Red Wine Braised Beef Shortribs

I knew I wanted to braise something with bones…Anytime you take a cut of meat that has lots of fat and big bones in it, cook it for ten or twelve hours with some booze and vegetables, it will be awesome.

I bought some beautiful grass-fed beef short ribs from John Ford Ranch at the farmers market, and I knew I had found the ingredient I was looking for.  In addition to having a velvety, luscious flavor and a beautiful rustic aesthetic, these red wine braised short ribs are also really simple to make and will make the people you’re feeding have happy bellies. This is a great dish to make for entertaining (since you do all the work in the morning), it makes the house smell amazing all day, there’s a really quick clean-up since it’s basically a one pot meal, and the flavor only gets better if you let the sit in the fridge for a day or two.

This is the kind of dinner I like to start in the morning, when the kitchen is still cold and dark and the sun isn’t even fully up.  It starts the day off on the right foot, saying:  today will be the kind of day that we will smell roasting things while we do our work, and we will take the extra care to sit down for a meal in the evening.  If I wait to make dinner until the end of the day, it can be hard to find the energy and inspiration.  Usually, my feet just hurt from working and I’d rather have a bowl of cornflakes.  (Oh my god, we even had macaroni and cheese from a box this week! Shocking, right? I had turned about 100 lbs. of citrus into marmalade that day and the idea of cooking dinner made me want to stab myself in the eye.)This meal was so good and I think everyone should make it, so I’m forcing myself to write a recipe.  I don’t think braises should be precise recipes, though.  They’re more of a technique that you can adapt to pretty much anything.

  • Season the meat.
  • Sear the meat in some kind of fat.
  • Take the meat out of the pan and saute some chopped vegetables in the fat.
  • Deglaze the pan with some kind of booze or stock.
  • Add the meat back in. Make sure everything is just covered with stock or some kind of cooking liquid.
  •  Cook it in the oven for a really long time (5-10 hours) on low heat.
  • Serve over something like mashed potatoes, polenta, noodles, rice, etc., maybe topped with some kind of cheese

I love this technique of cooking, and I do it often during the winter.  Osso Bucco is another one of my favorite braises, and so is this Wild Duck alla Cacciatora.

Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs

Cook Time: 10+ hours (active cooking time: 25 minutes)

Serves: 2 with leftovers

Ingredients:

  • 3 beef short ribs
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 leek, cleaned and diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • a big sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2-1 bottle of dry red wine (however much you’re willing to sacrifice into the pot and not drink yourself — a whole bottle is great, but then there’s none left for the cook)
  • water or beef stock to cover, about 4 cups
  • salt and pepper

If your short ribs have any huge chunks of solid fat on them, trim it off.  Don’t go too crazy, though, because the fat is what makes these so good.  Heat the olive oil in a fairly large pot or dutch oven on the stove top, on medium heat.  Season the short ribs with salt in pepper and dredge in the flour. Sear the short ribs in the olive oil so they’re nicely browned on all sides.  Remove them from the pan and set on aside on a plate.  Add the chopped vegetables, fresh herbs and garlic, season with a sprinkle of salt, and saute until everything is slightly translucent.  Add extra olive oil or butter if the pan is too dry and they start to stick or burn.  Turn the heat to high, and once everything is really sizzling like crazy, pour in the red wine.  Add the short ribs back into the pot.  Pour in enough stock to come to the top of the meat.  Put in the oven, uncovered, for anywhere between 3 and 10 hours.  At three hours they should be fine and tasty but by 10 hours you’ll roll your eyes and make silly noises when you taste it.

Once you get to a point where you want to serve the meat soon, take the pot out of the oven.  Use a slotted spoon to lift the short ribs out of the sauce and set them on a plate.  Put the pot on the stove top and turn the heat to high to reduce the liquid down to just a couple cups.  Once it’s reduced, puree the vegetable/broth mixture with whatever tool you puree things with in your kitchen. (If you’re working at the French Laundry or you have the Obamas over for dinner that night, you can strain this puree through a chinois to make it perfectly smooth.)  Season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Add the meat back in to the sauce and serve.

Serve over polenta and top with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.  I like a simple butter lettuce salad with a basic mustard vinaigrette for the side dish; I think the sweet lightness of butter lettuce is a good counterpart to the richness of the short ribs.

Like I mentioned earlier, this dish holds incredibly well in the fridge.  You could easily cook it for a dinner party the day before and then just heat it up when you’re ready to serve your guests.

Shrimp Po’Boys

These sandwiches are so, so good.  I don’t usually post dinner recipes; the light is horrible in my kitchen at night, and I rarely plan in advance enough to make things during daylight hours that would be nice to photograph.  These sandwiches are the exception, though.  They’re way too good not to share. You know that thing, with really, really delicious foods, where you get a bite and it totally transcends anything you’d find in the individual ingredients?  To give you a more specific example: I remember one night in particular, when we were out in San Francisco and we’d just left a concert.  We were far from sober, which of course, meant that the next stop was Taqueria Cancun on Market Street for burritos. There it was, that magical bite of food.  That bite of avocado, melted cheese, rice, beans, fresh salsa, cilantro, all of it — in that one taste.    And then the drunken moans about how good burritos are.  And then, just a few minutes later, all of us wandering back out into the night, ready for more.

(This sounds like a love note to burritos.)

This is about more than that, though.  I want to write something eloquent about street foods here, but the best way to explain it is that every city has some kind of food that you absolutely have to eat when it’s the middle of the night and you’re really intoxicated.

Sure,  you don’t have to be intoxicated.  It could be two in the afternoon and you could be stone cold sober when you eat these.  They will still be delicious. Shrimp po’boys remind me of many happy nights out in New Orleans.  I’ve actually also had some pretty good ones in Key West, which isn’t too shabby as a vacation destination either.  We haven’t gotten away anywhere in quite awhile now, and, while I’d rather hop on an airplane an get a po’boy in a place where the weather’s a bit warmer, realizing that I should just make some vacation food for us while we’re here at the farm was like a revelation.  Whether it’s San Francisco burritos, New Orleans po’boys, New York pizza, or whatever you love: If you can’t make it to where the food is, why not bring the food to where you are.  Fried Shrimp Po’Boys

Since I hadn’t actually made these before, the recipe is kind of pieced together from several different sources- Emeril’s Creole Seasoning, Hank Shaw’s remoulade recipe, and my boyfriend’s crazy cooking skills.  (After managing a seafood restaurant for many years, he can fry the hell out of a shrimp…)

Serves: 4

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Fried Shrimp:

  • 1 lb. shrimp, 26-30s (mediums) peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • 1 can of beer
  • 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. fine ground cornmeal
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • Canola oil, for frying

Cajun Spice:

  • 2 1/2 tbs. smoked paprika
  • 2 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbs onion powder
  • 1 tbs. cayenne
  • 1 tbs. poultry seasoning (or really whatever you have with some thyme or oregano in it)

Remoulade:

  • 1 1/2 c. mayo
  • 1/4 c. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. dill pickle juice
  • 1 tsp. tabasco sauce
  • 1 tbs. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. cajun spice
  • juice from one wedge of lemon (or to taste)

To Make the Sandwiches:

  • 4 sandwich rolls, french bread style
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/4-1/2 head of iceberg lettuce or green cabbage, shredded
  • tabasco, to taste

The summary: Shrimp seasoned with cajun spice get dipped in a beer batter and then rolled in a cornmeal breading, then deep-fried.  Then you put ’em on a roll with lots of remoulade, hot sauce, lettuce and tomato.  The actual process is quick, if you make sure you set it up right. More specific instructions:

In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the remoulade.  Set aside.  In another small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the cajun spice.  Set this   aside too.  In yet another bowl, this one medium sized, stir together a beer and 1 1/2 cups of flour.  This will be the beer batter. It should be pretty thick, similar to pancake batter. Set it aside.  Rinse the shrimp.  Put them in a bowl and season them with 2 tsp. cajun spice.  Mix well.  Set aside.  Next, make the dry cornmeal breading by whisking together the rest of the flour (3/4 c.), cornmeal, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Put this breading mix in a large, shallow dish.  Set up one last big plate or lined cookie sheet to put the breaded shrimp on before the go into the fryer.

Put about an inch of canola oil in a large cast iron skillet and turn the heat on to medium-high.  If you have a thermometer, the oil should read around 350 degrees.  Make sure the oil is hot before you put in the shrimp.  If you don’t have a thermometer, you can put a few drops of water in the oil. You’ll know it’s hot if the water sizzles like crazy.

Dip each shrimp in the beer batter first, then roll it in the dry breading, then set it on a plate.   Once all of the shrimp are breaded, they’re ready to be fried.For one pound of shrimp, you’ll probably need to do two batches in the skillet so they’re not too close together.  Fry each batch until they’re nice and golden brown.  Put the finished shrimp on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels so the breading doesn’t get soggy.

To assemble the sandwich, spread remoulade on each side of the bun.  Lay out the lettuce, then the sliced tomato, and then the fried shrimp.  Throw a little tabasco on there if you want it to have some extra kick.  Then, the most important step of the whole process: press down on the finished sandwich to smoosh everything together.  I have no idea why this really matters, but somehow it all just comes together after you do this.  It’s magical.

Serve immediately, preferably with a cocktail.

Rumtopf Shirley Temples
I have a batch of rumtopf in my pantry.  It’s a fermented fruit & booze concoction that’s pretty amazing.  You can use the fruit for all kinds of desserty projects, and the boozy part is great in cocktails.  I’ve only made it once, and it pretty much tastes like strawberries since I put in too many.  If you want instructions, read here from the Hungry Tigress or here from Well Preserved.
Makes: 1 cocktail
Cook time: 3 minutes?
Ingredients:
  • ice
  • rumtopf
  • a splash of grenadine, either a fancy artisanal brand or the usual stuff with the red #5 in it
  • sprite, or some kind of fancy organic no high fructose corn syrup equivalent
Put a few ice cubes in a pint jar. Pour in an ounce  or two of rumtopf.  Pour in a splash of grenadine.  Top with sprite.  Mix well.  Drink.  Repeat.
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Oh, and in case you noticed, yah,  I used a lot of non-local, non-seasonal stuff in these recipes.  A girl can’t be perfect all the time…  Every once in a very long while, I think it can be nice to tell the kale to shove it and eat a tomato instead.

Cook It 2012: January Resolution

About a week ago, I wrote a post about making kitchen resolutions to learn new skills and techniques during 2012, along with an invitation for any other inspired cooks out there to join me in doing the projects.  After many interested e-mails, I’m happy to officially commit to 12 months of kitchen resolutions, nicknamed Cook it! 2012.

So here’s the plan:

Every month is a new project.  I have little or no experience in some of the techniques I’m going to focus on, but I really like eating all of the foods I’ve jotted down on my list, so I’m hoping to learn how to cook all of these things at home.  There are a couple techniques that I’ve got on the list that I already have experience doing, but I want to get to a more advanced level with them.

At the beginning of the month, I’ll announce what the project is, and post recipes, pictures, and instructions I’ve found helpful.  If you want to cook along with me, you’ll have one month to tackle the resolution in your own kitchen.   Cook something in the same category that I’ve made, but not the same exact dish.  If you have a blog, write a post detailing what you made along with any pictures and recipes you want to share.  Before the deadline, e-mail me (thejamgirl@gmail.com) a link to your post and I’ll write a little roundup of everything.  If you don’t have a blog, you are absolutely, 100% still invited to participate.  Instead of e-mailing me a link to a post, just e-mail me a picture of what you made and I’ll put together a photo gallery of everybody’s work.

There’s no need to cook every single project if you don’t have time, so no stress about that.  Just have fun.
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If you’re going to participate, e-mail me with your blog url (if you have one, or e-mail address if you don’t) at thejamgirl@gmail.com by January 31st to join.  The deadline for this project will be February 15 at 12:00 PM (PST).

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All that being said, I think it’s about time to get to it.

COOK IT! 2012 JANUARY RESOLUTION: MAKE PASTA FROM SCRATCH

So, you know that stupid face that so many of the cooking show hosts make when they finally taste what they’ve been making? The face that’s like “…oh, yeah baby, eating this grilled chicken makes me feel like I’m licking Ryan Goslings abs!” It’s ridiculous.  And usually what they’re tasting is something really mundane that definitely doesn’t look like it should be inspiring those fluttering eyelashes and throaty moans.

I’m really embarrassed to say it, but when I tasted my finished project, I totally made that stupid face.  I think I may have, um…. I think I grunted.  It was something like, “uuummmghhhpffohhhhgod,” with my mouth still full of noodles, of course.  It was the pasta of my dreams.When I was plating everything up, my first reaction was more along the lines of “I’m glad this worked since I want to really want to write about it on the internet” but then I had a bite, and … oh god…  It was so good.  Drop-everything-you’re-doing-immediately-good, the kind of taste that, in the blink of an eye, makes you evaluate your culinary career thus far and rethink what direction you want it to head in (namely, one involving more fresh pasta).   The texture of the fresh spaghetti, made with only semolina flour, eggs from our hens, salt and a little spring water, is mind blowing.  Using pastured eggs gave the noodles this buttery, velvety richness that I’ve never found in any other pasta, including “fresh” ones from the grocery store and even farmers markets, (and I’m not just speaking in food-blog-hyperbole, where every bite of food is the most delicious thing ever cooked in the history of cooking.)

I’ve been wanting to learn how to make pasta forever, and really just needed to spring for the pasta machine.  I was worried that it would just be another appliance that sat around the kitchen gathering dust, but after that first bite of noodle glory, I can guarantee that it will see plenty of use.  The machine I got is an Atlas, which worked like a charm. There are a variety of pasta-makers on the market, and this is on the lower end of the price range, around $60.  (I don’t have any opinions on other models since I haven’t used them).  They seem to come in all shapes and sizes, including really fancy ones that attach to kitchen-aid mixers so you don’t have to do any of the hand-cranking that this model requires.  Most of the machines follow the same pattern, where you make the dough first and the machine does most of the actual work of kneading, stretching and cutting the noodles.

Pastured Egg Pasta Dough Recipe

This is adapted from a recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which has a really helpful section about making fresh pasta.

Makes: about 1 lb. of pasta

Cook time: about an hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. semolina flour
  • 2 extra large eggs (or the biggest eggs your hens have laid that day), at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • about 1/4 c. water
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Make a well on the counter with the semolina flour.  Put the eggs, oil, and salt into the hole in the middle of the flour.  Use a fork to break up the yolks and start stirring everything together, gradually pulling in the flour from the edges of the well.  Bring in as much flour as you can with the fork, and then start kneading together everything with your hands.  If the dough is dry and won’t come together, add in a teaspoon of water at a time and keep kneading until it forms a ball. If the dough is too wet, add some flour.  Once the dough forms a ball, knead it for another 3-4 minutes.  Cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.  Continue according to the package instructions with whichever machine you use.

For more visual people: Use a fork to break up the yolks and start combining the flour into the egg mixture.  It helps, after mixing with the fork, to stick your hands right in the flour and egg mix to gather everything together.  This was the point in my recipe where I realized that farm eggs don’t always come in the traditional “extra-large” sizes that recipes often call for.  There definitely wasn’t enough moisture from my Medium-Largish size eggs, and my dough was quite dry and crumbly.  I just added a lot more water than the recipe called for in this next step, which didn’t seem to matter.  Next time, I’m going to try adding an extra egg so I don’t have to use as much water.   To get the dough into a ball, just keep kneading it together with your hands.  (It should be fairly dry and not stick to your fingers at all. Add some flour if it does.)Knead the dough for a few minutes to make it pretty smooth, then form it into a ball and let it rest, covered, for 15 minutes.

Once it’s done resting, roll the dough out a little to help it fit into the pasta maker.After this, it’s just a matter of following the instructions for whatever pasta maker you have.  The Atlas that I own has you repeatedly feed the dough through an opening that flattens and thins it out into a long sheet.   My dough wanted to fall apart a little bit when I first started, but I just kept folding the sheet in half or thirds and feeding it through the machine.  After a few turns through the rollers, it started holding together nicely. Eventually, the dough gets to the proper thickness for the noodles.  Cut the long strip of dough into 10″ lengths.  Use a knife to cut wider noodles like pappardelle or tagliatelle, or use the cutting attachment on the machine for thinner ones. Hang the noodles to dry for an hour or two.  I used hangers instead of a real pasta drying rack, but you have to cut them on one side with wire-cutters so the pasta slides off without breaking.  To go with the spaghetti, I fancied up some canned tomato sauce from our summer garden and made meatballs vaguely inspired by Saveur’s recipe here.

Spaghetti and Meatballs 

serves: 4

cook time: (not including making the pasta) 45 minutes

Ingredients:

for the sauce-

  • 2 quarts of canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 c. red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

for the meatballs –

  • a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • about 1/3 lb. ground beef
  • about 2/3 lb. ground pork
  • 1/4 c. ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbs. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder

1 lb. fresh spaghetti

For serving: 1/2 c. chopped parsley, 1/2 c. parmesan cheese

First, make the sauce.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until they’re translucent.  Turn the heat up to high and get the pan really hot, then pour in the red wine.  Add the crushed tomatoes, parsley and bay leaf to the pot and bring everything to a simmer.  Turn the heat to low and cook until thickened.  If you like smoother sauce, puree with whatever appliance you own to puree things like this- blender, food processor, immersion blender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now, make the meatballs. Combine all of the meatball ingredients except the olive oil in a mixing bowl.  Gently work everything together.  Form the meat into whatever size balls makes you happy.  Heat up the olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides.  Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs and simmer for about 30 minutes to cook the meat all the way through.

Cook the spaghetti in a pot of liberally salted boiling water.  The fresh spaghetti cooks up in a matter of minutes, so make sure not to overcook it.  Drain, and combine with the sauce and meatballs.  Garnish with cheese and parsley and serve immediately. One last note:  If you want to do this month’s resolution, you don’t necessarily have to buy a pasta maker. There are a lot of recipes that don’t use a pasta maker that I have bookmarked to try, like the Roasted Garlic Orechiette from Well Preserved, Pumpkin Gnocchi from Local Kitchen , or maybe these homemade egg noodles topped with beef stew or a mushroom stroganoff.  I still remember the späetzle I ate in Munich thirteen years ago, and you definitely don’t need a pasta maker for those.  (Drenched in a rich, meaty brown gravy, this might be the recipe I need to recreate at home next. They were amazing).  Happy Cooking! Remember, carbs don’t count if they’re completely from scratch.

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! I hope that all of you are happy and warm, celebrating whatever holiday you like in whatever way makes you happy, even if it’s just a big party to keep December from getting too dark and cold.

Black Dog Farm Christmas Dinner Menu

Baked Crab Dip

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Roast Ham with peach jam & mustard glaze

Scalloped Rainbow Potatoes

Baby lettuces with blue cheese and walnuts

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Pumpkin Pie

Cookies & Candy

Peanut Brittle

Chocolate Jam Thumbprints

Almond-Scented Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Pecan Toffee

UPDATE 12/26:

The scalloped potatoes were so epic and delicious yesterday that I had to come back here and share the recipe.  When I was making them, I was thinking to myself, “this much heavy cream? should i really do this? and cheese and butter too? um…. gross” but then when I ate a bite of that brown, bubbly potato masterpiece…. the stars aligned and I had a revelation.  The clouds parted, and  Paula Deen came and spoke to me and told me to spread the gospel of saturated fats.

Make this right now, before New Year’s Resolutions, because it is definitely not low fat or anything along those lines.  The potatoes will not cleanse out your system and you will not feel recharged.

If you have a bunch of friends and family with you, though, maybe for a really special occasion, you’re guaranteed to have a table full of grinning, happy people reaching for more potatoes.

The Best Scalloped Potatoes In The Whole Entire Universe

Serves: 10

Cook Time: 2 hrs., add 1/2 an hour if you’re drinking wine with friends in the kitchen while you cook

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. of assorted potatoes: russets, red-skinned, yukon gold, etc.
  • 4 large shallots
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • optional: 1 slice of bacon
  • 4 big sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 pints of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. swiss cheese, grated or cut into very thin slices
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the potatoes into very thin rounds.  Cut the shallots and the red onion in half, then cut each half into very thin slices. Mince the rosemary and sage leaves.

Heat 2 tbs. butter in a saute pan on medium heat, and add in the shallots, onion, rosemary, sage, and nutmeg.*  Saute the onions and shallots for about 10 minutes, or until they’re nicely softened and starting to caramelize.  Season the onion mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Grease a casserole dish with the remaining butter.  Make one layer of potato slices, slightly overlapping each other.  On top of this first layer, sprinkle some sea salt, black pepper, swiss cheese, fresh thyme leaves (removed from the stems), and shaved parmesan.  Spread about 1/3 of the onion mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Continue this process, alternating the layer of potato slices with the herbs, cheese, onions, salt and pepper, to make two more layers of potatoes.  Make sure that the very top of the casserole has a layer of the herbs and cheese.  Pour the heavy cream over the top of the casserole.  Wrap the dish in tin foil and put it in the oven for about 1 hours and 15 minutes.  After about 50 minutes, lift the foil and check the casserole: once the cream is mostly absorbed, remove the foil and let it cook for another 20-30 minutes, or until it’s bubbly and golden brown on top.

Note:  My cooking times are vague because, well, my oven is a piece of junk and I’m bad at checking a clock.  The casserole is done when it’s bubbly, you’ll know when you look at it.

*At this point, if you really want to have a heart attack, you could add in some chopped up raw bacon. You don’t necessarily have to, though.

Instead of a picture of the finished scalloped potatoes, here’s a picture of our friend’s dog looking all sweet by the fire, because we ate the casserole long before I could think about photographing it.

Baked Curried Crab Dip

It’s dungeness crab season in Northern California. Out of all of the options, this is one of my favorite ways to prepare crab; it’s an adaptation of a recipe that my parents got from one of their friends, who probably got it from a cookbook somewhere down the line, but I don’t even have my parents version written down anywhere.

(Even though I kind of wanted to call my folks and get the real recipe that I remembered, I was baking apple pie at the same time I was getting the crab dip ready.  I was way too covered in flour and crab juice to want to touch my phone.  Sometimes you get sucked into The Projects so far that texting someone for help is just hopeless, you know? Deep in the flour jungle, there’s no cell reception, you gotta just use your wits and fend for yourself.  No turning back.)Is it weird to work on these two projects at the same time? Yes.  Is apple pie delicious with no cinnamon, extra nutmeg, less sugar, and 1/2 c. of maple syrup? Also yes.  Anyway, the lack of recipe didn’t matter at all: the dip was delicious.  It being the holidays and all, if you were wanting to make some kind of festive party appetizer, this would be a strong candidate. Crab seems really high end, expensive ingredient, but it’s only $4.99/lb. for a whole steamed crab at the grocery store right now, so it’s really completely reasonable.

A note on breaking down whole crabs:

You don’t need a fancy seafood cracker.  I used a rolling pin.  Start with the claws and just give them a good smack and they’ll crack really easily. If you don’t have a rolling pin, you can also use the non-sharp side of a big chef knife or cleaver, though this is slightly less effective.  You could also use a rock or something.  No need for special tools.  If you’ve never done this before,  I found this post here with good instructions for cleaning and cooking crab. 

So, you may notice that there’s no picture of the finished dip.

We ate it, really really fast.  Out of the oven and poof it was gone before I could think about my camera.  Don’t let the lack of an image fool you, though, you should still make this.

Baked Curried Crab Dip

Serves: about 6 people as an appetizer

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. cooked lump crabmeat*
  • 1 block of softened low-fat cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs. low-fat sour cream
  • 1 tbs. whole grain mustard
  • 1/8 c. minced onion
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric**
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. grated fresh horseradish (or you can use prepared in a jar, if you don’t have access to fresh)
  • 2 tbs. fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c. shaved parmesan cheese plus another 1/4 c. to put on top of the dip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, gently fold together all of the ingredients (except 1/4 c. of the shaved parmesan cheese).  Lightly grease a small baking dish.  Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish and top with 1/4 c. shaved parmesan.  Bake for 15 min., or until the cheese on top has melted and the dip looks very lightly browned around the edges.   Serve hot, with crackers or baguette.  You can also make this dip a day ahead, store it in the fridge covered with saran, and pop it in the oven right before you want to serve it.

Oh, I’m 99% sure that my oven isn’t cooking at accurate temperatures right now, so I have to give a disclaimer and say that the times may be off.  Use yer eyeballs, you’ll know when it’s done.

 

*This was about half of the meat from a whole dungeness crab for me.  I’m saving the shells and the other half of the meat to make crab bisque.

**Curry powder works fine, though I don’t usually keep it in my spice cabinet.  Even garam masala would work if you don’t have turmeric. The point it for it to taste vaguely curried, not for you to go spend money. 

Osso Bucco, or A Beginner’s Guide To Braising

I absolutely love osso bucco.  Luxuriously rich-tasting lamb or veal shanks simmered in liberal amounts of wine wine can make our whole ranch smell amazing.  And the bones, the bones: the best osso bucco has big, rustic cross sections of marrow-filled bones that cook with all of the vegetables, imparting the most wonderful flavors.  Working with meat like this makes me feel like I’ve traveled back in time.  There’s something so beautiful and primitive about it, the polar opposite of the styrofoam packages of chicken breasts in the grocery store.  I got this meat from from Owen Family Farms.  They have really gorgeous lamb, pastured veal and acorn-finished pork, and I’ve always been very happy with the quality of their products.  The meat is most certainly on the pricey side, but I’d much rather have one lovingly prepared dish a week using ethically raised local meats than seven days of the cheaper stuff from the grocery store.  If you treat this kind of meat properly, a little also goes a long way.  My osso bucco recipe has a different ratio of meat to vegetables than most other recipes; I think that if you can flavor a whole pot of vegetables with one pound of lamb, than you absolutely should. My mom used to make this when we were growing up, and my favorite part wasn’t even the actual meat , it was the luscious sauce and the vegetables spooned over my dad’s saffron risotto. I used to find cooking techniques like this intimidating,  so I didn’t start tackling braises until a few years ago.  I’ve realized now that they’re really very simple, and I hope that anyone out in the internet universe that may read this will see that it’s possible to make a dish worthy of being served in the fanciest restaurant without much cooking experience at all.  When I make a braise or a roast, I get it started in the morning, right when I’m drinking coffee and eating breakfast, because time is really the secret ingredient.  Cooking meat very slowly on low heat for a whole day will ensure that it’s completely fork-tender and that the sauce is rich and delicious.  Every few hours I’ll give it a stir or add some stock, but there’s very little work involved other than the first 20 minutes or so of cooking.

Osso Bucco

Cook Time: 30 minutes active cooking, and then 4-8 hours of sitting around while it simmers

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs. lamb or veal shanks*
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 pieces of bacon, diced
  • 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 c. diced carrots
  • 4 c. diced celery ribs
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 c. crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bottle of white wine (nothing too sweet)
  • 4-8 c. of chicken/lamb/vegetable stock or some combination of stock and water
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley, for serving
  • lemon zest, for serving
  • 1/2 c. shaved parmesan cheese, for serving

Dredge the lamb shanks in flour.  In a large soup pot set on medium heat, saute the bacon and the fresh herbs until the bacon is crispy but not burnt.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces from the pot and set them aside.  Brown the lamb shanks in the bacon fat.  When they’re nicely seared, remove the lamb shanks from the pot and set them aside.  Put the chopped carrots, onions and celery in the pot and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the tomato sauce turns a darker shades of red and starts to caramelize (but not burn!).  Turn the heat to high.  Pour in the bottle of wine.  Pour in 4 c. stock.  Put the lamb shanks and the bacon back in the pot.  Let everything come up to a simmer and then turn the heat to very low.  Cook for atleast 2 hours but up to 8 hours.  You’ll need to add more stock occasionally and give everything a stir to make sure nothing sticks.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over risotto or pasta, sprinkled with a touch of lemon zest, parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

For anyone that hasn’t tackled something like this before, here a few pictures to make it more clear:

“Dredging” just means putting a light coating of flour on the meat.  This helps get a really nice sear on the outside, which in turn helps develop rich, delicious meat flavors in the braise. You can sauté the bacon in some olive oil if it makes it easier, but if you let it sit in the pan for a moment, the fat will start to render out, and you can have bacon fat as the only oil used to cook everything,  (which is almost always a good thing.)  Truthfully, I mainly used bacon because I’m out of olive oil and butter, and you could skip this step and just use olive oil if you want the recipe to be a bit lower in fat.It was only after I photographed all of this that I realized just how dirty my stove looks.  When you’re searing the lamb shanks, you’ll notice that the pan will be starting to get all brown and crusty.  Don’t worry- that mean’s you’re doing it right.  If it starts to smoke, turn the heat down to very low.  Add your carrots, celery and onions next, the mirepoix. Add the crushed tomatoes and keep cooking everything.  The goal is to get the tomatoes to caramelize and turn a darker shade of reddish-brown because of the wonderful flavors that will happen.I’m not sure if the difference between these two pictures is that obvious; it’s kind of tricky to get good photos and not ruin dinner at the same time.Now turn the heat up really high just to make sure the pot is nice and hot for this part.  The next step is my favorite, when you deglaze the pan with white wine.  The wine pulls up all of that caramelized tomato stuff and brown lamb bits from the bottom of the pot and turns it into the beginning of a really killer sauce.Now just add the stock and meats, turn the heat down to very low, and wait.  Here’s what it will look like when it’s finished:If you’re in love with someone and want them to love you back, make this for them.  Trust me, it’s amazing.

*For people who aren’t so fond of gamey meats, chicken thighs will also work quite well (even though it’s not as traditional).  If you have a freezer full of wild game could substitute duck or venison.  And, shockingly, these recipe is easily made vegan.  Instead of using meat, I substitute shiitake mushrooms and sliced parsnips or rutabagas.  I think the unique flavor of these root vegetables and mushrooms kind of mimics the rich taste of lamb.  If you’re using vegetables, no need to dredge them in flour.  You can make a roux and thicken the sauce with flour if you want, but it’s not really necessary.

Menu Planning

I am super excited.

Black Dog Farm Thanksgiving Dinner Menu:

 Mendocino Organics Pastured Turkey- brined with bay leaves and roasted on the grill with lump charcoal and hickory chips

Olive Oil Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes & Turkey Gravy

Cornbread Stuffing with homemade sage pork sausage

Roasted Winter Squash with blue cheese and pecans

Creamed Alliums and Winter Greens

Roasted Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon and Brown Sugar

Cranberry-Orange Marmalade & Cranberry Jam

________

Marlborough Pie

Pecan Pie

Poached Seckel Pears in Red Wine Syrup

Oh, and you can talk all you want about wine pairing with turkey, but you may have noticed that it’s going on the grill.   That means that we’re probably going to drink about 3,000 beers as the day goes on since it will technically be a barbeque, and that’s what you’re supposed to do for those.