Saturday, March 26, 2011

Short Rib Stroganoff

We love short ribs, I mean come on who doesn't?!  Beef short ribs are a popular cut of beef and typically more tender and meatier than their counterpart, pork spare ribs. I like to cook them low and slow to render the most tender meat that you can cut with a fork, you can't argue with that kind of goodness. When you remove them from the oven and you have to use two hands to get the bone to stay with the meat, you've done a good job! I paired the short ribs with our favorite mushroom sauce from my Stroganoff recipe. It's so rich and creamy and perfectly pairs with egg noodles.

The marinade for the short ribs are simple, just four ingredients - but all BOLD in flavor. I would say that fresh herbs and veggies are always best, but if dried herbs is what you have on hand USE them!

In a small food processor I added four cloves of garlic and 1/2 tablespoon cracked rosemary, 1/2 tablespoon ground thyme along with one cup of olive oil.

Friday, March 18, 2011

How to Make a Fruit and Cheese Plate

This is my new favorite appetizer plate to whip together when I don't have the time to cook. Say, an impromptu happy hour starts at you home and you need something to munch (stat) while you drink. OR, if you are cooking dinner and need something to put out for guests as you make final preparations, the fruit and cheese plate is perfect. It was Ina Garten who I saw do this on TV and I said to myself, that woman is a genius. Who said that everything you serve has to be homemade from scratch? Focus on one main thing and fill in with gorgeous produce and cheese. When you're designing a cheese plate, remember that you're looking to create a balance of flavors and textures.

Keeping texture in mind, I selected spicy candied pecans that I purchased in bulk at HEB. Local and in season is going to be key here when selecting your ingredients. I'm using local Texas Hill Country honey, but only a smidgen. The bosc pear is going to bring plenty of natural sweetness and spice to this plate. Bosc are an elegant variety, with distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other pears. I like their crunchy yet tender flesh and their sweet-spiced flavor. A common misconception is that Bosc pears need to be peeled or cooked before being eaten, and that’s simply not true. Those who have not tried a Bosc would most likely be surprised... and pleased that the brown skin hides a delicious, spicy and slightly firmer flesh. Check for recipes and more facts about all types of pears.

This plate was serving a small group, but if you have several people you are creating the fruit and cheese platter for, you should consider adding a few more cheeses. Vary by type, adding a cow's milk and a goat's milk, and vary by texture, something hard like manchego and/or something soft like brie.
The star of the show is hands down this Humboldt Fog cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre. It is at the top of my favorites list at the moment. I looooooove goat milk cheeses, and this has a thin stip down the middle, reminiscent of a mild blue. Anyone who has tried it I'm sure will second my high opinion of this cheese.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chicken Florentine Crepes

I haven't been this excited to post a recipe since the Lemon Gnocchi last month. Lately I have felt stale in my kitchen. It may be the roller coaster that life has put my family on that has deflated my excitement for cooking. It's six months after my parents were hit by a drunk driver and they are still dealing with serious hospital visits and scary surgeries. The good news is I think we are finally on the mending end of all this - both physically and emotionally. My parents are at home and doctors say they will BOTH be back to (a new) normal in 4-6 months. Because, let's face don't just shake off something like this. Don't drink and drive folks, it ruins lives! 

Let me get back to the exciting part! My enthusiasm and interest in cooking has returned and I'm head strong about stretching my culinary point of view. Jim has remained my muse and the reason I am persistently experimenting in the kitchen. I find inspiration from all over but mainly the web and my cooking magazines. My newest Food Network magazine gave me the idea for Savory Crepes and after searching and searching online for the perfect recipe, I decided to write my own. Most Chicken Crepe recipes I found also contained mushrooms and the filling wasn't as creamy as I had imagined. When writing my own recipe, I referenced Emeril Lagasses 2003 recipe for Savory Crepes with Creamy Chicken, Ham and Mushroom Filling.  Jim and I both agreed my dish was a remarkable success and one that I will certainly add to the "entertaining" file for when we have guests over.

Here are the ingredients to HWM Chicken Florentine Crepes:

6 Crepes (I used store bought, but will one day tackle the homemade crepe)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cups chicken stock, hot
salt and pepper
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup baby spinach
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 tablespoon chopped green onions
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
3/4 cup grated Parmesan

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese sauce is known to Italians as Rag├╣ alla Bolognese, to the French as Sauce Bolognaise and to Jim as Meat Sauce. Jim isn't far off, this is a meat-based sauce for pasta originating in Bologna, Italy. Sometimes Bolognese sauce is thought of as a tomato sauce, but actually the authentic recipes have only a small amount of tomato concentrate.

I first became interested in Bolognese after watching Tyler Florence make Tagliatelle Bolognese on his show Tyler's Ultimate. The addition of milk to this meat sauce was so intriguing to me, I just had to make this myself. I loosely followed Tyler's recipe, and edited here and there along the way.

My ingredient list (pictured above):
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil  (the LARGE jug in the background)
1/4 pound bacon
1 medium onion
3 celery stalks
3 carrots
5 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup milk  (I used 2%)
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, hand-crushed
2 cups dry red wine (more about the wine later)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

I recommend serving with:
1 pound dry tagiatelle, pappardelle, or other ribbon pasta
1 handful fresh basil, hand-torn, for garnish
1 T ricotta or freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

When I open a bottle of wine my first instinct is to check out the cork. This isn't a snobby thing to do, you can actually tell a lot about the wine you are about to enjoy by inspecting the cork. I don't believe sniffing a cork will tell you anything, it's most likely going to smell like cork. I always check to see if wine runs the length of the cork, that could mean that wine has seeped out, allowing oxygen in, which would change the taste of the bottle.

This particular cork had some wine crystals form on the bottom of the cork. Having this sediment in the bottle neck and attached to the underside of the cork indicates the bottle was most likely stored on its side for a long period. This type of storage is recommended, as it lets the sedament form on one side of the bottle and also keeps the cork moist, helping it form a better seal. If you have a cork with lots of gunk at the bottle neck and on the cork, you may want to decant the bottle and also use a strainer to keep the sedament from getting into your glass. 

The technical term for "wine crystals"  is tartaric acid crystals. This isn't a bad thing, it's natural in many, many red wines and also found in white wines.

And I've said it before, I will say it again...I strongly suggest cooking with wine you would also drink, please don't buy the cooking wine. {I realize I sound like a broken record.}

I've covered the wine stuff, and I've also poured myself a glass while I prep veggies. {happy girl}

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Champagne Vinaigrette

I've been on the road a lot lately, and it's SO hard to eat healthy while traveling. Jim and I both have been very busy and I’ve settled for convenience foods instead of foods that fuel my body. This week, we have decided to get back on track so I started looking for ways to make dinner salad more interesting. There are some fabulous all natural salad dressings at the grocery store, but I often find myself getting bored with the same dressing three days in a row.

Today, because it's FAT TUESDAY, I'm posting about a delish homemade Champagne Vinaigrette dressing. To make salads more interesting, I’ve decided to start making my own when possible. There are endless variations on vinaigrettes, but it basically boils down to a vinegar, an oil, and some flavorings. I’ve discovered I like the tart/sweet balance in vinaigrettes so I pulled together ingredients that will give me a salad dressing that keeps me and the hubby both interested and satisfied.

Here are the ingredients that I gathered to make my HWM Champagne Vinaigrette:
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Honey mustard
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
3 dashes Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


Using a food processor, I add all the ingredients except for the olive oil. Blend until the garlic and shallot have been minced. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a continuous stream until the dressing has emulsified.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

Have you tried Chicken Spaghetti? Like Charlie Sheen is trending in the news right now, Chicken Spaghetti was trending a while back, then everyone forgot about least I did. Then Jim asked me recently to make a casserole that he could reheat at work for lunch all week long. I remembered how GREAT my Chicken Spaghetti Ole tasted as leftovers so I got to it again and developed a new Chicken Spaghetti recipe, taking notes from the Pioneer Woman's recipe from 2007.

I gathered the last of my frozen chicken from the freezer, a box of whole wheat dried spaghetti, a 4 ounce jar of pimentos, a head of garlic, a green bell pepper, an onion, two cans of low fat cream of chicken soup, 3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, Lawry's seasoned salt and cayenne pepper.

I didn't even bother defrosting the chicken. Instead I put the three frozen chicken breasts in the bottom of my dutch oven, topped with about a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkled in some salt and pepper, put the lid on and popped the cookware in the oven at 350 for one hour. I even left the house, ran a few quick errands, and when I returned, fully cooked chicken! Once cooked, shred with two forks! You could also give the chicken a small dice if you like that sort of thing. Jim prefers the chunks, I prefer the shred.