Denouement Beef Stew

December 20, 2010

That impossibly distant day is today. In July, the outcome seemed so uncertain. Today is my 100th new recipe. The denouement. It has been a fun and rewarding journey, and I’ve eaten so much great food in 2010 (too much really, as I’ve gained 10 pounds). Of course, a special thanks to Christopher Kimball himself, who has spend 20-years creating and perfecting recipes, and without whom this year would not have been special. For all those who have supported my efforts throughout the year, I am grateful. To my friends who tried my chocolate donuts (hockey pucks) and feigned compliments for my tasteless carnitas; I apologize. My greatest joy in 2010 was to see my two sons try everything; all 100 recipes; to see them grow and appreciate my efforts. Over the weekend I invited friends to help mark my milestone of my 100th new recipe; this 5-star Beef Stew with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions.

My 100th new recipe in 2010.

This beef stew is very similar to the 11-hour slow-cooker Boeuf Bourguignon that I made in January, but this is ready in just 3 hours. The main difference is the lack of carrots and tomato paste, but also it uses flour as a thickener. The Boeuf Bourguignon uses minute tapioca (which is a CI favorite in their modern stews), so I substituted it here as a thickener. I served it over Fluffy Mashed Potatoes, which were steamed rather than boiled. After about 10 minutes of steaming, the potatoes are rinsed under cold water to remove any surface starch.  Finally, I served it with Rosemary Focaccia and a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Overall, everyone gave everything 5-stars. The beef was very tender and the stew was just as rich as my other stews. It lacked a little complexity when compared to the Boeuf Bourguignon. The Fluffy Mashed Potatoes were a hit as well. In fact, one guest could talk about nothing else other than the potatoes.

Issues:

  1. The biggest issue was that I needed the dutch oven for both recipes. I made the stew, then put it in another pot while I made the potatoes. Because I was also making Pepperoni Pan Pizza for the kids (who ate before the adults) there was only a minor delay.
  2. Ouch. During the transfer from stew to potatoes I momentarily forgot that the lid to the dutch oven was 300-degrees. I grabbed it, and gave myself a second-degree burn.
  3. I used Eastern White potatoes rather than the Yukon Gold that CI recommends; the Yukon Gold have a slightly sweet taste that I don’t like. But I love their technique to yield such fluffy potatoes.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $27.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to the Beef Stew with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions recipe. The recipe was designed for 3 pounds of beef, so I altered the recipe and made it as follows:

6-oz bacon
4 pounds chuck roast
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons minute tapioca
2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1-1/3 teaspoon dried thyme
1-1/3 pound white mushrooms
10-oz frozen pearl onions (sauce discarded)
1/3 cup parsley

  1. Dice bacon into small pieces, then cook in dutch oven over medium heat until browned and crisp; about 7 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate, reserving bacon fat separately.
  2. Cut roast into 1-1/2-inch cubes and remove any hard pieces of fat, but don’t over trim the meat. The soft fat will break down and add flavor. Pat beef cubes dry and place in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat over medium-high heat in dutch oven; my four pounds of beef required browning beef in three separate batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch, adding a tablespoon of bacon fat as necessary. Remove meat and set aside on a plate.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Coarsely chopped onions, which should yield about 2 cups, then saute them in dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; continue to saute about 30 more seconds. The original recipe from 1996 told me to stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Instead, I used an equal amount of minute tapioca which works great as a thickener (see Texas Chili). Add wine and deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, and bacon bits; then bring to a simmer. Add meat and return to simmer, then cover and place in 300-degree oven for a total of about 2 hours.
  4. If using frozen pearl onions prepare them according to package instructions. Unfortunately, I could only find Birds-eye which come in a cream sauce, so I separated and discarded the sauce. Brush the mushrooms clean and cut them into quarters. Heat 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Saute mushrooms until browned; 6 minutes. Remove mushrooms from skillet, then add frozen pearl onions. Saute until lightly browned; about 3 minutes. Set mushrooms and onions aside.
  5. After 1-1/2 hours in the oven the meat will be almost tender, add the mushrooms and pearl onions to the stew. Cover the stew and return it to oven. Cook until meat and pearl onions are tender; another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop parsley.
  6. Remove from oven and stir in parsley. Add more salt and pepper according to taste.
  7. Serve over buttered egg noodles, boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to the Fluffy Mashed Potatoes Recipe. I doubled the recipe. Here is the version as I made it:

4 lbs Eastern White potatoes (CI recommends Yukon Golds)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1 inch chunks. Rinse in colander to remove any surface starch.
  2. Add just enough water to Dutch oven so that water will reach the bottom of colander, but don’t add the colander just yet.
  3. Turn heat to high and bring water to boil. Then place metal colander (and potatoes) and reduce heat to medium-high.
  4. Cover and cook potatoes for 10 minutes. Transfer colander to sink and rinse potatoes under cold water until no longer hot; about 2 minutes. This will remove starch and prevent the potatoes from becoming gluey.
  5. Return colander and potatoes to pot, cover, and continue to cook until potatoes are soft; about 45 minutes longer (The original recipe says that will take only 10 to 15 minutes for a paring knife to meet little resistance; I’m not sure why there’s such a big discrepancy).
  6. Pour off water from Dutch oven, and add butter, which will melt with the residual heat. Run potatoes in batches through ricer set over Dutch oven.
  7. Add salt and stir in milk using rubber spatula.
  8. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste.

Thin Crust Pizza

December 19, 2010

For several years I’ve been making this thick-crust Pepperoni Pan Pizza, and my boys have love it every time. But the new new issue of Cook’s Illustrated (January/February 2011) had a thin-crust pizza. Also, the recipe includes a new no-cook pizza sauce.

Thin-Crust Pizza dough takes at least 24-hours.

Overall, the pizza dough is good, 4-stars, but is not worth the extra time; at least 24-hours. I would recommend that normal 90-minute pizza dough. The no-cook sauce was bright, but not as rich as my regular pre-cooked sauce. I give the sauce only 2-1/2 stars.

Issues:

  1. Because I didn’t have a pizza stone, I used an overturned baking sheet.
  2. Because I wanted both pizzas ready at the same time, I squeezed both pizzas onto the same overturned baking sheet. The pizzas were semi-rectangular.
  3. The cooked pizza was hardly thin; it measured a full 1-inch thick. I’m not sure what went wrong, but it was probably that I squeezed both pizzas into the oven at the same time.  Fortunately, I like thick-crust pizza.

Rating: 4-star for dough. 2-1/2-stars for sauce.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 4:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the Pizza Sauce Recipe. The recipe as I made it is below:

28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes,
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Drain and discard the liquid from the canned tomatoes, then process all ingredients in food processor for 30 seconds.
  2. Transfer to container and refrigerate until ready to use. The recipe will yield more than needed for two pizzas. The extra can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to a month.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the Pizza and Dough Recipe. The recipe as I made it is below:

16-1/2 ounces (about 3 cups) bread flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
1-1/3 cups ice water (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated. (about 1/2 cup)
8 ounces whole milk mozzarella, shredded (about 2 cups)

  1. Process flour, sugar, and yeast in food processor for 2 seconds. Then, while running, add water through feed tube. Continue processing until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough stand 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare large bowl by spraying with cooking spray; set aside.
    Add oil and salt to dough and process until dough ball clears the sides; about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl and knead for about 1 minute on lightly oiled counter-top. Shape the dough into tight ball and place in prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours; but up to 3 days.
  3. Adjust oven rack to be about 4 to 5 inches below broiler. Set pizza stone or overturned baking sheet onto oven rack, and pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.
  4. Remove the dough from refrigerator, and divide in half. Shape each into ball, and place on lightly oiled baking sheet (at least 3 inches apart). Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray, cover and let stand for 1 hour.
  5. Working with one ball at a time, generously cover with flour and place on floured counter-top. Gently flatten into 8-inch disk with fingertips, leaving 1-inch of outer edge slightly thicker than center. Working along edges and giving disk quarter turns as you stretch, gently stretch until disk measures 12-inch. Place onto floured peel or another overturned baking sheet. Spread 1/2 cup of pizza sauce over dough, leaving 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle half the Parmesan evenly over sauce, then half the mozzarella. Carefully slide pizza onto pizza stone and bake until cheese and crust is browned, rotating pizza halfway through cooking; about 12 minutes. Let pizza cool on wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing. Finally, repeat for second pizza.

New Caesar Salad

December 16, 2010

Last February I held a Caesar Salad Shoot Out, in which I tasted three Caesar Salad recipes side-by-side. Chris Kimball’s 1997 recipe won. But now the new issue of Cook’s Illustrated (January/February 2011) has a new Caesar Salad Recipe. The most dramatic change were the croutons, which were prepared on the stovetop and mixed with 1/4 cup of water to keep them soft.  I prefer his 2011 recipe for the dressing, though it is only a slightly change from his 1997 recipe.

Brighter dressing; but controversial croutons.

Overall, I’d give the dressing 5-stars. It was brighter than his 1997 recipe, and omitted the egg white, which I believe was only diluting the flavor.  The extra lemon (optional in step 4 below) added better flavor.  The croutons were only 2-1/2 stars. Though I let them cook on the stovetop for 15 minutes (the recipe only called for 7 to 10), the outside were only lightly crisp. The croutons tasted soggy as I ate them.

Rating: 5-star for dressing. 2-1/2 stars for the croutons.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Medium; because of the croutons.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the Crouton Recipe:

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium clove, pressed
5 cups 3/4-inch ciabatta cubes
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon oil and garlic paste in small bowl; let marinate.
    Place bread cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with water and salt.
    Toss, squeezing gently so bread absorbs water.
  2. Place remaining 4 tablespoons oil and soaked bread cubes in 12-inch nonstick skillet.
  3. Stirring every few minutes, cook over medium-high heat, until browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat, push croutons to sides of skillet to clear center, add garlic/oil mixture to clearing and cook with residual heat of pan, 10 seconds.
  5. Sprinkle with Parmesan; toss until evenly distributed.  Transfer croutons to bowl; set aside.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the Caesar Salad Recipe:

1 large clove garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, minced and mashed into a paste with fork
2 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons canola oil
5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
Ground black pepper
2-1/2 romaine hearts

  1. Cut romaine into 3/4-inch-thick slices; then rinse and dry.
  2. Whisk garlic and 2 tablespoons lemon juice together in large bowl; let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, and egg yolks into garlic/lemon juice mixture. While whisking constantly, drizzle canola oil and extra virgin olive oil into bowl. Whisk until fully emulsified. Finally, whisk in 1/2-cup Parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  4. Add cut romaine to bowl and toss until evenly coated. Add croutons and mix gently until evenly distributed. Add an additional 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional). Serve immediately, adding  the final 1/4 cup Parmesan separately.

Soft Interior felt soggy as I ate them.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the

Cucumber Raita & Tandoori Chicken

December 9, 2010

My friend Elena was not going to celebrate here Birthday, so I cooked her a nice birthday dinner. The meal had a Northern Indian theme, but I had to keep the spices mild because there were 4 kids eating as well. The main course was Tandoori Chicken with Cilantro-Mint Chutney (which I had made before in May) with a side dish of Cucumber Raita. The Raita is a new recipe that Chris Kimball uses to season his chicken, but more traditionally it is served as a side dish to cool down the palate when eating spicy Indian dishes.

Cucumber Raita. Opps, I was supposed to grate the cucumber.

The Raita  recipe is here. Simply combine 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons minced cilantro, 1 pressed garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon table salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper in small bowl, stir to combine and chill. This recipe is perfect for 2 cucumbers, however I sliced my cucumber. The next day an Indian co-worker told me that I should have grated the cucumber. In any case, it was simple and refreshing. 4-stars for the Raita.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $1.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 4:00pm. Dinner time 4:15 PM.

I have made the Tandoori Chicken before, and it came out just as good today. When I first made the recipe in May I bloomed my spices in regular pan, but lost at least 25% of the spices due to sticking. Today I used a non-stick pan, which worked better.

Wonderful flavors, but patience is required.

The Tandoori Chicken recipe is here. I heated 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small non-stick pan. Then sauteed the 6 cloves of minced garlic and 3/4-ounce of grated ginger for 30 seconds, then bloomed the spices in the same pan. I divided the mixture into two parts. First part was for a salt rub, in which the chicken sat for 30 minutes. Second part was mixed with yogurt and lime juice, which was used for the coating applied just before baking.  The chicken was supposed to be baked for 30 minutes at 325-degrees, then broiled for 15 minutes. Mine took longer to reach the correct internal temperatures.

The Cilantro-Mint Chutney was prepared in the food processor. The recipe uses an entire bunch of Cilantro, 1 cup of fresh mint, 1/4-cup minced onion, 1/3-cup plain yogurt, some cumin, salt, sugar and lime juice. Let run in food processor for 30 seconds. I made this two hours ahead of time.

Issues:

  1. For some reason my chicken was cooking slowly. It took 45 minutes
  2. When checking out at my Supermarket, the 18-year-old kid mistook my $3 bunch of mint for 79-cent cilantro.  That kept the cost of my double batch down to $8.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cost: $8 for 6-pounds of chicken. $2.85 for chutney.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:00pm. Dinner time 6:15 PM.


Glazed Pork Chops with Asian Flavors

December 6, 2010

I know it seems like I’ve been on an Asian kick lately, but sometimes you find the perfect recipe solely based upon the ingredients already in the refrigerator. I still had a beautiful two pound chuck of pork loin from the Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps, and also a new bottle of Mirin. Plus, another nice benefit was that dinner was ready in just 45 minutes.

Show here simply glazed, there was plenty more sauce on the table.

The recipe for Glazed Pork Chops with Asian Flavors is here. In medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1/3 cup light brown sugar, 3 tablespoons orange juice, 2 tablespoons Dijon, 3 tablespoons mirin, 1 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon grated ginger. Set aside. Prepare chops by trimming and make a slash through fat and silver skin with sharp knife, making 2 cuts about 2 inches apart in each chop (do not cut into meat of chops). Pat chops dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in heavy 12-inch skillet until smoking. Add pork and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes. Turn chops and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer, then temporarily put on a plate while pouring off any remaining oil from the skillet. Immediately return chops to skillet, browned side up, and add glaze mixture. Continue to cook until center of chops registers 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, and  transfer chops to clean platter, tent with foil. Let rest 5 minutes, then add accumulated juices back to skillet and cook over medium heat. Simmer and whisk until glaze is thick and color of dark caramel, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 teaspoons rice vinegar and return chops to skillet; turn to coat both sides with glaze. Transfer chops back to platter, browned side up, and spread remaining glaze over chops. Garnish chops with reserved sesame seeds and sesame oil.

4-stars for great flavor, and very easy to make. Perfect for a weekday meal. Because I didn’t have sesame seeds, I skipped that step.  Also, I ran out of rice vinegar half way through  the recipe, so had to finish with regular white vinegar. Perhaps the meal could have been 4-1/2 stars had I been better prepared.

Comments:

  1. Step 2 of the recipe says to add oil to the skillet, but later it becomes clear he is only talking about the vegetable oil at this point. The toasted sesame oil gets added at the very end of step 3.
  2. The recipe emphasizes buying pork chops that were about 3/4-inch thick. Because I had my beautiful leftover roast, I was able to slice perfectly even 1-inch thick cutlets. Thicker so I had to adjust the cooking times upwards.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 5:30 PM. Dinner time 6:15 PM.


Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps

December 1, 2010

Still feeling full from Thanksgiving, I was looking for a dinner that wasn’t too heavy. While pork wasn’t the first thing that jumped into my mind, the bright lime-based dressing and Boston lettuce kept the meal fresh and light. Certainly a big change from my usual fare. I have been saving this episode from season 10 of America’s Test Kitchen on my DVR for a few months.

Unique and light, and theoretically ready in a little over an hour.

The recipe is here. Cut pork into 1-inch cubes and freeze for 15-minutes. Process in food processor in two batches, with five 1-second pulses. Stir in 1 tablespoon fish sauce and let marinade in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Heat rice in small skillet until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes, let cool for 5 minutes then grind with spice grinder into a fine powder. Bring 1/4-cup chicken broth to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet; add pork and cook about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon rice powder over pork and cook until pork is no longer pink, 1-1/2 minutes longer. Let pork cool in a large bowl fro 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 teaspoons of rice powder, 2 finely sliced shallots, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons roughly chopped mint, and 3 tablespoons roughly chopped; toss to combine, and serve over Boston lettuce leaves.

Issues:

  1. I couldn’t find natural pork tenderloin in my supermarket.They only had those disgusting “enhanced” tenderloins (which are at least 30% other ingredients). In the end, I chose a nice piece of natural loin. It cost the same $2/lb, but was not as tender as the tenderloin. But for me it was much more important that it be “natural”.
  2. The recipe calls for letting the pork to cool for 10 minutes after cooking. But by the time  I ate my third wrap, they were quite cold. Next time I will try skipping the 10 minute wait and go straight to the table.
  3. I was able to find Chris Kimball’s runner-up fish sauce; Thai Kitchen Fish Sauce. It was $3.19.

I’d give these wraps 4 stars. They were quite bright and refreshing. They didn’t feel heavy, but still had complex flavors. I would have preferred mine hotter (after letting rest for 10 minutes there were only lukewarm). I’m not sure how they were intended to be served.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:15 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.


Korean Fried Chicken (Yang-nyum Tong Dak)

November 27, 2010

A delicious fried chicken, but really more of an accident than anything, I discovered this recipe when search to find what I could do with my 10-pound bag of leg quarters?  I love breasts best of all, and wings are my second favorite. Leg quarters are one of my least favorite, but my kids do like drumsticks, though thighs can be flavorful. Also, for the first time I can use my new thermometer for frying chicken  (see photos of thermometer at bottom). The recipe comes from Chris Kikmball’s book; Best International Recipes. It fries the chicken twice, once for 5 minutes, then again for another 5 minutes.

Great Korean flavor with not too much effort.

The Korean fried chicken recipe is here.  The sauce recipe is here. [Update: January 25, 2011. Here is an updated post]. Dust with corn starch, shake in colander and set on wire rack. Mix batter in large bowl.Working in two batches, add half chicken to batter, thenfry for first time for 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and fry the second batch for 5 minutes. Fry the first batch for the second time for 6 minutes until it reaches the appropriate temperature (160-degrees for breasts and 175-degrees for everything else). Fry the second batch, keeping the first batch warn in the 200-degree oven. Meanwhile make the sauce, which takes about 5 minutes cooking time. Add the chicken to a large bowl, pour sauce evenly over top and stir until evenly coated.

Overall, everyone in my family rated this 5-stars. It has rich, Korean flavors, but twice frying something can never be healthy. While the recipe isn’t too much effort, it does make a big mess. Worth a try to see how your family likes it, especially if you can talk someone else into cleaning up.

Issues:

  1. Oil went does to 305-degrees, but still I had no trouble reaching the desired temperature in the right amount if time. The recipe says to maintain an oil temperature of 350 while frying; impossible. Finally, I added the chicken when the oil temperature reached 370-degrees, which kept the oil up around 325 after adding the chicken.
  2. The sauce should be poured over chicken, because it was thick enough not to stir well. I poured it in bowl, added chicken, which didn’t work nearly as well.
  3. Everybody wanted more sauce. I’m definitely going to increase it by 50% next time.
  4. Big mess. I had to wash everything as I went along, because I needed the bowls again. Plus lots of baking sheet, and frying always makes a mess.

Thermometer: not the one Chris Kimball recommends, but it was on sale locally for $12. It lacked a clip, but I had one already for my cappuccino thermometer.

A few flaws; but fine for $12


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