“Noncooks think it’s silly to invest two hours’ work in two minutes’ enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.”
Bet you can’t guess who was quoted saying that. Wise words, in my opinion. Still can’t guess? Well, perhaps this dish will give you a hint.
I spent yesterday with my Grandma, and we decided to cook something epic for dinner. I don’t think we’ve ever really cooked anything before, but we should more often because this came out marvelously. Yes, marvelously.
Mmmm. Look at those mushrooms and pear onions. Just smothered in the most delicious sauce.
But still, what could it be?
Why, it was Boeuf a la Bourguignonne. Again, straight out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
1 6oz chunk of bacon (a slab of bacon will have a rind on it)
a 9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole 3 inches deep
1 TB olive oil
a slotted spoon
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 TB flour
3 cups full-bodied young red wine such as a Chianti, Burgundy or Bordeaux
2-3 cups brown beef stock
1 TB tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
a crumbled bay leaf
18-24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sauteed in butter
preheat oven to 450 degrees
1. cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). simmer the lardons and rind for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. drain and dry.
2. in the casserole described above, or a pan, saute the bacon in the oil over moderate heat to brown lightly. remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. set casserole aside. reheat until fat is almost smoking before you saute the beef. add some olive oil here if the pan is too dry.
3. dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. add it to the bacon.
4. in the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. pour out the sauteing fat.
5. return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. set casserole uncovered in middle position of pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust). remove casserole, then turn oven down to 325 degrees.
6. stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs (thyme and bay leaf), and bacon rind. bring to simmer on top of the stove. then cover the casserole and set it in lower third of preheated oven. regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. the meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
7. while the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. set them aside until needed. (for the onions: peel and put in a skillet with some butter. brown them. then, place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of beef stock and a bouquet garni of a few sprigs of parsley, 1/4 tsp thyme, and 1/2 a bay leaf. simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the onions are tender, but still have their shape///for the mushrooms: place in a saute pan with some butter and brown. don’t crowd the pan – they will not brown!)
8. when the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
9. skim fat off the sauce. simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. you should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. if too thin, boil it down rapidly. if too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock. taste for seasoning. pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
***up until this point, the recipe can be made in advance***
now, for immediate serving:
10. cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. serve in its casserole or on a platter surrounded by potatoes, noodles, or rice. garnish with some parsley.
now, for later serving:
10. when cold, cover and refrigerate. about 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer. cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
And there you have it. This recipe starts out pretty labor intensive, but once you get a handle on things, it’s a pretty smooth process. We didn’t realize it was going to take up to 3 hours, so our kitchen was a little chaotic at first. However, once the meat was in the oven, there was a good hour…hour and a half of downtime. What to do with the time? Have a glass of wine (we did) and enjoy the smell your efforts cooking in the oven. We only had a Shiraz on hand, so that’s what we went with for this. It still came out amazingly. Also, we did not buy a 6 oz slab of bacon, we just bought a package of presliced bacon. It worked out. We chose to serve it with egg noodles, however this meal is traditionally served with boiled potatoes. So, you can either do as the French do, or… do what you want. If you want to serve a green vegetable with this dish, Julia says buttered peas are your best choice. Buttered peas sound pretty good, actually. But anything buttered sounds good.
So, I feel pretty accomplished. The sauce was so good. So…good. I could’ve put it in a glass and drank it. Seriously. Everything was so…so flavorful. I can’t even properly describe it. All I can say is, if you’ve got a lazy Sunday ahead of you, DO THIS. MAKE THIS. This recipe is difficult, but it’s not insurmountable. Everyone you make it for will fall over in ecstasy.
Perhaps another post later…I made psychedelic cupcakes this morning.
Good morning everyone. I never post in the mornings, now that I think about it.
Last night, we hosted a friend’s surprise 21st birthday party at our apartment. I offered to make hor d’oeuvres, which was pretty exciting. I’ve never made food for a large group of people before, and I’ve definitely never made appetizers. I didn’t want to cop out and grab frozen shit to throw in the oven before guests arrive (although it was definitely a plan B). Initially, I had too many ideas for what to make, but I chose these four things:
In the spirit of chips-and-dip, I decided to try my hand at making my own pita chips, along with an olive tapenade.
As I have no food processor, I had to chop the olives by hand. It was a lot of olives. I figured if people could make tapenade before the advent of food processors, I could do it too.
Homemade Pita Chips
5 mini pita pockets
herbs of your choice
Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the pitas into little triangles. Separate the fronts from the backs. Place on a baking sheet lined with either foil or parchment paper. Brush a little olive oil onto the triangles and place herbs and/or salt on top of that. Bake for about 5-10 minutes, or until desired level of crispiness is reached. Because these are so thin, they’ll cook quickly (which is why I had the oven fairly low for this kind of job) so keep an eye on them.
Olive Tapenade adapted from here
1 – 1 1/2 cups of pitted kalamata olives
a few tablespoons of olive oil
Chop up olives (if you have a food processor, this is when you use it) and combine with olive oil.
Along similar lines of chips and dip is this next appetizer. I wanted at least two hor d’oeuvres that people could take large quantities of at once and go.
Spice Roasted Chick Peas adapted from here
1 1lb bag of dried chick peas
ground cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350F.
Soak chick peas over night in water. If you can’t do this, or forgot to like I did, boil them until they are plump and a little al dente.
Pat them dry, and put them in a roasting pan, or any baking sheet with raised sides. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil, and coat the chick peas thoroughly. Throw the spices on them. I wanted mine to be very flavorful, so I spiced them pretty heavily. Roast for about 40-50 minutes, depending on the level of crunchiness you want.
I enjoyed the spicing on those because the cayenne pepper was not overpowering at all. It was a subtle, unexpected kick right after you swallowed the pea. I love surprises.
During the summer, my family and I went to Washington DC for a few days. Incidentally, my friend whose birthday we were celebrating lives outside of DC and works at this Spanish restaurant in the city. It’s called Jaleo, and after hearing such good things about the tapas there, my family and I had dinner there one night. Unfortunately, my friend was in Miami while we were in DC so we did not get to see him. One of the recommended tapas at Jaleo is the bacon-wrapped dates. Initially the combination sounded a little weird to me, but this was before I was a foodie (in fact, I kind of attribute that DC trip to my burgeoning food obsession). They are absolutely delicious. The dates are gooey and so sweet, while the bacon is crunchy and salty. This perfect combination beats chocolate covered pretzels hands down. So drawing inspiration from Jaleo, I attempted bacon-wrapped dates. (Excuse the bad photography, at this point there were a lot of people in the apartment and getting an artsy photo was pretty difficult!)
Bacon Wrapped Dates
1 box pitted dates (or you can use fresh dates, which would probably be better)
1/2 lb bacon
Cut each slice of bacon in half horizontally to make two skinny slices, and then cut those in half vertically. Wrap each date with these slices and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil, seam side down.
You can do this ahead of time and place them in the refrigerator (which is what I did). When you’re ready to bake, put them in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes, or until the desired level of crispiness is reached. When they’re done, place them on a paper towel lined plate to drain the grease.
And finally, the most challenging hor d’oeuvre of the night. Phyllo triangles. I’ve never worked with phyllo before, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. It intimidated me. A lot. Initially, I wanted to make phyllo triangles stuffed with feta cheese, a walnut, and pomegranate seeds. However, I could not find a pomegranate to save my life, so I had to switch things around. Instead of walnuts, I used pecans. And, instead of pomegranate seeds, I used banana slices. Banana and feta? What? It works. Ooohhh, it works.
The first sheet of phyllo I tried to work with was way too dry so it just crumbled everywhere. The first four triangles I made were absolute rejects; it took a few tries to get used to folding the dough. As with any baking or cooking (this is the best part about making Christmas cookies), the rejects become the tests. When my roommate tested a triangle and liked it, I was beyond relieved. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure about the feta and banana combination, but it was great. The bananas provided a really subtle hint of sweetness, while the feta added that hit of salty brine. And the pecan topped it off with that meaty, nutty bite. So good. This was one of everyone’s favorites.
Phyllo triangles stuffed with Banana, Feta, and Pecans adapted from here
1 package of phyllo dough, thawed.
2 bananas, sliced
feta cheese, crumbled
olive oil or melted butter
1. Slice the bananas, get the pecans, get your feta. You absolutely want to have everything ready before you start working with the dough.
2. Take out thawed dough. Place on a dry surface (I used a baking sheet) and cover with a layer of plastic wrap, followed by a damp towel. Take out one sheet of dough. Lay it on a dry surface. Brush it with either olive oil or butter. Put another layer of dough on top of that. This is where I stopped (because I wanted to have as many triangles as possible while using only one package of dough). You can continue this for up to 4 layers, however.
3. Cut the dough lengthwise. Place one slice of banana, one pecan, and one or two chunks of feta at the top of the slice. Here is how to roll.
4. Continue until you’re finished. You can store these rolls in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before you’re ready to bake them. When ready to bake, place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, and brush the tops with either olive oil or melted butter (butter is always better). Bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes, or until sufficiently browned. Keep a watch on them, as they’ll burn easily.
All right, that concludes the epic hor d’oeurves post. Tonight, I’m making chili for dinner. Good hangover food? We’ll see…