Monday, February 14, 2011

Short Ribs with Mustard & Potatoes- How to Cook Everything

If you have been reading this, you're aware of my loyalty for Acme. There's a nearby ShopRite that I go to on occasion, but for some reason or another I get annoyed every time I go. They lure me with specials on occasion, but Acme gets me for their sales and their loyalty programs. That being said.... ShopRite's meat department has them all beat. I wanted to get something special for our Valentine's Day dinner and wound up at ShopRite to find something out of the ordinary. This is where my local ShopRite wins.... They have about 10 times the variety of meats that I find at any local store. Weird stuff, too, but fresh and affordable. I picked out a few things to try out on Shawn and figured that I could stash the rest in our handy dandy standing freezer that we were blessed with for Christmas. One of the things that I purchased was a 3 pack of short ribs. I've never made them in my life, and only eaten them a few times, but they were affordable and looked interesting so I figured "what the hell?"

I browsed some recipes and realized that short ribs are definitely a slow cooked type of dish. There were quite a few recipes that I wanted to try, but found this interesting one in Mark Bittman's book. I liked that I had all of the ingredients and that potatoes were included in the dish. I was a little put off at the fact that he suggests cooking mostly the day before and reheating the next day but Shawn pointed out that it would make a quick preparation for a Monday meal. I also realized that most recipes called for at least 3 lbs of ribs, but I only had 1 1/2 in my package of 3 ribs. Thankfully, Widener University teaches all of their hospitality students how to yield recipes.

I started out on Sunday by browning the ribs over medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side. This was easy to do while finishing dishes and cleaning up from the previous evening's dinner. I removed the ribs, removed all but a little oil, and added in a cup of minced onions. Sauteed for 10 minutes on medium heat and added 1 cup of chicken stock. Recipe said to use chicken, beef, or vegetable and I had chicken stock in the fridge from a recent bird that I had. I know it's okay in the land of cooking, but I always feel a little cannibalistic when I cross over meats from one type to another. I just think of jambalaya and shrug it off. Why waste perfectly good chicken stock? Once it was all boiling up nicely I added the ribs to the mixture, returned to a boil, lidded it up, and reduced to low. The rest of the evening I let it simmer; added potatoes after 30 minutes, and turned the pieces every 15 minutes or so. The recipe states to cook for "at least" 30 minutes after adding the potatoes or until tender. I let it go about 1 1/2 hours and then turned it off to cool, adding red wine when the broth got low. It was a great excuse to open up the bottle of Hot Date Cabernet Sauvignon that Shawn got me for Valentine's Day. I was pleased to find that it tasted great and went well with the flavors.

Once cooled, I removed the meat and potatoes; strained out the onions, and put in the fridge. In a moment of brilliance I realized that I could put the pot in the fridge with the stock and use it the next day without having to clean in between! Boo-yah!

The next day, when I got home from work, I pulled the pot out of the fridge and learned by Mark Bittman suggest to cool the stock overnight. There was about 1/8 inch of fat on top of 1/2 inch worth of stock. Ick! I skimmed it off, brought it back to a boil, and added in the meat & potaoes. Covered, turned to low, and let it simmer happily until it was time for dinner. Just before serving, I stirred in a touch of dijon to the gravy. In the future, I'd add more stock or wine when reheating. The gravy was SO GOOD, and more would have been lovely.

Which brings me to the meal.... we each took one rib, a few potatoes, and a touch of gravy. I served it with some leftover haricot verts (green beans for the laymen) and mini baguettes.

Side bar! The baguettes were a recent find from Trader Joe's. I read about them and their awesomeness and bought a pack for the freezer. Basically, they are frozen rolls that you heat up at 400F for 4-5 minutes. This was the first time I made them and they were fantastic and easy. I now have yet another staple from TJs that will be in my freezer at all times. They're a great size for sandwiches, too.

The meal was fabulous. Very similar to a pot roast, but I found it to be more tender. I used Russet potatoes instead of the suggested waxy type and it worked well, despite a few of them breaking up a bit while cooking. The gravy was fabulous and we sopped up ever speck of it with the bread. I thought that baby carrots would have been perfect in the dish, and brought some color to it also.

Steller meal this time!! So exciting to have a new meat that I can work with. Inexpensive and lots of possibilities...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beef Tamale Bake- Pampered Chef

Who doesn't love Pampered Chef? It's fun to browse and they pretty much invented the baking stone which I absolutely love. I received a cookbook as a gift years ago and browsed through it the other night to see if I could find something new and interesting. I found this Tamale Bake that looked delicious, and like something that I could easily alter so I would not have to use their specific products.
This recipe was weird for me... Maybe I was distracted because it's a Friday and I was busy all day but I had a really hard time following the recipe. I kept looking too late and realizing that I misread details. It worked out in the long run, but caused for some backtracking and annoyances.
I started by sauteeing up ground turkey (instead of beef) and drained the excess liquid. I added one jar of salsa, a can of red beans, and some cumin & chili powder. Brought it back to a boil and mixed it all up and set it aside while I worked on the cornbread part.
I mixed up 3 parts of corn meal with one part flour and added baking soda & salt. Whisked it with 2 egg whites, 1 cup of hot water, and 3Tbsp of butter. Added the batter to a greased pie plate, topped it with meat (leaving 1/2 inch of space at the edges) and baked for 28 minutes. Topped with cheese and served with sour cream.

Mistake #1- didn't notice how much meat that I was supposed to use and made the full 20oz package of meat instead of the 8oz that was called for. Put about 1/3 of the mixture aside for future use.
Mistake #2- Added 1tsp of baking soda before realizing that it should be 1/2tsp and had to skim off what looked like 1/2 of it
Mistake #3- Recipe called for butter spread with 70% oil and I realized at the last minute that I had 48% spread and had to sub in butter. Used unsalted, so I added a tiny bit more salt than mentioned.
Mistake #4- Topped it with cheese before realizing that cheese was supposed to go on at the end. Had to skim it off before baking.

I was terrified that dinner was going to be awful. I am such a subpar baker and not having paid full attention meant to me that my cornbread crust was going to suck big time. I took the pie out of the oven and set it aside to cool. Breathed a huge sigh of relief and the perfectly set crust. We sliced some off, topped with a little sour cream, and settled down for a taste.

It was really good!! Shawn wasn't a huge fan of the cornbread crust, but he's also not too into tamales and doesn't appreciate cornbread as a chili base like some others (like me) might. The cornbread was slightly dry, but really worked with the chili topping. I used spicy chipotle salsa, which brought a nice kick to the mix and it all came together really well. We each had seconds and still have half a pie leftover for tomorrow.

Beef Tamale Bake- The Pampered Chef "Its good for you"
1 1/2 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1/2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
1c hot water
2 egg whites
3T 70% vegetable oil spread, melted
1/2lb 95% lean ground beef
1 jar (16oz) salsa
1 can red beans, drained & rinsed
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1tsp cumin
1/2 c shredded cheddar

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, & salt. Whisk in water, oil, & egg whites, & stir into cornmeal mixture. Stir until smooth & pour batter into baking dish.

2. Cook beef over med-high heat for 6-8 minutes or until no longer pink, breaking into crumbles. Drain, if necessary.

3. Add salsa, beans, spices, & garlic to the beef, and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Spoon beef mixture evenly over batter to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dish. Bake 20-23 minutes or until crust is set. Remove from oven; sprinkle with cheese. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into wedges.