Friday, January 17, 2014

Chili and coffee braised short ribs

We had some friends over last Saturday for a "fancy dinner party with a toddler" - which, as the quotes imply, is a complete oxymoron - nothing remains fancy when there is a toddler in the equation. However it turned out that the toddler was not the one we needed to worry about! 

Troublesome guests aside, the food itself was - if I may say so myself - outstanding. We started out with an absolute TO DIE FOR pairing of wine and cheese. Nettle meadow farms triple creme Kunik, and an evervesent slightly tangy and crisp Italian white called Ca' de Noci. The latter I'll take no credit for - it was a recommendation from the amazing guys at my local wine store. But man do they know their stuff - this wine was great and you should get your hands on some, and some Kunik - or your local version of a goat-milk pungent and ripe triple creme. Bacchus himself could not have thought up a better combination. Try it!

The main course was grass-fed beef short ribs braised for four hours with coffee, chili and red wine, served over a bright purée of carrot and rutabaga. I got both recipes from the great compilation of recipes put together by Amanda Hesser from the NYTimes archives, The Essential NYTimes Cookbook.These two recipes were huge hits, especially the ribs. I highly recommend using grass fed beef if you can find it (I got mine at whole foods and it is worth the extra price). I used 10 large ribs and had to use a 10-quart Dutch oven and 1.5 times the liquid. If you are doing 4-6 large you should be okay with a 6-quart and the liquid specified in the recipe. 
I served the ribs with a Spanish 100% Tempranillo. I had been tempted to buy a zin or a Bordeaux but the wine guys said the spice would kill the body. And the Tempranillo worked splendidly - so I think they were right on!

Short Ribs with Coffee and Chili

I used 2 pasilla chilies and 1/4 teaspoon dried chipotle powder instead of the whole chili and 1.5 times the amount of liquid and the ribs were just mildly - very pleasantly - spicy

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
4 large or 8 small beef short ribs
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 dried pasilla chile (also known as chili negro), stemmed, seeded and minced
1 dried chipotle chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
Pinch of sugar
1 cup strong coffee
1 cup dry red wine (I used a nice cotes du rhone, a Zinfandel works well too, don't use it unless you'd drink it!)

Drizzle oil into a large Dutch oven and, working in batches, brown the ribs well on all sides over medium heat. Take your time and season the ribs with salt and pepper while you cook. Remove them from the pot.
Turn the heat to low. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, sugar and chilies to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 15 minutes.
Turn the heat to high and add the wine and coffee. Boil until reduced by about half. Return ribs to the pot and cook covered on low on the stovetop, or in a 300 degree oven, until the meat is very very tender and falls easily off all bones - about 2 or 3 hours - longer if the bones are bigger. Allow plenty of time for braising! Serve atop creamy polenta, and/or golden winter purée (recipe below.)

Golden winter purée

A lot of recipes tell you to peel carrots when you don't really have to - here you really do need to.
Also I used a food mill and was very pleased with the end consistency.
The original recipe says this serves 10, but if you use it like I do, as a substitute for a starch, it only serves 4-6.

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 lb rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large firm but ripe pear, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch cubes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to boil in a a large heavy pot. Add the vegetables and pear and summer until they are tender enough to be pierced easily with a fork, about 25 minutes. Drain.
Purée the vegetables and pear in a food processor (or pass through a food mill twice.) Put the mixture back in the cooking pot and stir in the butter in small pieces, then stir in the cream, ginger and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Everyday spelt pancakes

I have been looking for a pancake recipe that is as simple and delicious as my go-to waffles. I have a whole, varied arsenal of great pancake recipes which I rotate on a regular basis (carrot cake, zucchini, buckwheat, buttermilk, cornmeal, lemon ricotta). One might even call me a pancake queen. But my royal retinue is only now finally complete - with the addition of this most simple recipe. It requires minimal ingredients, minimal effort, and is the perfect thing to make for yourself, your family, or any visiting royalty.

Spelt pancakes
Adapted from a NYTimes recipe featured in Amanda Hesser's NYTimes cookbook

2 large eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar

Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl until light and foamy. Whisk in the oil, butter, vanilla and milk. 
In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and sugar.
Dump the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until just combined.
Heat a griddle or frypan on medium heat. Pour pancakes by 1/4 cupful (use the 1/4 cup measurer you used for the flour) onto the hot pan. Flip when bubbles appear on top, and cook on the other side until just cooked through.
Serve immediately with maple syrup, and butter if desired.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Tomato

Here is a super-easy, but also rather elegant, recipe to brighten up your next brunch.

I usually dislike recipes written in this way, where the ingredients are per serving, and not per what you actually will need for x number of people. However, this recipe, written this way, is delightfully simple. If you are unsure of quantities for the number of ramekins you need, just double-buy! It is never a bad thing to have extra Boursin laying about. (But just in case, for 10 ramekins, I used one entire box of Boursin.)

This is not a recipe that makes me wax nostalgic about childhood dinners, or want to pack immediately for cooking school. It is just simply one I think is too good and too easy not to share. Enjoy this new trick up your sleeve.

Baked Eggs with Spinach and  Tomato
adapted from Southern Living

This easy recipe makes as many baked egg cups as you would like to serve. (I'd count on 2 or 3 per person depending on what else you are serving.)

Preheat oven to 350.
Butter x number of 6 - 8 oz oven-safe ramekin.
In each ramekin layer the following ingredients in the order listed:

1 tablespoon Boursin garlic cheese spread
8 fresh baby spinach leaves, torn
1 large egg
2 tablespoons homemade, or high-quality jarred marinara sauce
1 tablespoon heavy cream or half-and-half

Place your desired number of ramekins on a baking sheet, dust each one with some freshly ground pepper and place in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the egg has reached your desired doneness.