Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beef Burgundy

This is it.  THIS is my victory recipe.  This is the one where I was dancing around the kitchen singing "Weeeeee are the chaaaaaaampions my frieeeeend!!!"

Wondering why?

When most people say they don't like a particular food, it's generally a single ingredient.  For as long as I've known Rob, he has despised two complete dishes: Beef Stroganoff and Beef Burgundy.

And that's ok.  I respect that.  God knows there are a number of foods I don't like.  That early in our relationship, I wasn't too much into cooking yet so I didn't really know what was in either one, and accepted that these would never grace our dining room table.  Until I saw a recipe for Beef Burgundy.

How, I asked myself, is it possible that my Committed Carnivore despises a dish where tender bits of beef are cooked for hours in an entire bottle of red wine???  Rob had no answer for me, but continued to insist that he'd never eat it.  Oo, I sense a CHALLENGE!!!

I bided my time.  For YEARS I waited for the right recipe, the right time.  Yay for me that once I found that recipe, the perfect time was right around the corner!

Beef Burgundy
Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

4 bacon slices
3-4 lbs beef stew meat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Cognac
1 bottle dry red wine, such as Burgundy
1 3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 tsp dried thyme OR 8 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb cremini mushrooms
2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
Pinch sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)

1.  Put a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove it to a paper towel; crumble when cool and set aside to use for the garnish. 
Julia Childs Tip: pat the meat dry before seasoning.

2.  Season the beef with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot in batches. Fry the cubes in the bacon fat until evenly browned on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pot to a plate.
Do NOT crowd the pot!!

3.  Return the browned beef to the pot and sprinkle the flour over the meat; stir to make sure everything is well coated and there are no lumps.  Pour in the Cognac and scrape up the flavorful bits in the bottom of the pan. Cook and stir to evaporate the alcohol.  Pour in the red wine and beef broth; then add the tomato paste and herbs. Stir everything together and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the liquid starts to thicken and has the consistency of a sauce; this should take about 15 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.
The. Whole. Bottle!!

4.  While the beef simmers, finely chop the mushrooms in a food processor (if you're a Mushroom Person, you can slice or quarter the mushrooms).  Uncover the pot and add the mushrooms, garlic, and pearl onions, along with the pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Turn up the heat slightly and simmer for 30-45 minutes longer, until the vegetables and meat are tender.
If you like mushrooms, quarter, slice, or leave them whole instead.

5.  Remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprig (and thyme sprigs if you used fresh).  Stir in the butter to finish up the sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and the reserved crumbled bacon before serving.
A little butter at the end adds a luxurious shine to the sauce

The absolute second I saw this recipe, I knew... I knew I had Rob.  How on earth could my guy NOT enjoy a dish that STARTS WITH BACON, the beef cooks in bacon fat, and uses TWO kinds of alcohol I know he loves.  Sure, there are mushrooms in it but by using a good quality mushroom and chopping them finely, they pretty much melt into the sauce and amp up that beefy flavor.  Oh yeah, his taste buds were in for the shock of their lives!

I've heard that Beef Burgundy is often served over egg noodles.  I've never really understood that one so I chose to serve this with some fluffy mashed potatoes.

p.s. In case I haven't been obvious enough about it, yes, he loved it!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!!  It's been a whole year since I decided to share my food loves and experimentation with everyone.  And I have to say that I've had a LOT of fun doing this. :)

In fact, my mom was in town for a few days to help me (got horrendously sick over the weekend; bad migraine. Awful, horrible, no-good-very-bad-thing), and I found it wonderfully ironic that on the exact anniversary of my first post, she made Swiss Chicken.  Hurray for comfort food!

Anyway, I started thinking a while ago about what could I do for my first anniversary post... what dish could I make for such a day?  A main course?  A dessert?  An insanely sinful appetizer?  As I'm trying to make up my mind on what I could make for you, I'm slowly getting inspired by one of the blogger's I follow.

This blogger is one of the most amazing women whom I dearly hope to meet one day.  With every single post she lets readers into her life and bares all for us.  I've found her ability to share her successes, her failures, her ups and downs so inspiring.  So I'm taking a page from her and let you peek a little more into my life, and my relationship with food.

*whew*  Yeah, kinda nerve-wracking to strip away those little barriers you spend years building up.  But here goes...

I was in elementary school when I began to obsess about my weight.  I didn't do anything about it, but my first weight/image-crazed memory takes me back to 6th grade.

But I was in high school the first time I realized I could skip an entire meal.  I started slowly, cutting back on my portions here and there.  And then life got busier, as it tends to in high school, and I wasn't necessarily at home for every meal so it got even easier to skip meals without being noticed.

By the time I got to college, I was really starting to spiral out of control.  Which is ironic because I totally thought I was IN control!  Oh yes, I thought I had it all together.  I wasn't a statistic.  I didn't shove my fingers down my throat like those girls they showed us in the home ec movies.  And lots of people do situps, pushups, and crunches everyday.  100 of each.  Obsessively.  Right?

College though.  College was scarier.  College meant I didn't have a mom cooking me healthy meals that I could proudly eat only half of.  College meant I had to make my own choices.  College meant I made my own rules.  College meant the Freshman 15.

I became so focused, so intent on not getting the Dreaded Freshman 15 that I actually went the other direction and probably lost at least 15 pounds.  Yeah, not good.

Sooooo, what happened?  I wish I could say I had this dramatic, light-switch moment where all became clear to me and I started to eat normally again.  But life isn't like the movies.  I saw counselors a couple different times.  I had the amazing love and support of some WONDERFUL roommates.  I had my then-boyfriend-now-husband and his family keeping a careful eye on me, inviting me for dinner several times a week.  I even had a kind of intervention with my mom and one of my roommates during my junior year. 

Eventually, I began to love myself.  I slooooowly started to see my body the way others do.  I stopped punishing myself with [the lack of] food, and I even started to love food for what it is.  Food is beautiful.  Food is one of the most amazing sensory experiences a person can have.  Food is incredible. 

Now, are my little anorexic tendencies completely gone?  No.  Do I have "flare-ups" where I look in the mirror and just want to set fire to my pantry?  Maybe.  But I have a hell of a lot more days where I look at my husband, who sees me as sexy and beautiful.  I look at my boys and think "wow, I made them!"  I like those days.  Those days are the best. :)
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Meatballs with Bacon Sauce

The first Valentine's Day in our house, I became obsessed with the idea of creating this really romantic meal for Rob.  I carefully watched Food Network for weeks, determined to find That Perfect ILoveYou Meal for him.

The second I got home from work, I started pulling out my pans, giddy in anticipation of how much I was sure he'd love the salmon filets I was making with this Fancypants glaze.  I even picked up these gigantic chocolate covered strawberries from one of my favorite local grocery stores for dessert.  Who wouldn't fall to their knees in adoration at the spread I was whipping up??

Not Rob.  I mean, dinner was ok (I may have overcooked the salmon a bit), and the strawberries were fine.  But that was it.  At the time, I was a lot flabbergasted and a little bit hurt.  Didn't he realize that I made this Fancypants dinner for him?

It took me years, and a couple other Fancypants dinners, before I finally had that "oh duh Jeanna" moment: just who exactly was I making these dinners for?  For all my Fancypants cooking, I didn't marry a Fancypants guy.  I married a true-blue, down-to-the-core Carnivore.  I could make all the fancy dinners I wanted (and he would happily eat them!) but they weren't going to make him stop mid-meal, look at me, and say thankyoupleasemakethisagain in between bites.

And I realize that I've given you a couple of lovely dinner options lately with oo-la-la sauces to go them.  If that's what your Beloved goes for, do it!  But if you have a guy like mine, why not make his meat-lover's heart go pitter-pat with a dish like this one instead:

Meatballs with Bacon Sauce 
Recipe adapted from Beau MacMillan

Bacon Sauce:
7 or 8 strips thick-cut bacon
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (14.5oz) cans crushed tomatoes
2 (14.5oz) cans diced tomatoes

2 pounds lean ground beef
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano, plus more for serving
3/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  For the bacon sauce: Using kitchen shears, snip the bacon into pieces into a big saute pan or skillet over medium heat; cook until almost crispy. Without removing the bacon from the pan, drain all but about 3-4 tbsp of the bacon fat.  Reserve the drained fat.
Feeling a little sinful with this much bacon......

2.  Add the onions to the pan. When the onions are almost cooked and start to become translucent, add the garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, and then add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer on low for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Is there anything lovelier than bacon and onions?

3.  For the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl, combine the beef, breadcrumbs, Parmigiano, parsley, garlic, eggs and some salt and pepper. Form into 1 to 1 1/2-inch meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle or smear (if it's congealed) a little of the reserved bacon fat on each meatball. Bake for 5 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.
No need to get fancy: very basic meatball ingredients

Normally with recipes like this, I'd cut down on the bacon in an effort to control the amount of fat.  However this isn't just any meat sauce, it's a Bacon Sauce.  So I chose instead to leave the bacon and just drain some of that extra fat (I can always add it back in).  And you will be happy too for leaving in all the bacon.  The sauce has this incredible smokey flavor that perfectly complements the hearty meatballs.  Serve this over your choice of hot pasta (I like thin spaghetti).   Toss together a fresh salad and some garlic bread and you may just have that "fall to their knees in adoration" meal.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Roast Pork Loin with Fig Sauce

You know how when you're looking through a new cookbook, and everything looks just so dang tasty, but there's one recipe that jumps out and says "OOO!!  PICK ME!  PICK ME FIRST!!!!

This is definitely a worthy first-pick.

Roast Pork Loin with Fig Sauce
Recipe adapted from Giada Di Laurenitis

Fig Sauce:
2 1/2 cups port wine
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
8 dried figs, roughly chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
1 tbsp honey

1 (4ish lb) pork loin
2 tbsp rosemary extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried crushed rosemary
1 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken stock

1.  In a medium saucepan, combine the fig sauce ingredients over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, until reduced by half.
I keep dried figs on hand to snack on...and pretend I'm eating Fig Newman's. ;)

2.  Remove the cinnamon sticks from the sauce and blend using an immersion blender (or ladle into a blender or food processor) until smooth.  You can make this sauce a day ahead of time (WOOHOO!!!!); just reheat before serving alongside the pork.
Not to be confused with regular red table wine.  Port is more like a dessert wine.

3.  Preheat oven to 425.  Let pork loin sit out at room temperature at least 30 minutes.  In a small bowl, combine the oil, rosemary, salt (yes, you really do need a whole tablespoon), and pepper.  Rub this paste all over the pork.
Massage time!!

4.  Place pork in a large, heavy bottom skillet or roasting pan.  Roast for 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to get an even brownness.

5.  Let the pork rest 10-15 minutes.  While the pork rests on the cutting board, heat the skillet over medium heat and add the chicken stock.  Scrape up the yummy brown bits off the bottom and let simmer 10 minutes.  Slice the pork and drizzle the jus over top.  Serve alongside the fig sauce.
Luscious, a little sweet, tangy, glorious.

This would be amazing with some mashed potatoes; however if you want to shake things up a little, try it with creamy polenta.  Y.U.M!!!!!

And in case you're wondering, Gavin didn't really go much for the fig sauce but he INHALED the pork without it.  He asked for seconds AND made it clear, more than once, that I could make this recipe again.  Happy Mama!!
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Roasted Garlic & Bacon Dip

It is entirely possible that when I tasted this dip, I squealed like a 10-year-old girl who'd just been given a basket of puppies and kittens to play with.  And then maybe I proceeded to dance around the kitchen.
My thighs say "control yourself."  My mouth says "who asked you?"

Entirely possible...

Roasted Garlic & Bacon Dip
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine

2 bulbs garlic
6 strips bacon
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, chopped
3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 400.
Foil packet doesn't have to be pretty; just ball it up around the bulb.

2.  Lay out bacon strips on a broiler pan.  Cut off the tops of the garlic bulbs, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and wrap in aluminum foil.  Place bacon and garlic in the preheated oven and bake until the bacon is crisp and the garlic is soft.  The bacon will take about 30ish minutes (your nose will tell you when it's done) and the garlic about 45 minutes.  Let both cool.
If the cloves still have some shape, mash them up a little with a fork or whisk.

3.  Squish the garlic pulp into a medium bowl with the yogurt, mayonnaise, onion, and Worcestershire sauce.  Whisk to combine.  Crumble the bacon and stir into the dip.  Season with salt and pepper.
You want the bacon extra crisp so it won't get too soggy in the dip.

I'd recommend making this at least a few hours, or even a full day, ahead of time.  That way the flavors have a chance to hang out, get to know each other and work out any issues.  Enjoy this dip with potato chips, fresh veggies, baked potatoes, a spoon.... 

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I like to think I'm fairly adventurous when it comes to food.  I mean, come on, a girl cannot grow up moving around the world (thanks Dad!) and not be willing to try a few things.  Like anyone, there are certain things I don't like, but even then I try to find workarounds for those foods.

When it comes to food genres, I think I'm pretty predictable there.  I love the typical "American" grub.  I frequently crave Mexican food.  And there are those days when, of course, only Chinese takeout can make things right again.

Indian food though, has never really entered my thought process....until now.

Recipe adapted from Aarti Sequeira

3 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1 1/2-inch thumb) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 lb ground beef
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup beer
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few extra leaves for garnish, optional
4 chapatis, tortillas or pitas, warmed

1.  In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute. Stir in the coriander, paprika, garam masala, cumin and cayenne, if using and cook for 1 minute.
The perfume of all these spices warming is INSANE

2.  Add the beef, breaking up lumps with a spoon, and saute until the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, beer, water and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and simmer, uncovered until some of the liquid evaporates, about 5-8 minutes.  Sprinkle in the peas and simmer an additional 5 minutes.
Drained, canned diced tomatoes work too, but fresh ones are better if you have them

3.  Stir in the vinegar and chopped cilantro. Garnish with torn cilantro leaves and serve with warm chapatis, tortillas, or pita bread.
Love that fresh, bright green!

The first time I made this, I almost didn't make it again, it was that BLAND.  Even with all these incredible spices, I couldn't believe that the flavor just was not there.  But I persevered, made a few adjustments the second go around (which you'll notice if you compare the above to her original recipe).  The one thing I was to recommend for this though is to NOT measure.  No seriously, don't be exacting with this one.  If you really like ginger, then grate some more in.  If garam masala is your thing, go for it!  But, please, do not reduce the amount of cayenne.  I promise that if you do any less than a 1/2 tsp you will not taste it; this dish needs that heat.
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