Archive for February 23, 2013
Monday nights in the high desert can bring a dilemma. For some reason many restaurants up here choose to close that night. I gather this is because most folks don’t eat out that night. Well, we do and we after some back and forth discussion with the other couple we ended up at Royal Siam in Joshua Tree.
Located in a strip mall on the highway it is surprisingly understated and can be easily ignored or forgotten. In fact, it was a very pleasant dining experience with fairly authentic and very tasty Thai food. Reading the menu is an adventure. I’m not sure who translated for the menu writer but it had quite a few misplaced words, for instance instead of chicken breast they offered “chicken breath”. Don’t be discouraged, tho, the food was well worth the deciphering.
We joke that we have a mixed marriage when it comes too food. Hubby had grown up trying and liking most foods. Foods that I won’t go near. Seafood, calf brains, fresh vegetables, mushrooms to name but a few. I am very much meat and potatoes, although I am doing better at trying new foods and even eating some foods that I used to avoid, such as broccoli. When our son arrived 23 years ago we made a conscious effort to expand his culinary horizons.
I started this by making all of his baby food from scratch, no jars allowed. It also meant that I wasn’t allowed to show just how picky I am, at least not until he was older, and as he grew older we did the ‘three taste’ rule. He had to taste a new food three times before he was allowed to say he didn’t like it.
How did this work? Very well. At two we went to an all you can eat crab leg night with his grandparents and they could not shuck the legs fast enough for him. At one point we looked over and he had a crab claw danging from his mouth. Grilled portabella is just as likely to be ordered as a hamburger. Before he turned ten he was reading Bon Appetit magazine and picked out what he wanted for his birthday dinner, Crab and Cremini Bisque. (Seafood and mushrooms, neither of which I eat so I’ve always enjoyed a PB&J.) This had been the staple until this year…
This year, a couple of months before his birthday, he said “Mom, I would like Beef Wellington for my birthday dinner.” Huh? Beef Wellington? That thing that Gordon Ramsay screams at chefs because they all screw it up? And he wants ME to make it? Ok. I’m up to the challenge and being married to a retired sailor and working in construction I should have a enough swear words in my vocabulary to go toe to toe with Gordon Ramsay on this.
First on the agenda, the recipe. First look up is Gordon’s recipe. Being British it was all in metric but looked easy enough. Then someone suggested I look at Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Wellington recipe. Very similar but not in metric. Ok, recipe is checked off the list.
Next on the agenda, the grocery list, $45 beef tenderloin at the top. Yikes. Beef has really gone up on price lately. Good thing this isn’t an every day meal. Next on the agenda was to ask all my foodie friends if they have any tips for me. “Start early”. So I started early in the day. Good thing I did as it was an all day adventure. No step was difficult, but every step was time consuming and there were points where it needed to rest. I actually had it ready to go except for the puff pastry about 2 so it was in the fridge and I could time it just so. The recipe called for 45 minutes but we like our beef very rare so I took it out at 35 and it was perfect.
Served with a cognac sauce, roasted asparagus, and roasted garlic potatoes. I had two men telling me it was amazing and asking me to make it again. I went to bed.
Some recipes are not just black and white words. They are full of heritage and evoke strong memories, even when you just say the name. Braciole is one of those. The ‘recipe’ for how to make this Italian dish varies from region to region and family member to family member. Some folks swear it is beef, sliced thin, then browned and cooked in a red sauce. Others say it is rolled beef, stuffed. The stuffing varies from person to person, family to family.
Not being of Italian heritage I don’t have those family traditions to draw on for this dish, only what I’ve tasted and seen and how I like it.
I engaged hubby’s assistance in the project. Since the flank steak needed to be pounded flat his muscles came in handy. I would have included a picture of him in the gallery but the only one I was able to snap was him flipping me the bird when he didn’t appreciate my sweet natured and loving correction when I thought he was going to put cooking twine in the garbage disposal.
While he flattened the flank steak I assembled the stuffing. Then he took over the photgrapher’s duties while I stuffed it, rolled it and made the sauce. Twenty-seven years of marriage and, other than the occasional flipping of the bird or sailor word, we work well together in the kitchen.
1 beef flank steak (1-1/2 pounds)
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup day old bread crumbs (I had a partial loaf of roasted garlic bread in the freezer that I used)
1/4 cup milk
4 oz pancetta, diced
1/4 cup onion, small dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch spinach, stemmed and chifanade (rolled and cut into thin ribbons)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated provolone
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
4 oz tomato paste
1 cup red wine, such as merlot
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Spaghetti (optional, cooked according to package directions)
Flatten steak to an even 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, set aside. In a large bowl mix bread crumbs and milk. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet (I use a 5 qt chicken fryer). Add pancetta and cook until crisp. Lower heat and add a pinch of salt & pepper, 1/4 cup of onion and a minced garlic clove. Cook until translucent. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add the pancetta mixture to the bread crumbs and toss lightly. Add the cheeses and toss again. Spoon over beef to within 1 in. of edges; press down. Roll up jelly-roll style, tightly, with the grain of the meat, starting with a long side; tie off at 1 inch intervals with cooking twine.
In the same pan that you cooked the pancetta in add the remaining olive oil and, over medium-high heat, brown the rolled beef on all sides. If using a slow cooker put the browned beef in there, if cooking stove top remove it to a plate and cover with foil. Over medium heat add the onion and cook until tender (add to the slow cooker if using, otherwise leave in the pan.) Add the tomato paste and cook until it starts to darken. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, being sure to scrape up all the good brown bits of flavor. Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano, salt and pepper. Slow cooker method: add all of this to the slow cooker, cover, on low for 8 hours. Stove top method: add back the rolled beef. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 70-80 minutes or until meat is tender.
Remove meat from sauce and discard string. Cut into thin slices; serve with the sauce, spaghetti and Parmesan.
Yield: 6 servings.
It took me a long time to figure out that I needed to have a tender touch when making biscuits. I was used to making bread, which the goal is to develop the gluten. When making biscuits the goal is NOT to develop the gluten. Once that little piece of golden information was drilled in my biscuits came out beautiful and tender. Depending on my mood or the meal I will make either drop biscuits or rolled biscuits. More often than not they are drop biscuits. I like the nooks and crannies.
The other night I made drop cheddar biscuits to go with dinner. You can mix in anything, really. I’ve done ham and cheese, bacon and cheddar, cheddar and jalapeno to name but a few. And sometimes I do plain biscuits. If you want to do plain, just omit the cheddar from this recipe.
Yoda Family Biscuits
2 C Flour
1 Tbsp Baking powder
1/2 Tbsp Salt
5 Tbsp butter, frozen or well chilled
1/2 C Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 C Milk or cream
Preheat oven to 425°.
In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder well. I use a fine sieve to make sure there are no lumps of baking powder. Nothing ruins the the enjoyment of a good biscuit than a bite into a clump of baking powder. Whisk in the salt. (Kosher salt doesn’t go thru a fine sieve). Grate the butter into the bowl and toss gently. (You can cut it in but I find this way works perfectly.) Mix in the grated cheese.
Make a well in the center of the bowl. Stir in milk gently. Do not over mix. This is where that gentle hand is required.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the biscuit dough onto a prepared cookie sheet. (I use a parchment liner on mine for easy clean up.) Bake 12 – 15 minutes at 425°.
Several years ago we visited an Italian restaurant that offered Italian Nachos on their menu. Fried pasta topped with Alfredo sauce, mozzarella, sausage, pepperoncini, black olives. How could you go wrong? They were decadent and delicious and repeat visits required this dish be ordered. Until our last visit, that is. They were off the menu and when we inquired the waitress said they wouldn’t be coming back. You can imagine my surprise when I saw the no-longer-available nachos delivered to another table. Seems if you were in with the manager you could still order them. We didn’t go back. Since then I have pondered them off and on and this year, for Super Bowl snacking, I decided it was time to make them.
First thing we had to do was break out the seldom used deep fryer. It was under several layers of dust and required a thorough cleaning before getting started. We cut wontons into triangles, deep fried them until golden brown. A light salting as they came out of the oil and then let them drain and cool.
Next we assembled the toppings: Alfredo sauce, Italian sausage (browned), mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, roasted red peppers, black olives. The toppings can be mixed up to meet your taste buds. I forgot to get pepperoncinis or they would have been on there as well.
On a baking sheet lined with foil (for easy cleanup) down went a layer of ‘chips’, drizzled Alfredo sauce, Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan and peppers. Each layer was repeated 2 more times before being topped with black olives (only on half…I don’t do olives on my half) before going into a hot oven (350 degrees) for about 15 minutes until hot and the cheese has melted.
Yup….just as good as we remembered.