Braised Beef Short Ribs with Truffled French Fries

Posted in beef, entrée, french fries, short ribs, truffle oil, upscale peasant on 2 September 2009 by restaurant refugee

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Truffled French Fries

I frequently get asked what style of food is my favorite/specialty/whatever.  I am not a fan of answering that question or any favorite question as I find it too general and lacking in context.  If forced, however, I won’t name any country or region, I won’t discuss molecular gastronomy, or culinary towers in tribute to my ego.  I will say that Highly Elevated Peasant Food Executed with Great Care and Sophistication is my specialty.  I love the dish that pays homage to the classic and the homey while still being worthy of fine dining placement.  My Lamb Ragu Pappardelle and Tomato Cream Sauce isn’t exactly like the northern Italian dish that mothers have made for centuries but I’ve proudly served it to some of the most educated palates on my client list and done so to rave reviews.

This Beef Short Rib dish is also a terrific example of my “favorite” style of food.  I could eat this every day for a week and never tire of it, so it was a natural for dinner last Sunday with some friends – and sadly this was the only course I forgot to photograph.

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3 tablespoons of canola or other vegetable oil

4-5 pounds of bone-in short ribs

1 large red onion thinly sliced (run through a mandoline is preferable)

2 carrots sliced

4 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

2 shallots thinly sliced

1 finger of thyme

2 cups of flour

3 tablespoons of kosher salt

3 tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper

1 bottle of dry red wine (I prefer to use a ½ a bottle of Syrah and ½ a bottle of Pinot Noir)

1 cup of Sherry

1 cup of beef stock

3 medium to large baking potatoes

2 teaspoons white truffle oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 quarts of Peanut Oil

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Heat the canola oil over medium to medium-high heat, and preheat the oven to 360 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, blend the flour, salt and pepper.  Coat each of the short ribs with the flour mixture and dust away excess.  Brown each piece of meat on all sides until a crust has formed.  Place all of the meat in a Dutch Oven and cover.

Reduce the heat in the pan to medium-low and deglaze the pan with wine.  Add the shallots, garlic, thyme, and onions to the pan.  Cook them until the shallots are translucent (the garlic will be just a touch browned at this point.)  Add the remaining wine to the mixture and reduce the heat to low.  At the simmer point, pour the mixture into the Dutch Oven, add the carrots, cover and place in the oven.  Cook for two and a half to three hours.  Remove the meat, setting aside the bones*, and place in another dish and cover.  Strain the braising liquid into a sauce pan (feel free to spoon some of the onions and shallots from the strainer into the sauce pan and puree with an immersion blender.) Over a low flame add a pat of butter and splash of whipping cream, and stir until slightly thickened.

Julienne** the potatoes and soak in water for at least one hour.  In a large deep pot heat peanut oil*** to 300 degrees (you should have a candy/deep fry thermometer for this) or over medium low heat until a drop of water will “pop.”  Dry the potatoes well and place them in the oil (in batches) until tender (about three minutes) and remove and place on paper towels to drain oil.  Turn the oil up to 360 degrees or medium-medium-high.  Return the fries to the oil until nicely crisped (about two minutes) and remove them for draining.  Place them in a mixing bowl and toss with Truffle Oil, a generous sprinkling of kosher salt, and a dusting of pepper.  Grate fresh parmesan cheese over the fries to serve.

Serve the short ribs and fries on one plate and sauce**** the meat after plating.

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* Use the bones to make the stock you’ll need for the next time you make this or any dish requiring beef stock.

** So much easier to do this with a Mandoline – I highly recommend this one for 95% of home cooks.

*** You may not need all of the peanut oil, it will depend on the shape and depth of the pot.  You want to have a depth of at least four inches.

**** You will not use all of the sauce, but it is way too good to toss.  Freeze it because it is way too good to waste.

Sea Scallop Ceviché with Butter Lettuce and Grapefruit Salad

Posted in ceviché, salads, scallops on 1 September 2009 by restaurant refugee

“I just got back from the farmers market and got some butter lettuce, and some peaches and peppers.  Wanna cook tonight?”

My very dear friend, the Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist, lives five minutes from one of the best farmers markets in the city but this was his first visit.  His tone reflected that excitement.

“Sure, this is a gorgeous day why the hell not.”

Summer nights require bright, clean flavors and this salad is exactly that, and I even remembered to take pictures… with my Crackberry, but pictures nonetheless.

Sea Scallop Ceviché with Butter Lettuce and Grapefruit Salad

(serves six)

Six Sea Scallops

Two Limes

One Lemon

Salt

Pepper

One Head of Butter Lettuce (also known as Bibb lettuce)

Chopped Scallions

¼ cup of chopped red onions

One Grapefruit, segmented

Two Strips of Thick Cut Bacon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sliced ScallopsSlice the scallops into 1/8th inch thick strips and place in a bowl.  Juice lemons over the scallops until it is well covered.  Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper to the scallops and stir until well mixed.  Let stand for sixty minutes.  The acid from the limes and the lemons will cook the scallops.

Cut the lettuce into manageable sizes and place into a salad bowl.  Segment the grapefruit and add to the bowl (nifty instructional video here.)  Add the chopped onions to the mix.  Cook the bacon until the fat is fully rendered.  Dice the bacon and add to the mix – pouring a touch of the bacon grease into the mix would not be a bad idea but is completely optional as is the inclusion of bacon itself.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper and mix well.

Drain the juice, add the scallions, and a touch of large grain sea salt for added texture.

I would have preferred to have served this molded into a one inch round but I left the rings at home, so I served a small mound of salad next to a slightly smaller mound of the scallops.

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Tuna Tartare Canapés

Posted in canapés, tuna on 25 August 2009 by restaurant refugee

Because Tuna Tartar became too en vogue in the late 90s, some people have, understandably, tired of the dish.  I am not among them.  Sushi grade tuna should be simply dressed and enjoyed in elegant forms.  This variation makes very sophisticated but playful canapés for any dinner party.

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¾ pound sushi grade tuna

Wasabi powder

Good soy sauce (once you taste good soy sauce, you’ll never use Kikkoman again)

Scallions

Avocado

Poblano Pepper

Large grain Sea Salt

Pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tostitos Scoops

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Having a very sharp knife is important for the preparation of the tuna.  There is a thin piece of conjunctive tissue between the main tuna loin and the tenderloin.  You will need to cut around that, but it should not waste too much of the tuna.  Dice the tuna into cubes about the size of playing dice and place into a medium mixing bowl.  Dice the pepper into pieces with about as much surface area as confetti – the goal is to add a bit of crunch with just a touch of heat.  Add two teaspoons of the pepper to the tuna.  Thinly slice the scallions and add two tablespoons to the tuna.  The avocado should be cubed but smaller than the tuna, add two tablespoons and use the rest to make some guacamole (recipe coming tomorrow – or sometime soon.)  Add one teaspoon of fresh pepper and a quick drizzle of Olive Oil.

In a separate bowl blend three tablespoons of soy sauce with one teaspoon of wasabi powder (these measurements are very subjective – some like it hot – but be careful not to obscure the tuna.)  Pour about half of this mixture over the tuna and other ingredients and stir until all ingredients are well blended and evenly coated.  Taste and make adjustments.  Be sure to use the tortilla scoops to taste this mixture as they have a fair bit of salt and that needs to be a factor before you add any of the sea salt.  Adjust with more of the soy sauce mixture and sea salt and then spoon into the tortilla scoops to serve.

This will make 25-30 individual cups.  Unless you anticipate that they will all be consumed in short order, do the final prep in stages so that the tortillas stay crispy.

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This recipe can be easily adapted into an appetizer about which I will write in the near future.

“I want champagne and eggs, how about you?”

Posted in breakfast, champagne, pork on 18 August 2009 by restaurant refugee

“I want champagne and eggs, how about you?”

It was a simple text message but from Sydney’s reaction you would have thought that I wrote “I have the winning Powerball numbers for next week, you want them?”

“I’d blow Quasimoto for Champagne and eggs right now, Mick Jagger too, if I don’t have to leave my house to get them.”

Sydney and I have always had that kind of relationship – irreverent, a little profane, but mostly platonic.  As I was feeling generous, and knew that Syd was hung-over, I grabbed a bag and made the relatively short trip to her place by way of the market.

All Sunday morning shopping list should be simple:

  • WaPo, New York Times
  • Eggs
  • Pork in some form
  • Champagne (juice optional)
  • Biscuits
  • Cheese

One hour and seven minutes after the first text Sydney opens her door.  She has managed to splash water on her face, tie a robe around her nearly six foot frame, and start coffee.  Sydney never has food in her kitchen, but coffee, is a given.

“You’re my hero” she says as she leans forward to kiss me on each cheek – a gesture I usually consider an annoying affectation, but she somehow makes natural.

“Good to see you too” I reply before heading to the kitchen.  “How much time do I have to feed you before ‘Cranky Syd’ emerges from that desperately hungry and dark part of your soul?”

“I’ll be fine for a bit once I get some coffee” she says and I believe.

I’m unpacking groceries as Sydney grabs to mugs and the sugar.  Depressing the plunger on the Frieling French Press Sydney suddenly asks with hint of animation “Do you remember this birthday?”

I have very clear memories of it.  Sydney and a gaggle of her girlfriends took over the bar at the restaurant I was running.  Three courses (served family style,) and copious amounts of wine served as prelude to Girl’s Night unleashed on an unsuspecting city.  It was the evening I knew that there would never be anything romantic between us, but I will never forget the look on her face when she unwrapped the French press I gave her.

“Was that the one you had at Anonymous Restaurant” I asked feigning uncertainty about the answer.

“Sure was.”

“You wanna open the champagne” I ask to change the subject, “I’m read for a mimosa.”

“So what are we having for breakfast?”

Fried Pork Tenderloin, Egg, and Gruyere Biscuits, and cantaloupe.”

“Oh my God, what do I have to do to get you to come over every Sunday morning?”

“You could start by changing the music; this techno stuff is giving me a headache.”

Sydney swaps the electronic whatever for an opera I don’t recognize and brunch is served on her patio.  We sit – mostly without words passing – reading newspapers and eating.  I’ve always known that our mutual recognition that every silence is not a void is among the reasons we work as friends.

I have just popped the top on the second bottle of champagne when Sydney asks in a more contemplative tone “Seriously, Refugee, why can’t we do this every Sunday?”

I read the subtext of her question.  This is normally one of the moments when I would have deliberately and deeply inhaled before answering, but I didn’t need extra time to think.  “You’d tire of me Sydney.  I know it, and what’s worse is that you know it too but you asked the question anyway.  We have a friendship that has a lovely balance, do you really want to mess with that?”

We both went back to our newspapers and back to our silence.

Fried Pork Tenderloin, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits

1 pork tenderloin, cleaned and dressed

1 cup Buttermilk (half and half can be substituted)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 teaspoon of ground mustard*

1 teaspoon garlic powder*

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary*

3 eggs

4oz of Cheese – just about any decent (non blue) cheese will do, but I prefer Gruyere

1 package of biscuits (One of the very fewe things I refuse to make from scratch are biscuits – the ready to cook Pilsbury Grands are my favorite)

* nice to haves but do not buy them just for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (according to manufacturer’s instructions) to bake the biscuits.

Cut the tenderloin into two four inch pieces.  The smaller half should be wrapped in saran wrap and stored for later use.  Slice the larger half into ½ inch thick discs.

To make your dredging station, use three cereal sized bowls.  In the first bowl, pour the buttermilk.  In the second bowl, crack one egg and beat until smooth.  In the final bowl, add all dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.

In a pan suitable for frying or preferably in a deep fryer, heat oil over medium flame just prior to the point of smoking.

While the oil is heating and the biscuits are baking, prep the other two eggs.  If you have a two or three inch metal round that is best.  If not, then use a large sauté pan coated with cooking spray and over medium heat.  In a bowl, beat the eggs until smooth adding salt and pepper to taste.  Spread ¼ of the eggs onto the sauté pan.  When cooked enough to fold, fold the egg in twice and remove.  Repeat until you have four neatly folded egg segments.

The biscuits should be just about ready to remove from the oven.  Dredge the pork discs through the milk, then eggs, then coat evenly with the flour mixture.  Drop each disc in the oil.  They will cook in 2.5 minutes.

Remove the biscuits and make your sandwiches.

Slow Roasted Pork Cigars with a Warm Apple and Spinach Salad and Reduction of Braising Jus

Posted in apples, pork, slow cooking, spinach on 17 August 2009 by restaurant refugee

Slow Roasted Pork Cigars with a Warm Apple and Spinach Salad and Reduction of Braising Jus

There are few flavor combinations as natural as pork and apples, and this dish brings together some of my favorite elements of those flavors.  Total cooking time is 10-11 hours, but only requires about 2 hours worth of active work, assuming you use a slow cooker.  This can be done in a regular oven using a small dutch oven, but a slow cooker is easier. Makes 10-12 cigars.

Ingredients

1 Small Pork Picnic (aka Pork Shoulder, aka Boston Butt) bone in is always better but boneless is fine too

1 medium shallot thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic thinly sliced, or run though a garlic press

¼ of a red onion thinly sliced

¼ cup of carrots thinly sliced

32 oz of booze for braising (I have made this with sherry, brandy, and full bodied red wines.)

2 apples peeled and diced (whatever is in season will be fine)

1 bunch of fresh spinach cleaned and dried

2 tablespoons of pine nuts

2 tablespoons of wildflower honey

Salt and pepper

One package of wonton wrappers

1 egg

1 stick of butter

A splash of half and half

Equipment

Medium to Large cast iron skillet (any large pan that is shallow and conducts heat very well)

Slow Cooker (if you don’t have one, go buy one.  The number of things you can do with a slow cooker are too varied to list and they’re cheap.  My travel slow cooker was less than $20, and the one that I use at home was less than $75)

A mandoline will save you time but is not required

A good set of tongs

The Pork

If your pork picnic comes with the skin (a good thing,) score the skin (make deep cuts in the skin down to the meat and one inch apart.)  Liberally coat the skin and other surfaces in coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Place half a stick of butter in the cast iron skillet and melt over medium–high heat, but do not reach the flash point.  Once fully hot, sear the picnic on each side – the thicker the crust the better.  You will need the tongs to hold the picnic to sear all sides of the pork.  Once fully seared place the pork in the Slow Cooker and cover, but do not turn on the heat.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the garlic, onions, shallots, and carrots to the cast iron pan, and deglaze with Sherry.  Let the vegetables simmer until the onions and shallots become translucent.

Add the vegetables and the liquid to the slow cooker and add enough Sherry to cover the picnic at least two thirds.  Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for ten hours, turning once anytime after the third hour.

Once the shoulder has finished cooking remove from the slow cooker and let cool a bit.  Remove the skin and bone if applicable and use a fork to shred the meat into strips. Set the meat aside and let cool further.

Using a ladle, remove about 1 ½ cups of the braising liquid and add to a small sauce pan.  Over low heat, add a healthy pat of butter, and whisk in some half and half. Let simmer until slightly reduced, and add salt and pepper to taste (probably not necessary.)

With the pork no hotter than warm to the touch, spread out the wonton wrappers on a cool dry surface – I prefer wax paper.  Add enough pork to one end of the wonton wrapper for the “cigar to have the diameter of a $1 coin.  Spread room temperature mascarpone cheese on the wonton, roll it, and brush the end with egg-wash to bind the wrapper.  If you have a sushi rolling pad, feel free to use it to get your cigars perfectly round.

In a sauté pan, melt a healthy pat of butter over low to medium heat.  Place the cigars seam side down in the pan and cook on each side until golden brown.

Spinach and Apple Salad

In a large sauté pan, warm a healthy pat of butter, and add the diced apples with a dusting of cinnamon and a tablespoon of honey.  Before the apples are completely cooked, add the spinach, pine nuts, and more honey and salt to taste.

Putting It All Together

One cigar per plate with a drizzle of the braising reduction over each and a small mound of salad on the side

Sweet Corn Velouté with Lobster & “Loud Puppies”

Posted in lobster, Soups, Vegatables on 16 August 2009 by restaurant refugee

Sweet Corn Velouté with Lobster & “Loud Puppies”

This variation on one of the “Mother Sauces” was inspired by a soup I had at Inox Restaurant, Paula Deen, and Summer herself, not necessarily in that order.  It took me four tries to get comfortable with this recipe, and it wasn’t until I collaborated with my unbelievably-great-I-couldn’t-have-done-nine-courses-without-her Assistant from a dinner a week ago that it really started to sing.  We served it as an amuse bouche and  every guest at the table literally licked the petite bowls clean.  This recipe will make six standard soup sized portions with a little of the “Loud Puppy” mixture left to make a few extra.

5 ears of sweet corn

2 Cups of half and half

1 ½ pounds of lobster meat (4 lobster tails or 2 1 – 1 ½ pound lobsters; I recommend using tails as they are the easier of the two)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

1 shallot thinly sliced

1 cup brandy

12 oz of lager style beer

Butter – a reasonable amount

6 cups peanut oil

1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal

1/2 cup self-rising flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon salt

1 small onion, chopped

1 ¼ cup half and half

1 egg, heavily whisked

¾ cup cheddar cheese shredded

3 jalapeños diced

The Velouté:

I generally grill the corn but it can be done in the oven as well.  I think that the smoke adds a rather pleasant note to the soup, but it certainly adds another layer of complexity to an already multistep dish.  If grilling the corn, do NOT remove the husks.  Place them directly on a grill with medium/high coals until cooked, and set aside.  If oven roasting, clean the husks and hairs, place on a baking pan and sprinkle a little bit of salt.  Place in an oven pre-heated to 375 degrees, and bake for 10-12 minutes or until bright yellow.  After the corn has cooled a bit, cut off the upper part of the ear where the kernels are condensed and discard (or save to make some vegetable stock later because wasting things sucks.)  Shave kernels into a bowl and set aside (I would save the cobs to be used for stock too, because you know how I feel about waste.)

While the corn is cooking, melt butter over medium-low heat in a sauté pan and add the thinly sliced shallots once butter is hot but not browning.  Sauté the shallots with a generous sprinkle of salt until they are translucent but not caramelized.  Deglaze the pan with half the brandy and turn up the heat to burn off the alcohol.  If you know how to get the fire in the pan, then this is a good time to use that skill.

Add the shallots, corn, one cup of half and half, ½ cup of parmesan to a food processor and puree until smooth.  It should be a bit thick at the moment, that’s fine and as intended.  Transfer the contents to a soup pot and set on very low heat.  Once the mixture has come to temperature, whisk in the remaining parmesan, the beer, and add salt and fresh pepper to taste.  Keep the heat at the lowest setting possible and stir occasionally.

Loud Puppies

The “loud puppy” mixture can be made many hours in advance, however, allow it to warm to room temperature before cooking them.

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking soda, cornmeal, salt, and pepper and stir until well blended.  Stir in the onion and the jalapeños (please remember that the seeds control the heat so add them at your pleasure.)  Once the egg has been whipped into submission, add the half and half to the egg, and then add the cheese to the blend.  Pour the egg mixture into the other ingredients and stir until well blended*.

To cook the puppies, you will need two spoons.  In a deep pot suitable for frying, get the oil to 350 degrees.  Drop the batter in one teaspoon at a time using one spoon to help the batter off the other.  Dip the spoon in water between each puppy.  They will cook quickly – about three minutes each – and should turn themselves while cooking, but don’t be afraid to aid them if they don’t.  Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the oil, and place on a paper towel covered plate to drain excess oil.

*At this point, I would do a test run.  Enough cheese for you? Salt? Pepper? Jalapeño? Adjust the mixture to your palate.

Lobster

Using a very sharp knife, split the lobster tails from the bottom side but do not cut all the way through.  Using your hands crack the hard shell so that each side will sit upright on the broiling pan.  Season with a sprinkle of salt, a sprinkle of pepper, and a pat of butter on each side, and place them in a preheated broiler on medium heat.  Cook until the butter is melted and just a touch brown or about 6 minutes – please don’t overcook your lobster.  Remove from the shells and slice into small bite size pieces.

Putting it all together:

This is most easily done with two people.  The soup can be made hours in advance so long as it is at serving temperature when all things come together.  Prep the oil and hold the temperature.  Prep the lobster and refrigerate.  Preheat the broiler.  Prep all the bowls for service. Cook the loud puppies, placing them on a paper towels to drain excess oil after removed. Once four have been cooked, place the lobster in the broiler.   Cook the remaining puppies and cover to preserve heat.  Remove the lobster, slice, and place at the bottom of each bowl.  Ladle in the soup, and place one loud puppy in the center of the bowl and one one the side.  Serve immeadiately.