Recently in Meat and Stews
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

beef bourguignon

beef bourguinon

Even though I keep claiming to have broken up with winter a couple of weeks ago, I’m still carrying my gloves and wearing my scarf and wool coat because it’s just not that warm in the mornings are evenings. Sure, the temperatures claim to be more temperate during the day, but that also happens to be the time when I sit in front of a computer, inside, and deal with client related matters. And so upon leaving the office, I’m once again met with a rather persistent chill. A chill that’s clearly being shoved out by the onset of spring, but like a guest that overstays his welcome, this chill lingers in hopes perhaps of sticking around another week or two.

browning the meat

Well, despite the fact that I’ve been ready for spring for quite some time, the weather still dictates warmth and comfort when it comes to my food. A salad sounds delightful in theory, but when all is said and done, when I get home from work, what I want is something soft and warm and filling. And beef bourguignon fits the bill.

mushrooms for the stew

I meant to make it all winter season and yet something would always upstage it. A soup, a chicken dish, cake, even (hey, cake can totally be dinner). Honestly, I can’t figure out why because this is so good and so flavorful that I should have made it in large batches over and over and frozen portions for later consumption. Better yet, this dish gets better the next day after the flavors had a chance to develop, which makes for leftovers you’d be looking forward to having.

beef bourguinon

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

beer braised leg of lamb

beer-braised leg of lamb

I’m not sure how to segue into this post I’ve written and rewritten this post nearly half a dozen times and I’m just not feeling it. Perhaps because making this dish left me pretty bleh to begin with. Not terrible, not great – it was simply “meh” on the scale of “ewww” to “mmmm”. It was just so-so. And it was largely my fault.

I’m very picky with lamb. Almost ridiculously so. Back in high-school when I ate Easter dinner with my then-boyfriend’s family, it was the one holiday meal I kind of dreaded. Out of politeness for the mother, I would break my strict vegetarianism to take a symbolic bite sized piece of lamb, flavored only with salt and rosemary. But what made me quiver was the mint jelly, which to this day reminds me of eating toothpaste. But give me a fragrant Uzbek plov, or Persian manty, and I can’t get enough lamb. It’s all in the flavoring I suppose. Like I said, I’m tricky with this meat.

raw leg of lamb

And so when KS and I picked up a leg of lamb (on sale!) at Whole Foods on Sunday, fresh from our Carribean get-away and eager to fill up our fridge and pantry with edibles, I was rather indecisive of how I wanted to cook it.

Part of me wanted to roast it. Part of me wanted to braise it. Part of me wanted something simple and a part of me wanted a dish full of complex spices. In short, I was asking for the impossible and I wasn’t going to take it.

rosemary, cilantro, garlic, salt

After failing to find a recipe I liked, I decided to marry a few of my own. I was going to braise the lamb in beer, but add more spices and herbs than what the recipe called for. And perhaps that’s where I went wrong because the dish just didn’t know what it wanted to be. And so it was just so-so.

Tyler Florence recommended a Roast Leg of Lamb with beer, honey and thyme and while I liked the idea of beer, but not of honey or thyme. Another recipe with my favorite Alton Brown, suggested a grilled leg of lamb with pomegranate molasses. But we lacked an indoor grill, and for some reason, KS is not a fan of sweet/salty combinations. I managed to sneak some of it in anyway and he still doesn’t know about it (or he will once he reads this post).

We ate this dish in its entirety and are completely now lamb’ed out. And though this recipe was a bit of a letdown, the couscous I made along-side it was nothing short of incredible. But that’s for Sunday night. We’re off to DC for a wedding some the cherry blossoms festival. If anyone has any fantastic brunch recommendations in the Georgetown area or beyond, please let me know!

beer goes in

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Monday, March 10, 2008

braised beef short ribs

braised short ribs

I can’t quite decide if this Daylight Savings thing is working for me. On the one hand, it’s wonderful to leave work while the sky is still brightly lit. On the other hand, waking up at 5:30 in the morning has once again become quite difficult – and as I make my way to the subway in the morning, they sky is dark and gloomy. And it is still very cold. Which is probably why I am still a bit incredulous that this thing called spring is ever going to arrive.

It has been a stressful year for the markets so far, and thus for me at work. Though I am not an economist or a strategist, I have a very strong feeling that this sub-prime issue is not going away any time soon and everywhere you look in financial news-sources, the word “recession” turns up a few too many a time and the markets have been steadily declining on the heels of seemingly never-ending bad news. Coupled with it the rising cost of food, fuel and commodities while the consumers are watching their spending – makes for a glum story indeed.

parsley mire-poix

Which is probably why a few weeks ago, I had the craving for precisely this kind of a comfort meal: warm, rich, flavorful, with a thick sauce. I’ve been waxing poetic about braised short ribs to KS and he would nod approvingly, but I could just see in his eyes that he wasn’t really following me. Not until he tasted it, did he understand why I have not stopped talking about it. We both had seconds and needless to say there were no leftovers. And because it rained that entire day, this dish was like manna from heaven. It warmed and comforted us. I have to mention here also, that this dish is super easy – all it requires is time. If you can slow-cook this in your Le Creuset or the equivalent for 3+ hours, you are guaranteed something truly amazing. It’s pretty much fail-proof. Another note is that I chose not to puree my vegetables as the original recipe suggests because I like my vegetables chunky. And instead of cooking potatoes separately from the short ribs, I cooked them in the same pot, letting them absorb the flavors of the stew.

browned short ribs - looks gross

And though I can’t get enough of these warm, rich stews, with this vacation coming up next Friday, I just can’t wait to leave behind my winter coat and winter eating and put on my bermuda shorts and have an umbrella drink! For one glorious week we’ll be basking in the Carribean sun, lazing around on the beach and catching up on reading.

Perhaps upon our return, spring will have officially kicked off and I’ll have more spring cooking on my mind. But for now, with another rainy day facing us, I’d rather have this warm, comforting meal, over a cold, crisp salad.

braised short ribs

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Monday, March 19, 2007

corned beef

corned beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots

I have, on a number of occasions, claimed that give me a holiday having nothing to do with my culture, throw some good food in it, and I’ll be more than happy to celebrate it just for the food of it. A few people in the past raised their eye brows at me when I told my stories of lamb roasts over Easter weekend, or trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to make aloo ghobi over Divali. My own favorite holiday, Thanksgiving comes with my favorite dishes, plenty of them, and a table full of friends. Interestingly enough, I quickly grew to love Thanksgiving and kind of forced it on my family. And now my mother kind of even likes it. But I digress.

after the bath

I realize that there’s just about as much Irish in me as was in Golda Meir, and I’ve never even visited the Emerald Isle. And even despite the fact that in my heart, I always felt a little Irish, with what, my love of Guinness, Irish music, my favorite writers are all Irish (Joyce, Wilde, Yates, Shaw, Thomas Lynch), cabbage and potatoes (undoubtedly stemming from my Russian upbringing) and whiskey; I cannot, rightly, lay claim to the heritage, being its eager admirer nonetheless. And yet, despite all that, when KS emailed me about making corned beef and cabbage with mustard for dinner Friday night, I leapt at the opportunity, immediately researching the recipes online. Give me slow-cooked tender meat that has been braising in the oven for hours on end, and I’m a happy girl.

corned beef ready for slicing

If any of you reading this are New Yorkers, you will probably remember Friday as the worst weather day in the history of winter 2006-2007. I don’t even know what that was that fell from the sky, but I’ve never seen anything quite so nasty. Microscopic icicles? A new strain of sleet? Spiked, armed snowflakes?

Nursing a cold and a Rudolph-red nose, the last thing I was looking forward to doing is going to Whole Foods and picking up the ingredients for our Irish-pride feast. But KS, being a gentleman and world’s most glorious boyfriend, did it for me, picking up a succulent cut of corned beef brisket from Bazzini along with a few other ingredients.

introducing - the savoy

As soon as I came home from the office, I got immediately to work around starting around 5:30pm, and by 9:30pm we had ourselves a simple, Irish meal, so delicious, we regretted not buying a larger brisket so that we could have leftovers or make it into corned beef hash (but we later decided that not only are we going to make this again soon, we’re going to brine the brisket ourselves – ha!).

kicking it up a notch

The four hours of waiting was worth every minute. And while corned beef with potatoes & cabbage is one of the simplest, easiest things to make (I still cannot believe how little effort it took and how good it tasted), it has an honesty to it that is filling, satisfying and comforting. While the weather outside was frightful, we, wrapped in fleece and wool, ate on the couch, watching the Empire Strikes Back, and gobbling up our food. The only thing missing from our dinner was soda bread, but given the fact that I just learned the soda bread I have known and liked in the past is apparently an impostor, maybe that’s okay. The authentic version sounds a bit unappetizing.

So okay, I’m not Irish by blood, but perhaps being a little Irish at heart is acceptable? And while on Saturday, I didn’t imbibe(colds and beer rarely go hand in hand), I did pick up a tome of Yates and read a few poems.

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Monday, January 8, 2007

mozarella-stuffed meatballs

Mozarella-Stuffed Meatballs

In the days leading up to me starting my new job, I was in a perpetual state of lamentation like woe is me, when will I ever find time to cook? What’s to become of my blog that I’ve maintained in my two months of leisure? What would I feed the boyfriend if I am coming home at 9 o’clock at night thinking of little besides Lean Cuisine?

In one of those particular stretches of despair, I found myself casually flipping through a Williams Sonoma catalog, wishing I could just wave a magic wand and the entire contents of the store would magically outfit my kitchen. I should be so lucky. Plus, my ant-sized kitchen can barely fit a few pots, nevermind an arsenal of cookware and cutlery. And as I was about to flip another page, regretting my budget and my limited shelf space, I spied a recipe so good, I paused to read it, and made mental note: mozzarella stuffed meatballs!! Bliss, happiness, melted cheese! Can anything be more perfect and breathtaking? And then I got distracted by a photograph of a ladle. And flipped the page.

A few hours later, after the boyfriend, flipping through the same catalog mentioned the recipe to me, my heart was set on making the meatballs. Soon, I promised him, maybe Tuesday. And sure enough he wasn’t about to let me forget. “Is it meatballs night,” he wrote Tuesday morning.

After running my pre-work errands that evening, I stopped at Bazzini to pick up the ingredients. I will tell you now, that I modified the recipe – so if you go and look up the stuffed meatballs recipe on Williams Sonoma website, you will get a slightly different version than I have here. Personally, I think mine’s a lot better, but that’s just me here. I’ll tell you what I did differently. I omitted the parsley and instead finely chopped an onion – I think it gives the meat deeper taste. Secondly, instead of beef, I opted for turkey. I figured with equal parts of veal and pork, beef would be maybe a little too rough in flavor and that turkey would give it a gentler taste, not to mention make it a tad healthier. So those have been my changes. I stand by them and think you ought to make your stuffed meatballs my way.

Meatballs with Mozarella

But then again, you have the right to have those balls any way you like.*

*The author is in no way, shape or form suggesting anything lewd and is shocked and appalled that your mind would even go there. ;-)

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