Modern Beef Burgundy

September 27, 2014

One of my favorite dishes to make during the cold months between October and March is Beef Burgundy (This has been a cool September here in the Northeast). The long cooking time warms my house for most of the day, and the building aromas eventually become overwhelmingly delicious. A Pavlovian response is guaranteed. Lately, Chris Kimball has been adapting recipes to avoid the traditional stove-top searing of meat; the technique has been relatively successful with heavily-spiced, Latin-themed recipes (see here and here). However, I don’t think the short-cut works in more delicately flavored French stews. I can taste the difference of beef caramelized in the oven and on the stove-top. In the future I will save this recipe for large gatherings when I cannot afford the traditional, labor-intensive technique in Julia Child’s 6-hour recipe. Even still, I prefer Chris Kimball’s 3-hour recipe over today’s recipe. Still a delicious 4-stars.

One of my favorite meals

One of my favorite meals

Chris Kimball’s oven-carmelization has a more muted, dulled flavor. Beef browned on the stove-top is brighter, more flavorful, and taste exactly as you think browned beef should taste. Plus this short-cut recipe only saves about 30-minutes; I recommend against it in favor of the full 6 hour Julia Child’s recipe.

Comment:

  1. The above photo is actually of a different Beef Burgundy recipe, but I was too busy to take a picture the day of the meal. I had intended to take a picture of the leftovers, but leftover Beef Burgundy doesn’t last long in my house.
  2. BTW, this is recipe number 450 that I’ve posted on this blog. Wow, that’s a lot of cooking. lol

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $27.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 12:30 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

4-lb boneless beef chuck-eye roast
Salt and pepper
6 ounces salt pork
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms
1-1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth (32-oz)
1 bottle red Burgundy (Pinot Noir, 750-ml)
5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 onions, chopped coarse
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 garlic head, cloves separated, unpeeled, and crushed
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
10 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 3 tablespoons minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme

  1. Thaw your frozen pearl onions. Trim your roast and cut into 1-1/2″ to 2″ pieces, adding to a medium bowl. Reserve the scraps into a large roasting pan for Step 4. Sprinkle beef cubes with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Toss to mix and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Cut 6-oz of salt pork into 1/4″ pieces, and place into a large roasting pan. Cut the large mushrooms into quarters, and medium mushrooms in half; placing on a rimmed baking sheet. Coarsely chop your onions, and peel carrots and cut them into 2″-lengths.
  3. Set up your oven by putting one rack in lower-middle of your oven and a second rack in the lowest positions of your oven. Pre-heat to 500-degrees.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the large roasting pan with salt pork and beef scraps. Roast on lower-middle rack until well browned for 15-to-20 minutes until the fat has rendered.
  5. Add pearl onions, 1 tablespoon butter, and sugar together with the mushrooms on rimmed baking sheet. Toss to combine and roast on lowest oven rack for 15-to-20 minutes. After the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated and vegetables are lightly glazed, empty into large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
  6. After removing the roasting pan from the oven, reduce temperature to 325-degrees. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over rendered fat and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in 4 cups beef broth, 2 cups wine, 5 teaspoons gelatin, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and 1 teaspoon anchovy paste. Add onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, porcini mushrooms, parsley sprigs, and thyme to pan. Arrange beef into a single layer on top of vegetables. Add water (perhaps 2 cups) as needed to come three-quarters up side of beef. Beef should not be submerged.
  7. Bake for 3 to 3-1/2 hours at 325-degrees until the meat becomes tender, stirring after 90 minutes and adding water to keep the meat at least half-submerged.
  8. Remove beef with a slotted spoon, adding to the bowl with cremini mushrooms and pearl onions; cover and set aside on the counter-top.
  9. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium/large bowl, and strain braising liquid, pressing on solids to yield as much liquid as possible. Discard the spent solids. Stir in the remaining wine and allow cooking liquid settle for 10 minutes. Using a wide shallow spoon to skim fat off surface and discard.
  10. Add strained liquid to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high burner. Reduce burner to maintain a brisk simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream
  11. Reduce burner to medium-low, and stir in beef and mushroom-onion garnish. Cover pot, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until just heated through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste. Stir in minced parsley and serve.

Lobster Rolls

September 20, 2014

When this recipe first came out over a year ago, I really wanted to make it, but the recipe is so disjointed on their website (you need to follow three separate recipes) that I eventually became distracted with easier-to-follow recipes. Until recently, I saw the ATK episode that made it look so easy; so I gave it a try. I must have been a lot of “trick photography”, because the recipe was a lot of work and made a huge mess in my kitchen. I did have a problem with the lobsters becoming water-logged (discussed below); but overall, as you would expect, the lobster rolls were delicious. Just prepare yourself for a fair amount of messy work. 4-stars.

I hand cut a loaf to simulate the New England Hot dog rolls

I hand cut a loaf to simulate the New England Hot dog rolls

While I followed the cooking instructions exactly, my lobsters became waterlogged. While there are a couple of theories about why my lobster became water-logged: (1) allowing lobster to cook too long, (2) boiling lobster (vs. steaming them). Chris Kimball is convinced that it is the molting cycle of the lobster that determines whether or not the meat will be firm and dense or soft and water-logged. He gives a lengthy explanation here. Chris Kimball’s bottom line is this: lobster in Spring until early Summer and best. Late Summer lobsters are still growing into their softer-shells, whereas Spring lobsters are packed tightly into their hard, pre-molted shells. You may need to increase the size of your Late Summer lobsters by 1/4-pound to compensate. In reality, the molting cycle is a little more complex than Chris Kimball describes.

Comments:

  1. Many on the internet claim that boiling lobsters has a tendency to water-log them. Chris Kimball had tried to steam the lobsters instead (way back int 1997), and preferred steaming for its simplicity and efficiency. Yet, 17 years later he published this recipe using boiling without comment.
  2. I have never been able to find New England-style hot dog buns (sold by Pepperidge Farms), so I bought a beautiful Tuscan loaf from my local bakery and carefully cut it to mimic New England-style hot dog buns. The bread was fantastic.
  3. While fish is cooked to between 130 and 140 degrees, lobster requires higher temperatures because the muscle fibers are longer and need more heat to shrink. Chris Kimball recommends taking the temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer into tail. It should reach 175-degrees.
  4. Chris Kimball also mentions that you can refrigerate the lobster meat in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. But this is a lot of effort to have “almost” fresh lobster.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $28 for four lobster rolls ($7 each)
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here, here and here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today (including all three of Chris Kimball’s recipes) are given below:

4 (1-1/4-pound) live lobsters
1/3 cup table salt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced celery
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
Salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
6 New England-style hot dog buns
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 leaves Boston lettuce

  1. Put live lobsters in the freezer for 30 minutes, which will induces a coma-like state. Meanwhile, bring 2 gallons water to boil in large pot over high heat. Remove 2 tablespoons butter from refrigerator and allow to soften.
  2. Add the 1/3 cup table salt and the lobsters to pot. Use tongs to arrange them so that they are completely submerged. Cover, but leave the lid slightly ajar. You will need to adjust heat to maintain a gentle boil. Boil for 12 minutes, and check that the thickest part of tail registers 175 degrees (insert the thermometer into underside of tail to take temperature).
  3. Use tongs to put lobsters to a rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the lobster meat according to the following methods.
    1. SEPARATE INTO TWO: Set lobster on a cutting board. Hold tail with one hand and the body with your other. Twist to separate.
    2. TAIL MEAT: Lay the tail on its side, then use both hands to press down on tail until shell cracks. Hold the tail with the flippers facing you (shell will be facing down). With your thumbs on opposite sides, pull back on both sides to crack open shell and remove meat. You can briefly rinse meat under running water to remove green tomalley, if desired, and pat meat dry with paper towels. Use a paring knife to de-vein.
    3. KNUCKLES: Twist the “arms” to remove claws/knuckles from the body. Then twist the knuckles to remove from claws. Use the back of a chef’s knife to break the knuckles into 2 pieces at joint. Use the handle of teaspoon or skewer to push meat out of shell.
    4. CLAWS: Wiggle small hinged portion of each claw to separate. Use the back of a chef’s knife to break open the claws, cracking the first side, flipping, and cracking the other side. Remove meat.
    5. LEGS: Twist legs and remove from body. One at a time, lay leg flat on counter. Using a rolling pin, starting from claw and rolling toward the open end, push out meat. Stop rolling before reaching end of legs so you don’t accidentally get any of the shell.
  5. Cut the tail meat in 1/2″ pieces. Cut the claw meat to 1″ pieces.
  6. Whisk mayonnaise, celery, lemon juice, chives, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cayenne together in large bowl. Add lobster and gently toss to combine.
  7. Put 12″ nonstick skillet over medium-low burner. Butter both sides of hot dog buns and sprinkle lightly with salt. Put buns in skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until crispy brown. Flip and continue to cook the second side for another 2 to 3 minutes crispy brown. Move buns to large serving platter.
  8. Line each bun with lettuce leaf, and spoon lobster salad into buns. Serve immediately.

Mahogany Chicken Thighs, Part 2

September 16, 2014

The second try definitely worked out better. While my plan had been to use low-sodium soy sauce, on my way home from the supermarket I realized that I had forgotten to buy it. So I reduced the soy sauce (and therefore the saltiness) by 1/3 cup. The flavors were much more robust when not masked by the extreme saltiness of my first attempt.  Also, I broiled the chicken for just 2 minutes (in Step 8) until the chicken was lightly browned. Even though the chicken was far from the broiler element, it is still amazing how fast this 195-degree chicken will crisp up. This attempt earns a solid 4-stars; flavorful and balanced, easy to make.

Better than the first time

Better than the first time

BTW – Chris Kimball recommends serving this with steamed rice, but because my son had a friend over who loves potatoes, I served it with mashed potatoes. The kids gave the recipe as high as 4-1/2 stars.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball reminds us to trim all visible fat and skin from the underside of the chicken. Tonight I am going to use a combination of thighs and drumsticks, so I’m not sure how I will trim the drumsticks,

Cost: $5
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below:

1-1/2 cups water
2/3 cup soy sauce (or 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce)
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
4-lbs bone-in chicken thighs
2″ ginger piece
6 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon cornstarch

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees. Trim away any skin and excess fat from the bottom of the thighs.
  2. In an oven-safe 12″ skillet, whisk together 1 cup water, 3/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup sherry, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons molasses, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Arrange chicken with the skin side down in skillet and soy sauce mixture.  Peel ginger, cut in half and smash. Peel the garlic cloves and smash.
    Nestle the ginger and garlic between the chicken pieces.
  3. Put over medium burner and bring the liquid up to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes, then put the skillet into the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
  4. Flip chicken skin-side up and continue to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the chicken reaches 195-degrees. Remove chicken to serving platter.
  5. Pour cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Allow to settle for 5 minutes. Turn over to broil.
  6. In a separate small bowl, whisk corn starch together with 1/2 cup water.
  7. Pour 1 cup of the de-fatted juices into the skillet and bring up to a simmer over medium burner. Whisk in water/corn starch and simmer for 1 minute, until thickened. Pour sauce into serving bowl and set aside.
  8. Put chicken back into skillet and broil for 3 to 4 minutes until well browned. Return chicken to serving platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving; passing the sauce separately.

Mahogany Chicken Thighs, Part 1.

September 13, 2014

Actually, I made this recipe before my summer vacation, and I forgot to rate it at that time. My only comments were that it was too salty, and that I accidentally let mine broil for too long. It was a little too dark, but still flavorful. I will make it again tonight, and will post Part 2 tomorrow. The changes I will make are to buy low-sodium soy sauce and will be extra vigilant during the broiling process.

Final results were a little salty and overly dark

Final results were a little salty and overly dark

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball reminds us to trim all visible fat and skin from the underside of the chicken. Tonight I am going to use a combination of thighs and drumsticks, so I’m not sure how I will trim the drumsticks,
  2. He also recommends serving with steamed rice, but I might make potatoes.

Cost: $5
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:30 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below:

1-1/2 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
4-lbs bone-in chicken thighs
2″ ginger piece
6 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon cornstarch

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees.
  2. In an oven-safe 12″ skillet, whisk together 1 cup water, 1 cup water, 1 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup sherry, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons molasses, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Arrange chicken with the skin side down in skillet and soy sauce mixture.  Peel ginger, cut in half and smash. Peel the garlic cloves and smash.
    Nestle the ginger and garlic between the chicken pieces.
  3. Put over medium burner and bring up to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes, then put skillet in pre=heated oven for 30 minutes.
  4. Flip chicken skin-side up and contine to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes until the chicken reaches 195-degrees. Remove chicken to serving platter.
  5. Pour cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Allow to settle for 5 minutes. Turn over to broil.
  6. In a separate small bowl, whisk corn starch together with 1/2 cup water.
  7. Pour 1 cup of the de-fatted juices into the skillet and bring up to a simmer over medium burner. Whisk in water/corn starch and simmer for 1 minute, until thickened. Pour sauce into serving bowl and set aside.
  8. Put chicken back into skillet and broil for 4 minutes until well browned. Return chicken to serving platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving; passing the sauce separately.

 


Tortuguero, Costa Rica

September 6, 2014

Anyone who knows me has heard my stories of this amazing place. I spend 5 months working as a research assistant for Sea Turtle Conservancy (formerly Caribbean Conversation Corporation), a biological field station that researches sea turtle nesting behavior. My job was to walk the beaches during the night in search of turtles building their nests. Once the turtles start to lay their eggs, they become almost impossible to frighten. I would count the eggs, measure their carapaces, and tag the turtle. This Field Station has been here for 50 years; one of the first such research stations. Because my background has always been in computers, seeing life’s wonders up close has always been one of my most magical memories.

Isolated shores of the Costa Rica's northern Caribbean

Isolated shores of the Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean

So after an absence of 17 years, I returned to the shores of Tortuguero; this time as a simple tourist. The little town has grown up quite a bit, and is now completely centered around catering to tourists. While seeing river life is interesting, tourists come for the opportunity to see sea turtles nest. Access to the beach in the nighttime is regulated (a good thing for the turtles), but I was lucky enough (more accurately I planned to come at the right time) to see the entire nesting process, watch her lay here 100-or-so eggs, tightly and carefully pack the sand around the eggs, and finally disguise her nest. The process is amazing.

One of the things that has protected Tortuguero from mass tourism is its remoteness. There are no roads, and everything has to come in by two-to-three hour riverboat. Of course, the riverboat ride through the jungle was amazing. But this type of “adventure” is not for everyone.

The above pictures are of the Biological Field station. I lived here for 5 months.  If anyone plans ever plans to go during turtle season (February to October), try to bring a care package for the research assistants. I brought a care package of 5 pounds of M&M’s and some peanut butter. They are mostly young 20-ish year olds, here for 3 to 6 months, and greatly appreciative of a taste of home.

And finally, a word or two about the meaning of the word Tortuguero. When I was here 17 years ago, I translated it to “Place of the turtles”. But I also know that the name can translate to “Turtle Hunter” (adding -er suffix would make it like “turtler”). Fortunately for the turtles, eco-tourism has made it more profitable for the locals to foster the culture as the “Place of the turtles” and, while it still exists, “Turtle Hunting” has been greatly reduced. A rare instance where tourism has helped preserve what makes this place so special; to remove a tragic, historical definition from the modern dictionary.


Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica

September 1, 2014

While It may not sound like much, I have spent 1% of my life in Costa Rica. This small Central American country is one of the most important places in my life, and I have not been back for 7 years. It is a place I never get tired of, and always find it wonderful to return. Even after 6 or 7 trips, I am still finding new and amazing places to visit. This trip I went to the jungle around the northern volcano of Rincon de la Vieja; northeast of the city of Liberia. Getting there meant a short but bone-jarring drive in an SUV (that was supposed to have 4WD, but didn’t).

Blue River gets its distinctive color from minerals

Blue River gets its distinctive color from minerals in the water

The area is filled with volcanic hot springs, and abundant wildlife. Thanks to its elevation it is mercifully mild, even though it is so geographically close to infernally hot Liberia. I saw monkeys and a flock of more than 20 toucans.

The area is filled with lots of activities. I rode horses to a nearby waterfall and went zip-lining 120 feet up in the canopy. While I am not generally afraid of heights, the craziness of the idea of zip lining definitely hit me full force. But after gaining a little bit of experience I felt like an expert after the 10th run.

I chose Rincon de la Vieja in part because I wanted to avoid the well beaten tourist path in Costa Rica, but it is also worth mentioning the Arenal volcano, which had been spewing lava daily for decades, has all but stopped. Also, I chose this more remote location because what was once a long trek through the cloud forest to get to the entrance to Monteverde, has now become built most of the way to the park. Rincon de la Vieja feels 10 times more remote.

 


Sauteed Corn with Black Beans and Red Bell Pepper

August 28, 2014

The current issue has a lot of latin-themed recipes, so I served this as a side-dish. The flavors was very well balanced and enjoyable. I followed the instructions that stressed not moving the corn, but didn’t hear any clear popping after 5 minutes. It’s possible that my skillet might not have been hot enough.  Overall, I was please with the outcome, but it was a little more of a mess than I would normally want for a salad. 3-1/2 stars.

Refreshing corn and bean salad

Refreshing corn and bean salad

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $4.75.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Dinner at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 red onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1 jalapeño chile
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt
15-oz can black beans
3 ears corn
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2-3 tablespoons lime juice (from 2 limes)

  1. Cut the corn kernels for cobs and set aside. You should have 3 cups.
  2. Cut bell pepper into 1/4″ pieces. Finely chop your red onion. Remove the step and seeds from your jalapeno, then mince. Rinse your black beans.
  3. Put a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium burner, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and allow to pre-heat for 2 minutes. Saute the onion, bell pepper and jalapeno for 4 to 6 minutes, until the onion has softened.
  4. Add mined garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook for 1 more minute.
  5. Add rinsed bean and warm for 1 minute and empty skillet into a large serving bowl. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel.
  6. Turn up the burner to medium-high and preheat 1 more tablespoon vegetable oil until it begins to shimmer. Add corn kernels and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for about 3 minutes without stirring until the corn begins to pop. Stir and until the corn becomes spotty brown; for about 3 minutes longer. Empty into serving bowl.
  7. Add cilantro and 2 tablespoons lime juice, stir until combined and season with salt and remaining lime juice to taste.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 297 other followers

%d bloggers like this: