Monday, July 19, 2010

ALMOST Julia's Beef Bourguignon

We got a great deal, TWICE, on an entire beef tenderloin, which we had cut into steaks. There is not too much waste with a whole tenderloin, but you always have that little end piece, not big enough to cut into a steak, but the meat is way too good to throw away. I had two of those little packages in my freezer, and my husband asked for some boef bourginon. Even though it's hot as blazes outside, I agreed, since we hadn't had it in ages. I fixed it early in the morning and then dumped it into my crock pot, which he had retrieved from summer exile in the garage. Turned that baby on low, and headed off to work. Returning home, the heavenly smell filled the house. All that was left to do was cook up some noodles, warm the bread and dump lettuce and tomatoes (from my garden!!) into salad bowls.
I kind of followed Julia Child's recipe, but mine is not so complicated. I also cut way down on the amount of cognac that I used, since the hubby is not to fond of that spirit. Let me say upfront that it is ABSOLUTELY NOT necessary to use tenderloin in this recipe. As a matter of fact, the original calls for beef sirloin or chuck ("stew"). Since this is a slow cooking meal, there is plenty of time for the meat to tenderize as it cooks. Don't leave out the tiny, pearl onions, even though they are a little pricey -- they make the dish special.
We like this over buttered egg noodles with a little fresh parsley, but growing up, my mom always served it over rice. I've even seen it served over mashed potatoes or simply as a stew, with lots of crusty bread to soak up the sauce. Whatever your family prefers, that's the right way to make it!

Beef Bourguignon

3 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 - 1 1/2 lbs. beef, cubed into bite size chunks

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 carrots, halved and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 heaping T. tomato paste

12 oz. fresh mushrooms, some halved, some sliced (white, baby portobellos or a mixture of both)

1 can beef consomme' + 1/2 can water

1 cup hearty red wine such as cab. sauv.

1/4 c. + 2 - 3 T. flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 bay leaf

2 -3 dashes worcestershire sauce

3 T. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
2 oz. good cognac (more if you love it!)
12 - 16 tiny pearl onions, frozen or from jar (not pickled!)

12 oz. cooked, buttered egg noodles with 2 T. fresh parsley

In a large, deep frying pan, cook the bacon until crisp. While your bacon is frying, dry your beef cubes off a little, by placing them on a paper towel or two. This will aid in the browing process. Remove the bacon to a paper towel, and all but 2 T. of the bacon fat. Add the beef cubes to the hot bacon fat. Stir them around, so that they brown on all sides. When they look nice and brown, turn the heat down a little and add the onions, garlic and carrot. Stir in the worcestershire sauce and a little salt and pepper. When the onions begin to brown and soften, add the 1/4 c. of flour. Mix this into the meat/veggie mixture until ALL the flour is absorbed. If there is still fat/liquid in the pan, add a little more flour, 1 spoonful at a time. When the flour is incorporated, add the consomme', water,wine, tomato paste and mushrooms. Turn the heat up a little bit, bring the mixture to a boil and add the pearl onions, bay leaf, cognac and thyme.
At this point, you may put the mixture in your crock pot and cook it on low for at least 5 hours OR put it into an oven proof casserole and cook on 300 degrees for at least 3 hours. I like the crock pot way the best! 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Summer Classic: Ratatouille

Classic Ratatouille

When the markets are bursting with colorful, fresh veggies, I typically buy too many. Since I can't stand to waste anything, I often turn to ratatouille to use up my extras. Ratatouille is very forgiving, up to a certain point. You've got to have tomatoes, garlic and spices. We prefer a more classic ratatouille, with peppers, squash and eggplant. I think it's the ideal side dish for grilled meats and fish, but many vegetarian friends eat this as a main dish, over pasta or polenta. Try it while the local vegetables are abundant. Cut all of your ingredients into approximately the same size, while your garlic and onions soften in the olive oil.

If you have not tried this before, I am betting it will become part of your regular side dishes!


1 T. olive oil

2 minced garlic cloves

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red pepper, roasted, then chopped

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced

1 medium yellow "summer" squash, cut like the zucchini

1 small eggplant, peeled and diced

1/3 c. V8 Vegetable juice

6 medium tomatoes, diced OR 1 11 oz. can diced tomatoes PLUS 8 halved cherry tomatoes

freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup packed, torn, fresh basil

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a LARGE nonstick pan, warm your olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and onions and continue chopping the veggies. (You probably will want to roast your red pepper first.) When the garlic and onion soften, add in everything else EXCEPT the basil, and bring the mixture to a bubble, stirring to break up the tomatoes and release their juice. Put on a lid and turn down the heat. Let this simmer for about 30 - 45 minutes, making sure it does not stick and burn, stirring occasionally. Lastly add the basil and pour the entire mixture into a shallow baking dish. (If your tomatoes were very juicy, and the mixture looks too runny, mix 1 T. flour w/1/2 c. water in a jar, shaking it well to dissolve the flour, and then add it to the ratatouille, stirring it in completely and bringing it back to a boil. This will help it to thicken up a little.)

Top w/cheese, if desired. At this point, you can refrigerate the dish and hold it up to 3 days or bake it off. If you need to hold it until later, be sure to set it on the counter for at least 15 minutes before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Some Words on Cooking with Herbs

My herb garden is exploding -- the basil and parsley are trying to bolt and go straight to seed, the chives look like mutants from another planet and the thyme is popping up everywhere! The rosemary is huge and fragrant. My lavender is getting ready to bloom, but the dill is struggling. Nevertheless, I managed to pull a few fronds from it last week to flavor a few dishes.

I know several people who grow herbs, but rarely use them in their cooking. I think it's basically fear that keeps them from trying out some new tastes in the kitchen. Here are a few things that I like to do with my herbs. I've been fooling around with herb blends and medleys. Basically that means I go out into the garden, cut lots of herbs and bring them into the house. I give them a rinse, shake out the excess water and blot them with a towel. Then I get to chopping.
The next step is to decide what other flavor I'd like to add in. I almost always opt for a clove or 2 of garlic and some freshly ground black pepper. Often, I use a little lemon zest, from my handy dandy microplane grater. A little olive oil can moisten the mixture, and is welcome especially if you are planning on grilling your dinner.

Recently, I've used my "herb medley" in a sauteed shrimp dish and a baked salmon. For the shrimp, I simply put a little butter and olive oil into a non stick frying pan, and added 2 cloves of minced garlic. I let this cook, very low and slow, until the garlic got tender. I hate the taste of burned garlic, so I am always careful to cook it slowly, to let it's flavor develop in the oil. To the butter, oil and garlic mixture, I poured in 1/4 cup pinot grigio and about 2 T. of my basic herb medley -- that night it was basil, rosemary, flat leaf parsley, a little thyme and some garlic chives --and allowed this to simmer away for about 10 minutes and reduce a little, while I enjoyed a cold drink and prepared a salad and some bread. Then, I dropped in 10 peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp, tails off. I turned up the heat and let it cook for about 5 minutes, allowing the shrimp cook through and turn pink. I sprinkled the skillet with some sea salt and served it over angel hair pasta. It was a big hit!

The second meal I prepared was my trusty old standby, baked salmon. I spread a little olive oil on the bottom of a cookie sheet, laid on the salmon, and topped it with the herbs. This time, I made sure the medley included as much dill as I could harvest from the garden, and lemon zest. I incorporated the garlic clove while I was chopping the medley. I added a few tablespoons of white wine to the pan -- once again the pinot grigio -- and covered the fish with foil. I baked it for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees. It was tender, juicy and had a bright, fresh flavor. So easy, so fast!

Whatever you do, don't leave those herbs outside, languishing in the heat! Bring them in and cook, cook, cook!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I scream, you scream...Homemade ICE CREAM!

Happy 4th of July, Everyone! What could be more All American than homemade ice cream? I've had this recipe for years, and used to make it often when my children were little. It made for a very exciting day -- ice cream churning away on the back deck, lots of little hands adding in ice and rock salt. Today, it churned away in a brand, new ice cream churn, right in our kitchen sink.

It turned out just as sweet, however!

This recipe came from a Southern Living Cookbook, circa 1985, the year my first son was born. The cookbook was a gift from my mom and I bet I've cooked more recipes from it than almost any other I own!

If there is a flavor combination better than Chocolate and Peanut butter, I can't immediately think of it. After all, if you are going to take the trouble to make from scratch ice cream and have the patience to wait for it to get ready, go for the really good stuff. And believe me, this recipe is the really good stuff!

Peanut Butter Ice Cream w/Butterfinger Candy Bits

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 T. creamy peanut butter

3 13 oz. can evaporated milk

3 cups whole milk

6 2.1 oz. Butterfinger candy bars, chopped into bite sized pieces

Beat eggs at high speed and add peanut butter and sugar. Continue to beat until well blended. Add in evaporated and whole milk and beat another minute. Stir in chopped candy bars. Chill mixture about 30 minutes. Freeze in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturers directions.