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A Wintery Short Rib Braise

I'm always thrilled to find something that's so satisfying and nourishing, it becomes a new addition to the lineup of household favorites. That's a rare occasion.

But I think we have a winner, folks. This is a braise made up of beef short ribs, mushrooms and the hearty winter greens of your choice.

There's a little fuss involved in browning the short ribs before they head into the oven for a slow-cook, but it's worth it for the rich flavor and falling-off-the-bone tenderness.

And beyond great taste, there's five additional reasons I find this dish very compelling:

1. There's almost no waste in the recipe. The veggie and mushroom stems go straight into the pot and it's a good way to use up a bit of leftover wine.
2. Short ribs are an inexpensive — but very tasty — cut of beef.
3. With no spuds, rice, pasta or parsnips, it's a pretty low-carb, low-gi dish. Good news for dieters and diabetics both.
4. I love dark, leafy greens and am always looking for more ways to use them.
5. Ditto that for mushrooms.

And did I mention tasty? I've made it two weekends in a row, and I may make it again this weekend, if that's any indication.

Wintery Short Rib Braise

It's based around a recipe I found in Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook and Primer by Amy Farges.

I've been using a combination of shiitake and portobello mushrooms, and though she recommends pearl onions, I've substituted standard white or yellow onions sliced into half-moons... I'll admit I have very little patience for the blanching/shocking/peeling process that goes into preparing pearl onions.

Wintery Short Rib Braise (Serves 4)

2 small bunches (about 2 lb) kale or Swiss chard
1 1/2 lb hearty mushrooms: button, portobello, cremini, porcini or shiitake
4 lb beef short ribs
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 large onion, halved and cut into 1/2" slices
3 cups beef, chicken or veggie stock
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup diced tomatoes

1. Wash the greens and cut the leaves away from their stems. Cut the leaves crosswise into 2-inch pieces and set aside (pack them in the refrigerator, if you wish). Cut the stems crosswise into 1" slices.
2. Trim the stems from the mushrooms, knock away any dirt and slice the stems into 1/2" pieces. Cut the mushroom tops into wedges (4 to 6 each) and hold separately from the stems.
3. Sprinkle the short ribs with salt and pepper. Over a medium-high burner, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven. Brown each of the short ribs on each side about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the browned short ribs from the pot.
4. To the same pot, add the onion slices, mushroom stems and the stems from the greens.
5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Pour in the stock, wine and tomatoes. Tuck in the short ribs. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pot or dutch oven and place on the center rack in the oven. Cook until the beef is tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
6. Remove the short ribs from the pot (the bones may fall away at this point), and heat the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the reserved leaves and simmer until tender (about 10 minutes for Swiss Chard, or 30 for kale).
7. Season the sauce to taste, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Return the short ribs to the pot

If you're serving guests, you can do all the work through step #5, cool the dish down and chill it in the fridge, if you like. At that point, it's quick and easy to pull it out a day or two later to finish it off.

You could probably also use a slow cooker instead of the oven for the long-cooking part if you're so inclined.

But in any case, I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.

To Warm, Homey Meals & Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

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1.30.2009

FoodLink Roundup: 07.14.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Happy Bastille Day! Last week, Cupcake was found lollygagging in London, scoring yet another win for Mr. Hazard. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
A very nicely done piece breaking down the various elements of the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Bacon mania
'People now wear bacon like it's a mark of status or tribal membership,' says a New York writer who blogs under the name Miss Ginsu and has garnered online attention for making her own bacon cake and bacon ice cream." Woo! I'm a bacon expert. :)

The best croissant in Paris
Pim thinks she's found it. And oh, how I'd love to follow up on this experiment personally...

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis
Uh oh... Study says "plant fuels have played a 'significant' part in pushing up food prices to record levels"

Do You Know Where Your Mushrooms Come From?
European countries have been labeling their produce sources for years... it's about time the US quit stalling.

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7.14.2008

April Fish!

I love-love-love the tale behind the poisson d'avril, aka the April fish. And to think! I went my whole life not knowing this slippery story until last year when J filled me in, bless him!

If you already know, just skip ahead to the recipe. If not, allow me to unwind this kinky yarn:

Waaay back in the day, Charles IX decreed that January 1 would officially be the new New Year's Day in France. Now, personally, I resent that decision because the holidays get so bunched up in late December that I'm never ready for another one on January 1. It just seems overcrowded. I've had more than enough hors d'oeuvres and cocktails by the end of Christmas, thank you very much.

It seems the good people of 1564 felt similarly. They'd been whooping it up on April 1 for pretty much... forever (doesn't late winter / early spring seem a perfectly reasonable time of year to whoop it up?), and they were none too thrilled with stupid old Charlie IX.

Plenty of other people didn't hear about the change of dates at all. Boy howdy! Didn't they look stupid kicking up their crazy yellow tights and crimson doublets, clowning around and celebrating the new year on April 1st when everyone else was calmly calculating the results of their first fiscal quarter.

It became a common prank in France to attempt to sneak a dead fish into the clothing of one's friends. (A dangerous liaison, indeed!) Sticking a paper fish to friends and loved ones has become the more modern (and far less stanky) version of this bizarre ritual.

Trout Duxelles

While I may try to sneak a paper fish or two onto some of my co-workers (not that they'd have any idea what I was on about...), I'd much prefer to receive my April fish in the form of dinner.

Thanks to a pair of whole, fresh rainbow trout, brussels sprouts, some herbs, a shallot and a handful of mushrooms, it's easy to whip up a schmantzy dinner in no time flat. (No foolin'!)

A duxelles (dook-SEHL) sounds challenging (that's French for you), but it's just sauteéed mushrooms and onions (or shallots) with a little thyme and some parsley. Divide the mixture between two cleaned and trimmed trout, rub on a little olive oil and roast. And that's about all there is to it.

Trout Duxelles with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Trout Duxelles (Serves 2)

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large or 2 medium-sized shallots, sliced thin
1 lb button mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp red wine or sherry
1/2 tsp thyme
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 rainbow trout, cleaned and trimmed
Olive oil (to coat the trout)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms to the pan with a dash of salt and pepper. Stir frequently to avoid uneven cooking.

4. After 15 minutes or so, the mushrooms should have shrunken considerably and should be apt to stick to the pan a bit. Add the wine or sherry to the pan to deglaze. (Take this opportunity to work any stuck bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.)

5. Add herbs and simmer until the alcohol has reduced. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Place trout on a baking sheet and rub exterior with a little olive oil.

7. Divide the duxelles and spoon into the body cavity of each trout. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until trout flesh is white and opaque. Serve with a good ale and a crisp salad, a nice rice pilaf or roasted vegetables.


Happy eating!

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4.01.2008

The Trouble with Truffles

"Ye, the first parents of the human race, whose gourmandise is mentioned in history, you who ruined yourself for an apple, what would you not have done for a truffled turkey?"

— Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

Unless you live near the forest and keep a trained pig, black truffles are a luxury item. An ounce is of those things you really can't justify purchasing.
There's always something else that's more practical, more important... A bill. A water filter. A dentist appointment. Ointment for your pet pig's snout rot.

I suspect that's why one of my coworkers teared up on seeing the black truffles my boss gave each of us over the holidays. Twelve black truffles nestled into twelve little cups of white rice. They were ugly. They were beautiful. I was immensely pleased.

Truffle nesting in rice

What I immediately learned is that the gift of a truffle isn't simply a gift, it's a culinary challenge. I'd had truffle oil and truffle butter, of course, but I'd never had a truffle in my hands. Never cooked with one. A truffle neophyte, was I.

Our company lawyer enthused about the wonders of truffled eggs. "Just put your truffle in the refrigerater in a container with a dozen eggs," he said. "In a day or so, you'll have truffle-flavored eggs. It's amazing. They're great in omelettes or scrambled."

My Larousse Gastronomique agreed.
"When you feel like eating boied eggs, if you have some truffles in the house, put them in a basket with the eggs and the next day you will have the best boiled eggs you have ever tasted in your gastronomic life." (M. des Ombiaux)

Perfect. Two days of downtime with the eggs would buy valuable time while I decided what to do with my stinky little friend. I put my truffle in a zip-top freezer bag with a dozen organic eggs and rested the nest on the bottom shelf of the fridge, a decision I'd soon regret.

The next day, my boss asked if I'd used my truffle yet. No, I hadn't.

He had already made a special trip to Raffetto's on Houston street to pick up some of their artisanal pasta.

"Have you been to this place? They make it right there in front of you. It's been there for a million years or something. But I gotta say, it was the most bizarre experience. As I was buying the pasta, people were doing some kind of confessional at the checkout line. To the checkout clerks. Amazing stuff. Stuff like, 'You don't know what your pasta means to me and my family.' 'It's not the holidays if we don't have your pasta.' And you could tell they meant it. All these amazing quotes just pouring out of people. And yeah, the pasta's pretty great."

He'd been thinly shaving his truffle over cream-sauced pasta and using truffle butter on bread, potatoes, steamed green beans... everything. "When you peel the skin off the truffle, before you slice it," he said, "save the peelings and put them in some butter. You can amp truffle butter up with truffle oil, too."

My boss was using his a cheap plastic mandoline to shave his truffle. Thanks to my outrageously expensive culinary school degree, I figured I could make paper-thin slices with my super-sharp knives. Some of my other coworkers were less confident about their truffle-handling prowess. "Are you getting a slicer for it? I'm going to check at Macy's to see if they have them there."

Truffle Scrapings

By this time I'd decided that my truffle would meet its end in a truffled roast turkey. After all, the great Rossini (clearly a fellow who knew how to eat) claimed to have wept only three times in his life: "Once when my first opera failed. Once again, the first time I heard Paganini play the violin. And once when a truffled turkey fell overboard at a boating picnic."

On Christmas Eve, I went to the refrigerator (it was strangely fragrant as I opened the door) and discovered that the my lumpy black compatriot had scented the dozen eggs, yes. He'd also assaulted the milk, the cream, the pitcher of water, the sticks of butter. Everything permeable tasted of truffles. Apparently, a zip-top plastic bag was no match for the power of truffle.

As I sipped my cup of truffle-scented coffee, I decided to douse the little guy with olive oil, which would, with any luck, seal in the truffle power and gently scent the oil. With scent that strong, who needs a pig? I feel like I could root out truffles on my own.

Truffle Scrapings

Soon after, I made the truffled turkey. It was good. Was it transformative? Maybe I needed to slice up few more truffles to really open the gates of gourmet heaven.

My favorite part of my truffle experience was actually the simplest usage: a schmear of truffle butter across good fresh bread while I waited for the turkey to cook.

Second-favorite usage? A truffled turkey pot pie made with the leftovers. But then, who can't be wooed with homemade pot pie, truffles or no? If you don't happen to have truffles, throw some sliced mushrooms into the vegetable mix. It'll still be tasty.

Truffled Turkey Pot Pie

1 prepared pie crust
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 Tbsp truffle butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 small potatoes, scrubbed and diced
2 cups truffled turkey, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped (optional)
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 prepared pie crust
1 6" x 6" sheet puff pastry, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Pierce the pie crust with a fork several times and bake for 15 minutes, or until very lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, heat a tall-sided skillet or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and pour in the olive oil.
4. Cook the onions, celery and carrots about 10 minutes.
5. Melt in the truffle butter.
6. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
7. Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
8. Add potatoes and simmer until fork-tender.
9. Stir in turkey and parsley (if using). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
10. Pour mixture into baked pie crust.
11. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry until it's large enough to cover the pie shell. Trim away any overlapping pastry.
12. Cover the pot pie with the rolled pastry and brush the top with the beaten egg. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until crust is golden. Serve hot.

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1.09.2008