This Christmas, being that it is our third year as parents and by now have learned how limited time is on Christmas Day; we opted for a one-pot decadent menu… Beef Bourguignon! Simply downloaded the recipe and went to work. Unlike me, I followed it word per word this time and it turned out wonderful!

Recipe
Ingredients

6 ounces bacon
1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced 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
Blanched bacon rind
18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
Parsley sprigs

Directions
Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
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. Set them aside until needed.

When the melt is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Source: http://www.oprah.com/food/Boeuf-Bourguignon

… Joyeux Noël to all of you!

So rather than going into a long drawn explanation (will leave that to Wikipedia) around what plantains are and where they originate, I am just going to boil it down to this:

– from the banana “family”
– not as sweet as bananas
– must be cooked prior to eating
– several ways to prepare them
– green plantains yield savory creations
– yellow plantains result in a sweeter side dish

And I can go on and on…

Most times we cook the yellow sweet plantains at home. My 4 year old simply loves them, and they are actually quicker to prepare, especially if you just fry them. So I will post about one of the most popular ways of preparing the yellow plantains and come back with another post on how to prepare the green
variety.

Plantains

Plantains

Ingredients:
2 cups canola oil
1 plantain

Method
1. In a medium skillet, with 1″ sides, bring the oil to 160 degree temperature.
2. While the oil heats, cut both tips of the plantain, cut a slit across the length, and with your fingers slowly pry the skin apart.
3. Cut into 1/2 inch slices and fry for approximately 5-7 minutes per side.
4. Remove from the oil and place into paper towels to drain.

Plantains Frying

Plantains Frying

Sweet Fried Plantains

Sweet Fried Plantains

I had the best red lentil soup at this great Turkish restaurant in London.  I will only visit a chain restaurant in the US in a pinch, but London seems to be the exception to that rule.  With the weather turning much cooler, and having scored some red lentils a couple of weeks ago, I finally went for it. 

After doing a bit of googling and trying to remember taste and texture from my own red lentil soup experience, I came up with this!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup

Ingredients:
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 TB kosher salt
2 1/2 cups water
1 lb red lentils, rinsed
1 quart chicken broth, divided
2 TB ground cumin
2 TB smoked paprika
2 cups chopped tomatoes

Method:
1. Heat up a dutch oven and add the olive oil.
2. Add the onions, garlic and salt and cook till onions begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the lentils and water, cook covered for 20 minutes over medium heat.
4. To the partially cooked lentil mix, add 3 cups of broth, cumin, paprika and tomatoes. Cook for an additional 20 minutes.
5. Remove the soup from the heat and puree using an immersion blender.
6. Stir in the remaining cup of broth and serve.

*** This makes a thick soup, should you prefer it to be more “soupy”, simply add more broth.

Traditional Patatas Bravas don’t call for chorizo as an ingredient.  However I wanted to add a little protein to our meal, and had this fantastic leftover chorizo sausage from one of my favorite local butchers.  To add body and a bit of a sauce, I went with a cup of diced tomatoes from Local Folks Foods. Store bought Muir Glen is a great alternative though.

This time around I went with a locally made chorizo sausage, but would definitely use Spanish chorizo as an alternative.  Real Spanish chorizo is hard to come by.  In the Indianapolis area I have very good luck with Fresh Market as they carry a very good brand from Spain — Palacios. 

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

Ingredients:
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 chorizo sausages
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and almost cooked through
2 TB smoked spanish paprika
1 TB red pepper flakes
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup fire roasted chopped tomatoes

Method:
1. Heat up olive oil in a large skillet and add the chorizo sausage. Cook till browned.
2. Add the potatoes, paprika, red pepper flakes and chicken broth. Stir till combined.
3. Lower the temperature to medium and add the tomatoes.
4. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the potatoes start to crisp up.

So I realize this is the second “Risotto Sundays” post in a row, however GreenBEAN delivered these beautiful mushrooms and my mind immediately went to this great wild mushroom risotto I had last month — in Rothenberg, Germany of all places!  If you find yourself in Rothenberg, make sure you stop by Pizzeria Roma (Galgengasse 19) for an authentic Italian meal.  One can only eat pork for so long while in Germany, and this family owned restaurant has been cranking out traditional Tuscan fare in Rothenberg since the 70s!…. but I digress.

Mushroom and Pancetta Risotto

Mushroom and Pancetta Risotto

Ingredients:
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced pancetta
2 cups chopped crimini mushrooms
2 TB butter
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup Chardonnay
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1-2 TB of truffle oil

Method:
1. In a large skillet heat up the olive oil and cook the pancetta till it starts to crisp up. Place pancetta on a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
2. To the skillet add the chopped mushrooms and cook through for about 10 minutes, stirring them frequently. Remove mushrooms from the skillet and set aside.
3. Add the butter to the hot skillet, let it melt and add the arborio rice. Cook till rice goes from translucent to slightly toasted. Add the wine and reduce the cooking temperature to a low-medium setting.
4. After the wine has cooked through, start adding the broth. Continue to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Only add more when the previous addition has been absorbed by the rice while constantly stirring.
5. Right before the last addition of the chicken broth (approx. 35 minutes into the cooking time), fold the pancetta and mushrooms into the risotto. Add the remaining broth and let it cook through.
6. Add the milk, stir and add the Parmigiano Reggiano.
7. Drizzle with the truffle oil and serve immediately.

The temps got up to the mid seventies in Indy today, but Farm Fresh delivered this squash right before my trip to London last week… and one week is exactly what it needed.  I am so glad I didn’ t cut into it before I left. I had been thinking about making this risotto for sometime, ever since I had it at a restaurant in Chicago last year.  I guess it takes me a while sometime to try and recreate recipes from the road.

Ingredients:
1 medium sized squash
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 TB kosher salt
1 TB unsalted butter
1 cup of arborio rice
1 cup chardonnay
40 oz chicken broth
2 TB parmigiano reggiano
1 TB white truffle oil

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Meanwhile peel and cut the squash into one inch cubes.
2. Place the squash on a small baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt. Toss till it’s well covered and roast, uncovered for 45 minutes or till fork tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool off.
3. While the squash cools off, place 4 cups of the chicken broth in a medium sauce pot and bring to a simmer.
4. Puree the squash in the food processor with the remainder cup of water, set aside.
5. In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the arborio rice. Cook the rice in the butter until it starts to toast. Add the chardonnay and reduce the cooking temperature to a low-medium setting. Add the squash mixture and combine well with the rice.
6. Continue to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Only add more when the previous addition has been absorbed by the rice while constantly stirring.
7. After approximately 45 minutes the rice would have absorbed all of the liquid and be cooked to “al dente”.
8. Remove from the heat, add the cheese, truffle oil, and serve immediately.

Life got busy, but also had some fun along the way 🙂

I love making this! While it may seem a bit of an involved process, it really isn’t if you organize yourself well and have everything laid out. Simple enough for a weekday meal, yet elegant and simply delicious. Add some wild rice and seasonal vegetables and is a great dish for entertaining.

Saltimbocca Ingredient Lineup

Saltimbocca Ingredient Lineup

Ingredients – Serves 4
4 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 TB butter, divided
8 sage leaves
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 slices provolone cheese
8 slices prosciutto
salt and pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock

Sauteeing - Prosciutto Already Browned

Method
1. In a large skillet heat up the olive oil and “fry” the sage leaves, about 30 second per side.
2. Remove from the skillet and set on paper towels.
3. Cut each breast into two half pieces and flatten with a meat mallot.
4. Lay two sage leaves on top of each breast half. Top with cheese and then prosciutto. Secure the prosciutto to the chicken with toothpicks.
5. Season the flour with salt and pepper.
6. Turn the chicken onto the flour and coat both sides, make sure to shake excess flour. Put aside on a dry plate.
7. Return to the skillet to the heat and add a tablespoon of butter.
8. When the oil and butter mixture starts to bubble up, place the chicken on the pan, pancetta side down. Brown for three minutes on each side and remove from the pan.
9. Add remaning butter, wine and stock.
10. Return chicken to the pan and cook on medium heat for 15 more minutes, turning the chicken halfway through cooking.
11. Plate and top with the remaining pan juices.

Saltimbocca Success!

Saltimbocca Success!

This recipe has been “somewhat in development” for a while.  I have made gnocchi with mushrooms many times over, different varieties depending on the season, always finished with a garlic aioli and fresh parm.  I always thought I should make a winter version of it by adding a hearthy cream sauce.  Well, I was in Amsterdam last November and found just the right inspiration here. This velvetty cream sauce has just the right consistency and such delicate flavor. I set to replicate what I tasted at Pianeta Terra and can now share it with you. By the way, if you are ever in Amsterdam, you have got to try this place. Hands down, best Italian food I have had outside of Italy.

Gnocchi al Tartuffo

Gnocchi al Tartuffo

Ingredients
2 TB butter
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 pkg gnocchi, about 4 cups dry
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded parmessan cheese
2 TB truffle oil

Method
1. In large skillet with tall sides melt butter and sautee onions till softened. Add mushrooms and continue to cook over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
2. In a medium stock pot bring water to boil, add salt and gnocchi.
3. Cook gnocchi till doness according to package, typically 4 minutes.
4. While gnocchi cooks, to the skillet add the heavy cream, milk and cheese. Season again with salt and pepper and bring to a slow simmer.
5. Remove the cooked gnocchi from the stock pot using a slotted spoon and put directly into the skillet with the creamy mushroom sauce.
6. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.
7. Drizzle with truffle oil and enjoy!

Chef’s Notes
– Chanterelle mushrooms are the best choice for this dish, but when not available, criminis work nicely.
– In the absence of truffle oil, you can always use high quality extra virgin olive oil.
– This is a great stand alone main dish, first course, or side dish to filet mignon or roasted lamb chops… I have tried them all!

As indicated in this post, I spent a fair amount of time in Portland last year. While in Portland, I had the opportunity to take in the wonderful culinary landscape of the city. These are my top picks, hope you try them out if you are ever in this fun city. And if you do, drop me a note, would love to hear about your experience.

So my Portland Top Fives:

1. Andina – I discovered Peruvian food a few years ago. Unfortunatelly my experience, up until know, was limited to one restaurant here in Indy. I found Andina’s cuisine to be “upscale Peruvian” with a contemporary flair. My dining companions and I got started with a round of appetizers that left us looking forward to dinner. The highlight of my meal was actually Sacsayhuaman a passion fruit infused martini-type cocktail that I am planning on reproducing soon. Don’t take me wrong, the food was extraordinary and the presentation simply artistic, but this drink stuck with me.

2. Jake’s Crawfish – ok, ok, so I went to a chain restaurant… sort of. Jake’s is the original McCormicks and Schmicks, but is also one of the top ten seafood restaurants in the country and a true Portland institution, over 110 years old. I went to Jake’s on a cold rainy night and ordered the Jambalaya. While it was simple, it had all the right ingredients…. andouille sausage, collosal shrimp…. yum!

3. Piazza Italia – nestled in a somewhat residential street in the Pearl District this little piece of Italy was worth waiting 45 minutes for a table on a cool October night. If you plan on going to Piazza Italia, make sure you reserve a table ahead of time. It probably has a total of 15 tables, and judging by how busy it was on a Wednesday night, it is a local favorite. I ordered the Pasta with Wild Boar Ragu and also got to sample the Bucatini that my dining companion order, both simply amazing!

4. Portland City Grill – I am sure most people go to the Portland City Grill for the spectacular 360 views of the city, and frankly, this was part of my motivation. I was very glad to discover that the views were just a bonus and compliment to the great food bustling out of their kitchen!

5. Typhoon – I yet have to google this, but my first impression is that Portland must have one of the largest numbers of Thai restaurants per capita. Out of the gate, I decided that I would order the same item every time I tried a new Thai restaurant, and let this be my guide for comparison. So I decided on Panang Curry as my gauge for best Thai in the Portland area, and Typhoon simply does it best. Nice blend and balance of flavors and just enough spice in the medium heat sauce to make you order a second and even third beer to wash it with. By the way, Typhoon is in Beaverton, a short 20 minute drive from downtown Portland and very much worth the drive.