Sunday, June 29, 2008

Simply Recipes: Irish Beef Stew

My mom has been making beef stew for years, mostly in the colder months, but it always has kind-of a bland flavor to it. I've longed for something punchier, with more flavor, more oomph. When I saw the recipe for Irish Beef Stew, with Guinness and tomato paste, I decided I might have hit the jackpot. The result? Rich, flavorful, and satisfying.

Irish Beef Stew
From Simply Recipes, based on a recipe from Fidel Murphy's Irish Pub on Grand Cayman Island

¼ cup olive oil
1¼ pounds stew beef (1-inch pieces)
6 large garlic cloves, minced
6 cups beef stock
1 cup Guinness beer
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped, or 1 bag pearl onions
2 cups carrots, peeled and cut in ½-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Heat olive oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and sauté until brown on all sides, about five minutes. Add garlic and sauté one minute. Add beef stock, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

While meat and stock is simmering, melt butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onions, and carrots. Saute vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside until the beef stew has simmered for at least one hour.

Check beef meat for doneness. If beef is still tough, cook for additional half hour. When beef is tender, add vegetables to stew. Simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Tilt pan and spoon off fat. Salt and pepper to taste. Top individual servings with parsley.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook: Classic Blondies

I am looking for a blondie recipe.  Maybe I should post a wanted ad.  Wanted: one blondie, halfway between a cookie and a brownie, preferably with lots of sweet goodness folded inside.  While this one works on some levels, and is obviously delicious in its own right, it's not quite there.  The search will continue.  And no, I'm not particularly sad about that fact.

Classic Blondies
From The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

8 ounces White Chocolate baking bar, broken or chopped into 1-inch pieces
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Milk Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.  Grease the paper.

In the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the eggs until foamy.  With the mixer running, add the sugar in a slow, steady stream.  Add the vanilla.  Add the melted chocolate and butter in a thin stream.  With a rubber spatula, fold in the flour, salt, and chocolate chips until well combined.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Let the brownies cool for at least 10 minutes.  Cut and serve warm or at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 16 bars

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Semi-Homemade Cooking 3: Fried Pork Chops and Cajun Mashed Potatoes

When you review cookbooks, sometimes you don't get to decide what comes in the mail.  Sometimes it's something that you would rather not mess with.  Like all this convenience cooking stuff.  But then you try a recipe that has promise, and it's actually good.  Like this pork chop.  With the fabulous crunchy coating.  But the purchased tub of potatoes still get a thumbs down.  How hard is it to boil some potatoes?

Fried Pork Chops
Adapted from Semi-Homemade Cooking 3 by Sandra Lee

4 pork chops, cut 1-inch thick
1 cup Bisquick baking mix
1 (1.6-ounce) packet dry ranch dressing mix
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons canola oil

Rinse pork chops with cold water; do not pat dry. In a shallow bowl, stir together baking mix, sauce mix, and paprika. Dredge pork chops in coating mixture and shake off excess.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown pork chops on all sides in oil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until done, about 10 to 12 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Cajun Mashed Potatoes

1 (24-ounce) container mashed potatoes
¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

Heat mashed potatoes, in container, uncovered on HIGH for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring once. Transfer mashed potatoes to a medium bowl. Add buttermilk and Cajun seasoning. Stir thoroughly. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Championship Pork Shoulder and the Big Apple BBQ

I have missed barbecue. I haven't even attempted to buy or eat any while in New Jersey, because I know for a fact that I will be disappointed. So I have stayed far away, and I have been trying to pretend that I don't know how good barbecue really is. But all my hard work was completely undone when the Big Apple BBQ came to town. The pitmasters rolled in with their smokers and sauce mops, and I couldn't stay away.

I had to rush over to Chris Lilly's tent to get some smoked chopped pork. Chris Lilly's pork may just be the most amazing pork I have ever eaten. It's smokey and richly, deeply pork. It's pig the way it was always meant to be. It's no wonder the man has won 10 World BBQ Championships. Too bad his restaurant is in Decatur, Alabama. Actually, that may be a good thing. I might be 400 pounds if it was within driving distance.

To sum up: It is now apparent to me that I can never be a vegetarian.

Big Bob Gibson's Championship Pork Shoulder
Adapted from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book by Chris Lilly

Dry Rub:
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ tablespoon dark brown sugar
2¼ teaspoons garlic salt
2¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon black pepper

¾ cup apple juice
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Vinegar Mop:
1¾ cup apple cider vinegar
⅛ cup cayenne pepper
½ tablespoon kosher salt
2 slices of lemon

2 pork butts, about 7 pounds each, or 1 whole pork shoulder, 16-18 pounds

In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the dry rub. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the injection. Using a meat syringe, inject the pork evenly at 1-inch intervals from the top side, using the entire injection solution. Dry the outside of the meat with paper towels and apply an even coating of the dry rub all over, patting it down so the rub adheres. Wrap the pork in foil and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.

Mix all the ingredients for the vinegar mop in a small bowl. Set aside.

Remove the pork from the fridge while you start the smoker. Smoke the pork shoulder at 225°F until the meat reaches 195°F, about 14 to 16 hours. In the last few hours, baste the meat with the vinegar mop ever hour.

Remove the pork from the smoker and let rest for 30 minutes. Pull the pork, removing any and discarding any visible fat. Sprinkle on some of the leftover vinegar mop, mixing with your hands to incorporate, then serve immediately.

Memphis-Style Championship Red Sauce
Adapted from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book by Chris Lilly

1¼ cups ketchup
1 cup water
¾ cup vinegar
¾ cup tomato paste
¾ cup brown sugar
⅔ cup corn syrup
½ cup pure maple syrup
4 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons molasses
4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon applesauce
1½ teaspoons soy sauce
1½ teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon onion powder
¾ teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon white pepper
⅛ teaspoon celery seed
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes. Let cool; transfer to a jar and store, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 4 cups

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Semi-Homemade Cooking 3: Niçoise on a Roll (Nice-Style Tuna Salad Sandwich)

As part of cookbook reviews that I do, I was tapped to review a Sandra Lee cookbook. Now, I'm not normally a big Sandra Lee fan, but I did find a few recipes in the book that were tasty and fast and semi-nutritious. My favorite has to be the Niçoise on a Roll.  It's got canned tuna, nicoise olives, capers, and hard-boiled eggs, and when served ice cold on a potato roll with plenty of lettuce, tomato, and onions, it's heavenly on a hot summer afternoon.

Niçoise on a Roll (Nice-Style Tuna Salad Sandwich)

1 can (6-ounce) tuna, oil packed, drained
2 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon capers
10 niçoise olives
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fines herbes
Salt and pepper
2 round potato buns
2 Bibb lettuce leaves
6 slices Roma tomato
¼ red onion, peeled and thinly sliced in rings

Combine tuna, eggs, capers, olives, mayonnaise, fines herbes, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.  Mix thoroughly.

Open potato buns and place one lettuce leaf on the bottom half of each bun.  Divide tuna mixture between the two sandwiches.  Top each with three tomato slices and red onion rings.