PHOO! I've been gone a long time. October was particularly busy, with all-weekend anesthesia courses to complete (on my other blog, I may post pics of me getting, and giving, nine injections in the oral cavity on a Sunday night. Nothing like it.) Now that I've primed your appetite, let me tell ya, I'm still taking pictures!
I had never heard of tiramisu, probably, until I began dating my husband. In my family, we rarely ate Italian in restaurants. Aside from our favorite restaurant which used to on Wabash called Cafe Angelo in the Oxford House hotel (now the Hotel Monaco), *** an order of tomato gravy that invariably came with green peppers in a sauce that was gorily undercooked to a bright red would leave us disgusted and seeking Chinese cuisine the next time out. But Chris' family? Oh, they love to eat in restaurants. And my mother-in-law, who moved here from Italy at eight years old, always selects Italian or "just regular American." And they always pay, so who am I to argue? Chris and I pretty much leave the experimentation in exotic cuisines to our own time.
Anyway, something that always seems to be on the menu in any Italian restaurant (especially the nicer class of them that my in-laws favor that by the way, can also competently cook a white or a red sauce) is tiramisu. It also frequents the Food Network. It looked so easy that a couple of years ago I tried Giada's recipe.
I made a few alterations that I think made all the difference. First of all, authentic or not, I can't make anything with rum in it. Let's just say that a few experiences in my twenties left rum on my "never drink again" list. So I substituted with amaretto liquor. While tasting the marscarpone mixture, I also doubled the sugar (still just 6 tablespoons total), and added a capful of vanilla extract. I've used fresh bakery ladyfingers, but the shrink-wrapped kind from the Italian grocer actually seem to work better. I have an unsweetened cocoa and chocolate mixture that my brother got me some time ago from Ghirardelli, and I dust that between layers and on top. Lastly, I don't usually have espresso on hand, so I substitute with strong coffee, preferrably the stuff that has been evaporating/condensing in the pot since morning.
Chocolate chunks on top of this one, I know, totally unnecessary, but I didn't have block chocolate, and I was too lazy to shave each individual hunk. Now ask me if I regret it. NO.
The Witt family seems to like it. For the Christmas holiday shown above, my MIL had gotten some wonderfully fresh torrone -- the best I've ever tasted. She also had the panettone. My bro brought the amaretti cookies. It was a real meeting of the minds. Stomachs.
*** Cafe Angelo is STILL my favorite Italian restaurant. I read some time ago that the former owner opened another restaurant in the suburbs... and then I lost the name. They have a dance floor and they play Sinatra tunes. If anyone out there knows, let me know!
UPDATE: Holy crud, I'm getting good at answering my own questions. Angelo Nicelli now owns the Porto Bello Italian Steakhouse in suburban Lake Zurich. We'll be checking that out soon (and taking pictures, of course.)
UPDATE on the UPDATE: Sadly, it appears that Porto Bello is no longer open. Nuts.