Milo’s Birthday

The party will be on Saturday, but today was the actual day. So I planned a simple meal of his favorites, and yet which also allowed me to refine my favorite variations on a couple of standards. He loves lasagna (he used to call it “Za-zagna” when he was little, and the name stuck). Since I’m still tinkering with my version, I gave it another whirl that took full advantage of the season’s bounty. The winning combination of veal and dashi has pretty much defined the dish for us- I’ve written about it before- so this time around what made it even better were two components that came from the garden. Christine made a big batch of roasted tomato sauce while I was in Miami, so I added that to some ground (humane, pasture-raised) local veal and let it simmer into a luscious sauce. The dashi, once made, I stirred into a roux along with a pesto made with roughly equal parts of curly endive and basil.

I get pretty annoyed dealing with lasagna noodles; it requires boiling a big pot of water, and then dealing with big, hot, slimy, crinkly noodles before they all stick together. Plus, the act of cooking them ends up knocking most of the crinkles off anyway, which is vexing in and of itself. So this time around, I just soaked them in a big bowl of hot water; in 30 minutes or so they were perfectly pliable and yet just tepid and fully intact. In a perfect world, I would have rolled out fresh pasta- maybe flavored with caramelized onions for some more depth and complexity- but store-bought served just fine. These were supplemented with some sunchoke flour for a nice silky texture. So I alternated layers of veal ragù and pesto-dashi velouté, and topped it all with fresh mozzarella and grated parmigiano. It baked up beautifully.

Originally I had planned to make some serious dark chocolate ice cream- something he loves a very great deal- so I did my usual thing: beat eggs and extra yolks, heat cream/milk mixture, vanilla, and vanilla sugar, pour onto shaved chocolate (Scharffen Berger unsweetened 99% cacao), temper eggs with the ganache, whisk over double-boiler until thick, then chill in the fridge. It set up so lusciously thick in the fridge that I asked him if it would be OK for us to have chocolate mousse instead of ice cream. He agreed, delighted, so that saved a whole step. I took some local raspberries out of the freezer, and cooked them with a splash of dessert wine left in the fridge, some maple syrup, and a little red wine until they were all busted up and gooey, then I strained the syrup into a bowl. After dinner, I scooped mousse into bowls, garnished them with strawberry slices and mint leaves, and served them. He was so excited to eat it that he didn’t want a candle, but when he asked for seconds he decided that he did. Using the 99% cacao allows one to use the normal proportion of cream and milk and still have the mousse/ice cream taste fully dark. It’s very grownup and sophisticated, and further proof that the kid really knows how to eat. And thus did he enjoy his fifth birthday.

9 comments to Milo’s Birthday

  • Brittany

    I got you back.

    Well, not really. As it was pretty half-assed.

    Happy birthday Milo. That is the second time your dad has bitched out on the churning of the chocolate ice cream that I've seen on this blog.
    I personally would feel jipped on principal, but the mousse sounds amazing, so I'll keep my mouth shut.

  • Zoomie

    Wow, five. Five! It goes by so fast. I'm glad you are both enjoying his childhood to the fullest.

  • The Spiteful Chef

    ALso, that one time he told me on MY blog that he likes to bitch out on ice cream churning, don't forget.

    Your kid has more advanced tastes than I do. Like a freaky little Thomas Keller savant or something. Happy birthday to him!

  • peter

    Doña Torta: "Dewsh" sounds like a Marvel Comics sound effect, doesn't it?

    Zoomie: Not as much as he is.

    Kristie: Well, a lot of it has to do with not wanting to listen to the GNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNAGNA noise for half an hour while I'm cooking. Also, this mousse is the SHIT.

  • Brooke

    The mousse does look like it's probably the shit. Screw the stupid ice cream churner if you don't need it.

    And I have to say "brilliant!" on soaking the lasagne noodles instead of boiling those bitches. I hate that. So is the water boiling hot, or just hot-tub hot when you add the noodles?

    Your son does seem to have a ridiculously sophistocated palate. Nice job there.

  • Jo

    1st: WE use frozen pasta sheets at work and just a quick dunk in warm water and BOOM, ready to go. Love them. I am quite sure the ruffle effect is an American affectation anyway.
    2nd: A very happy birthday to the jr. master of the house.
    3rd: God I want some zagne. Now please.

  • Jen of A2eatwrite

    All great. It must have been a happy birthday, indeed. What's up for the party! A b'day and kindergarten all in the same month – Milo must be over the moon!

  • Zoomie

    Peter, that's bull. You _are_ enjoying his childhood as much as he is! Reread a few postings about him and you'll see what I mean.

  • peter

    Brooke: Tap hot.

    Jo: I don't doubt it. Next time, I'll make it fresh. I freeze dough, but not usually already-rolled noodles, but that's more of a space thing than anything else.

    Jen: He's a happy kid, but school is taking some adjusting.

    Zoomie: it's but a pale reflection of the real thing.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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