Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Short Ribs are Easy - Who Knew

Last week was a doozy . . . my company had its annual customer conference . . . it was fun, exhausting and a great opportunity for tasty meals! One of those was a fantastic order Asian Short Ribs that I had at Roy's in Austin. They were so good that they motivated me to investigate how I could use my new Le Crueset Dutch Oven to replicate them at home.

Turns out, it isn't all that hard!
I did a little research and found a few recipes for more classical short ribs, which is what I decided to try. The butcher at my local Randall's was kind enough to cut me 3 1/2 pounds of short ribs to order and I was cooking! Because it was such a sumptuous meal, we invited another couple over to enjoy the following:

Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine and Mushrooms
  • 3 1/2 Lbs Boneless Short Ribs (mine came already sliced, not in one big slab - nice for portioning)
  • 1/2 Bottle Dry Red Wine (I always save whatever we didn't finish in time and has gone a little off, the flavors are usually still fine for cooking for several weeks)
  • 4-5 C Beef Broth
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion with a large dice
  • 2-3 Shallots with a large dice
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and chopped in large chunks
  • 1 Cup Button Mushrooms or Baby Portabellas, cut in half
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tsp Dry Sage
  • 2 Tsp Dry Thyme
  • Salt & Pepper to taste (I prefer sea salt)
  • 3-4 Tsp Cornstarch to thicken the sauce before serving
I have to admit, I am usually a speed cook, so the prospect of slow cooking less tender cuts of meat was a little intimidating. But I am so glad I tried! The beauty of this recipe was short prep and then a fantastic meal hours later. I don't have a slow cooker, so I wouldn't do this if I couldn't stay in or near the house for 4 hours or so, but if you have one, then that is a great option. Preheat the oven to 300. Heat 2/3 of the oil on the stove at medium to high heat in your dutch oven or oven safe pot.

Season the meat with salt and pepper, then sear the meat briefly on all sides, which should take about 4-5 minutes. Move the meat to the side and then add onions, shallots and carrots. Let these caramelize for a few minutes before adding the red wine, broth and herbs.
Cover the dish tightly and place it in the middle of the oven and cook for 31/2 to 4 hours.

Remove the dutch oven from the oven and return to the stove on med-low heat to continue simmering. Remove the meat from the pot and place it in a dish, cover with foil. Meantime, heat the remaining olive oil in a small pan and sauté the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the stew that is in the pot. Thicken to desired thickness with cornstarch. Do so by taking a small amount of liquid out of the pot and whisking with the cornstarch before returning it to the pot, this ensures that there are no lumps.
Return the meat to the pot to ensure it is heated through. Then serve with your desired sides, I provided boiled potatoes and steamed asparagus.

Tonight, for leftovers, I'll be serving it with broccoli instead. This meal was so filling, tender, relatively healthy and inexpensive. For anyone who has been intimidated by large or tough cuts of meat, try it, you'll be surprised at how great and easy this is!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall Pumpkin Ravioli with Ginger-Sage Pumpkin, Butternut Squash Puree

It was John's Birthday this weekend so, of course, we had a little soiree . . . The full menu included a fig and goat cheese stuffed pork tenderloin with fig balsamic reduction and roasted vegetables, plus carrot cake for dessert. But, what we started off with was simple, tasty and total fall treat!

I took a recipe off the food network and modified it to make it more satisfying as a heavy appetizer. The original was just pumpkin ravioli with browned sage butter . . . but I added the pumpkin squash puree to fill my guests:))

Pumpkin Ravioli with Ginger-Sage Pumpkin, Butternut Squash Puree topped with Browned Sage Butter (I made it for 12, but the measures here are for 4 appetizer servings or 2 entrees)
  • 1 Package Fresh Pumpkin Ravioli (I found mine at Whole Foods)
  • 1 small Shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 Can Unsweetened Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 Cup Organic Butternut Squash Soup, like Imagine's
  • 2 Tbsp Ginger, fresh or my fave Gourmet Garden Ginger in a tube
  • 15 Fresh Sage Leaves, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbsp Honey
  • 1/3 c Sparkling or other light white wine
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
The beauty of this dish is that it uses a lot of pre-prepared ingredients and requires very little prep. Heat 1/3 of the butter in a 3 quart sauce pan and then saute the diced shallots until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 of the sage until heated through. Add the pumpkin, soup, ginger, wine and honey, simmer all ingredients for 15-20 minutes, stirring periodically.

When you have about 10 minutes left, bring a well salted pot of water to boil for the ravioli. Simultaneously, heat the remaining butter in small pan adding the sage and cooking it on medium high for 6 or 7 minutes. Drop the ravioli in the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes. Taste the puree and add salt and pepper as desired.

This dish is best plated in a shallow bowl or deep plate. Put the puree at the bottom of the plate, top with 4 ravioli and then garnish with the sage browned butter. Enjoy this great fall treat as an appetizer or an entree depending on your mood!

YUM - Enjoy:))

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Polenta Trio - What a way to leverage leftovers . . .

Polenta. Seems exotic, but in fact, if you buy and bake it - it may be the easiest carb after sliced bread! In fact, earlier in the week I was all cooked out.

John and I had a party last week with lots of great leftover items (prosciutto, cheese) and I had packaged polenta . . . and some leftovers from my last post (Pea & Mint Puree) and my creative side said . . . wow . . . I can make something super colorful and tasty here!

Polenta Trio featuring Peas & Mint Puree, Mushrooms with Prosciutto and Bell Peppers with Parmesan
  • 1 package prepared Polenta, I used Food Merchants Organic - comes in many flavors
  • 1 c leftover Pea & Mint Puree
  • 5-6 Button Mushrooms
  • 2-3 Slices Prosciutto (some of my party leftovers)
  • 1 tsp dried Thyme
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
  • 2 tsp Diced or chopped Kalamata olives (I always have some on hand)
  • 2 tsp shredded Parmesan (again party leftovers)
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
Unwrap the polenta and slice it into 6 even rounds (or more if you prefer them thinner). Place the slices on a baking sheet, I put foil on it so I didn't even have to clean it. Put them in the oven and prepare to broil. If you are not super fast at prepping, don't turn the oven on yet. Because I had this in mind and all the ingredients handy, I started broiling - 4 minutes per side.

Finely dice both the mushrooms, prosciutto and bell pepper. Set a small pan to med-hi heat and saute the prosciutto. Because it is fatty, no additional grease is needed. After about 2 minutes, add the mushrooms and thyme. Continue to cook until mushrooms are through, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. (this is when I flipped my polenta to broil on the other side)

In the same pan, add the olive oil and saute the bell pepper with a little bit of pepper. Add the kalamata olives and cook till heated through, 1-2 minutes. Get any leftover Pea & Mint xxx out of the fridge. Now you are ready to assemble.

Per the image above, arrange the polenta on a plate and top with 1/2 of the prepared toppings. The result is a colorful, semi-healthy, leftover bonanza that draws from all the food categories and is gorgeous to behold. This is a smaller meal, but an appealing one. You could also make one of these items as an appetizer for a dinner party and prep most items in advance:) I think polenta has a future in my kitchen.

Till soon - I just got a new breakfast recipe that we'll be trying out this weekend.