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Monthly Archives: September 2016

A Perfect Shout Out for Cooler Weather – Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

As much as summer may be trying to hang on here in the last few days of September, there have been some very cool nights here lately, making it feel much more like fall now. It is nice to have the window open in the evening to feel the cool air instead of the air conditioning. It is also a great sign that cooking more things like soups, stews and braises is right on the horizon. I have already started in on making some fall like dinners when I have had the chance to. One meal I particularly enjoy is short ribs. Unfortunately, as is the case with many of the meats that you find for sale today, short ribs tend to be very expensive, particularly if you are looking to feed several people. I had purchased some as part of a package of fresh meat I had purchased from Bishop Farms at a farmers market not that long ago so I had more than enough on hand to feed the three of us. I had been saving this recipe that I had found from Williams-Sonoma for braised short ribs with a creamy polenta and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 pounds bone in, individual-cut short ribs

4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 carrots, diced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups red wine

3 cups beef stock or broth

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 cup milk

1 1/3 cups quick-cooking polenta

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving

 

Preheat the oven to 325°. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the short ribs with 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt and the pepper. In batches so you can avoid overcrowding, and the short ribs to the pot and cook, turning occasionally, until the short ribs are browned on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer the short ribs to a separate plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and heat it. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Sprinkle in the all-purpose flour and stir it well. Slowly stir in the red wine, then the beef stock. Stir in the tomato paste, rosemary and bay leaf. Return the short ribs to the pot. The short ribs should be barely covered with liquid. If not, add hot water as needed. Bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pot, place the pot in the oven, and cook the short ribs, moving the position of the ribs every forty-five minutes or so to be sure that they are covered with liquid and are cooking evenly, until the short ribs are very tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer the short ribs to a deep serving platter (do not worry if the meat separates from the bones; this should happen), and tent the platter with aluminum foil to keep the short ribs warm.

Let the cooking liquid stand for five minutes. Skim off the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and discard the fat. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduced by about one-fourth, about 10 to 12 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Return the short ribs to the pot.

Just before serving, make the polenta: In a heavy saucepan, bring 3 cups of water, the milk and the remaining 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to a boil over high heat. Slowly whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, whisking often, until the polenta is thick, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Divide the polenta among warmed serving bowls or plates, top the polenta with the short ribs and the sauce and serve at once.

A meal like this involving short ribs is pretty elegant and since it takes quite a lot of time to cook, it is likely something you are going to want to save to use for a Sunday dinner or another meal on the weekend. The recipe itself is fairly basic but the short ribs take on a great deal of flavor and as the fat in the short ribs starts to break down the meat becomes more tender and succulent. The gravy adds just the right touch to the short ribs and tastes great when served over the polenta. If you did not want to have polenta, you could just as easily substitute mashed potatoes or even rice if you prefer, but the polenta seems to go really well with this type of meal. This is a great one to do when you are having people over as the recipe indicated serves six. I did halve the recipe so it was better suited for just three of us and we still had some leftovers. The leftover short ribs are great to use for a whole bunch of different meals. You can easily remove the meat from the bones and shredded and use the meat for things like tacos or put it back in the sauce and just serve it over rice or pasta. I served this with some Brussels sprouts and some homemade bread to complete the meal.

That is all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner

 

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Have Your Beer and Eat it Too – Beer-Brined Chicken

While I am not a huge beer drinker by any means, I do enjoy having a good beer now and then. While I am particularly partial to having a Guinness, I try to keep an open mind and do drink several other different craft beers. I appreciate that not everyone enjoys having beer is there beverage of choice, but making use of beer in cooking can be quite tasty. Not only is it great to use in batters for things like fish or shrimp, I have also found a few different recipes that make use of beer in both the brine that is used for additional flavoring and in the braising or roasting. That is just what this particular recipe has to offer that I found at New York Times Cooking for beer-brined roast chicken. The original recipe comes from Red Rooster Harlem, a well-known restaurant here in New York. The recipe itself is pretty simple, though you do need to plan a little bit ahead so that you can brine the chicken and have it ready to go for roasting.

Beer-Brined Roast Chicken

 

For the Brine:

1 cup kosher salt

cup packed light brown sugar

4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed

1 leek (white and light green part), quartered

5 sprigs thyme

7 sprigs sage

2 shallots, halved and peeled

3 (12-ounce) bottles lager-style beer

For the Chicken and Vegetables:

1 whole chicken (4 to 4 1/2 pounds)

1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

1 ½ pounds fingerling potatoes (or other small potato), cut in half lengthwise

2 cups whole peeled pearl onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 to 4 sprigs sage

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 (12-ounce) bottle lager-style beer

To prepare the brine, in a large pot combine 8 cups of water, the salt and the sugar and bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat, stirring to help dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the garlic, leek, thyme, sage and shallots; let the brine cool to room temperature.

Place the chicken in a deep container large enough to hold it and the brine. Pour the cooled brine over the chicken. Pour in the 3 bottles of beer until the chicken is submerged; cover the chicken and refrigerate it overnight.

To prepare the chicken and vegetables, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the Brussels sprouts, potatoes, onions, chopped sage and lemon zest in a large bowl. Drizzle the vegetables with vegetable oil and season them with salt and pepper; toss the vegetables to evenly coat them.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat the skin dry with paper towels. Place about half of the vegetables in the bottom of a roasting pan or large sauté pan and set the chicken on top of the vegetables. Rub the butter evenly over the top of the chicken to coat it well. Pour the bottle of beer into the pan and arrange the sage sprigs in the pan around the chicken.

Roast the chicken for 1 hour, basting every 20 minutes with the liquid in the pan.

Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Spread the remaining vegetables on a baking sheet and place them on a low rack or the bottom of the oven. Cook everything until the chicken skin is golden brown and crisp and the vegetables are just tender and slightly charred, 20 to 30 more minutes, stirring the vegetables and basting the chicken once halfway through.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. Plate chicken with a mix of roasted veggies and the vegetables from the pan. Spoon the reduced cooking liquid from the pan over the top.

This is a pretty basic roast chicken recipe with vegetables that lets you do most of the work all in one pan. I love roasting this way because you get to use just one pan and you get a great melding of flavors as the chicken juices run onto the vegetables and everything tastes great. I actually poured out the juices from the vegetables once the chicken was done and thickened all of the juices up as a gravy in a separate pan. It was great flavor that came from the beer, the chicken and vegetables. I used a Samuel Adams beer, actually their Maple Ale that is part of their seasonal beers that are out right now and it added a very nice flavor to the sauce and the chicken, but you could certainly use any beer that you enjoy the most. The vegetables were all roasted very nicely and had great flavor also. You can use a mix of any root vegetables you really like here to make the dish your own, but I love roasted Brussels sprouts myself. Throw in some carrots with the potatoes and you have everything to go. I actually made some of our favorite biscuits to go with everything to make the meal complete.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on September 27, 2016 in Cooking, Dinner, One Pot Meals, Poultry, Uncategorized

 

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To Have and Have Again – Ernest Hemingway’s Meatloaf Burger

I have been pretty swamped with work lately, which means I do not have a lot of free time to do any type of blogging of my own. This happens now and again and is just part of the business of being a freelance writer. There are times where the work is nonstop and then there are others where things slow down and I have plenty of time to pick up the slack around the house and do other things. It also means I have less time to devote to trying out different recipes for things to post on the blog. However, I have been able to come across a few great quick and easy meals that are perfect for all the busy weeknights when you have lots of work to do, school has started, afterschool activities are taking over and everyone is going in different directions. The latest issue of Cook’s Country came a little bit ago and one of the recipes that caught my eye right away was for meatloaf burgers. The recipe they use is an adaptation of the one that Ernest Hemingway apparently used quite a bit when he was cooking for himself. While the article indicates that Hemingway basically used whatever he could find in the pantry or refrigerator and included it in his recipe, the one that they actually used seems a bit more reasonable. I decided it looked and sounded good enough where it was worth giving a try.

Meatloaf Burgers, Ernest Hemingway Style

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

6 tablespoons ketchup

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1 large egg

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon onion powder

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds 80-85% lean ground beef

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

4 hamburger buns, toasted

 

Combine the Panko breadcrumbs and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl until the breadcrumbs are thoroughly moistened. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the ketchup, the parsley, egg, mustard, onion powder, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Add the ground beef and knead the mixture with your hands until it is just combined.

Shape the beef mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties, about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Press the center of each patty down with your fingertips until the depression is about 1/2 inch thick, creating a slight divot in the patty. At this point, the patties can be covered and refrigerated for up to twenty-four hours.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°. Set a wire rack in an aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat until the oil is just smoking. Transfer the patties to the skillet and cook them without moving them until they are browned on the first side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the patties and cook them without moving them until they are browned on the second side, about 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer the patties to the prepared wire rack and bake them until the meat registers 160° on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each patty, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and the remaining 1/4 cup of ketchup together in a medium bowl until the ingredients are well blended.

Transfer the burgers to a plate and allow them to rest for five minutes. Serve the burgers on the toasted hamburger buns with the sauce on the side.

I have to admit that the burgers certainly do have a meatloaf texture and quality to them, making them much more filling than the traditional burgers I make all of the time. That being said, I did enjoy the taste that the Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, ketchup and mustard lent to the burger. The sauce was very much like what you might traditionally think of as a Thousand Islands dressing and while I enjoyed it, Sean and Michelle both opted out of it. I did offer up some cheddar cheese on the burgers I made for Sean and Michelle and since they like cheeseburgers and I also made some bacon to top the burgers with, which rounded things off nicely for us since I very often make meatloaf with bacon on it. I would certainly make these again for something a little bit different as far as burgers go. Of course,  serving these with tater tots, French fries, coleslaw or potato salad is always a good option.

That is all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on September 26, 2016 in Cooking, Dinner

 

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Basic Knife Skills – NYT Cooking

I am certainly no expert when it comes to using a knife. I always wish that it was something I was a little better with so that doing all of the prep work before cooking would be a little bit easier and quicker. New York Times Cooking has put together some basic information and a video to talk about basic Knife skills, choosing the right knives, taking care of them and learning to make cuts like an expert. The information is pretty helpful and perhaps it can assist you in improving on your own knife skills. Check it out!

Source: Basic Knife Skills – NYT Cooking

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Cooking, Cooking Tips, Cooking Websites, Equipment

 

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Kitchen Pantry Cooking Essentials – Key Ingredients and Recipes – Food.com

The key to good cooking and easy cooking is having some basics in your pantry all of the time. When you have the right ingredients around you can put together a meal in no time at all. Food.com has a list for you of the 50 most common cooking essentials you want in your pantry so you can do anything at any time. Check it out!

Source: Kitchen Pantry Cooking Essentials – Key Ingredients and Recipes – Food.com

 

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A Comfort Food Classic for Cooler Weather – Beef Stroganoff

The weather has started to become noticeably cooler the last few days. While the temperature has stayed in the 70s or so during the day around here, it is going down to fifty at night, making it great to open up the windows and get some fresh air for a change instead of using the air conditioner. Once the weather starts to get this way, I tend to start to think more about making different comfort foods. Comfort foods in the fall naturally seem to gravitate towards things like soups, stews, roasts and the like. I decided yesterday seemed like a good day to try something I have not made a very long time – beef stroganoff. Traditionally, stroganoff is made with beef tenderloin. However, tenderloin is not something I buy usually more than once a year, and even then it is usually around the holidays. There are plenty of good substitutes that you can use to make stroganoff instead of spending a high price you might for tenderloin. You can use sirloin steak, London broil or even stew beef if you cut it thin enough. I decided to try this classic beef stroganoff recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which simplifies the recipes so that you can make a great meal in about twenty or thirty minutes.

Classic Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned and have if small, quartered if medium, cut into sixths if large

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 pound beef (tenderloin, sirloin steak, London broil or stew beef), cut into 1/2-inch long, 1/8-inch wide strips

1/2 cup beef broth

1 tablespoon butter

one small onion, minced (1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup sour cream

8 ounces egg noodles, cooked in salted water, drained, and tossed with 2 tablespoons of butter

Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed large skillet set over medium-high heat until the oil is hot and shimmering, but not smoking, about 2 to 3 minutes; swirl the oil to coat the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat without stirring for about thirty seconds. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and continue to cook them, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer the mushrooms to a medium bowl.

Return the skillet to high heat, and add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil; swirl the oil to coat the pan. Place the beef strips in the skillet. Using tongs, spread the meat into a single layer, making sure that the strips do not touch, and cook the meat without turning until it is well browned on the first side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the beef strips and cooked them on the second side until they are well-browned, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the beef to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Add the beef broth to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon; simmer the broth until it is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the beef broth to the bowl with the mushrooms and the beef, scraping the skillet clean with a rubber spatula.

Return the skillet to medium low heat and add the butter; when the butter foams, add the onion, tomato paste and dark brown sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is lightly browned and softened, about 6 to 7 minutes; stir in the flour until it is well incorporated. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and white wine; increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the mixture until it has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk the liquid from the mushrooms and beef into the sauce and simmer it to incorporate all the liquid. Stir about 1/2 cup of the warm sauce in the pan into the sour cream, then stir this mixture back into the sauce in the pan. Add the mushrooms and beef back into the pan; heat everything to warm it through about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Adjust the seasonings with salt-and-pepper to taste and serve the stroganoff over the buttered egg noodles.

This recipe seemed a bit easier than some of the other side take a look at and allowed you to use more of ingredients you likely have on hand at home. Browning everything in the same pan as you go along with each step helps to build more layers of flavor from the dish. If you do not have any white wine available or do not like to use wine when you are cooking, you can always substitute more chicken broth or water. Mixing the sour cream with the hot sauce before you put it into the pan is a lot like tempering eggs, sour cream is likely to curdle if you edit directly to a hot liquid. To prevent this from happening, mixing it with a little hot liquid before you edit into the pan will help you to create a much better sauce. I thought the flavors of the dish were excellent and the meat came out nice and tender and very tasty. I simply used some stew beef that I had on hand, but I think a sirloin steak would work very well for this particular recipe. Stroganoff is traditionally served with noodles and I roasted some broccoli and cauliflower to go along with it to round out the meal.

That is all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner

 

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School Has Started! Time to Find Easy Dinners – Sheet Pan Sausage Supper

School started here last week for us so it was pretty busy as every tried to get back onto their routines of getting up early and starting the day, especially Sean. It is no easy task getting a 15-year old up and out of bed before 6 AM to get ready for school, but so far it has worked out just fine. Just as Sean gets back into his routine, it means that I have to try to get back into one myself. It means trying to get all my work done in the early part of the day so I can have more time to do things around the house, including getting dinner prepared each day. That’s why September (or really any month of the school year) is a great time to start pulling out those one dish meals. I have been making a lot of sheet pan suppers lately. They are easy to do, give you everything you want all in one pan, and make clean up a real breeze so I don’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning afterwards. Sheet pan suppers are ideal for just about anything – beef, chicken, fish, pork, turkey or even just vegetables – and it really all is a matter of timing everything right and chopping everything to a uniform size so all the ingredients cook at the same rate and are done at the same time. I came across this recipe from Food Network for a sausage sheet pan supper from Ree Drummond and thought I would give it a try.

Sheet Pan Sausage Dinner

1 pound trimmed whole Brussels sprouts
3 parsnips, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
2 red onions, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
Sprinkle of kosher salt
Sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
12 Italian sausages

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add the Brussels sprouts, parsnips, sweet potatoes and onions to a baking sheet. Add the olive oil, sage, salt and pepper and toss all of the vegetables together so they are well coated with the oil and the spices. Prick the sausages with a fork and then put the sausages in and around the vegetables on the sheet pan.
Bake the mixture in the oven until the sausages are cooked through and the vegetables are tender and nicely roasted, about 40 to 45 minutes, turning the sausages about half way through the cooking process. Serve together on a platter.

That’s all there is to this recipe. I find pricking the sausages works well so that they don’t burst in the casings and let some of the fat run out to flavor the vegetables a bit more. While turning them half way through cooking might seem unnecessary, I like to do it so the sausages get nicely browned all over. You can also mix up the vegetables a bit at the same time you turn the sausages so you can get more even browning on them as well. Roasting vegetables is my favorite way to prepare them since I think they get better flavor this way. You can vary the mix of vegetables if you like, but you may want to stick to items that are a little bit thicker if you are cooking everything together so that the vegetables do not overcook and burn before the meat is done. Carrots would work pretty well here, along with vegetables like cauliflower, squash, fennel or beets.I actually used a couple of carrots in my recipe.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Dinner, One Pot Meals, Produce, Sausage, Vegetables

 

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