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.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi

True story: up until last week, I have never tried a Pierogi, much less attempted to make one. So how, inquiring minds want to know, did I find myself making 10 dozen of them last Sunday evening?

The answer, believe it or not, is surprising simple – J and I were inspired after catching an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”, and when I casually mentioned that I’d never had them, he suggested that we make some.

And oh-by-the-way he could then have a few dozen to take to work for the Holiday party they were having the next day.

Am I imagining things, or did he have an ulterior motive? Hmmmmm.

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A word from the wise: this is a time-consuming project, albeit a very tasty one. The recipe states that it takes an hour and a half ¬†– which it might, if you’re a professional pierogi-maker… I, however, am not. Allow several hours, and recruit other suckers friends to assist, it will go much more quickly.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi – adapted from Food Network
Pierogi Dough:
4 pounds all-purpose flour
1 tbs. olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
Nonstick cooking spray

Mashed Potato Filling:
2 pounds red potatoes (I used russets)
Kosher salt
4 oz butter
4 oz cream cheese
3 oz sour cream
1 tbs granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 pound soft European farmer’s cheese
Milk to thin, if necessary
Nonstick cooking spray

For the pierogi dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, olive oil, eggs, salt and 2 1/2 cups warm water. Start the mixer on slow for a minute, and then switch to high for another couple of minutes until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Then slow the mixer down to medium speed and slowly add the remaining 1 cup warm water. Once the water is absorbed, return the mixer to high and let the dough beat for 10 minutes.

Remove from the bowl. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Form into balls, spray with nonstick spray, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in a warmer area for 20 minutes.

Spray the counter or large cutting board with the nonstick spray and begin to roll the dough with a rolling pin. Roll until a consistent thickness of 1/4-inch. Then spray with nonstick spray. (If it gets too thin, that’s ok as you can re-ball and roll out again.) Use about a 3-inch circle cutter and press down hard and give a slight twist to completely separate from the rest of the dough, continue this throughout the entire piece.

Remove the scraps and in-betweens, save, re-ball and re-roll. Then flip the circle cut-outs; they are ready to be stuffed.

For the mashed potato filling: Boil the red potatoes, leaving the skin on, in a stock pot with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Once the potatoes are soft, drain off the water and place in the mixer bowl with the dough hook or paddle attachment. Add the butter right away so it will start to melt. Then add the cream cheese, sour cream, granulated garlic, onion powder and black and white peppers into the bowl and mix on a medium speed. Mix until smooth and free of all lumps. Now add the farmer’s cheese and mix on high for a couple minutes until a little fluffy. Season with kosher salt. Loosen with milk if necessary. Let cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray (so the delicate dough doesn’t stick. Place about 1 teaspoon of the potato and cheese filling in the center of all the cut-outs. (I like to use a bamboo skewer or large toothpick to remove the filling from the spoon to keep your hands clean.) Then pick up the dough with two hands and fold over the filling. Slightly pull out both sides at the base of the fold, then continue to pull, then pinch, and form and seal as you continue around the half moon. Double check for any areas that aren’t smooth or completely sealed. Repeat. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

In a large saucepan bring three-quarters of a gallon of water to a rapid boil. One by one, drop in the pierogis. Par-boil them until they float, about 5 minutes. Then place them back on a greased baking sheet to let cool.

To serve: Cover the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, saute the pierogis; they should sizzle once they hit the oil. After a minute or so, flip them, looking for a golden brown color. Plate with sauteed onions (if desired) and a side of sour cream for dipping. Drizzle with the butter and sprinkle with the parsley. Enjoy!

Potato, Cabbage and Bacon Casserole

I found myself at an impasse the other day. I was in a predicament, a quandary , and completely devoid of intelligent thought.

Translated – I couldn’t think of anything to make for dinner.

I try really hard to come up with something new and somewhat exciting for dinner several times a week. And I just wasn’t feeling anything – I was browsing recipe after recipe, for what felt like hours, but nothing jumped out at me and said, “MAKE ME”.

And then, like the sky clearing after a storm, I found it. I can’t seem to locate the glorious photo I took of this dish, but it was outstanding and the entire family requested it become part of the regular rotation.

Of course, anything with bacon is a surefire hit with J and Sabrina…..

Potato, Cabbage and Bacon Casserole – adapted from Serious Eats

  • 3 medium russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8¬†slices (about 4 ounces) thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1 small but heavy head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), quartered, cored, and sliced into ribbons
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs.¬†apple cider vinegar (I used red wine)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup grated mild white cheese, such as edam or gouda

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375¬įF. Add potatoes to a medium pot and cover with water. Set pot over high heat and bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer. Cook potatoes until they are firm-tender, about 7 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside.

Add bacon to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until bacon has rendered most of its fat, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

If bacon has rendered more than 3 tablespoons of fat, drain fat, reserving 3 tablespoons. Return Dutch oven to medium-high heat and add cabbage, onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until vegetables have wilted and begun to brown, about 15 minutes. Add apple cider vinegar and deglaze pan, stirring rapidly and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add potatoes to cabbage mixture and stir to combine. Season thoroughly with pepper, then add reserved bacon, parsley, half-and-half and breadcrumbs. Stir to combine.

Lightly coat the bottom of a large casserole dish with cooking spray. Add cabbage mixture and press firmly and evenly into pan. Top casserole with an even layer of grated cheese, then cover pan with a sheet of tin foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake until casserole is bubbling and cheese has browned, about 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes, and serve.

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole

It just dawned on me that Thanksgiving Day is 5 weeks and 1 day away.

Say WHAT?

Whoa. Dare I say I’m ready for it? I truly am, because this holiday season is going to be epic. J and I have a few options this year, as the posse will be away from home again. Oh, it’s ok, don’t feel sad for me, because Thanksgiving, to me, is akin to a Sunday Dinner. Which means, quite frankly, you can do it any day of the year. Everyone comes together, there’s lots of chatter, reminiscing, sharing, love, family, and of course, copious amounts of food and wine.

Wait, that sounded like my birthday week in Vegas…..

Anyway, as I said, it’s not a holiday that has monumental sentiment for me (that would be Christmas, and you can bet your last dollar they will be home with us for that!), but don’t think for one minute that I don’t get sucked into every glossy magazine showing off their finest and most delectable dishes for the season.

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With 98% of my cookbooks/baking magazines still ¬†in storage, I’m having to exercise tremendous self control not to buy each and every one of them. Actually, I told Sabrina this morning that next week, we will break into the storage unit and start pulling out holiday lights and a few boxes of books.

Yes, I’m one of those people that starts decorating in November. Like November 1.¬†

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole – adapted form Southern Living

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black¬†pepper

Preheat oven to 350¬į. Bring milk just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in butter and grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until grits are done. Remove from heat.Stir in egg, cheese, and pepper. ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until mixture is set. Serve immediately.

Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole

I think, if my not-always-reliable memory serves me correctly, that this recipe was featured in the “Chopped Dinner Challenge” on the Food Network recently.

Yes, a quick check on their site confirms that my facts (and memory) are indeed correct.

alert the media. 

Anyhoo, tater tots, for the uninitiated, are ground up, formed, seasoned potatoes that are held in very high regard in this house. Very high regard. Very high. Very.

Capiche?

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This was a winner all around and will definitely be made again.

Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole – adapted from Food Network

  • 4 tbs.¬†unsalted butter
    2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
    1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Fresh ground black pepper
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    2 cups milk
    1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 3 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
    1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the carrots and onions and season with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 6-7 minutes. Add the peas, and cook for another minute or so. Stir in the flour, and then whisk in the milk and wine and bring to a boil, whisking. Boil until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the chicken mixture.

Pulse the tots in a food processor with the thyme until medium ground. Scatter over the top of the casserole and bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Gorditas

I’ve said this before, but today, it bears repeating:

“The best laid plans of Mice and Men……”

Translated?

We (meaning J, Sabrina and myself) were supposed to embark on a 6 1/2 hour drive to Lubbock to take a tour of Texas Tech College tomorrow morning.

Supposed¬†being the operative word. In typical mother fashion, I had it all planned out: Alexander was to be shipped off to a friend’s house, the pups’ care was arranged, hotel rooms were booked, our route was mapped out, and the tour was scheduled.

phew...

Then, at 7:30 last night, J came home with the news that he wouldn’t be able to make the trip with us because of work. No problem.

Right about now you’re probably thinking, ok, just because J can’t go, why don’t you and Sabrina hit the road “Thelma and Louise” style?

Without the gunfire, of course.

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Do you know what my father will do to me if I tell him I made that drive?

** shudder **

Gorditas – adapted from Food and Wine

These were fun, different, and tasty. They come together really quickly, and are a nice change from tortillas or taco shells.

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • Shredded chicken, salsa, sour cream and¬†cotija cheese, for serving

In a large bowl, mix the masa harina with the water and the 1/4 cup of oil. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 10-inch log; cut into 10 pieces. Using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, mold the pieces into flat disks a scant 1/2 inch thick.

Heat a large griddle. Add the gorditas and cook over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Using the back of a spoon, lightly press an indentation in the center of each gordita.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the gorditas and fry over high heat until golden and crispy, about 2 minutes per side; drain on paper towels. Top the indentations with chicken, salsa, sour cream and cheese and serve hot.

 

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.