Sunday, April 27, 2008

Italian Food for a Good Cause


Fig A, Ossobucco Milanese con polenta e rapini.

On Saturday, February 23rd, Princess Mattress held its first Italian market gourmet gala, the proceeds of which to benefit the Quebec cystic fibrosis foundation. The event, which was held at Buffet Amiens, was not only a resounding success, but also a testament to everything Italian. Heartfelt thanks to owner Peter Triassi and everyone at Buffet Amiens; chefs Pasquale Teoli and Michele Falduto in particular, whose experience in the kitchen proved invaluable.
When I set out to organize this event, my goal-apart from helping a great cause-was to bring to the spotlight dishes from different regions of Italy. A monumental task given how varied Italian cuisine, (as well as Italian opinions), can be. So like everything in life, we would start small and from the beginning.
Anyone who knows me is aware of how obsessive and exacting I am when it comes to proper food, when it came time to choose a location for the event, it seemed obvious. I entered the reception hall armed with ideas, desires, and humble demands. Rather than throw me out, Peter looked at me and said, “We could do it, but maybe it would be good if you spoke to the chef”. Seven months and several meetings later we finalized the menu.

Menu for the Gala
~Antipasto Misto Italiano~
(Lonza, prosciutto, bresaola, parmiggiano reggiano, pepato Siciliano, crotonese, ricotta fresca.)
~Pasta Casareccia Con Funghi Porcini~
~Insalata Trevisana~
~Ossobuco Alla Milanese con Polenta, Rapini, e Peperoni~
~Calamari Grigliati al Carbone~
~Delizia al Mascarpone~
~Sweet Table- Italian sausage and peppers, Trippa con pomodoro, Porcheta, Cozze con pomodoro and Fresh fruit~

The Ossobucco was definitely the standout dish of the evening. It was both flavourful and exceedingly tender. The sauce was velvety with depth, without being overpowering; in my opinion, a perfectly balanced version of an often missed dish. Before the beloved tomato made its appearance in Italy, Ossobucco alla Milanese was made in bianco,--much the same way it’s made today in the north of Italy. (While doing some research I was surprised to discover very old recipes that included such ingredients as cinnamon, cloves and allspice.) These days in Milan, the use of tomatoes, only as a base, is common practice. It’s usually in the form of tomato paste and never in large amounts, or you risk turning an Ossobucco alla Milanese into an Ossobucco con pomodoro. Here’s the recipe for ossobucco the way it was served at the gala.

Ossobucco Alla Milanese
¼ cup of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 veal shanks, 2” thick
flour, for dredging
1 medium carrot, chopped into ½” pieces
1 medium onion, rough chop
1 celery stalk, chopped into ½” pieces
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 cup of dry white wine
1 ½ cups of chicken stock (low sodium)
2 bay leaves

Gremolata (A traditional topping added at the very end, and no it’s not optional.)

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons of chopped (not too small) lemon zest

Season the veal shanks with salt and pepper on both sides; dredge the veal lightly on both sides in the flour being sure to shake off any excess. In a Dutch oven or a heavy bottom, oven proof pot, set over medium-high, add the butter and olive oil. When the oil begins to lightly smoke add the veal shanks one at a time. The browning is very important, as Mario Batali writes in his book, Simple Italian Food , “The true trick to all braised dished is the very first step: carefully and comprehensively browning the pieces to a deep golden brown. This not only makes for a delicious, full-flavoured piece of meat, but also contributes to a rich and complex sauce.(202) When the shanks have properly browned, remove from the pot and set aside. Turn the heat to medium and in the same pot (do not clean it, the brown bits left from the veal and flour are essential, you might, however, have to add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil if the bottom of your pot is too brown) add the carrot, onion, celery and fresh thyme. Cook, stirring often until softened and golden brown-about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it darkens from bright red to rust orange, about 3 minutes, add the wine, chicken stock and bay leaves and let it come to a boil for about 3 minutes. Place the veal shanks back in the pot (I like to make sure my veal is not touching the bottom of the pot by making sure some of the vegetables are under it. This insures that the liquid can cook the bottom of the veal evenly.) Make sure your veal is submerged at least halfway, if it isn’t, add more chicken stock. Cover with aluminum foil and the lid and place in a preheated 350 degree oven. Contrary to popular belief you can overcook ossobucco, (or any braised meat for that matter). The ossobucco is done when the meat near the bone comes loose without too much resistance, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the gremolata over the meat, cover and let it rest for 10 minutes. If the meat begins to separate from the bone on its own, it’s slightly overcooked. If the marrow has left the center of the bone and melted into the sauce because some stupid friends arrived over 1 hour late, then wrap up the ossobucco and give it to your friends in a doggy bag and kick them out.
Ossobucco is usually served with risotto alla Milanese. I like it with a soft polenta or lentils; but my favourite is to serve the ossobucco on top of a toasted slice of bread, which has been rubbed with garlic and softened with olive oil—lay some rapini on the bread and top with the ossobucco. Pour some cooking jus over the meat and enjoy.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a fatal genetically inherited disease, affecting mainly the lungs and the digestive system. Cystic fibrosis is usually diagnosed at a very young age –normally within the first year of a child’s life. Children afflicted with cystic fibrosis are on constant medication and require daily help from a ventilation machine, which clears the child’s lungs in order to breathe. Most people with CF will eventually die of lung disease before the age of 35. To experience what it would be like to live with CF, block your nose and breathe through your mouth with a straw. That is the everyday reality of a child afflicted with cystic fibrosis. The people at the L’Association de la fibrose kystique give a lot of their time to the cause. I want to thank Eve-Amelie for her help, and a special thanks to vice-president of the Montreal chapter, Daniel Dettmers for his attendance and kind words of support. If you would like to help, at any time, donations can be made at,

Buffet Amiens: 8700 boul langelier, St Leonard. 514-326-3010

No comments: