Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Braised Short Ribs Equals Happy Husband

As I've mentioned before, my entire family loves to cook and most of our conversations are about what we are made for dinner or what we are about to make for dinner. A few weeks ago, my dad mentioned how he had convinced my mom to make him short ribs for dinner based on a recipe in Fine Cooking magazine. (Great food porn, by the way.) He said it was one of the best things he had tasted in a long while and he encouraged me to give them a try. He also assured me that my husband would love them.

Well, he was right.

I read through the article and studied the pictures, then ad-libbed my way to a delicious dinner. My husband and I were both very happy with the results.

Here is what I did...

Braised Beef Short Ribs
(serves 2)
2 3/4 lbs beef short ribs (4 ribs)
2 Tbsp canola oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 large onion, diced
1 1/2 carrots, diced
Garlic, finely chopped, to taste
Beef broth
14.5 oz can Rotel tomatoes
Spices, to taste - oregano, chili powder, cumin

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat the canola oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper, and cook, turning with tongs until nicely browned on all sides. This will probably take 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the ribs to a plate and pour off all but a thin layer of the fat from bottom of pan.

Add onions and carrots to pot. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bit from bottom of pan until soft and lightly browned, probably 6 or 7 minutes. Add garlic and spices, as you like, and cook, stirring, for another minute.

Deglaze the pot with beer. I used less than 1/2 cup. Pour it in, and cook, stirring to scrape up browned bits from the bottom until reduced. This took a little over a minute.

Transfer ribs back to pot. I made a mixture of beer and beef broth as my braising liquid. It was about 2 cups total and then I dumped in the can of Rotel tomatoes. Bring it all to a simmer, then cover, turn off burner, and put in the oven. Cook, turning the ribs about every 40 minutes, until they are fork tender. This took me just shy of three hours.

When it was done, transfer the ribs to a serving dish. Let the sauce and other solids sit in the pot for bit because you may need to skim off some fat. I didn't have much. Give the sauce a taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. If you like, thin the sauce with a finish of maybe 1 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar and stir. Then, spoon over ribs and serve. will be quite full.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dill - A Sign of Warmer Weather

Dill is my favorite herb. I just love it. I not only like the flavor, but I enjoy its association to me with warm weather. I add fresh dill to many dishes during the spring and summer. The most popular is my potato salad. I'll make it for Easter with ham and cheddar biscuits. And, I make it for nearly every cookout over the summer.

I already purchased the ingredients for my Easter meal, including the fresh dill, but I need to keep it from wilting between now and Sunday. To help, I wrap it in a damp towel and then place it in a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator.

So, here's my favorite potato salad recipe...

1/4 cup canola oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (use more or less, depending on your taste)
4 pounds of new potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
3 Tbsp of chopped fresh dill (more to taste)
2/3 to 1 cup of mayonnaise (to taste)
2 small bunches green onions, chopped

Combine oil and garlic in a bowl; set aside. Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender; probably 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl.

Whisk vinegar and next three ingredients into oil mixture. Pour this over warm potatoes, tossing to coat. Cover and chill for about 8 hours.

Combine potato mixture, mayonnaise, and green onions, tossing gently. I sometimes sprinkle in just a bit more chopped dill before serving.

Alterations to the recipe - You can use any fresh or dried herb, that you like. I just happen to be fond of dill. I also change up the potatoes I use, depending on my mood or what is available. My favorite is probably new red potatoes. As the cook, you can also decide whether to peel the potatoes. Folks don't seem to mind either way.
You can also mix it up by using different varieties of vinegar. Don't feel limited to just plain white vinegar. If you don't like green onions, you can try something else to give the salad some color and a bit of texture, like carrots or celery. I don't like a heavy amount of mayonnaise, but you may, so make it to your taste.
A word of caution: I use whole-fat or low-fat mayonnaise for this salad. I've tried it with no-fat and it tasted horrible and didn't have the consistency that folks crave. If you must cut the fat, I suggest using less low-fat mayo or trying a blend of mayo and sour cream to help improve the texture and flavor.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Luck of the Irish

Continuing with the St. Patty's Day theme....

We enjoy holidays in our house, and I like to make special meals for each one. It is a tradition from my childhood that we eat corned beef and cabbage, and I'm continuing it with my husband. I crave this dish all year long.

I cook mine on the stove top, boiling it all (beef, cabbage, onions, carrots, and potatoes) in a big pot, but my brother prefers to braise it in the oven.

My husband is very keen on sauces, and because I couldn't bear to watch him dip corned beef in ketchup and hot sauce, I created some special sauces just for him.

Guinness Mustard
This is just what it sounds. I took a hearty brown mustard and added a bit of garlic and a few splashes of Guinness beer, and stirred briskly. Then, I sat down and drank the rest of the beer.

Horseradish Cream
Take one cup of sour cream, add prepared horseradish to taste (I used about 4 Tbsp.), and a splash of dill pickle juice, then stir briskly. Top with chopped dill and chives. Creamy and a little spicy...

I think next year I will try to create corned beef from scratch. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Top O'the Morning To You...

I wanted to start our St. Patrick's Day off right, so I baked a loaf of lovely Irish Soda Bread.

This recipe was inspired by a friend's grandmother, and it makes one loaf.

4 cups flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups of buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.

Add the butter and use a pastry cutter to blend until it resembles coarse meal. Then, stir in raisins.

Add beaten egg and buttermilk and mix until it is stiff. You may need to add a bit more flour. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead slightly. Shape into a round loaf.

Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet. Score the top of the dough with an "X" shape. Bake the bread until golden and sounds hollow when tapped. It took at least 40 minutes.

I prefer it warm, so what we didn't eat right away, I toasted and spread with butter. Delicious!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Best Ever White Frosting

Our good friend Virginia turned thirty this weekend, and I wanted to make her a special birthday cake so she knows how much she means to us. I chose a red velvet layer cake topped with fluffy white frosting and my husband added fresh strawberries. I wasn't too pleased with the cake, but the frosting turned out better than expected.

I've tried for several years to recreate the white frosting my Aunt Ruthie made, and finally feel I was successful. I'll keep working on the red velvet cake recipe and post it sometime in the future. This white frosting would work with just about any kind of cake. I had some left over and I used it to frost some chocolate cupcakes the next day. Enjoy!

3 egg whites
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup Karo white syrup
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla (you could use another flavoring like almond or lemon extract or even coffee)

Put ingredients in double boiler over cold water. Start beating with electric beater and turn on the burner at same time. Beat until it stands in stiff, glossy peaks. This varies in time, as some eggs whip faster than others.

The frosting will come out glossy and fluffy almost like marshmallow. You could also add a few drops of food coloring and fold it in gently, if you wanted a color other than white.

The birthday girl seemed to enjoy it. And, I think Aunt Ruthie would be proud....