Is there anything better than cooking with friends?
This may be one of my favorite things to do. After all, isn't cooking is one of the 5 love languages? Food creates memories. Just a smell can instantly bring you back to a time and place. Can you think of a time you walked by and smelled something in a bakery or at a restaurant and it instantly reminded you of a time in your childhood? That smell evoked a memory.
I have been friends with Eric for over 20 years. And over those years we have cooked in the kitchen together countless times. We have shared holiday meals, birthday meals, COVID lockdown meals. We even traveled together to France and Italy and shared cooking classes in each of those countries. Our friendship runs deep, but I would venture to say our love for cooking and entertaining has been a foundation that we have continuously built on and strengthened our friendship over.
ON THE MENU
Flourless Chocolate Cake
ENJOY THE COOKBOOK IN THE DIGITAL MAGAZINE FORMAT
One of the things that makes this particular meal so special is the memories evoked by a couple of the dishes. The Parsley Salad is inspired by one that we used to eat all of the time at one of our favorite restaurants in Houston called Dolce Vita, which has since closed. And the Osso Buco is adapted from a recipe that we learned to make in a cooking class together in Chianti. I encourage you to think back to some special foods you ate and try to recreate them. I'd love to hear about it!
PARSLEY SALAD RECIPE
Courtesy of Eric Weidner
4 bunches of Italian flat leaf parsley, leaves removed from stems
1/2 pound pancetta, diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 cup shredded Pecorino Romano
Wash, drain and dry the parsley leaves. Set aside.
Dice pancetta, or you can substitute bacon, and render slowly in 1/2 cup of olive oil until crispy.
In a large bowl, toss parsley leaves with the juice of lemons.
Sprinkle Pecorino Romano cheese on top.
Spoon hot pancetta and oil over the salad.
Top with fresh ground pepper.
CLASSIC MILANESE RISOTTO RECIPE
5 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
Pinch of saffron
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
In a sauce pan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer and keep warm.
In a separate large sauce pan, heat the olive oil.
Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat until soft.
Add the rice and cook for one minute,
Crumble the saffron into 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and add to the rice until absorbed.
Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and cook until almost absorbed. Repeat with the remainder of the chicken stock, Rice is finished when it is al dente.
Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the cheese, butter and parsley and serve warm.
OSSO BUCO RECIPE
1 onion, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 bottle of white wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 large can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
6 veal shanks
Dredge the veal in flour and season with salt and pepper.
In a large sauce pan heat up olive oil and pan fry until golden.
Dice the onion, celery, garlic and carrots.
In a separate medium sauce pan, pan fry the onion, carrots and celery in olive oil.
Add the white wine.
Add crushed tomatoes and parsley and stir.
Pour this mixture over the veal.
Add bay leaves.
Cover with hot water, put the lid on the pan and cook for about 3 hours in a moderate oven.
Remove meat from the dish. Season further if you wish. Reduce the sauce on high heat until thick.
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE RECIPE
Courtesy of Sally's Baking Addiction
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 ounces high quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°F. Make sure you have a bottom oven rack and a center oven rack in place for step 5. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan, line with a parchment paper round, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cake seamlessly release from the pan. The cake WILL stick unless it’s lined and generously greased.
Cut the butter into pieces so it melts evenly. Place in a large heat-proof bowl. Add chopped chocolate. Melt in 20 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each increment until completely melted and smooth. Let cool for 2-3 minutes.
Whisk the sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla extract into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the eggs until smooth. The mixture will be heavy and tacky, like brownie batter. Whisk in the cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.
Pour and spread batter into prepared cake pan.
Prepare the steamy oven: Place a large metal roasting pan or baking dish on the bottom oven rack. Do not use glass. Pour boiling water about 2 inches up the sides of the pan. Quickly place the cake on the center rack and shut the oven door, trapping steam inside. The steamy oven helps guarantee an extra moist cake.
Bake for 30 minutes until the edges are set. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean OR comes out with just a few moist crumbs. It’s important to not over-bake this cake, which dries it out. Begin checking it at 25 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the cake rises extra tall around some of the edges and slightly cracks– this is normal (it’s the eggs expanding) and will flatten out as it cools.
Remove from the oven, place cake on a cooling rack, and cool for only 10 minutes in the cake pan. Run a sharp knife around the edges to help release the warm cake, then quickly invert it onto a serving plate or cake stand. (If it cools completely in the pan, it’s very difficult to release from the pan.) Cake will be a little crumbly on the edges. Cool completely. You can stick it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
Once the cake is cool, top with your choice of toppings. My suggestions are listed above this recipe. I love it with mocha whipped cream.
MOCHA WHIPPED CREAM RECIPE
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon warm water
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
3 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon unsweetened natural or dutch-process cocoa powder
Using a fork, mix the espresso powder and warm water together in a very small bowl. Cool down for a few minutes. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, sugar, cocoa powder, and espresso mixture on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Medium peaks are between soft/loose peaks and stiff peaks and are the perfect consistency for topping and piping on desserts. Serve cake with whipped cream or pipe it on top. Decorate with raspberries and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
Cover and store leftover cake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.