Archive for the ‘Sauces’ Category

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Braised beef short rib defies definition

October 28, 2008

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Braise (tr.v. braised, brais*ing, brais*es): To cook by browning in fat, then simmering in a small quantity of liquid in a covered container.

Seldom has a definition been so inadequate. Shouldn’t the definition of braise include words like “sublime,” “transcendent,” “gorgeous,” “silky,” or just plain “delicious”? Clearly dictionary writers have not eaten braised meats, or they wouldn’t be so adjectively-challenged.

A braise done right is a thing of beauty and joy to devour. And to eat my husband’s braised beef short ribs is to consume comfort and deliciousness in a bowl. It’s the kind of meal that assaults your senses and your memories… conjuring up the sounds of your grandmother’s kitchen, or the feeling of swinging your legs under the dining room chair when you were seven, or the first time you ever had mashed potatoes. If there were a movie about eating these braised short ribs, it would include a montage of your most favorite childhood memories. Seriously, they’re that good.

The ingenious braising process not only yields fork-tender strands of juicy, flavorful meat, it also produces the most heavenly dark and rich sauce to pour over it (and over the starch of your choice). With subtle hints of the generous veg, wine and of course, meat, that combined forces for hours over low heat, the sauce alone is good enough to lick off the back of your spoon — repeatedly and joyfully.

Still not convinced? Well, if my words aren’t enough to persuade you, perhaps you can feast your eyes on the photographs… Yes, it really is as good as it looks.

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And now the husband’s take…

While I do love to braise, and braise often, there are even better reasons to make this recipe. First, is its versatility. There are really a half dozen ways you can use the short rib you’ve prepared; here I show you two. One, you can simply remove the bone and serve the short rib, as is, covered with sauce. The is classic: Put your protein on a plate, serve with starch (I like spaetzle) and some vegetables, and you are good to go. Or, two, you can shred the short rib and serve it in its sauce over pasta for a one-plate dish. Another way, not shown here, is to serve the short rib on toast or a roll for a truly decadent sandwich. (This is frequently the fate of our leftovers!)

The second thing I love about this recipe is what I think of as its “watch the game” benefits. Sure, this recipe does take time. But it really is a series of 10 minute bursts. The night before you take 10 minutes to start it marinating, and then you forget it. The next day you brown things, add some liquid, put it in the pot, and go “watch the game.” When the game is over, you strain and work for 10 to 15 minutes. An hour or so later, you have one of the best meals you’ve ever eaten. This is huge. While I’m often in the kitchen, I’ve got plenty of time to do other things.

Finally, I’ve attached my recipe for pasta dough. I’ve been playing with it and have never quite been pleased with my results until recently. The biggest change is a shift in mindset. I’ve started to think of it more like a pie crust, meaning, I need just enough moisture to bring it together and then I need to let it rest. Once I began to imagine it this way, I found my pasta was all the better. After I add the eggs, I look for the dough to be a bit like wet sand and not more. I shape it, then let it sit for at least 30 minutes before rolling. Everyone agrees the pasta is even better now.

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Braised Beef Short Rib
Ingredients:
5 lbs. beef short ribs (bone in)
1 large onion (rough chop)
2 medium carrots (rough chop)
3 ribs celery (rough chop)
5 sprigs thyme
1 bunch stems of parsley (just stems)
2 bay leaves
salt
pepper

Marinade:
1 qt. beef stock
2 cups red wine (rec. cabernet sauvignon/shiraz)
1 large onion (rough chop)
3 medium carrots (rough chop)
3 large ribs celery (rough chop)
4 cloves garlic
6 stems fresh parsley
5 sprigs fresh thyme
5 peppercorns

Directions:
1. In a large container, combine the ingredients for the marinade and add the short ribs, making sure they are fully submerged. Refrigerate overnight or for no more than 24 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 250F.

3. Remove the short ribs from the marinade, pat dry and set aside. Stain the liquid and reserve both the vegetables and the liquids for later use.

4. Place a large pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once the oil shimmers and before it smokes, add the short ribs being careful not to overcrowd. They should sizzle softly. You may need to work in batches. Brown the meat on all sides.

5. Add both the reserved vegetables and new. Scrape the bottom of the pot to remove the fond (the caramelized bits stuck to the pan). Continue to cook over medium to medium high heat until the onions begin to take on a golden color.

6. Add the reserved liquid from the marinade. Once again, scrape the bottom to remove all the fond. Add the bay leaves, thyme, parsley stems, and meat. If the meat is not covered add just enough water to cover.

7. Place in oven for 4 1/2 hours or until the meat falls from the bone.

8. Remove meat, cover in aluminum foil, place in a warm oven and strain liquid.

9. Place liquid over medium to medium high heat and reduce about 75% or until it forms a viscous sauce. It should coat the back of the spoon easily. At this point, you can serve the short rib with the sauce over it, or add shredded meat to the sauce and serve over pasta. If over pasta, I recommend topping with pecorino or parmesan cheese.

Fresh Pasta
Ingredients:
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tbsp. water

Directions:
1. Place the flour in a food processor and run. Slowly add the beaten eggs. Once integrated stop. Add the water and pulse 5-6 times.

2. The flour should feel/look like wet sand and come together if pressed in the palm of your hand. If it doesn’t, add a small bit of water and pulse again. It should not come together easily.

3. Turn the dough out into a bowl and press into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. If it has rested longer, let it sit out still wrapped for about 10 minutes or until you can work with it more easily.

4. Cut into four pieces and roll out using a pasta machine. Start at the lowest setting and follow your machine’s instructions. You can hand cut to papperadell or tagatali or use machine’s cutting attachments.

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Braised pork shoulder… It’s magically delicious!

May 12, 2008

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Ah, the pig.

That regal creature that Homer Simpson once referred to as a “wonderful, magical animal.” Indeed, I believe the pig may be magical: After all, a little bit of pig seems to make everything a lot more delicious. (And, never having had unicorn, I can only assume the pig is far tastier.)

My husband has long been under the spell of the swine, and has lately become a little more obsessed. Take, for example, the menu he prepared last week when we had family in town:

Monday: Braised pork belly. Tuesday: Braised pork shoulder. Wednesday: Barbecued pork ribs. If he had prepared pig trotters on Thursday, I was going to start ransacking the house looking for the pig carcass he was obviously hiding.

Not that I’m complaining. Doctors may not agree, but I believe a steady diet of pig leads to healthy — or at least, happy — living. And that is why we’re sharing with you Tuesday’s masterpiece: Braised pork shoulder.

Yes, the husband has not only blessedly turned his attention to that wonderful, magical animal… he has also dedicated himself to studying perhaps the most delicious art of food preparation: braising. Braising, that most perfect of techniques for concocting tender, delectable, melt-in-your-mouth meat. And pig, that meat most amenable to the BBQ chef’s mantra of “low and slow.”

The result of combining these two divine things? Heavenly, tender, succulent pork shoulder and a lovingly reduced sauce that will transport your taste buds to nirvana. I’m not exaggerating. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.

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And now, the husband speaks…

I do love some pig. I’ve made more than a few pork dishes in the past week, but how’s that my fault? I mean, I didn’t make the pig that delicious.

But while this dish does demonstrate the magic of pig, it also is an example of the greatest technique I learned in culinary school — sauce making. There is perhaps nothing more French than the act of making sauce, and you have to give those cheese-eaters credit: Uninteresting morsels of food can be turned into something really special with the right sauce. In this dish, the sauce is made by reducing the cooking liquid to a near-glaze until it it is rich, delicious, and enhances the flavor of the meat.

What’s more, this dish also works with a newer obsession of mine: beer. I have to admit, I spend an inordinate amount of time at Rick’s Wine and Gourmet here in Alexandria, Va. I’ve even become friends with my local beermonger and fellow blogger, Nick. The store and Nick have been my cheerful suppliers as I continue to plow along. But this post is about demonstrating the glorious potential of beer, not about the high likelihood of seeing me in my little beer shop around the corner.

Here the beer is part of the braising liquid. The pork shoulder is browned and then slowly cooked in combination with Belgian strong ale and chicken stock. Along with their higher alcohol content, Belgian strong ales are known for their intense flavors that I feel pair naturally with pork. Here, I used a dark or golden variety of this style that exhibits fruit, citrus rind and spice; it reminds me of the classic pairings of pork with apples and cinnamon. The sauce that is rendered from the cooking liquid has a sweetness and a nice acidity — and I’m fairly confident would make my fingers delicious enough to eat.

Finally, this recipe is an homage to Daniel Boulud. While we were living NYC, my wife and I went to his flagship restaurant, Daniel, in midtown. For both my wife and I that experience was incredibly memorable not only for the amazing meal, but for the hospitality heaped upon us by the staff. After finding out I was a culinary student, the chef did those little extras that made us feel lavished upon. Beyond a clear demonstration of what it means to receive multiple Michelin stars and four stars from The New York Times, it showed us a sense of generosity that we’ll try to show to others.

This recipe was inspired by his recent book Braise. He has a recipe for pork shoulder with hazel nuts and Jerusalem artichokes (AKA sunchokes). While I liked the original version, I changed it to include more American flavors such as bourbon and pecans, gave up white wine for my heartier ale and swapped the very earthy Jerusalem artichokes with the milder new potatoes. The recipes do vary in grades from there, but I’d like to think this version is… I won’t say better, just more pleasing to a pair of people.

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Click here to download the recipe.

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It’s paradise, mon: Seared scallops with meyer lemon vinaigrette

January 29, 2007

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Afraid of seafood, perhaps? Leery of a fishy smell and a strange, spongy texture? Fear not, friends. This scallop dish is here to seduce you.

Just as The Perfect Storm might have turned you off from seafaring, seared scallops with meyer lemon vinaigrette is the postcard from the Caribbean that will lure you back. It’s delicate and sweet. It tastes fresh and green and citrus-y… a surprising breath of spring in the midst of 20 degree weather here. Ahhh.

Tempting, right? Can’t you just picture curling up your toes in that white sand as warm blue waters lap at your feet? Don’t you just want to fork that scallop in?

This dish is successful for its alluring simplicity: It’s beautiful, and there isn’t much to it. A nest of fresh greens, sprinkled lightly with a lemony, zesty vinaigrette. One or two simply seared scallops, sweet and tender — perfectly seasoned — resting on top. There aren’t flavors at war or strong tastes to assault your mouth… it all tastes natural, fresh and delicious.

Come on now. Open wide. I’ll strike up the calypso band.

Click here to download the recipe for Seared Scallops w/ Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.

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Sweet pork chop and quince? Genius!

October 30, 2006

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My husband has reached a satisfying stage as a cook. Yes, he’s been making scrumptious food this entire time. But now, on occassion, I get to take credit for it (or try to) — without having to lift a finger.

Take the meal pictured above, Maple-Dijon Glazed Rib Chops with Quince. I proposed that he barbeque something — pork, perhaps — for our guests. Genius. Upon tasting the quinces that he had bought, I proposed that he use them as a sweet side to the pork dish. Magnificent. And of course, I suggested he make some damn good mashed potatoes (not pictured) that would pair perfectly with the sweet honeyed pork and quince. Outstanding!

The whole meal was a smashing success, and it was, like, totally my idea.

Granted, I didn’t actually make any of the elements that were such a smash. (I do help, though. I made the salad and the vegetable — again, not pictured. Just take my word for it. And I clean, too. And I’m an excellent eater.)

Yes, my husband took the raw clay of my unformed, rather vague ideas and turned them into masterpieces. But do I get some credit for providing the clay, people? Should Michelangelo get all the glory? What about the guy who pointed out David to him, and said “That would make a heck of a statue?”

No matter, my small reward will be eating the fruits of my husband’s cooking. And believe me, it’s not really that small a reward. This dish — for example — is absolutely delicious, and perfect for fall. The pork is tender and sweet, with the delicious smokey aroma that comes when sugar hits the grill and caramelizes. And the quince accompaniment is the perfect dancing partner for the pork. Forked up alone or together, either subject is dazzling. I highly recommend. Read on for the recipe and his how-to!

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Ginger? In Ice Cream? Hmm…

October 25, 2006

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I scream, you scream, we all scream… for ginger ice cream.

Pause. “Ginger?” you say.

Ginger, indeed.

If you’re skeptical, folks, it’s only because you have not yet sampled the delicious ginger ice cream (with coconut caramel sauce) that my husband has concocted. I know I said that mint ice cream was my thing. Perhaps I spoke too soon. Yes, this ginger ice cream was that good. One, it has a vegetable in it — sort of. (Ginger is a plant, right?) So it’s healthy, like mint ice cream is healthy. Two, it has a delicious and unexpected kick to it — delivered by the spicy little morsels of fresh and candied ginger lurking in its white creaminess. And three, it was covered with decadent and beautiful coconut caramel sauce. That just put it over the top.

Then again, I am a fair-weather ice cream eater. Generally, I’m partial to the ice cream I’m eating at any particular moment. But, truly, ginger ice cream has won a place in my heart. Try it, and I think you’ll agree. (And just to be absolutely sure which one is my favorite, I think I’ll have to alternate eating mint and ginger ice cream. Just to be sure of the winner, you know. Ah, what I do for food.)

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Behold! Macaroni and cheese…

September 25, 2006

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

You say cheese, and I say “Where? Can I have some?”

Yes, I love cheese. But who doesn’t? Cheese is fantastic. And it comes in so many wonderful, varied flavors. Just gazing at the vast offerings of our Whole Foods cheese monger — a tiny fraction, I’m sure, of the true number of manufactured cheeses — makes me weak in the knees. Tasting all these cheeses is a worthy obsession for a lifetime. Every time I think I’m at the ultimate cheese summit, I discover that there’s yet more Everest to climb. Right now, for example, I’m obsessed with bleu cheese. But there are so many bleus! What can a girl do? Try them all, of course.

But I digress. We’re talking today about macaroni and cheese. And nevermind about the macaroni. The cheese is the thing. Here my husband has combined four glorious cheeses to make a zesty, sharp, melty delicious sauce that smothers the pallid macaroni and raises mac and cheese to new heights. And unlike the familiar Kraft macaroni and cheese — which fond childhood memories will not allow me to knock — this is a hearty, delicious casserole dish. You have to power your spoon through a wonderfully crunchy bread crumb layer to mound out the steaming, cheesy macaroni and its dairy-ful sauce.

My stomach is growling just thinking about it. Yours, too? Read on for my hubby’s recipe.

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It’s called ‘special’ for a reason: Spicy red sauce

September 22, 2006

Spicy red sauce

Pizza

Ah, red sauce. This tasty concoction has been a staple in my diet since the hubby started his cooking endeavors. Sure, it’s changed over the years. Sometimes he’ll amp up the spices, sometimes he’ll lift the heat levels, sometimes he ‘ll dash in booze of various types to see what will happen (always a worthy cooking experiment). And, as loving wife and hungry companion, I’ve amiably tried them all. (Not a huge sacrifice in the scheme of marriage, we’ll all agree.)

After these many years of experiments, however, the testing has slowed — and now he seems to have perfected a wonderfully flavored, hearty tomato sauce. It clings happily to pastas of all shapes and sizes, and makes a delicious base for the homemade pizzas that exit our oven. It has a rich — sweet, not acidic — tomato flavor, and a surprising kick that I think goes great with the starchy, buttery vehicles it always sits on. I’ve always referred to this sauce as “special,” and now that my days as guinea pig are over, I know I’ll get a reliable and hearty meal every time I order “special pasta.” Care to try it? Read on for my husband’s explainer…

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