Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

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31-recipe challenge Day 19: Oscars and short ribs

What better, swankier dish to serve on Oscars Sunday than red-wine braised short ribs? There isn’t one, really.

These braised short ribs, courtesy of Diane, A Broad (love the blog name!) might be hands-down one of the best things I have ever cooked, ever. After just three hours in the oven, these were the richest, most fall-apart ribs I’ve ever had. (Enough so that two days post-surgery I was even able to eat them!). They seem scary and complicated and oh-so-fancy, but really it’s just a lot of throwing stuff in a pot and letting it go.

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There are several steps, between searing, slow-roasting, separating and reducing, but no one step is particularly intimidating on its own. It’s the sum of its parts that’s so seemingly overwhelming, really, but once you break it down you realize it’s really not all that bad. It’s downright doable! And I would totally do this again.

Also, I’m not sure I’ll ever eat a cooked carrot that’s not braised in red wine again. Even the carrots were melt-in-your-mouth.

I served these over some instant polenta, much like Diane, though I pumped mine up with pecorino romano and little light cream. Add a ton of chives and more sauce and dig in and don’t look back. Thank me later.

Despite the fact that I’m going home to cook dinner tonight (duh), all I want to do right now is eat leftover short ribs straight out of the fridge. Short rib appetizer, anyone?

short ribs 2

Short ribs, Seth MacFarlane, Les Miserables…it’s like everything I love just came together to make me the happiest girl in the world. Add in Jennifer Lawrence being adorable as ever while winning Best Actress (and HOW sweet was it when both Hugh Jackman AND Bradley Cooper ran up to help her when she fell?? Such gentlemen!) and it was a pretty great Sunday. The only thing that would’ve made it better would have been a big glass of the malbec I used to braise the ribs. Curse you, amoxycillin! I thought we were over.

 

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31-recipe challenge Day 14: The day I ate a beet and roasted beef

I did two things I’d never thought I’d do on Saturday: I made a roast and I ate a beet.

OK, so maybe that first one wasn’t so out there, but it wasn’t something I foresaw for the near future. There’s something about pulling a big roast of meat out of the oven that makes me feel like I should be wearing heels and pearls with a lace apron and a beehive. Instead I’m pretty sure I was wearing Converse. But the roast was still good.

I pulled out all the stops for a super-fancy (ish) dinner that night, complete with Cesar-crusted roast beef and a blood orange, beet and fennel salad, both courtesy of Bon Appétit.

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Although I ate beets, I’m still not going to be running out to buy them again anytime soon. I discovered I like golden beets more than red beets, but they still have that distinctly “beet” flavor that turns me off. It’s kind of weird, my distaste for beets, seeing as I have a MAJOR sweet tooth and beets are nature’s candy. But I just don’t care for them. I actually ended up tossing the last of the red beet that was leftover after I finished the rest of my salad. The best part was the blood orange, which is just so sweet and citrusy and flavorful.

The only “modification” that I made to this salad, though, was that I halved it. (This doesn’t really even count anymore) and I, in a very uncharacteristic move, forgot the cilantro. Ugh. That probably would’ve made it better, because cilantro makes everything better.

And for those wondering, no, this is NOT the recipe which prompted my disdain for the mandolin. That was the next day…

Now here’s the part where I make a big confession: I didn’t make a roast beef tenderloin, like the recipe says. I made a rib roast. Yes, I know those are VASTLY different. Here’s the (quick) story:

Beef tenderloin (aka chateaubriand) is, apparently, super expensive. (I really should’ve done more research before I dove into this challenge.) I’m talking $50 for a two-pound cut expensive.

Now, I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: I don’t make that much money! I’m not exactly in a financial position to spend $50 on one roast. So, after some iPhone research and a discussi0n with the butcher, I went with a much more reasonable rib roast instead. It was much fattier, and a different shape, but it was good in the end. Would the tenderloin have been better? Duh, that’s where filet mignon comes from, but I’m not exactly capable of shelling out for four filets.

Another, far more minor tweak, is that I made this gluten-free. Instead of using fresh bread crumbs, I used gluten-free cornflake crumbs so everyone could eat it. I also (surprise, surprise) halved the recipe, because I don’t have eight people to feed. As it is we have about half a roast left over.

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Because of the change in the meat, I had to play around with the cooking time a bit, and just keep watch–and temperature. This taught me the unfortunate lesson that my oven does not cook things evenly. When the roast finally seemed to come to temperature, I took it out of the oven and let it rest a while, but when we finally cut into it, one end was red, nearly rare, while the other was almost all brown, a solid medium at least. Lesson learned: always, ALWAYS rotate things in this oven. (For the record, I was shooting for a nice medium-rare.)

We sliced up the whole thing and seared off the pieces that were on the undercooked side to finish them up.

Now, I’m not a big roast/steak eater, but I must say, this was a pretty lovely piece of meat. It was juicy and still quite tender, considering I used a lesser cut of meat. It got the stamp of approval from the two carnivores, so that’s always good!

I felt like such a big girl, and a classy one at that, pulling off not one, but TWO Bon Appétit recipes and making such a sophisticated meal! Don’t expect it to last.

31-recipe challenge: Where we are and what I’ve learned so far

I’m at the halfway point of my 31-recipe challenge right now. (OK, technically I’m past it, but as far as posting goes, I’m halfway done. So don’t panic, I’m not THAT far behind!) That being said, I think it’s a good time to recap what I’ve done so far and, more importantly, some observations I’ve had along the way.

1. My knife skills are atrocious. Seriously, I’d make a dismal showing in a professional kitchen, and I’d be kicked right off any kind of cooking show. Robert Irvine would kick my ass.

2. Mandolins are dangerous. And now I’m officially scared of them. They seem nifty and convenient, saving you so much time, effort and onion-induced tears…til they slice your thumb open. Yeah, that happened. Granted, it took me 17 days to get any kind of notable injury, so that’s worth something.

3. I’m finally getting opportunities to wear my Wizard of Oz apron! And yet, I’m not taking them nearly often enough. I need to learn to cover up, especially when oil or butter is cooking, or risk my clothes.

4. I need to get a Dutch oven or a similar stove-to-oven vessel. There’s nothing more frustrating than making a one-pot wonder dish only to realize you actually need to use (and wash) two pots.

5. On that note…I’m already sick of doing dishes. I’ve seriously done more dishes in the last few weeks than I have since I moved in.

6. I also never want to see the inside of a supermarket again. I think I’ve spent more time in the supermarket than I have in my own home.  And yet, despite how much time I’ve spent in Wegmans and my (new) local ShopRite, I still don’t know my way around them.

7. I’m going broke. I’m spending easily $100 a week on this, often more. (I know many people will say that’s not much, but I’m not feeding a family of 4 every week. Just me, Kevin, sometimes my mom, occasionally a group. And that’s including very few regular groceries. Usually I’m just buying ingredients and a few staples, like Greek yogurt, apples and face wash.) My credit card’s pretty much ready for this challenge to be over. (So is Kevin, truthfully, especially because we’re looking to move within the next two months.)

8. I need more tupperware. I’m running out of containers (and fridge space) to keep all my leftovers.

9. Nonetheless, there IS a great bright side to all of this! I’m learning so much, cooking things I never thought I would (and more often than not, they’re way easier than I expected) and eating new things I didn’t think I’d like (and sometimes still don’t.) It’s branching me out, and I’m developing a great working repertoire of recipes. There are already multiple things I’ve said I have to cook again.

And now, some housekeeping:

Well, as is life (especially mine), things come up when you don’t expect them. In this case, those “things” would be my wisdom teeth, and they have to come out. On Friday. So, I’m having oral surgery to get all four wisdom teeth out on Friday morning. Obviously, that’s going to leave me out of commission for a few days, so I’m making an executive decision: I’m cutting one recipe from the challenge to make up for lost time. And, if you’ve been following the challenge from the beginning, I bet you know which one it is. Yup, the duck confit is out. (Because that also saves me about $80. Yes, $80 on one meal. I had to be peeled off the floor.) But, in all honesty, losing those few days would make it really, really hard to finish. So I came to this decision.

Luckily, there are quite a few soup recipes in the list, and an AMAZING sounding pudding recipe, so I’ve been prepping some of those this week to carry me through the post-surgery weekend ahead. I have a feeling I’ll be surviving on soup, smoothies and pudding for at least the weekend.

Where we are so far, aka what I’ve made so far:

Sausage and pepper pizza
Pomegranate, apple and kale salad
Sweet potato tacos with avocado
Beer and bacon butterbeans
Five-cheese baked rigatoni
Pumpkin pie bread pudding
Butternut squash and kale salad
Butternut panzanella salad
Vegetarian chili
Apricot and pistachio granola
Sweet potato risotto
Banana bread oatmeal
Gluten-free eggplant parmesan
Chicken rosemary lasagna
Cauliflower curry
Swedish meatballs
Soba noodles

Well, that’s where we are so far. I’ll do another roundup at the end of the challenge to recap the whole ordeal and look at how it all went. what I learned, how I did. For now…more recipes.

 

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