Beef and Barley Soup

December 23, 2019 § 1 Comment

I haven’t shared a recipe in ages, but I have fixed this dish and found it so hearty and insanely delicious that I thought it a most humane thing to share. Enjoy.

BEEF AND BARLEY SOUP

6    large, meaty beef short ribs

3     celery stalks

1    onion

1    bell pepper

2    large carrots, scrubbed, not peeled

2    medium parsnips, scrubbed, not peeled

3    tbsp. vegetable oil or other high-temperature cooking oil

4    oz. whole white mushrooms

4    oz. porcini or shiitake (stems removed) mushrooms

3/4 cup barley

2-3 qts. beef broth

1    bay leaf

      water as needed

      salt and black pepper

Pat the short ribs dry and season them with salt. Leave them at room temperature at least one hour, but not longer than two hours. They should be at room temperature when they are cooked.

Coarsely chop the onion, bell pepper, celery, carrots, and parsnips.

Pour the oil into a heavy Dutch oven and bring to a shimmer over medium-high heat. Brown the short ribs two at a time, removing them when browned on all sides. Remove the short ribs and set aside.

Lower the heat under the Dutch oven to medium and add the carrots and parsnips, stirring enough to keep them from burning. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Cook until the onion begins to turn translucent.

Add ribs back to the pot, along with the barley, and beef broth. Top with the mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Lower to simmer and then taste, adjusting salt and pepper as needed. Simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

As the mixture simmers, a froth may rise to the top. You may skim it off or stir it in, as you prefer.

The soup is done when the meat is pulling off of the bone. Before serving, remove the bay leaf.

Serve one rib to a bowl of soup, or meat may be shredded from the bone for ease of serving.

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This soup improves overnight and is best served reheated the day after making it.

You will have an easier time browning the meat by doing at most two at a time; more and the pieces can steam, thwarting the caramelization process.

You may question whether some herbs or spices wouldn’t add lots more flavor. Maybe they would. Try some yourself. But that blend of onions, celery, bell pepper, parsnips, and onions adds a savory flavor that doesn’t require much embellishment.

Add more barley for a thicker soup.

Add beef broth or water as needed to thin or extend the soup.

Be sure to chop the vegetables coarsely. A mince or fine chop will result in vegetables that simply disappear in the cooking process.

Dried mushrooms add much flavor. If you use them, reserve the mushroom water and use it to replace some of the beef broth, but be sure to strain the water through a coffee filter to remove grit and debris.

I based this recipe on an internet recipe, but made my own changes. You are essentially braising the ribs; the soup is the delicious braising liquid. As with all braises, the meat will be fall-off-the-bone tender, so you won’t need to buy boneless ribs for eatability. Besides, meat on the bone has so much more flavor.

SWEET BALSAMIC RIBS

February 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

It’s been a busy week, and we’ve already done five days worth of work, so I hereby declare it to be the weekend. Right now. Go home, relax, and take a break from the grind. Now your thoughts can turn to something delightful to eat that will make the weekend special. With these mild temperatures, how about something to grill? How about ribs? How about baby back ribs?

It’s hard to get tired of ribs. Smoked, grilled, smothered, or any other way, they are always wonderful. My favorite ribs come out of my Orion Cooker, and they are always delicious.

Yet, every now and then one yearns for a different taste. And so it was that I stumbled upon a recipe for sweet balsamic ribs. It proved to be so good that I have refined it over time and have even served it to company. I’m telling you, this is a seriously tasty recipe.

SWEET BALSAMIC RIBS

8    Garlic cloves, mashed into a paste

2    Tbsp. salt

4    Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped

4    Tbsp. dark brown sugar

4    Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2    Tsp. cayenne pepper

2    Slabs baby back pork ribs

1    Cup water

Combine garlic, salt, rosemary, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and cayenne. Rub over the ribs. Marinate, chilled, in the mixture for 8-24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425º.

Place marinated ribs into a roasting pan, making sure that the marinade remains on the ribs. Cover tightly with foil. Roast the ribs until quite tender, about 1 ½ hours.

Remove ribs and set aside.

Skim excess fat from the roasting pan.

The pan drippings will be used to make a glaze with the following ingredients:

1    Cup hot water

1    Cup balsamic vinegar

½ Cup packed dark brown sugar

Add the hot water to the pan and stir, scraping up brown bits. Add vinegar and brown sugar. Place the pan on the stove and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the mixture is reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.

Brush the glaze onto both sides of the ribs. Reserve some glaze for serving.

Grill the glazed ribs over direct heat, about 8 minutes, turning once. The fire should be hot enough to leave grill marks. In the alternative, the ribs can be broiled about 4 inches from heat.

Brush ribs with more glaze and serve. Any remaining glaze can be used as a dipping sauce.

This recipe will serve 4-6 people, depending on portion preference and side dishes.

The ribs can be roasted and the glaze prepared a day ahead of serving. Chill the glaze separately and bring to room temperature before glazing and grilling.

This recipe is adapted from the original recipe, which is on the Gourmet magazine web site.

VINDALOO

December 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

JSP, Esq. pointed out that I have been neglecting food posts herein, so here’s something for you foodies.

My friends, I offer you Vindaloo for your cooking and dining pleasure. “Vindaloo?” you ask. Yes, Vindaloo, I answer. It’s an exotic melange of Indian flavors, aromas and subleties that will intrigue your palate and comfort you in cold weather without leaving you stuffed and bloated. It’s fairly easy to make, and will reward you with a deeply satisfying meal.

Vindaloo is actually India’s version of a Portuguese recipe that found its way into Indian cuisine through Goa, Portugal’s former colony on India’s west coast. The Indians added potatoes, which enrich the recipe. Goan Vindaloo is fiery pepper-hot. Mine is tamed down for Mississippi tastes, but you have the option of adding heat. My recipe also has an option for broccoli or peas to increase its nutritional value. This version calls for chicken, but Indians also use pork, beef or even lamb. I imagine venison or duck or other game would work as well. You could substitute eggplant for the meat for a vegetarian version. I encourage you to give this a try. You’ll enjoy it. And don’t be discouraged by the long list of ingredients. This is actually a simple dish. Most of the ingredients are seasonings that, in combination, add layers of interesting, delicious flavors.

Before you dismiss this dish as too exotic, I ask you to leave your comfort zone for a bit and try it. After all, you enjoy gumbos and other savory, spicy fare. Indian cuisine only differs by the kinds of spices used. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how flavorful and enjoyable Vindaloo is. And maybe it will open your mind to try some other Indian dishes.

VINDALOO

3           Cups chopped onions

1 1/2    Cups chopped tomatoes, seeded, or grape tomatoes

2 1/2    Tbsp. distilled white vinegar

1            Garlic clove, chopped or minced

1            Tsp. minced, peeled fresh ginger

1            Tsp. tomato paste

1            Garam Masala (store bought or simple recipe below)

1             Tsp. ground turmeric

1/2        Tsp. paprika

1/2        Tsp. ground cumin

1/2        Tsp. ground coriander

1/4        Tsp. cayenne pepper, plus more if desired

3            Tbsp. vegetable oil

               Salt and black pepper

6            Boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1            Pound new potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 1/2    Cups chicken stock or water

1            Cup broccoli florets or sweet peas (optional)

Combine the onions, tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, garam masala, turmeric, paprika, cumin and cayenne, and blend in a food processor until the mixture is the consistency of a paste.

Season the chicken with salt and black pepper to taste.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and brown the chicken. Remove chicken and set it aside.

Add remaining Tbsp. of oil and paste from the food processor to the pot and cook until the mixture turns golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Add chicken and potatoes and sauté 5 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium low.

Add broccoli or peas, if desired.

Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Uncover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, around 5-10 minutes more. Season with salt and black pepper.

For a hotter dish, add more cayenne.

Serve over jasmine or white rice or roti (unleavened Indian flat bread, simple recipes available on the internet). Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.

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Garam Masala.  Mix 3/4 Tsp. ground cumin, 3/4 Tsp. ground coriander, 1/2 Tsp. ground pepper, 1/2 Tsp. ground cardamom, 1/4 Tsp. ground cloves, and 1/2 Tsp. ground cinnamon.

SHARING THE HARVEST

June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lisa has a knack for growing all manner of things.  Her patio garden of potted plants yields up a delicious variety of produce that finds its way into our grateful kitchen. This summer we are enjoying tomatoes and peppers galore, as well as the usual herbs. At the end of the summer we will again have a bumper crop of juicy lemons.

This year we have been sharing the harvest, but not with gladsome hearts.

You see, our little patio garden is being pillaged by 2 quarreling mockingbirds (tempting to kill them, but such is proscribed here in the south), a chipmunk with an attitude of entitlement, a sassy squirrel, and a bitchy wren who scolds as she is run off.  These little monsters gobble holes into the tomatoes and even like to nibble on the hot cherry peppers.  The netting spread over to ward them off has only set them a challenge to which they have gamely risen. This afternoon I fought hundred-degree heat to shoo most of the characters away — twice.  One of the mockingbirds, the chipmunk and the wren had all gotten underneath the netting and were feasting away on the two biggest, ripest tomatoes.  Ruined. I had to release the insanely panicked mockingbird from his frantic prison in the net — and again five minutes later.  The wren and the munk escaped unhampered, but the wren stuck around long enough to scold me stridently as I labored to loose the mocker.

The corpus delecti

The netting is now rearranged and more secure. My reassuring, “Don’t worry, they won’t want to fight this netting,” proved to be foolishly wrong.

I did set up a kind of a bird bath nearby, with fresh water, based on the theory that the little critters are actually thirsty in this miserable heat. We’ll see whether that gives some relief from the onslaught.

So it’s man against nature. Mano a mano. Will we prove to be able to outsmart these creatures? Stay tuned.

Ironically, just last week, there was another shared harvest. Our beautiful Easter-yellow daylillies bloomed in the front yard, down by the street. I noted how the dozen or so blooms trumpeted their beauty in the morning light as I left the driveway on the way to the court house.  When I returned home that evening, alas, someone had picked them all, right from our yard. The lovely blooms graced someone else’s table, I suppose.

Now I am not sure of the etiquette that is involved here. On the one hand, one could argue that they are God’s gift to us for all to enjoy. If that’s so, why does the person who picked them get to enjoy them selfishly? Why not leave them there by the curb for all to smile on?  And on the other hand, it’s my property, dammit. Where do you get the nerve to come on my property and pick my (or God’s) flowers?

Oh, well, I am over it. Maybe the flower-picker really needed those blooms more than I did. I’ll leave it at that.

The flowers did remind me of an incident that happened up the street several years ago.  The guy is in his house at dusk and notices two women digging in his garden where he had planted many perennials and bulbs.  He walks down the sloping driveway and greets the two women who are cordial, but intent on their task. One is snipping flowers and the other is digging up bulbs. He asks them to stop and the women are indignant. How dare he. The snipper says she is giving an engagement party for some young friends of the family and needs these flowers. Her companion points out that the daylillies need dividing anyway, and she is merely taking some of the division. All well and good, he says, but I want you off my property and don’t come back and molest my flower bed, he says. The women leave in a huff, incredulous at his insensitivity and crass indifference to their sense of entitlement.

When he told me who the women were, I knew one of them quite well, as I had represented her in a divorce a few years before. The other I knew in passing. Either woman could have whipped out a check and bought the guy’s house and flowers without any pinch in their budgets. I wonder whether they were aware that we now have florist shops that more or less eliminate the need to shop in other people’s yards for your flower needs.

And so we march into summer, which begins Monday. Ouch. Its’s not even summer yet and it’s already hot as hades. The last summer I remember like this was 2005 — the summer of Katrina.

But tomatoes like it hot, right?  And mockingbirds, squirrels, wrens and chipmunks like tomatoes. Anybody got a recipe for mockingbird, wren, squirrel and chipmunk fricasee … with tomato?

THYME FOR LEA & PERRIN TO FILE AN ACCOUNTING FOR ROSEMARY

April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Examining an accounting in a probate matter such as an estate, guardiandhip or conservatorship can be a mind-numbing task:  bank statement, bank statement, cancelled checks, bank statement, bank statement, cancelled check, bank statement, cancelled checks, receipt, receipt, receipt, bank statement, and on and on.

My day was considerably brightened recently as I pored over an annual account in a conservatorship:  bank statement, cancelled checks, bank statement, receipts, cancelled checks, bank statement, barbecue shrimp recipe, bank statement, receipts.

Wait a minute … backspace … barbecue shrimp recipe?  In an accounting?  I never heard of such a thing.

My first reaction was that perhaps this seasoned lawyer had slipped it in there just to see whether I really read all that stuff (he should know better).  Then it occurred to me that maybe he was trying to document the ward’s standard of living (but that might not be a good idea because the ward has since died, and this is after all a pretty artery-clogging recipe).  Or maybe it was intended to be an inventory of the ward’s kitchen assets?  I eagerly anticipated my meeting with counsel for an explanation.

When I met with the attorney, though, he disclaimed any idea how the recipe might have gotten into his court file.  He professed to be as bumfuzzled about it as I was.  Now, faced with such a mystery, lawyers generally blame their secretaries, but not this lawyer.  He took the high road and blamed it on one of the deputy clerks.  When the deputy clerk was confronted, however, she pointed the blame at the lawyer’s secretary, so the customary cycle of legal blame came around full circle to where it belongs.

But I was not looking to place blame.  Not at all.  I wanted instead to commend the perpetrator for adding some spice to what can be a mundane, tedious task.  Alas, however, the identity of that heroic person shall apparently remain a secret.

Now, I know what you are wondering.  You are wondering what exactly was this recipe that stirred up so much attention.  Well, here it is, verbatim, from the court file …

BBQ Shrimp

2      Sticks melted butter

1/2      Cup Lea & Perrin’s

1      Tsp salt

1      Tsp black pepper

1/2      Tsp cayenne pepper

2      Tsp garlic puree

1      Tsp thyme

2      Tsp rosemary

1/2      Tsp celery salt

1      Tsp olive oil

Mix and cook, not boil, let cool.

Put shrimp [quantity not provided] in dish w/mix, ref. over night, cook at 350, stir every 4 to 5 min and turn shrimp when 1/2 way done, taste after 20 min.  cook about 30.

It occurs to me that if every lawyer would file a recipe with annual and final accounts, we could at length compile a cook book, perhaps with a catchy title like Cooking from the Court Files, or Entertaining Intestacy, or Recipes De Bonis Non.  We could organize it so that conservatorship accounts would be accompanied by seafood recipes, guardianships would have entrees and appetizers, intestate estates would have meat dishes, testate estates would have breads and breakfast recipes, and trusts — of course — would include desserts.  I think I’ll see if Judge Mason will consider a local rule to that effect.  Or instead, maybe we can implement this idea across the state, sell the books, and fund a judicial pay raise.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

 

ROUXOLOGY 101

February 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

“First, make a roux.”  How many times have you seen that line staring at you from a recipe for a Cajun dish?  Does it give you a little shiver of anxiety?  Do you wonder whether you should just skip that step?

Roux is one of the holy mysteries of Cajun cooking, and if you’re going to cook Cajun dishes like Cajuns do, you are going to have to get a handle on how to make a roux.  You will have to understand some of the basics of rouxology (don’t bother to check that on Wikipedia; it’s a word I made up).  Here are the basics.  But before you proceed, you might want to take a moment to read over some of my thoughts about Cajun cuisine here and here.

Roux, of course, is simply flour cooked in fat.  But that is like saying that a jet airplane is sheet metal and fasteners.  Both statements are essentially true, but neither even begins to convey the complexity and gestalt of the thing.  How roux interacts with the ingredients and what it adds to a dish is anything but simple.  The nuances of roux vary with its color and consistency, and its variations can confer an immense array of flavors and consistency to your dishes.  Roux is almost infinitely variable and malleable in what it can do for your recipes.

The tools you will need to make your roux will be a heavy pot (I like Creuset enamelled cast iron, but any heavy pot will do) and a wooden spatula.  The heavy pot will evenly distribute the heat and help you manage the cooking.  The spatula will enable you to stir the mixture thoroughly, keeping it from burning.  As you will see, stirring is most important, and the greater quantity of roux you can stir at a time will make you more efficient and effective.  A spoon will work, but the amount of roux you are able to move with a spoon is miniscule compared to the spatula.

What are the quantities of ingredients?  Depends on what you are cooking.  A white roux for a béchamel sauce may require no more than a tablespoon each of butter and flour.  A “red” or golden roux for a courtbouillon or jambalaya may require several tablespoons each of vegetable oil and flour.  If you are making a big pot of gumbo with a dark roux, you may need a cup or more each of flour and vegetable oil.  As you learn to use and manage roux, you will learn about how much or little is needed.

What is the ratio of flour to fat?  Again, it depends.  A safe ratio is one to one, but individual preferences come into play.  I prefer the consistency of a little more oil than flour.  Your mileage may vary.

What flour?  Any all-purpose white flour will do the job.  I have heard of people using whole wheat flour, but whatever you read here is based on using white flour.

What fats will work?  It boils down to this:  Lighter fats (e.g., butter and olive oil) work fine for white rouxs.  Stouter fats (e.g., vegetable oil, bacon grease, shortening) are needed for darker rouxs.  You cannot use a light oil for a dark roux because it will burn before the roux gets to the color you need, and a burned roux is a failed roux.  The one exception I have read about but never tried is that you can use clarified butter to make a dark roux.  My preference is for a good quality vegetable or canola oil.  It is healthier than bacon fat or shortening, and it works perfectly fine.

I prefer a good quality vegetable oil

Before you start cooking, here are a few principles of rouxology you need to know:

  • The lighter the roux, the greater its thickening power and the less flavor it adds to the dish.
  • Conversely, the darker the roux the less thickening power it has, but the greater flavor it imparts.
  • A medium (red or golden) roux will thicken the dish and add some flavor, but not as much flavor as a darker roux.

Bottom line:  There is no “one size fits all” roux.  That is why I will not buy or use the canned or bottled roux products one sees in so-called Cajun groceries on the interstate or New Orleans or up north (although, sad to say, I have seen it on the shelf in groceries in sw Louisiana; I guess convenience and busy schedules rule).  The roux you use to make a sauce picante is entirely different from the roux you use to make a wild duck and sausage gumbo.  Besides, why would you want to buy a canned version of something that is so easy and entertaining to whip up yourself once you understand how?

So let’s get started with a golden or dark roux.

Pour the oil into the pan and then add the flour.  Mix together to make a thin paste, being sure that any lumps are dissolved.  Turn the heat to medium-high or high.  I have heard people say that a roux should be cooked on low heat for a long time.  I once hunted with a guy from Demopolis, Alabama, who took two hours to cook a dark roux for the hunting camp.  More power to him, but my roux is every bit as good in a fraction of the time.  That’s the way I learned to do it.

In a few minutes, the paste will begin to bubble.  If you haven’t already started stirring, now is the time to start. Stir, stir, stir, making sure that you keep redistributing the mixture over the heat and that you keep it turning color evenly.  As it cooks, the roux will take on a darker and darker color, turning first from white to a creamy gray, then to tan, then a golden, tawny brown (some call this “red” because it can give a reddish tint to your dish), and then shades of brown, from a fricasee-ochre color to dark brown ranging from milk chocolate to dark chocolate, and then, finally and fatally black, as in burnt.  To stop cooking at the color you want, pull the pot off the fire and mix the vegetables in; adding the vegetables will arrest the cooking process.

Stirring is vitally important in the cooking process, but be careful in your zeal not to splash.  Cajuns call hot roux “Cajun napalm” for the reason that it will stick to you and burn if it escapes from the pot.  Handle with care.

Golden roux (aka red roux) is more or less the color of a paper bag, and will add that golden or reddish hue to your dish and significantly thicken it.  Because of its thickening properties, don’t use as much of a golden roux in your dish as you would a darker roux.  A golden roux is best for a courtbouillon, jambalaya, sauce picante or étoufée (if you’re one of those people who makes étoufée with a roux).

A shade darker is a brown roux between dark brown and golden, which will be the color of your dish.  It doesn’t thicken as well as a golden roux, but it adds a rich, deep flavor that a golden roux lacks.  It’s the best roux for a chicken gumbo and for more delicate ingredients like crab meat or oysters.

The darkest dark roux adds a distinctive nutty flavor and a dark color that can make a simple dish memorable.  It lacks much thickening power, so you will generally use more in your recipe than you would with a lighter-colored roux.  Dark roux is best for dark-meat gumbos (e.g., wild duck and sausage), and crawfish, crab, shrimp or chicken stews.

A black roux is, simply put, a failure.  It’s burnt and will make your dish bitter and inedible.  And the entire roux does not have to be black.  Black specks mean burned ingredients and bitterness.  Unfortunately, as with most things in life, there is a fine line between success and failure.  Likewise, there is a fine line between the best dark roux and the inedbile black roux.  Knowing when to stop comes with experience.  Expect some burned rouxs in your roux-cooking career.  They are part of the learning experience.

What about a white roux (roux blanc)?  Roux blanc is used as a base for some white sauces such as béchamel and as a thickener in many recipes.  Cook and stir as you would any other roux, and follow the recipe’s instructions as to the color.  Some roux blancs must be very white, and others creamy.  I am not aware of any Cajun recipes that call for a roux blanc, but if you’re going to learn about rouxs, you need to have this one in your repertoire.

Here’s a video, avec la musique Acadienne, that I made to guide you step by step …

So you’re cooking merrily away and you suddenly get the feeling that your roux is cooking too fast.  Maybe it’s beginning to smoke, or you sense that it is thickening too quickly, or one area is turning pasty brown while another is still milky white.  What to do?  Pull the pan off the heat and stir, stir, stir.  Remember that the pan retains its heat, and if you don’t stir, the roux will burn, even if it is off the fire.  Make sure while you stir that you keep making contact with every bit of the roux.  Try to contact one third of the mixture with one sweep, then the next third, and then the last third and repeat, repeat, repeat.  When you feel that things are back under control, return the pan to the heat and continue on.

Or what about when everything seems to be going well and you are on your way to that perfect color.  The phone rings, or you see the dog peeing on the kitchen floor, or that annoying security-system salesman is back at the front door ringing the doorbell and you’d love to give him a piece of your mind.  Should you just turn off the heat and answer the phone, or let the roux simmer while you throw the dog out into the back yard, or pull the pan off the burner and go yell through the door at the salesman?  Should you just leave your precious roux for that teensy minute to address the distraction?  NEVER!!!  If you stop stirring, even for 30 seconds, the roux will burn.  Never stop stirring after the roux first bubbles.  Never.  Return the call later, or deal with the dog after you cook your roux, or let yourself take zen satisfaction at the mental image of that salesman futilely ringing away on the front porch while you’re stirring serenely.  The roux results will be worth your efforts and attention.

It takes time and experience to master the art of cooking a successful roux.  One stab at it or attempting it once a year for five years will not do it.  As my dear grandmother used to say, “Lâche pas la patate.”  Literally, it means in Cajun French “Don’t drop the potato,” which was her way of saying, “Stick with it; hang in there and you’ll make it.”

Now you know the basics of making a roux and how to use it.  Will this knowledge make you an honorary Cajun?  No, but it is an important first step in improving your Cajun cooking dramatically.

BASQUE BRAISE LOUIS

January 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you were abducted by aliens and dumped blindfolded at the door of Louis’ Basque Corner, you would swear once inside that you were in the Faubourg Marigny in New Orleans in one of those gritty, working-class neighborhood hangouts where leathery topers linger over drafts in the front saloon and families enjoy incredible cuisine in the back dining rooms.  There’s a smoky haze that clings to the mismatched, outdated furniture and the souvenirs left behind by satisfied customers.  Ray Charles wails on the juke box, and there is a happy chattery buzz punctuated by a raucous laugh from time to time.

The thing is, Louis’ is in Reno, Nevada, of all places, on a side street blocks away from the glittery casinos and showplaces.  It’s the renowned restaurant of Louis and Lorraine Erreguible, who will serve you delectable Basque specialties from that region of the Pyrenees between Spain and France.  Here’s a video of Guy Fieri of the Food Channel at Louis’ that will give you an idea of the quality of the cuisine as well as the simple ambience.

This braise recipe creates a sauce that is a base for any number of departures.  You can use it to cook chicken seasoned with tarragon and sage and mushrooms, or lamb with rosemary, or rabbit with fennel.  I had sweetbreads cooked in this sauce, and they were divine.  Experiment with your own taste buds.  I have tweaked this recipe from versions I found on the internet.  As with all braises, you should tweak it your way and make it your own.

And if you’re ever in Reno, be sure to experience Louis’.              

BASQUE BRAISE LOUIS

½ Cup vegetable oil

1 ½ Lb. meat of your choice (chicken, lamb, rabbit or any other suitable meat)

Salt and pepper

3 Medium onions, chopped

2 Green bell peppers, chopped

4 Carrots, sliced

2 Stalks celery, sliced

6 Cloves garlic, minced

2 Shallots, minced

¼ Tsp. red pepper flakes

2 Cans (24 0z.) whole tomatoes

½ Tbsp. flour

2 Cups dry white wine and more as needed

Seasonings of your choice for the meat

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large braising pan, heat oil over medium high heat until a clean wooden spoon inserted in it bubbles. Season the meat with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Add onions, bell pepper, carrots, celery, garlic and shallots to the oil and sauté until wilted.

Add tomatoes and pepper flakes, and cook on medium high heat for 5 – 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour and mix in as a roux. When the flour is well blended, add the white wine and bring just to a boil. Reduce the mixture on low heat or place in the oven until sauce has thickened to a tomato-paste consistency. Remove from stove or oven.

Season the meat with the seasonings of your choice, add the meat to the sauce mixture, and stir in. Cover and return to oven, stirring occasionally. Add wine as necessary to keep moist. Bake 1 to 1 ½ hours or until meat is tender.

BRAISED SHORT RIBS OR OX TAIL

December 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Braising is cooking meat or a vegetable in liquid in slow heat.  The result is a tasty dish that will melt in your mouth.  The technique produces layers of rich flavors that are surprisingly complex considering the relative simplicity of the preparation.

The recipe below is for short (beef) ribs, but it works just as well with ox tails.  It may seem curious that the recipe calls for chicken stock, but once you taste it you’ll see why.  And you can see that the seasonings are quite simple.  The flavors that you get from braising are so robust that you don’t need much more than the taste of the ingredients.  Of course, it’s your kitchen, add whatever seasonings you like; just remember that braising will magnify or diminish their effects, depending on which herbs or spices you add.  

Be sure the vegetables are coarsely chopped.  You don’t want them to disappear in the long, slow cooking.

I have done a lot of braising, and it’s my favorite cooking method.  I like this recipe because it fairly reflects what I do when I am throwing a dish together with whatever I have on hand.  Try it.  I think you’ll be pleased and pleasantly surprised with the results.

 BRAISED SHORT RIBS

1             Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 1/2     Lb. short ribs, cut into 3″ pieces, about 6-8 in all, or flanken

2            Medium onions, coarsely chopped

2            Carrots, sliced

2            Stalks celery, coarsely chopped

2            Cloves garlic, minced

8            Oz. sliced mushrooms

6            Oz. tomato paste

3            Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1            Bottle (750 ml.) red wine

2            Cups chicken stock

               Salt and black pepper to taste

               Egg noodles, cooked

Pat the meat dry.  Season with salt and black pepper.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven until it shimmers.  Add the meat and brown on all sides over medium heat.  Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Drain all but one tablespoon of the oil.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about five minutes.

Add the tomato paste and flour and mix thoroughly with the vegetables.  If necessary, add a splash of wine to facilitate the mixture.  Let the mixture heat, stirring often, for about five minutes.

Stir in the red wine and chicken stock.  Add the meat back to the pot.  Bring the contents to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook for two hours.  Remove the pot top and let cook for another fifteen minutes to reduce.

Serve over the cooked egg noodles.

NEW DEAL SALAD

November 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

If it seems that I have a lot of shrimp recipes, it’s because for years we were able to buy fresh and IQF seafood from Brian Watts, who would bring it up from the coast every other Wednesday.  We were able to buy shrimp, crab, oysters and fish like grouper, trout, flounder and snapper, and I always had good gulf seafood on hand.  Katrina put him out of business for a time, but he picked back up — until BP’s carelessness put him out of business again, I hope not for good.  BP hired Brian and his charter boat The Undertaker, to work for them during the cleanup.  Now that the cleanup is winding down and gulf seafood is making a comeback, maybe Brian will get back into the business of supplying his Meridian friends with delicacies from the sea. I hope so.  

This is a super-easy recipe that you will want to serve to company.  It’s great in the summer on the patio with a chilled sangria, but it will do just as well in cold weather with a riesling. 

NEW DEAL SALAD

1 Lb. Scallops

1/4 Tsp. lemon juice

Pinch of salt

½ Lb. med. shrimp, deveined

1 Tsp. salt

1/4 Tsp. red pepper

1 Avocado (ripe), peeled and cut into pieces

½ Cup French Dressing (recipe below)

½ Cup celery, thinly-sliced

1 Cucumber, peeled and minced

1/4 Cup green olives, sliced and pitted

Fresh spinach

Rinse the scallops in a sauce pan. Add cold water to cover and lemon juice and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Drain and transfer to a bowl.

Rinse and boil the shrimp in cold water to cover, with salt and red pepper.

Drain and add to scallops. Add the avocado. Toss with ½ cup French dressing, celery, cucumbers and green olives.

Chill and serve on a bed of fresh spinach.

French Dressing for New Deal Salad

1 3-oz. package cream cheese, softened

1 Tsp. onion, minced

1 Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. dry mustard

2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

Freshly-ground pepper to taste

½ Cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/4 Tbsp. vinegar

Cream the cheese. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Gradually beat in oil and vinegar.

RIBOLLITA

November 14, 2010 § 4 Comments

Firenze

Several years ago, Lisa and I found ourselves on a frigid, windy November day in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. The icy wind that knifed through our wool coats was the tramontana — the swift, cold downdraft from the snow-covered Alps to the north that sweeps across Tuscany and sends sightseers indoors in search of some warmth. It was lunch time, and a break from the brisk cold was in order.

And so we made our way into a cozy restaurant with a warm fireplace off the historic square, where we asked our waitress for a recommendation. Without hesitation, she suggested we have the ribollita, a hearty Tuscan minestrone or vegetable soup thickened with stale bread. “Ribollita” means “reboiled” in Italian, and refers to the fact that the soup is usually made the day before or earlier in the day and is reboiled for serving.  We found that this delicious, smoky soup chased away the chill, and I made sure to get the recipe.  Alas, I lost it and the name of the ristorrante before I could record them, but this recipe is as close to the original as I could find.

Now that the temperatures are dropping and the days are growing shorter, do yourself a favor and make a nice pot of this soup. Pour yourself a glass of hearty Montefalco Rosso or a Chianti Classico and sit by the fire. This soup is cold-weather comfort food par excellence.

RIBOLLITA

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling on bread

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

4 ounces pancetta, chopped

2 cloves garlic, 1 minced and 1 whole

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 (15-ounce) can cannelloni beans, drained

1 tablespoon herbs de Provence

3 cups chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1 (3-inch) piece Parmesan rind

4 to 6 ciabatta rolls, halved lengthwise, or 1 loaf Italian bread or ciabatta, sliced on the bias

Grated Parmesan, for serving

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, pancetta, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until the onion is golden brown and the pancetta is crisp, about 7 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Add tomatoes and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. Add the spinach, beans, herbs, stock, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drizzle the ciabatta halves or bread slices with olive oil. Toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub the top of the toasts with the whole garlic clove. Place the toasts in the serving bowls and ladle the soup over the toasts. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.

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