Thursday, February 10, 2011

What I had for dinner last night...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011 dawned a rather wintry and blustery day and icy conditions suggested barricading myself indoors for most of the day.  I had been at the supermarket early that morning, and decided that beef short ribs would make a wonderful dinner.  I gathered herbs, aromatics, wine, the beef, and my favorite Dutch oven.  I began to cook.  The perfume from these short ribs was nothing short of intoxicating.  I thought they might be nice stacked on a mound of buttery garlic smashers, but I wanted rustic bread for what would be a fabulous sauce.  Served alongside a salad of chopped hearts of romaine, campari tomatoes and celery leaves with "Almost Floyd's Olive Salad Dressing," these short ribs were beyond delicious and got rave reviews.  As dinner simmered in the oven, I opened a bottle of Salentein Reserve Cab 2006 (Argentina), recommended by my fabulous wine guys at Spec's, sipped contentedly, and inhaled the magic.

I'm sending along three recipes today, Short Ribs for an Icy February Day, Artisanal Bread in Five Minutes, and Almost Floyd's Olive Salad Dressing.  Mangia!  And may your tastebuds always dance.

Short Ribs for an Icy February Day (with thanks to the Barefoot Contessa)
  • 12 beef short ribs, trimmed of fat ( I used a combination of bone-in and boneless)
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 large onions)
  • 4 cups large-diced celery (6 large stalks)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and large-diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine (I used a Spanish Petit Verdot)
  • 1 Tbs. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. fennel seed
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1 lb. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fino sherry (I used Savory and James, my go-to cooking sherry)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place the short ribs on a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 20 minutes, or until browned.  Remove from the oven.  Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and add the onion, celery and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Pour the wine over the vegetables, bring to a boil, and cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Add fennel, rosemary and thyme.
  3. Place the roasted ribs on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven and add the beef stock and brown sugar.  Bring to a simmer over high heat.  Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.
  4. Carefully remove the short ribs from the pot and set aside; skim excess fat.  Cook the vegetables and sauce over medium heat for 20 minutes, until reduced by about one-third.
  5. Meanwhile, heat butter and EVOO together in skillet on medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms, and as Julia says, “Do not crowd the mushrooms.”  Saute until well browned, adding the clove of garlic after a few minutes, along with the kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  When the mushrooms are well-browned, add the sherry and continue to cook, lowering heat if necessary, until sherry is evaporated and absorbed.  Add mushrooms to sauce.
  6. Put the ribs back into the pot and heat through. Garnish generously with chopped parsley—because it’s pretty and because it’s good for you.  Serves 4 lavishly.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes

Adapted from ”Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
Literally, this dough thrives on neglect.  It is absolutely the best bread I’ve ever baked—and it’s ridiculously easy.  Try it—you’ll be astounded at the results.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough (you can replace about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of white flour with any whole grain flour with great results).
  • Cornmeal
1. In a large bowl, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups warm water. Add flour, and stir to combine completely.  Add more water if you like a looser dough.  Let dough rise in a warm place for at least two hours, until it rises and collapses (up to 8 hours – or even overnight won’t hurt it). The dough may be baked at this point, or refrigerated for later use.
2. Cover dough, but make sure it is not airtight – gases need to escape – and place in fridge. The longer this dough sits (and it can sit in your fridge up to two weeks), the better it tastes.  When you are ready to use it, throw a small fistful of flour on the surface and use a serrated knife to cut off a piece of the size you desire. (The authors recommend a 1 pound loaf – which means cutting off grapefruit-sized piece of dough). Turning the dough in your hands, stretch the surface of the dough and tuck in under. The surface will be smooth, and the bottom with be bunched. *
3. Dust a pizza peel (or any flat surface such as a rimless cookie sheet) with cornmeal. (This prevents sticking, and adds a nice, rustic crunch. You can use flour instead, but you’ll need to use a very generous dusting).  Allow dough to rest in a warm place for 40 minutes – longer (sometimes up to five hours) if you use some whole wheat flour in place of the white, if your house is cooler, or if you make a larger loaf.
4. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with baking stone (or overturned baking sheet) inside on the middle rack, plus a shallow pan on the top rack. Throw a small fistful of flour over the dough, slash it 2-4 times with a serrated knife (in a cross, a tic-tac-toe, or a fan), and slide it into the oven, onto the baking stone (I have already risen the dough on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet and bake it directly on that).  Pour 1-2 cups of tap water into the shallow pan, and quickly shut the oven door to trap steam inside. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until crust is well browned and bread sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.

*Personally, I don’t want to handle the dough at all.  I scoop it out with a rigid utensil directly onto a cornmeal-covered baking sheet, let it shape itself as irregularly as it likes, sprinkle it with flour and cover it with a light cloth.  Then I let it rise for quite a while.

Almost Floyd’s Olive Salad Dressing

You all know I try to replicate things other people make that I really like.  This is my version of a salad dressing that I had at Floyd’s (on I-10 near Beaumont).  Make a lot, because you’re going to like it too.

1 extra-large clove garlic
1 cup pitted black olives, drained
1 cup pimento-stuffed olives, drained
1/2 cup (slightly heaped) dill pickle slices, drained
1 tsp. Italian herb seasoning mix (I used Penzey’s)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups EVOO
1 cup good-quality red wine vinegar

Mince garlic in food processor, then add olives and pickles, pulsing until everything is coarsely chopped.  Transfer mixture to a large jar and add Italian herb seasoning, black pepper, EVOO and red wine vinegar.  Mix well and cover.  Stores for several weeks in the refrigerator (but I don’t think it will last that long…)

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