Belgian Beef Stew

Thu, Oct 30 • 0

On a cool autumn night, nothing tastes better than a hearty bowl of beef stew.

I made an awesome stew the other night. Not a lot of ingredients. You can cut your prep time by buying stew meat, but the pieces they give you are usually leftovers and trimmings from other cuts, and come in unusual sizes. By cutting your own cubes from a boneless roast, you can control how much fat remains, and you can cut the pieces in more uniform sizes. (Don’t cut off all of the fat from the meat, since it provides flavor.) As for the cooking liquid, I prefer Chimay Trappist Ale. I think it adds just the right flavor without adding too much bitter flavor, but you can obviously use any quality ale you want. You can substitute any vegetables you want, though I think the onions are essential. Cubed turnips work well.

4 lbs. boneless chuck roast
2 large spanish onions
1 large parsnip
2 large carrots
½ cup + 2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves garlic
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large bottle ale (75 cl)
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 300°. Meanwhile, cut the roast into proper 1-inch pieces as described above. Season with salt and pepper, and toss in the ½ cup flour to coat. In the bottom of your heaviest dutch oven, brown the meat in small batches with the olive oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, getting a good golden brown crust. Discard the oil between batches if the bottom of the pan is getting too scorched.

Slice the onions, and peel and slice the carrots, parsnip, and garlic, and brown them in the pot, adding a little water to help get the bits off the bottom. Add the tomato paste, and cook that for a few minutes, so it’s spread all throughout the vegetables. Now add the spices, the browned meat, and the bottle of beer, and bring the whole thing up to a rolling boil. Tightly lid, and put it in the oven to braise for 1 or 2 hours, until the beef is very tender, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn’t bubbled away.

Mix the remaining flour and the butter to make a paste — this is called a beurre manié — and stir that in to thicken. Remove the bay leaves, and check for seasoning. You can optionally garnish with lemon zest. Serve over egg noodles or with a crusty loaf of bread.


Thu, Oct 30 • 0

What I called butterflying in this recipe I posted in July is apparently really called spatchcocking. It’s basically cutting a whole bird down its back, removing the backbone (which I reserve for stock) and flattening it to a relatively even thickness for even, fast cooking. Whether you use a grill, or your oven, you can cook a 3-pound chicken in 45 minutes or less. I confirmed my misnomer when I was thumbing through Martha Stewart’s new cookbook, although she takes it a step further and grills the bird with a foil covered brick on it.

I can’t abide by that method. I think a quarter-inch more or less contact to the grill surface isn’t going to make such a huge difference, and I’d be worried that pressing the bird down, like pressing down on a hamburger patty, would cause essential juices to dribble out onto the fire.

Jacques Pepin demonstrated the method on his new series, More Fast Food My Way, on PBS. He adds a few refinements that will cut off even more cooking time.

(Before you proceed, either get your grill going, or preheat your oven to 425°.)

Same as before, using shears, cut down either side of the backbone of the bird, then open it up like a book, helping it flatten by snapping the cartilage near where the wishbone is, up by the neck with a knife. Now, using your knife, knick the bird in all the places where you’ve ended up with raw chicken when you’ve roasted before — right at the knee of the drumstick and the thigh, up in the “arm pit” between the wing and the breast, as well as the crotch, where the thigh meets the torso. Cut a small gash, less then an inch long, but all the way to the bone. This will supposedly allow heat to get into the spots that take the longest to cook. (He also chops off the tips of the drumsticks, which causes the meat to contract up, exposing the thin, white leg bone when it cooks.)

He used a very assertive, mustard-based recipe for coating the bird.

2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
5 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
salt & pepper

Mix all of these together in a bowl, and slather this sauce all over the bird, on both sides.

He prepared his in the oven, and so his method has you first put the chicken, skin-side down, in a very hot oven-proof skillet, and cook it for 5 minutes, then turning it, and putting it in the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes.

Chicken with Vinegar and Shallots

Thu, Oct 16 • 0

This is apparently a classic french dish, because I found many, many versions of it on the net. (Fricassée de Poulet au Vinaigre et à l’Echalote.) It’s a basic, tasty, braised chicken recipe, which yields a really good gravy, and can be made in about an hour and a half. As an option, you can remove the skin after browning, since it ends up turning kind of distastefully flabby in the braise. You should still add it to the pan since it provides flavor, but discard it before serving.

1 3-lb chicken, cut up into 8 pieces.
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 cups red wine
6 large shallots, diced
1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Heat up the oil in a large pot and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken and take off the skin.

Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf and cover. Cook on medium heat for 10minutes while gradually adding half of the vinegar, so that it evaporates quickly and steams the meat.

Add the shallots and cover the chicken with the red wine and remaining vinegar. Cover and simmer for about an hour. When chicken is done, remove from pot and place on a warm platter.

Optionally, strain the shallots and garlic out of the sauce, and then whisk butter in and pour over the chicken.

Potato, Leek and Asparagus Tart

Mon, Oct 13 • 0

Completely decadent, serve this with a salad, as a side, or as a first course. It’ll definitely wow them at the pot-luck dinner.

You could really go over the top with this recipe, adding cream to the potatoes, and using a ton of butter, but I tried to keep it a little less than sinful — but go ahead and use the cream, especially if you’re going vegetarian. You can use any single cheese you want. I think the smokiness of the chedder added a lot to it, though. Smoked gouda might work well, too. If you’ve never worked with phillo dough, be sure to read the hints on the box, about working quickly, and keeping the unused layers with a moistened towel — if the dough gets dried out (which doesn’t take much), you might as well be working with newspaper. You can omit the eggs — which I did, by mistake — to save even more calories, but they help firm up the potatoes, and make it much easier to cut. Either way, it’s delicious.

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
4 fist-sized yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
3 ounces smoked chedder cheese
3 ounces fontina
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup chicken broth
3 eggs
1 package phillo pastry
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring two pots of water to boil, one for the potatoes (boil for about 10 minutes or until soft), one for the asparagus (parboil for 4 minutes). Saute the chopped leek in one tablespoon of the butter until softened, and melt the rest (either in a small pan, or in the microwave). Mash the potatoes, adding in the chicken stock, and the shredded cheeses, as if you’re making mashed potatoes.  Add the leeks, and the eggs, and mix until smooth.

Start lining a baking pan, or, ideally, a rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom, with the layers of phillo, spreading a little of the melted butter between layers, overlapping the edge of the pan. Keep layering until you have 6-10 layers. Spread the mashed potatoes into the middle, and smooth. Press a single layer of asparagus into the potatoes, and moisten with any of the butter left over. Fold over the hanging bits of the phillo to form a flakey crust.

Put the pan in the bottom of the oven, and cook for 20-30 minutes, then let it cool for at least 10 minutes.

Chicken Cacciatore with Risotto

Sun, Oct 12 • 0

Cacciatore means “hunter’s style” in italian, and it’s typically a braising method for chicken (or rabbit) with tomatoes and other vegetables, including mushrooms, onions, and herbs.

The chicken part of this meal was the simple part to the much more complicated risotto, but even that’s not so bad. I chose whole wheat short grain rice for my risotto, which doubled the cooking time, but you can choose regular white, arborio. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but you could easily use chicken breasts, or a combination, and the chicken doesn’t have to be boneless — though I recommend the skinless, since the braising method would tend to make the skin sort of rubbery otherwise.

6 boneless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup onions, chopped
1 large can plum tomatoes, crushed, with juice

1 large leek, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 handfuls short grain rice, about ¾ cup
2 cups chicken broth, plus 3 cups water, heated to boiling
¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Heat a frying pan over medium heat, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper, and brown them off, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken, and put in the garlic and the onion, and sweat. Add the tomatoes, plus any herbs you like (basil or thyme would work well here) and bring to a rapid boil. Return the chicken and cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. and cook until the chicken is cooked through — at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock and the water to a simmer in a saucepan. In another pan (preferably, a saucier), heat 2 tablespoons of butter, and add the leek, and cook until wilted. Add the rice, and stir, allowing the rice to soak up the butter, and turn pearly. Begin adding the hot stock, about three or four ladles-full to start. You don’t need to constantly stir the rice, but you do need to keep and eye on it, and stir it occasionally, to make sure it doesn’t scorch in the pan and run out of liquid. Keep adding more liquid, a ladle at a time. I also fortified the cooking liquid for the rice with some of the excess liquid from the chicken, which added flavor as well as a rosey color to the rice. It’ll take about 20 minutes for white risotto or 45 for brown to get to the point where you can taste a grain or two, and they’re chewy, but not so much so that they stick to your teeth. At this point, you can keep cooking it to whatever consistency you prefer. I like it the consistency of wet oatmeal. Remove it from the heat, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the shredded cheese. Taste for seasoning.

Baked Beans

Sun, Oct 12 • 1

The other day, I discovered yet another item that takes a long time to cook, and the results aren’t all that much better than the stuff you can buy in a can. Baked beans. While the 16 hours it took to make the beans were by no means labor intensive, they still took a large amount of preplanning that I figure most people won’t go through unless the payoff is huge. The beans ended up being just ok. Maybe you can tell me where I went wrong?

I soaked a pound of an heirloom bean I found called “Yellow Indian Woman” in a bowl of water for about 8 hours in the fridge. Then I drained them, and put them in a pot with more water, some ground black pepper, a bay leaf, and a whole onion, cut into eighths, and boiled them, covered, for an hour. I drained off all the remaining water, but I reserved it, and added back 12 ounces, along with a half a cup of brown sugar, a half a cup of maple syrup, a half a cup of ketchup, a tablespoon of mustard powder, a tablespoon of fresh grated ginger, salt and pepper. I also sliced up 5 thick slices of bacon, stirring half the bacon throughout, and half scattered on the top. Then I tightly lidded the pan, and put it in a slow oven (250°) for 6 hours.

I probably should have checked it towards the end, because the liquid was pretty much gone after 6 hours, and I probably could have improved the consistency by adding in some of the reserved cooking liquid from before.

They had good flavor — no complaints about that. And they made the apartment smell good. They tasted great on the side of a couple of trout fillets that I pan fried in butter, too. I just think they didn’t taste any better than a $2 tin of beans from the grocery store, is all. Ingredient list after the break.

Keep reading…

Recent Batch of New Food Words

Thu, Oct 2 • 0

doughing in n. Recently, Whyte brewed a batch of American pale ale in her kitchen using hops she grew in her backyard. First, she heated five gallons of water on her stove to about 150 to 160 degrees. She poured it into a bucket full of malted barley—a process called “doughing in.”

mistelle n. Pedneault also produces an iced apple mistelle—with alcohol added to bring it to 20 per cent and served frosty, it’s Quebec’s version of ice wine—and is often paired on local menus with foie gras.

louching n. Specially designed for the purpose, it’s shallow-to-flat bowl is decoratively slotted, and a cube of sugar is laid on top. Very slowly, ice cold water is dripped over the sugar cube and slowly drops into the absinthe. That nectar first turns the liquor an eerie shade of milky green and, gradually, a cloud-like opalescent. This technique is called la louche, or louching.

fat washing n. Although in this case it’s bacon-flavored bourbon, and the process, known as a fat washing, is different from a typical infusion. Essentially, beverage director Paul Westerkamp renders bacon, combines the grease with Woodford Reserve bourbon, freezes it, pokes a hole in the upper frozen layer, and then drains and filters the liquid.

night lunch n. As our lovely little girl, Anna, came early, we had to spend a few extra weeks in the hospital with her. My wife and I learned a few things.…There’s a mystical fourth meal around 9pm called “night lunch.

From the Double-Tongued Dictionary

Sausage & Peppers

Wed, Oct 1 • 0

This is the way my mom used to make it. And this is pretty much the best food at any street fair, ever.

1-2 lbs fresh italian sausage (hot or mild) about 6 links
1 small onion
1 bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup  white wine
salt & pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes (optional)

slice the onion in half, lengthwise, and then chop it into thin half circles. Chop the pepper to similar size and length pieces. Heat a skillet with oil, and soften the onions and the peppers. Pierce the sausages with a fork, and put them in the pan with the wine, garlic and salt and pepper(s), and clamp on a lid, and turn the heat down. Allow the pan to simmer for 15 or 20 minutes, checking to make sure it hasn’t dried out (add a little water or more wine if it has). Once the wine has mostly evaporated, remove the lid, and let everything fry a little, turning frequently, since the sugar left from the wine will carmelize and burn very quickly. When everything is as brown as you like it, remove from the heat, and let it cool a bit. Serve as is, or on a crusty roll.

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