Friday, January 28, 2011


Two nights ago we had 19" of snow.  I love snow and how everything looks after the fluffy, pillowy stuff has blanketed the city.  What I don't like so much is that the roads/sidewalks get paved ASAP (yes, I know it's necessary but I'm not being practical here) and they turn into a dirty, sloshy mess.

However, in the honor of remembering the brief few hours that everything is still fresh and pristine, I took a couple of photos.

Outside our subway stop--there were at least 3 other people taking pictures.

Love this building.
Happy Winter!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Short Ribs

I've had a hard time writing this post, because if writing down the process was going to be anything like what it took to make the short ribs, I just wasn't up to the effort.  This is absolutely a weekend dish, unless you like eating dinner at 4am.  But the results are lovely.

Anyway, 'tis the season for braising and short ribs (Life After Lobster is on the same wavelength).

Enough delay.

Okay I'll start writing the recipe.


Adapted from Epicurious/Daniel Boulud

Note 1: The quantities of liquid used in this recipe are astounding.  As-TOUN-ding.  I found it to be a bit much, which I've noted below.

 Note 2: I used grass-fed beef, which is much leaner than corn-fed beef.  According to the guy at the farmers' market, grass-fed beef needs to be cooked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.  I've noted in the instructions the temp/time for grass-fed as well as corn-fed beef. 
  • 3 bottles dry red wine (next time, I'll just use 2) (if I ever make this again)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and crushed black peppercorns (I just used ground pepper)
  • Flour, for dredging (about 3/4 cup)
  • 8 large shallots, peeled, trimmed, split, rinsed and dried
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 ribs of celery, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 medium-sized leek (white and light-green parts), coarsely chopped, washed and dried
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 quarts unsalted beef broth (this, at least for my 5 1/2 quart dutch oven, was WAY too much--I only needed 1 quart, at most)  
Welp, if you're gonna make a Daniel Boulud recipe, might as well go balls-out.  Get yourself three bottles of dry red wine, preferably around $10 but still drinkable.

I can't believe I cooked with these instead of drinking them. It hurts a bit. Still.

Pour the wine into a large saucepan set over medium heat.  When hot, light with a match and let the flames die out.

Yeah, wanna see how that whole "light on fire" thing went? Prepare yourself.

Now light the match (or flame stick thingy). Careful now.



Yup, nothing.  Stil nothing.

Anyway, bring the sucker up to a boil, and let it boil until reduced by half.  This probably took at least 20 minutes. I'm sorry I didn't time it. I had no idea what "half" was.


Set the reduction aside.

Heat the oven to 275 degrees (for corn-fed beef, heat to 350 degrees).

Then, heat oil over medium high heat in large ovenproof pot (if my experience is any indication, you don't want anything less than a 5-quart pot).

Pat your short ribs dry with a paper towel.  Season well with salt and pepper on all sides.

Did someone hear an angel sing.

Dredge each short rib in flour and shake off the excess.

Working in batches if necessary (which it probably will be), brown short ribs on all sides, about 3-4 minutes on each side.  That is not an absolute rule. It was very touch and go for me.

Get all sculptural to make sure all sides can be browned.  The things I do.

Remove browned short ribs and set aside.

Cue second angel joining the chorus.

Prep your aromatics/veggies.


If you have a lot of fat in the pot (heehee that sounds funny), drain all but 1 TBS.  With the leaner grass fed short ribs, I didn't need to drain.  Lower the heat to medium.

Add the veggies/aromatics and tomato paste to the pot and stir until browned, about 5-7 minutes.

Still needs some browning. Can't say that it really happened DANIEL I FAILED YOU.

Add the wine reduction, short ribs, and enough broth to the pot to just cover short ribs.


Cover tightly with lid and place in oven for...5 hours. Yes, I said 5 hours.  Dude, that's what the farmers market guy told me.  If you're using corn-fed beef, 2 1/2 hours will do.

Check every once in a while to see if you need to add more liquid (I didn't need to--I mean, the thing is covered, how much liquid is actually going to evaporate?).

This is what mine looked like after ffiiiiivveeee hoooouurrrsss...


At this point, if you want to, let the pot cool down and refrigerate overnight (or, as apropos for cold weather, stick it outside in the freezing weather).  If you do this, you will be easily able to remove a huge hunka fat from the liquid.  If you don't do this, just skim off as much fat as you can, and skip to the step after the next two pictures.

This is what the mixture looks like after a night of chilling:

It's like a creme brulee (but not), where you can crack through the surface and remove a good part of the fat in chunks.


After you've gotten rid of some of the fat (whether by chilling or just skimming), carefully remove the short ribs.  They should be falling apart at this point, so handle gently.

Um, I think there's a third angel.

Bring the liquid to a boil until it has reduced to about 1 quart.  So, I don't know about you, but I don't know what a "quart" is on sight, so I just kinda winged it.  Took at least 15 minutes.

Strain the liquid and discard the solids.  Season liquid with salt and pepper.  I put the liquid back in the pot, but it's ready to serve at this point so do what you will.

Because my short ribs were kind of cool from the overnight chilling, I gently nestled them back in the liquid and warmed them over a gentle simmer.

Looks like Willy Wonka's river of chocolate.  Or a swamp of chocolate.

Serve each short rib with some of that precious liquid. Serve with whatever. I couldn't have cared less at this point. Just gimme the damn short ribs already.

This was a labor of love, although most of the time is waiting time.  In any case, it was worth it. 


Monday, January 24, 2011

Szechuan Shrimp Stir Fry

I had a major hankering for stir-fry the other week.  It happens. My mouth starts involuntarily salivating thinking about stir-fry and I just want to lap up a bowl of soy sauce. No not really.  Maybe.  

Actually when I was a little kid, my mom had served a big platter of some meat dish that had a lot of soy sauce.  At the end of the meal, when all that was left on the platter was a pool of soy saucey goodness, I literally lifted the platter and tipped it towards my mouth, poised to drink down that delicious salty liquid.  My mom was, needless to say, horrified. 

Maybe only rivaled by that time she caught me with fistfuls of peeled garlic stashed away in my pockets, after I had pilfered the lovely odorific cloves from her when she was making kimchi.

Back to stir-fry.  I didn't want to go beef/chicken/pork because I had had a good bit of that over the holidays, so I decided to use shrimp.  My poor shrimp came all the way from Indonesia.  I'm a planet-killer. I just needed to get that confession off my chest.

This recipe for Szechuan style shrimp stir fry on got uniformly rave reviews from Epicurious readers.  If they all like it, why not me.  I added broccolini to the recipe to round out the meal.

Adapted from Epicurious

For the broccolini:
  • 1 pound broccolini (or other green veggie of your choice)
  • 2 tsp peanut oil (or other high smoke point oil)
  • 2 to 3 TBS water
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
For the sauce: 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chili bean sauce (I used something like garlic black bean sauce or something)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic (I used balsamic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
For the shrimp: 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil (or other high smoke point oil)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
Wash and trim the broccolini, and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Heat 2 tsp vegetable oil (or canola or grapeseed or safflower, basically anything with a high smoke point) in a skillet over medium high heat.  Throw in the broccolini, toss to coat with oil, and add 2 to 3 TBS of water.  Let broccolini simmer for about a minute, then mix in the soy sauce.

Simmer about 3-5 minutes or until broccolini reaches your desired consistency, then remove broccolini to a bowl/plate and set aside.  Remove excess moisture from the skillet with a paper towel.

Moving onto the sauce: mix together all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Moving onto the shrimp.  Prep your scallions, ginger and garlic.

Very good. Heat the oil in your skillet over high heat until shimmering (a wisp of smoke is okay but if it starts to smoke too much, just take the pan off the heat for a minute to cool things down, otherwise you will burn your aromatics).  Add in the scallions, ginger and garlic.

Stir *just for 20 seconds*, then add in the shrimp.  Cook for about 1 minute, continuing to stir and move around.  Add in the sauce and continue to stir fry for about 3 minutes, until shrimp is just cooked.

Lower heat, add in the reserved broccolini and cook until warmed through.

Serve with steamed rice.  Take a picture with bad lighting. Sue me.

That is such a random picture.  Guess I was super hungry.


Friday, January 21, 2011


Light posting this week due to lack of inspiration and a trip. I'm sure you noticed.

Sometimes, during a rigorous and exhausting 5-hour nap, one must take a moment to stretch.

Bunni tutoring Rikki on the fine points of a well-executed naptime stretch: [yawn] I think we will take a bit of a stretch right now...

Aaah, that feels good...stretch those limbs helter skelter now...

...still streeeeetching...must be limber for all that napping...

...and...I think we'll just fall asleep like...this...zzzz...shneerfff...

Who knew that stretching could be just as exhausting as napping.

Note: I apologize for the indecency of some of these shots. The pugs have no mind for modesty.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Spaghetti with Meatballs

For New Year's Eve dinner, I excitedly told Kevin that I was going to make stuffed pork chops.  With a somewhat less than enthusiastic response, he hemmed and hawed, saying no, I should do something simple, like my spaghetti and meatball dish.  Oh ho, little does he know that spaghetti and meatballs is a dish I consider to be somewhat intensive.  And I let him know that in no uncertain terms.

But still, I love the dish so I made it a few days after New Year's.

For spaghetti and meatballs, I turn to Lidia Bastianich and a recipe from one of her cookbooks, The Italian American Kitchen.
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich

  • Two 35-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with your hands (Marzano or non, whatever works)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper (original recipe calls for 1 tsp but I worried about it being too spicy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fine, dry bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (the original recipe calls for 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, but I've found that the garlic doesn't cook that well when it's hiding in the meatball--however, if you don't have garlic powder, no need to go out and buy it just for this recipe, simply use the fresh garlic)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Let's start with the sauce.

Whoop dee doo.  Heat the oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add in the onion and garlic.

Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add in the crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, about a 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of salt, and about 1/4 tsp ground black pepper.

Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer.  I usually make the meatballs while the sauce is simmering away. 

In a large bowl, mix together the pork and beef until just combined.  Add in the bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, and garlic powder. 

In a separate small bowl, whisk up the egg with the salt and pepper.

Pour into meat mixture and mix with your hands, just until combined. No need to overwork.  I think I took a picture of the completed meat mixture, but it was really beyond unattractive, so let's just skip to the meatball part.

Form 1 1/2" meatballs with your hands.

Bouquet of meatballs

At this point, you can move ahead with the recipe, or, if you're like me, you'll put the meatballs in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let them firm up.

Heat the veggie and olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Dredge the meatballs in flour and shake off the excess.

Gently place the meatballs into the spattering oil. You will probably have to do this in two batches.  Brown the meatballs on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.

I won't lie, this is kind of a pain.  You have to stand over a skillet of spattering oil for about 20 minutes, constantly flipping soft meatballs, trying to get them to balance so all sides get browned, etc. And Kevin thinks this recipe is easy. EASY. I hope he's reading this.

Slip the meatballs into the simmering tomato sauce (I had actually turned off the heat for the sauce for a bit when the meatballs were in the fridge, then brought it back to a simmer while I was browning the meatballs).

Simmer for about 30 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.

Cook your pasta.

When you drain your pasta, make sure to pour the boiling water out as exuberantly as possible, so some of it splashes up, over the edge of the sink, and onto your hip.  If at all possible, give yourself a second degree burn, and spend the next few hours acting like it's all Kevin's fault.

Anyway, after the boiling water incident, my patience for pictures was pretty nil, hence the half-assed picture below. Stir the pasta with the meatballs and sauce, and you're good to go. I'm going to lick my wounds.  Oh, something about sprinkling with extra Parm whatever get me a bandaid stat.

Ta-da! (wince of pain)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Short End of the Stick

The pugs love crawling into Kevin's lap when he's sitting in his favorite recliner (it's favorite by default, we only have one recliner).

Rikki quickly took advantage the other day, managing to look like a rolled up cinnamon bun.

Pictures like this make me think that Kevin would be a good dad (to a human)

But wait? See that in the back left, behind Rikki? 

Yep, it's Bunni. The pug that made it to Kevin's lap first, only to be rudely squashed by her sister.

Oddly, she looks somewhat peaceful.

That, or she's pleading with me, using only her eyes, to free her from this vice grip?

 Or, I suppose, she just looks resigned.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pork Chop Redemption

Hail the mighty pork chops.  After a bloody, then overly crispy battle, they have returned blazing and victorious with redolent porky yumminess.

"Blazing" and "victorious" is more than likely overstating the situation, but I did venture to try pork chops again for New Year's Eve dinner, and it went much better this time than the previous.  Well, I didn't cry, which is a vast improvement. 

Adapted from Tyler Florence 

A few notes: I made only 3 pork chops, but I'm giving the recipe for 4 because that's easier. And, the original recipe was much fancier and had something about roasted grapes, two cast iron skillets, allspice, and other doodads.  Mine wasn't as fancy.
  • 4 bone-in pork chops, each about 1.5" thick
  • 2 quarts room temperature water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (1/8 cup if you're using regular table salt)
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 4 slices prosciutto (about 1 oz)
  • 2 oz shredded asiago (I just said 2 oz--I actually have no idea. I used about 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded asiago)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
Hi pork. I love you.

No really, I do. Come back!

In a large bowl or other container, combine the water, sugar and salt.  Mix until sugar and salt dissolve.  I then poured the brine into a gallon sized bag because I was only using 3 pork chops and they all fit, but if 4 pork chops won't fit in a gallon-sized bag with the brine, then go ahead with your container.  

Store in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours.

Remove oinkies from brine, shake off excess brine, and pat them dry with a paper towel.  The next step is optional, but if you have time then go for it.  I laid out the pork chops on a tray and then put them in the refrigerator for a few hours. Purpose? Dry out the surface just a touch so that when you sear the pork chops, they develop a nice crust instead of steaming. Did it make a huge difference? Dunno.

But I get to sit here and write that I let them air-dry for a while. Wheeee!!!!

When they're all dried, whether by a paper towel rubdown or some time, naked, in the fridge, take a knife and make a horizontal slit in the side of each pork chop.  Kind of like a pocket.

Stuff the pocket you just made with 1 slice of prosciutto and about 1 to 2 TBS of shredded asiago.

Can't see what I'm doing? Here's another angle.

Which is oddly disturbing, but you get a better idea of what I'm doing.

Slide in some toothpicks sideways to seal the pocket.  No need to season the exterior, there is plenty 'o' salt in these.

Heat about 2 to 3 TBS olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Plonk your pork chops down and cook until a nice crust forms, about 5 minutes.  

Turn heat down to medium, and carefully flip the pork chops.

And cook until just slightly pink on the inside, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Or something like that. It got really touch and go for me at this point because I had no idea what I was doing. Haven't heard that from me before, have ya?

Next time, I will probably finish the pork chops off in the oven (Tyler Florence says 425 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes).

I served these chops with roasted broccoli sprinkled with parmesan, asiago, and lemon juice, and a warm potato salad.

Oh, and don't forget to remove the toothpicks before eating. I seriously started to freak out when I was making my first cut into my precious, labored-over pork chop and couldn't saw through the damn thing.  But all was well. Sneaky toothpick.