A few months ago, I shared my favorite lasagna recipe. But you can’t just plop down a lasagna (especially when you’re having friends over) and call it good. So today I’m sharing the add-ons — like the accessories to a killer outfit.
But first, let’s get the salad out of the way. In your 5-star Italian dinner, you should have a salad (because everyone feels better when there’s some representative green). But it’s like basic undies — more socially acceptable if it’s there; could possibly be exciting (or more likely not); but definitely not the star attraction. Moving ahead.
Garlic bread. Yum. But why not amp it up with this *amazing* Garlic Confit Toast? (And please do not pronounce it “KON-fitt.” It’s “kon-FEE.” Just so ya know.) It blows plain ol’ garlic bread out of the water, and it’s no more trouble to make, especially if you do it ahead of time. Not only is the butter infused with garlic, it also has herbs, Parmesan, and a hint of heat to take it to the next level.
Now for dessert. After all those bread-y carbs, the last thing I want is cake. Tiramisu, you’re delicious, but I’ll save you for another time. Right now, I want just a bit of chocolate (because how else will your mouth know that dinner is over?). One of my favorite treats is the budino, which is the Italian word for pudding or custard. Once again, you can make it ahead, and unlike pots du creme or tiramisu, there’s no baking involved so you can let your creativity flow by serving it in fancy glassware, heirloom teacups, or whatever suits you. The only trick here is not to rush the heating of your cream, and to *slowly* incorporate your eggs so that you do not scramble them. Whether chocolate, butterscotch, salted caramel, etc. — budino lends a fancy touch.
Garlic Confit Toast
- 1 head garlic
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 teaspoons chopped oregano
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 baguette sliced in half lengthwise, then crosswise
Cook cloves from 1 head garlic in 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter in a small covered saucepan over medium-low heat until golden brown and very soft, 15–20 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; let cool.
Add 1 cup grated Parmesan, 2 teaspoons chopped oregano, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to garlic and mash to a paste; season with salt.
Heat broiler. Slice a baguette in half lengthwise, then crosswise. Broil, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet until golden brown, 1-2 minutes (watch carefully). Let cool slightly, then spread cut side with garlic paste. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Slice.
Bittersweet Chocolate Budino
— Italian My Way, by Johnathan Waxman
- 8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate (70-80%), chopped
- 1 ounce milk chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 6 large egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (1/2 tablespoon) unsalted butter
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional, you can also use brandy or other liqueur of your choosing)
- unsweetened whipped cream, for topping
Gently melt chocolates together in a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second intervals on half power. You don’t want to overheat the chocolate, or it will separate.
Warm the cream in a heavy saucepan set over low heat until it just starts to steam (do not let it boil).
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. Slowly whisk about 1/2 of the warm cream into the egg yolks. The idea here is to temper the egg yolks rather than cook them, so drizzle the warm cream in slowly while you whisk. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the cream and return to medium-low heat. Stir with a rubber spatula until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spatula, about 10 minutes.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any remaining solids. Stir in the butter until melted, then cool slightly at cool room temperature or for a few minutes in the fridge. Whisk the cooled custard into the melted chocolate, a little at a time, until fully incorporated. The mixture may seize and become lumpy at first, but as you continue to add more custard it should smooth out to a pudding-like consistency. Stir in the sea salt, vanilla, and bourbon (or other liqueur as desired).
Pour the pudding into a serving bowl or spoon into individual cups or jars. If your pudding has cooled too much it will be quite thick, in which case whipping or piping it might be the easiest way to get it evenly into the small containers with little mess. Cover and chill for an hour or so. If your budino has chilled longer than that (and it can certainly be refrigerated overnight if necessary), let it come to room temperature for 20 or 30 minutes before serving, topped with a dollop of whipped cream.