Friday, February 25, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon…Worth all the Effort?

Last weekend, feeling inspired by one of my favorite movies, Julie & Julia, I decided to channel my inner Julia Child. I made Boeuf Bourguignon using Julia’s original recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It turned out to be no simple task.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking was intended to make French cooking more accessible to American home cooks, but this recipe was definitely the one most complicated recipe I’ve ever tackled, with many individual steps…and a big mess to clean up after a full afternoon of cooking.

First, cook the bacon and set aside, then brown the beef and set aside. Cook the vegetables, then add beef back in and place in the oven. Cook the mushrooms separately. Cook the pearl onions separately…and so on. (Full recipe)

Was it worth all the effort? I’m not sure. Charley thought it was delicious, but I didn’t think it was that great…maybe it was too soon after my gastric empting test for me to be eating what is essential beef stew again, so I didn’t get to fully appreciate it’s flavor.

But I did have a lot of fun cooking it, and I gained a lot of confidence in my cooking abilities (it’s an intimidating recipe to try), so I think it was worth it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Supper - Lasagna!!

It's Saturday, but I'm not planning anything special for dinner tonight. I'm tired and we have so many, I'm taking the night off. Tomorrow I'll tackle Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. I'll let you know how it goes.

Last Saturday I made my first every lasagna and I came out beautifully. I don't have a recipe to share, because I don't use one. I just used my instincts and the knowledge of Italian cooking I've acquired over the year...but I'm not going to share my secrets either. Ok, maybe just one...the most important one: Ricotta. The secret to a great lasagna is good ricotta cheese. Some of you out there might think lasagna is made with cottage cheese, but that sacrilege. You must use ricotta, and a really good ricotta at that. I got my ricotta at local Italian grocer and deli, Granato's, where they make it fresh. It's smooth and creamy with a hint of sweetness...delicious! It really made my lasagna great.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Goat Cheese Brownies

A while back I was watching Food Network when Throwdown with Bobby Flay came on. Bobby’s assignment was brownies and he was up against Shawna Lidsky of the Vermont Brownie Company. Shawna made (and won) dark chocolate goat cheese brownies…oh momma! They looked good!!

Ever since then I’ve want to eat goat cheese brownies and last night an opportunity arose to make them…I had some girl friends coming over for a chocolate themed dinner. After a brief internet search I found several recipes, but my time was limited and didn’t want to mess with making them from scratch. So, here’s what I came up with on the fly:

1 box of Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix (or brownie mix of your choice)
4 ounces chevre, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon honey
1 large egg
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 (or whatever the brownie mix package says). Mix the brownie batter as directed on the box and pour into a lightly greased 8x8 baking dish. Then, using electric mixer, beat chevre and butter in medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add honey and beat until well blended. Beat in egg. Mix in flour. Pour the cheese mixture over the brownie batter and swirl with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45 minutes (or as directed on the brownie mix box).

I got the recipe for the toping from Pink Apron blog. You can get the full recipe including the brownie batter from scratch here:
Enjoy! They are delicious!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Medical Woes and Adventures with Radioactive Food

Yesterday I spent the morning in the hospital getting what I hope will be the last in the long line of medical test I’ve undergone since November. I've been having stomach pain and difficulty digesting since August and have had many tests to get to the bottom of it, with no real answers yet. So far, they're ruled out Lupus, Scleroderma, Diabetes, ulcers, and acid reflux. An ultrasound revealed gallstones, but no sign of swelling or infection of my gallbladder, so the doctors don't think that is the culprit. A scope of my stomach showed signs of gastroparesis – that's what the test yesterday was for. It will show how fast (or slow) my stomach empties after I eat. I’m also waiting on results on tests for giardia, Celiac Disease, and bowel infection, and bowel inflammation. Hopefully yesterday’s test, a gastric emptying study, will be illuminating. So, yesterday, I started my day (at 7:00 am) eating radioactive beef stew and orange juice. Yes, that’s right, they made me eat beef stew at 7:00 in the morning. Yucky, canned beef stew…bad in the evening, ten times worse in the morning. It may have been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to choke down. I definitely won’t be eating beef stew again any time soon. After eating what may have been the worst meal of my life, they started scans of me abdomen every thirty minutes, each lasting 1 minute. The whole process took about two and half hours, which was mostly spent in a tiny little waiting – that was well stocked with magazines from 2007. Thankfully, I had Harry Potter book 4 with me (and my magical ability to fall a sleep anywhere). I’m so tired of being poked, prodded, scoped and x-rayed (so far I’ve given 15 or so vials of blood). But most of all I’m tired of not feeling well and not being able to eat normally. It would all be worth it if that radioactive beef stew had somehow given me superpowers…but there are no signs of x-ray vision or superhuman strength. An even better outcome would be some kind of a diagnosis and treatment plan. Hopefully, I’ll hear something today.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Saturday Supper…on Sunday: Pernil

Last Sunday I decided to make a special dinner for Charley. We had both been really sick and he had been taking such good care of me to spite his own illness. So, I thought he deserved a reward. I wanted to do something new and really special, so I looked to one of my favorite chefs and cookbook authors, Mark Bittman.

For many years Mark Bittman has had a regular column in the New York Time called the Minimalist that ended last week. His last Minimalist column listed his 25 favorite recipes from the column. One of them was Pernil, a Puerto Rican recipe for pork shoulder slow roasted for hours.

I thought, “pork shoulder, perfect, you can’t go wrong with pork!” But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be…

First lesson – There is more than one cut called “shoulder.” Apparently there are two kinds of pork shoulders, picnic shoulder, which is the lower part of the shoulder and the top of the leg, and the “Boston Butt,” which is the top of the shoulder and back. And each of these areas can be cut several different ways – steaks, roasts, bone in, bone out…it was all very confusing. I stood at the meat counter for several minutes looking at all the things labeled pork shoulder (they all looked radically different from each other) and had no idea which one to buy. I finally ask one of the butchers for help, but he didn’t speak English very well. By then I had it narrowed down to two and he keep pointing at them and saying “This ones the butt shoulder and this one is the front shoulder.” Ummm…the butt shoulder??

I ended up purchasing the one that look the most like the picture, which the butcher call the “butt shoulder.” Now I know it was probably a Boston Butt roast (which is not from the butt at all), and a picnic shoulder roast might have been better for this recipe.

Second lesson – If your going to do a slow roasted pork shoulder, make sure you start it early enough in the day to roast it sufficiently. I started the roast at 3:00 and it wasn’t ready until almost 9:00, and I think it would have been tastier if I could have left it in another 45 minutes or so.

Third lesson – Pork shoulder has a lot of fat on it! It’s very tasty, but it’s very rich. When making pork shoulder, plan light side dishes.

All and all, it came out pretty well. The Pernil rub was delicious. I think I would make it again. Here is Mark Bittman’s column about it including a link to the recipe and video: