Daube of beef

Something to stew about

Originally appeared in the January 3, 2013 edition of the Southside Times.

Daube of beef (4)

In cooking cliques there exists the Q-and-A tradition of quizzing ones culinary comrades with this scenario: if you died tomorrow, what would your last meal be today?  And I’ve listened to a gastronomic gamut of responses—foie gras, langoustine, otoro tuna, kobe beef, caviar.  But, when queried, I’ve often followed the impulse to make a nostalgic return to the formative and financially modest days of my culinary vocation.  When I was a student in Chicago, I didn’t have the cash to buy filet mignon, but if I could get my hands on an economical cut of beef at the nearby market, I could use a few vegetables, a small amount of stock along with a bit of leftover wine to conjure something magical.

Daube of beef is a stew which was a staple of the provincial poor in France.  There are countless variations which call for different cuts of meat and particular piece of equipment.  Though purists would urge you to use a daubière (a uniquely shaped pot well-suited for braising) a sturdy stockpot will do the trick.  And tell you what: you bring along a crusty baguette and some parsley and caper salad and we can enjoy this meal together.  So long for now, dear reader.

Daube of beef

Serves 2

  • 1 pound chuck steak, trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • As needed, olive oil
  • ½ onion, small dice
  • 1 carrot, peeled, small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry, red wine
  • 1 pint water or light chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  In a high-sided stockpot, season and sear the beef in batches, reserving on a plate when meat is browned and mahogany colored.  Remove and reserve on a plate.  Sauté onion and carrot for several minutes; add garlic and cook briefly (don’t burn).  If more fat is required, add a small amount of olive oil.  Add tomato paste and stir until vegetables become dark.  Add a small amount of olive oil along with flour; stir to form a paste.  Add wine and, using a wooden spoon, deglaze bottom of pan by scraping up browned bits.  Add beef back to pot and pour in water or stock until liquid just covers the top of the meat (depending on pot size, may need to adjust liquid).  Add bay leaves and bring to a gentle simmer and cook for until reduced halfway.

2.  Occasionally skim impurities from the top of the stew, and be vigilant about the liquid (meaning you may need to make further additions if reducing is too rapid).  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  When stew is thick, flavorful, and beef is tender, ladle into large bowls ad serve with crusty baguette and parsley and caper salad.

Advertisements
Published in: on January 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Classic lasagna al forno

Lasagna: an indefatigable classic

Originally appeared in the December 20, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

Clasic lasagna al forno (1)

Lasagna is an indefatigable classic—sure, we could quibble over styles (think of the variations between cheeses: cottage or ricotta or the complete absence of either), but the traditional combination of pasta sheets, tomato-based sauce, and some sort of dairy or cheese—all baked together in a savory stratification—make for a hearty, family-style dish that’s difficult to beat no matter the permutation.

An old cooking chum once shared a story with me that his grandmother, in addition to red tomato and white cottage, employed a layer of spinach to her lasagna as a nod to the Italian flag—red, white, and green, of course.  I can appreciate those familial and familiar version, but with this week’s recipe I’ve included two elements that will be exercise for your cooking chops—Bolognese and white sauce.

The Bolognese (also called a ragu) is a mix of aromatic vegetables and chopped or ground meat, and the white sauce is a basic béchamel (one of the five leading or “mother” sauces) with an addition of two types of cheese.  And al forno is just a term that denotes a softened pasta noodle achieved through baking.

Classic lasagna al forno

Serves 4 -6

  • 9 oven-ready lasagna sheets
  • ½ onion, grated
  • 1 carrot, peeled, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 8 ounces minced sirloin steak
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • A few pinches dry oregano and dry basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 14 ½ ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 ounces red wine
  • 2 – 4 ounces whole milk
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Cheese sauce

  • 1 ounce all-purpose flour plus 1 ounce unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces whole milk
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 ounces grated white cheddar cheese
  • 2 ½ tablespoons grated parmesan (plus more for topping)

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  In wide-bottomed, high-sided sauté pan or sautoir, heat small amount of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and carrots, reduce heat slightly; sweat veg several minutes before adding garlic; continue till veg are translucent and fragrant.  Add in minced steak and ground pork; lightly season with salt and pepper; add dry herbs, bay leaf.  Using a wooden spoon, add tomato sauce; incorporate and reduce slightly; add crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire.  Pour in red wine and reduce until syrupy.  Remove from heat, stir in milk.  Reserve warm.

2.  In a high-sided saucepan over medium heat, add flour and butter, allowing butter to melt to form a paste.  Whisk in 1/3 of milk, removing any lumps by stirring.  Add in another 1/3 of milk along with pinch nutmeg.  Add last 1/3 of milk, bring to gentle boil.  Remove from heat, add in grated cheese in small installments; whisk in parmesan, season with salt and pepper.

3.  Evenly spread 1/3 of meat mixture to a 8-inch by 11 ½ -inch by 2-inch casserole dish (or 2 quart baking dish).  Line with three sheets of oven-ready lasagna; spread out 1/3 of cheese sauce and top with another 1/3 of meat mixture; add three more sheets of lasagna.  Pour out remaining 1/3 of meat mixture, spread evenly before applying final amount of cheese mix.  Top with additional parm; cover with aluminum foil, bake at 350° F for 30 minutes.  After removing, allow lasagna to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.  Top with extra parmesan.

Published in: on December 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Pan-seared ribeye steaks with gremolata and parmesan polenta

Polenta: the cornmeal show-stealer

Two words:  cornmeal mush.  But please, dear reader, don’t let the ostensible lack of descriptive gentility fool you.  As Craig Claiborne writes in his New York Times Food Encyclopedia, “There are three foods of consummate goodness that may be served as either as main course or a side dish in the Italian kitchen.”  Claiborne lists rice (in the form of risotto) and, of course, pasta before giving a venerable nod to polenta, which, as the author suggests, “is infinite in its variations, is relatively and regrettably little known and appreciated in this country.”

To alleviate a bit of burden for the well-intentioned initiate, I recommend and instant variety of polenta, available along with the dry pasta or rice aisle at your local market.

Employing the cornmeal concoction as a side dish for this polenta permutation, I’ve paired it with a pan-seared ribeye and—supplying a callback to Italian cuisine—garnished with gremolata, an aromatic condiment composed of fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon zest.  Uncork a bottle of pinot noir (for sipping and for deglazing your pan for a loose, red wine reduction) and you’re set.

Is it mush?  Sure—I’ll respond with a shrug.  But it’s a noble sort of mush, my friend.

Pan-seared ribeye steaks with gremolata and parmesan polenta

Serves 2 – 3

  • ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 – 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 14 – 16 fluid ounces low-sodium chicken stock
  • ½ cup instant polenta
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (plus additional for broiling)
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2, 1-pound ribeye steaks
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • As needed, olive oil
  • ½ cup pinot noir

1.  Prepare gremolata, place in a lidded container and reserve in refrigerator.

2.  In a medium-size saucepan, heat stock to low simmer; add in polenta and cook until softened.  Add parmesan and stir in butter; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cover and set aside.

3.  Season exterior of ribeye steaks with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.  In a sauté pan over high heat, add a small amount of olive oil and pan-sear steaks to desired doneness.  Remove steaks, place on a plate, and cover with foil; allow to rest for at least ten minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and, using a wooden spoon, deglaze pan with red wine; allow to reduce by half before adding rendering steak juices from holding plate.

4.  Optional:  place polenta in small crocks, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toast the top under a broiler.  Serve ribeyes with pan reduction and garnish with gremolata.

 

 

Published in: on November 17, 2012 at 6:19 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Caesar salad with steak and blue cheese

Caesar reinterpreted

Originally appeared in the November 8, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

I realize there are more than a few conservative, culinary purists who would baulk at the liberal rearrangement of a traditional Caesar salad.  But hey, before you come to bury Caesar, at least give this week’s recipe a chance.  That being said, I am indeed one of the subscribers to this adage:  that the barometer for a chef’s skill should be the professional prowess of how they construct a classic Caesar.

The backbone of all noble Caesars is an emulsion essentially containing anchovies, eggs, oil, and parmesan cheese (and some additional seasonings).  The steak is solely employed to make this salad an entrée, and the additional elements—the egg, the tomato, and the haricot vert—well, they just sounded like they’d get along with the rest of the gastronomic gang.  And what’s that with two types of cheese?  Though I’d never have had the courage to tell one of my estimable chefs this, I have the guts to tell you, don’t sweat it.

And yes, I also realize that we’re ebbing away from salad season; but, like all the classics, we can always conjure an occasion to enjoy them.  And, like all the classics, we can always find an excuse for reinterpretation.

Caesar salad with steak and blue cheese

Serves 3 – 4

For dressing:

  • 8 – 10 anchovies (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 2 large, cage-free eggs, beaten
  • 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

For salad:

  • 20 ounces strip steak
  • 1 – 2 heads of romaine lettuce, cleaned, chopped into bite-size pieces, rinsed and drained.
  • 3 – 4 hardboiled eggs, chilled, cut into quarters
  • 4 – 6 ounces haricot vert (French green beans), blanched, shocked, chilled
  • As needed, cherry tomatoes, halved
  • As needed, crumbled blue cheese, for garnish

1.  For dressing:  mash anchovies and garlic together to make a paste.  Beat in eggs and lemon juice until smooth.  Beating constantly with a whisk, slowly add in olive oil to form an emulsion.  Add in Parmesan cheese and season to taste.  Place in refrigerator while you prepare remaining components.

2.  In a sanitized kitchen sink fill with potable water, rinse the chopped romaine and drain thoroughly; reserve in refrigerator.  Blanch green beans in boiling water, shocking afterwards in ice water to halt cooking process; drain and reserve in fridge.  Prepare hard-boiled eggs, peel and chill.  Season steak with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, and in a sauté pan over high-heat, sear steaks on both sides.  When desired doneness is reached, place steaks on a plate, cover with foil, and allow to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

3.  In a large bowl, toss romaine with desired amount of dressing.  Plate each serving with a mound of dressed romaine, and arrange haricot vert, eggs, steak, and tomatoes on top.  Garnish each salad with crumbled blue cheese.