Friday, March 25, 2011

Short Ribs

Spring is officially here, but the weather in March is insane, a few days of almost summer then days of icy cold drizzle, snow and freezing winds.  I cleaned off the grill this weekend, planned my first grilled out meal of the season then we were struck by icy cold wind and rain... did I still grill out?  of course... I just laugh at myself that this time of year I tend to pick the wrong meal for whatever the weather.  Yes yesterday I was trying to turn my grill away from the wind and still keep myself out of the rain for long enough to get my chorizo laced burgers done.

The day before was just as out of place... as all of my neighbors were firing up their grills I was inside on a warm sunny day slow brazing Short Ribs.  These guys rocked by the way!  The recipe was adapted from (by adapted I mean that I didn't have all the ingredients on hand)

1/2 ounce dried morel mushrooms
1  cup boiling water

For the dry rub
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds meaty short ribs
2 tablespoons olive oil

To braise  the meat
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1cup canned low-salt chicken broth
3/4 cup liquid that the mushrooms soaked in
1 bay leaf

For the crumbs
2 TBS butter, room temperature
1 cup bread crumbs
3 of the above mentioned mushrooms chopped
2 TBS Dijon mustard

Start by soaking your mushrooms in a cup of boiling water I let mind go for about 3 hours...

 Pre heat the oven to 325.  Mix the thyme, salt and pepper together and rub on all sides of your short ribs then heat olive oil in a large pan  and sear on all sides until brown (took about 10 minutes).

Take the meat out and set aside for for the next step, add the onions, garlic and carrot to the pan and saute for about 10 minutes until soft then deglaze the pan with the red wine.  Scrape any of the yummy brown bits off the bottom of the pan then put your ribs back in and add the chicken broth and mushroom water (being careful not to spill any of the sediment into your pan).  Rinse your mushrooms well then add them to the pot and finally the bay leaf.  Cover tightly put in the oven... Cook until these are very tender (3 of my 5 fell off the bone when I picked them up) these took about 2 hours.
Somewhere while the short ribs are braising start your bread crumb mixture, I know you will find the time.  mix the butter and breadcrumbs together and set aside.  When your meat is done pull it out of the oven then turn it up to 425, let the meat cool until cool enough to touch.  While it is cooling pull out 3 large mushrooms, chop them up and mix them into the breadcrumb stuff.  Smear about a teaspoon of mustard on each rib then pack the crumb mixture on them.  Put them on a baking sheet and put them back into the oven to brown (this part took about 10 minutes).  While that is going cook your drippings over medium high heat until it thickens a bit.
Here it is with the sauce, very tasty, not as photogenic.
These are served over mashed potatoes.

How was it?  Mixed reviews... 

Bryan, "It rocked!  what a perfect mixture of flavors and textures.  The meat was just falling off the bone and tasted wonderful"

Kris, "It tasted fine but looks like barbarian food."
Miss Lu, "It smells good but I'll just have grilled cheese."

I was OK with the leftovers here it is for lunch the next day!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Dangers of Letting Your Kids Help in the Kitchen

Making a mad dash
So there are some drawbacks to having your kids help out in the Kitchen.  I was doing the dishes a couple of days ago and Mr. Man came in, distracted me then started this...
Are you trying to hide something from me!?! where are the lasagna noodles?
Ok I think that we have it here; the way boys think... none of the three girls ever came up with this game...
I have staged a couple of pictures in the past the only thing that I can say is these are all actual pictures of what Mr. Man came up with on his own.  A mad dash from the kitchen and a couple of cars and we have the perfect race track.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Yeast and I have had an ongoing kind of love/hate thing for quite a few years, I have to admit that is partly because I never had much experience as a baker or really in pastry of any sort.  Then there were all of the stories people would tell...

"You must mix yeast dough with a wooden spoon if you touch it with a rubber spatula it will never rise"

"Bread has to be mixed in a glass or ceramic bowl... it will get a metallic taste from a metal bowl."

"Lock your doors and put a towel under all of your windows!  even the slightest cool draft will make your bread fall."

Read your mom's old church cookbook the warnings are there,  I am not saying that I believed all of them but still I grew up a little afraid of yeast dough.  I have grown a little more accustomed to it now.  There is a method to yeast breads that is somewhat calming, the warmth of the kitchen the kneading, the rise and the gentle care that you take of it as it goes.  Years ago I started flirting with french bread when I was dealing with insomnia.

Does that make sense? let me explain a little, I couldn't sleep so I would get out of bed at 10:00 or so, open a bottle of wine and start a couple of loaves of french bread.  It worked like a charm, when the wine was gone and the fresh hot loaves were coming out of the oven I was ready to sleep! 

Last weekend I found myself a little stressed and I fell back on my old enemy come friend then therapist. Kris wasn't feeling well to the point that she had both of us a little shaken.  While she was being checked out by the Dr. the kids were playing with their new friends and I was alone in the house.  So Focaccia came to mind... why focaccia?  really I don't know but it seemed right.  Anyway here is how it went...

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups warm water
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
2 tsp table salt
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Basil pesto and tomato sauce to top
a little Kosher salt

Mix yeast and warm water together in a bowl while that is blooming put flour and table salt into your mixing bowl.  After the yeast has activated (got all foamy around the edges of your bowl) add that to your flour mixture.  Blend with dough hooks for about 4-5 minutes then turn onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two.  Put your mixture into an oiled bowl and let rise, covered in plastic for about an hour until it doubles in size.  When that is done press the dough into a well greased (use about half the olive oil above for that) 10x15 inch pan and let rise (covered in a damp dish towel this time) for about 25-30 minutes.  while that is rising preheat oven to 400.

Now is the time to spread your toppings on it, I used pesto sauce, fire roasted tomatoes, minced fresh garlic and a bit of sea salt.  Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil then poke it with your fingers until it feels right, some of the holes should be shallow some should tear the dough all the way through to the pan.  Set this in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.

Kris is doing fine by the way, several Dr.s checked her out from top to bottom.  It seems that as we age our bodies like to do something to shake us up every year or so.  Maybe it is nature's way of reminding us to take better care of ourselves.

Monday, March 14, 2011

S'more Martini

These are the situations that only happen to Kris and me... A couple of weeks ago we had Mr. Man's preschool parent teacher conference. His teacher is almost exactly what you would expect as a leader of 4-5 year old children, very nice, a little loud and just bursting with energy. Kris and I both like her; she takes great care of Mr. Man and overall seems like a good person. Our parent teacher conference went from her telling us how well Mr. Man is doing, he is ready for Kindergarten by the way, to how his academic performance has improved over the past year, and we talked a lot about his social interactions. As the conference started to wind down we were all starting to get a little silly, we were the last one of the day. So as we were heading to the parking lot Kris had said something to MS D. about going out some evening after Mr. Man was out of her class and a few weeks into Kindergarten.

Then MS D. showed us a picture of a drink she had a few days earlier, a S'More Martini. Kris gave me the look and I knew that I was going to be figuring out a new drink. You all know that I enjoy gaining new knowledge… OK you have probably figured out that I like the chance to drink more than I should and call it a learning experience. I tried a few, but as I am pretty sure I have mentioned in the past, you only get maybe 2 attempts at a Martini recipe in a day, after that the taste buds just aren’t as sensitive as you need them.

After a few attempts I came down to this one
3 oz Vodka
1 ½ oz Chocolate Liquor
Marshmallow Cream
Graham Cracker Crumbs
Mini marshmallows on a skewer

Take the marshmallow cream and spread it around the rim of a martini glass I spread it on the top quarter of an inch inside and out, then roll it in the graham cracker crumbs. Put your vodka and chocolate liquor over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled. Toast your mini marshmallows over the stove top until slightly burned. Pour the chocolaty goodness into your martini glass, garnish with toasted marshmallows. This exact one is below.

How did that go over? I liked it, for Kris it was a bit much… Martinis can be a bit much if you don’t have them often. So I wend back to the drawing board (see the sacrifices that I make). Actually one simple addition made it. Put the vodka and chocolate liquor into your shaker then add a good tablespoon of marshmallow cream and mix with a stick blender (or mix in a blender I suppose) then add ice and shake, every thing else is the same. That is the one pictured at the top of the page, defiantly sweeter and smoother than by original.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

Ok, some food just doesn't photograph well, this may not be the most elegant meal but it is really good, read on!
Ok I am done with the February blues, the past couple of months I took the pictures and kept the recipes, I would just get to the computer and blah... it just wasn't in me to blog about it.  This one is from a couple of weeks ago in the middle of February.  I wanted the ultimate comfort food and what could be better than chicken and dumplings?

The chicken is easy I put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in the trusty iron skillet then browned it skin side down first for about 5 minutes then turn for another couple of minutes.  Once the chicken was browned I added about 2 cups of chicken broth a couple of cut up carrots celery and two chopped cloves of garlic.  I braised that on the stove top for about 35 minutes at a low simmer until the chicken was done.

Once you add the broth and vegetables to your chicken start making your dumplings...
Really "dumplings" is another way to say soggy biscuits... one of the guys I work with makes his dumplings and puts them into a steamer, me I like them to cook in the broth for a couple of reasons: first they have a nice flavor when cooked in broth and drippings, second as you cook them in your broth it starts to thicken and become a nice gravy. 

The Dumplings:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2/3 cup buttermilk

To make the dumplings mix together the dry ingredients then add the butter.  Mix together by hand (smashing with your fingertips) until the flour mixture has a consistent corn meal like texture.  Add the buttermilk and mix quickly, just a bit, do not over mix.
When your chicken is done take it out of the gravy and set aside, add the dumpling batter about a tablespoon at a time and cook for 15 minutes.  It is kind of hard to tell when they are done they are dryish on top and firm, but really it is wet bread... they are done when they resemble soggy biscuits. 

The flavor is great here! and the whole dish just make you warm and happy on the inside, I simply love the flavor and texture of dumplings and these were not a disappointment.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pork and Shrimp Burgers

Things have been a little slow around here for a few weeks, I have just been a little off my game lately.  It happens to us in the winter sometimes, Kris and I have a tenancy to go "underground" and hibernate just a bit, we don't see much of our friends, mostly we go to work then have dinner and go to bed.   We all have the worst case of that late February cabin fever.  You know how it goes you get the 2 or 3 nice days in a row, you pull out the windbreaker and start to feel like it is spring then get up for work one morning and end up spending 40 minutes scraping a half inch of ice off of the car windows.  I know it is going to happen, something like that has every year since... well... birth but it always is a kick in the b well it just isn't fun. Let me try to say it right.  On a normal day when I see just about any food related occurrence in my life (and I have a lot of them) I start to think of how I can describe them here, some make the cut most don't.  The past month or so I haven't, I have just been off...

That being said I think I have pulled my self out of my self inflicted funk, the recipes and a bunch of pictures are already.  Every time I look at food my mind starts to think of how I can fit it in here, there so it is just a matter of my fingers keeping up with the rest of me.  This recipe is a mixture of something that I thought sounded good on a show I saw on Food Network and a recipe that I had.  When I tasted this it ROCKED!  Really a great Spring/Summer dish, bright, vibrant and spicy without a hint of anything heavy too it.  I love a food pickled slaw with a dish to add that bright POP to a meal this one ended up being a great mixture when it was all put together...

The Slaw
1 cup Rice wine Vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup shredded Diakon
3/4 cup shredded carrot
1 TBS chopped Cilantro
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves.  While that is going put the rest of your ingredients into a bowl, add the vinegar sugar mix and stir together until coated.  Put into the refrigerator until cold.  Quick warning... as a condiment this is really good, spicy and bright, it worked great on these sandwiches but the pepper flakes do make it HOT when I tasted this out of the bowl I thought I had gone too far,  if you are unsure cut back some.

The burger patties
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound shrimp peeled and deveined
1 small onion chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs

I will be honest I may have used a little less than the 1/2 pound shrimp because I was getting sick of deveining them (note to self buy them deveined already, doing it yourself is a pain in the butt).  Put your raw trimmed shrimp into a food processor until they are well chopped but not too much, when you cook them you want some larger bits for texture.  Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together, then form patties (I made three but I wanted them a little large because well I was hungry and the kiddos weren't going near this one).  Place the patties on parchment paper and refrigerate for about half an hour until firm.

When it is time to cook put the patties on the grill and cook for maybe 5-6 minutes on each side until done.  I buttered a couple of buns and toasted those on the grill too.  To assemble put a little Sriracha mayo on the bottom but then the burger patty then the slaw.  Serve with a little Sriracha mayo on the side.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Genius, there is a word that we bandy about a lot... there was Newton, an apple dropped on him and he started to consider gravity. Then that Einstein fellow with the whole relativity thing that he came up with and that E=Mc2 equation, a lot of people have tried to explain that to me... since I am not a genius I don't really get it. Shakespeare, he could really turn a phrase, I watched a high school performance of Hamlet last year and thought how cool it was that 400 years later it is still a gripping almost current story. In the world of art, Chagall made a stained glass window that gave me the shivers every time that I walked past it.

There are genius' out there that we don't always think of or can't put a name too...

Once someone said something along the lines of, "After we let these old potatoes ferment in that water and yeast mixture, why don't we heat it in an enclosed container then take the essence of that distilled beverage and drink it? I think that we should call it ’Vodka!'"

Somewhere else in the world someone said, "Say I have a great idea! why don't we take that fatty meat by the pig's stomach then smoke it in your shed for a couple of days, once that is done I will brine it for a while then in the middle of Winter we can slice it thin, throw it on ma's iron skillet and have it with some eggs."

I always wondered what would have happened if the "potato vodka" genius and the "bacon guy" (tell me that wasn't genius) had got together... what kind of idea would they have come up with. See these are the twisted things that go on in my mind.

Anyway I was at the liquor store a couple of days ago wandering through the Vodka section. When I was in College I only remember about three maybe four kinds of Vodka; Stolichnaya, Smirnoff, Absolute and that rot gut stuff on the bottom shelf that usually made it into my basket. The liquor store that I frequent these days has at least 150 different vodkas to choose from; some infused with lemon, currants, mango, heavy cream, clementine, cotton candy, blueberry, buffalo grass well you get the idea just about anything imaginable. Then I start to wonder what makes a bottle of hooch worth $499.99 not that I will ever shell out five hundred smackers for that bottle in the glass case but someone must. While all these thoughts are going on in my head I see it a few bottles at the end of the aisle, something new, "Bakon" yes folks a BACON flavored VODKA! There was absolutely no way I could pass this up.

I took it home to show my lovely bride my prize, oddly Kris was not as enamored as me with the idea. Add to that my boozy oddity shelf is getting a little crowded. I corked my bottle of bacony hooch and was struck at first with a smoky aroma as I poured it into my glass. The first taste, the thing that I got was the smoky bang then there is a subtle, hard to describe (because it is in a liquid form) meaty finish to it. On the rocks it wasn't my favorite but at room temperature the flavors could bloom and I could taste the full round richness of this drink. Kris described it as inhaling smoke from the fire pit while drinking vodka. The bottle came with two recipes; a chocolate bacon martini (I doubt that I will make that one) and a bacon bloody Mary.

So my friends, here it is Breakfast in a glass:
Double shot of Bacon flavored vodka
5 oz Vegetable juice
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash of hot sauce
pinch of salt
shake in a cocktail shaker the serve over ice
garnish with celery and cracked pepper

The vegetable juice and the liquid bacon flavor worked well together, instead of obscuring the meaty smokey flavor they  were almost amplified.  Now if I can only think of how to get some fried eggs and I would have the true breakfast of champions.