Sunday, February 28, 2010

La Deuxième de Bœuf Bourguignon

With a dish as classic as beef bourguignon, you didn't think we were gonna skimp on the salad and dessert, now did you?

Heaven forbid!

Miss Muffy joined me at Schmidt's Market where the best produce in town can be found. (They have a very practiced butcher too, by the way.) Anyway, Muff spied some tantalizing, fresh California strawberries and her feverish mind began to whir. As stated in earlier posts, Miss Muffy possesses an almost scarily intuitive sense of food pairings. Sweet and heat, crunch and give, she's always just one step ahead of me. And I love that. Imagine how complacent I might become were I always the smartest guy in the room.
Flying Point Salad - A Miss Muffy original
  • 1 head red-leaf Romaine lettuce
  • 1 lb fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz goat cheese
  • 4 oz walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 3 tsp orange zest
  • Brianna's Blush Wine Vinaigrette
Separate and rinse lettuce in lots of cold running water. Dry in a salad spinner. Tear into large pieces and pile onto individual salad plates. De-stem and slice strawberries. Arrange to one side of the lettuce on each plate. Crumble goat cheese and place beside strawberries on plates. Arrange onion rings on top of lettuce, sprinkle walnuts, then orange zest over this. Drizzle vinaigrette sparingly atop salad just before serving.
Palates cleansed, dinner plates cleared and wine glasses topped off, we took a short pause in our dégustation to marvel over our labors and talk earnestly on the merits of George Clooney's acting. (We'd all recently seen "Up in the Air.") But sweet tooths (not teeth) needed tending and once again, Miss Muffy provided this bog with its money shot.
Easy Blueberry Lattice Tart - as told by Miss Muffy
  • 1 package of refrigerated pie dough - I like Pillsbury the best
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 3 tsp grated lemon rind
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 5 cups blueberries (frozen are fine)
  • 1 egg whisked with 1 tsp water
Preheat oven to 425°.
On a floured surface, roll out one piece of the pie crust into a 12" circle and fit into a 9" fluted tart pan.
Combine the sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg and lemon rind in a large bowl. Add blueberries; mix gently and spoon into tart pan.
Roll remaining pie dough into 10" circle. Cut into strips and arrange in lattice pattern over the fruit. Press edges of dough together and fold under. Brush dough with the egg mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375° and bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is glazed and fruit is bubbling. Cool on a wire rack.

The Money Shot
Goodness, how spoiled we are!
But worth it, don't you think?
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Boeuf à la Bourguignonne

Sheesh! Writing this post has proved just as daunting as preparing the actual dish. It  has been the most time consuming, step-filled undertaking I've assumed on this here blog thingy. The sheer number of photographs alone was enough to shy me away from tackling the job for weeks.
I knew going into this that it was gonna be a monumental project. Just shopping for ingredients burned up an entire morning. The only way I was going to get through it was with total concentration. I sent Miss Muffy and Miss Thang off to the movies so that I could work undistracted. I built a timeline - counting backwards from serving to initial prep - created an iTunes playlist aptly labeled Hardcore, opened a bottle of wine and strapped on an apron.
People go to unheard of lengths for loved ones. I can't imagine doing this for a stranger or even a casual friend, unless it was their last meal or something. Hell, Christ himself probably wouldn't have bothered. But then, I'm a crazy person, and I was making this dish just as much for myself as anyone else. I needed to prove that I could do it, and do it well.
I'll let you be the judge.
Boeuf à la Bourguignonne - Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
  • 6 oz piece of pancetta
  • 2 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2" cubes
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône or Burgundy)
  • 2½ - 3½ cups beef stock
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf
  • 18 - 24 pearl onions
  • 3½ Tbsp butter
  • Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, ½ bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs, tied in cheesecloth)
  • 1 lb mushrooms, fresh and quartered
Cut pancetta (rind removed) into lardons (sticks ¼" thick and 1½" long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1½ quarts water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450° F. Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over moderate heat for 2 - 3 minutes to brown lightly. With a slotted spoon, remove to a side dish.
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in Dutch oven until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Remove browned meat, adding it to the lardons.
In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.
Return the beef and pancetta to the casserole and toss with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper.
Then sprinkle with the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole, uncovered, in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes.
Toss the meat again and return to the oven for 4 more minutes (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust).
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325°.
Stir in wine and 2 - 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
Cover Dutch oven and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 - 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the pearl onions and mushrooms.
Heat 1½ tablespoons butter with 1½ tablespoons olive oil until bubbling in a skillet.
Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.
Add ½ cup beef stock, salt & pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.
Cover and simmer slowly for 40 - 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Wipe out the skillet and heat remaining olive oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms.
Toss and shake pan for 4 - 5 minutes. As soon as the mushrooms have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the Dutch oven through a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.
Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming additional fat that rises to the surface. You should have about 2½ cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, reduce it rapidly over high heat. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of beef stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 - 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
Arrange stew on a platter surrounded by noodles and decorated with chopped parsley.
I've never been so happy to get a meal to the table. I was spent. Exhausted. D.U.N., done. Even with Miss Muffy's help during the latter stages of preparation, I still felt like I'd gone twelve rounds in the boxing ring. But in the end, I had my arm raised overhead victorious. Oh, the flavor! The bloody French had done it again. Every component took center stage for an aria. Together, the chorus they created was operatic. (No mixed metaphors here, thank you very much!) There was a rich, authentic beef flavor, and the meat practically melted in the mouth. The complexity of the wine made the dish sing. The pearl onions and mushrooms added texture, shape and earthy substance. Julia's Beef Bourgogne makes my beef stew look like an old fishwife. Well, my stew is pretty damn good actually, but this, this was very nearly celestial. We savored every bite.
Boeuf à la Bourguignonne is not a dish one is gonna prepare at a moment's notice. In fact, it will probably be something you are only willing to attempt on the most special of occasions. But just because something is arduous or complicated is not a very good reason not to give it a try, at least not in my book anyway. But why listen to me, the second most stubborn person on the planet?
Bon apetit - Blog O. Food

Not a fajita. Not a burrito...'s a farrito!
There are three markets within easy walking distance of my front door. All three reflect the different ethnic enclaves of the surrounding blocks. There's some overlap in all of them, but you get a good sense of who their customers might be by sleuthing through the produce and meat departments. Coming back from Manhattan last weekend, I ducked into Villa Juana (yeah, sometimes the name is a dead giveaway) at the Fordham Metro-North station looking for something for dinner. Villa Juana has a whole aisle dedicated to nothing but Mexican foods. It's always like a homecoming browsing through the Goya canned goods, dried beans and chilies. But I digress.
I found some fresh cut beef tenderloin strips and started thinking about a good marinade to flavor and tenderize the inexpensive cut. Food alchemists know the science behind a good marinade, the real trick is combining spices, oils and acids to create something flavorful and complimentary to the dish. The unimaginative will reach for the A-1 or Heinz 57. Their ilk should not be allowed in kitchens in my opinion.
Mexican Marinade - A Blog O. Food creation
  • ¼ cup beer
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
Add the first eight ingredients to a blender, cover and pulse to combine. With feed cap removed and the blender on a low speed, slowly pour in the olive oil, making an emulsion. Completely submerge beef in the marinade, making sure to reach all surface areas of the strips. Top with bay leaves, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour (I went for four).
Heat a cast iron grill over medium high heat. Once cooking surface comes to temperature, spray with cooking oil. Remove beef from marinade, discarding the excess sauce. Place strips on hot grill leaving some space between pieces. Cook 3-4 minutes on one side, turn and cook an additional two minutes or so. Remove beef to a warm platter, add a little more cooking spray to the still hot grill and sear whole green onions and soften flour tortillas. Serve with grated sharp cheddar cheese and sour cream.
Just look at the beautiful sear marks on the beef, onions and tortillas. One really does feast with the eyes, and that's a pretty picture right there.
Quick, painless, delicious. I used garlic and onion powder for a smooth marinade that would be fully infused with their flavors. Cumin is a Mexican staple, very subtle, but a dish wouldn't be the same without it. The marinade really saturated the beef. The finished meat had hints of spice and just enough heat to keep things interesting. Sour cream and grilled beef, well that's just a classic combo. Beer is the only acceptable accompaniment to Mexican-style dishes. In this case Presidente, a Dominican Republic brew, but close enough!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day

He's back!!! February showed up with the ol' 1-2 punch last week. I have to admit to throwing in the towel without putting up much of a fight. I tend to get a little dispirited in the teeth of winter anyway and I had what can only be described as the week from hell at my day job. Not that that should interest you, and besides, it's none of your business, so, one soldiers on.
It's a snow day here in NYC. The school is closed. I trudged through deep stuff to the office anyway to update web pages and set up some tournament brackets, then it was right back to the apartment for some bad TV and microwave popcorn. It was Ina who jarred me out of my funk. Guess what she made today? Chicken Bouillabaisse! I'm tellin' ya, it was fate. So now, I'm in the middle of braising some pork and I've dusted off this here bloggy posty stuff (thank you, Sarah Palin).
Out in Southampton, it was a weekend of extremes. Kitchen-wise, that is. Even though I was able to catch the express train out of Hunterspoint (NYC to SH in under two hours), Lally and Muffy still beat me to the house, setting off the security alarm and scaring them both out of their wits. By the time I arrived, they were like a couple of long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. I had to shake a cocktail and build a fire just to get them to calm down. And then Lally had to be fed!
Luckily, Mr. Oliver had just the remedy. This is a dish Jamie makes for his kids, but I didn't think we would be stooping too low in serving it up for my two favorite ladies. I know they weren't put off by it.
Mini Shell Pasta with Creamy Smoked Bacon & Peas Sauce - adapted from Jamie Oliver
  • ½ lb mini-shell pasta
  • 1 bullion cube, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 oz pancetta
  • 8 oz frozen peas
  • 3 sprigs fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • ¼-cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Fresh chopped parsley for garnishing

Makes 4-6 servings.

To cook your pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the bullion cube. Stir to dissolve. Add the mini shells and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes.
To prepare your sauce:
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter and olive oil. Once butter has stopped sizzling, add the pancetta and render the fat, frying until well browned. Add the peas and give the pan a good shake. After a minute or so, stir the sour cream and chopped mint into the pan.
Drain the pasta in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the sauté pan and give a good shake to combine. Stir in the lemon juice. Once everything is heated through, remove from heat. The sauce should be creamy, but if it's too thick for you, add a splash of the reserved cooking liquid to thin it out a bit. Add the grated Parmesan and give the pan another good shake to mix it in.
Spoon pasta into a large serving bowl and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
There is a long-standing argument about which Hampton is the real Hampton. I can tell you most assuredly that Southampton is NOT the genuine article, and here's why. Jamie's recipe called for crème fraîche. I tore apart the local Waldbaum's looking for it. Finally, a shelf stocker informed me they hadn't carried it in years. Now you know why Ina lives in East Hampton! Alice Waters has an amazingly simple recipe for making your own crème fraîche, but one needs 24-hours and I had about 30 minutes, so I went with sour cream instead. Not really a problem, as we we were only heating it through. Sour cream, as opposed to crème fraîche, will separate when boiled.
You should have seen Muffy's incredulous look when she read mint as an ingredient, but I think it made the dish sing. The sauce was tangy, salty and rich. The pancetta shined through and the peas were lovely. There were no leftovers to store, I might add. It wasn't until we put our forks down and folded our napkins that I could actually begin to relax. It was gonna be a great weekend.
And it was.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Monday, February 8, 2010

Almost Famous

Living In Belmont, the Bronx - NYTimes If you're a loyal reader, you know I write about Belmont all the time. Please enjoy this thoroughly comprehensive piece on my little slice of New York. Blog O. Food