Italian Panic

Baking/Cooking April 10, 2011 9:15 am

A friend of mine had jaw surgery this past week, so I offered to make him supper the night before- anything he wanted.  The poor kid will be drinking his meals through a straw for the next 6 weeks, so I really wanted to make him something he’d love.

His choice? A full-on Italian meal- Chicken Parmesan and Tiramisu.  Immediately, panic started to set in- this Southern girl doesn’t know the first thing about how to cook a decent Italian meal.   But I took a deep breath and started to look up recipes, bound and determined to give him- at the very least- an edible last meal.

I was relieved to discover Chicken Parmesan was basically fried chicken with cheese and marinara sauce- that I could handle.  But Tiramisu?  My panic turned into full-fledged dismay when I soon discovered that this dessert was missing a very key ingredient, BUTTER.  If you’ve read my blog at all before, you know I have quite the love affair with butter.  So attempting a dessert without butter?  I shuddered at the thought.

But I took a deep breath and decided to dive on in and attempt Italian night…

Chicken Parmesan:

(recipe adapted from Bon Appétit)

Ingredients:

Sauce:

The original recipe called for homemade sauce.  But since this was a busy weeknight, I just didn’t have the time to make sauce completely from scratch.  But since I didn’t want to just dump a jar of sauce onto the chicken, I made a ‘semi-homemade’ version:

1 jar of basic tomato sauce (I used Trader Joes tomato basil marinara)

1 onion

4 cloves of garlic

Dash or two of dried thyme and basil

Splash or two of red wine

Chicken:

6-10 skinless boneless chicken breasts

2 eggs

Breadcrumbs (roughly 2 cups)

Flour (roughly 1 cup)

1 8 oz. bag of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 8 oz. bag of shredded Italian four cheese

Olive oil

Preparation:

Sauce:

Heat olive oil in medium pan.  Add onions and garlic, and saute until onions are tender.  Add tomato sauce, thyme, and basil.  Let simmer until sauce is warmed and add splash of red wine.  (Why red wine? My mom always added red wine to her spaghetti sauce growing up, and it’s something I just picked up when I started cooking- I find it gives sauces a little bit of a sweet taste)  Let sauce simmer on low as you prepare the chicken.

Chicken:

Place chicken breasts between two sheets of saran wrap.  Pound chicken until 1/3 inch thick with a rolling pin.  Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Put flour on one plate, breadcrumbs on a second plate, and whisked eggs into a small bowl.  Coat both sides of the chicken with flour first, then dip into eggs, and finish with coating chicken with breadcrumbs.

Heat olive oil in skillet and cook each piece of chicken until brown, about 2 minutes on each side. (whew, finally something this Southern girl knows how to do!)  Place chicken on platter and get ready to assemble!

Assembly:

Pour 1 cup of sauce into glass baking dish (15x10x2-inch), then put 1 layer of chicken on top of sauce.  Cover with 2 cups of sauce and 1/2 of the mozzarella and Italian cheese.  Place second layer of chicken on top of cheese, cover with remaining sauce, and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake in 350° oven for about 20-25 minutes- until cheese is golden brown and chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

*Picture from Bon Appetit

Tiramisu:

And now for the hard part, the Tiramisu.  In all of my searching online, I couldn’t find a recipe that looked easy enough a) a busy weeknight and b) for someone who was petrified of making a dessert without butter… and since I really wanted this dessert to turn out decently, I started searching for ‘Tiramisu-like’ desserts.  And then I found my saving grace: Tiramisu Bundt Cake– complete with the all important ingredient, BUTTER!

Tiramisu Bundt Cake:

(adapted from Baking Bites)

Cake Ingredients:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

1.5 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 cups milk

1/4 cup espresso or very strong coffee (+1 extra splash for good measure)

1/4 cup Kahlua (+1 extra splash for good measure)

Cake Frosting:

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

4-8 oz. mascarpone cheese, room temperature (the original recipe called for 4 oz., but my mascarpone came in an 8 oz. container, so I just used the entire container)

1/4 cup Kahlua

2-2.5 cups confectioners sugar

Dark chocolate (optional)

Cake Preparation:

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.  Alternate adding flour mixture and milk (2-3 times) to butter and sugar mixture, ending with a flour addition.  Mix everything until smooth.

Now we’ll separate the batter to add in the coffee and espresso.  Pour 1 cup of batter into a small bowl and add the espresso, whisking until the espresso is mixed in well with the batter.  In 2nd small bowl, add in Kahlua to 1 cup of batter and whisk until the Kahlua is mixed in well with the batter.

Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.  We’re going to pour the batter into the pan in layers- start with pouring 1/2 of the plain batter into the bundt pan, spreading into an even layer.  Carefully pour the Kahlua batter into an even layer on top of the plain batter.  Pour espresso batter on top of Kahlua layer.  Finish by pouring the remaining plain batter on top of the espresso layer. **Don’t mix the different batters- the Kahlua, espresso, and plain batters are all slightly different colors and layering them instead of mixing them will give the cake a very pretty layered look!

Bake for 55-60 minutes at 325°, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cake cool for 15-20 minutes before flipping over onto a plate.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Cake Frosting:

Combine all of the ingredients and beat at a medium-high speed until very smooth and fluffy.  Use a butter knife or spatula to apply the frosting to the cake in a thick, even layer.

**Confession: Here’s where I ran into problems- I didn’t let the butter and mascarpone sit out long enough to be truly room temperature, and I ended up with a slightly lumpy looking frosting.  What’s a girl to do? Cover that sh*t up!  Using a vegetable grater, I ‘grated’ dark chocolate over the cake, masking the less than attractive frosting while simultaneously adding another delicious flavor! Whew, problem solved!

C is for... Tiramisu Cake!

And the verdict? A success! While a traditionalist might balk at the idea of a Tiramisu Cake, my friend gave it rave reviews.  I took the leftovers to my office and my coworkers also loved it– while I don’t think it can replace someone’s real hankering for Tiramisu, I think the  recipe is a keeper as a delicious and easy cake option!

I’m happy to report my friend is doing well after surgery- and now I have an excuse to practice my smoothie skills! 🙂

(PS If you think these recipes or any other recipes I post look yummy, I’d be happy to make something for you!)

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