I think corned beef and cabbage is a gigantic joke that the Irish play on Americans. I think that many years ago, a group of drunks gathered in a Boston pub and tried to come up with a way to trick millions of people. After hours of ideas and many pints later, one of them came up with an idea: make people eat garbage. Maybe not actual garbage, but something that smells like rotting trash. It had to sound ethnic and related to a dirt poor nation of people dodging famines. They chose the cheapest possible meat — a beef round that had been cured — and a vegetable that was plentiful but that no one wanted to eat. When tossed into a pot and left to cook all day, corned beef and cabbage would make homes around America smell like landfills in the name of being “authentically Irish.”
The coq au riesling recipe had been sitting on my Pinterest wall for a few weeks. Wine, chicken and cream seemed easy enough. When I finally popped the recipe open, I found the metric system. Conversion calculators seem to figure all of that out. Easy enough, right? Right? WRONG!
Alida Ryder’s recipe at Simply Delicious calls for 30 minutes of cook time, half of which is in a covered pan over medium-low heat. It needs at least twice as much, as I ended up serving nearly raw meat to everyone. The meat closest to the bone was pink and there was blood present in each piece. It took a four-minute ride in the microwave to finish things off.
Lemon is so spectacularly versatile. The acidity from the juice and flavor from the oils can change the taste of any food. It’s a particularly strong flavor as well, surviving high heats and penetrating the core of the toughest meats and vegetables.
Most of what I made for Saturday night’s dinner with The In-Laws had lemon juice as an ingredient. I went a little high with the lemon juice content in my recipes, but when it comes to a marinade, I’m not sure you can have too much. I wanted to make sure there was enough of the super-concentrated juice directly from the fruit to submerge the meat while marinating. Continue reading Saturday dinner: Lemon lemon thyme chicken→
Entertaining a group is a challenge, in a good way. Entertaining a group that has children involved is just a challenge.
I use the opportunity of having friends over for dinner to try something new. Try something new, pull out some stops, and leave ’em wanting more, right? The problem is that one can’t get particularly crazy when kids are involved. You still have to stay pretty vanilla to keep their attention.
Saturday night brought friends to the house, including two single-digit aged boys. Now, since The Kid exists solely on breakfast food, I don’t worry too much about her. Our friends’ sons are less picky about the food they eat, but I did not want to do anything to scare them away from the table.
Autumn brings the clarion call for comfort food. A stew sounded good, but I wanted something more. The best chicken and biscuits I’ve ever had is served on a regular basis at Jake Hafner’s in North Syracuse. I figured the chicken stew would be easy and that I would just pick up some biscuits during Saturday’s trip to the farmer’s market.
It took some time to get The Wife into sushi. Like vegetables and salad, it was a process where I had to start bland and small to get her comfortable, then slowly introduce the more complex. She started with California roll and other cooked rolls, before moving on to raw tuna, crab and other tasty morsels of raw goodness. While we would wait for sushi to be delivered, she would house bowls of miso soup. It’s to the point where she buys the packets of instant soup to make at work.
I don’t venture too far into Asian cooking, simply because I don’t know much about it. That said, I was looking for a new way to prep fish fillets and flank steaks. While shopping a couple of weeks back for Niku Udon, I picked up a package of miso just in case my foray into Japanese noodles went awry. It didn’t, so tonight I cracked into the package for the first time to prep some salmon fillets. Nothing special here, really. The miso, mixed with mirin and white wine, made for a very flavorful marinade. I pan-seared the filets and served them with a citrus soy sauce. The miso knocked out that fishy flavor that turns some people away from the orange fish.
The meal was cooked to spec, with the only deviation being the roast’s size and the reduced cooking time to accommodate that fact — 30 minutes to accommodate the variance.
The fucking thing burned. (I’m sorry if my use of vulgarities burned your retinae. I’m pissed. No. Fucking pissed.)
Tonight’s dinner was beer braised beef and onions, based on a recipe from the now-shuttered Gourmet magazine. This called for a five-pound chuck roast (I bought the largest in the case at three), three pounds of onions, 24 ounces of a light-colored lager, two tablespoons each of vegetable oil and red wine vinegar. Brown the meat. Brown the onions. Braise for 3.5 hours. Serve.
In a cornball reach back to our childhood, I try to cook at least one “Typical Paventi” meal whenever my sister comes home. Usually, this means I make cavatelli and rappi. In the past, this has brought out showstoppers like Poop Soup, the classic Saturday night roast beef, and other harkenings to our years on O’Donnell Street.
My sister is here for the weekend, part of an impromptu escape from Long Island where she lives and works. This weekend’s call from the past was steak pizzaola with a side of sauteed rappi. Pizzaola was one of those dinners we would have on a school break, when my mother (a teacher’s aide) was home and could be near the oven for the two-hour braising process. It would also make an appearance when my father was not traveling on business. It’s one of those comfort foods that you can just leave in an oven and ignore for a few hours. In terms of nutrition, it is not horrible in terms of ingredients — no huge carbohydrates or cheese-smothered dishes. Yes, the chuck roast is fatty, but most of that cooks off and keeps the meat moist. I’m not saying that this will be in a Weight Watchers cookbook anytime soon, but you could certainly do worse. Continue reading Saturday Dinner: Steak pizzaola→
Saturday is when I typically put together the “Meal of the Week.” If I’m feeling good, this is the dinner I try hardest on. Not that weekday meals don’t get effort, but generally they are assembled from the freezer with a stop at Wegmans if I need some fresh produce. Saturday dinner starts with an early morning trip to the Central New York Regional Market and/or Wegmans with my daughter (who will be seven months next week) for the ingredients. For the most part, I have a plan in mind. Sometimes, I fly by the seat of my pants, buy a bunch of stuff and see what I can come up with.
None of that happened yesterday. I’ve been sick all week, so whatever was going to happen for dinner needed to happen with little fanfare at grocery.
Late in the morning, I decided I wanted stew. I had purchased stew beef earlier in the week with the plans to make it one night, but the aforementioned cold (and a related illness that hit The Wife) reduced my dinners to defrosted soup and store-bought soup (thumbs up to Wegmans’ Chicken and Dumplings).
I had everything in the house for a decent stew but onions. Late in the morning, I shuffled off to Wegmans to pick one up, as well as whatever base was going to hold the stew up. While wandering the store, I grabbed some mushrooms, leeks and instant polenta (as well as coffee at a nearby Tar-bucks, or a Starbucks inside of a Target). And then, there was dinner:
3 tb oil blend (I used 2 parts canola, 1 part extra-virgin olive oil)
1# stew beef, trimmed to bite-sized cubes
1/2 cup searing flour (my own blend…1 cup flour, 1 tb coarse sea salt, 1 tsp white pepper)
one small or medium cooking onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, trimmed, diced and leaves reserved
1 large leek, washed and chopped into thumb-width chunks
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups beef liquid (I used one can of Swanson’s Beef Broth and topped the rest off with Wegmans’ beef culinary stock)
2 dry bay leaves
Liberal sprinkling of herbes de provence (I make my own blend, which I’ll discuss shortly)
8 ounces of instant polenta or coarse grain cornmeal
1/2 to 3/4 cup of parmagiano reggiano
Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the bottom of the pan is clearly to hot to touch, add the oil. Toss the meat with the searing flour to coat the meat white. When the oil shimmers, add the meat. Brown on all sides, 5-6 minutes.
Add the onions and garlic. Stir to mix, so that the onion get contact with the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally for the next 7-8 minutes, so that you have a good bit of grease worked up and the onions are soft.
Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Use a good, heavy wooden spoon to scrape the stuck-on bits of food from the pan’s bottom. Cook long enough for the wine to disappear.
Add the rest of the veggies and stir to mix. Saute for 2 minutes.
Add the liquid, a liberal sprinkling of kosher or sea salt, fresh ground pepper, herbs and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for about 60 minutes. Check in on the pot every 15 minutes or so and stir. If the stew has lost too much liquid, add enough water to partially cover.
Test the gravy at this point for flavor. If you need salt, add it now.
Partially uncover the pan and allow to cook for another 30-40 minutes.
With about 10-15 minutes to go in the stew, take a large, heavy saucepan and bring 4 cups of vegetable stock and 1 tb of salt to a boil.
Using a flat whisk, mix the polenta into the broth, little by little. Stir continuously for three minutes, not allowing the mixture to settle or burn. Add the parmagiano reggiano. Stir for another three minutes. When the polenta can be stirred in the pan and unstick cleanly from the walls, remove it from the heat and let sit for two minutes.
Using a large, flat spatula, remove the polenta from the pan to a large, warmed dinner plate. Allow to sit.
Serve the stew hot over the polenta.
Now, had I thought about this in advance, I would have made the polenta the night before. I love cold polenta and how the dryness from an evening of refrigeration would reduce it to a crumbly mix.
Dinner went over well with The Wife, though I think my herbes de provence mix didn’t go well this time. I mix my own batch of herbs and this one is a little heavy on the fennel seed. I think I need to balance it off with rosemary or parsley to temper the strong bite from the fennel.