Monday, December 26, 2011

Cold Evening by the Fire Meal !

Justin spent the day with me today and as usual we decided to try new recipes for dinner. The main course was a super rich Short Rib Wellington Pot Pie and for dessert we tried Mario Batali's Grapefruit and Honey Cake.  In between he taught me to make pretzel rolls and croissants, I have to save that for another blog, way beautiful croissants  were really complicated to make, yet pretzel rolls relatively easy and delicious ! Here is the recipe for the Short Rib pot pie as well as some pics of the process. Only change we would make is adding tomato paste to the sauce before cooking to cut some of the richness of the dish otherwise it's frightfully delicious ! Try it on a cold night. Will post the grapefruit cake shortly !

Recipe will serve 4 we added tomato paste to the original recipe

1 1/2 lbs boneless short ribs cut into 1" pieces
Kosher salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1/8 lb proscuitto or pancetta cut into 1/4" dice
1/4 lb mixed mushrooms diced
4 tbsp butter cubed (unsalted if possible)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup red wine
3/4 Tbsp. beef or veal demi-glace
1 3/4 cup beef or veal stock
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
 1/8 cup chopped parsley
2 tsp tomato paste
 1/2 sheet puff pastry
1 egg plus 1 tsp water beaten.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Cut the boneless short ribs into 1" pieces

Mushrooms diced and ready

Browning the meat in small batches keeps it from stewing

browning the pancetta and mushrooms

making the roux with butter and flour

Meat and Veggies added back after sauce is complete

puff pastry topping after baking

Finished portion - Delicious !
Season beef with salt and pepper in small batches fry in warm oil until browned, remove to bowl, add proscuitto/pancetta to saute pan, cook 8 minutes until browned also remove to bowl. Then add mushrooms and carrots cook 5 minutes add to bowl with beef. Pour off excess fat return pot to heat, melt butter, stir in flour, cook, stirring constantly 2 minutes, whisk in demi-glace, tomato paste and wine, cook for a minute. Whisk in stock 1/2 cup at a time, add thyme and bay leaf, simmer. Add back beef etc. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bake approx. 2 hours. Throw away bay leaf, take off any extra fat, stir in parsley. Increase over temp to 400. pour into a shallow casserole dish. Place puff pastry over casserole, score the top of pastry with a knife and brush with egg mixture. Press edges to seal. Return to oven, bake 20-25 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. You may double the recipe for 6-8 people. Would be great with a simple green salad with a nice tart vinaigrette and maybe rice on the side !

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Gift of Light !

A Scent of Scandal - Downunder Eucalyptus from Candles Off Main - a great soy candle burns clean, smells like a spa 

Mistletoe - From Terrain at Styers - beautiful container

A candle card ! Cirque du Soleil Dralion - itty bitty candles and holder

A gift from a pal - Anthropologie's cool owl with pine candle inside

Owl lifted off so you can see the candle !

Favorite scent ever - Tuberosa di Notte from voluspa ordered from - sumptuous scent of the tuberose, elegant highly perfumed just fabulously feminine !
As fall rushes into winter my urge to use candlelight increases tenfold. I love the warmth of a fire but, with a lot less effort, burning a candle can give me a sense of warmth when I'm cozy under a blanket reading a favorite book. I have particular favorite scents that seem to come and go with the seasons. Love Peony in spring it reminds me that my own blooms are not too far away, summer tangerine or verbena is refreshing after a hot day outside, fall brings favorites pumpkin and spicy cinnamon that help take the chill off after a long walk outdoors, and for holiday I love anything that reminds me of pine or mulled cider or just what I call Christmassy scents like Nest's Holiday fragrance or Thymes Frasier Fir. The gift of a candle is something special and I thought I would share some personal favorites that would be great as teacher gifts, stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, Secret Santa gifts or even just a gift for yourself ! If you are looking for a great place to buy I have a favorite shop that has online ordering that I think is just terrific, they will send scent samples if you know sort of what you like but want to smell before you invest and they have a terrific blog where you can learn more about candles, they also have specials almost every day ! Check them out I have added photos of some of my favorites ! Enjoy the gift of light ! And remember always extinguish when leaving the room!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cooking with Justin

Many of you know my son Justin has graduated from culinary school in Washington, D.C. He now works between 2 restaurants in DC, Watershed and Equinox, owned by the famous Todd and Ellen Grey. Sadly. Justin doesn't have much free time anymore :( On the occasion when he can run home for a day what we like to do together is, what else, cook . On his last visit here I had made some tomato sauce by roasting tomatoes at high heat with garlic olive oil, salt and pepper. I also had  some great eggplant from SIW and a new recipe from Lidia Bastianich (of Felidia and Eataly fame) in hand to try out. The result was delicious, tangy, tomatoey, cheesy and the house smelled fantastic while it was cooking. We halved the recipe but the one below feeds 6-8.  If you like crunchy eggplant just serve fresh from the deep fry but this is a terrific melt-in-your mouth casserole . Enjoy !

Melanzana Alla Parmigiana

3 medium eggplants or 5 to 6 smaller eggplants (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)
1 tablespoon coarse sea or kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
All-purpose flour for dredging
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup vegetable oil, or as needed
½ cup olive oil, or as needed
Tomato Sauce
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese or imported Fontina cheese, cut into slices 1/3-inch thick
12 fresh basil leaves

Trim the stems and ends from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1-inch wide from the eggplants, leaving about half the peel intact. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into1/2-inch thick slices and place them in a colander. Sprinkle with the coarse salt and let drain for 1 hour. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain throroughly and pat dry.

- When I bread and fry things like these slices of eggplants, I make a little assembly line - that leads from the flour to the eggs, on to the breadcrumbs and right into the pan of hot oil. Placing three rectangular cake pans side by side next to the stove works nicely—there is very little cleanup afterwards—but any container wide enough to hold several slices of eggplant at a time will work just as well.

Whisk the eggs and 1 teaspoon salt together in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan or wide, shallow bowl. Spread the flour and breadcrumbs in an even layer in two separate wide, shallow bowls or over sheets of wax paper. Dredge the eggplant slices in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, turning well to coat both sides evenly. Let excess egg drip back into the pan, then lay the eggplant in the pan of breadcrumbs. Turn to coat both sides well with breadcrumbs, pressing with your hands until the breadcrumbs adhere well to the eggplant.

Pour ½ cup each of the olive and vegetable oils into a medium skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until a corner of one of the eggplant slices gives off a lively sizzle when dipped into the oil. Add as many of the eggplant slices as fit without touching and cook, turning once, until well browned on both sides, about 6 minutes. Remove the eggplant to a baking pan lined with paper towel and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. Adjust the heat as the eggplant cooks to prevent the bits of coating that fall off the eggplant slices from burning. Add oil to the pan as necessary during cooking to keep the level more or less the same.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Heat the tomato sauce to simmering, if necessary, in a small saucepan over medium heat. Ladle enough sauce into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish to cover the bottom. Sprinkle with an even layer of grated cheese and top with a layer of fried eggplant, pressing it down gently. Tear a few leaves of basil over the eggplant and ladle about ¾ cup of the sauce to coat the top evenly. Sprinkle an even layer of grated cheese over the sauce and top with a layer of mozzarella or Fontina, using about one-third of the cheese. Repeat the layering as described above two more times, ending with a top layer of cheese that leaves a border of about one inch around the edges of the baking dish. Cover the baking dish loosely with aluminum foil and poke several holes in the foil with the tip of a knife. Bake 30 minutes.
Uncover and continue baking until the top layer of cheese is golden in spots, about 15 minutes. Let rest 10 to 20 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.
Drizzle sauce around the border of the baking dish and sprinkle the top layer with the remaining grated cheese. Finish with a few decorative streaks or rounds of tomato sauce.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making Memories

There are few things as lonely as putting up your Christmas Tree alone. There have been several years in the past where because my kids weren't in town and the task fell to me . A certain melancholy crept in as I untangled the dreaded lights and hoped I didn't put the ornaments away so hastily the year before that I broke them. This year I had the delight of a few pals from work to help me haul the tree off the roof of the car set it up and decorate it. As we pulled ornaments from the box memories flooded back of where and when the ornaments became part of the family. I have had a tradition each year of giving the kids ornaments on their Christmas gifts. I have done it since they were babies. We used to even have a tree each in their rooms they have collected so many ornaments. One year I had the hairbrain thought to buy live trees for their rooms. I can't remember how we got them up the steps but I vividly remember throwing them over the balcony off their rooms to get them out of the house. We did plant them that year and they stand about 50 feet tall today ! The kids are off in new towns for most of their year now with table top or artificial trees. They will of course share memories with me when they are home around our big fresh cut tree and they might even get excited to see a real tree between their rooms just as a little surprise when they get home. Here are a few of my favorite memories on the tree !