Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays

May your holidays be filled with sparkling wine, sparkling wit, loved ones, and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Hopefully the sparkling wine and strawberries will be edible, rather than ornamental.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Awesome Short Rib Ragu

I have been making this every weekend for three weeks running because short ribs have been on sale, and frankly, this is just so delicious that I don't mind that it taking 2 days to make it.
If you like slow-cooking beef, give this a try.
If you don't like slow-cooking beef... give this a try.

Step 1 - brown that meat.
Let your short ribs (about 3 lbs worth) come to room temperature, trim off any of that really thick, hard fat, season with salt, and get a good sear on the outside (use a little evoo in the pan).

Do this in batches so you don't end up steaming your meat.

Add 1 medium/large white onion, 2 celery ribs, and 3 carrots, 4 garlic cloves, all medium diced, into the bottom of the pan with all the tasty brown bits left by the meat. Season with salt.
You may need another drizzle of olive oil to get them all going.
Cook until the onions are almost translucent.

Next add a TBSP or so of tomato paste to the pot and pour in one bottle of dry red wine: tempranillo, cabernet, even a dolcetto would work.
Just make sure you like the taste of it to drink before you cook with it.
Throw in your herb bundle (use cheesecloth if you have it. I use tea bags meant for loose tea.)
Inside it should have: 1-2 bay leaves, half a sprig of fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp dry), 3-4 fresh thyme stems (or 1 -2 tsp dry), 1/4 tsp ground clove, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 5-6 crushed black peppercorns.
Allow that to simmer for about 10 minutes and then allow to cool.
Pour over browned short ribs, or place short ribs in the pot with the wine mixture, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day allow the chill to come off everything before starting to cook.
Over medium low heat on the stove, add 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and 3-4 cups of beef stock. Enough to cover all the meat in the pot but not come more than 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pot.
Optional addition: chopped, reconstituted porcini mushrooms.

Once up to a simmer, turn off the burner, add the lid to the pot and place in a 325º oven for 3 hrs.
If you remember, stir once or twice over the 3 hrs to move things around.

No, these are not Fig Newtons or dog treats.
By the time you remove it from the oven,  the meat should have fallen away from the bones (see above).
At this point I like to remove the meat and the bones and reduce the liquids in the pot over medium-high heat for another 40-45 minutes, or until thick.
I also shred apart the meat once it has cooled for easier consumption.

Add the meat back in and allow to set.
I prefer to let it sit overnight again, eating it on Day 3.

This goes brilliantly over most things: polenta, pasta, couscous, hearty bread... whatever you have on hand.
I was really in the mood for pappardelle, so that's what I made this time around.

As always, cook the pasta in salted boiling water, drain, and cook the final minute or two with the sauce so the flavors combine.

I gave this a sprinkle of pecorino, but it doesn't need it.
It's perfect just as it is... somewhere between a stew and a ragu.
Try it out the next time you have a laid-back weekend.
You won't be sorry.

And if you've been reading my blog for a while now, yes, this is essentially what I made for the So-Bro(nx) Dinner Party, but I have perfected it since then, so it deserved a second showing.
I think this will be showing up for Christmas Eve Dinner as well.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Feline Moussassin

This is what we have been entertaining ourselves with for the past week:

The smart cat has since become the destroyer of all iPad related movement... while the less-smart cat watches sans comprehension...

The Hubs has created a monster, as now both cats prowl looking for either an iPad or an iPhone to attack, even when there are no virtual mice running across them.
But they sure are cute when they tucker themselves out:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mahi Mahi with Orange Beurre Blanc Sauce

I saw this recipe by Robert Irvine on the Food Network's website and decided it tweak it to my preferences, and availability. And it was REALLY tasty.
And actually rather easy.

Step one: marinate your fish. You could use just about any firm-fleshed fish (but not tuna) in this dish.  As so often happens, I was using what was on special that week.
I squeezed the juice of one lemon, mixed with about 2-3 TBSP of tequila (silver), and poured that over my 2 portions of fish with a pinch of salt.
You don't want them to marinate too long or the acids will start to cook the fish itself, so I would do this right as you start to make your beurre blanc.

Beurre blanc is a decadent butter sauce that can be made any number of ways, but the base needs to be acidic for the emulsification to work. You can use vinegar, wine, a citrus juice, or a combination thereof. I used 3/4 cup of orange juice with 3/4 cup white wine for my base, as I thought both white wine and orange would go nicely with the fish..
Bring this to boil and allow to reduce by half.
If you like, add some finely chopped shallot while reducing. They will retain much of their onion-y flavor without being too powerful.

Once the liquids have reduced by half, remove the pot from the heat and start adding cubes of butter, whisking them each in one at a time. Occasionally put back over the heat for a moment to keep things warm.
(When making this for 2 people, I used about half a stick of butter. More will make a really rich sauce. Too rich for me. But go with what makes your dish happy.)
The finished product should be glossy and moderately thick.

Once the sauce is finished allow it to sit and thicken up a bit while you cook your fish.
In a non-stick pan on medium-high heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and the other half of your (optional) shallot and place your fish filets skin-side down.
Flip after 2-4 minutes, once the skin is crisp.
Cook another 4-5 minutes, or until firm and opaque.

Transfer your fish to a plate and pour the rich beurre blanc sauce over the top.
I served this simply with a side of peas as it was a light dinner (well... except for the half stick of butter...) but this would also go nicely with a bed of pasta or couscous as well.

Voila! A fancy-sounding dinner in under 30 minutes.