Goodcooking.com Cookbook Review---



Entertaining with the Sopranos
Compiled by Carmela Soprano
Written by Allen Rucker
Recipes by Michele Scicolone
Series Created by David Chase
202 pages; Hardcover, Color Photography
Werner Books, New York/Boston, 2006
Reviewed by, Chef John Vyhnanek, June 2006


This is the last year for the HBO series The Sopranos, which was on TV for six years. The dramatic series was multi-award-winning and spawned this and another cookbook, the first called The Sopranos Family Cookbook, several years ago. It was fabulous with great recipes and photographs. Certainly it was a tribute to the series and now that the series is ending, this cookbook is another tribute too. For those of you who have become fans of the HBO series, you already know all the characters including Uncle Junior, Carmela, Paulie Walnuts and Bobby Bacala. Every chapter leads in with a theme for a show, such as Chapter #1 Welcome to the Family: Baptisms, Communions and Confirmations, along with stills from the series and the topic of the chapter. Tony Soprano says, "Devout Catholics as they were, the first big event in my parents' house after my birth was the baptism. The ceremony was simple---I was brought to the church by my godparents and my mom stayed home to make rice balls. The after party was even simpler. People crowed into the little all-purpose room in the church basement and ate the pot luck offerings brought by the family and friends." Similar remembrances of confirmation and parties are included. This is followed by the recipes that might go along with the chapter theme, Neapolitan Crostini, Spaghetti Pie, Eggplant Rollatini, Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake are a few. Chapter #3, Fit for a Bride, featured recipes for a bridal shower, Chapter #6, Holidays, had recipes for Christmas Eve, St. Joseph's Day and Easter and so goes every chapter before and after.

What sets this book apart from other cookbooks is first the quality of the paper followed by the photography, what would you expect from Time-Warner and HBO? Then come the recipes---I got so hungry reading this book and looking at the pictures of the food that I had to put it down for a while. The dishes are traditional Italian-American like Prosciutto and Melon, Cannelloni with ground veal and spinach filling, Stromboli Bread and Easter Pie. I made the Neapolitan Crostini, page 14, Shrimp Aragonata, page 118 and Panna Cotta with raspberry sauce and Blueberries on page 104. Every recipe was easy, tasted great and presented beautifully. Just terrific results all around! This is a must-have cookbook for anyone who loves food, loves cooking and doesn’t want any surprises deciphering the recipe's procedure. It would make a great gift and might even become a collector's item some day. Good Cooking really likes this book! Mangia! Mangia!

Neapolitan Crostini
Serves 6 

Ingredients

2 ripe medium tomatoes, preferably New Jersey beefsteaks 
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 thin slices Italian bread, preferably semolina bread 
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 12 slices
12 anchovy fillets 
Extra virgin olive oil 

Preparation

Cut the tomatoes in half through the core and squeeze gently to extract the seeds and juice. Trim away the core. Chop the tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces and toss them in a bowl with the oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 450. Oil a large baking pan.

Arrange the bread slices on the pan. Toast the bread 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, but leave it turned on.

Place a slice of mozzarella on top of each piece of bread, and then an anchovy. Spoon a little of the tomatoes on each. Drizzle with a few drops extra virgin olive oil. Return the pan to the oven and bake 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly melted. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Aragonate, Baked Stuffed Shrimp
Serves 6 

Ingredients

1 cup fresh bread crumbs made from Italian or French bread (with the crusts removed)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped 
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
About 1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined 
2 large lemons, cut into wedges 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 450F. Oil a large baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/4 cup oil, or just enough to moisten the crumbs.

Arrange the shrimp in the pan in a single layer, curling each shrimp into a circle. Spoon a little of the bread crumb mixture onto each shrimp.

Bake until the crumbs are browned and the shrimp are cooked through when cut in the thickest part, about 10 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature, with the lemon wedges.

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce and Blueberries
Serves 12

Ingredients 

Three 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 quart half-and-half
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
One 3-inch strip lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar

Raspberry Sauce

Two 10-ounce packages frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 
1 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed with 2tablespoons water
1 cup blueberries for garnish

Preparation 

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the with their syrup, the sugar, and lemon juice in cold water. Set aside to soften. Combine the half-and-half, cream, vanilla bean (if using vanilla extract, reserve it until later), lemon zest and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and add the softened gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. 

Discard the lemon zest. If you used the vanilla bean, remove it, slit the bean lengthwise with a small sharp knife, and scrape the seeds out. Stir the seeds into the cream mixture. (Or add the vanilla extract.)

Divide the cream mixture among twelve 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Cover and refrigerate until the panna cotta is set, at least 4 hours, or overnight. 

To make the raspberry sauce, puree the berries with their syrup, the sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a small saucepan. Bring the puree to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, then pour into a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. (The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days.)

To serve, dip the bottom of one ramekin into a bowl of hot water for 10 seconds. Run a thin knife around the edge of the cream. Invert the cream onto a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining ramekins. Spoon some of the sauce around the creams. Scatter a few blueberries on top. Serve  immediately.