce, until glazed, about 15 minutes.


Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

I love osso buco. It's a pity that some people refuse to eat the marrow.

April 11, 2006 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Tania said...

Oh dear, I just drooled my way through that post ... Osso bucco and German Chocolate Cake, wow! Love your serving dishes, too. I hope your Dad had a happy birthday.

April 11, 2006 3:00 PM  
Blogger MeBeth said...

I love bone marrow - just smear it on some toast with salt and I'm happy! I agree that it's not ideal to spend too much time scrutinizing it, your "pretend it's butter" approach is perfect.

April 11, 2006 9:20 PM  
Blogger ilva said...

Lovely and what a sweet Daddy!

April 12, 2006 1:32 AM  
Blogger vlb5757 said...

So should I send you my birthday dinner request. It's in Nov, so you will have lots of time to plan! lol! Everything looked really good to me while I sat here and sipped my oolong tea having eaten a Boco breakfast sausage on a whole wheat mini bagel. ECK. Marrow and cake would have been much, much better!!

April 12, 2006 7:24 AM  
Blogger Backyard Chef said...

Dang, girl. You're no good for my diet. I just shoved the oatmeal across the desk in protest. Harumph....

April 12, 2006 9:11 AM  
Blogger iamchanelle said...

ok, sooooooooooo, i am what i refer to as a "chicken-a-tarian", so i could not go for the marrow...but the CAKE!! oh, the cake!!!

what a sweet daughter you are!!

my birthday is in may....


April 12, 2006 9:21 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...


You're clearly blessed to have people around who don't like marrow.

April 12, 2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger linda said...

oh the marrow. You are making me drool. You should check out the cookbook Bones by Jennifer Mclaglan....

April 12, 2006 11:23 AM  
Blogger Nerissa said...

Can't say I've ever had osso bucco. Ben has. But I don't see any opportunity for podunksville BC to give me the opportunity to try it or make it. Garshk!

German cakes are always fun. It looked like a nice bit of sweet fun.

So you have those stemless wine glasses? I'm sure you must have shown or talked about them before. This is the first time I noticed *blush*

April 13, 2006 8:41 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Thanks, all. I take birthday orders 6 months in advance. ;)

Nerissa, actually, I may not have posted those glasses before. We don't use them a lot, since I have the unfortunate tendency to drop or smash any Reidel foolishly given to me.

The pictured Reidel, however, made it through the night un-scathed: it was DucCat's.

April 13, 2006 4:05 PM  
Blogger Mona said...

S'kat, everything looks sooo good! Weird about the Marfa recipe. Though it doesn't surprise me. I've often heard nightmare stories about some of her recipes. Good to know. And really funny, our dads are very similar. My dad is a huge wienerschnitzel fan and would totally choose German, I'm sure, for a bday dinner.

April 20, 2006 2:36 PM  

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