Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicken Stew with Cheddar Parsley Dumplings

This is a nice hearty simple, what-are-we-going-to-make-for-dinner-tonight? dish. Simple, basic and delicious, using mostly ingredients you already have in the pantry.  I really prefer using inexpensive bone-in skin-on chicken thighs.  The thighs are the most flavorful part of the chicken, and cooking them with the skin on and the bone in adds even more flavor.

You can use any biscuits you like for the dumplings, but I must admit my favorite is Bisquick biscuits...easy and tasty, especially if you add cheese and fresh parsley!

The chicken stew also makes an incredible filling for a pot pie.  Simply skip the dumplings and instead  transfer the stew to a baking dish, top with prepared puff pastry, brush with an egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden and puffed.

Chicken Stew with Cheddar Parsley Dumplings
serves 4-6

4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
salt, pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter

1 small onion, diced
2 medium russet potatoes, skin on, diced
1 cup carrots, peeled, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 tsp dried ground thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (or 2 stalks fresh)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp honey
1 cup frozen peas

Cheddar Parsley Dumplings
2 cups Bisquick
2 Tbsp minced parsley
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2/3 cup milk

Pre heat oven to 350 F.

Make dumpling dough by placing Bisquick mix in a large bowl. Add cheese and parsley and toss to coat.  Add milk and mix until a dough forms.   From into walnut sized balls.  Reserve.

Rinse chicken thighs, pat dry with paper towels, season both sides with salt and pepper.  In a large pot heat olive oil over medium high heat, add butter and allow to melt.  When butter stops foaming, add chicken pieces, skin side down.  Allow to brown very well until skin is very brown and crisp, flip chicken and brown other side. Transfer chicken to oven-proof baking dish, and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Reserve drippings in pan.

While chicken is baking, to hot pan drippings add, onion, potatoes, carrots and celery.  Cook vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, continue to cook for 10 more minutes until vegetables are very tender.  Add flour to vegetables, and toss to coat, mixture will become very thick.  Add chicken stock and stir to mix in, scraping up any brown delicious bits from the bottom.  Add milk and honey and stir in.  Cook until mixture is thick, about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven, peel off skin, and discard (or if you are me, EAT!).  Carefully remove meat from bone and coarsely chop, add to stew along with any pan juices. Add peas and stir in. Drop walnut-sized pieces of dumpling dough into stew, cover with lid and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes until dumplings have puffed and are fully cooked.  Serve hot!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cheddar, Beer and Bratwurst Fondue

The super bowl is only one week away and I am pretty excited!  Not that I follow professional football (though I am thrilled to see the Packers and the Steelers in the game!), but I love the super bowl because it's the perfect excuse to make obscenely unhealthy bar food at home.  How can ANYONE not love that?

So this week I plan to post recipes to my favorite bar foods.  I am starting out with this recipe for cheddar beer and bratwurst fondue.  It's basically Welsh Rarebit with a twist.  My twist is to cook the bratwurst in the beer creating a "bratwurst stock", before using it as the base for the fondue.  I use Johnsonville bratwurst from Wisconsin, and Yeungling beer from Pennsylvania for the perfect game day combo!

 Its the super bowl of flavor when Wisconsin bratwurst meets Pennsylvania beer!

You can serve just about anything with this fondue but I like to use slices of the beer-boiled bratwurst, soft pretzels (from the freezer section), cauliflower, pumpernickel bread cubes, and dill pickles.  YUM!

This recipe is so easy it can be prepared at a tailgate party!  To prove this, we cooked everything on our propane camp stove!  Tiki tailgate-time terrific!

Tail-gatin' at the Tiki!

Cheddar, Beer and Bratwurst Fondue
serves 6-8

1 lb fresh Bratwurst (I prefer Johnsonville)
2 12 oz. cans of beer (Yeungling is perfect)
2 Tbsp butter

1 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
dash worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste

Soft pretzels, cauliflower or broccoli florets, bread cubes, dill pickles, chips etc...

Pour 1 can of beer in a heavy skillet, add bratwurst and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook bratwurst, flipping occasionally, until plumped and firm (about 10 minutes).  Remove Bratwurst from pan, pour beer into small bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup, reserve.

Add butter to skillet and return to heat, return bratwurst to skillet and cook over medium heat until bratwurst is browned.  Remove bratwurst from pan, and return beer to pan to "de-glaze", then pour back into bowl or measuring cup, reserve.  Allow bratwurst to cool to room temp, then slice into bite size chunks.

 After being plumped in beer, bratwurst is browned in butter

Adjust reserved beer and bratwurst "stock" to 1 cup with additional beer, drink remaining beer.  Place fondue pot over a sterno or alcohol fire and add beer to pot, bring to a boil.  While beer is heating, toss grated cheese with flour and dry mustard.  Add cheese mixture to boiling beer a handful at a time, stirring, until all cheese is melted and fondue thickens, about 10-15 minutes.  Season with Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.  Serve hot with sliced bratwurst, soft pretzels, cauliflower, broccoli, bread cubes, pickles, etc.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spaghetti Carbonara

Why am I fat?  Because I eat this.  This is unadulterated sin in a bowl.  It casually dismisses any regard for healthy eating, and laughs in the face of heart healthy cuisine.  Bacon?  Yes.  Eggs? Sure!  Heavy cream?  Lots of it!  Cheese?  The more the better!

Seriously, this is not something you should eat on a regular basis, because you will die.  But it is so simple and so crazy delicious that once or twice a year it is a real treat.  The best thing is that you don't need any fancy exotic ingredients, and that this entire dish comes together in about half an hour.

I have had this dish prepared before where the ratio of eggs to cream was not right and it tasted like spaghetti with scrambled eggs... Yuck.  My solution is to increase the cream content and add another final step to thicken the sauce in the skillet.  The result is a luxuriously rich and silky bacon-infused cream sauce loaded with flavor.

You can add chopped parsley at the end to give a flash of green to an otherwise all white bowl, and to assuage your guilt of what you are about to consume, but I prefer to face the decadence of this dish head on, with no illusions.  If there ever was a dish that embraced the "delicious food that's probably bad for you" philosophy, this is it.  Go ahead, eat it, you know you want it!  For penance, you can eat celery for a week afterward and it will still be worth it.

Spaghetti Carbonara
serves 4-6

5 slices bacon
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb dried spaghetti
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

Fill a large pot with water, cover and place over high heat, covered.  While waiting for pasta water to boil, fry bacon over medium high heat in a large skillet until crispy. Remove bacon from pan, and blot on paper towels.  Add onions to bacon fat in pan and saute over medium heat until translucent.  Add garlic to onions, stir and remove pan from heat to avoid scorching garlic.

Once water boils, add a generous palm of salt to the water and cook spaghetti according to package directions for al dente.  While pasta is cooking, combine eggs and cream in a large bowl, whisk until well combined.  Season egg mixture with salt , nutmeg and pepper.  When spaghetti is done, quickly drain and add hot pasta to skillet and quickly toss to coat pasta with bacon fat.  Then immediately add hot pasta to bowl with egg/cream mixture, toss to coat.  Let pasta absorb sauce for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.  After 10 minutes, return pasta to skillet and cook over medium heat until sauce thickens and is no longer runny (about 2-3 minutes).  Add parmesan cheese and crumble bacon into skillet, toss to mix.  Serve hot with additional parmesan cheese. Garnish with chopped parsley if you feel guilty.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Czech Dumplings (Knedlicky)

Growing up, we rarely had pasta  or potatoes in our house.  What we had instead is this, Knedlicky, or czech flour dumplings.

There are two ways to make these dumplings, one using yeast as a leavener, and one that uses baking soda and baking powder.  The yeast can be tricky, so my mother always made this recipe.

These are very much like a boiled loaf of bread, they are moist and dense and spongy and have the ability to absorb a lot of sauce.  I love them!

Leftover dumplings can be cubed, fried in butter and tossed with scrambled eggs and sauteed onions for a delicious Czech breakfast.

Czech Dumplings
Makes one large dumpling that serves 4

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Combine eggs and milk and mix well.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pout in liquid ingredients.  With a sturdy wooden spoon, begin to mix flour into liquid ingredients a little at a time until a sticky dough is achieved.  Continue to mix until dough pulls together and cleans the side of the bowl (at least 200 strokes).  with moist hands shape dough into a log.

Place dough into a very large pot of vigourosluy boiling salted water.  Log will sink at first and then bob to the surface (if after 10 minutes it has not risen to surface, dislodge it from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon).  Boil for 30 minutes , flipping over once after 15 minutes.  Remove dumpling from water and let sit 10 minutes to cool.

With a piece of thread or dental floss, run the thread under one end of the dumpling, thenpull thread together to slice dumpling into 1/2 inch slices.

Czech Goulash ( Guláš )

When I was a kid, my mother made this at least once a week.  While other kids had taco night, lasagne night, tuna casserole night (all mysterious foreign food in my childhood home), we had goulash night, schnitzel night, rouladen night, and beef with dill sauce night.  Did I mention I spoke with a German/ Czech accent until first grade when the school system enrolled me in speech classes?

When I was growing up, my friends would have me over for supper and say "my mom is making goulash for dinner".  Imagine my horror when I sat down to a plate of elbow macaroni, tomato sauce and ground beef.  WTF?  That's not goulash!

Delicious? Maybe, but THIS IS NOT GOULASH!

This is the way my mom made goulash.  She always used pork and never beef, and when I was in highschool, learning to make this recipe, she told me her secret ingredient.  My mother made me swear to never admit it, but her secret ingredient is ketchup.  She would kill me if she knew I was posting this on the internet, because the cardinal rule of true goulash is to NEVER add tomatoes. EVER.

In my house, sometimes we would have a "special" occasion and my mom would make Segedin Goulash.  Naturally, since this was the "fancy" goulash, it was (and still is) my favorite.  What makes it so special?  You add sauerkraut to the goulash just before cooking.  HA!  So fancy huh?  Anyway, although I love it, I only include this as an option at the end since most people I know despise sauerkraut.

This dish can be served over egg noodles, but we ALWAYS had it with Czech dumplings (Knedlicky), which is like a boiled loaf of delicious white bread.  These sponge-like dumplings are the perfect thing for soaking up all the sauce.  Leftover dumplings (if any) can be cubed, fried in butter until toasted and mixed with scrambled eggs and sauteed onions for a real old-school Czech breakfast!

Czech Goulash
 serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion diced
1/2 cup sweet  paprika
3 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock

1Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp water

In a large pot heat oil over medium high heat.  Add 1/2 pork and toss quickly as if stirfrying to coat with oil.  Brown pork very well, remove from pot and repeat with remaining pork.

Add onions to oil and pork drippings and cook until soft, add paprika and stir to mix.  Add garlic, salt, pepper, ketchup and stock and stir. Return pork to pot, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 45- 60 minutes, stirring occasionaly, until pork is very tender.

Combine flour and water and stir until a thick, smooth, slurry forms.  Add flour mixture to goulash, 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring after each addition until sauce is thick (you probably will only add 1 Tbsp).

Serve hot with Czech dumplings and garnish with sour cream.

For Segedin Goulash, add 2 cups rinsed, sauerkraut 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chicken Mole Chili with Black Beans

I have been making this chili for years and it combines two of my favorite dishes:  chicken mole and black bean chili.  It is a very simple dish and fills the house with wonderful exotic scents.  The combination of cocoa powder, honey and cinnamon along with black beans and chili is fantastic, dark and mysterious.  I like to use two kinds of chili powder, regular everyday chili powder and smoky spicy chipotle chili powder. The chili is not too spicy, but still has a little kick.  It can be always be augmented individually with hot sauce to turn the scoville units up as high as you desire!

I have made this dish in the pressure cooker, but actually prefer to slow cook it since I think the beans get creamier and it gives more time for the flavors to blend.  This can also be made vegetarian style too, just leave out the chicken and substitute vegetable stock.  I highly recommend taking the time to make your own chicken stock with the chicken carcass, it only takes an hour and imparts an unbelievably rich homemade flavor!

Chicken Mole Chili with Black Beans
serves 8

1lb dried black beans

1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and diced, bone and skin reserved
6 cups water
2 medium onions diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp chili powder
4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
3 Tbsp honey
1 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
4cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)

sour cream
pepitos (toasted green pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds
grated cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro
soft corn tortillas

Pour dried beans in a large bowl and cover with water, soak overnight.

Place reserved chicken carcass in large stock pot and cover with 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 1 hour.  Strain stock.

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat, then add onions, garlic and jalapeno, cook 5 minutes until tender.  Add all dry spices to pot, stir into vegetables and cook 1 minute.  Add honey and tomatoes, stir.  Add soaked black beans and 4 cups chicken (or vegetable ) stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low , cover and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, then remove lid and cook over medium heat one additional hour until beans are very tender.  Add chopped chicken meat, diced red bell pepper and corn, cook 20 minutes.  Serve hot with sour cream, pepitos, chopped cilantro, grated cheese and warm soft corn tortillas.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cajun Pinto Beans

Its January and it seems like everyone is craving soups and stews and warm comforting foods.  Seems like nothing takes the grey out of a day like a bowl of hot, home-made soup.  So I am not going to post a soup recipe HA!

Well this is sort of a soup I guess, but perhaps more of a side dish that I usually eat on its own.  We had a beautiful spiral sliced ham for New Year's and now I am left with perhaps the best part: the ham bone.  Whenever I am left with a ham bone I always start thinking of making pinto beans.

Somehow you just know these beans are going to be good when they start out with a meaty ham bone...

I absolutely crave pinto beans.  So much so, that I will often go to Bojangles and just order a large side of their pinto beans and a couple biscuits.  Bojangles pintos are absolutely delicious and I have worked for years to try to replicate them, without success, BUT I think this recipe is just as good, and satisfies that craving.  The secret is to make a good ham stock and then cook the beans in it.

I have also made this recipe in a vegetarian fashion and it is also very good, provided you use a good quality vegetable stock to make up for the lack of delicious, slow-cooked meaty ham broth (see what you vegetarians are missing?)  :)

I usually serve this over a bowl of basmati or jasmine rice and season generously with hot sauce (Frank's, Texas Pete or Crystal Hot Sauce are my faves).
 A Louisiana Classic...

So here it is, my recipe for Cajun Pinto beans.  I will include the vegetarian version and also two methods of cooking (Pressure Cooker vs. Stock Pot).

Cajun Pinto Beans
serves 12

Ham Stock
skip this if making vegetarian beans
1 Ham Bone (with meat and fat still clinging to it, or two meaty ham hocks
12 cups water

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 rib Celery, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium green pepper, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb dried pinto beans

for vegetarian version only
8 cups vegetable stock ( two cartons) plus 4 cups water

For Ham Stock:
Place combine ham bone and trimmings (or ham hocks) and 12 cups water in a stock pot or pressure cooker.  Bring to a simmer, cover and stew for 2 hours or until all meat falls easily from bone.  For pressure cooker, pressure cook ham for 30-40 minutes on high pressure.  For both methods, strain stock into a large bowl, discard bones but reserve meat.

In clean stock pot or pressure cooker, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onion, celery and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, tomato paste, honey, thyme, salt and black and red pepper.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add beans and ham stock (or vegetable stock).  Cover and simmer for 3-4 hours or until tender (pressure cook for for 45 minutes, check beans for tenderness and add additional time if needed).  After cooking season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with steamed rice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Green Posole with Chicken

This soup tastes like sunshine.  I don't know how else to put it.  It is vibrant, and mildly spicy and warm and completely satisfying, like lying on a beach in the Yucatan.

I was first introduced to this recipe by our good friends Chris and Al.  The recipe originates from the legendary Sara Moulton and is also featured in Chris' cookbook Delicious.  One of the things I like best about this soup is that it can take either an entire afternoon (if you want to roast your own chicken, make your own stock and salsa verde) or it can come together in under half an hour with store-bought ingredients.  Regardless of which approach you choose, the result is fantastic!

Traditional posole is an ancient pre-columbian soup and is usually red in color. The ingredient posole (also known as hominy) is nothing more than corn kernels from which the hulls have been removed (if dried and ground, the result is grits).  This version uses a green salsa and chicken rather than the traditional pork.

Serve the soup hot with tortilla chips, and your choice of garnishes (typically avacado slices, sliced radishes, shaved jicama, napa cabbage, cucumbers, cilantro and lime wedges).

Green Posole with Chicken
serves 8

1 roast chicken, meat removed and hand shredded
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock (this can be made by boiling the chicken carcass in 4 cups water for about an hour)
2 cups Salsa Verde (I prefer Goya brand, or you can make your own; Sara Moulton's recipe follows)
2  15oz. cans of white posole (hominy) drained and rinsed
salt and pepper

Tortilla chips
Optional garnishes: avacado slices, sliced radishes, shaved jicama, napa cabbage, cucumbers, cilantro,  lime wedges

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onions and saute until tender.  Add garlic and saute very briefly, 30 seconds.  Add chicken stock, salsa, hominy and chicken, cook until heated through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve hot with tortilla chips and garnishes.

Sara Moulton's Salsa Verde:
3 green tomatillos, paper hulls removed, rinsed and quartered
4 scallions coarsely chopped
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small green jalapeno, seeded
1 clove garlic

Combine all ingredients in work bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Twice-Baked Potato Soup

As expected, we had an ice storm last night, and while we here in Durham didn't get hit as hard as places like Atlanta, still everything has come to a screeching halt.  Everything is blanketed with a quarter inch of ice and nobody is going anywhere today.

 Poor Tiki covered in ice...

 Sad frozen chiminea...

 That leaves me to play my favorite game... what can I make with the ingredients I have on hand?   Answer:  Twice-Baked Potato Soup.

This soup is a combination of two of my favorite things, creamy potato soup studded with chunks of ham, and a crispy stuffed potato skin loaded with bacon and cheese.  Hearty fare indeed that will guarantee a happy tummy on a cold and miserable day!

Twice-Baked Potato Soup
serves 8 very rich portions

4 large baking potatoes
olive oil

6 slices bacon
1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
6 cups milk (with 1 additional cup in reserve if needed)
1. tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup diced ham
8 oz. sour cream (divided into two 4 oz. portions)

salt, pepper and garlic powder
8oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 scallions, finely chopped
hot sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F

Wash potatoes and dry with paper towels.  Rub each potato with a small amount of olive oil, then rub a pinch of salt over potato skin, pierce with a fork, and wrap in foil. Bake potatoes 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven (potatoes should be very tender), unwrap from foil and cut potatoes in half lengthwise.  Allow potatoes to cool for 30 minutes, then with a spoon, carefully scoop insides out of potato and place potato flesh in a medium sized bowl (they will be added to the soup later)  leaving a potato skin shell. Reserve potato skins for "garnish"

In a large pot, fry bacon over medium high heat until crisp.  Remove bacon from pot and blot on paper towels. Reserve bacon fat in pot.  Once cool, crumble bacon and divide equally in two portions.

Over medium heat, add butter to rendered bacon fat and melt completely.  Add onion and garlic and saute until tender (about 5 minutes).  Add flour and stir to mix until smooth, cook 1 minute.  Add milk and stir with a whisk to dissolve flour evenly.  Add salt and pepper and continue to cook over medium heating, whisking gently until soup thickens.  Once soup is thick, add grated cheese and stir until cheese is melted.  Add ham and scooped potatoes, sour cream, and 1/2 bacon, stir until incorporated.  If soup is too thick add additional milk. 

Preheat Broiler.

Lightly season the reserved potato skins with salt, pepper and garlic powder. divide grated cheddar evenly among potato skins.  Top with reserved crumbled bacon.  Optional: Drizzle hot sauce over top of each potato.  Place potatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil and place directly under the broiler. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Cut each potato in half. 

Ladle hot soup into soup bowls and garnish with chopped scallions.  Garnish with prepared potato skins.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beef Braised in Red Wine

What a strange winter we are having in North Carolina this year. Usually we are lucky to have one snowfall over the winter, but so far it has snowed 4 times (including 6 inches on Christmas Day!).

The Tiki Lounge blanketed in snow on Christmas Day 2010

We had snow flurries off and on yesterday afternoon, and we are anticipating another snow storm for tomorrow afternoon that is likely to last into the next day. Growing up in northern Michigan, snow was a common, nearly everday occurence and we had to get at least 2 or 3 feet for school to be cancelled. Here in the south however, a 1/2 inch of snow will delay schools 2 hours and an inch will close everything completely, not only schools, but banks and businesses too.

So with an impending major snow storm on the horizon, I went to the store to pick up supplies for the storm. Usually it is eggs, milk, bread and toilet paper that are the first to go (apparently everyone sits on the toilet eating french toast when it snows). Not me. I picked up some potatoes, some bacon, a beautiful beef chuck roast and some red wine. I'd rather enjoy this delicious Italian-style beef pot roast.

I first saw this recipe for Beef Braised in Red Wine (Brasato al Barolo) in the February 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine (have I mentioned lately how much I miss Gourmet magazine?). I love pot roast, but this is by far the best one we have ever made. The original recipe calls for Pancetta and Barolo wine, but I have modified it to use more readily available (and significantly less expensive ingredients). It is excellent with mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, or as Gourmet magazine suggested, creamy polenta.

I usually prepare this dish using a pressure cooker (see recommended equipment tab), but will present two methods of preparation in the event that you do not have a pressure cooker. The pressure cooker is a decidedly low-tech invention that shaves literally hours off the cooking time without sacrificing any of the texture or flavor. My mother used hers all the time when I was a kid and taught me to cook with this "old school microwave".

I hope you try this recipe, I think you will love it, especially if you're sitting back with a plate of it watching the snow fall, knowing there will be no school (or work) tomorrow and therefore not feeling guilty about finishing off that second bottle of wine!

Beef Braised in Red Wine
serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 3lb boneless beef chuck roast
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large carrot, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 ribs celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups red wine
2 cups water

Heat olive oil in pressure cooker (or 4-5 quart heavy oven-proof pot with lid) over medium high heat. Season beef with salt and pepper and brown well on all sides. Remove beef and set aside.

Add bacon to pressure cooker and fry, stirring frequently until fat is rendered. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until vegetables are tender and browned (about 10 minutes). Add thyme, rosemary and garlic and saute 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook briefly for 1 minute.

Add red wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about 1/2 (about 5 minutes). Add water and bring to a simmer. Return beef to pan.

For pressure cooker method: Close pot and fasten lid tightly. Once pressure is achieved (the cooker will begin hissing), reduce heat to medium (or lowest temperature that will maintain adequate pressure; you can tell you have adequate pressure because the cooker will continue to hiss softly). Cook 45 minutes, then remove from heat, and place in sink with cold water running on the lid to release pressure before opening. Meat should be fork tender. If not, return to heat and bring back up to pressure and cook additional 15 - 30 minutes (however long you think you need to get it tender...kinda depends on the quality of the beef).

For non-pressure cooker method: Cover pot with lid and place in a preheated 325 F oven. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until meat is very tender.

For both methods, remove cooked beef from pan and place on a serving platter, tent with foil to keep warm. Over high heat, boil sauce until reduced by one third (5-10 minutes). Season sauce with salt. Slice beef across the grain and return to sauce, tossing to coat beef. Return to serving platter. Serve with mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or creamy polenta.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

Ok listen y'all. The time has come to lay down some rules regarding food. There are some facts that need to be discussed about what makes some foods more amazingly desirable than others. Here they are:

1.) Anything with bacon is better than anything without bacon. Bacon caramel corn? Delicious. Bacon cinnamon rolls? You bet! Bacon is good. I want bacon now.

2.) Anything breaded or wrapped in pastry makes me want to eat it. Cauliflower? I love cauliflower. Roll cauliflower in bread crumbs and deep fry it? Amazing. Cocktail franks...blech. Cocktail franks wrapped in crescent roll dough? I'll eat 4 dozen, thank you.

3. If you put food on a stick (even a little stick like a toothpick), they will come. Examples: Chicken Satay, Beef kabobs, corndogs (breading AND a stick...shut the front door!!!)

This recipe involves the holy trinity of deliciousness. It has bacon, its breaded and it is on a stick. Not to mention it has scallops in the middle... and since its baked, its somewhat less unhealthy than if it was deep fried ( I can't even TYPE that with a straight face).

This recipe is a throwback to the late 70's, but like many things from that time, I still love having it around (can you say ABBA?). Its really fast and really easy and most importantly really tasty and one of those appetizers that disappears immediately.

The scallops are rolled in seasoned flour, then dipped in egg and finally rolled in panko and wrapped with bacon. Then baked in a hot oven for 20 minutes... EASY!

These can be served with a cocktail or remoulade sauce, but I think they are best on their own, hot from the oven.

But forget all that. Here's all you need to remember: Bacon, Breading, Stick!
Bon Appetit!

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
makes 24

1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp garlic powder

24 sea scallops
1 egg beaten with 1 cup milk
1 cup panko bread crumbs
12 strips of bacon, cut in half
tooth picks

Preheat oven to 400F, cue up ABBA on your iPod.

While singing along to Dancing Queen, lightly grease a large baking sheet. Combine flour, salt, paprika, white pepper and garlic powder. Set up an assembly line of three shallow dishes (pie pans) in the following order. 1) seasoned flour; 2) egg/milk mixture; 3) Panko breading. Roll each scallop in flour, then completley coat in egg mixture and lastly roll in Panko. Set on prepared baking sheet until all scallops are prepared.

Wrap 1 piece of bacon around each breaded scallop and secure with a toothpick. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bacon is crisp and scallops are cooked through. (While scallops are baking make yourself a Harvey Wallbanger and listen to Chiquitita). Serve hot, with or without cocktail or remoulade sauce.

Walnut and Stilton Savory Baklava

Happy 2011 everybody! I am going to buck the trend of posting boring bland diet food for the month of January. The post-holiday season is depressing enough without having to read recipes using iceberg lettuce and canned tuna. No, I refuse to be a part of that austerity. Instead I am going to post something fabulous. This savory Baklava.

I made this luxurious little devil for our NYETDS party because after Christmas I had quite a bit of excellent english blue stilton cheese leftover and I wanted to find a way to show it off. At first I was going to make small tarts with stilton and walnuts that would be garnished with a relish of pears, honey and black pepper. But that sounded too fussy and I was worried the pears wouldn't keep more than a couple hours. Then I thought about making a savory Baklava. After a quick Google search, I found a recipe for precisely what I wanted from chef Kelly Wangard at Paso Robles Inn Steakhouse in Paso Robles, California.

The recipe is simple and elegant and the result is phenomenal! I have modified the recipe to use more phyllo dough so the appetizer is easier to serve (and eat). I have also scaled it waaaaaaaay back. These are extremely rich appetizers and a small serving is quite filling.

These are great on their own with a glass of red wine, but would also be an excellent accompaniment to a simple arugula salad.

Walnut and Stilton Savory Baklava
serves 12

12 sheets of phyllo dough, cut into 8" x 8" squares.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
12 oz. walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
12 oz. good quality English blue stilton cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 300F. Place walnuts on a large baking sheet and toast until fragrant (about 15- 20 minutes; tossing nuts occasionally to avoid scorching). Cool nuts completely.

Increase oven temperature to 400F.

Combine nuts and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and chop until very fine. Cut 12 sheets of phyllo dough into 8" x 8" squares. Place one sheet of cut phyllo dough in the bottom of an 8" x 8" baking pan, and brush with melted butter. Top with a second sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Top with a third sheet of dough and brush with butter. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nuts and sugar on top of dough, then sprinkle with 1/3 of the crumbled stilton cheese.

Repeat layering, using three sheets of phyllo, each brushed with butter between each layer of nuts and cheese. The final layer of phyllo dough should be on top and should also be brushed with butter.

With a very sharp knife, carefully cut the baklava into 2-inch squares in the pan. Bake in 400 F oven for 30 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Re-cut the baklava with a sharp knife following the earlier cut lines.

Before baking...

And after baking!

Carefully remove baklava from pan and blot on a double layer of paper towels to blot extra melted butter away. Carefully cut each square in half diagonally to make triangles. Serve warm or at room temperature.