Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last Friday I was at the grocery, wandering around looking for something good for dinner. On Friday we always splurge a little -- it's always an at-home dinner, but we try to make it something yummy. I saw 2 packages of nice looking short ribs and it reminded me of a recipe I'd had for John Besh's short ribs (to DIE for). Short ribs it is! 

John Besh is Chef and Owner of a restaurant in New Orleans called August. It's really hard to get into, but if you are going to be in the city I suggest you call ahead and make your reservations. It's the perfect mix of old world Creole cooking, and new food trends. 

Part of what makes the food in New Orleans great is that the city is made of so many different cultures. After all these years, they all make the same dishes now, but each nationality has added it's own unique flavors to the mix -- and that is why the food is so special, and why you just can't find it anywhere but in New Orleans. There are so many ingredients in foods like jambalaya and gumbo because so many different families from so many parts of the world have added a little something here, and a little something there. Something else I love about New Orleans food is the types of ingredients they use.  It's so often peasant-style food -- comforting and full of love. Ingredients like greens, and beans, gumbo and jambalaya. And short ribs. Oh, I'm well aware that short ribs cost a fortune these days, but they we're not always the superstar they are today. They used to be the garbage cuts. Only recently have items like swiss chard and short ribs started making the menu of upscale restaurants but now they are definitely a trend. And I have had a lot of short ribs at a lot of restaurants. As long as they're tender, they're usually quite tasty. But the thing is, they all taste the same. That was until I made John Besh's. 

Serves: 4

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About two hours (with little labor)

4 lbs beef short ribs, cut flanken style (across the bone) or English style (parallel to the bone). Flanken are easier to deal with but slightly more fatty.
Coarse salt and black pepper
3 cups pinot noir
1/2 cup sugar
6 oz canned chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 sprigs fresh thyme, picked off stem
2 bay leaves
3 oz canola oil
1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (1/2 cup)
2 oz dried mushrooms, preferably porcini

Season short ribs with salt and pepper; be rather generous. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the wine, sugar, tomatoes, beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt.

Pour canola oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven (at least 5 quarts) and place over high heat. When oil is hot, working in small batches, brown the meat. Turn each piece to brown on all sides before removing from the pot.

When all the beef is browned and removed from pot, add onion, carrots, and celery, allowing onion to cook until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Return beef to the pot along with wine mixture. Allow wine to come to a boil before reducing heat, skimming fat from surface.

After simmering for several minutes, add the dried mushrooms. Cover and simmer over very low heat until meat is fork tender and nearly falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

I cheated slightly. I used a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking time. It shaved about 25 minutes off the total cooking time. I could have cooked it faster, but I knew it was important that the wine have enough time to work on flavoring that meat, so I had it on super-low. It was late. I have a toddler. I was hungry. Cut me some slack. 

Once the beef has cooked, remove from pot and keep warm. Turn up heat and reduce the pot liquids until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I strained mine, although it was not required in the recipe. I just thought a smooth sauce would be more my preference than a chunky one. You do what you want. 

Serve ribs in shallow bowls, with the liquid spooned over the top. People, this is absolutely the best short rib recipe I have ever had in my life. 

Oh, something note worthy - the original recipe calls for zinfandel. When I made these with pinot noir, they were better. It definitely gave them a unique flavor, rather than than the traditional zinfandel. It's very robust like zinfandel, but just more flavorful in my opinion. Something about the flavor of pinot noir -- it has such an earthy, mossy, nutty flavor. I used Echelon pinot noir, it's my favorite. It's usually around $15 a bottle, which is a steal for pinot.

This will be the last post from me for about 2 weeks - we're off the Maui! Grand Wailea, here we come :D  I'm sure I'll come back with lots of pictures! 

Friday, October 17, 2008


I don't have any Marcella Hazan cookbooks. But I did go on Amazon after reading Claudia's guest post on TNS a while back to get one. Or so I thought I got one. I must have been tired, because I actually chose the Giuliano Hazan book instead. He is Marcella's son. But after reading through it, I really love this book. Unlike the version that Claudia cooked from, this book seems to  be wonderfully simplistic, recipes having minimal prep and ingredients, and it's just the every day things you'd eat if you were Italian -- so it's not complicated and the ingredients are usually items you probably already have in your house. And for people like me -- a mom who also has other stuff on her daily to-do list -- it gives you the prep time, and start-to-finish time for every dish. That is really convenient. 

Trying to decide which recipe to make first was hard. I was like, Ooh! That looks good! every time I turned the page. But I had some roast in my fridge already, so I had to go with something beefy, and this just sounded so comforting. 

Beef Braised in Milk

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lb. beef chuck, cut into pieces to fit comfortably in the pot
fresh ground pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup whole milk

First, you brown the meat in the butter and oil. 

Once browned, remove temporarily from the pot. 

Add the carrot and onion, and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the vinegar and let it bubble away until reduced by half. 

Add the milk. As soon as it begins bubbling, lower the heat to simmer, and return the seared meat to the pot.    

See the milk bubbling at the edges (below) -- LOWER THE HEAT. Any longer than this and the milk will probably curdle. If this happens, I suggest straining the curdled milk with a strainer or slotted spoon and adding more milk. 

Cover with a tiny vent (lid askew) and cook until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the meat about every 20 minutes while it's simmering. If all the liquid evaporates before the meat is done, add a little water. When done, the sauce is a dark walnut color, and the consistency of mustard.

Here is where I admit I didn't follow the recipe as written. Instead of cooking it on the stove for that hour and a half, I put it in the oven because I had to run some errands. I can't leave something on the stove and leave the house, it's not safe. But the oven - that's  OK. The worst that can happen is that you'll end up with jerky.

The dish was so good. I got home late, so I overcooked it a tad (and so added a little bit of water to the sauce) but it was still very good, and it had a unique flavor-sweetness, no doubt from the milk. This is VERY good, and I'll definitely make this again. I can't wait to make other dishes from this book.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Ever make croquettes? I had these at least once a year when I was a kid, it's one of the things my mom used to do with the leftover Thanksgiving turkey. 

Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. They're very good. And you can make them out of just about any type of meat, as well as seafood like shrimp, scallops and crab. But who ever has leftover crab? If you want a vegetarian version, you could do them with broccoli and cheddar, or sweet potato is also nice -- whatever your favorite vegetable is, as long as it's firm textured because mushy won't hold up. 

It was 10:30 a.m. and I was in the kitchen, as usual, looking in the fridge trying to figure out what to make my picky 18 month old toddler for lunch. I see the pork and red cabbage leftovers. No way would she eat that. Not even sure I wanted to eat it, the pork was very lean and dry. But then it occurred to me to just chop it up and make croquettes! 

In this post I'm not going to list recipe ingredients, just because there are so many variables. 

The first step would be to chop your cooked meat of choice. I had about 10-12 ounces of cooked pork. While chopping the meat, you can also add a little bit of onion/shallot or garlic (the garlic will not get a chance to cook very long, so just go easy on it).

Next, make your roux. I like to mix olive oil and butter to cut down a little on the butter, but be my guest and just use all butter if you like. For this batch, I used 2 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil, then added 3 tbsp of flour. 

Add milk to your roux. You want this to be very thick, like paste, so it'll hold that chopped meat together. So start by whisking in the milk about 1/2 cup at a time. I think here I used between 1-1.5 cups of milk. And go slow, because it gets thicker as it cooks. When it's good and thick (like frosting) you can add some cheese if you like. I added a half handful of shredded cheddar and a half handful of grated parmesan. 

Mix the roux and the meat. The best way to do it is to add the roux a spoonful at a time, so you don't get too much. What you see here is maybe a tad too much roux to meat ratio - but the benefit is that it will taste better. It'll just be more difficult to work with. After mixed, let mixture set up for about 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

Spoon the mixture into Panko breadcrumbs and coat well. 

Fry on med-high in a nonstick skillet, coated well with canola oil. Add more oil as you do these in batches because too little oil and the Panko will not get all golden and yummy, it will just burn.

These make a great appetizer, but also could be a decadent main dish. 

I like to have mine on a bed of greens, dressed simply with oilve oil, fresh lemon juice and flakey sea salt and pepper. The greens and fresh lemon cut nicely through the richness of the croquettes. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This dish is rich, and slightly sweet from the onions, a tiny bite from the cayenne, and lots of delicious caramelizing! It's A-Mazing. 

OK, so I'll admit, my first choice for this dish was not Brussels sprouts. This developed out of necessity, because my original ingredient was sweet peas. But my sweet peas were rotten. Shoot! It was a last minute thing - I looked in the fridge, my choices were broccoli, collard greens, Chinese cabbage, Brussels sprouts and green chard. The best fit I saw, was Brussels sprouts. 

serves 4

2 large yellow or white onions
2 oz pancetta or bacon
Brussels sprouts for 4 - about 1 lb
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

To begin, saute the pancetta (or chopped bacon) in the butter and olive oil for 3 minutes.

Add the onion. Reduce to low, and stir frequently. You do not want to brown the onions. You are caramelizing them. Slow cooking. 

Keep stirring ....

Almost there ...

OK, now add the vinegars, salt, pepper, sugar, cayenne and water. Bring to a boil. Cook on medium-high until all liquid is reduced. 

After the liquid was reduced, I moved the onions aside, and I added the bs and sauteed them on med-low until golden.

Serve immediately.  

Monday, October 13, 2008


This is a delicious, hearty, and super simple party food! I like ham, but like it even more after it's taken a roll around in a pan for a minute, getting all crispy and golden. These ham & cheese cigars are so fast to make, and they will be THE item that disappears fastest at the next party! 


Mozzerella cheese sticks
Thinly sliced deli style ham
Enough olive oil to generously coat your skillet

Depending on where you get your ham, the size of the slices will vary quite a bit. Basically, you'll need enough to wrap around the cheese stick, completely covering it, and providing 2 layers of ham evenly all the way around the cheese. 

The cheese must be cold, and keep refrigerated until you are ready to prepare it so that it doesn't melt too much in the pan. Ideally, the ham will get crispy and the cheese inside will stay relatively intact. 

Coat the inside of a skillet with olive oil -- When the pan is hot, put the cigars into the pan, seam side down, and cook on med-high turning frequently as they brown. When done, remove promptly and drain on paper towel. You can serve these warm, but I prefer them served cold because the cheese firms up and they are easier to eat and I think the texture is better. Also when cold you can cut into smaller pieces easily.

You can get creative with these, and cut thin slivers of pickle and wrap that inside with the cheese, or add pepperoni .. or hot peppers .. or ?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I'm not a big fan of seaweed. So when making Poke last night, I wondered how fennel fronds would be as a substitution, since seaweed is a pretty prominent ingredient in Poke. It's mostly texture and appearance, and the fronds don't really have a strong fennel flavor, so why not? I had a gorgeous piece of Ahi from the Santa Monica Seafood Market, and I wanted Poke. 

It worked out wonderful -- Fresh and clean, a nice adaptation. 

Serves 2-4

6 ounces sushi grade Ahi, cubed/diced (whatever your size preference)
4 TBSP finely diced sweet Maui or Walla Walla onion
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp canola oil
1/4 cup chopped fennel fronds
1/2 tsp lemon juice 
1 tsp soy sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well. Serve at room temperature with your favorite crackers. 

Makes 4 nice appetizers, or 2 really nice appetizers.

The texture of the fronds did the trick, added a bit of freshness to the recipe, along with the tiny squeeze of lemon I added -- not lemony and no real fennel flavor. Just fresh tuna with no fishy seaweed.