Friday, July 16, 2010

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

This has been a classic recipe for years, however, thanks to a certain movie this has become a very popular and almost cliche dish to an unfortunate extent. Nevertheless, it is delicious and I like to make it from time to time when I'm feeling nostalgic of one of America's greatest and most adorable celebrity chefs, Julia Child. 

I took a few pictures step-by-step as I made this, but I do want to provide you all with Julia's recipe word-for-word. So here it goes. And as Julia Child would say, "Bon Appetite!" 

Boeuf Bourguignon
recipe adapted from Julia Child
serves 6

6 ounces bacon
3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
1 cup baby carrots
1 sliced large onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp. thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 small white onions (white pearl onions)
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in a dutch oven (no oil) over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. (The bacon will render and give off enough fat to cook with.) Remove the bacon from the pot and place in a bowl; set aside.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels - it will not brown if it is damp. Add the beef, a few pieces at a time, to the dutch oven to cook in the rendered bacon fat. Sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Remove the beef from the pot and add it to the bacon in the bowl; set aside.

If the bacon fat has been absorbed by sauting the beef at this point, feel free to add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. In the pot, brown the carrots and onions.

Return the beef and bacon to the pot and toss with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour over the meat in the pot and toss everything in the pot to coat the beef lightly with the flour. On the stovetop, heat the pot for about 2-3 minutes to lightly cook off some of the flour.

To the pot, stir in the wine along with the stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the pot and set in lower third of preheated oven. Allow the pot to braise very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms:

For the onions - place the unpeeled white pearl onions in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring the saucepan up to a boil over the stovetop and allow the onions to boil for about 5-10 minutes. Remove the onions from the water and cool. Cut off the ends of each pearl onion and remove the outer layer of skin. Once all pearl onions are peeled, saute the pearl onions in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter. Allow the pearl onions to caramelize. Remove from the skillet and set them aside to cool.

For the mushrooms - add 2 tablespoons of butter to the same skillet used to prepare the onions. Saute the mushrooms in the butter until caramelized. Remove from the skillet and set them aside to cool.

After the meat has braised, remove and strain the beef and vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl; set aside. With the remaining sauce left in the pot, allow it to simmer. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down rapidly to reduce and thicken. If it's too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning.

At this point, return the beef and vegetables to the thickened sauce, along with the caramelized pearl onions and mushrooms. Gently heat everything over a medium low heat and then serve. Garnish with green chives or parsley.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 4th weekend: Smoked pork

Ladies and gentlemen, the main event! Well, for the most part. We pretty much pigged out the entire celebration, but here are some of my favorite items from our main buffet. 

First of all, let me explain that my grandfather is a master on the grill and smoker. Seriously. I would like to see a battle of the grill or something with him and Bobby Flay. I am that confident in him. And papaw is more variant in his flavors and doesn't hold true or fall back on southwestern flavors... Anywho, so of course papaw wants to showcase his ability and manliness with the grill and smoker. His latest masterpiece? Smoked pork. 

And we even ground some to mix with BBQ sauce and slop on a bun:

July 4th weekend: EASY red, white & blue cookies

This recipe can be mixed and matched with any flavor, and is a super easy and quick way to have some creative cookies. You start with a box of cake mix from the grocery store. Yes, any flavor works with this cooking baking method. In this case, I chose red velvet in honor of Independence Day. 

Next, you take the cake mix, 3 eggs and 1/3 Cup of oil (vegetable oil preferred) and mix in a bowl. After all the lumps are worked out into a smooth mixture, use a cookie scooper to place a ball about 2 inches from each other. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. More if you like them crunchy and less if you like them gooey. 

Super easy, right? I can't tell you how many times I've had to make cookies last minute for something and used a cake mix as the cookie. Probably not what Martha Stewart does when she attends parties, but hey, I do what I can. 

I served these red velvet delights with some cream cheese icing sprinkled with some blue sugar. America, America! You've never tasted so good. 


Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4th weekend: Blueberry Granita Stuffed Strawberry

I am a faithful subscriber to Food Network Magazine, and as I was reading the current issue, I stumbled upon a recipe from a chef of a Miami hotel: Basil Granita in a Strawberry. Sounds tasty, and I thought it would be a nice snack to have poolside on a hot July day. However, I wanted something a little more patriotic. So I swapped the basil for blueberry, since I picked five pounds of blueberries at a local patch earlier this week. Though the recipe is simple, making these strawberries was quite an adventure...

First, I began with a variation of a simple syrup on the stove top. In a medium pot over medium-low heat, I combined 1 Cup of sugar, 2 Cups of water, 1 Cup of apple juice and 1 Cup of sparkling white wine. After bringing the syrup to a boil, I added it to the blender with 1 Cup of blueberries. It was at this point in my endeavor that I scoffed at the note in the magazine article saying to leave the lid off the blender...why on earth would someone blend something with the lid off? However, the pressure from the heated syrup causes the steam to rise, and well, explode if the lid is on. Resulting is a big, sticky mess. Believe me, I found out the hard way.

After cleaning every inch of my kitchen, I started the recipe from the beginning. After the syrup is blended with the blueberries, you can choose to strain the fruit skins from the juice, but I didn't. I wanted as much blue-ish color as I could get to attempt to be patriotic, though it all looked purple-ish anyway. At least I tried, right? 

Next is the easy part. Pour the juice in a 12 inch glass or metal baking dish and freeze for at least 3 hours. It is again here where I had some discrepancies with the magazine article. Food Network suggests that you take a fork and scrape every 20 minutes, however, I found that it took a bit longer for it to actually freeze with that method. Instead, leave it alone for a few hours then bring it out for the scraping. A fork does work well for scraping the granita into a slushie form. 

With the strawberries, I hollowed out each berry like the magazine said, but I also cut the bottom tip off each so they can stand up on their own. I found some rather large berries, so serving them upright seemed best. However, when we all started digging in, it really didn't matter. We didn't eat them all immediately, and I'm so glad we didn't! We tossed the platter, strawberry and granita both, into the freezer while we had a splash contest and such by the pool. When we brought them back out, they were even better as frozen strawberries too! We used them as ice cubes in our purple hooter shooters my aunt mixed. All in all, a fun day.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4th weekend: Cheese balls

If you know me at all, you know that I am a cheese fiend. I always have been, and I will forever be obsessed with cheeses. I feel that I am not alone in this though. Think about it. Every time you taste something that is so decadent and absolutely mouth-watering, and you ask, "what is in this?" the answer is often some sort of cheese. So what makes the perfect appetizer for large parties? Cheese balls. 

2 packs of low fat cream cheese
4 sprigs of green onion
6 slices of ham (deli ham works fine if you already have it in your refrigerator)
1 T of season salt
1/2 C crushed walnuts

-Place two packs of cream cheese in microwave for a minute to soften. Chop green onion and ham into fine pieces, then mix into cream cheese. Add season salt and mix. Form into a ball-ish shape and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. I always leave it in overnight. After chilling, roll in chopped walnuts. Serve with your favorite crackers!

2 packs of low fat cream cheese
16 oz. crushed pineapples
1 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 C sliced almonds

-Place two packs of cream cheese in microwave for a minute to soften. Mix drained pineapple and shredded sharpe cheddar cheese. Refrigerate overnight. After chilling, roll in sliced almonds. Serve with your favorite crackers!

Getting creative with cheese balls is half the fun, as my family and I found out 4th of July weekend when my dad's family came in town from Pennsylvania. After devouring the first two cheese balls, we brainstormed a new cheese ball. (and made another green onion, ham and walnut ball!)

2 packs of cream cheese
1/2 C sliced banana peppers
1 T season salt
6 slices of bacon

-Fry bacon in oil on skillet. Dry and crumble into small pieces. Place two packs of cream cheese in microwave for a minute to soften. Mix in banana peppers and season salt. Refrigerate overnight. After chilling, roll in bacon crumbles. Serve with your favorite crackers! 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Moo Shu Pork

I often have a craving for oriental food. Maybe my dad is to thank for that, as he took our family out for sushi and stir-fry over the years. He works for a Japanese company and has traveled overseas several times over the years. I guess I never realized how much that affected what we eat--because when we splurge on a Saturday night, you won't find us at a steakhouse. You'll find us at happy hour sushi at our local hangout. Fun times. This recipe is a quick way to enjoy some Moo Shu pork without having to call for takeout (and its more healthy too). 

-3 T. hoisin sauce (plus more for serving)
-3 T. rice vinegar
-minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 3/4 lb. pork tenderloin trimmed and cut into strips
-2 T. vegetable oil
-8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
-1 14 oz. bag coleslaw mix
-1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
-12 Bibb lettuce leaves

1. Whisk the hoisin suace, vinegar, garlic and 1/2 t. each salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the pork and marinate 10 minutes. 
2. Heat 1 T. vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade using tongs (reserve the marinade) and stir-fry until browned, about 4 min. Transfer the pork to a plate. Add 3-4 T. water to the skillet, then pour the pan juices over the pork on the plate/ 3. Add the remaining 1 T. vegetable oil to the skillet. when hot, add the mushrooms and stir-fry until slightly golden, about 2 min. Add the coleslaw mix and cook until wilted, about 3 min. Add the pork, the reserved marinade and half of the scallions. Stir-fry 2 more min. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with remaining scallions. Serve stir-fry in the lettuce leaves with more hoisin sauce. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scallops with Watercress Salad

Summer is the perfect time to mix your favorite seafood into a fresh salad. While I am a huge fan of ALL seafood, scallops continue to be at the top of my list of enjoyment. I'm sure this recipe will be a favorite of yours too, if you also crave creatures of the sea. 

-2 strips bacon
-2 bunches watercress (thick stems trimmed)
-2 Kirby cucumbers (cut into spears)
-2 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves (real technical measurements, I know)
-1 C. diced pears
-1/3 C instant flour
-salt and pepper, to taste
-3-4 T. extra virgin olive oil
-1 1/3 lbs. large sea scallops (about 16)
-juice of 1 lemon (zest too, if you'd like)
-1/3 C chopped fresh chives
-4 thick slices rustic bread (toasted)

1. Cook the bacon in a medium skillet until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain; reserve the skillet. 
2. Divide the watercress, spinach, cucumbers and pears among plates.
3. Season the flour with salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Discard all but 1 T. of the bacon drippings from the skillet, add 1 T. extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium heat. Working in batches, toss the scallops in the flour and cook until golden on the bottom, about 2 min. Turn and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 min. (Add 1 T. of extra virgin olive oil if necessary)
4. Arrange the scallops over the salads. Add the remaining 2 T. of extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice (zest too if you want) to the skillet, then remove from the heat and add to 1-2 T. water, swirling the pan to release the browned bits. Crumble the bacon and add to the skillet along with the chives, and salt and pepper to taste; swirl to combine, then pour over salads. Serve with toasted bread.