Short Ribs Provencale

short-ribs2This is a wonderful rich dish. It’s a bit like Boeuf Bourguignon without nearly the amount of work.

I have sort of looked at several recipes and brought together the ingredients I especially like. I make no attempts at authenticity here. It’s French in spirit at least.

It think this is a very dressed up dish perfect for company as well as the family.

Enjoy it.

Adapted from Epicurious, and the MessyBakerBlog.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 – 8 short ribs
  • EVOO
  • 4 carrots, divided
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 lg onion
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp herbs de Provence
  • 1 c red wine (a burgundy or Merlot would be perfect)
  • 2 c beef stock (unsalted preferred)
  • 1/8 c flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 regular can of diced tomatoes (or equivalent diced fresh–about a 1 1/2 c)
  • 1 bay leaf, sprig of fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried
  • salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In an oven ready pan, saute the ribs on all sides, browning well in a couple tbsp of olive oil.
  2. Remove the ribs to a plate.
  3. Finely dice the ribs of celery and one carrot. add to the saute pan and saute until just starting to give up a little liquid.
  4. Slice the onion into fairly thin slices and add to the celery and carrot. Continue sauteing until the onion is softened but not yet done.
  5. Add the garlic, microplaned, stir in well. Continue until you can smell it.
  6. Add the flour and stir in thoroughly.
  7. Add all the herbs.
  8. Add the wine and stock, stirring up all the bits from the bottom.
  9. Add the tomatoes and paste, stirring in well.
  10. Bring to a low boil and add the meat back and any juices from the plate.
  11. Cover and place in a 300° oven for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until meat is falling off the bone.
  12. In the last 20 minutes, add the remaining carrots.

SERVES: 4

OVEN: 300

TIME: 2 – 2 1/2 hours

NOTES: Serves over mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles. If you grow your own herbs, by all means use them…I’d say keep the proportions the same but use about 2 tbsp fresh. It’s okay to mix dried with fresh if you don’t grow all that is needed.

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Ratatouille with Sausage over Polenta

rata2I love ratatouille. I have always considered it to be a peasant type food, that was best made sans formal recipes. Get your hands dirty! Figuratively speaking that is.

You get the best ingredients and you love them until they reduce to this delightful silken wonder of melded tastes.

See? I wax poetic when it comes to ratatouille.

Anyway, so dearly do I love the stuff that it seemed only fair to marry it to another favorite, Parmesan Polenta and some great sausages. This makes such a great meal.

I hope you enjoy it.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 recipe of Parmesan Polenta, made the day before. If you want your polenta pourable, then you can make it at the same time.
  • 1 medium to large eggplant, diced (depending on age, peel, salt, and rinse to remove bitterness. I try to obtain small young eggplants and not have to peel or salt)
  • 1 lg onion, sliced semi-thinly or in a larger dice
  • 2-3 medium zucchini, or any variety or combination of summer squash, diced
  • 1 lg sweet pepper, diced. Italian frying peppers are superb here if you can get them.
  • 4 lg cloves garlic, microplaned
  • 3 c seeded tomatoes, diced (you can peel them if you wish, but this is rustic)
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, diced
  • olive oil
  • 1/3 c chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 sausages (any type you like)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (at the table)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large saute pan, heat up some olive oil, about 1/4 c. When shimmering, add the eggplant, onion, zucchini, and sweet pepper. Fry, letting them get some nice char on the edges before stirring. Allow to get softened. Medium heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue sauteing until the mushrooms have softened.
  3. Salt and pepper generously, at least a teaspoon of each.
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir, reducing the heat, and covering the pan. Cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid and continue cooking the mixture down until the tomatoes have broken down nicely and the mixture starts to get a saucy consistency but while the vegetables still retain their integrity. This can take a long time if done slowly which is what you want. Plan a good hour for this step.
  6. Meanwhile, place the sausages in another pan and saute just enough to get some nice char. You can leave them whole or slice as you wish. Don’t put them in the ratatouille however, since the intense flavors of the sausage will get leached out and they will be too bland. Add them to the dish and then stir in just before serving.
  7. Add parsley also at the end just before serving.
  8. Add additional olive oil to get a nice sheen on the dish at serving time as well.
  9. Slice the polenta into squares, saute in olive oil until warmed and just toasted on the outside. Turn and do the other side, browning slightly. (You can do this on the grill if you like as well. Brush with olive oil before placing on the grill)
  10. Plate with a slice of polenta and a couple of ladles of the ratatouille.
  11. Dust with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

SERVES: 4

SOURCE: Sherry Peyton

NOTES: Because it takes a bit of time to cook down the ratatouille properly, this is a perfect recipe to start in the morning. Take your time and reduce the sauce until its glistening, and thick and the tomatoes are nicely broken down. You can just turn it off,  cover and leave it on the stove for later at this point, or refrigerate if you desire. Since it will water up a bit when cooled, when you reheat, plan on reducing it a bit further, about 30 minutes on low heat, just letting it bubble and steam away the accumulated liquid. You don’t want it dry, but just not watery.

Poulet Provencal

poulet_provencal_02Okay, I’m being a snob. It’s like a braised chicken in tomatoes and olives.

It’s a French dish.

It’s awfully good.

It’s easy to make.

Need I go on?

Did I say it was good?

One of the things I’m discovering as I try to give proper credit for dishes I didn’t create or tweak so viciously that I bear the blame for the results, is that there is a whole lot of creative stealing on the web. I found this exact recipe on two sites, one claiming it got it from Gourmet. In any case, I got this one from Epicurious under “braised chicken with Tomatoes and Olives”. I didn’t change much except use canned whole tomatoes instead of fresh, and I couldn’t find any brine-cured black olives so I used regular ones.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1  15 oz can of whole tomatoes, juice and all, squash up the tomatoes with your hands. Or get 3-4 medium tomatoes and cut into about 8 wedges each.
  • 1 lg onion, also cut in wedges, leaving the root end to hold the wedge together
  • 1/2 c of olives of whatever type you prefer. Brine-cured if possible. Even green olives work with this
  • 4 lg garlic cloves, sliced thinly + 1 tsp minced
  • 3 tbsp good quality olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp herbes de provence (or your own blend of rosemary, thyme, savory, sage, oregano)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (I omit this because I don’t like fennel)
  • 1 whole chicken
  • parsley chopped for garnish–about 1/2 c.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Place tomatoes, onions, olives, garlic, 2 tbsp of oil, 1 tsp of the herb mixture, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl and mix gently. Pour into a shallow baking dish. The dish should be large enough that there is still room to place the chicken in the middle.
  3. Stir together the minced garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper, plus the remaining herb mixture with 1 tbsp oil.
  4. Pat dry your bird and then get the seasoning on the bird, inside and out.  Place the bird in the baking dish with the veggies.
  5. Roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, reads 170°. (about 1 1/4 hrs)
  6. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve the veggies and juices on the side.

Serves: 4-5

NOTES: This is great with mashed or roasted potatoes. But noodles or rice would also work. As to the chicken. You may wish to brine it, though braising helps it remain succulently moist. I do recommend that you let the bird sit in the fridge uncovered for at least 8 hours or over night (up to 24 is fine), to dry out. This lets the skin get really nice and crispy. But I don’t always do that and it will turn out just fine if you don’t.

The Ever Pretentious Beef Bourguignon

beef bourg plated 3This is French beef stew.

But it would be a mistake to say it’s just a beef stew.

It’s the beef stew upon which all beef stews are judged.

Yes, it is actually that good.

It appears very complicated but it’s not really and since I have no clue as to what a lardon of bacon is, I just changed that little bit because I thought it seemed rather pretentious to simmer  bacon. Call me American.

Anyway, I finally made this after long wanting to, and I am so very glad I did. We simply loved it. The richness is beyond compare.

Don’t skip on the pearl onions. They are special to this dish. Adapted from the famous recipe of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and further adapted from Food.com‘s Chef Kate.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 oz of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 lbs lean stewing meat, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 onion, sliced into half slices
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 btl of a full-bodied red wine, Merlot, Burgundy, Chianti, etc)
  • 2-3 c beef stock (I used a good quality boxed unsalted but you are free to make your own if you are THAT anal)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 -4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 sprig of thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 1 bay leaf

For the braised pearl onions

  • 18-24 pearl onions, peeled (place in boiling water and blanch. The cut off the growing end and slit down the side. The peels will slide off easily. Otherwise you are in for a long day in the kitchen peeling little tiny onions)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 c beef stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of parsley

For the Mushrooms

  • 1 lb of mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Saute the bacon until done, but before it turns crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon, and pour off all but a couple of tbsp of the fat.
  2. Dry off the pieces of meat. This is quite important as it allows for a better sear and ultimately a deeper flavor. Take the time and pat them dry. Sear them on all sides a few at a time until well browned. Remove to the baconolive.
  3. Adding additional olive oil if needed, add the carrot and the sliced onion, sauteing until softened. Drain off any remaining oil, and return the bacon and meat to the pot. (You will want to be using an oven proof large casserole)
  4. Shake the flour over the meat along with salt and pepper.
  5. Place in a preheated 450° oven for 4 minutes, uncovered.
  6. Stir contents and bake in oven for 4 more minutes.
  7. Remove to the stove top. Meanwhile lower oven to 325°.
  8. Add the wine and enough of the stock to barely cover the meat.
  9. Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to a simmer on the stove.
  10. Cover with foil and then the lid, and put in the oven. Check after 30 minutes. You want it barely simmering.
  11. Cover again and cook for 4 hours. I recommend you check at 3 and add liquid if it starts to be dry. You don’t want all the liquid to steam out, which is why a good seal on the cover helps.
  12. When the meat breaks apart easily with a fork, it’s done.
  13. Sometime during the 3-4 hours, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
  14. Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet and saute the onions, shaking from time to time until they are nicely browned.  (I omitted the use of the stock) Add the herbs and salt and pepper and continue cooking until tender. I think 30 minutes is plenty. I cook them slow after they are browned.
  15. You can use the same pan. Remove the onions to a dish and add the butter and oil, heating until foaming and then throw in the mushrooms, tossing for about 5 minutes. Add the onions back, cover and leave until ready to finish the dish.
  16. I left all the carrots and sliced onions in the meat mix. You can strain off the sauce and let it fat rise and skim it off, but I didn’t have much so I didn’t do that. The sauce should be fairly thick, enough to coat the back of a spoon. Mine was perfect as it was. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pot and stir gently to coat everything.
  17. Reheat gently if you need to for a few minutes.
  18. Serve over noodles or potatoes.

Serves: 6

Note: This is worthy of a dinner party. Trust me.

Comforting Creme Brulee

This is exquisite stuff.

It is quite simple to make.

It helps to have a propane torch.

It’s the ever so French, crème brûlée.

It is silky smooth, gentle of taste, quivery and crunchy.

It is like most things French, an anomaly. The opposites join in bliss.

This is my favorite recipe, and it is from Joy of Cooking.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 8 lg egg yolks or three lg eggs
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • sugar or brown sugar for the glaze

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat the cream in a sauce pan until just barely simmering.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir the eggs with the sugar until blended.
  3. Slowly, and carefully add the cream to the eggs, stirring as you go.
  4. Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl with a pouring lip.
  5. Stir in the vanilla
  6. Pour into 6-8 custard cups or ramekins, and place in a water bath.
  7. Set the pan in the oven and turn on the oven to 250°.
  8. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until custards are set but still quivery.
  9. Remove from water bath and cool to room temp and then cover with Saran wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days, but at least 8 hours. Blot away any water droplets that form on the top before proceeding to the glaze.
  10. Method one: (Can be applied up to 12 hours in advance of serving) Measure 2/3 c of sugar into a saucepan and drizzle 1/4 c water over. Swirl the pan over medium heat, without stirring, until a clear syrup forms–it must clarify before boiling. Once it has, raise the heat, bring to a boil, cover and boil for 2 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the mixture darkens. Swirl, and continue until it turns a deep amber. Dip the bottom of the pan in cold water for 2 seconds. Spoon a tablespoon immediately of the caramel over custard and tilt to cover. Do remaining custards. Cool again if it continues to darken while you are doing each custard, or reheat a bit if it gets too thick to pour. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  11. Method two: (must be applied within an hour of serving) Adjust oven rack so that custards will be within 2 inches of the broiler element. Preheat the broiler for 10 minutes. Measure 1/3 c light granulated brown sugar or sugar placed through a sieve to fluff it up. Divide among the custards, evening with finger. Place on a baking sheet and place under the broiler until the sugar melts and bubbles. It will be uneven. Serve immediately.
  12. Method three: Sprinkle evening over each custard 1 1/2- 2 teaspoons of sugar. Use a propane torch, and carefully hold the flame about 2 inches from the surface, rotating as the sugar melts and darkens. Serve no more than 1 hour after.

Serves: 6-8

NOTE: You can vary this recipe with other flavorings besides vanilla.

Oui Bechamel Sauce

French sauces can be quite difficult. They often require exactitude as to ingredients and especially technique.

But that is not this one. A Béchamel sauce is simple. It is a milk sauce. It is a mathematical construct.

Once you understand the math, you never need another recipe. Not even this one. But do visit it from time to time anyway, because it will get lonely otherwise.

So just remember to count, and you will be fine.

And did I say versatile? It is the queen of versatile sauces. From the basic recipe you can concoct all manner of delightful “new” sauces, and that makes it worth its weight in budda.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 2 c of warmed milk
  • a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper (white if you are pretentious)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour and whisk until combined, cook for a minute, letting it bubble.
  2. Add the warmed milk, and stir.
  3. Continue heating the mixture until it starts to lightly boil, whisking from time to time. Watch it thicken up nicely.
  4. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  5. Done.

Serves: 2 cups

Now as to uses:

  • The ratio is 1:1:1 so it’s 1 tbsp to 1 tbsp to one cup. You can make more or less, just stay with the ratio.
  • Cheese sauces can be made by adding the same ration of grated cheese. If making one cup of sauce, add one cup of cheese. You can use any you like, a cheddar sauce for mac and cheese, a parmesan for parmesan sauce, etc.
  • Used by itself, the béchamel is often used as the “cream” for creamed peas or pearl onions, or frankly any veggie you might want to do this way.
  • Some folks use it in place of a red sauce in lasagna.
  • Add other herbs if you wish.
  • Omit the nutmeg if you wish.
  • It can be used in place of a canned soup in casseroles, just season it to please the dish.
  • Experiment. It is versatile, easy to make and can’t be screwed up unless you work  at it.