March 2011 Archives

Daube_ProvencalDSC_6810.JPGBeef Bourguignon is Steuart's all-time best, never-fail crowd pleaser, but he makes it all the time. Poor me.

For a Sunday night dinner with a couple of friends, he wanted to try something different. But thwarting him was a big piece of beef- the last of our cow from Pure Wyoming Beef -- waiting, thawed in the refrigerator.

Daube de Boeuf a la Provencial.
Marinate 3 lbs of beef cubes in 1.5 cups of dry white wine, or a light red, 2 T olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, mashed garlic, 2 cups of thin-sliced onions, 2 cups of thin sliced carrots.  At least 3 hours (refrigerate if you're going to leave them longer).

Noon on Sunday: Preheat oven 300 F.
If your bacon is salty, boil it for a few minutes to remove salt. Chop 1lb of mushrooms and 1lb of tomatoes. Drain the meat in a sieve. Line bottom of casserole or LeCruset with bacon, add a layer of marinade and newly chopped vegetable  in the casserole, roll the beef cubes in flour and layer them on, add another layer of bacon and repeat until casserole is full or ingredients are exhausted. Pour the marinade and some beef stock over it all until liquid nearly comes to the top of the casserole.

Cook for about 4 hours.daube-provencal.jpg

Skim the fat of the top with a baster.

Using a fork mash ten anchovies and 2 T. capers to a paste. See first photo. Then add to  3 t. wine vinegar, 2 closes of garlic mashed, 1/4 cup minced parsley.

Add this to the casserole and put back in your low temp oven until ready to serve.

It's amazingly different from the rich beef stew from Burgundy.

We served it with roast potatoes, peas and a green salad. Plenty for everyone and left overs, too.

Wine to go with:  an Argentinian Malbec was incredible. We also tried a durif from South Africa -- not so good. Hearty was surprisingly better. The third bottle, a Zinfandel, went down just fine too.

For dessert -- a gluten free coconut cake. Now that's another story.

onion-soup-banner.jpgIt's a weekend and my husband is working on a project elsewhere, so I can take some time to make a few things for the workweek. One is French Onion Soup, which is better if left to meld in the frig for a day or two.

onion-soup.jpgCook 5 cups of sliced (long thin wedges) onion in 2 Tbs butter and 2 Tbs olive oil in a covered saucepan on low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to medium stir in 1 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. sugar and cook for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently until onions have turned an even deep golden brown.  (If you're making another dish for the week. You can prepare it here, while you're giving the onions the occasional stir.

When the onions are brown, sprinkle on 3 Tbs flour and stir for a few minutes.

Off heat, pour in 2 quarts of boiling brown stock (if you want a lighter tasting soup you may use a lighter stock like chicken or vegetable stock, but a beefy one is what is traditional). Add 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth. Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes or more. then set aside until ready to serve.

It will taste better the next day.

You've arrived home from work on a crisp evening, and you put the soup pot on low to warm. And turn on the oven. (Another reason this meal satisfies in March or those last persistent wintry, not quite spring nights.)  

Cut a couple slices of french bread per person, bake the slices in the oven for about 1/2 hour while you're reheating the soup. Brush with olive oil and turn half way through the cooking if you want, and just a minute or so before mealtime, grate Parmesan cheese on top and toast under a broiler until deep golden brown. Place the cheese toasts on top of the soup as you serve it.

You can also make biggish croutons by cutting bread in 1 inch cubes and baking them until they dry out, brushing these with olive oil, rubbing with  a crushed garlic if you like garlic. Put these cubes on top of the soup in the bowl, or a soup tureen if you serve soup en mass. Grate cheese on top and then toast under the broiler for a few minutes until golden brown. Use hot pads to serve the soup bowls and set each on a place mat because it will be hot.

Well-made cheese is exceptional - shouldn't become usual. It's expensive, high in fat, but pleasantly high in calcium and protein, so it's not junk food. I like to think of it as a special treat, and serve it as the French do, after the main meal. If it's served as hors d'oevres, I can devour cheese like a bag of chips and neither one is very good for me.

Think of each cheese as one of the tiny items on the Tasting Menu at a swank and trendy restaurant. Select three cheeses that are similar but have subtle differences. The smallness of these difference will hone your attention to the unique qualities of each cheese. An ordinary cracker can carry the cheese to your mouth, but these crackers reformat your palette between bites.

Tasmanian Pepper Black Cocoa Crackers:
2 cups flour (spelt is good if you don't want wheat)
1/2 tsp. baking powder (very little is needed at high altitude)
2 Tbs. black onyx cocoa (Savory Spice)
1 cup water
2 tsps. Tasmanian Black Pepper, crushed. Reserve for the rolling
1 tsps. good salt. Reserve for the application just before baking.

Mix dry ingredients (reserve the salt and pepper) together with a wooden spoon and then add water until the mixture forms a dry ball. Some bits might not join in, and some flour may still not be absorbed, so sprinkle a few more drops of water on those and pull everything together with floured hands. You may not need all the water or you may need a touch more. The dough should be moist but not sticky. If it's too sticky add a little flour to the bowl and roll your ball in it. It's okay to move the dough firmly to pull it together and work it a little to even out the texture, but you won't do your crackers any good by kneading them. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. The cracker dough is happy to have a rest while it heats.

cracker-rolling.pngcrackers-uncut.pngI remember when someone first told me they were making crackers. The whole process felt burdensome, and I sometimes have that feeling, again, when I'm asked to make them. My crackers are so incredible that I am asked this often. But really the whole mixing process takes less than 5 minutes.

Rolling the dough is fun, and I divide this quantity of dough into four parts and roll the dough very thin, tossing on the pepper when I'm almost at the final thinness and rolling it in. Then I put the slab of dough on a cookie sheet. It you can't handle the dough - if it's really thin or delicate - just slide it onto the back of the sheet with a big spatula. The thinner the better the cracker, I think.

I spray the surface with a mister and sprinkle on the salt, then cut the dough in pieces with a pizza cutter.

Into the hot oven it goes, set timer and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Roll out the next ball of dough. You can make several flavor by changing the topping at this point if you want. The cracker has backed long enough, if they will break apart easily. You will come up with a thickness and a doneness that you prefer as you make these and other crackers. After you've served them once, you'll want to make more.

crackers.pngServe warm, if you can, but they will last for days, just like any other cracker.

The cocoa is unsweetened but works to grab your attention with a subtle, lovable chocolate flavor. The special quality of the Tazmanian pepper is that it numbs the mouth. So, Taz pepper works as the perfect palette cleanser, but also forces you to slow down to enjoy all the other subtle tastes offered by the cheese, the wine that accompanies it and the starchy cracker. So, isolate the bits. Instead of trying to get a sample of each thing in one mouthful. This is a course to be enjoyed with small bites in separate parts. A drink of wine after finishing the end of a cracker. Eating the cheese off the top. There is satisfaction with getting the combos right, and each bite is a new experience.

oatmeal-banner.jpgOrganic rolled on the left; organic steel cut on the right. Rolled is cut, steamed and rolled through a mill; the one on the right is just cut. Both are organic; both $1.69 per pound in bulk at Whole Foods. Texture is the big difference. I like the crunchy version on the right

Here's how to make a sublime breakfast:

oatmeal-blueberries-yogurt.jpgToast 1/2 cup or so of oats for a minute in a good saucepan. Fill a 2-cup measure or jug with water. Pour a cup of coffee and relax, or just toast a few less seconds if you're impatient, then pour the water on the toasting oats. Stand back. Dress for work, relax, read a magazine, let the oat-water mixture come to a boil, boil uncovered for about 5 minutes. When you come to refill your coffee, turn it down to simmer, or set on medium if you're in a hurry. In 10 minutes, the steel cut oats are soft enough to eat - or leave for 20 minutes - 30 or more if you've put on a lid and set it to a minimum temperature. Whenever I'm ready, the oats are ready.

If this much cooking seems too much, soak the oats overnight. And the 10 minutes on boil is reduced in half. You just want it to froth a little and rehydrate the grain. Or make a big batch once a week and reheat a small portion with milk in the morning. You could microwave this, but using a pan doesn't take more time to boil liquids. If you're used to having sugar with your breakfast, you can add sugar or honey, or you might just try smelling the oats, especially as they cook on a cool winter morning, and see if you can identify some of the subtle smells and tastes in this grain. You might find it's sweet enough.

I often serve the oatmeal with a few frozen blueberry on top. I add a little plain yogurt and a little milk. 

For the breakfast pictured, I bought the absolute finest Bulgarian Pro-biotic Yogurt, (White Mountain Bulgarian), the sweetest blueberries available in winter - Whole Foods 365 brand, frozen wild blueberries and organic milk. And I decided to measure everything and see how much this gourmet breakfast cost me. For more, read how my breakfast is CHEAPER than packaged instant oats.