Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For the Love of Veal Shank

How do you say comfort food in Italian? I'm not sure exactly, but this is how I would say it: Osso Bucco. Seriously? Wow. This was Jon's big idea; and big idea it was. We started looking around for a good recipe, most of which involved cooking twine, cheesecloth, weird crap I've never even seen in real life.

The recipe we used was titled "Easy Osso Bucco." If this is easy, I am terrified to know what the hard kind looks like. I think the easy part just meant that you get to use a sieve instead of cheesecloth. But 4 pans, 2 bottles of wine, $85 later, I felt like I'd accomplished something kinda big, kinda cool. This dish is super rich and delicious. And me and Jon made it together. Sweet veal shank love.

Osso Bucco is traditionally paired with risotto, which is another slightly scary proposition, and, I've never even ordered risotto in a restaurant. I mean, who gets excited by rice? A giant hunk of meat has always seemed a little more appealing. But, this simple risotto was pretty dreamy and decadent, I must say. But from here on out, a giant hunk of meat plus risotto: I'm so game.

This is kind of a special occasion kind of meal, or a let's just pretend it's a special occasion kind of meal. Regardless, it's divine. Leftovers were equally amazing. The recipe looks a little crazy, but don't fret. The deliciousness is mostly just the cut of meat, cooked until it's tender, buttery, and fall-off-the-bone magic.
Easy Osso Bucco (courtesy of the lovely Giada, from Everyday Italian)

6 1-to-1 1/2-inch-thick veal shank (we bought 4 instead)
2 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

1/3 c all-purpose flour, for dredging
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 c dry white wine (we used Nessa

About 4 c reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 large sprig of fresh rosemary (or a little more)
1 large sprig of fresh thyme (and more)
1 bay leaf (we used two)

2 whole cloves (or 3!)
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (more! Clearly, I'm a little heavy handed with the herbs.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat the veal dry with paper towels to ensure even browning. Secure the meat to the bone with kitchen twine. Season the veal with 1 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Dredge the veal in the flour to coat the cut sides lightly.

In a heavy roasting pan large enough to fit the veal in a single layer, heat the oil over a medium flame until hot. Add the veal and cook until brown on both sides, about 8 mins per side. Transfer the veal to a plate and reserve.

In the same pan, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Season with 1 tsp of the salt to help draw out the moisture from the veg. Sauté until the onion is tender, about 6 mins. Stir in the tomato paste and sauté for 1 min. Stir in the wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 mins. Return the veal to the pan. Add enough chicken broth to come 2/3 of the way up the sides of the veal. Add the herb sprigs, bay leaf, and cloves to the broth mixture. Bring the liquid to a boil over med-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan with foil and transfer to the oven. Braise until the veal is fork-tender, turning the veal every 30 mins, about 1 1/2 hours total. Carefully remove the cooked veal from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut off the twine and discard. Tent the veal with foil to keep warm.

Place a large sieve over a large bowl. Carefully pour the cooking liquid and veg into the sieve, pressing on the solids to release as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and return the sauce to the pan. Gently place the veal back into the strained sauce. Bring just to a simmer. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley.

4 c chicken broth
3 tbsp butter
3/4 c finely chopped onion
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine
1/2 c freshly grated Parm
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over low heat. In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tbsp of the butter over med heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 c of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 c at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 mins total. Remove from the heat. Stir in the parm, the remaining tbsp of butter, and the salt and pepper. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Vaynerchuk on Bacon

Jon loves Gary Vaynerchuk – well, I think he's actually, like, in love with him. He was quite honestly very annoying to me at first, but I've grown to love him too, especially when he does things like this.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poulet Nicoise BKA Southern Chicken 'N' Olives

I get really excited every time I get the latest Williams-Sonoma catalog in the mail. Not so much because I covet all the lovelies inside, but for the awesome recipes, which they have online too, plus more. Here's one I've been eyein for a while. Just wanted to wait until springtime to make it, and well, as of last Friday, springtime is officially here. Thank the lord.

WS calls it Poulet Nicoise, and that makes it sound all fancy and stuff, but after I made the recipe, I looked around online to see if there were other variations, and lo and behold, lots of cooks out there are calling this nearly-the-same recipe Southern Chicken with Olives – only difference is that they're making it with fatback, which makes my heart melt, and some without the yellow squash.

This is the Williams-Sonoma version that I made:

Poulet Nicoise
1 chicken, about 3 lb., cut into serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 c olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 yellow squash, about 1 1/2 lb. total, quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 c dry white wine

3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

5 plum tomatoes, seeded and quartered
1/4 c dry-cured black olives, pitted
1 1/4 c chicken stock

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the squash, wine, 2 tbsp of the parsley and 2 tsp of the tarragon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and add the tomatoes, olives and stock. Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tbsp parsley and 1 tsp tarragon. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Here is another, with salt pork.

I used cherry tomatoes instead of plum, and also didn't have dry-cured olives so I used kalamatas instead. The fresh herbs really make this dish, so that's the way to go, plus they're pretty. As for the squash, it's sweet and subtle in a really nice way, and white wine and yellow squash complement one another perfectly, plus it's sunny and yellow and bright. I wouldn't make it without. Sooo delish. I know bone-in chicken imparts more flavor, but really, how much I wonder. The bones are a little buggin'. I think I may try it next time without. I'm on the fence. Never hurts to try I spose.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Old School

Nothing says I love me like good ole acorn squash like my mom used to make. Simple. Brown sugar, lots of butter. A salad with chicken and bacon. Need i say more? No, but i'll give you the best simple salad dressing. I'll never tire of it. I could drink it.

Sweet Balsamic Dressing
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 or 2 dashes of pepper
1 clove garlic smashed or minced

1/2 c olive oil

Whisk everything together, except for the oil, until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Then continue whisking, and add olive oil. That's it. Really. I love it super simple, like with just some shaved parm. This time, I added cranberries and walnuts and parm, leftover chicken and cold bacon from the fridge. Maybe next time I'll add bacon in the squash, let it get all gooey with the butter and brown sugar. Yep. I don't eat this nearly often enough. And look how easy this one is too:

Sugar Squash
1 squash for each person
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Cut the squash in half and get out all the guts and slime. Add 1 tbsp butter and 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar to each half. Put the halves on a baking tray with the cut sides up. Roast for about 1 hour. Test for doneness with a fork or spoon. It should pierce the fleshy part of the squash easily. Mmmmmmm. So simple. So good.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The First Flambé

I am a self-confessed francophile, and my obsession runs deep. I might even love France almost as much as I love the South. I dunno; that's a little extreme I spose. I've spent way more time in the South than I ever did in Europe, but, they do have something in common, the French and Southerners that is: they like to relax, enjoy, share a delicious meal with friends and family, relish the sheer beauty of the day.

In any case, my story is as cliché as the rest. I was lucky enough, very lucky, to visit Paris as a teenager. I became enamored, of course, by the life, the food, its appreciation for simplicity with a tacitly complicated way of getting there (just like Southern cooks!). Walks on the Seine, a rainy day in Montmarte with a perfect strawberry tart, my first-and-only-perfect steak au poivre inciting a lifetime quest for the same steak, just like at that one restaurant, Angelique? Maybe I made that name up. I've searched and searched for it, online and other ways. I should probably just ask Jordan; it was her father who took us with him for his annual summer trip to the Geneva Convention. I think I will.

Sixteen and gallavanting around France with my two best girlfriends. Is it any wonder my undying amour pour France began that sweet summer? Did I mention we even got to end our school year nearly a full month before all the other students? I guess this was education after all – Nelson Mandela speaking at the UN (wow, although I can't remember a thing he said); a strange man masturbating in the street (ew grody plus freaky); art at the Louvre, the Musée D'Orsay, Notre Dame. Man, art just saturates that city; our subways do NOT look like that. Melted hot French milk chocolate with a dollop of fresh sweet cream and a cinnamon stick – a masterpiece in itself. We woke up at noon everyday to fresh croissants and jam. So ordinary, so fresh, so divine. You just don't get that anywhere else in the world. You really don't.

Seems I've gotten a little off course, but isn't that the point? Food has a story. Jon is intrigued by these "cravings" I get. "What made you think of making that?" he asks. It's usually a time, a memory, a feeling I'm craving more than the food itself. Isn't it like that for everyone? Isn't that why people get fat?

I wanted to feel France, French, so when I saw Ina Garten, a francophile herself, making Beef Bourgignon on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, I couldn't wait to while away a Sunday, drink some daytime wine, and flambé my first stew.

Here's Ina's recipe.

This is my new comfort fave, even though it could use a little refinement. Few things are perfect the first time. There is lots of bacon – which you clearly don't want to mess with – LOTS of mushrooms, which I can deal with but some people like my Jon would rather avoid, and also a shit ton of pearl onions. I don't know about those little devils. Makes me feel a little like I'm eating mothballs, only sweeter. Or flower bulbs. I guess they are kind of flower bulbs, right? I'm going to get some fresh baby onions from the farmers market and sauté them in butter first– mmm, that sounds better.

As for my first flambé, I was nervous about lighting liquor on fire, on top of a highly combustible furnace; it goes against everything I've ever been taught about kitchen safety. But the French are unconcerned with such trivial matters. I felt like a real chef for a hot second. My house didn't burn down. And I even used the airplane bottle of Courvoisier ( I'd wondered what desperation would drive me to drink such poison) that my sis gave me as one day of my Twelve Shots of Christmas gift. Lesson learned: I will continue to use alcohol in food as much as possible, particularly alcohol with bacon. They both lend a depth, richness, the velvety melt-in-your-mouth butter gravy that beef bourgignon should have, that as many dishes as possible should have. Pour the stew right on top of the best crusty bread you can find. A fine antidote for my Parisian pinings.

Friday, November 28, 2008

More Thanks: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Mama Betty made these for our Thanksgiving feast last night, and they were moist, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I am thankful for Mama Betty and also for Paula Deen.

Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Biscuits
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
2 to 4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate, large bowl, mix the sweet potatoes and butter. Add the flour mixture to the potato mixture and mix to make a soft dough. Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth. Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on a greased pan and coat tops with melted butter. Bake for about 15 minutes. (Watch your oven: If the biscuits are browning too fast, lower the temperature.)

Here's a recipe that I found for sweet potato biscuits with bacon and thyme. Are you kidding me? Can't wait, can't wait.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Am Thankful for Bacon Pizza

Is there anything better than Thanksgiving? A delicious homemade feast with friends and family, football, several alcoholic options, holding hands and giving thanks for blessings, so many blessings, like taste buds. One simple creation that my magic flavor tasters are most thankful for is bacon pizza. I am thankful that something so yummy is so freakin' easy: already made pizza crust from TJs, or most any grocer, pizza sauce in a jar, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, fresh mushrooms, thin-sliced red onions, red peppers, and fried thick-cut bacon. It may not be the most heart-healthy meal ever, but your heart still will thank you, cause it will surely fall in love. And don't forget the wine. Trust me, now is not the time for beer. Any red will do. After all, this is not exactly haute cuisine. Just simple, delicious, sweet bacon love.