Cooking Sopranos Style

Anyone who watches The Sopranos on Sunday nights, knows its distinctive theme music. And likewise, you know how important food and the celebration of it is to Italian families, so it’s no surprise that Entertaining with The Sopranos hit bookstores in February.

With the cover riffing on Martha Stewart’s Entertaining cover shot, this cookbook is 200 pages chock-full of color photographs, easy-to-follow recipes and my favorite, information on the history of the dishes and traditions. You’ll even find out how to set a table, planning your time for a big dinner party, handling an out-of-control guest, how to look good in family snapshots, bar basics and wine suggestions direct from Artie Bucco, owner of the popular Nuovo Vesuvio restaurant in Newark, New Jersey.

You’ll find Neapolitan-based recipes for Easter Pie, St. Joseph’s Day Zeppole, Shrimp Aragonate, Baccala Fritta, Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce, Baked Peppers Au Gratin, Veal Rollatini with Peas and, of course, traditional Baked Ziti and Lasagna. I’m going to take a whack at the Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake for Father’s Day tomorrow.

In Carmela’s own words, “What’s closer to a celebration of life than celebrations? Look for them, jump into them, charger plates and all, and have a ball.” Mangia!

Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake with Mocha Fudge Frosting
Serves 12

2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream, buttermilk, or plain yogurt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces

Place rack in center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 13x9x2 baking pan. Invert the pan and tap out excess flour. Sift together the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Melt the butter with the water, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until smooth. Scrape the mixture into the large bowl and stir until just blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for about 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and cool completely.

To make the frosting, in a medium saucepan, heat the cream, butter, corn syrup and espresso until simmering. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand a few minutes to soften. Stir until completely smooth. Chill, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is just thick enough to spread.

Place the cake upside down on a tray or board. Scrape the frosting onto the cake and spread it evenly over the top and sides with a rubber spatula.

Let the cake set at cool room temperature at least 1 hour before cutting. Or refrigerate until the frosting is set, then wrap loosely in foil and store overnight.

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