Monday, November 22, 2010

Red Red Wine Ragu

Each time that I go to Philly for a visit, it's a total food fest. Whether it's checking out the latest Garces opening, or stocking up on supplies at the Italian Market or Reading Terminal, it's pretty much non-stop eating.

This past weekend was no different. Because it was so chilly, it felt like the perfect weather for making short ribs. Instead of serving them straight up, they got shredded into a sauce to serve over fresh pasta. DE-lish!

I used a braised short rib recipe from Mario Batali as a base for this pasta sauce. When the short ribs were done, I removed them from the braise, reduced the sauce, pureed it, shredded the meat, and put it back into the sauce. Voila! Short rib ragu! It may sound like a lot of work, but most of the work happens unattended so you can have a drink and spend a few hours playing tennis, bowling, and golf on your Wii. Not that I know anything about that.

Red red wine. For drinking.

Short Rib Ragu

(Adapted from Mario Batali)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large Spanish onions, diced
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 cups Barolo or other hearty red wine
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (or 2 cups prepared tomato sauce)
Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook the meat on each side until deep brown all on sides, about 12 minutes per batch. Remove the short ribs to a plate and set aside.

2. Remove any excess oil and then add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, and pancetta to the pan and cook over medium-high heat until beginning to brown and starting to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and the tomatoes and juices and bring the mixture to a boil.

3. Return the meat to the pot and bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until the meat is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4. Transfer the meat to a plate. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and cook for 30 minutes to reduce to about 2 1/2 cups. Once reduced, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.

5. Meanwhile, shred the cooked meat, discarding any excess fat. Return the shredded meat to the sauce and stir. Serve over pasta, such as pappardelle or rigatoni, with cheese if desired. Serves 4 - 6.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chocolate Chip Childhood

When I was little, my sister and I use to craft our own candy bars by filling a plastic sandwich bag with chocolate chips, placing it in a sun patch on the living room floor to melt, and then putting it in the freezer to harden (more or less) into a candy bar shape. Sometimes I would add nuts if I was feeling fancy. Candy making safe for kids! It could be all the rage.

Eventually I upgraded to filling Pillsbury Crescent dinner rolls with chocolate chips to bake my own chocolate croissants.
(There were always chocolate chips in the house thanks to my family of chocoholics.) I don't remember ever having a chocolate croissant as a kid so have no idea how I came up with that masterpiece. Maybe it was from watching a Bugs Bunny episode with Pepé Le Pew...

Anyway, I've upgraded my childhood chocolate croissant experiment by using frozen puff pastry and really excellent chocolate. It's closer to the real thing but still super simple. (The day I actually make my own puff pastry, someone please tell me that I'm out of my mind. I live in New York and can just go to Balthazar, or other fabulous French bakery to buy my croissants!) I suggest splurging on the good puff pastry if you can find it, otherwise ye olde grocery store brand will work if you're desperate. I made mine by folding the dough in a triangular shape around the chocolate (just like I used to fold the American flag back when I was the Safety Captain in the sixth grade) but you can just roll them up for ease. King Arthur Flour sells chocolate batons just for this use. Hmmm...what if baton twirlers twirled chocolate batons? Now that would take talent!

Quick Chocolate Croissants

(Adapted from The Ski House Cookbook)

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 8 squares
1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, or 8 chocolate batons

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Whisk the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush one edge of a puff pastry square with the egg wash. Place 1 tablespoon chocolate (or baton) on the opposite edge of the pastry square and roll up the dough tightly. Press the edge with the egg wash into the dough to close. Place the pastry roll seam side down on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pastry squares and chocolate.

2. Brush the tops of the pastry rolls with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake until the pastries are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 8 pastries.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dessert First

Photo by Kate Mathis

Guess what I'm having for dinner? Totes. (Thank god summer is over the way I eat.) Full disclosure: I didn't make these tarts. I got lucky at work today, reaping the benefits of birthday desserts and the good fortune that certain peeps know that salted caramel chocolate tarts are one of my faves. I don't have a recipe for them as these tarts are actually a combo of a few different recipes, but you could always take a look at this recipe as well as this one for reference. Thanks so much to Megan for the delicious treats! And thanks to Kate for the photos and Scott for the hawt shiny tray!

Photo by Kate Mathis

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You Don't Know Jacques

I just got back from a quick work trip to LA where it was an unseasonable 90˚F. It was a nice respite from the chilly fall days of the northeast, but it made me think about how I'm totally over summer clothes. Now that I'm back in NYC I'm ready to put away my sundresses, cook a bunch of cozy comfort meals...and to finally drag all of my winter clothes out of the bowels of my closet.

I've posted a whole roast chicken recipe before, and since it's so easy to make, there's really no reason to revisit it...except that I really like this super fast method that I found by Jacques Pépin. He has you butterfly the chicken by removing the backbone (which isn't as hard as it might seem because it really doesn't matter if you kind of hack it up a bit) so that it cuts the roasting time in half. (The garlicky-mustard mixture makes the chicken super tasty too.) Throw these fantabulous brussels sprouts into the oven with the bird and then whip up
some mashed potatoes while you're waiting with a glass (or two) of wine while wearing your favorite leggings and T. That's pretty comfortable food.

Quick Roast Chicken

(Adapted from Food & Wine)

One 4-pound whole chicken
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the chicken backbone and remove it. Turn the chicken breast side up and press on the breast bone to flatten the chicken. Using a sharp knife, cut partway through both sides of the joint between the thighs and the drumsticks. Cut partway through the joint between the wings and the breast.

2. In a small bowl, mix all of the remaining ingredients. Turn the chicken breast down and spread it with half of the mustard mixture. Set the chicken in a large skillet breast side up and spread with the remaining mixture.

3. Set the skillet over high heat and cook the chicken until it starts to brown, 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken for 30 minutes, until the skin is browned and the chicken is cooked through. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, cut it into 8 pieces, and serve. Serves four. (The chicken can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cheese Balls

Now that Halloween is over and it's officially Dia de los Muertos (buy my Juana necklace here), I hope that you've got your New Year's Eve outfit picked out because I'm pretty sure that I just saw some Valentine's Day crap in the stores. Forget about Christmas. I think they've been playing holiday tunes since August. But in case you are planning a few parties between now and next year, there is nothing more deliciously satisfying than some fresh out of the oven cheesy gougères. A cheese puff made from a dough not unlike that of cream puffs or profiteroles, gougères are the perfect savory snack with a glass of wine or cocktail before dinner. Chad and I actually made them on Halloween before we served an eight pound pork butt, but that's another post. Yes, it would be best to make these à la minute, but you can bake them off and then just quickly reheat as your guests are arriving. You're welcome.

(From Terrance Brennan)

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk plus extra for brushing
1/2 teaspoon each salt and ground white pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Gruyère plus extra for garnish
Coarse sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

2. Bring the butter, milk, 1/4 cup water, salt, and pepper to a boil in a medium pot. Remove from the heat and add the sifted flour and baking powder. Stir well, and return to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Place the cheese and the mixture in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, and beat until just warm. Add the eggs slowly as the mixer runs, until the dough is smooth and shiny. (Alternatively, stir to cool by hand and beat in eggs with a wooden spoon.) Transfer to a pastry bag, and pipe in 1-inch mounds using a No. 4 tip, or drop with a teaspoon, on a sheet pan lined with parchment. (At this stage, the gougères can be frozen and then stored in a plastic bag. They do not have to be thawed before baking, but 11/2 to 2 minutes should be added to the cooking time.) Brush with milk, and sprinkle with cheese and sea salt.

4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes; when puffs are golden brown, reduce to 375˚F and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes about 32. (The goug
ères may be reheated.)