Monthly Archives: January 2014

Super Bowl Sunday

Michael and I are headed to Nashville this weekend for a wedding.  One of his best friends from Ole Miss is getting married and another one just got engaged, so it should be a really fun trip.  Personally, I’m pretty excited about the lunch we have booked at Husk.  We’re flying home late on Sunday, so we’re going to miss most of the Super Bowl fun.  Semi-sad to miss the game (who’s playing again?) but mostly sad to miss all the fun cooking and eating that’s going to go down on Sunday.   The following are a few ideas for your Sunday feast that we’ve made recently and one that I’m dying to try…

This turkey chili would be perfect for having friends over on Sunday.  Michael made it this week on one of our “snow days” and  it was awesome.  We used about a half teaspoon of oregano and thyme and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne, but otherwise kept the recipe intact and it was great.  I read in the comments that someone’s secret ingredient for chili is cocoa powder, which would be a fun addition to test out.

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Smoked ribs on the Green Egg would be another fun one, but you’d have to ask Michael how he makes them.  Maybe I’ll get him to do a guest post about them sometime soon.  He’s made a few batches recently to rave reviews.

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If you’re tasked with bringing something sweet to your Super Bowl party on Sunday, these whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies would be a great option.  They’re sourced from the critically acclaimed, Good to the Grain, which is all about using different flours to add richer taste and texture to baked goods.  (Any health benefits are strictly a bonus.)  The cookies have become something of an internet sensation, so I made a batch last weekend to accompany my coq au vin delivery, and they were pretty fabulous.  Huge, nutty, and delicious.  And the process is  really fun too.  You get to chop up whole bars of bittersweet chocolate…IMG_6871

get out all your fun baking gear…

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And after about 20 minutes, they come out looking like this.

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Although the recipe on the link above doesn’t mention it, you can roll up any leftover dough in a log, wrap it in parchment paper, and refrigerate or freeze to slice and bake for another occassion.  Would be a nice gift for your Super Bowl hostess!

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I’m also DYING to make these on Sunday.  If anyone has the guts to do so, and publicize it, let me know!  They would be a hilarious and perfect addition to your Super Bowl spread.

Happy Super Bowl weekend.  Go team!

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Coq au Vin

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There are lots of recipes for coq au vin out there, but for me, this one–from an old, red, tattered copy of Julia Child’s The French Chef Cookbook –is the only one that will ever matter. The book was published before I was born and has been on the cookbook shelf in our house for as long as I can remember. We apparently bought my Dad an updated copy in 1985 when I was just beginning to learn how to write my name.

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While I’m sure he loved it, it never took the place of the original.  When we were little, it was the one he and my Mom turned to over and over to knock out spectacular Sunday dinners.  I can still see my Dad standing in our kitchen, left hand on his hip, kitchen towel over his right shoulder, peering into whatever was simmering on the stove and talking about the “critical part” of tonight’s recipe.  Coq au vin was always one of our favorites.  It’s warm, comforting, and for me at least, just tastes like home.  It’s a perfect Sunday dinner and also just about the best thing to take to a friend in need of a home-cooked dinner, a glass of wine, and a big hug.  Sunday, I set out to do just that, and spent the whole day in the kitchen chopping, browning, and braising until it was just like I remembered.  Hopefully the finished product would have done my Dad proud and hopefully it also made my sweet friend feel loved.  As I said, there are a lot recipes and shortcuts out there, but if you really want to make coq au vin correctly, this is the only way to do it.

Coq au Vin

Browning and braising the chicken:
3 to 4 oz. center cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch lardons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole chicken cut into pieces
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/4 cup cognac
1 bottle Burgundy
1 to 2 cups chicken or beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves plus a few additional sprigs
1 bay leaf

In a large heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add in the bacon.  Sauté until bacon is lightly browned and remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan.  Dry chicken pieces thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken to the pan and brown on all sides over medium-high heat, working in batches if necessary.  Turn down the heat to medium, add all the chicken and the bacon back to the pan.  Cover and allow to cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove the cover, add in the cognac, and ignite with a long kitchen match.

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Once the flames subside, add in the wine, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and enough stock to cover the chicken.  (I think it’s easiest to add the tomato paste and the garlic to the stock and stir to combine before adding it all to the pan together. )  IMG_6867

Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked through.  While the chicken is simmering, prepare the onions and the mushrooms.

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For the mushrooms:
1/2 to 1 lb cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

Rinse the mushrooms, and wipe clean with a dry kitchen towel.  Remove the stems from the caps, and cut in half diagonally.  Cut the caps into quarters.  Melt butter in a large skillet, add the olive oil, season, and sauté mushrooms until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

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For the onions:
About 2 dozen small pearl onions
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

Drop the onions into boiling water and boil for about a minute.  Drain into a colander and rinse in cold water to cool slightly.  Cut the ends off of each onion and peel carefully.  Cut a small cross into the bottom of each onion.  According to Julia, this helps the onions stay intact during the cooking process.  Heat butter and olive oil in the large skillet, season, and brown onions on all sides.  Pour water in the pan about half way up the sides of the onions, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or more depending on the size of your onions.  Test one to make sure it’s tender.  When they’re all cooked through, remove and set aside.

Finishing the chicken:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons flour

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan, leaving the braising liquid behind.  Bring the liquid to a boil and allow to simmer and reduce for a bit to concentrate the flavors.  Carefully skim as much of the fat from the top as possible.  Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Mix the flour and the softened butter together in a small bowl.  (If the butter isn’t warm enough to mix well with the flour, you can add in a little of the braising liquid to heat it up.)  Add the butter and flour mixture to the braising liquid, whisk to combine, and simmer until thickened slightly.  Add back in the mushrooms, the onions, and the chicken and admire all your hard work.

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At this point, it can be set aside and reheated when you’re ready for dinner.  Allowing the flavors to meld for a bit only enhances the finished dish.  You can serve it with parsley potatoes per Julia’s request, buttered egg noodles like we had when we were little, or mashed mixed red and yellow pee wee potatoes like I did this time around.

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Just boil potatoes until fork tender, and mash with a few tablespoons of butter and a 1/4 cup or so of heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper and top with minced parsley and chives.  For something green, Julia requests buttered green peas, but skinny french beans sounded pretty good too.  Just sauté a small, diced shallot in some butter, toss in cooked green beans, season and finish with a sprinkling of lemon zest.

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Serve and enjoy with someone special.  If you’re really feeling indulgent, hot French bread is delicious dipped in the sauce.

 

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Curry Powder and Coconut Milk

Brrrrrr!!!  Hope everyone is bundled up for the weekend!  I just came in from feeding the puppy and tucking in our flowers for the night and nearly froze to death.  We had big plans to head to Galveston for the weekend, but may have to set those aside.  It’s probably a better weekend to stay in, make something warm, and cuddle up on the couch.  Below are a couple of outtakes from our week that would be pretty great for a cold-weather dinner at home this weekend.  The first, Curried Mussels with Mustard Roasted Potatoes, comes from the last stretch of our Food Lover’s Cleanse.  And the second, Butternut Squash and Roast Chicken Curry, was inspired by a recipe I found in John Besh’s, My Family Table.  The goal of his book is to get people back to the dinner table by sharing some simplified takes on family classics.  What’s great is a lot of the recipes are presented as methods, encouraging you to use what’s in season and on hand to make them your own.  I hadn’t really worked too much with curry powder and coconut milk before, but after this week, they’re likely to become staples around here.  Mixed in with a little heat and a little lemon juice, they’re a pretty amazing combination.

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The recipes do require a short trip down the international aisle at the grocery store.  At Central Market, the canned coconut milk, Madras curry powder and Sambal chili paste were all right together with the rest of the Asian ingredients. Madras curry powder is apparently a spicier version of regular curry powder.  It’s also a bit richer in color due to the addition of ground chilis to the spice mix.  I’m sure either would be good, but I took a shot of the one we found in case you want to seek out the real deal.  The Sambal chili paste is made by the same company that makes Sriracha, and according to John Besh, necessary for a well-stocked pantry.  Coconut milk comes in both light and full-fat versions.  We opted for the latter, and I’m a little addicted, so be forewarned!

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 Curried Mussels and Mustard-Roasted Potatoes (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

For the mussels:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large leeks, white and light green part only, thinly sliced, rinsed, drained
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds mussels
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves minced, plus a few whole to garnish
Lemon wedges for serving

Clean and scrub the mussels, discarding any that are cracked or open.  Remove the beards using a clean kitchen towel.  In a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute the leeks until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add in the garlic and the curry powder and saute for another minute or so until fragrant.  Add the wine, and allow to reduce by half before adding in the mussels, coconut milk and water (or chicken stock if using).  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes until the mussels have all opened up (discard any that fail to open).  Taste the broth and adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of cilantro on top and a lemon wedge or two on the side.  The lemon juice really makes a difference in the flavor of the broth, so don’t skip this part.

For the potatoes:
2 cups Dutch yellow pee wee potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
3 to 4 fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Rinse the potatoes and cut any large ones in half so they’re all similar in size.  Place in a medium-sized, oven-proof saute pan, cover with salted water, and boil until tender.  Drain and crush each with your palm or the back of a wooden spoon.  Place the pan back on the stove, add in the olive oil and saute the shallot for a few minutes.  Add in the potatoes and the mustard and toss to coat.  Remove from the fire, add in the sage leaves, and place the pan in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning once or twice until they’re all brown and crispy.   Serve alongside mussels or really anything.  They’re delicious.

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 Butternut Squash and Roast Chicken Curry (Adapted from My Family Table)

1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bone-in chicken breasts
About 2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Sambal chili paste
1 cup short-grain brown rice

Pre-heat the oven to 425.  Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes until an internal thermometer reads 165 degrees.  Once cooked, cube or shred into bite sized pieces.  John Besh suggests that you use leftover roast chicken, so if you have that on hand, that would be great too.

In a small pot, bring 1 cup of the coconut milk and 1 cup of water to a boil.  Add in the brown rice, season, reduce to a simmer and cover.  The rice will take about 45 minutes to cook depending on the variety used.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat and add in the butternut squash.  Saute until browned on the edges, and softened a bit, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add in the leeks and continue to cook until softened.  Add in the ginger, garlic, and curry powder, and saute for a minute more.  Squeeze the lemon over the pot, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the ban.  Add in the coconut milk, chicken broth, and chili paste and bring to a boil.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding in more curry powder or chili powder to taste.  Add in the cooked chicken and simmer for about another 15 minutes.

Serve curry over the brown rice and garnish with a little fresh parsley.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.  Stay warm!!

Food Lover’s Cleanse Week 2.5

Week two of our cleanse started out great.  We had lemongrass chicken and black rice on Monday night, which made for delicious asian-chicken salads the next day.  Tuesday we did the albacore tuna brochettes along with the plan, but by Wednesday night, we just could not load the dishwasher one more time.  So, we took a break and headed to this cute new place in Highland Village, Drexel House.   Few glasses of wine, a good meal, and no dishes to clean up afterwards felt pretty good, I have to admit!  So week two extended out a bit into week two-and-a-half.  Overall we’ve really enjoyed it–lost a few pounds and picked up a few new healthy habits along the way.  Below are some of our favorites from round two…

Lemongrass Chicken Black Rice with Coconut & Garlicky Bok ChoyIMG_6820This one was a pretty fun meal.  Lots of pretty colors and interesting ingredients.  How often do you use lemongrass at home?  The chicken is marinated in a mixture of spices and coconut milk overnight and then roasted in the oven at a high temperature to finish it off and brown the top.  The only real edit I would make to the cooking method would be to pound the chicken breasts a little so that they’re more even in size.  Mine were a bit disparate and the larger one made the cooking time in the oven a bit too long for the other.  These could easily be cooked on a stove-top grill too, and they’d be really good.  

We cooked the black rice as suggested, but added in a small pat of butter to the cooking water, and then tossed in some sliced green onions, slivered almonds and toasted coconut just before serving.  Central Market was out of baby bok choy (something to do with the polar vortex?), so we substituted red swiss chard.  I would pull back on the soy sauce and just add to taste.  A full tablespoon proved to be a little too much for a single bunch of chard.  Great meal overall though and it certainly looked pretty, especially next to the flowers left over from Callie’s party and our haul from Central Market’s citrus week…  IMG_6824I didn’t take a picture of the salads we made the next day for lunch, but they were awesome and easily one of my favorite meals on the cleanse.  The sesame-miso vinaigrette is definitely a keeper.  (I skipped the miso a) because we didn’t have any and b) because when I looked up substitutes it said I could use anchovy paste.  No thanks.) 

Orange-Date Muesli with Coconut and Cacao Nibs

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This was a fun one too–and good to make the morning after you make the lemongrass chicken because you’ll already have toasted coconut on hand.  It’s essentially a mixture of old-fashioned rolled oats and Greek yogurt that you refrigerate overnight with some orange juice, orange segments, and chopped dried dates.  In the morning, you just pull it out of the fridge and top it with some toasted coconut and cacao nibs–which is apparently Whole Foods speak for chocolate.  They’re on the aisle with all the bulk bins, right next to the hemp seeds!  I thinned ours out just a touch in the morning with some almond milk.  Tasted like desert and was a great way to start off the day. 

Hope everyone is having a happy Monday and a great day off.  I have the curried mussels on the cleanse planned for tonight.  Fingers crossed they’re worth all the random ingredients I had to buy to make them!

 

Farro Salad

 

One of the blogs that I am currently loving recently posted a recipe of a farro salad the same week that I cooked up this one and was planning to write about it and share the recipe. As I read along thinking how trendy I was, I came across this sentence indicating that “The internet needs another recipe for a farro salad like it needs more pop-up ads.” However, like the author of that little quip, I think mine is pretty tasty and worth sharing anyway. And doesn’t everyone have a pop-up blocker by now? How often do you really see them anymore? Hmmmm?

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Butternut Squash Farro Salad (Adapted from Farmhouse Delivery)

1 large butternut squash (or two small ones) peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
8-10 oz. farro
1 small sweet red peppers, diced
1 bunch green onion, thinly sliced
1 small handful parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces (toast in a 350 degree oven for about 5 to 7 minutes until the walnuts are just beginning to brown)
4-6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the butternut squash cubes with about a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet for about 30 to 45 minutes, tossing once or twice, until tender and lightly browned. The cooking time will vary based on the size of your squash cubes. You just want them nice and browned, so keep an eye on them.

Bring 3 cups water to a boil and stir in the farro. Turn the heat down, cover, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. Farro is done when it is cooked through, but still a little al dente and chewy in texture. Once, cooked, drain any excess water and allow to cool on a baking sheet.

Place lemon juice and mustard together in a small mixing bowl. Whisk together until combined and continue whisking while drizzling in olive oil until dressing is emulsified. Add the farro and the remainder of the ingredients, mix thoroughly, and season to taste. The salad will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and makes great week-day lunches.

Callie’s Birthday

 Saturday night I had a bunch of Callie’s best friends over for fajitas and margaritas to celebrate her birthday. The gathering was particularly timely because Saturday also marked the end of her first week as an official resident of Dallas. So with lots to celebrate, I wanted to make it really special. I ordered fajitas from her favorite spot, picked up a special-order Italian cream cake with no nuts, and dropped by her new favorite store to grab a couple things off her wish list. Michael even chimed in and spent Saturday afternoon making queso and helping me preen our nest for visitors. Having it at our house over a long table at a restaurant also gave everyone a good chance to catch up and hear all about the big move. Hopefully it also reminded Callie how good Mexican food is in Houston so she comes to visit lots!!

I vowed to myself I was not going to cook anything, but like a moth to the flame I went to Central Market for flowers and ended up with a dozen avocados and a basket full of ingredients. Couldn’t resist the urge to at least throw together some homemade pico and guacamole.

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Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

3 cups diced tomatoes
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 bunch minced cilantro (2 tablespoons reserved)
2 jalapenos, diced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and season to taste.  For the guacamole, mix 6 or 7 large Hass avocados, with the two tablespoons of reserved cilantro and about a cup of the pico de gallo.  Mix in a 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and season with salt and pepper and a tablespoon of extra lime juice.

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For the bar, we mixed up a few batches of frozen margaritas (1 can frozen limeade, 1 can tequila, 1/4 can triple sec, and a splash of fresh lime juice, blended with lots of ice) and then set up a little make-your-own margarita on the rocks station with a couple different kinds of tequila; Cointreau, triple sec, and Grand Marnier; fresh lime juice, limeade, and Topo Chico; and fresh limes and agave syrup.  I also had a few little plates out to salt the rims of our glasses: one with a lime-juice soaked napkin, one with regular salt, and one with salt and little Tajin mixed in for some spice.  Everyone had fun making their own and deciding whose concoction was the best.  Personally, it’s a shot of Don Julio, a 1/2 shot of Cointreau, a squeeze of agave nectar and fresh lime juice–with salt and Tajin on the rim of course.  Yum!   

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  It was a fun party, and hopefully the birthday girl had a great time!

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Food Lover’s Cleanse

Along with the rest of the world, Michael and I are greeting the new year with a little health kick.  We polished off the left-over short ribs on Sunday night, and then swore off anything indulgent for the next two weeks.  To add some structure to our goal, we started the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse on Monday morning.  It’s pretty low-key as far as cleanses go.  We’re still eating solid food at every meal and even are allowed a few treats along the way.  It is pretty cooking-intensive though and requires a good amount of prep time and a lengthy trip to Whole Foods to search for things like hemp seeds.  Regardless, it’s been a fun project and most of the meals have been really good.    I have to say I am ready for the weekend!  We’re cutting ourselves a break so we can properly celebrate Callie’s birthday and knock back a few cocktails.  Sad how difficult it was to stave off alcohol for a measly 5 days!  Cheers and happy Friday!!! 

The following are some of the highlights from the cleanse and recipes we might actually keep around after January.

Roasted Beets, Carrots, and Jerusalem Artichokes with Lemon and The Greenest Tahini Sauce
Quinoa with Walnuts and Shallots 

IMG_6791This one was actually pretty good.  I didn’t think I’d get Michael to eat a meatless dinner, but wonders never cease. 

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Red Pepper–Walnut Spread

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This was a keeper.  The chicken turned out really juicy and the skin was perfectly crisp on top.  It made for nice leftovers for salad the next day too.

Hanger Steak with Orange-Oregano Chimichurri and
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Garlic and Chili

IMG_6797This was probably our favorite.  It was delicious and the steak and arugula salads the next day were great.   Particularly timely too since we’ve been getting a ton of sweet potatoes in our bushel recently.

Thursday, we decided to stray a bit from the meal plan, and Michael made turkey burgers.  He added a tablespoon or so of chopped red and green jalapenos and a tablespoon of BBQ sauce to about a pound of well-seasoned, ground turkey, and grilled them up on our stove-top, cast-iron grill.   We topped ours with some avocado and caramelized red onions.  So tasty, we hardly missed the buns.  The only thing we need to remember next time is to either cook them outside or actually turn the vent on in our kitchen.  Our friendly fire department paid us a visit right as we were sitting down to dinner.  Ooops! 

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Weekend at the Farm

Michael’s family owns a beautiful, little farm near Hallettsville, Texas.  It’s not too far from Houston, filled with lots of exotic deer and fun animals, and basically the perfect spot to get away for the weekend.  It’s very well loved, so we jumped at the rare chance to have it all to ourselves for the weekend.  We packed up the puppy, lots of wine and good food, and invited a couple of our best friends out to join in our good fortune.  The farm has always held a special place in Michael’s heart.  He spent a lot of time there with his grandfather growing up, feeding the donkeys, riding “Tubby” the pony, and taking dips in the swimming hole.  It was also one of the very first places he took me when we were dating, so I’ve always really loved it too.  I can’t remember what he cooked that first weekend, but we spent hours drinking wine on the porch swing under the tree in the front yard, and I remember thinking, “This will do just fine!”  It’s a pretty special place, and we had such a great time visiting this weekend. 

Friday night it was just the two of us, so we played dominoes…

IMG_6702…had a really easy dinner…

  IMG_6704…and hung out with our best pal.  We may have had a little dance party for two on the back porch too.  No pictures of that one though! 

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Saturday morning, Michael got up at 5 AM to go dove hunting.  Kaiser and I slept in, and got breakfast all ready for us. 

IMG_6709Sweet Potato Hash Browns

For the hash browns, cut two strips of bacon in 1/4 inch slices and saute in a heavy cast iron skillet until crispy and brown.  Remove the bacon pieces and set aside.  To the pan, add one half of a chopped yellow onion and saute until translucent.  Add two sweet potatoes cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes and saute until brown and crispy.  If you need more grease, add a touch of butter.  Once the potatoes are all cooked, add back in the bacon, season to taste and finish with the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme.  Top with a fried egg, sunny side up!

We spent the rest of the day getting ready for our friends to arrive and visiting all the animals on the farm.  They have a wild game area with all sorts of cool, exotic deer. We even found a baby deer who couldn’t have been more than a few days old.   IMG_6716 IMG_6721 IMG_6726Liz and David arrived just in time for lunch.  We picked up a ton of BBQ at this little place in Hallettsville.  It was as old school as BBQ joints come, but it was delicious.  After lunch we all jumped in the Gator and went to visit the rest of the animals. 

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For dinner on Saturday night, we decided on Braised Short Ribs.  They always turn out pretty amazing, and it’s one of those things that you can spend an hour or so getting ready, put it in the oven, and then forget about it for the rest of the afternoon.  Here it is just about ready to go in the oven. 

IMG_6748While it was simmering away, we had time to go skeet shooting, watch the sunset, and enjoy cocktail hour by the pool.

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 The next time I even thought about it, I opened the oven, and it looked like this…

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We made some easy parmesan polenta and green beans as our sides.  Turned out to be a pretty tasty evening at the farm! 

IMG_6769You can find the recipe for the short ribs here.  I would hardly change a thing about it.  I tend to cook ours for about 3 hours though.  I’ve served them with the sauce strained as the recipe calls for, but I’ve also served them with the vegetables in the sauce.  It looks a little more rustic, and tastes just as good, so that part is just a matter of preference. 

For the Parmesan Polenta, boil 3 cups water and whisk in 1 3/4 cup polenta.  Once you see it starting to come together (about 10 minutes), turn off the heat and add in 2 tablespoons of butter, about a half of a cup of grated parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover until you’re ready to serve.

For desert, we made s’mores by the fire.  No recipe needed!  

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Beesons’ Steakhouse

Michael’s brother and his wife came to visit a few days after Christmas for one last celebration with his family before they headed back to Boston.  His sister-in-law is due with their first child in February, so that made the visit all the more special.  Whenever they come in town, we typically head out to dinner every night for several nights in a row.   But with the holidays in full swing and the fact that they hadn’t yet seen our new house, we decided to host everyone for a big, fancy dinner on Saturday night.  Michael has gotten pretty adept at grilling steaks on the Green Egg, so that was his task, and I was in charge of all the sides.  I worked for most of the day on Saturday, so I have no idea how we managed to pull this off, but we did.  (We only had to ask them to come over 30 minutes late and call them again on the way to bring a few forgotten items from the store!)

We started the meal with a few simple appetizers.  I pulled out the zip lock of frozen cheese puffs I mentioned here, and put those in the oven right before everyone was set to arrive.  They looked beautiful in my new silver tiered stand that my sister got me for Christmas.IMG_6684

For our salad course, we made traditional steakhouse wedges with homemade blue cheese dressing.  The recipe is adapted from one I found in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.  His book is really beautiful, but it’s one of those that has recipies within recipies, where you have to flip to multiple sections just to make salad dressing.  So, refusing to make my own aioli which also required making my own garlic oil, I improvised a bit and it turned out fantastic.  Here are the little wedges all set for serving. 

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Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced, flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons minced chives
1 teaspoon minced mint
Kosher salt & fresh black pepper
1 cup Gorgonzola crumbles

Whisk all ingredients together and stir in the Gorgonzola crumbles.  Season to taste and add in more lemon juice or buttermilk if it seems too thick.  This will keep in the fridge for about a week. 

 

For our sides, we decided on scalloped potatoes and a mix of different green beans and peas inspired by a recent meal at Coppa Osteria.  We used snow peas, sugar snap peas, and french green beans, mixed with a bag of frozen peas.  Looked really beautiful and made a ton.

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Mixed Green Beans and Peas

Set the peas out to thaw.  Trim the ends off all the green beans and wash thoroughly.  Drop in boiling water for a few minutes until the beans are just cooked through and remove to a cold water bath to lock in the color and stop the cooking process.  Saute a few chopped shallots and a few minced garlic cloves in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add the beans and the peas to to reheat and season just before you’re ready to serve them.  Yummy. 

For the potatoes, I remembered that my Dad used to make a version of scalloped potatoes on the stovetop in a skillet.  They came out all brown and crispy on top and were pretty tasty from what I could remember.  Knowing Jacques Pepin was his favorite chef, I turned to Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home to see if I could find the recipe.  The book is an old favorite and one that has been on the shelf for years in every apartment and house I’ve lived in since college.  True to form, it had just what I was looking for…

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Pommes de Terre Byron

3 large russet potatores
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake the potatoes on a sheet pan for 45 minutes, or until tender.  Allow to cool, peel and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter with the canola oil in a 10 inch oven-proof, non-stick skillet.  Arrange a layer of overlapping potato slices, and then season with salt, pepper, and a little of the nutmeg.  Add another layer, season, and dot a tablespoon of the butter over the top.  Repeat until you’ve used up all the potato slices.  Cook on the stove-top on medium heat for about 5 to 8 minutes.  Shake the pan to make sure the potato cake is loose from the bottom of the pan and transfer to the hot oven for about 15 minutes to set. 

Remove from the oven and flip over onto an unrimmed cookie sheet.  Top with the sour cream and grated cheese and set aside until you’re ready for dinner.  Just before serving, place back in the oven with the broiler on to melt the cheese and crisp up the top.  Remove and slide onto a cutting board or other serving dish for dinner. 

Michael’s steaks turned out perfect as usual.  He’s developed this method where he cooks the steaks sous-vide in our Yeti cooler to just below medium rare before he sears them on a scorching hot Green Egg.  It’s his favorite party trick.  He also made bernaise sauce in the blender to accompany the steaks.  Also a home run.  He used Ina Garten’s recipe for the sauce.  I swear, she has gotten so ubiquitous that I try to steer away from using her recipies for everything, but she rears her head at every meal and it always turns out perfectly.  Here are our finished “steakhouse” plates all ready for dinner.

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And here “she” is again, with the perfect easy desert that looks super impressive.  The only edit I made to her recipe was to use puff pastry to make the process even easier.  I only needed two apples, and didn’t need nearly as much apricot jam as she calls for, but I suppose part of the fun of her recipes is all the unnecessary excess.  Regardless, it looked gorgeous and couldn’t have been easier.  IMG_6691

A little Blue Bell vanilla on the side and it was ready to serve.

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Happy and full!  After this one, we are closing up the entertaining shop for a little bit.  We always seem to say that though and then end up inviting people over the next weekend.  We’ll see how long we hold out!