MISSISSIPPI ROAST AND THE OPEN MIND

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of FoodTV’s The Kitchen. The crowd brings a mixture of different types of talent and cooking styles, they are funny, witty, it’s a great way to spend an hour on Saturday mornings. Often they will have guests, but for the most part I don’t care that much for them. Usually they are hosts from other cooking shows in need to advertise their cookbook, some are so in love with themselves that they get me into that state of non-stop eye-roll.  A particular OMG-We-ARE-So-Cool American-Italian couple comes to mind. I had to fast-forward that one, I have my limits. A few months ago they featured Robin Chapman, a nice older woman to share her recipe for a slow-cooker concoction called Mississippi Roast. I know, roast in the slow-cooker seems like a contradiction in terms, but that’s how the recipe goes. Anyway, apparently Mississippi Roast got stellar reviews all over the internet, went fully viral on Pinterest, to the point of calling the attention of Sam Sifton from The New York Times. He went searching for the original author. And that’s how she ended up at FoodTV. As I watched her preparing it, my shock and horror kept growing. I could not picture myself making it for us. A real dump and forget approach to the slow-cooker, involving a bag of powdered ranch dressing to make things more “interesting.”  The fun part was watching Geoffrey Zakarian trying to keep his cool. I would love to know his real thoughts as the cooking went on. Of course, I promptly removed the recipe from my mind. Then, one day I got notification of a new post by Mike, the blogger behind The Iron You. My chin dropped. He made it. He raved about it. He tweaked it with a few modifications (taking it on the same path Sam Sifton suggested), which definitely improved the recipe. No more powdered ranch (wink, wink). I caved. I made it. I absolutely loved it. Have already made it three more times. If you are a meat lover, grab your slow-cooker, and try this one.

MISSISSIPPI ROAST
(slightly modified from The Iron You)

3 lbs boneless chuck roast or top or bottom round roast
2 teaspoons fine grain salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 tablespoons butter
8 pepperoncini peppers (I used jarred)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
¼ teaspoon sweet paprika

Rub salt and pepper all over the roast.

Heat oil in a large pan over high heat until it is shimmering and almost starts smoking. Place the roast in the pan and brown on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per side, to create a crust. Remove roast from the pan and place it in the insert of the crock pot.

Make the ranch dressing by mixing mayonnaise, vinegar, dill and paprika. Whisk well to emulsify.  To the meat in the crock pot add butter, pepperoncini, and the ranch dressing. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Using two forks, shred the meat and mix it with the gravy surrounding it.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: This was scrumptious. As usual, brown food is pure ordeal to get a nice picture, so you better trust my words. I had never tried pepperoncini and was not sure what kind of flavor they would contribute. It is a very nice pepper, mild, almost lemony. One of the changes I made from Mike’s version was to omit the cornstarch coating of the meat. My sauce turned out a bit thin, but we don’t mind that. I served this “roast” with mashed cauliflower (shown in the picture). with spaghetti squash the second time around, and with rice and beans on the third. Leftovers were always consumed with corn tortillas for a Tex-Mex version. Some Cotija cheese crumbled on top, a little guacamole and we were all set. The original version from Robin Chapman uses a full stick of butter on top of the meat. To me, that is overkill, but if you’d like to try it as initially conceived, jump to the FoodTV link and check it out.

I am very fond of any type of meat that you can shred with a fork, to me it says comfort food right away, and holds the promise of many tasty meals ahead.

So there you have it. I learned a lesson with this one. Don’t twist your nose at something just because it’s not exactly your style of cooking. A few tweaks here and there, and you might end up with a recipe that will win a spot in your regular rotation.  Of course, now I’m wondering if there’s really anything to be said for ham braised in Coca-Cola. Hey, I’m not making that up. It is a real thing!

😉

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ONE YEAR AGO: Walnut-Raisin Bran Muffins

TWO YEARS AGO: A Star is Born!

THREE YEARS AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

FIVE YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

SIX YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto

SHORT RIBS WITH CHICKPEAS AND CHARD & LONDON COOKBOOK REVIEW

In my previous post I mentioned I’ve been mesmerized by all things Middle East. True. But there’s more. I’ve been also enjoying a virtual love affair with the United Kingdom in general and England in particular. A fascination that started many years ago when I got obsessed by Henry VIII. To the classic question ‘which book would you take to a desert island?” my answer comes quickly, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, a masterpiece composed by Margaret George. A real tour de force in historical research and writing. More recently, shows like Outlander, The White Queen, The Tudors, and The Crown have only added to my fascination with the UK. So, when amazon.com suggested The London Cookbook: Recipes from the Restaurants, Cafes, and Hole-in-the-Wall Gems of a Modern City I wasted no time investigating it further. Next thing I knew, it was in my  shopping cart. The book, written by Aleksandra Crapanzano, is pretty much a declaration of culinary love to one of the most amazing cities in the world. I’ve been to London a few times, a couple of those super briefly on a weekend break while living in Paris. Reading the book gave me an intense desire to buy a ticket and fly back. With the book in hand, following Aleksandra footsteps. Speaking of it, she opens the book with a nice walking tour that passes by… Ottolenghi’s spot, in search of his legendary Tahini Cookies.  A book that starts like that… is a book I must own. Aleksandra was kind enough to allow me to publish a recipe from it, so without further ado, here I go…

short-ribs2

SHORT RIBS WITH CHICKPEAS AND CHARD
(published with permission from Aleksandra Crapanzano,
recipe from The London Cookbook).

1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground caraway
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas
6 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 lemons
1 cup labneh or full-fat Greek yogurt

Combine the salt, cumin, caraway, coriander, and paprika. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over the ribs. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, pat the ribs dry with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the ribs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. If your pan is on the small side, work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer the ribs to a plate, leaving the oil behind. Add the onions to the pan and sauté over a medium-low heat until they are soft and nearly translucent. Stir in the garlic followed by the chard and the remaining spice mixture. Stir and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the short ribs and chickpeas, pour in the stock, and bring to a boil. Skim any foam that floats to the surface and then lower the heat, partially cover, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, basting occasionally. The ribs are done when the sauce has thickened and the meat pulls away from the bone. Season with salt and pepper and the juice of 1 lemon. If you have labneh, use it. Otherwise, vigorously whip the yogurt and olive oil together with a fork. Season to taste. Serve the stew with a dollop of labneh and a wedge of lemon.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Short ribs are the definition of comfort food, but when chickpeas and chard are added as supporting actors, you have a show-stopping dish that spells comfort in capital letters. I knew it would be hard to get a good picture, because well, that is the problem with brown food, but allow yourself to go past the photo and trust me, the taste is sublime. Plus, Aleksandra’s choice of labneh to spoon on top fulfills the circle of my fascination, joining Middle East and England in one amazing dish. There’s something about labneh, you must try it if you are a labneh virgin. Easy to make if you cannot find it at your grocery store, just follow Sawsan’s recipe and be ready to be amazed.

shortribs

And now, a virtual tour of Aleksandra’s book…

First, let me say that she is a delightful writer. She doesn’t simply offer you a recipe, she will show you why that particular restaurant made the cut to be showcased in her book. The quality of the food matters, but it’s clear that behind great food and service you’ll find genuine, hard-working people with the passion to share their cooking with family, friends, and customers. You will read fascinating stories about places that have been in business for a long time… She offers the perfect amount of prose before each recipe, with a nice balance of wit and knowledge. The recipes are for the most part quite straightforward to make at home, Aleksandra often suggests adaptations for ingredients that might be hard to find.  As you know, I have no partnership with amazon.com or any other company, and only review cookbooks I fall in love with. This was definitely one of them.

The book is divided in 10 chapters.

Chapter #1 – Light Fare. The first recipe of the chapter is a perfect example of what the book is all about. A wonderful praise of Ruth Rogers, from The River Cafe, the way she runs her restaurant with “no shouting, no swearing, no fear.”  The recipe, a Crab and Raw Artichoke Salad. Have you ever considered shaving artichokes to enjoy in its raw form? I had not. Intriguing…  Other favorites from the chapter: Potted Shrimp, from Rules, a place dear to my heart, since Phil and I enjoyed two very romantic dinners at Rules years ago; Shrimp Aguachili Seviche with Jalapeno and Citrus; Grilled Leeks, Chevre, Brown Butter & Smoked Almonds. Smoked almonds, now that’s something to dream about.  In this chapter you will get to know interesting facts about Ottolenghi, in the introduction to one of his recipes – Mung and Haricots Verts. As Aleksandra puts it, the recipe is “very Ottolenghi.” The mung beans are Asian, the haricots verts French, the spices Indian. The recipe for the classic Welsh Rarebit comes with a delightful description of two gentlemen enjoying it at St. John. All very proper, as you must expect for all things London.

Chapter #2 – Soups. My heart missed a beat with the description of the Fennel and Watercress Soup from Newman Street Tavern. Fennel is like green candy for Aleksandra, and I was left nodding in full approval. She mentions walking in blizzard-like conditions in New York to get some fennel juice at City Bakery, and that made me want to go to London with a stop at JFK with enough hours to allow for a quick Uber drive to that spot. If you live in New York, go sip a glass and tell me all about it.  She follows with Smoked Paprika, Piquillo Pepper, and Tomato Soup with Chevre Toasts. Yes. To. All. How about Roasted Corn and Chorizo Chowder? But the recipe that had me mesmerized for good was Celeriac and Chanterelle Soup. I made it. I absolutely loved it. Here it is, as a teaser for you. Simply spectacular.

parsnipsoup2
Chapter #3 – Pasta, Rice, and Grains.  This whole chapter is a must-cook. Just to give you a couple of examples, consider the Cinnamon-Scented Porcini Duck Ragu, from Mission. If I had easy access to duck meat, I would definitely make it.  Another dish that almost made it to my choice to feature the book: Pork Shoulder, Black Pepper, and Mascarpone Ragu. Totally understandable, right?  But maybe the very best is a Chestnut Straccetti with Mushrooms and Chestnuts. You make the pasta from scratch using chestnut flour. OMG.  Her description says it all: This dish is, quite simply, a knockout.  The photo, folks, the photo is almost too much to stand. You need to host a dinner party for your very best friends and bring that to the table.

Chapter #4 – Vegetarian.

text1

This session opens with Spiced Heritage Carrots, Freekeh, and Labneh, which prompted her profession of love for cardamon, which I totally share. In fact, I also open the jar and take a good sniff just for the pleasure of it. It makes me feel like riding on a magic carpet to far away lands. This recipe has my name written all over it and I know I’ll be making it soon.  It follows with Roasted Squash, Braised Lentils, Soft-Boiled Egg, Garlic Yogurt, and Dukka. A symphony. Potato Chaat with Pomegranate, Mint, and Rose Raita also quite enticing to me, and apparently to everyone who dines at Gymkhana: almost everyone who walks through the door of Gymkhana orders this potato chaat before even being shown to a table. Talk about endorsement!

Chapter #5 –  Seafood. Scallops with Corn Puree and Chile Oil is maybe my favorite choice in this nice chapter.  Of course, she includes the classic Fish and Chips, her version coming from Tom’s Kitchen.  In her words: They are indisputable. A fact of British life. “Since the days of Charles Dickens and his chips with reluctant drops of oil“.  How cool is that? But there’s also Sugar-Brined Salmon with Radish, Cucumber, and Pea Shoot Salad, Ginger and Cilantro Spiced Cod with Cauliflower Couscous (love this one!), or my favorite fish in the world, Sea Bass with Hot Paprika Vinaigrette, from Moro a must-visit restaurant.

Chapter #6 – Fowl.  I would gladly cook (or eat) every single one of the recipes in this chapter. Period.  It starts with Chicken Scaloppine with Mushrooms and Marsala, you simply cannot go wrong with that. But how about Indian Chicken and Pumpkin Curry?  In fact, the chef behind that recipe, Mark Hix, from Tramshed, was one of the first to offer recipes, encouragement and introductions to Aleksandra when she started her research for this book.   Chicken Berry Britannia is a very interesting recipe too, the name pays tribute to a very famous place, Bombay’s Britannia. Americans will flip for Buttermilk Fried Chicken in Pine Salt. Yes, pine salt. Or some Honey-Glazed Duck Breast with Roasted Plums and Bok Choy

Chapter #7 – Meat. The recipe I shared with you comes from this chapter, obviously. The chapter is full of unusual recipes, counting three different takes for the fashionable pork belly: Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly), Ottolenghi’s Pork Belly with Apple and Yuzu Puree with Black Bean Sauce, and finally Treacle-Cured Pork Belly. You will also find the super classic Beef Strogonoff, a version coming from The Delaunay. Her words: strogonoff has lost its reputation, having appeared too often and never well, on one too many cafeteria lines and airplane trays. So true!  This recipe will do away with unpleasant  memories… I should try it, as Beef Strogonoff is a favorite of ours.

Chapter #8 – Desserts.

text2
I would make every single one of the recipes. There, I said it. And I don’t even like sweets that much. Starting with Chocolate Nemesis, described as “this is the real thing.” But how about Ras El Hanout and Buttermilk Loaf?  Irresistibly intriguing. Muscovado Custard. OMG. My favorite perhaps would be Orange, Mint, and Rose Petal Cake. I almost chose it as featured recipe. Bakewell Tart from Rules also called my name. By the way, did you know that Rules Restaurant opened the same year that Napoleon began his campaign in Egypt? Yeap, 1798, making it the oldest restaurant in London.  And was a favorite spot for Clark Gable, Charles Chaplin, amongst others. A total of 22 mouth-watering recipes to choose from in this chapter.

Chapter #9 – Chilled Desserts. Baked Alaska is in there, but the recipe that has me absolutely mesmerized is Black Sesame Panna Cotta. I even bought black sesame paste and intend to try it soon. Her description (and the photo) is enough to make me drool in anticipation.  Of course, Orange Blossom and Milk Pudding, Burnt Orange Chocolate Sorbet (swoon!), and Marsala Raisin Ice Cream would be more than welcome to wrap up a dinner party.

Chapter #10 – Cocktails. I confess that the “idea of a cocktail” appeals more to me than actually having one. But if you enjoy them this chapter will be quite amazing.  From River Cafe you’ll find White Peach Summer Martini, and Blood Orange Winter Martini. There’s also a Mumbai Martini from Benares, one of the most sophisticated restaurants in London.  This particular drink has notes of curry and ginger. Maybe I should turn it into a tea? (just kidding).  But, speaking of tea the Cinnamon Bellini would be perfect for tea lovers, as it mixes Assam tea leaves with cinnamon schnapps (Godschlager). Ottolenghi shines in this chapter too, with a Sage and Cardamon Gin with Pineapple and Cloves.  All quite enticing!

I hope you enjoyed my little virtual tour of  The London Cookbook. Consider making a little place for it on your bookshelf, even if it is a bit crowded, like ours. Or, go Kindle for a guilty-free experience, which is exactly what yours truly did.

Aleksandra, thank you once more for allowing me to publish one recipe from your wonderful book! I simply must go back and go straight to Ottolenghi to grab a nice portion of tahini cookies. Then, keep calm and carry on!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

TWO YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

THREE YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

FOUR YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

FIVE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: FRESH STRAWBERRY YOGURT BUNDT CAKE & A BONUS RECIPE

First Monday of August, summer going at full blast, many many days in the triple digits which means triple joy for yours truly. I know it will end too soon, but for the time being, allow me to celebrate the joys of this fantastic season…  Apart from the weather, I have even better reasons to celebrate: this month at The Secret Recipe Club I was paired with a food blogger who is very dear to my heart, Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious. Both Dorothy and I are “old timers”  with the group, we’ve been members for many years, together first in Group D, and now in Group A. A lot goes on behind the curtains in the club, did you know that? For instance, we have a closed Facebook page in which announcements are made, reminders are sent by the moderators so that no one forgets to sign up for next assignment, or to post on Reveal Day. And of course there is a bit of chit-chat that goes on.  Years ago I noticed that Dorothy is incredibly efficient. Assignments would go out, and within a day or two she would come back and say that her post was pretty much ready to go. Everyone else was perhaps only starting to stalk the assigned blog. To make a long story short, we  became fierce friendly competitors, every month trying to beat each other  in picking the recipe, cooking it and composing the post.  I always have a ton of fun with it, although she is pretty hard to beat. But seriously, now, she is a top-notch blogger, with 25 years of experience in food writing. Did you get that part? Twenty-five years. And she is quite active in recipe development, as you can tell by the many recipes listed here.  I urge you to read her About page, because it reflects so well the type of person she is: witty, positive, intelligent, upbeat. We almost met in person last month, but unfortunately she had family issues that prevented her from joining a fun lunch I had with two other fellow secreters, Karen, from Karen Kitchen’s Stories, and Lauren from Sew you Think you can Cook. We had a blast! Next time, I hope she can join us…   But, back to her blog, I’d like to quote one paragraph from her About page, one I could sign below with gusto (literally!):

Even if I trim the fat, or salt, or sugar, it has to taste fabulous. If it tastes like cardboard, I don’t care how healthy it is, no one will eat it. And where’s the joy in that?

I have a shockingly long list of stuff that I bookmarked as possibilities for this post. A few examples to water your mouth are: Farro Date Salad with Mango and ArugulaChicken Brie and Apple TurnoversSticky Lemon Oregano ChickenPopeye Pasta… World’s Best Smoky Burger (oh, yeah…), Angel Hair Pasta with Lemon, Kale, and PecansFlourless Oat Caramel Cookies (swoon!)…  Crunchy Granola Bars better than Nature Valley… or how about Slow-Cooker Paleo Ribs in Tablecloth Stainer Sauce? So, what did I pick? I had to go with two recipes, just because…. first, a Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Bundt Cake, because if you cannot face your cake baking demons in the name of a great food blog, there’s gotta be something wrong with you! And the following week I made the cutest meatloaves ever: Cherry Chipotle Meat Loaf Cupcakes.  Both were… how should I put it?  Shockingly Delicious!  

Fresh Strawberry Bundt Cake

FRESH STRAWBERRY YOGURT BUNDT CAKE
(from Shockingly Delicious)

for the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
12 ounces fresh strawberries, diced
for the glaze:
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set it aside.
.
In a bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Mix in the lemon zest and set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in lemon juice and almond extract. Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated. Gently stir strawberries into the batter.
.
Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bake for 70-75 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool 25 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Once cooled, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle glaze over top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

Makes 12-16 slices.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositecake

Comments: One of the things I loved about this cake is that the recipe calls for enough batter to actually fill the Bundt pan to the appropriate level. More often than not, I face the problem of the disappearing cake batter: no matter how closely I follow the instructions, it seems the amount is never adequate. Not this time. And the smell, while baking was intoxicating, in the best possible way…   Of course, un-molding a cake from a Bundt pan can be quite stressful, I could feel my heart pounding as I negotiated the big hot pan, the rack underneath it, the kitchen cloth, and the hot pad. Tap, tap, tap, hope, hope, hope, and voilà the thing of beauty, smooth and fragrant, out of the pan in a single piece!  There was a happy dance. With a shriek (a la Karen).  I glazed the cake next morning, very early, then sliced it and took the full batch to our department, because the best part of baking a cake is sharing it. The cake disappeared fast. It was exactly what Dorothy promised it to be, very moist, excellent lemony flavor, the sweetness of the strawberries a perfect addiction to the smooth crumb.

pieces

Of course, where there is cake, there is agony. Turning the Kitchen Aid on with the paddle still up, that was a mistake. Flour in the eyebrows, anyone? And the correct place for icing is definitely not the human thigh, although the pups could disagree. They were following me around for a while even after I washed it all off.

compositecake2

Strawberry Bundt Cake, from Bewitching Kitchen

Before I say goodbye, one more featured recipe from Dorothy’s great blog!


BONUS RECIPE


Meatloave Cupcakes221

CHERRY CHIPOTLE MEATLOAF CUPCAKES
(slightly modified from Shockingly Delicious)

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled, trimmed, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed, finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped mini sweet bell peppers, stemmed, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
A few grinds black pepper

1 pound organic ground grass-fed beef
1/4 cup almond flour (or almond crumbs, see notes)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Cherry Chipotle Not Ketchup
1/2 cup minced Italian parsley

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Make vegetable mixture: Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shallots, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peppers, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat off and remove pan from burner; set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Make meat loaf cupcakes: In a large mixing bowl, combine vegetable mixture, beef, almond flour, Dijon, egg, Not Ketchup, and parsley. Use hands to combine well. Lightly oil 8 muffin tins. Divide meat loaf mixture among 8 muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Remove pan from oven and cool for a couple of minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

quadruple

Comments: How could I resist meatloaves in cupcake format? User friendly, impossibly cute, and giving me the chance to try a new product, the “Not Ketchup”, praised by Dorothy in her blog. Not Ketchup comes in several flavors and is  produced by another food blogger I follow, Erika from Erika’s Kitchen.  It is very tasty, like a grownup ketchup with very complex flavor and not as sweet as your regular kind.  I loved it so much that I placed another order for her Tangerine Hatch Chile version, apparently even lower in carbs.  For the meatloaves I replaced regular breadcrumbs with Toasted Almond & Pecan Breading, a product that was a bit of an impulse buy on amazon. They often show a list of suggestions based on your previous searches, and I fell for this one. I do realize I could make my own almond-based crumbs, but every once in a while I like to splurge. I was very pleased by this product, actually. It smells amazing, and offered the right texture to the loaves, not dry at all.  If you’d like to try it, click here. (I am not affiliated with amazon, and will not make a single penny from your purchase).

We loved these little loaves!  The recipe made eight little servings, half of them were gone for our dinner, the others enjoyed for lunch two days in a row, they re-heat beautifully in the microwave. Between you and me, they taste fantastic straight from the fridge, but if you do that, be discreet and take tiny morsels from the bottom, so no one will notice.

Cherry Meatloaf Cupcakes, from Bewitching Kitchen

Dorothy, as you imagine, I could hardly contain  my excitement when the email arrived with your blog as my assigned site to stalk…  I hope you had a blast with yours too this month!  And be ready to jump on the next one, because I am revving my engines, baby…. 

As usual, my readers are invited to browse through the collection of recipes posted by other members of Group A of The Secret Recipe Club. Just poke the frog and be ready for some virtual fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa Salad with Red Grapes and Avocado

TWO YEARS AGO: Strawberry Coffee Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Brownies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Salmon Tacos

SIX YEARS AGOCinnamon Turban Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Summertime Gratin

 

PERFECT SOY-GRILLED STEAK

I am not too fond of superlatives when it comes to cooking, as what I might consider perfect won’t necessarily hit the jackpot for everyone else. But that’s the title of the recipe by Mark Bittman that happened to be one of the most popular according to a recent round-up by New York Times. If you don’t subscribe to their cooking newsletter, consider doing so. Oddly enough, Phil was the one who drew my attention to it. I joked that we have hundreds of cookbooks in the house, but he never opens a single one to look for inspiration. However, he gets mesmerized by the New York Times collections, and if I resist reading the page, he will drag me in front of his computer to point out all the ones “we should make soon.”  We. You know, that pronoun that means more than one person doing something together. So, yes, that’s how I ended up making this recipe.  I opted for the sous-vide route because it makes the best flatiron steak in the known universe. How about that for disliking superlatives?

Soy Grilled Steak

 

PERFECT SOY-GRILLED STEAK
(adapted from Mark Bittman)

¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon peeled and minced ginger
½ teaspoon peeled and minced garlic (I omitted)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 flatiron steak
salt to taste

Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Place the steak in a plastic bag or tight container and add the sauce. Marinate while you heat the grill, or if possible, longer. Season lightly with salt right before grilling.

For rare meat, grill about 3 minutes a side for steaks less than an inch thick. For larger or more done steak, increase the time slightly.

Sous-vide preparation: after marinating the steak, remove it from the soy-based sauce and place in a vacuum bag. Seal it and place it in a water-bath set to 134 F for three hours. Remove from the bag, discard any accumulated liquid and sear on a very hot grill for a minute each side.

Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You definitely don’t need a sous-vide gadget to make this steak. But I tell you, if you have one, it is so worth putting it to use here!  I make the marinade early in the morning, add the steak into a bag with it. When we are home for lunch I discard the marinade, vacuum-seal the meat and place it in the water-bath until dinner.  Timing is so flexible that I don’t even worry about being late.  A quick side dish of sautéed veggies and a simple salad, maybe some bread, that’s all we need to be happy campers.  For this particular dinner, we paired the flatiron steak in all it’s medium-rare glory with cauliflower gratin (leftover from the evening before) and sliced heirloom tomatoes with avocados and almonds. Pure gastronomical joy, I tell you…

served11
Now, going back to that collection of 10 most-popular NYT recipes. Several gems in there. We are both very interested in the Skewered Chicken with Peanut Sauce,  Phil says he wants to make the Pork Chops with Brandied Cherries, I will definitely be making the Flattened Chicken Thighs with Roasted Lemon Slices (wow!)… As far as sweets, the Almond Cake makes me dream… and Julia Child’s Berry Flan goes to the top of my beloved’s list. In summary, out of 10 recipes 6 are definite keepers. Not too shabby at all…

Perfect Soy-Grilled Steak

ONE YEAR AGO: The Devil’s Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Heart of Palm Salad Skewers

THREE YEARS AGO: Potluck Frittata and Lavoisier

FOUR YEARS AGO: Home-made Corn Tortillas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Peanut Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros: A Brazilian Party!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Lemony Asparagus

ASIAN STYLE SHORT RIBS

Vegetarians & vegans, avert your eyes!

This is a post for those who appreciate indulging in beef in all its glory, and we are part of this team. We need to have our beef-fix at least once a week, and do so with gusto… I was a bit surprised when I realized that this recipe from Fine Cooking was not in the blog, because I’ve been making it for years, ever since it was published in the magazine back in 2003.  It is so simple to make, the only work involved is browning the ribs, but once you are done with that, it is cake. Actually it is braise. Three hours of the oven working for you, as the house smells better and better.  Star anise is probably the only ingredient you might not have in your pantry.  However, you should really get it because it turns this dish (and many others) into a complete winner. We enjoyed it on Valentine’s Day, which this year fell conveniently on a Sunday. Perfect day for this kind of cooking. I got started early in the morning, put the pan in the fridge so that the fat congealed to the surface, and skimmed most of it off before serving.  Comfort food by definition. If you are a beef lover, you must make this before winter is over (and typing these words made me get up and do a happy dance).

Asian Style Short Ribs2Steaming beauty…

ASIAN STYLE SHORT RIBS
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 + 1/3 cups drained canned whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup dry vermouth
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 whole star anise
6 to 6-1/2 pounds beef short ribs on the bone
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil; more as needed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 8 slices
6 large scallions (white and green parts), cut into 2-inch lengths

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Put the tomatoes, 2/3 cup water, the soy sauce, vermouth, and brown sugar in a bowl and stir. Add the star anise.

Pat the short ribs dry with paper towels and season them with pepper. In a pot that’s large enough to hold all the ribs in no more than two layers, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Put as many ribs in the pot as will fit without crowding and brown them on all sides. Transfer to a platter. Brown the rest of the ribs, adding more oil if needed, and transfer to the platter.

Pour off the fat from the pan, reduce the heat to low, and add the ginger and scallions, stirring and pressing them against the pot, for 1 to 2 minutes to bring out their flavor. Return the ribs to the pot and pour the tomato and soy sauce mixture over them. Bring to a simmer and cover. Transfer the pot to the oven and braise the ribs, lifting and turning them about every half hour, until the meat is very tender and starts to fall off the bone when pulled with a fork, about 3 hours.

Transfer the ribs to a serving platter (or if you’re working ahead, transfer them to a baking dish; refrigerate, covered, when cool). Pick out and discard the ginger and star anise from the pot and pour the remaining sauce into a large, clear measuring cup. When the fat rises to the surface, after about 5 minutes, spoon it off and discard. If you’re working ahead, cool the sauce in the pot, refrigerate it, and skim the solid fat off the top. When it’s time to reheat the ribs, return them to the pot and heat gently in the oven.

Adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Asian Style Short Ribs

Comments: The picture above shows you what to look for at the end of braising. Bones almost completely exposed, and the meat begging to be pulled off, literally melting away from it. Fine Cooking says from 2.5 to 3 hours, I went for 3 full hours, then turned off the oven and left the pot inside for a little while, maybe 15 minutes more.  I did have to add a bit more water 2 hours into the braise, make sure you pay attention to that.

served2

The star anise gives this sauce a very unique and wonderful flavor. We thought this dish would feel comfy in a restaurant run by Thomas Keller. It was that great! Meat super tender, luscious sauce, perfect match for mashed potatoes (or any other root veggie puree). Of course, cauliflower mash or polenta would be amazing too.  A great option for entertaining, as you can make the whole thing a couple of days in advance, it will only get better as it sits in the fridge.  A rustic loaf of bread to soak up the fantastic sauce is recommended.

tenderHappiness on a fork!


ONE YEAR AGO:
Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

THREE YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

SIX YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: SUNDAY GRAVY WITH BRACIOLE

New Year, New Life, New Secret Recipe Group!

Those who follow my blog might be used to my Secret Recipe Club participation on the fourth Monday of each month. However, I’ve been a member for so long that it seemed like a good idea to move to a new group in the club. So, I switched to Group A, and my SRC posts will fall instead on the first Monday of each month.  Of course it is a bit sad to leave the comfort of my old group, where so many ties were made, but I know they won’t be broken. Actually, if I may share something special, take a look at this post written by our wonderful moderator, Sarah Ellis. What a nice surprise it was! She does that type of Gold Member post on a regular basis, but it was my first time in her spotlight… Felt great!

Obviously, I was anxious to get my first assignment of the year, and was overjoyed when I got the email. Why? Because I was assigned to Sid’s site, a blog I’ve been following for a long time, so it felt like the warmest possible welcome for me…  Sid has been blogging since June 2011 (see her first post here), although in fact she used to have another blog earlier, dedicated to pictures and crafts. Then she decided to start Sid Sea’s Palm Cooking to concentrate on food blogging. Well, I am thrilled she did it!  One of the things  I love the most about her site is her energy, upbeat mood, and wit. Every post gives me a big smile. Plus, she cooks amazing stuff all the time. Two features are quite interesting in her site, the “Tapas” and “Boat Club” posts, organized together in a page you can access here.  Those are monthly events she participates (in real life), and then shares with her readers. If you need inspiration for a tapas or cocktail type party, look no further! I had quite a few recipes selected as possibilities for this assignment like her Yorkshire puddings, her Sweet Potato Samosas, her Sweet and Sour Chicken Meatballs, her elegant Leek Pancakes, but ended up settling for the Sunday Gravy with Braciole because it seemed perfect for the weather: luscious, filling, very complex flavors.  Of course, brown food is not very camera-friendly, but it is fantastic for the taste buds. So there!

Braciole with Sunday Gravy

 

SUNDAY GRAVY WITH BRACIOLE
(slightly modified from Sid’s Sea Palm Cooking)

for Sunday Gravy:
1/4 cup olive oil
6 mild Italian Sausages, cut in thirds
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (5 oz) can of tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 (28 oz.) cans Italian Plum Tomatoes (San Marzano if possible)
2-3 Tbsp. of equal parts of dried basil, thyme, sage and oregano
1/4 cup rye whiskey (optional, I used regular whiskey)
 .
for Braciole: 
4 slices of round steak 1/2 inch thick pounded to about 1/4 inch thick
4 slices of bacon
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp bread crumbs
1 clove finely minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste.
olive oil for browning
.
Make the gravy: Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed 6 quart pot, preferably non-stick, brown sausages on all sides.  Add onion and garlic and saute until just soft.    Don’t burn the garlic.   Stir in tomato paste and cook gently 15 minutes being careful not to burn or have mixture stick to pot. Deglaze pot with the red wine and reduce out alcohol.Process in blender the tomatoes with their liquid until slightly chunky and puree like.   Add tomatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer.    Stir in seasonings and herbs.  Adjust to taste, especially the salt.  Add whiskey if using. This will cut acidity and make a slightly sweeter sauce.  Simmer partially covered for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Sauce can be made in advance.
.
Make the braciole: Mix the parsley, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Lay 1 strip bacon on each braciole, sprinkle cheese mixture evenly over braciole, roll up and tie securely with string.   Heat oil in skillet and brown meat evenly on all sides.   Transfer to the simmering ‘gravy’ and cook at least 2 hours.
.
My modification: I simmered the gravy for 2.5 hours.  Used 1/3 of it to cook the braciole under pressure for 35 minutes, after browning them. Froze the leftover gravy for later, in two portions.  Sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese over the braciole when serving.
 .
ENJOY!
to print the recipe, click here

braciolecomposite

Comments: I’ve always wanted to make Sunday Gravy. The name promises something delicious, don’t you think? Something that cooks slowly for hours… But, I confess I messed it up really bad. Sorry, Sid, I did. I made it on a Saturday. I know, I know, what was I thinking?

Apart from that, I followed the recipe to a T, and loved the outcome! The change in the sauce as it simmered down for 3 hours was a pleasure to witness. I made the gravy on Saturday, saved it in the fridge, removed the congealed fat from the surface on Sunday, and made the braciole that afternoon. Most important step? Browning them well before simmering with the sauce. A process that should not be rushed, allow the browning to take place and it will reward you with amazing flavor later. I promise.

braciole3

 

Another small change I made was to cook the braciole in the pressure cooker. I had the gravy ready, so after browning the little rolls of meat I transferred them to the pressure cooker, added the sauce and cooked under pressure for 35 minutes. After cooking I tasted the sauce and adjusted seasoning just lightly with a bit of salt and pepper.

There you have it, a fantastic meal, meat falling apart tender, a sauce that tastes almost sweet from the long simmering. Comfort food, all the way…

Braciole with Gravy Served

 

I enjoyed it with some spaghetti squash, but of course you can go the more authentic route of polenta, mashed potatoes, pasta, risotto…  I prefer to balance a heavy dish with a lighter side. Do what feels right for you.

closeup

Dinner is served! You won’t even need a knife….

 

Sid, I had a great time stalking your site, it was a thrill to get your blog as my first assignment with the new group… I hope you had as much fun as I did this month!
To see what my new friends cooked up this month, click on the blue frog at the end of this post.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, February 2015

TWO YEARS AGO: Avocado and Orange Salad with Charred Jalapeno Dressing

THREE YEARS AGO: Green Olive, Walnuts and Pomegranate Salad

FOUR YEARS AGO: Romanian Flatbreads

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ziti with Artichokes and Meyer Lemon Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Blasted Broccoli, Stove-top version

 

FAST AND FURIOUS BISON CHILI

Thanks to the wonders of pressure cooking, this chili can be on your table in 20 minutes, and I promise you it will taste as complex as one that simmered on the stove for hours. I used ground bison because we love it and it’s always available in our grocery store, but of course you can use ground beef or a mixture of  beef and pork.  I don’t think turkey will work well without some major adjustments because the meat needs to have some fat to stand the high pressure cooking without drying up.  If you want to make this in a regular pan, simply increase the cooking time, use the method you normally do for chili.  I adapted this recipe from several sources, using tips from cookbooks such as Hip Pressure Cooking and Pressure Cooker Perfection. For those interested, this recipe is Paleo-friendly. Not exactly low-carb due to the amount of tomatoes, but I’d say not that heavy in the carb department either.

Bison Chili

BISON CHILI
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 shallot, diced
salt and pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder (to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound ground bison
1/4 pound Italian sausage, mild
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 cup water

Heat the oil in a large skillet, saute the shallots seasoned lightly with salt. When they pieces are translucent and fragrant, add the chili powder and cumin, mixing constantly for a minute or so. You can do this initial step in the pressure cooker itself, but I prefer to use a pan with a larger surface.

Add the ground bison and sausage, increasing the heat to high. Cook them until they are no longer pink, but do not let them get brown. Stir the tomatoes and water, transfer everything to the pressure cooker.

Close the pan, bring the pressure up and cook under pressure for 12 minutes. Release the pressure quickly by running the pan under cold water in the sink or using another method available for your pan.  Open the pan, if the chili is too liquid simmer for a few minutes until it reaches the consistency you like. If too thick, add a little more water.   Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Bison Chili served

Comments:  We both loved this recipe, but I decided I loved it more than Phil,  so leftovers were all mine, and enjoyed several days in a row for lunch. I don’t know about you, but we like to have variety at dinner time. We never repeat the same meal two days in a row. But I can have the exact same lunch for five consecutive days and see absolutely nothing wrong or boring with it.  Go figure…

Chili in general is quite  substantial, and this one is no different. I normally serve it with slices of avocado, a little grated cheese and call it a day. But of course, a piece or two of cornbread could go well too.  As usual with chili, you can make it furiously fiery by adding more chili, cayenne, maybe shake some Sriracha on top.  Particularly with meat as flavorful as bison, we prefer to use a lighter hand with the seasoning, and added only one tablespoon of chili powder. It does get better with each passing day, I can vouch for that!

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, December 2014

TWO YEARS AGO: Braised Fennel with Saffron and Tomato

THREE YEARS AGO: Revenge of the Two Derelicts

FOUR YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

FIVE YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

SIX YEARS AGO: Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta