(April 22, 2022) Falling in love for the first time is very special.
Secret thoughts can only be shared with a dairy. If my family knew that my culinary virginity was about to be lost at such a young age, shame would forever be part of our legacy.
The year is 1972. I am a freshman at Immaculata Preparatory School and have been accepted into the American University Conservatory of Music. Advancing my passion for classical piano would not have been possible without the generosity of Nanny, my dear grandmother.
Every Wednesday, my mother drove me to the university for my lesson. That’s where we befriended the Dickersons. Mr. Dickerson was a Colonel in the Marines and Mrs. Dickerson’s sincerity and grace made her an amazing woman.
Their son, Michael, was an accomplished pianist and a starter on the school’s varsity football team. But above all, this young man with impeccable manners was very cute. Yes, I’m really lucky to study at the American University Conservatory of Music.
Our parents instantly bonded and enjoyed the conversation while Michael and I had our lessons. As I assiduously practiced my scales and arpeggios with sprinkles of diminuendos and crescendos, my thoughts turned to the next studio. I must admit, sprinklings of fantasy filled the air, but youth gave way to shyness and awkwardness.
One evening, Michael called me and invited me to dinner with his parents. Excitement and fear swept through my being as this was going to be my first date. Mom knew my tomboyish ways wouldn’t reach Dickerson’s level of sophistication. So, my mom immediately signed me up for “Mom’s Academy on How to Be a Woman.”
Every night my mom would coach me on proper etiquette. The mother made it very clear not to eat until the host picked up his fork.
Speaking of forks, Mom set the table in a way I’ve never seen. Several spoons, forks and knives were in front of me, and I thought that it only takes a knife and a fork to eat a meal.
She explained that high-end meals require specific serving pieces to accompany certain dishes.
Mother said you always start with the outer service pieces and work your way towards the center. If you forget, take a break and see what others are doing. She also reminded me to make sure to place the napkin on my lap while eating.
In the end, hours of hard training paid off and I was ready for my first date.
When I arrived at the Dickersons, I remembered my guardianship and complimented the host on such a beautiful home. Nervousness invaded my whole body, but thank God I had a purse to hold on to.
As we approached the table, Michael came over and pulled my chair out. Mother hadn’t prepared me for this, but I watched this move on TV several times and felt fully confident.
As I sat down, I wasn’t as close to the table as I would like. I happened to notice that Michael was looking at his father with a peculiar expression. The sheer panic was interrupted by a constant shaking. I couldn’t imagine what Michael was trying to do and hoped I had a few teeth left to enjoy my meal.
Later, I learned that when a gentleman pulls a chair for a lady, you are supposed to lift your back part slightly to facilitate this maneuver. Now I know why Michael had trouble moving my 150 pounds on the table.
Eventually the main course was served and Mrs. Dickerson said, “Hope you like the osso buco.” I had no idea what osso buco was and certainly didn’t try to repeat it. I just said, “Oh yeah, mom serves it all the time.” I prayed to be forgiven for lying.
When my starter was placed in front of me, I instantly became weak. The tender veal shank enveloping the decadent bone marrow made me dizzy. As the savory aromas and sinful pleasures swirled in my mouth, I knew I was instantly in love.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of tasting osso buco, I urge you to try it. That being said, veal shanks are quite expensive. Braised oxtails on mashed turnips are a modern, more affordable take on this Italian favorite. Enjoy!
Turnips are delicious but can taste slightly bitter. Also, their texture is not as creamy as potatoes. Simply prepare the mashed turnips as if you were making mashed potatoes. A ratio of two-thirds turnips and one-third potatoes will give you a creamy turnip mash.
The only difference is that potatoes need a liquid such as milk; turnips are full of juice and do not need this additive. Salt and a touch of sour cream will bring the turnip puree together.
2 tablespoons bacon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
6 to 8 oxtails
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, including leaves, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
2 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of red wine
2 cups dry white wine
2 teaspoons each of dried thyme, Provincial herbs, crushed rosemary, black pepper
kosher salt to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons of water
1. Place 1 ½ cups of flour in a pie plate. Coat each oxtail on both sides with flour.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the bacon drippings and olive oil over medium-high heat and sear the oxtails on both sides. Remove the oxtails from the pan and set aside.
3. Reduce the heat to low and loosen any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
4. Add oxtails and remaining ingredients except cornstarch and water and simmer until meat is fork tender, about 2 hours.
5. When the oxtails are cooked, remove them from the pot. Trim excess fat and puree broth using a hand blender. Strain the sauce through a strainer and return it to the pan.
6. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the porridge to the sauce and stir until the sauce thickens.
7. For plate – place the turnip mash on the plate. Garnish with oxtails and pour the sauce over the turnip puree and meat.
secret ingredient – Love. “Love loves love love.”