Food fit for a 21-year-old

Entertaining

Entertaining: Braised veal shanks are a hit with ravenous appetites at a birthday supper.

March 12, 2000|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Good friends who live abroad told us recently that their son, at a college in our community, was going to celebrate his 21st birthday soon and that they could not be in the States for the occasion. So, my husband and I decided we would organize a small dinner for this young man.

I invited him, with two friends, to come for a Sunday-night birthday supper.

We can't remember when we enjoyed an evening more. The three young men arrived five minutes early, their eagerness for a home-cooked meal obvious. They had ravenous appetites. I served warm crostini topped with melted fontina, prosciutto and rosemary for appetizers and made what I thought was enough to last a half-hour. Minutes later the platter was empty, as were two bowls of olives as well.

For the main course, there were veal shanks braised in red wine with tomatoes and sage served with buttered fettuccine and roasted fennel. Each guest took generous portions, then returned for seconds and even thirds.

For dessert, I made a lemon cake topped with pistachios and served it with scoops of vanilla ice cream. I knew the students were finally full when I offered them biscotti to go with coffee and they asked for plastic bags to take them back to campus for later that night.

The veal was the piece de resistance of this cool-weather menu. The shanks were simmered along with carrots and onions in a mixture of chicken stock, red wine, tomatoes and sage for about an hour until fork tender. Because this type of dish actually improves in flavor when made ahead, I was able to prepare it early in the week, freeze it, then simply reheat it at serving time.

Veal Shanks Braised in Red Wine With Tomatoes and Sage

Serves 6

6 veal shanks, 1 to 1 1/4 inch thick (total 4 pounds)

salt

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cups chopped onions (about 2 large onions)

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on diagonal into 1/2 -inch-thick slices

4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

2 (28-ounce) cans, Italian-style tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped

4 teaspoons dried sage leaves (use rubbed or crumbled sage, not powdered)

2 bay leaves, broken in half

3 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 cup dry red wine

1 to 1 1/4 pounds fettuccine

1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Pat veal shanks dry and season generously with salt on both sides. Heat oil in 12- to 14-inch deep-sided skillet with lid over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add veal and brown well, about 4 minutes per side.

Remove veal to side dish. Add onions, carrots and garlic and saute, stirring, 5 minutes. Return veal to pan along with any juices that have collected in dish.

Add tomatoes, sage, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, stock and wine. Bring mixture to simmer and lower heat. Cover and cook until meat is very tender, 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours. Remove bay leaves. (If not serving immediately, cool, cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. Veal can also be frozen. Defrost under refrigeration 1 day before needed.)

When ready to serve, heat veal, uncovered, over medium heat until liquids are reduced and thickened slightly, 5 to 10 minutes or longer. Have large pot of boiling water for pasta. Add fettuccine and generous amount of salt and cook until pasta is tender, about 5 minutes for fresh pasta or about 10 minutes for dried. When pasta is done, drain, toss with butter and season with salt as needed.

To serve, arrange pasta in mound on heated serving platter. Surround with veal and nap with sauce. Garnish with parsley.

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