• Tommy Centola

Celebrating like it's a birthday

August is a busy time for families. With school getting ready to start, students and parents are preparing for the year. This year, no one knows what things will be like. For my wife and I, August is a special month.

We were not married in August. Our birthdays fall a week apart from each other. Instead of celebrating two individual days, we turn the week into a birthday celebration. The week is filled with special dinners. Some are eaten at our favorite restaurants. For the actual birthdays, I usually cook special dinners.

Today I am sharing with you two dishes that often appear on these home cooked meals. One is a favorite of my wife's, White Chocolate Cheesecake with Strawberry sauce. The other, Veal Piccata, is a dish I learned at an early age. To this day, it is still one of my favorite meals to cook and eat. Here are the recipes.

One of my wife’s favorite meals is panne veal. While panne veal is tasty, I prefer a simpler preparation for veal. Veal Piccata is quickly sautéed and topped with a simple but flavorful sauce. Don’t think of this as a special occasion dish. Treat your family any night. This recipe also works great with chicken.

Veal Piccata

4 4-ounce veal slices pounded thin

flour

Creole seasoning

3 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons hot chicken stock

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat oven to 175 ℉.

Season flour with Creole seasoning. Heat large sauté pan oven medium heat. Dredge the veal in flour, shaking off the excess. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the veal, cooking it quickly. When the meat is done, place on platter in the oven to keep hot. Add the parsley, lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot stock or broth to pan. Stir well and as soon as the sauce is bubbling, place veal on serving plates and pour sauce over top. Serve immediately with pasta on the side.

One of my wife’s favorite restaurants is Copeland’s. We often dined there when we lived in New Orleans. To say she was happy when they opened in Little Rock is an understatement. This is my interpretation of her favorite dessert from this New Orleans classic.

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

For the crust

7 whole cinnamon graham crackers, crushed

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

For the Filling

32 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

8 ounces white baking chocolate, melted and cooled

For the Strawberry Sauce

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup water

1-1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries

Red food coloring, optional

Melted white chocolate

In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar; stir in butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 10-in. springform pan. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla until well blended. Add eggs and yolks; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in white chocolate. Pour over crust. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until center is just set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. For sauce, in a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and water until smooth. Add strawberries. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in a few drops of food coloring if desired. Cool. Spread strawberry sauce over top of cheesecake; drizzle with melted white chocolate. Refrigerate leftovers.

Don’t wait for a birthday or special occasion to make these dishes. Turn any day into a celebration. If you are celebrating, here is my wish for you: Good Cooking, Good Eating and Good Living!

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