Friday, January 21, 2011

Beef Bourguignon

John and I have the travel bug lately and we're working on preliminary plans for a trip to France, hopefully in the fall. Nothing sounds better on a frigid, snowy winter day than a rich, rib-sticking beef stew (ideally in a cozy Brasserie in Paris, but in this case, home was going to have to do.) French Food at Home is a great show on the Cooking Channel. People are often intimidated by the idea of cooking French Food but she makes it very approachable. I was virtually drooling on the remote when she made this dish so I decided to give it a try. I adapted the recipe to cut it in roughly in half which served 4 people generously. (Note, this takes about three hours to cook slowly in the oven, active cooking time is only 40 mins or so. Definitely a Saturday or Sunday meal.) Ingredients: 2 pounds boneless stew meat cut into large chunks, I used a sirloin tip roast 1 cup of baby carrots (or 1-2 carrots peeled and cut into pieces) 1 small onion, quartered 3 cloves of garlic, crushed 3 tablespoons of flour 1/2 bottle of dry red wine, I used a Bordeaux 2 1/2 cups beef stock 2 bay leaves 4 sprigs of fresh parsley, whole including stems 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, whole 3 slices of bacon, sliced thinly into lardons 20 pearl onions, I used frozen 1- 8oz package of cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, quartered Preheat the oven to 325. You want the rack in the bottom third of the oven so that a dutch oven will fit. Cut the sirloin roast into large pieces, 2-3 inch squares, and then seasoned it with kosher salt and black pepper. I browned the meat in some olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven (you need one with a lid for baking.) I cooked the pieces in two batches to avoid crowding them. I cooked the beef for 2-3 minutes on all sides until it was brown. As soon as it gives way easily when you try to pick it up, its done. If its clinging to the pot, give it a minute more.
Next, I removed the beef from the pan, turned the heat down to medium and added the carrots and the quartered onion. (You'll strain these out later which is why you don't have to cut them up.) I cooked them for 3-4 minutes until golden before adding the garlic cloves, cooking one minute longer. div>Next, I sprinkled the flour over the vegetables- tossing to coat. This helps to thicken the sauce as the stew cooks. Lastly, I added the liquids and fresh herbs to the pot- scraping all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pot as they deglazed it. The beef pieces are tucked down into the liquid and then the covered pot goes into the oven for about 2 hours. I let mine go closer to 2 and a 1/2 hours. The meat should be falling-apart-tender and your kitchen smells mouth-wateringly delicious.
I wish this picture wasn't so hazy but you can see the richness that develops as the vegetables flavor the cooking liquid that then slowly braises the meat.
During the last 30 minutes of cooking time, I prepared what Laura refers to as the traditional French garnish for this dish. I first crisped the bacon lardons in a pan, rendering all of the fat. I strained the bacon pieces out and set aside for later. I then browned the pearl onions (I set them out to thaw a bit first) in the bacon fat until they were golden, 6-7 minutes.
I strained the onions out into a large glass bowl and then browned the mushrooms for 5-6 minutes. (To get nicely toasted mushrooms, use a large skillet so they aren't crowded and don't stir them too often.) I added a tablespoon of butter to the bacon fat as they browned.
When they were brown and tender, I poured the mushrooms into the bowl with the onions and set aside. At this point, you carefully transfer (using tongs) the chunks of beef from the pot to the bowl with the onions and mushrooms. You then strain the cooking liquid from the pot into another large bowl. The carrots are probably super mushy which is why Laura removes them- mine weren't too bad so I actually kept some of them in. You want to remove the onions, herbs, garlic skins, etc.
My sauce had thickened to my liking- however as Laura suggests in her recipe- you can transfer the liquid back to the pot and boil down to a thicker sauce if you prefer. You then add the beef and garnish back into the pot with the liquid. You can serve immediately or reheat to serve later. This keeps well for a day in the fridge. I served the stew over some buttermilk whipped potatoes, garnished with some freshly chopped parsley and the crispy bacon lardons. I did a quick saute of haricot verts (thin French green beans) and garlic in some butter as well. Make sure you have a crusty French baguette to help soak up the delicious sauce. I can't wait to try the real thing a Paris some day soon! Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Corn Bread

I borrowed this delicious Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Corn Bread recipe from -my go-to favorite cooking blog- and while I wanted to share it with you, I'll also direct you to her post for more insight and pictures. (I'm not sure what the etiquette would be for blogging about a blog either so I want to give credit where its due!)
I happen to love cornbread and all of the yummy twist and varieties you can create. You can make it white, yellow, savory, sweet or shape it into muffins, loafs, sticks or cakes. This version in particular was unlike any I'd seen before. I was picturing chunks of goat cheese but you actually blend it into the batter which gives it a nice tang. The savory flavors were delicious together and the bread was perfectly moist and fluffy in texture (with a little contrasting crunch from the corn.)
Ingredients: 1 cup cornmeal (I used yellow)
2 cups buttermilk 6 tablespoons of butter total
1 cup onion, medium dice
1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 6 ounce log of goat cheese, at room temperature
2 sprigs of fresh thyme- leaves removed
2 tablespoons honey 1/4 cup granulated sugar 3 large eggs, at room temperature 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (I used frozen)
Recommendation: Set the goat cheese out at room temperature a few hours ahead. First, I combined the corn meal and buttermilk together in a bowl to soak while I prepared the rest. I sauteed the onions in two tablespoons of the butter and a small pinch of salt over medium heat until they were barely golden brown all over. Next I measured the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together in a bowl and mixed well with a whisk.
After that, I placed the softened goat cheese in the standing mixer and whipped it until it was light and smooth. I then added the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl each time.
Next in went 2 tablespoons of melted butter, the sugar, honey, thyme and the buttermilk/cornmeal mixture, mixing until well incorporated. Lastly, I gently mixed in the flour mixture before folding in the corn kernels. (I would cut back to a scant 2 cups of corn next time.) With the oven at 350 degrees, I placed the remaining two tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan. (As mentions, you can use a round cake pan or square baking pan, whatever you have on hand.) I put the pan in the oven for 5 minutes to melt the butter and to heat the pan, ensuring a crunchy brown crust on the bread. I then poured the batter into the pan, sprinkled the top with the onions and baked for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center came out clean. I let the pan cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing the ring and cutting it into squares. It truly is best if you serve it right away or at the very least reheat before serving. (I especially like the crunchy edge pieces.) I took this to a pot luck and we had some left over with soup the next night. Will definitely use this as the base for my next cornbread creation!

Friday, January 14, 2011

White Bean Chicken Chili

This is a delicious and nutritious alternative to making a big pot of chili on a cold day. I've had these "white" or "green" chili's in the past- the major difference is that the warm spice of Cumin and Oregano stands alone without the heat of the red Chili powder- also there are no tomatoes. I used cubed white meat chicken which eliminates the majority of the fat associated with ground beef.

All healthy talk aside, the flavors are big and a bowl of this chili will warm you up and and fill you up just the same.

serves 8-10 people

2 medium yellow onions
2 fresh poblano peppers
5 large garlic cloves
1.5 tablespoon of dried Mexican Oregano
1.5 tablespoon of Cumin
2 bay leaves
1 large and 1 small can of chopped green chiles
3 chicken breasts bone-in, skin on**
6 cups chicken stock (see recipe below for homemade)
2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro- chopped

**Shortcut: Use the white meat (and maybe a little bit of the dark meat) from 1 large rotisserie chicken from your grocery store.

If starting with split chicken breasts, I roast them on a rimmed baking sheet at 375 degrees for 35 or 40 minutes. I drizzle them with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper first. I let them cool completely before removing the skins and cutting the meat from the bones. This ensures that the meat holds onto all of the flavors. (They come in packages of two so I roasted all four breasts and then reserved one to make a chicken salad with later.) I then cubed the meat and refrigerated it until I was ready to make the soup.

**I then made a simple fresh Chicken Stock from the bones of the four breasts. (You could also do this with the rotisserie chicken once you've picked the meat.) See recipe below if you're interested, if not, store bought is just fine as well.

White Bean Chicken Chili:

While warming a large heavy bottomed soup pot drizzled with two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, I gave the onions a rough chop with a knife and then pulsed it into a fairly fine dice in the food processor. I poured the onion into the pot and let the onion start to cook while I chopped the peppers.

Next, I removed the stem and the majority of the seeds from the poblanos- gave them a rough chop and then used the processor to break them down to a dice. I added the pepper to the onion and cooked the veggies together for another 4 minutes or so (total of 7 minutes ). The onion should be translucent but not too brown and the pepper softened. I seasoned the mixture with a generous teaspoon of kosher salt and some black pepper at this stage.

Next I grated the garlic cloves into the pot using a rasp, added the cumin and oregano- letting them toast for one minute before adding the chopped green chiles, the cubed chicken, the beans, the chicken stock and the bay leaf. I brought the soup to a boil and then reduced to medium-low heat to simmer for 30-40 minutes- giving the beans time to soak up lots of flavor. I stir in the fresh cilantro just before serving, using some extra for garnish.

Serve with tortilla chips, a dollup of sour cream, some grated pepper jack cheese or maybe a jalapeno cheddar corn bread. It freezes great as well if you want to stash some away for a lazy rainy day.

**Fresh Chicken Stock: Place the bones and all of the juices in the bottom of the baking sheet into a large pot. I then added a handful of baby carrots, one onion, cut into quarters, three cloves of garlics that I whack with a knife to release more flavor (you can leave the peel on), three sprigs of fresh thyme, and a bay leaf. (A stalk of celery would be great too if you have one, I didn't in this case.)

I filled the pot with water so that it was just covering the bones (about 8 cups) and placed it over medium-high heat. As soon as the mixture reached a boil, I lowered the heat to low and covered the pot, cooking for an hour or 90 minutes until the liquid is a toasty golden brown. Bonus: Your house smells like delicious chicken soup when its done. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a pitcher to remove all of the veggies to and refrigerate or freeze until you're ready to use.

Pan Seared Salmon with Roasted Ratatouille

I might need to change the name of my blog to "Deliberately Roasted Vegetables" here soon seeing as it seems that's all I write about lately... but I'm not bored with them yet so I hope you're no either. It seems everyone is in "healthy eating" mode with the start of the New Year and this is a satisfying way to work in some heart healthy protein and a whole bunch of veggies. I promise you won't miss the carbs but a big slice of whole grain garlic toast rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with olive oil would fix you right up if you did. Roasted Ratatouille: (serves 4) 1 small/medium sized eggplant- sliced and cut into 3/4 inch pieces 2 medium sized zucchini squashes- cut into 3/4 inch pieces 1 cup of grape or cherry tomatoes- whole 1 bulb of fresh fennel- halved lengthwise and sliced into half inch slices 4 large cloves of garlic- thinly sliced 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil 1 1/2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar 8 sprigs of fresh thyme- leaves removed from stems 6 large leaves of fresh basil- sliced thinly 1 tablespoon of the fennel fronds- roughly chopped 1 generous teaspoon of kosher salt and some black pepper Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place two large baking/cookie sheets in the oven. Meanwhile, toss the eggplant, zucchini and fennel in a bowl with the olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. NOTE: I actually did the eggplant in a separate bowl so that it wouldn't hog the olive oil from the other veggies. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and spray lightly with Pam before spreading the veggies out. I put the eggplant on one and the zucchini and fennel on the other. The hot pan ensures that you get a nice brown crust and reduces the cooking time slightly. I think you need two pans to give the vegetables plenty of room to caramelize nicely. Next, toss the tomatoes in one of the bowls with a drizzle of oil and the sliced garlic. After 15 minutes I removed the pans from the oven and stirred/flipped the vegetables and added the tomatoes and garlic to the pan with the zucchini and fennel. I cooked it for another 10-15 minutes until the zucchini was tender and the tomatoes had softened. A benefit to cooking the eggplant on its own pan is to ensure it doesn't sop up the juices of the other vegetables and become soggy. Once the vegetables had all cooked through, I tossed them in a large bowl with the balsamic, basil and fennel fronds. (I gave the tomatoes a little squish on the baking sheet first to break the skins, creating a "sauce" for the mixture. I also picked out a few of the skins that had come loose.)
I let the veggies hang out while I seared the salmon. I sprinkled the skinless filets with salt and pepper and then seared them in a skillet - with a drizzle of olive oil- over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes per side until toasty and barely cooked through. They will continue to cook once you take them off the heat so air on the medium rare side to avoid it getting tough.
I served the salmon over/beside a heaping scoop of the ratatouille e voila! A snap to throw together on a weeknight or something worthy of a great bottle of pinot noir to share with company.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bananas Foster

If I'm judging by the last two weeks, I'd have to say that 2011 is going to be the year of decadence. We rung in the New Year with a food-filled weekend in New Orleans for a friends wedding and then I spent the next week in Charleston where I made it a mission to visit as many of my favorite eateries as physically possible. A highlight of it all for me an amazing meal at Galatoire's in New Orleans. It was the bananas foster bread pudding that set the whole thing over the edge for me thus I've had bananas foster on the brain ever since. Ingredients: (serves two generously) 2 bananas, air on the barely ripe side 3 tablespoons of butter 1/4 cup of dark run 1/4 cup of brown sugar juice of 1/4 of a lemon small pinch of kosher salt vanilla ice cream I peeled and sliced the bananas into one inch pieces while my butter melted in a skillet over medium-high/high heat . You want the bananas thick so that they don't get too mushy while they brown. Choosing barely/perfectly but not overripe bananas is the other trick.

I cooked the bananas for two minutes and then flipped them over to brown the other side for another two minutes.

I then added the rum and carefully- using a long fireplace lighter- ignited the sauce to flambe the mixture. This allows the alcohol to burn off more quickly than letting it simply reduce over the heat. Again you are aiming to caramelize the bananas without cooking them to mush. (You can just let it simmer for a minute if you prefer.)

As soon as the flame disappeared (takes 20 seconds or so), I sprinkled in the brown sugar, salt and lemon juice. I gently tossed the mixture together to coat the bananas in the toasty caramel-y sauce. As soon as the sugar had dissolved (maybe one or more two minutes), we to were ready to serve.

I tried to get fancy and I served the bananas over a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of Hagen Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream. If you believe in such a thing, this was actually too decadent. I'd stick with plain old vanilla next time. Nonetheless, it was absolutely yummy. I'll try to work it into a bread pudding version next time!