Thursday, September 27, 2012

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Prunes

Sean has been recently interested in picking up meat from our local Hispanic market, which I've always avoided (don't know why but it scares me).  Clearly, I've been missing out because he picked up 3 lbs of beef short ribs for less than $10 and made a super delicious meal for me this week!  It was his first time making short ribs, and I have to say they turned out awesome.  Tender, juicy, full of savory flavor that paired well with the sweeter onions and prunes in the dish.  Maybe next time I'll venture into that meat section and surprise him with a dish of my own...
  • 3 lbs beef short ribs
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat (or olive oil)
  • 3 onions, sliced in 1/2 thick wedges
  • 10 cloves garlic
  •  4 dried black chiles cut into bite size chunks (these aren't spicy but you could use a different dried chile if you desire)
  • 8 oz prunes
  • 1 cherry wheat beer (feel free to experiment with other types)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 bay leaves 
* Special equipment- you will need a very large oven proof pot or Dutch oven.  We use a caldero which is made of aluminum.
Heat pot over medium-high heat and add the bacon fat.  
Sprinkle short ribs with a generous amount of salt and pepper, on both sides.   

When the pot is hot, place the short ribs in the pot and brown evenly.  Do two batches if necessary so you don't over crowd the pot.

Once they've browned, remove them from the pot and set to the side.  
Meanwhile, preheat the oven 350 degrees F.  Add the onions and garlic to the pot and let them saute until they start to soften.  

Pour in the beer and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Next, pour in the chicken stock and add the prunes and chiles.  

Stir to combine well, and then place the short ribs into the pot.  They should be almost covered with liquid.  

Cover the pot with foil or an oven-proof lid and place into the preheated oven.  Braise for 2 hours before removing from the oven.  

Carefully pull off the foil or lid, letting some steam escape before checking the meat to ensure it is fork tender.  This beef was so tender and flavorful, and the prunes added some sweetness to balance out the dish.  I was very impressed with how the dish turned out... nice job Sean! We served this over rice and it was perfect for soaking up some of the delicious sauce.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Linguine with Sausage, Fennel, and Clams

This recipe had a delicious unique flavor that I've never had before- the savory sausage cooks down with some fennel, and the clams cook in this fragrant mixture, with the little bits nestling in the clams as they open.  Then, when tossing with pasta a horseradish cream sauce is added which gives the dish a whole new level of complexity.   It also adds heat without making the dish "spicy."  

Sugar snap peas are mixed in with the pasta which adds a bit of sweetness, and some fresh green crunch.  We got some bacon-sausage from a farmer's market and it was amazing in this dish.  Italian Sausage from your local grocery store would work too, but if you can find it fresh I would definitely recommend it.  If you can't get littleneck clams, this would be good with another type of clam or with mussels, just check the cooking time for whatever you end up using because it might vary. This recipe was adapted from it's posting on Serious Eats, which got the original recipe from Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. 
  • 1/2 cup crema or creme fraiche
  • 1/3 cup prepared horseradish (make sure you don't get "horseradish sauce" by accident; the prepared horseradish should be in the refrigerated section.)
  • 4 ounces sugar snap peas (about 2 cups) thawed if you are using frozen
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 lb bacon-sausage or mild Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • 1 pound dried linguine
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha or other hot chili sauce
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 lb littleneck clams, or other variety (rinsed)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by making the cream sauce.  Combine the crema and horseradish in a small bowl and set aside.  
Next, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the snap peas. [Skip this step if you used frozen snap peas that are thawed]  Cook until almost tender, about 2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the water behind to cook the pasta. Run cold water over them to stop the cooking.  Leave the pot on the heat. 
Meanwhile, add the oil to a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Add the sausage, and break it up into little chunks until it is fully browned, about 5-7 min.  Next, add the fennel, shallot, and garlic to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes.  Taste for salt- depending on your sausage you may or may not need it here.  Add some freshly ground black pepper.
Mix in the Sriracha, and then pour the wine in the skillet, scraping up any bits that might have stuck to the bottom.  

Add the clams, nestling them in to the sausage and fennel mixture.  Put a lid on and let them cook for the appropriate time, until they have all opened.  Ours took 10-12 minutes.  

While the clams are cooking, put your linguine in the boiling pot of water and cook until al dente.  Drain, and mix in your sugar snap peas.  
When the clams have opened, pour the entire mixture into the pasta.  Stir in the horseradish cream sauce, and serve!
The flavor of this dish is so amazing with all the flavors combined.  The crema really mellows out the horseradish so it doesn't take over the dish.  We'll definitely be making this one again!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Banana, Chocolate-Chip & Pistachio Muffins

Banana bread and chocolate chips are a great combination- and make a perfect quick breakfast, snack, or dessert when made in muffin form.  Adding Greek yogurt to the batter ups the protein, but also gives the muffins a great texture.  I usually don't add nuts to banana bread, but I decided to add some pistachios this time for a little crunch and salty flavor.  Keep this recipe in mind the next time you have ripe bananas on hand!

  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup lightly crushed pistachios (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla. 
Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined- but don't over mix.. Fold in bananas and stir.  

Finally, add the chocolate chips and pistachios.  

Grease or spray your muffin pan, and fill each cup 3/4 of the way full.  If you have leftover batter, add a bit more to each muffin.  
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool on a rack and serve either warm or at room temp.  Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yummy Slow-Cooker Black Beans

When you have the time to plan ahead, making beans from scratch is definitely worth the wait.  It's a big money saver too, because dried beans are so cheap and you can make a huge batch pretty easily using a slow-cooker.  You also get to infuse the beans with whatever ingredients you add to the pot.  I stick with onion, garlic, tomatoes, jalapenos, and some spices to give it tons of flavor and a little heat.  These beans are delicious as a side dish or can serve as your main course with rice and shredded cheese.  

  • 3 cups dried black beans
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 large or two small onions, diced
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, diced with seeds (remove seeds for less spicy)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Adobo (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 slice (or chunk) of bacon

Rinse your beans and pick through them to remove any odd-shaped or discolored beans.  Soak the beans over night, or bring them to a boil in a large pot and let them simmer for 1 hour, covered.  Drain, and add to your slow-cooker.  (I used the second method because I didn't think about it the day before)

To the pot, add your canned tomatoes and spices.  Next, add the vegetables and bacon, and then finally pour in the stock.

Turn the heat level to high, and let the beans cook for 6-7 hours. Turn the heat to low and cook for 3-4 hours longer.  Taste them every once in a while to see if you need to add more spices or salt.  The Adobo seasoning is pretty salty so I used that in place of salt.  If the beans still have a bite to them after this amount of cooking time you may need to cook them a bit longer until they are completely soft.  Remove the bacon before serving.  These beans are infused with so many flavors, they are really delicious and will last for days!  We just used the last bit of them in some chili, which was a good way to use up the leftovers.  Enjoy!