Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Masochism and Braised Meat

Anyone else like to test themselves sometime?  See how good you really are?  Yup, I decided to stack the deck against myself and then throw a party.  A wine tasting party.  Immediately after Trey was gone for a week, I was gone for a week, the baby still isn't sleeping much, oh and the hurricane is bearing down on us like a hungry bear on a barbeque buffet.  So, with only about a day to prepare and nothing to fortify me against the challenge ahead besides baileys in my coffee I set out to plan, prepare, serve, and entertain a total of 8 adults and 8 kids.  Kids are easy, mac and cheese, hot dogs, and cookies.  Of course, I know I could serve simple things like that for the adults.  But it wouldn't be nearly challenging, frustrating, and fraught with "I can't do this in time......aaaarrrrggghhhh.......maybe with another glass of wine I can make it."  Read here, not as much fun.  I know, not many people define "fun" as crying over ruined chicken kebobs......

So its a wine tasting, which means the food needs to go well with wine.  I kind of took the attitude that with enough wine the food will taste fine.  Plus, how do you match food with wine described as "well, it sat around in our cellar for so long that the label fell off and we aren't sure what it tastes like so we'll let our new friends be the guinea pigs."  We actually did open some pretty good bottles from our cellar. And a couple interesting ones.  And I think the food went pretty well.  Here's what the menu evolved into:

Wine Braised Short Ribs
Spicy Chicken Kebobs
Mushroom Truffle Soup
Feta Stuffed Mini Peppers
Cheese Plate
Charcuterie Plate
Assorted Chocolates

Wine Braised Short Ribs
4 lbs. trimmed beef short ribs
1 bottle wine plus a glass
1 onion
3cloves garlic
T olive oil
3T veal Demi glacé

Heat olive oil in a big-ass braising pan (yes, they do come in that size, just ask the prissy lady at Williams Sonoma, and tell her I sent you).  Brown the ribs on each side, about 4 min per side. Remove from pan and set on a plate. Sauté onions and carrots until crisp-tender, add garlic and sauté an additional 2 min. Pour yourself a glass of wine to make sure it will go well with the meat. Add about a cup of wine to the pan to de glaze.  Add another cup and a half plus 2 cups of stock.  Whisk to combine and place ribs back into pot in 1 layer, making sure they aren't completely covered in liquid.  Put the top back on and place into the oven. Bake for 3-4 hours, checking the meat about every time you refill your wine glass.  Remove ribs from braising liquid and st aside. Strain the braising liquid and return to the pot. Reduce for about 20 min, adding the veal Demi glacé and stirring. Return the ribs to the pot and serve.

More to come when I have another break from bottles, babies, and bath time.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

So this is brunch?

A lazy Sunday brunch, on a sunny day, with mimosas and friends.  Doesn't get much better than that.  Plus the nice thing about Sunday brunch is that you don't have to get a baby sitter, just some kid friendly food and a room that they can more or less safely dismantle.  So we invited 3 families in our neighborhood over for Sunday brunch.  Amazingly the house withstood the 7 kids, all under the age of 10.  And the cooking was actually pretty simple.  Well, except for the homemade croissants, which I had to start 3 days in advance and use a bulldozer to roll all the butter into.  But otherwise it was pretty simple.

  • Mimosas
  • Blood Mary's
  • Croissants, with butter and jam
  • Sticky Buns (made with croissant dough)
  • Ham and guyere quiche
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Waffles (for the kids)
  • Fresh fruit (so we could all pretend like we ate something healthy)

I was most proud of the croissants and sticky buns.  The dough took 3 days, and lots and lots of rolling.  But they turned out the perfect fluffy layered croissants that I've had in Paris.  Of course they were about 50% butter by weight.  But hey, its not like I make them every week.  The quiche was kind of made up.  Quiche is a great brunch food because its savory and eggy, but unlike omelets and scrambled eggs it doesn't taste so bad if it isn't perfectly warm.  And it went pretty well with the vaguely French theme that seemed to crop up as I planned out the menu.  Which is good because cooking for 15 people, 7 of which are picky by nature, is no small feat especially for a Sunday morning.

As usual, we all gathered in the kitchen for drinks and then the 3-ring circus of feeding the 7 kids.  Afterward we sat down to what was a very nice brunch.  It ended a little earlier than I was expecting, and there was only 1 bottle of champagne and 2/3 bottle of vodka consumed, so it was a pretty mild event. But I am pregnant, so its not as if I was able to contribute.  I ate extra croissants to make up for it.  I can't wait for the next one.

Ham and Guyere Quiche (approximately)

  • 1 round pre-made pie crust (refrigerated type)

  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped in 1/2in pieces

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced smoked ham, diced

  • 6 oz Gruyère, coarsely grated (1 cup)

  • 2 oz Italian Fontina, coarsely grated (2/3 cup)

  • 3 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup sour cream

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • Preheat oven to 375.  Bake pie crust for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool pie crust but leave oven on.  Saute onion in butter until golden and caramelized.   Whisk eggs, pepper, and nutmeg.  Stir in ham, cheese, and caramelized onions.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and put back in the oven.  Check part way through and cover crust with aluminum foil if it becomes too dark or dry.  Bake for a total of 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until center is set.  Serve warm or room temperature.

    That's It! Right There!

    I found it.  The sweet spot.  The perfect combination.  I've been trying for a couple years to find the perfect sourdough recipe recipe.  Its partly the right starter and its partly the recipe.  Recipes with just starter, flour, and water are a little bland.  So after searching and trying and growing what probably amounts to gallons of sourdough starter, I found the right combo of richness (milk and sugar in the dough) that still lets the sour starter show through.

    One note about sourdough bread.  People will think you are crazy.  Apparently it was standard in California kitchens about a century to century and a half ago that you could always find sourdough starter bubbling.   However, in this modern day of making sure everything is hermetically sealed and preserved beyond recognition, having something bubbling, growing, and smelling sour on your countertop will make people worry about your sanity and the cleanliness of your kitchen.  Perhaps talking to it and feeding it periodically doesn't help the matter........  But really, its the best way to get good sourdough.  And there is nothing better than hot sourdough straight from the oven with a good smear of butter.  Real butter.

    San Francisco Sourdough Bread

    • 4 3/4 cups bread flour
    • 3 tablespoons white sugar
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
    • 1 cup warm milk
    • 2 tablespoons margarine, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
    • 1 extra large egg
    • 1 tablespoon water

    1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, and dry yeast. Add milk and softened butter or margarine. Stir in starter. Mix in up to 3 3/4 cups flour gradually, you may need more depending on your climate.
    2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to oil surface, and cover. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
    3. Punch down, and let rest 15 minutes. Shape into loaves. Place on a greased baking pan. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
    4. Brush egg wash over tops of loaves.
    5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 30 minutes, or till done.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    A is for Apple Cake

    It's getting cold. And rainy. Yes, yes, go ahead and get your "world's smallest violins" out to go along with my whining. I like winter, when it's crisp cold and I don't have to go outside much. Right now it's just wet cold and I have to walk to work. What better thing to make me feel better than to steal some of Trey's apples that he keeps around for healthy snacks and turn them into a butter-laden, caramel-topped spice cake. That's right. Call me the grump who stole the healthy snacks. But I did make a very nice dark, spicy, rich and utterly perfect apple cake. Especially when you pour caramel over the top part way through baking so it comes out a little more like sticky toffee pudding than actual cake. Even Charlotte liked the cake. Of course she called it "big cookie" and demanded it for breakfast. But if I was eating it for breakfast its kind of hard to tell her no.

    Well, I'm sitting here watching the movers pack up my kitchen for what I really hope is the last move for a very very very VERY long time. I'll let you know how the new Wolf stove works out. Perhaps I'll even get to make pancakes this weekend.

    Man I'm hungry. Too bad we finished the apple cake yesterday. Well, I suppose it's time to put something in my stomach before I get so hungry the packing paper starts looking good. Next post from the new house!