making food from anywhere, with anything

Posts tagged “beef

you’ll need many a napkin to eat this sticky rack of deliciousness.

Good morning all.

My life has been overrun by my part-time job, internship, and now the World Cup.  What will I watch when the World Cup is over?

Anyway….We celebrated Father’s Day a few days early this year.  Initially, my plan was to make some delicious hanger steak.  I’ve seen hanger steak at this one grocery store I often turn to for my foodie needs.  However, (as predicted) the store did not have hanger steak in stock when I was, of course, looking for it.  So, Plan B?  Barbecued beef short ribs.

rubbed ribs getting ready for the oven

I started off by rubbing the ribs with a nice spice mix.  For two slabs of ribs, I used (adapted from here):

4 TBSP brown sugar

2 TBSP smoked paprika

3 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

I let the ribs sit in the rub all day so all the flavors could marry.  If I had things my way, I would’ve smoked these ribs for about 4-6 hours over low heat with hickory wood chips and such.  Buuut, I don’t have a smoker.  So instead, I opted to braise the ribs first, then finish them on the grill.  In a roasting pan with a rack, add 1 16oz bottle of beer and some water so that there is about an inch of liquid in the pan.  Place the ribs that you rubbed at least 12 hours ago on the roasting rack and put them in the pan.  Cover with foil, and place in a preheated 250F oven.  Roast for 1.5-2 hours.  Check your ribs after an hour to be sure there is enough liquid.  When the ribs are done (the meat on mine was falling off the bones – a challenge to get on the grill, but so worth it), slather (and I mean SLATHER.  BATHE those ribs) in some barbecue sauce and grill for about 10 minutes.

While you’ve got some time on your hands as the ribs are braising, you may as well make your own barbecue sauce, right?  Well, I did.  I had no idea what I was doing, and it thankfully came out really well.  I adapted this sauce from a variety of sources in an attempt to combine the best of both tomato-based and vinegar-based sauces.  My sauce started out involving about…

1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of ketchup

1 TBSP molasses

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp paprika

some freshly cracked black pepper

2 tsp ground cumin

2 TBSP brown sugar

sweet and spicey short ribs

Whisk all the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then, reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened to your desired consistency.  I think I cooked mine for about 20-30 minutes.  It was perfect timing, really.  Once I put it in the refrigerator, the sauce thickened up really nicely.  The sauce was REALLY vinegary at first, but it sweetened throughout the cooking process.  Throughout cooking, I added a few more shakes of paprika for an additional smokey flavor, and a few more shakes of cumin for….well, mostly because I enjoy cumin a lot.  The sauce was sweet, but had a nice kick.  A perfect blend.

fresh garden herbs

Now that the ribs are figured out, it’s time for the side dishes.  I decided to make grilled vegetable kebabs with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, onion, and little bell peppers.  To go along with the vegetables, I made a sauce inspired by the chimichurri sauce native to Uruguay and Argentina (and probably other countries, too).  It’s an awesome sauce, traditionally made with parsley, garlic, pepper and olive oil.  I needed all of my parsley for the crab cakes I planned to make, so I used basil, oregano, and cilantro.  The recipe is adapted from here.   It turned out really nicely.  Cilantro is such a powerful herb, and when combined with garlic, it stands out with such an intensity.  I minced the garlic VERY finely (almost to a paste) so it functioned on an aromatic level, as well.  (Yesterday, I spread some of the sauce on some bread and made a sandwich with it.  I hope to use the rest of the leftover sauce as a marinade — it’d be awesome with chicken.)

Along with the grilled vegetable kebabs, I made some crab cakes.  I used the same recipe as in here, except I added a little more mustard and worcestershire sauce.  The difference ended up being minimal, but the cakes were still REALLY good.

jumbo lump crab cakes

Completing the compendium of side dishes was some awesome Mexican-inspired grilled corn on the cob, adapted from here.  I grilled the corn for about 20 minutes, rotating the cobs every now and then to ensure even cooking.

a riff on Elote

Then, I deviated from the original recipe a bit and spread only a little butter and mayo on the warm cobs.  I felt 1 TBSP of each was waaayy too much.  I grated some cotija cheese, sprinkled it on the cobs, and dusted with a little smoked paprika.  The cobs were still fairly warm, so the cheese ended up melting slightly.  The mayo and cheese added a nice salty bite to the juicy, sweet corn.

And that was that!  It was a fantastic and flavorful dinner.  I don’t usually like barbecue sauce (I have been rather vocal about my dislike  — the bottled nonsense is always way too sweet…), but thought this was deliciously savory, sticky, sweet, spicy, and perhaps most importantly, addictive as all hell.  I could’ve eaten an entire rack of short ribs (in all fairness, there isn’t THAT much meat on ribs).

whew!

Happy Father’s Day to all, and Happy Summer, too!


how big are oxs’ tails?

Good evening everyone.

It seems as though the rain in Boston is finally over, just in time for the marathon.  Fortunately, my apartment is located right along the route, so tomorrow shall be quite interesting!

After a very stressful weekend, I decided to make something savory and delicious for dinner tonight.  Something involving red wine and braising in the oven.  In my effort to get rid of as much food as possible within the next two weeks, I dug some oxtails out of the freezer.  Perfect.

oxtails braised in red wine

I don’t know the chemistry behind this, but red wine develops the most unctuous, decadent, luscious flavor once the alcohol has cooked off.  And when braised for 3 1/2 hours in the oven with vegetables and your meat of choice, it becomes the most velvety, savory sauce.  It blows my mind every single time.  Seriously, every time.   This is a dish I can get enthusiastic about.  The meat literally pulls right off the bone, which is an accomplishment for oxtails.  The meat is pretty tough, so getting it tender is a challenge.  I’ve stewed oxtails in the past to a degree of success, but never have I had oxtails so tender as these.  Braising in the oven is truly the way to go.

Oxtails Braised in Red Wine, adopted from here

2 meaty oxtails
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 large carrots, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika
3/4 cup red wine, such as a Shiraz
1 can of diced tomatoes (no salt added)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pat oxtails dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown oxtails in batches without crowding, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a bowl. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.

Cook onion, carrots, garlic, and bay leaf in fat in pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add oxtails with any juices accumulated in bowl and chopped tomatoes (liquid should come about halfway up sides of meat) and bring to a boil.

Cover pot and braise oxtails in lower third of oven, turning once or twice, until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Skim fat from sauce, then add salt and pepper to taste.

I made some spaghetti with this dish, as you can see.  It made a good accompaniment, especially with the sauce.

Some of you may gawk at the 3 1/2 hours it takes to cook.  Don’t judge, your efforts are rewarded.


long time, no post.

Hello Everyone, and Happy Monday…..

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, it seems!  Someone special came to visit all the way from Australia (hi Alex!) this past week and a half, so I was quite busy.  However, we ate at a lot of really great restaurants, so hopefully within the next few days I’ll give you some updates on our food experiences.

I told Alex that I would make him something good for dinner the first night he got here.  After about a week of agonizing over what to make, I decided on making Brasato al Barolo. Essentially, beef braised in red wine.   This recipe calls for a Barolo wine, but it’s not exactly cheap.  Really any full-bodied red wine can be used.

(I apologize in advance for the crappy photo quality that is about to be shown, but the lighting in my apartment really, really sucks.)

beef braised in red wine

Beef Braised in Red Wine adapted from here

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) boneless beef chuck roast (I used a smaller top round roast)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 pound sliced pancetta, finely chopped (I used proscuitto)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 (4- to 6-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
2 (6- to 8-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups Barolo or other full-bodied red wine such as Ripasso Valpolicella, Gigondas, or Côtes du Rhône
2 cups water

*You can use a heavy-bottomed pot for this, or just a roasting pan.  I only had a roasting pan on hand, so I covered it with foil once the meat and everything was in.*

Method:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325°F.

Heat oil in pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.

Meanwhile, pat meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Brown meat in hot oil on all sides, about 10 minutes total. (If bottom of pot begins to scorch, lower heat to moderate.) Transfer to a plate using a fork and tongs.

Add pancetta to oil in pot and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sauté, stirring, until garlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot. Cover pot with lid and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer meat to a cutting board. Skim fat from surface of sauce and discard along with herb stems. Boil sauce until reduced by about one third, about 5 minutes, then season with salt. Cut meat across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices and return to sauce.

Although I thought the meat came out a little dry (my oven doesn’t really cook things evenly or maintain its temperature), it was really, really good.  It fell apart when you stuck your fork in it, and the sauce was intensely savory.  Red wine adds an awesome richness to food – I love cooking with it.

So, what did we have with the meat?  I took some inspiration from the movie Julie & Julia and made bruschetta.  If you have never seen the movie, Julia makes this AMAZING looking bruschetta in one early scene.

bruschetta

She fries slices of bread in some oil, and then places these succulent-looking tomatoes on top of the bread slices.   Unfortunately, I didn’t have heirloom tomatoes on hand as it’s not tomato season, so grape tomatoes had to suffice.  I diced them, and tossed them in a little bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  I bought this loaf of rosemary-olive oil bread.  I thought the rosemary in the bread would tie in well with the rosemary used with the beef.

green beans

And finally, as if that wasn’t enough, I made some green beans.  They are in season right now, and I wanted a nice springy side dish to offset the ultra-savory beef.  I blanched the beans in boiling water until I saw their green color intensify, then I threw them into some ice water to stop the cooking.  I sauteed them in some olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 3-4 minutes.  I tossed them with some crumbled manchego cheese, which tasted really good against the beans.  Delicious.

So, that was dinner.  It was delicious, and there were lots of leftovers (which is always good).  That is the last thing I cooked in this apartment, as we either went out for dinner or got takeout every night the following week.  I’ll update on the awesome Easter dinner we had, along with all the restaurants we hit in Boston, later this week.


beer and food

Good afternoon all, and happy spring!

Today, my friends and I took a trip to the Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain.  The tour itself is extremely interesting, and comes with the added bonus of being free.  It makes for a good day trip.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Boston area, Jamaica Plain is a really cool neighborhood.  It’s got a huge variety of neighborhoods dispersed among green spaces and landmarks.  Some neighborhoods are made up largely of Hispanic communities, while others are predominantly Jewish.  Although it’s going through a period of gentrification (lots of college students, activists, and other young professionals are moving in), I think it still maintains its culture.

Today we walked along Centre Street in search of some food after the brewery tour.  Initially we sought soul food, but ended up at Miami Restaurant in the Hyde Square area.  This neighborhood is mostly Hispanic, and I’ve never been disappointed by the food here (although, this is only the third restaurant I’ve been to in the area).

Everything in this place is reasonably priced, and the quality of food is beyond expectations.  I decided to get two appetizers, mofongo and a jamaican beef patty, with a side of tostones.

mofongo

What is mofongo?  Well, it’s mashed plaintains mixed with garlic and in this case, pork rinds.  The flavor is out of this world.  The mellow plaintains are spiked with just the right amount of garlic.  The crunchy pork rinds add a perfect textural contrast to the softness of the plaintains.  And it was sprinkled lightly with salt.  Although this is an appetizer, it’s fairly large so it makes a good entree for just $7.  If you want an actual entree, they do serve a seafood mofongo, which I bet is insanely good.

jamaican beef patty

Embarrassingly, I have never had a Jamaican beef patty.  I’ve heard so much about them, but for whatever reason we have never crossed paths.  Today, it finally happened.

Meat encased in dough is a huge cross-cultural staple.  Eastern Europeans have pierogies, Hispanics have empanadas, and Jamaicans have these delicious things.  The crunchy yet soft dough gave way to incredibly well-seasoned and spicy ground beef on the inside.  For $2, they are more than worth getting.

To go along with these items, I decided to get a side of tostones.  Tostones are just fried unripe plantains.  While comparable to french fries, I think they’re a way better alternative.  They are very starchy, but have a softer texture than potatoes or yucca (yucca also makes an awesome french fries substitute).  For $3, you get a lot of tostones, as you can see below.

tostones

To top it off, I decided to get a mango milkshake.  It was REALLY good. It wasn’t too thick so I could actually drink it along with my meal.  For this warm day, it was very refreshing.  All in all, my meal cost about $16, and I have a ton of leftovers for later (which I am very much looking forward to).  If you’re in the Boston area, check out this place in Jamaica Plain – I can’t wait to head back to check out some of the other very tempting menu items.

Tomorrow’s dinner?  I’m thinking filipino adobo with oxtails and chicken?  Mmm….oxtails……


an early st. patrick’s day dinner

Greetings from a very wet Boston.  This rain sucks – our ceiling is leaking…and it drips on me every so often.

Anyway….

My last dinner home involved one of my favorite things: corned beef.  I’ve been on a corned beef and pastrami bender lately, and this topped it off really nicely.   Like many Americans, we made corned beef and cabbage in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.  This only begs the question: Is corned beef and cabbage a traditional Irish dish?  Well, not technically.  It’s as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs is Italian: sure, spaghetti and meatballs are rooted in traditional Italian cuisine – but not served together (if you really want to get into it, spaghetti is typically enjoyed doused in a good olive oil, not tomato sauce…but I digress).  Here’s my understanding of the corned beef phenomenon:  Corned beef is quite traditionally Irish in and of itself.  Back in the day, cows were prized for their milk, and weren’t often killed for their meat.  However, when they were, the brisket was brined for days and then boiled.  The meat was then served with potatoes or other vegetables, but not cabbage.  So, when did the cabbage come in?  Well, there’s another traditional Irish dish consisting of bacon and cabbage.  A large hunk of bacon was boiled for a long period of time and then served up with cabbage.  When Irish immigrants came to the US, they looked for the same bacon meat they used to make this dish, but to no avail.  They found that the Jewish immigrants’ corned beef tasted rather like their bacon, and had a similar texture.  Thus, corned beef and cabbage.

As with many foods in this culture, corned beef and cabbage is an immigrant improvisation.  And it’s so, so delicious.

corned beef fresh out of the pot

While corned beef is traditionally brined for a few days before cooking, we sort of decided to have this on reeeeally short notice, so brining wasn’t an option.  Nevertheless, it was absolutely delicious.  It was salty, beefy, and fell apart.  I don’t know how to describe it, other than…it was delicious corned beef.  Side note:  why “corned”, you ask?  Well, brining it involved rubbing it in tons of salt.  The salt would take the shape of corn kernels, so there you go.

corned beef, carrots, potatoes

I’m not sure I’ll bother with posting a recipe, as we used the prepackaged meat.  Essentially, after brining the meat, you simmer it in a stockpot for 2 1/2-3 hours so it gets really tender.  During the last 20 or 30 minutes of the cooking, throw in your carrots, potatoes, and cabbage.  For this, we used about 6 or 7 medium to small carrots, 5 red potatoes, and 1 medium head of cabbage.

irish soda bread

My mom also made some delicious Irish Soda Bread from scratch earlier that day.  It was a bit of a marathon baking day, as she was making batches upon batches of cookies for the school she works at (I had the pleasure of being the official tester/cookie dough eater).  The bread had the most crispy crust and yet a delicate, not too dry interior.  Irish Soda Bread gets extremely dry if not done well.  I wish I had room in my suitcase to take a chunk of it (as well as some cookies) back with me.

Irish Soda Bread as adapted from here

4 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tbsp. butter
1 cup raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk * the original recipe calls for 2 cups, but a correction was made


Method:

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.

2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then stir in raisins.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf.

4. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet. Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about 1/2” deep in an “X” shape. Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped with a knife, about 40 minutes. Transfer bread to a rack to let cool briefly. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.

We baked our bread for about 35 minutes because the outside of the bread started to look a little too brown, but I guess it depends on how evenly your oven cooks.

The night ended, as all nights should, with a cannoli from a local Italian bakery.  And I’ve come full circle.  Break started and ended with an excellent cannoli.

So, I have relatively no food here with the exception of pasta and some leftovers.  Perhaps there will be a chicken or pasta dish somewhere during the week.  Other than that, updates may be sparse….


“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.

delicious.

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.


boeuf bourguignonne

Boeuf Bourguignonne

Ingredients:

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

parsley sprigs

Method:

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.

a pile of deliciousness

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.


the dark side of the cow.

Good evening, everyone.

Tonight’s dish generated a small bit of controversy from various people whom I told prior to making it.  Fear not, squeamish readers; it does not (unfortunately) involve tripe, offal, or any other “nasty bits.”  What, then, is the mystery ingredient?  Oxtails!

Oxtails are, well, segments of tail from cattle.  They’re quite tough, so stewing or braising is a must. Before reading on, you should know that I refer to these tails as being “full of fat” (because they are).  I know some of you squirm at the idea of something being fatty and delicious at the same time.  And why wouldn’t you?  We do, after all, live in a culture that mandates you eat the leanest meat out there (I saw someone buying 95/5 ground beef the other day and almost cried.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!).  Those who fear, I ask for your trust.  Things that are fatty can be delicious (seriously, ditch your flavorless filet mignon and get with some oxtails)!  Food must be savored, not scoffed.  Take time tasting all the ingredients, and you won’t always need *more* of what you’re eating.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand Americans “have no time” for slow eating.  In this eat-and-go culture, no one does (not that you needed reminding of that).  People eat as quickly as they can, without being conscious of what they just put in their mouths.  Eating meals has become an accessory to our day, not a focal point as it once was.  I bet if people could have food in pill form to save the 20 minutes that would have otherwise gone toward eating lunch, they would (it’s a little science fiction fantasy I have).  I could go on and on about where Americans are going wrong regarding the way they eat and think about food, but that is for another post.  Just….love the fat.  Love butter, bacon and flavor.  You will be okay.  You won’t eat these FATTY HORRIBLE THINGS all the time if you let yourself love them, trust me.  I don’t think you should use butter and the like all too frequently, anyway.  Just believe you will be okay (I am).

Now.  Back to the oxtails….

oxtail

I didn’t really know what to expect out of them (I made two).  Would they be too tough to eat? Would they have a weird texture?  Would they smell horribly and be unappetizing?  Or would they be the greatest thing I’ve ever made?

Ah, they were delicious.  I would almost consider this a special occasion ingredient.  Throw on some jazz, light a few candles, make a nice dessert to follow dinner, and you’ve got an awesome night (even if it’s just you).  Since the tails are fatty, they’re loaded with this unctuous flavor.  They absolutely melt in your mouth after being stewed for a while.

For this meal, I followed perhaps the most basic recipe I could find.  It worked out really well.  I stewed the oxtails in a liquid largely made up of balsamic vinegar and water, along with lots of thyme, plus some salt and pepper.  What’s great about this is by the end, you have a really awesome beef and balsamic vinegar stock.  Do not even think of throwing that out, you WILL use it for something else later (I know I will).

Braised Oxtails adapted from here

2 oxtails

1 small yellow onion, diced finely

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp (or more, depending on your taste) balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. dice the onion, mince the garlic.  you know, get all your ingredients together and organized (this includes washing and patting your oxtails dry).

2. in a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium.  once fragrant, add the sugar.  stir with a wooden spoon or whisk until it melts.  you just don’t want it to burn, that would ruin everything. *just a little…note.  there’s going to be some delicious looking melted sugar hanging on to the spoon.  upon seeing this, i immediately thought OOHH, CARAMEL! and touched it in a very futile attempt to taste it.  don’t do this. sugar gets very…..very hot.*

3. once the sugar has melted, sear the oxtails on all sides for about 1 minute.  remove from the pan, and place on a plate.  deglaze the pan with the vinegar.

4. once you’ve got the bottom of the pan cleared, add the onions and garlic.  stir to combine, and saute for about 5 minutes.

5.  put your oxtails back into the pan.  season generously with salt and pepper.  add the thyme at this point, also.  now you’re going to add enough water so that the oxtails are covered.  bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer.

Simmer, covered, for about 2.5 hours.  Now, I got impatient and took the oxtails out after 1.5 hours.  They were tender (not fall off the bone tender, but they were definitely tender), so that’s an option if you are ready to eat everything in the kitchen before the recommended 2.5 hours.  Drizzle the sauce over the tails, serve with rice or a nice spinach salad..that sort of thing.

braised oxtail

The original recipe called for a shallot.  I would definitely recommend going with shallots as opposed to onions.  I was just using what I had laying around, especially since spring break starts this Friday and I won’t be around for a week.  Like I said, save the resulting stock!  It’s a bonus with this recipe, and you’d be foolish to toss it away.  It’s beefy, sort of sweet, sort of tangy, garlicy and fragrant.  This recipe is really basic, and the oxtails are begging to be experimented with.  I will definitely be cooking with them again, so look forward to some future oxtail recipes!

As I mentioned before, I’m off for spring break beginning this Friday.  Although tomorrow is traditionally a no-cook day, I’m thinking of creating a meal out of some Israeli couscous, leftover olive tapende, and cabbage I have hanging around.  Perhaps stuffed cabbage with couscous and olive tapenade?  Maybe throw some dates in there just to experiment?  Hmm….perhaps, perhaps.  I may just end up having leftover mac and cheese!


a bit of eastern europe

Good evening, everyone.

Tonight, as promised, I made Golabki.  Essentially, stuffed cabbage. Although I don’t recall ever having stuffed cabbage often when I was a kid, I did have some this past summer at a Polish restaurant.  Unfortunately, I don’t really remember how it tasted (couldn’t have been too great…).  That place ended up being a sorry excuse for a restaurant.

Admittedly, I found the stuffing of the cabbage a little daunting at first, and wasn’t sure just how it would turn out.  However, despite my initial fear, things turned out really well.  By far, one of my favorite recipes.  The preparation is a little involved, but once you have the leaves stuffed, you can pretty much let them go for about an hour.  Plus, I finally put my homemade chicken stock to good use!  They come out so tender, so flavorful, and are ridiculously satisfying.

golabki

I managed to eat three of these, but I had no side accompaniment.  What does one serve with stuffed cabbage?  I’m not sure.  It’s really rather an all-in-one dish.  If anyone out there knows the answer to this, let me know.  Inspiration for this recipe was found here.

Ingredients

8 or 9 leaves of 1 small cabbage

1 lb ground beef

1/2 cup white rice

1 egg beaten

1-2 TBSP tomato paste

1 cup chicken or beef stock

2 TBSP butter

1 can diced tomatoes

2 TBSP flour

salt & pepper

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

1 onion, chopped

Method

As always, chop, mince, peel, etc. everything first.  Get everything organized.  It helps, I promise.

Fill a large stock pot with water and set it over high heat.  Place the cabbage leaves in the pot once the water beings to boil, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Take the leaves out using a slotted spoon, and place in a colander.  DO NOT DISCARD ALL OF THE WATER.  It’s full of cabbagey goodness and you WANT THAT FLAVOR. Reserve at least half of it.

If you’re using white rice, you can skip cooking it.  If, however, you are using brown rice, you may want to at least parboil it.  Now would be a good time for that while your cabbage cooks.

Put some oil in a pan and sautee your onions until they’re translucent.  You can cook them until they’re caramelized if you want, also.

Beat your egg, mix it in with the ground beef.  Put your onions and rice in the mix as well, along with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

At this point, you’ve drained and cooled your cabbage leaves.  So, lay a leaf out.  spoon about 2-3 TBSP of the mix onto the flimsy end of the leaf.  NOT the stiffer end that was connected to the core.  Roll the leaf, tucking in the sides as you go along.  Place the roll seam side down on a plate or baking sheet — something flat.  Do this with the rest of your leaves.

Place your leaves, seam side down, in that stock pot with the cabbage water.  Add 1 cup of chicken or beef stock at this point, too. Let this simmer, uncovered, for about 45-60 minutes.  You can skim the fat off the top every once and a while.

>>As for the sauce….you’re going to be making a roux so it has a nice thick base.  If you don’t want your sauce to be thick, then skip out on this butter and flour step.

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour, and WHISK WHISK WHISK WHISK.  DO NOT STOP WHISKING.  You want it to reach a peanutty brown color.  If you’ve done this before or are just daring, you can make a darker roux.  Add the canned tomatoes, some water if you think it’s too dry, the garlic, the tomato paste, and some pepper.  Simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

And there you have it.   Some nice stuffed cabbage.  So tender….so melt in your mouth….sooo good.  And I’m told they’re even better the next day.

cabbagey goodness


hungarian goulash

Happy Friday!

Tonight I thought it appropriate to get in touch with some of my roots and make a traditional Hungarian dish.  That is, of course, goulash.  Goulash is a beef soup, seasoned with little more than paprika, salt and pepper.  Add-ons include–but are not limited to–potatoes, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and tomatoes, depending on how nuanced you prefer your goulash to be.

Hungarian Goulash

As you can see, I added a fair bit to my goulash.  Parsnips, potatoes, tomato, onion, garlic, carrots and some mushrooms.

Ingredients

2 medium parsnips, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

6 button mushrooms, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, chopped

about 1 lb stew meat

5 gold potatoes, cubed

5 cups of water

1TBSP paprika

2 bay leaves

1 sprig rosemary

salt & pepper to taste

Method

As always, start off by chopping and mincing.  This step is actually one of my favorites because you can throw on some music and relax while you’re organizing your ingredients.

With that out of the way, rinse and pat your meat dry.  Put in a bowl, toss with some salt and pepper.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat up some olive oil over medium heat.  Throw your onion in there, and cook until it becomes translucent (about 1-2 minutes).  Then, crank up the heat to high and throw your meat in.  Stir it around, making sure to brown all the sides evenly.  Once you’ve gotten your meat to a color of your liking, put in the garlic, mushrooms, carrots, and parsnips.  I added my tomatoes at this stage, but you can hold off and wait until you add the potatoes to do that.  Sprinkle some of the paprika in, stir, then add the rest.

Once those ingredients have gotten to know one another, add the 5 cups of water.  At this point, you can add more paprika, salt and pepper if you want. You can even add some tomato paste (I did).  Add the bay leaves and rosemary (totally optional).  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes.

Take a break, get some reading done, vacuum, watch a movie…..take a nap…..whatever.  Just come back after 45 minutes.

Ahhh, doesn’t that smell delicious?  You’re not done yet, though.  Now it’s time to add the potatoes.  You can add the tomatoes now, too if you didn’t do it before.  Throw your potatoes in there, and simmer uncovered for another 20-25 minutes, or until they’re tender.

Serve with some crusty bread, some rice, or a salad.  Egg noodles would be good, too.  I love this dish.  It’s very simple, very traditional.  I think it really says something about the culture from which it came.  It also makes tons of leftovers (for one person it did, anyway).

Enjoy!


butter really is always better.

Good evening, everyone.

For whatever reason, I didn’t have much of an appetite today.  I guess it happens.  I would have just defaulted to leftover mushroom soup for tonight, but that meat for the salade d’onglet was ready to be cooked.

So, sour stomach in tow, I persevered.

salade d'onglet

(Excuse the shoddy picture)

Anyway, here’s the actual recipe for salade d’onglet, and then I’ll share with you what I did a bit differently.

Ingredients:

12 oz/340g onglet steak cut into 1.5oz/42g pieces

For the  marinade

0.5 oz/14g fresh ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (anthony bourdain notes that if a garlic press is used, you will go to hell.)

4TBSP/56ml soy sauce

For the sauce

salt and pepper

2TBSP/28g butter

1/4cup/56ml white wine

1/4cup/56ml dark chicken stock or veal stock (plus a spoon of demi glace if you have it)

2TBSP/28ml soy sauce

1/8oz/3g fresh ginger, grated

1 garlic clove thinly sliced

1 sprig of flat parsley, chopped

For the salad

4oz/112g mesclun mix

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1/4cup/56ml red wine vinaigrette

Procedure

For the marinade:  In a bowl, mix the ginger, garlic and soy sauce well.  You can either place this in a ziplock bag with your meat, or you can put your meat and marinade in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate over night.  I put mine in a ziplock bag, gave it a good squish together, and threw it in the fridge.

To cook:  Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry.  Season it with some salt and pepper (though, I’d forgo the salt since you’re using soy sauce).  Place a saute pan over high heat and add 1 TBSP/14g of butter.  When the butter has foamed, add the meat.  Add a little at a time if you’re running the risk of overcrowding.  Sear each side for 3 minutes.  Set the meat aside on a plate.

Now, deglaze.  Stir in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Cook until the pan is almost dry, then add the stock and soy sauce and reduce by half.  Add the remaining ginger and sliced garlic and cook for like 30 seconds.  Then, whisk in the remaining butter.  Return the meat to the pan and cook for about a minute.  Sprinkle with the parsley and remove from the heat.

For the salad:  get a bowl, put the salad in, put the vinaigrette on top (or whatever dressing you want to use).

I have yet to hunt down a good butcher, so I did not have an onglet steak.  I used stew meat, which was fine because this was marinaded over night.  I also don’t have wine.  So instead, I used red wine vinegar.  I didn’t have white wine vinegar, but it worked.  Instead of the chicken stock, I used some of this leftover balsamic vinegar-herby sauce that I made for the poulet roti.  It had butter in it, so I omitted the whisking in of extra butter.  Other than that, I kept the recipe pretty much the same.  It was VERY flavorful, and very home-cooked feeling.  I was extremely satisfied with how this came out (when my roommate walked in, she remarked how good everything smelled – always a good sign).  It was also very easy, not at all labor-intensive, making it a good weeknight dish.

I highly recommend this recipe.