Friday, February 25, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - short ribs in red wine and port

Short ribs are one of my all-time favorite things to eat.  I love the slow-braised, tender, fall off the bone meat...marbled perfectly with fat to make the meat juicy and flavorful.  Whenever we go out to eat, if short ribs are on the menu, I have to order them...I can't help myself.  Now, a little confession.  I've only made short ribs once myself.  I'm not sure why...but I guess I thought they were to difficult to make.  That, and the fact that the boys are not huge short rib fans.  As Ethan likes to remind me...he doesn't like to eat fat!!!  (And neither does St. James.)  Oh really is their loss.

I was really looking forward to making Dorie's short ribs.  Turns out, they are a bit of work...just because there are a few steps...from roasting them quickly under the broiler, to creating the amazing braising sauce, to braising them for a few hours in the chilling them overnight (optional step) skimming the roasting them quickly under the broiler again.

I decided that short ribs would be perfect for our Valentine's dinner, so I started them on Sunday.  Sunday night, when they were done was all I could do to keep myself from eating them right then and their.  They were so gorgeous, with such an amazing color and aroma...I was in heaven just looking at them.

Unfortunately, this was not the case Monday night when I went to finish them off for serving to the boys.  I scraped all the hardened fat off the top (and their was a 1/4 inch layer that was tinged orange from the tomato paste in the broth) and gently lifted the cold short ribs (still miraculously attached to their bones) out of the dutch oven and into a baking dish for their final roasting under the broiler.  Now, I did question how the short ribs were going to get heated all the way through with only a couple of minutes under the broiler, but I've learned to stop doubting Dorie...since I've seen so many of her recipes magically transform.

I spooned some sauce over the short ribs and place them under the broiler and turned them every few minutes so that each side got "glazed."  By the last turn, my poor short ribs were looking like charcoal briquettes.  I almost cried...ok I actually did cry for a few moments.  So much time and effort and it appeared that my Valentine's dinner was ruined.  Since I had nothing else to serve and the boys were hungry...I put the ribs on the table...apologized and said to pull off the burned part and eat whatever wasn't burned.

See how burned they looked!
Were we in for a surprise!  I took my first bite of what appeared to be burned edges...and the short ribs were not burned at all.  While they had a very dark color...after the first bite...I realized it was from the amazing broth with the red wine and port.  The short ribs were literally black...but tasted amazing.  Hallelujah!  These were so tasty, I was really glad I'd made 8, as I then had leftovers all week.  The boys actually enjoyed them too...cutting their way around any visible fat!

Served with Dorie's Green Beans w/Homemade Bacon and Mashed Potatoes

The boys and I joked that this was our black and red Valentine's dinner.  The short ribs were black, served on red plates.  And, for dessert, I made a chocolate pudding cakes with raspberry sauce.  I made the cakes with Hershey's special dark cocoa powder and when the cakes came out of the oven...they were black as tar.  When you took a spoonful, you then had the lovely red raspberry sauce and the coal black cake.  While nothing looked quite the way I thought it would...everything tasted amazing.  There are no pictures of the black cake, which is too bad because then you could all get a good laugh at our red and black Valentine's dinner too!

See how my other FFwD friends fared with their short ribs here.  Sorry I don't have more pictures...but at this point I feel lucky that I'm actually getting the FFwD recipes cooked...I don't seem to have enough time to also take nice pictures!  Hopefully, in March I'll be a little more organized and actually cook when there's some lovely light outside!

Friday, February 18, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - pancetta green beans

So nice to have a simple recipe this week!  Simple, yet actually 10 days in the making for me.  You see, instead of store bought pancetta, I used my homemade bacon, cut into lardons.  This turned boring, ole green beans into an amazing side dish.  Simple, quick (except for the 10 days to make the bacon) and gobbled up as swiftly as I set them on the table.  See what the other FFwD cooks did this week here.  My post is short and sweet this week, since I poured my heart out earlier this week.  Plus, I'm saving my very funny Valentine's dinner story for next week when we post about the short ribs!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza - It's Bacon

I've discovered something about the tender age of 45 I'm amazed that there are still things I don't know...about myself that is.  I'm not amazed that there are things I don't know in general.  What I've discovered is that I'm an instant gratification kind of girl.  When I want something, I pretty much want it now.  Right now!  You are probably could you not have known this about yourself?  How can this be a revelation?  Well, let me explain.

I've always been patient.  I've set my goals, worked hard, enjoyed my rewards.  I eat my veggies first, then my meat and then my dessert.  I save the best for last.  I savor the anticipation, the planning, the dreaming.  Sometimes, I've thought the lead up to an event was better than the event itself.  Just sometimes.  Until recently.  Recently, I haven't wanted to wait.  I don't want to anticipate, savor, plan.  I want the experience and I want it now.  As I'm writing this, not really knowing where it's coming from...I just realized where it's coming from and where it's going.

February 17th is the one year anniversary of my mom's death.  It's been lurking in the back of my mind...hovering there...waiting to step forward and make itself known.  I've been wondering whether it was going to be like a sharp slap in the face or a gentle caress of a warm and loving memory.  Now I know...I still have some processing to do...some coming to terms...some mourning and some celebrating.  It's funny, the death of a parent...the ways it affects you.  I've realized life is short (mom was only 67) and waiting for stuff is way overrated!  Hence, if I want is okay...never know what tomorrow will bring. 

At this point you are probably wondering where the hell this is going.   Sorry...the title does say bacon doesn't it!  Ok...I'm participating in a year-long series of challenges...all wrapped up in bacon.  Well, maybe not all wrapped up in bacon...but this month's challenge has been all about bacon.  I'm playing with about 300 other bloggers in Charcutepalooza...the brain child of Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster.   We're going to be exploring Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.  

The funny thing about where I am in my life right now with the whole instant gratification thing is that charcuterie is not about instant gratification.  It's not even about waiting a little bit.  It's about long, slow processes that yield incredible edibles...that in the end you decide are well worth the wait.  So, I find I have to restrain the instant gratification girl (or let her make cupcakes or cookies to keep her happy) to participate in this adventure.  And, I don't think this is a bad thing.

The first challenge was to make duck prosciutto...which I have made and it's waiting to be eaten.  As it was the first challenge, and many folks weren't quite ready yet, we are allowed to post about the duck prosciutto anytime this year.  So, stay tuned for my post on hanging breasts in my wine fridge and then in my closet!  For the rest of the year, we post our challenges on the 15th of the month.  Hey, that's today!  Yeah!  I'm on time.

February's challenge was all about salt cures.  There are two challenges each apprentice challenge and a charcuterie challenge.  For February, I only managed the apprentice challenge...which was to make fresh bacon.  You heard read that right...we're making bacon!  It's actually a very simple process.  Get a belly (pork belly for this family), get some pink salt (have to order it...can't buy it over the counter in California), and dextrose, make a cure, pat your belly with the cure, bag it up, put it in the fridge, flip it every other day for 7 days (or maybe 9 if your belly's fat), rinse it, roast it, slice it, eat it!  

That's it!  Very, very easy.  Kind of!  Sourcing the belly and pink salt took a little effort.  Remembering to flip the belly every other day was a little difficult, since the belly resided in the fridge in the I didn't see it every day when I was getting the milk out.  But, I managed to remember!

We are not posting the charcuterie recipes, so please check out Ruhlman's book to see how simple it really is.  What we are posting is our own recipes that we make using the monthly charcuterie item.  When the bacon came out of the oven after it's slow roasting, I took a large nibble off the end and so did Ethan.  We both swooned with pleasure.  He wanted to know if we could slice it and eat it right then.  It was 9 pm and I had to say no, wait til morning.  So, in the morning we did slice it and fry it and eat it.  Just like that.  No special recipe...just fabulous, thick, juicy, crunchy bacon.

Did I mention that I had purchased two pork bellies, each about 14 lbs a piece.  The first belly, I cut in half and made a sweeter bacon (by adding some brown sugar to the cure) with half and a non-sweet bacon (which is actually going to be applewood smoked) with the other half.  So, we've got about 12 lbs of fresh bacon (a little weight is lost in the curing process as the bacon dries).  Think about that.  12 lbs!  When you buy bacon, you usually buy 12 - 16 ozs

When I got home from the new store on Saturday (another long week)...I was starving.  Because even though I help hundreds of moms feed their families every month, I can't seem to remember to feed myself when I'm working.  I decided a BLAT was necessary.  This is my own recipe...which everyone has made themselves, I'm sure (except, probably not with homemade bacon and maybe not with citrus sea salt).

BLAT - Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado & Tomato Sandwich

Two slices of country white bread, the softer the better.
Homemade Citrus Sea Salt
Sliced Tomatoes
2 butter lettuce leaves
Slice Avocado
3 thick slices of home made bacon

Fry up the bacon and drain.  Reserve your bacon fat to add to all sorts of things in the future.  Slather your bread with mayo, artfully arrange your tomato slices on one slice of bread.  Sprinkle with the citrus sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Arrange your lettuce leaves on the other slice of bread and add the avocado slices.  Strategically place the bacon slices over the avocado slices to cover as much of the bread as possible.  Do a little magic and flip the slice with the tomatoes over onto the slice with the lettuce, avocado and bacon.  Slice and eat.  (And don't tell anyone in your family about it, or they will all want a bite...even though they have eaten lunch already and you haven't!)

I can't wait to see what we're making next month...I bet you can't either.

Friday, February 11, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - orange-almond tart

Another week, another Friday.  For me, with my new schedule...Fridays are kind of like mid-week.  Saturday afternoons are when I'm done at the store and can relax for a day.  Some of you have asked about my store...I now own two Dream Dinners' in Pasadena, CA  and one in Whittier, CA.  If you don't know what Dream Dinners is, have a look here.  Who knows, maybe there's one near you.  If so, check it out.  It comes in handy on those nights when you want a home-cooked dinner, but just don't have the A. Time, B. Energy, C. cook from scratch.  So, enough about my business (well, not really, since it's consuming my every thought...waking and sleeping...I'm sure there will be more mention in this post.)

This week I got to make a beautiful orange-almond tart with all the other FFwD cooks.  I was a little concerned about a couple of things before starting this recipe.  First, it's a pretty pastry type dessert.  Kind of decorative.  And, even though I took a year's worth of cake decorating classes (and can make some incredible looking cakes)...I don't consider myself the decorative type.  Meaning that I often am much more concerned about how it tastes and not so much with how it looks.  Second, I knew segmenting the oranges was going to be a pain and I wasn't sure I really wanted to do it.  In fact, more than once I considered getting some canned mandarin that awful???

Anyway...after stewing about the tart for a few days...I decided to go ahead and segment the oranges and attempt some decorative result.

As I was making the crust, I was sure Dorie was crazy.  There was no way these ingredients were going to come together and make a crust.  But, I kept the faith and continued to pulse on my Cuisinart.  All of a sudden, just like Dorie said, my Cuisinart made a different noise and the next thing I know...the crust has started to come together.

While the crust rested in the freezer, hand formed into the tart pan, I made the almond cream filling.  I use the term "cream" not because it was light cream...but because there was no cream in this mixture.  It was sugar and butter and flour and almond meal and egg and vanilla.   But somehow, after a little processing, it turned into a cream like mixture (that tasted great...especially with the grapefruit segments that I had cut but ended up not using).  After blind baking the tart crust (which is really just a sable cookie recipe) and letting it cool, I put the almond cream in the tart crust, arranged my orange segments (which only took me about 20 minutes to cut) and baked again.

The result, a lovely tart that looks just like something we ate in France this summer.  And wasn't that the point!  Plus, it tasted divine!!!  Check out my fellow bloggers and see how lovely their tarts are this week too.

Friday, February 4, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - basque potato tortilla

It's a crazy time in my life right now, what with opening a new store.  I'm back to leaving the house around 7 am and getting home around 9:30 or 10:30 pm.  It's been a few years since I've kept those kind of hours and my older body is not as appreciative as my younger body once was.  I'm looking forward to Sunday to completely relax, catch up on sleep and pretty much just veg out...oh...and prepare for next week's FFwD also.  Since, the only way I can keep up with the weekly cooking is to do it on Sundays.

Last Sunday, I took a break from my new store opening craziness and made Dorie's basque potato tortilla for me and my boys for lunch.  I have to say, it was perfect for the slightly rainy, kind of cold day.  I had planned on making it in the morning and then letting it sit and we would eat it for dinner.  However, Ethan had other plans.  When I started cooking it, he said it smelled so good, could we eat it now?  So, we did!

In addition to making this lovely cross between an omelet and a frittata, I also made Dorie's piperade from her chicken basquaise recipe (which if you read my post last know why I made the piperade).  I also cooked some nice apple wood smoked, thick cut bacon...which the guys decided was essential to pull off this dish (not my bacon, mind you...which is curing in the fridge and will be ready early next week...and I absolutely can't wait...but that will be for another post!).

The piperade was great with the "tortilla," adding a little spiciness, sweetness, color and juiciness to the dish.  The recipe ended up making a ton of the piperade, so I was able to freeze it in 3-serving batches and we can eat it over the next couple of months with all sorts of yummy things.

This was a straight forward dish to make, and I even managed to get it to come out of the skillet in one piece!  The only issue I had was with my new Le Creuset cast iron pan.  I did the potatoes and onions in the pan, knowing that it could go in the oven.  Well, everything stuck hideously (just like the first two times I used this pan)...much to St. James' dismay (since he's the pot cleaner).  If anyone has one of these skillets and knows the trick, let me know.  The salesperson said it's already seasoned and that I don't need to do anything to it...I think she lied.  I've now seasoned it and am hoping the next time it behaves better.  I ended up making the "tortilla" in my nice risotto problems there!

Thank you to everyone who's been sending their well wishes my way for the new venture.  I really appreciate it.  I haven't had the chance to visit all the FFwD blogs like I normally do, so maybe I'll get to catch up on that this weekend too.  You can clicking here.