Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beef Stock

I've never made beef stock before. I had some chain meat left over from one of my butchering odysseys and this being the week of St. Patty's Day, we wanted to make a good ole Irish Beef Stew. So I boiled the meat in water. But wait. Stock comes from bones. Crap. I put the meat water in the fridge for the night. Went to the store today to buy marrow bones. Behold:

Looks like a crime scene photo, no? So before I continue, I want to confess, I'm afraid of marrow. They serve it in fancy restaurants and people pay an arm and a leg for a $1.50 marrow bone just so they can scoop out the gelatinous iron-rich fat from the inside and spread it on crackers. It's literally the junk in the middle of the bone:

Do I have to say it? It does not appeal to me. I've been told it tastes like "beef jelly" and I don't really think that helped matters. But I got my marrow bones. And here we go....

  • Beef marrow bones (you can also include knuckles...ewh...and veal bones, oxtail, etc)
  • beef chunks or roast (preferably stew meat)
  • olive oil
  • onions, peeled & quartered
  • cut up carrots
  • handful of celery tops
  • garlic cloves
  • parsley
  • bay leaves
  • peppercorns
The amounts are up to you. There are exact recipes online if you wish, but who wants to paint by number? Add the things you like in the quantities you like.

Preheat oven to 400. Rub a little olive oil over stew meat pieces, carrots & onions. Place stock bones, stew meat or beef scraps, carrots & onions in a shallow roasting pan.
Roast in oven for about 45 minutes, turning the bones and meat once halfway through roasting, until nicely browned. If the bones begin to char, lower the heat. They should brown, not burn.
When the bones & meat are nicely browned, remove them & the veggies & place them in a large stock pot. Place the roasting pan on the stove top on low heat & deglaze with water or wine. Then, pour the water and browned bits into the pot.
Add the celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaves & peppercorns. Fill the pot with enough cold water so that it comes 1-2 inches over the top of the bones.
Put the heat on high, bring to a low simmer & then reduce the heat to low. Keep at a bare simmer, just barely bubbling. Cover loosely & let simmer for a minimum of 3 hours. 6-8 is better. The instructions I read said,
"Do not stir while stock is simmering - it will mix the fats with the stock and cloud up your stock."
Um. I'd never even thought to stress about my stock being cloudy. Ok, moving on. As the stock cooks, remove fat from the marrow at the top (now how do you do that without it stirring things up a bit?)
When the stock is ready, use tongs or a slotted spoon to gently remove bones and veggies from the pot. Then, it said,
"If there's any marrow left in the bones or floating on top, taste it - it's delicious!"
Fine. But I'm telling you it looked like booger soup with that marrow in there. Did it anyway. Scooped out just a little bit....and tasted it. Newsflash: it was god awful. Who are you people who like this stuff? I took another glob of the stuff and smeared it on a Triscuit and fed it to my husband saying, "here's something that a lot of people think is delicious". He ate it. Looked at me. No reaction. Apparently his cold has made it so he can't taste anything. Sigh. Oops, where was I?
Strain the broth through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Cool to room temperature. Remove any excess fat from the top.
Now you have your own beef broth to store for all kinds of delicious things. Freeze it if you don't have any use for it immediately.
Oh, and give the bones to your dog. They go nuts for them. Just make sure you clean all the goo out first.

Delicious snack, or overpriced wad of bone fat? Let me know what you think.

Indian Spiced Chicken Curry

So the recipes I found on this dish called it "Sri Lankan Chicken Curry". But as I dug deeper, many people disagreed with that label and swore it was Indian. Call it what you want. This is my version:

  • 1-2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp ginger, finely grated
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (native to Asia & Southern Europe, the seeds are bitter and used most often in curries)
  • 1 tsp tumeric or yellow curry mix
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 3/4 cup zucchini (cut into chunks)
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • a spoonful (or so) of flour
Heat butter.
Fry fenugreek seeds until they start to brown (which happens fast, so watch closely).
Add onion, garlic & ginger & heat until onions are golden & soft.
Add tumeric, coriander, cumin, fennel, paprika, salt & vinegar. Stir well.
Add chicken & stir over medium heat until fully coated with spices.
Add cardamom, cinnamon stick, lemongrass & chopped veggies.
Cover and cook on low for 40-50 minutes.
Add coconut milk (do not cover after adding the coconut milk).
Stir flour with a bit of broth or water and stir it in while the sauce is still boiling. Remove cinnamon & lemongrass.
Taste & add salt, spices or lemon juice to taste.
Serve over jasmine or basmati rice (frankly I can't tell the difference between the two).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Menu: Josselyn's 32nd Birthday Dinner

Josselyn and I have been best friends since college. This year I wanted to make her a tasting menu the way Wayne and I did for my parents' past 2 anniversaries. We enjoy doing it and it's a great way to make someone feel special. All of the recipes can be found here on the website. Just go up to the search window in the upper left and enter the name of the course/dish. The menu:


Seared Scallops Wrapped in Bacon w/ Wayne's Brown Sugar Glaze

Grapefruit Granita

Shaved Fennel & Arugula, Serrano, Tart Cherries, Deconstructed Vinaigrette of Orange Oil & Balsamic Reduction

**Picture to come**

Sweet Orange Granita

Tom Kha Gai

Pear Sorbet, Cardamom, Williams Pear Brandy

Main Course
Carpaccio of Filet Mignon, Lemon Remoulade

Margarita Granita

Fresh Mixed Berry Cobbler, Creme Anglaise

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Margarita Granita

Ok so technically this started out as a lime granita, which you can also do:
  • 2 limes
  • 1 tsp sugar
Juice limes & strain.
Whisk in sugar, seal in an airtight container and freeze.
Go back to it every 1/2 hour or so to stir with a fork so it keeps a nice texture and doesn't completely solidify.
Freeze at least 2-3 hours.

To make things more fun - try making my Margarita Granita. Just add:
  • a pinch of salt (to taste)
  • a bit of food coloring (a drop of green + 2 drops of yellow give it that bright margarita color)
Then follow the rest of the directions. I know a lot of people hate the idea of food color. Obviously, you don't need to add that to make it a fun treat. It's your call.

Orange Granita

I'm doing another tasting menu tonight (this time for my best friend Josselyn's birthday) and that means I'll be coming up with more fun little things to serve in between courses as palate cleansers. So bring on the granitas! Today I'm making the grapefruit granita that I made for my parents anniversary, and I'm also creating an orange granita and a lime granita. The orange one is the simplest of all. It needs nothing. I added sugar as I did with the grapefruit and the lime - bad decision. Obviously orange doesn't have that tartness that lemons and limes do. The sugar was too much. So really, all you have to do is squeeze an orange:

  • 1 navel orange, halved
  • pinch of salt
Juice the orange & strain through a sieve to get rid of pulp (or leave the pulp in, see if I care).
Whisk in salt & put juice in an airtight container.
Place container in the freezer and go back every hour or so to stir it up with a fork so it doesn't solidify completely but forms more of flaky kind of texture.
After it's been freezing for at least 2-3 hours (I usually freeze it overnight), you can scoop it into a tiny ball and serve in between courses of a nice meal. Or just enjoy it on it's own as a refreshing treat.