Saturday, November 26, 2011

Osso Buco

There are people who have an affinity for a certain dish. Whenever they see the dish listed on a menu, they order it... but they usually leave slightly disappointed. It's never exactly what they expected.

However, it's  probably not just the certain dish they have an affinity for.  It's more a memory, an experience from the past. Maybe it's ambiance or the company shared.

Maybe it's just because it was 1986 and it happened to be a good year for one reason or another. 

That little trattoria somewhere in Italy? That one cafe in Vienna?
You probably won't find here whatever memory was there.

Who knows? Were things really as they are remembered? 

In different places you find different ingredients, too, or there are variations on an ingredient. That could be part of the problem. 

The flour was ground a different way, the animals were fed other things, there's something about the climate, there's something in the water, the brandy was aged a little longer.

As far as osso buco goes, I'm aware veal shank isn't the cheapest cut of meat, and it's not the quickest meal to put together, so this dish is officially in the special occasion realm.
I don't know how it compares to memories... but memories are subjective.

Osso buco is great served with some perfectly creamy and al dente plain risotto.

Osso Buco
serves 8-10

10, 1 1/2-2 inch thick cuts of veal shank tightly tied around the perimeter, patted dry with paper
towels, and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 c chicken stock
1 c beef broth
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
8 T vegetable oil, separated
2 1/2 c dry white wine, separated
2 c celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 T tomato paste
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
28 oz can good tomatoes in juice, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 T fresh thyme, minced

1/3 c parsley
Zest of 2 lemons
3 medium garlic cloves, minced

Bring the chicken and beef broth to a boil with the porcini mushrooms. Turn off the heat, cover
the pan, and set aside for 20 minutes. 
Remove the softened porcini mushrooms from the broth, chop them, and return to the pan with
the broth. 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
Heat 2 T oil in a large dutch oven (or heavy oven-proof pan) over medium-high heat. Sear the
meat until browned on both sides in batches without crowding the pan. Remove the seared meat
to a plate while you continue with the rest of the meat, adding extra oil as necessary. Once all of
the meat is seared deglaze the pan with 1/2 c of white wine. Scrape up all the browned bits from
the bottom of the pan. Repeat 2 more times, adding 1/2  c of wine and scraping the pan (the wine
will have reduced and become a bit syrupy at this point).
Reduce the heat to medium, pour 2 T oil in the pan, and add the carrots, celery, and onion.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and browned. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for a
few minutes until it becomes thicker and darker. Add the 6 minced garlic cloves and cook about
30 seconds, or until they become fragrant. 
Increase the heat, add the hot broth, tomatoes and juice, bay leaves, thyme, and the remaining
wine. Nestle the seared meat into the sauce and add any meat juices to the pan. Bring the sauce
to a simmer, place a slightly cocked lid on the pan, and place the pan in the preheated oven. 
Cook the osso buco for 2 hours, turning the meat ever 20 minutes. 

Take the dutch oven out of the oven, place it on the stove, remove the meat to a plate to rest and cover with foil so it stays warm.
Bring the sauce to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes to reduce a bit. Taste and season as
necessary after reducing.
While the sauce boils make the gremolata. Chop the parsley and place in a bowl with the lemon
zest and minced garlic. Stir the mixture to combine and set aside until ready to use. 
To serve, plate the meat, remove the strings, pour the reduced sauce over the top, and sprinkle with gremolata.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Autumn Salad

Sometimes you really just want a salad.
Ok, so maybe "you" don't depending on who you are...

But sometimes, especially if you (for one reason or another) haven't had fresh greens for a while, it's what you crave. 

Interesting salads also fill a need when you want something light but not boring. 
Of course, salad can be a starter. However, this (to me) is one of those salads you could make a meal out of- it's a "this is just great as my whole lunch" salad- all you have to do is adjust the amounts as necessary.

There's so much variety in it, there's color and texture, sweetness and zing.
It's an action salad.  They do exist (of course).

The recipe for cider vinaigrette is adapted from Gourmet, October 2007.

It works well both with apple cider vinegar and balsamic apple vinegar. Balsamic apple vinegar can be found at Vom Fass. It may exist elsewhere, but I don't know where that might be. If you'll be using apple cider vinegar and are able to plan ahead, I think Bragg is a good brand.

Cider Vinaigrette
makes about 1 c vinaigrette, enough for about 8-10 salads

1 1/2 c unfiltered apple cider
3 T finely minced shallot
3 T apple cider vinegar
3 t grainy mustard
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c olive oil

Place the cider in a small saucepan and bring to a  boil over medium heat.
Continue cooking until the cider is reduced to about 1/3 c, about 30-35 minutes.
Once the cider has reduced and become thick and syrupy, remove the pan from the heat, let it
cool for a minute and add shallots to warm cider. Let the cider cool until the pan is warm to the
touch, add the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the olive oil in a slow,
steady stream to the cider mixture, whisking constantly to emulsify.

For 8-10 salads:
10-15 oz. mixed spring greens or a baby spinach and spring green mix
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 crisp, juicy apples (such as Fuji, Gala, or Jonagold), cut into small pieces
2/3 c dried cranberries
2/3 c toasted walnuts, cooled and chopped
8 oz chèvre, crumbled with a fork

Divide the greens between salad plates. Drizzle each salad with 1 1/2-2 T of the cider vinaigrette.
Sprinkle salads with green onion and apple, cranberries and walnuts. Finish each salad with a
snowy cap of chèvre.
Serve immediately (remember that greens start to wilt once they've been splashed with

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Balsamic Roasted Beets

Beets were never my favorite vegetable growing up.
They were the kind of thing you ate because you had to. They were the kind of thing that you ate as quickly as possible while holding your breath, eyes squeezed tightly shut.

They tasted like dirt. Not that I ate much dirt, mind you.
Beets and I are better now. And although I must admit they're very similar, I would currently claim the flavor as more earthy than dirty.

They're much better fresh and roasted than they are canned. There's more character, more possibilities to choose from when amping up the flavor.

Plus with fresh beets, there's the added advantage of things looking suspiciously like a massacre took place at the cutting board. It's a nice addition to the repertoire of stain possibilities, so take care not to let  the beets hit any white tablecloths (or shirts). 

This particular beet recipe is a little sweet, a little roasty, savory and aromatic.
They're great on their own, but are also nice as an addition to a salad.

Adapted from a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis in Giada's Family Dinners

Balsamic Roasted Beets
serves 6-8 as a side dish

6 large beets
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
3 T minced shallot
1 T honey
1/3 c olive oil
1 1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 t pepper
10 sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the beets, cut them in quarters lengthwise, then cut each quarter into thirds (it's easiest if you cut off the pointed end as an approximate third and then cut the larger piece that's left in half lengthwise... I hope this makes sense!).
Place the beets in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, shallot and honey. Whisk until the honey is dissolved then whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.  Add the salt and pepper and again whisk the vinaigrette.
Pour the vinaigrette over the beets and toss well so that all are coated with the dressing.
Place a large piece of aluminum foil on a large sheet pan, and fold up the edges a bit. Pour the beets and dressing onto the foil and tuck the sprigs of time in amongst the beets. Try to make sure the beets are in a single layer. Place another large piece of foil on top of the beets, and crimp the edges of both pieces of foil together so you're left with a tight seal around the edge of the packet.
Roast the beets about 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the top of the packet, being careful not to burn yourself. Place the pan back in the oven and roast another 30 minutes (or more), shaking the pan and gently tossing the beets occasionally, until the beets are easily pierced with the tip of a knife and the outside is caramelized a bit.
Let cool a bit and remove the thyme stems before serving. 
Season to taste as necessary.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chocolate & Confection

chocolate |ˈ ch äk(ə)lit; ˈ ch ôk-|nouna food preparation in the form of a paste or solid block made from roasted and ground cacao seedstypically sweetened a bar of chocolate[as adj. a chocolate cookie.• candy made of or covered with this a box of chocolates.• a drink made by mixing milk with chocolate sipping on hot chocolate.• a deep brown color [as adj. huge spiders, yellow and chocolatebrown.DERIVATIVESchocolat(also chocolatey) adjectiveORIGIN early 17th cent. (in the sense [a drink made with chocolate] ): from French chocolat or Spanish chocolate, from Nahuatl chocolatl‘food made from cacao seeds,’ influenced by unrelated cacaua-atl‘drink made from cacao.’

confection |kənˈfek sh ən|
dish or delicacy made with sweet ingredients a whipped chocolate andcream confection.
• an elaborately constructed thing, esp. a frivolous one the city is a classical confection of shimmering gold.
• a fashionable or elaborate article of women's dress she was wearing some white confection with an enormous satin bow.
the action of mixing or compounding something.

confectionar|-ˌnerē| adjective
ORIGIN Middle English (in the general sense [something made by mixing,] esp. a medicinal
preparation): via Old French from Latinconfectio(n-), from conficere ‘put together’ (see confect ).

Kakao Chocolate

2301 S. Jefferson Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63104

7272 Manchester Rd.
Maplewood, MO 63143

Friday, November 4, 2011

Poires Pochées

These are nowhere near canned pears (at the other end of the pear spectrum) which certainly leave something to be desired.
When poaching pears, you must be careful which pears you choose to poach.

Like apples, some pears are better for certain things than others. For example, there are certain apples you wouldn't want to bake in a pie because they would break down too much. Golden Delicious apples would become applesauce (personally, it's not what I'm looking for in a pie).

The same goes for pears.
While Bartletts may be great for eating out of hand, they would sort of disintegrate if cooked.
Boscs on the other hand are more firm and will hold up quite nicely when poached.

Plus they have an elegant shape (when it comes to pears at least).

The big secret to giving the pears a brilliant shade of red?
A beet.

Really. The beet helps to add some drama. No flavor, just drama. 
So, in addition to looking festive, they smell like Christmas. And the taste is a little bit flowery.

The pears can be served as they are- in their syrup, with vanilla ice cream, with whipped cream...
Or even with a warm chocolate sauce and a thick whipped cream/mascarpone combination.

Scarlet Poached Pears
Generously adapted from Gourmet, September 2008
serves 6 to 12

6 firm, ripe Bosc pears
1 bottle Pinot Grigio
1/3 c Cointreau
3, 3-inch pieces of orange zest (removed from the orange with a vegetable peeler)
juice of one orange
1/4 c sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 medium beet, peeled and quartered

Peel and halve the pears lengthwise, then use a melon baller or a round teaspoon measure to remove the core and cut the woody stem from the inside of the pear using a knife. Set aside.
To a medium saucepan, add the wine, Cointreau, orange juice, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, cinnamon, bay leaves, and beet. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the prepared pear halves and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover with a round of parchment paper (so they pears stay relatively covered, but the syrup is still able to reduce), and cook about 40 minutes.
Remove the pieces of beet and pour the pears and syrup into a bowl to steep and cool completely.
Serve as desired.