Celebrating birthday with food

For Cliff’s birthday today, he requested osso bucco.  I also decided to make him chocolate bacon cupcakes.  Both items were rich and delicious…and I am sitting here feeling a little like a turkey stuffed with osso bucco and cupcakes!  I just need someone to truss my arms and legs together so I don’t burst open.

My brother introduced us to osso bucco last year, and Cliff and I both loved it.  We since then found a nearby butcher that carries milk-fed osso bucco on a daily basis, so when we indulge in osso bucco that’s where we always go (Market Meats on W. 4th).  I’ve tried a few different recipes of osso bucco, and I like this one the best (originally from http://www.cookstr.com, but tweaked a little with my preferences):

  • Four 1½ in (4cm) thick veal shanks (milk-fed if you can get your hands on them…so worth it) 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup beef stock
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 anchovy fillets in oil, minced
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon

1. Season the veal with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour and shake off any excess.

2. Melt the butter with the oil in a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat. Add the veal and cook, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until browned all over. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion and garlic to the casserole and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until softened but not colored.

3. Stir in the stock and white wine and tomato paste, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Return the veal to the casserole. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 1½ hours or until the veal is tender. Check the stew occasionally, and if the cooking liquid has reduced too much, add more stock or wine. The finished cooking liquid should be quite thick.

4. Stir the parsley, anchovies, and lemon zest into the casserole, Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.

I served the osso bucco with some polenta, and Cliff gave it the two-thumbs-up.  Joshua enjoyed the meat, but he enjoyed the sauce even more.  Osso bucco is quite rich.  With my appetite of a lion, I couldn’t finish the entire piece.  Or maybe that’s because I already had 2 cupcakes in my stomach before commencing the meal.  Either way, I would plan on not having a lot of rich side dishes when you make osso bucco.

 

As for dessert, I set out to make chocolate bacon cupcakes for Cliff, hoping to impress him with something a little different.  But when I asked him to “bring home some bacon”, he bought these really thickly sliced ones that are really hard to crisp up when frying.  So I knew that even though the bacon would taste good, it’s just not the right texture to add to the cupcakes.  I ended up making mostly basic chocolate cupcakes and just a few cupcakes with bacon added just to try it out.

As it turns out, the basic chocolate cupcake recipe was AMAZING.  Even without a sweet tooth, I ate FOUR CUPCAKES!  They were very moist.  The ones with bacon bits added were ok.  The bacon bits gave the cupcakes an new dimension which I really appreciate, but I just wish I had very crispy bacon bits to make it better.  I think if I had very thinly sliced bacon that I can fry to a crisp, I would have liked the cupcakes with bacon more.

The frosting was a chocolate buttercream frosting.  It was easy and quite good.  I think you can use whatever chocolate frosting you like.

If you don’t like bacon, I would encourage you to try the recipe and simply leave out the bacon.  It’s actually super easy, and REALLY GOOD!  The batter is a little runny, so I used a soup ladle to pour the batter into the muffin cups.

I promised to save my brother a few cupcakes.  They are currently sitting the fridge, waiting for him to pick them up tomorrow.  I’m not really sure if I have enough self-control to make sure there’s enough left by tomorrow!

Here’s the cupcake recipe (to make 24 cupcakes):

  • 12 thin slices bacon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cold, strong, brewed coffee (I used Artigiano’s private reserve espresso)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown and very crispy. Drain, crumble and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, buttermilk and oil. Stir just until blended. Mix in 3/4 of the bacon, reserving the rest for garnish. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins with paper liner, dividing evenly.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan set over a wire rack. When cool, arrange the cupcakes on a serving platter. Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting and sprinkle reserved bacon crumbles on top.

Here’s the chocolate buttercream frosting recipe:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!)
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk

Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

With bacon (you can’t see the bits of bacon in the cupcake from this picture, but they are there):

 

 

Without bacon:

 

 

 

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