Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

Christmas Eve is two weeks away.

Two weeks!

I don’t know ’bout y’all, but I’m sitting here drinking wine, perusing the latest Sur La Table catalog and making lists for our Christmas holiday feast.¬†And I’m in a bit of a quandary…… so perhaps you can help. Do I stay with the “it’s the holidays and I should make the traditional dishes”? Or…. branch out into something new and different?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to serve this beef stew for Christmas Dinner, as wonderful as that sounds. I’m thinking more along the lines of our usual Italian favorites for Christmas Eve, and then venture into the English territory for Prime Rib with popovers on Christmas Day.

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Well, I guess I just answered my own question….

In all seriousness though, I do have a few new ideas on the agenda, most notably the Kouigns Amann from this¬†book (which I gave myself as an early Christmas present)… and the Creme Br√Ľl√©e tart from this book. Aside from that, I think it’s going to be the traditional route all the way!

Oh…. one more thing…. this stew? Definitely on the menu when Mom and Dad arrive. They will love it.¬†Although I served it over polenta for us, I’m thinking they’ll appreciate it on a bed of mashed potatoes a bit more.

A bed of mashed potatoes sounds quite nice right about now……

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce – adapted from Jacques Pepin

  • 1 tbs.¬†unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds trimmed beef flatiron steak or chuck, cut into 8 pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbs.¬†finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbs.¬†all-purpose flour
  • One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 8¬†slices thick cut bacon
  • 15 pearl or small cipollini onions, peeled
  • 15 cremini mushrooms
  • 15 baby carrots, peeled
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350¬į. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange the meat in the casserole in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 minutes. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the meat with it. Add the wine, bay leaves and thyme, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven. Cook the stew for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is flavorful.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Add the pearl onions, mushrooms and carrots. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and cook over high heat, tossing, until the vegetables are tender and nicely browned, about 4 minutes.

To serve, stir some of the vegetables into the stew and scatter the rest on top as a garnish. Top with a little chopped parsley and serve.

Greek Meatballs with Cucumber Sauce

I received some outstanding news the other day.¬†Exceptional news, really. I’m thinking that perhaps I should have taken out the front page of the WSJ for news of this caliber. If you’re thinking it refers to a merger, or an IPO, you are, unfortunately, incorrect.

This is better. Much, much better. Believe it or not, we have royalty arriving in about two weeks.

For real.

Time to buff the silver, dust¬†the baseboards, polish the floors, and roll out the red carpet…. for the Queen Mother is coming to town.

Jolly good, if you ask me.

Dad is attending a function close by that The Queen would rather not be a part of, so she decided that instead of watching the tumbleweeds roll by in Vegas, she would come here for pampering, relaxation, and a darn good time. I’ve been planning out where to take her, as there are a few places I haven’t been to yet that I know she will enjoy. That is, IF she feels like associating amongst Austinites.

One never knows.……..

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I mean, my mother won’t exactly be down for a trip to Food Truck Alley. Cocktails on the roof at the W Hotel? That will definitely elicit a much more positive reaction.

Although some of the food trucks are quite good……..

Greek Meatballs with Cucumber Sauce – adapted from Cat Cora

3 slices white bread with crust
1 cup milk
2 pounds ground beef (I used one pound beef, one pound ground lamb)
1 yellow onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped oregano
2 finely chopped tablespoons mint
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup olive oil
Flour, for dusting
Freshly ground black pepper
Pita Bread
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, recipe follows

Cucumber Sauce:
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cup seeded and small-diced cucumber
3 cloves minced garlic

Dunk bread quickly in milk and press the liquid out to dampen the bread.

Combine the beef, bread, onion, garlic, oregano, mint, vinegar, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Take a large spoon of the mixture and roll into a ball until all the mixture has been rolled.

In a saute pan, add the olive oil and bring it to 360-degrees F for frying. Dust the balls in flour and add to the oil. Brown on all sides, leaving room in the pan to roll them around. Pull from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Serve with pita and cucumber yogurt sauce.

Cucumber Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy

I have come to realize that in my life, for every success I achieve, there is a failure I must suffer..

Seriously.

Case in point: I really outdid myself making dinner last week. I prepared chicken fried steak, buttermilk mashed potatoes, cream gravy, and braised greens with bacon. J and the posse loved it.

And were still talking about it two days later.

Impressive, considering it was the first time I’ve ever attempted southern style cooking before. But it was one of those dinners that was well worth the time investment – and believe me, there was a serious amount of time involved.

And let’s not even get started on the mess……

Anyway,¬†it’s a good thing that dinner was so good, because the next evening, I attempted a new recipe for cheese enchiladas. Another big time/mess investment.

Aaaaaannnnd suffice to say, I won’t be making them again.

Per the family’s request.

Ouch….

Chicken Fried Steak – adapted from Homesick Texan

Note: I found out the hard way that you really can’t coat the meat too far in advance – the flour gets gummy and then falls off while the steak is cooking.

  • 1 1/2¬†pounds¬†top-round steak
  • 2¬†cups¬†all-purpose flour
  • 1¬†teaspoon¬†black pepper
  • 1/2¬†teaspoon¬†cayenne pepper
  • 3¬†large¬†eggs, beaten
  • 1/2¬†cup¬†buttermilk
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Cut the top-round steak into four pieces. Pound the steak with a meat tenderizer until flattened and almost doubled in size. Season the squashed steak on both sides with black pepper to taste.

Place the flour in a large bowl and add the black pepper and cayenne. In another large bowl, mix the eggs with the buttermilk.

Take a piece of the tenderized steak and dredge it in the flour mixture, turning it to coat. Then dip the coated steak in the egg mixture, allowing any excess to drip off. Dip it back into the flour again. Place on a wire rack and repeat with the remaining steak.

Pour enough oil in a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, to reach a depth of 1/2-inch. Heat it to 300¬įF (149¬įC). Line a rack with paper towels. Take the coated steak and gently place them in the skillet, being careful not to crowd the skillet. You may need to work in batches. Be careful, as there will be a lot of popping and hissing when you add the steaks to the hot oil. After about 3 or 4 minutes, gently turn the steaks with tongs and cook for 5 more minutes.

Remove the steaks from the skillet and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. (If cooking the steaks in batches, you can opt to keep the cooked steaks warm in an oven set at 200¬įF (93¬įC) while you cook the remaining steaks.) Serve the steaks smothered in cream gravy.

Cream Gravy – adapted from Homesick Texas

  • 2¬†tbs.¬†vegetable oil
  • 2¬†tbs.¬†all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2¬†cups¬†whole milk
  • Black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat until warm. Stir in the flour and cook, continuously stirring, for a couple of minutes until a dark roux forms.

Slowly add the milk to the skillet, stirring with a whisk to mix it with the roux. Be sure to press out any lumps. Turn the heat down to low and continue stirring until the mixture has thickened, a couple more minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste. If the gravy is too thick for your tastes, you can thin it by adding more milk, a tablespoon at a time.

Our favorite Meatloaf

Meatloaf seems to incite very strong feelings within my family.

And by that statement, I mean they either love it (Dad, J and Alexander), thoroughly dislike it (Mom), or are completely neutral about it (Sabrina and I).

Because when meatloaf is good, it’s really, really good. And when it’s bad, it’s….. inedible. And believe me, I’ve made my share of inedible meatloaves.

Let’s not talk about it those versions …..

However, after much trial and error, I think I’ve finally nailed it. And even though I don’t have a picture, suffice to say this is the recipe I will keep coming back to again and again.

Our Favorite Meatloaf – adapted from Ina Garten

3 tbs olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup milk
2 tbs. ketchup
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup
5-6 slices thick cut bacon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, thyme, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Off the heat, add the Worcestershire sauce, milk, and ketchup. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, onion mixture, bread crumbs, and eggs, and mix lightly with a fork. Don’t mash or the meat loaf will be dense. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf on a sheet pan covered with foil. Spread the ketchup evenly on top, and lay the bacon slices on top of the ketchup. Bake for 45 minutes,¬†until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meat loaf is cooked through.

Our Favorite Sloppy Joes

Today certainly started off with a bang.

Or a buzz.

Or a buzz with a stinger attached.

Two of them, actually. 

This morning, while taking the dogs out, I discovered a wasp nest in the backyard – and before I knew what was happening, I was stung twice.¬†Son of a frosted cupcake……. it hurt…...bad.¬†I quickly ushered the puppies into the house, and promptly called our landlord.

The pest control people will be here tomorrow with a blowtorch.

I can’t wait…. I’ll be singing “Burn, baby, burn” while he sends them to a fiery death.¬†

Pretty dramatic, wouldn’t you agree?
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Our Favorite Sloppy Joes – adapted from Tyler Florence

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I used chili sauce, it’s what I had on hand)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
12 parker house rolls

Set a heavy-based pot over medium-high heat and add a 3-count of olive oil. Add onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add ground turkey, season well with salt and pepper and brown well all over, breaking it up with a wooden spoon – about 7 to 10 minutes. Add ketchup, mustard, cayenne, brown sugar and tomato paste. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Finish with a splash of red wine vinegar and season it once more before serving on parker rolls.

 

Shepherd’s Pie

Are you ready for Memorial Day Weekend?

I’m……..not. Well, I mean I’m ready for the weekend, but not ready in terms of what we are doing/eating.

I think what is really throwing my groove off is the fact that my barbecue is out of order. Simply put, it was hooked up to a natural gas line in Vegas, and here in Texas it needs to be hooked up to a propane tank. I contacted the friendly folks at Weber BBQ and they very nicely informed me that I am out-of-luck. You can’t convert the gas line from one to the other.

Which, quite frankly, sucks.

Even though J bought a Big Green Egg (greatest invention ever, by the way), it’s more of a smoker than a grill. And although we share everything, I do believe the Egg is his.

You know how men are with their grills :)

Anyway, I loved the ease and simplicity of being able to go outside and grill just about anything and everything – pizza, ribs, beer can chicken, steaks – even toasting slices of pound cake for dessert.

I may have to buy a George Foreman Grill to get my fix.

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Shepherd’s Pie – adapted from Alton Brown

For the potatoes:

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup half-and-half (I used buttermilk)
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk


For the meat filling:

2 tbs canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth (I used red wine)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 tsp freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/shepherds-pie-recipe2.print.html?oc=linkback

Slow Cooker Carnitas

There’s an old expression I’m quite fond of:

“Sometimes, it’s the little things that mean the most.”

In this case, it refers to the fact that Alexander did two things this morning that meant a lot to me:

1. He actually put his clean sheets on.the.bed. Properly, I might add.

and

2. He picked up all his dirty laundry from the floor and put it in the hamper.

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I’m beginning to wonder if he bumped his head when he got up this morning……..

Slow Cooker Carnitas – adapted from bon appetit

6 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1-2 tsp ground cumin
1 large onion, cut into 4 pieces
6 oz. beer (any mild flavor)Pinto beans, guacamole, corn tortillas, salsa, and queso fresco, for serving
Place pork in bowl of slow cooker and season with black pepper, oregano and cumin. Place onion pieces around pork, and pour in the beer. Cover slow cooker and cook pork on low setting until meat is very tender and falling apart, about 8 hours.

Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to cutting board. Discard onion pieces. Using fingers, shred pork, and place on a baking tray. Preheat the broiler, and broil the meat until it is slightly charred all over, about 5-7 minutes. Serve hot with pinto beans, corn tortillas, guacamole, salsa, and queso fresco.