Archive | January, 2011

Braised Beef Over Noodles

24 Jan

Mr. Parker is a Midwesterner. This means he likes weird Midwestern foods, like egg noodles, lots of beef, and cinnamon-y chili over spaghetti. Really.

On Saturday afternoons, I like to cook. As another “thank you for taking care if me when I was dreadfully ill (which I still am)”, I asked him if he had any requests.

Also, I may have been devoid of ideas.

“Boiled beef with egg noodles.”

Huh?

I assumed he meant some sort of beef tips in gravy, so I set out to find a good recipe.

Unfortunately, everything on the interwebs was… weird. Gravy packets? Soy sauce? No. Now, I’m not against using stuff from a package, but not for something this simple and not when I’m looking to spend a bit of leisure time in the kitchen.

So I invented my own recipe. Lucky Mr. Parker!

1 package stew meat
2 small/medium sweet onions
3 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly diced
1 cup red wine (I used Dancing Bull Red Zinfandel and it was delicious! Get something you’ll want to drink the remainder of)
1 cup beef stock
Butter
Olive oil
8 ounces egg noodles
Flour
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.

Begin by heating an enameled cast-iron casserole over medium/high heat.

Season the stew meat with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with about 1/4 cup flour. Don’t shake off the excess, as this will come in handy later.

Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. When the butter foams, add half of the stew meat. It will sear and sizzle, but this is a good thing. You’ll also notice lots of dark bits on the bottom of the pan. Though unsightly, these bits provide the flavor for the sauce.

Once one batch of meat is seared on all sides, remove it to a clean plate and add the second batch. Repeat.

Once the second batch of beef is seared and in the wings, reduce the heat and add tour onions. Since they melt away almost completely later, we don’t want to cook them too long now.

Once the onions have softened slightly, add the garlic. Cook the two together for one minute, and remove to a plate.

Turn off the heat, add the wine, then restore the heat to medium. Begin scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Yum!

Once the wine has reduced a tad and melded with the released brown bits, add back the beef, onions, and garlic. Now it’s time for the cup of beef broth. Bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, take a fork and mash 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon flour. When that’s done, stir it into the beef mixture. Stir semi-vigorously until the lumps have melted away. This little trick will help the sauce thicken.

Put the covered casserole in your 350 degree oven for one hour.

When the beef has 15 minutes left, bring a pot of water to boil. Once it’s rolling, throw in a good amount of salt and your egg noodles. When they’re al dente, drain (but never rinse!) and throw a pat of butter on ’em.

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The Wrong Way Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

18 Jan

I caught a brutal cold/flu thing this week, and Mr. Parker took great care of me. He brought me soup, Dayquil, soft Kleenex, cough drops, and Nerds Rope for when I felt better. He also fed and walked my dogs, put DVDs on for me, and was just generally awesome.

His favorite cookies are chocolate chip, and he likes them chewy. As a meager “thank you,” I made him a batch of these. They aren’t the most attractive cookie, but they’re decadently buttery and – most importantly – chewy.

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
9 oz (3/4 bag; use all 11.5 oz if you wish, though) chocolate chunks (chips are fine, too)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Now we come to the “Wrong Way” part.

In baking, you’re supposed to mix wet and dry ingredients separately and then combine the two. If I had more bowls, I’d do that. Currently, though, the only mixing bowl I own is the one that fits my mixer.

So…

Combine the butter, sugars, and vanilla. Mix until incorporated. Add the egg. Mix for a moment. Next, add the rest of the ingredients – less the chocolate chunks – to the mixer bowl with the wet ingredients. Mix on medium/low speed. The dough should look like wet sand. Add the chocolate chunks and stir.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto a heavy, nonstick cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. The cookies should look just brown on the outside and just underdone in the middle.

Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Don’t worry; they should begin to look more normal as they cool.

There you go! Delicious, chewy cookies that only take a few minutes and minimal effort to prepare.

Makes slightly more than 36 medium-sized cookies.

Pasta with Sauce of Tomato and Cream

12 Jan

Ahhh. Tomatoes and cream – how do two such different foods combine so deliciously? This is a favorite of mine: it’s quick, easy, and inexpensive. On days I’m tired and I arrive home from work around dinner time, I make this. It’s leagues better than prepackaged dinners, and I don’t have to expend much effort to prepare it, nor do I have to wait long to eat it.

This possibly could serve 4, depending on how hungry everyone is, but I say make it for two ravenous adults, and then there will be leftovers! I usually dislike leftovers, but this dish re-heats nicely!

16 oz spaghetti
One big can (32 oz-ish) of Cento San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes (this brand is perfect, because not only are San Marzanos supposed to be the best cooking tomato, but a little branch of basil is included in the can, plus the “juice” is very thick and saucy)
Half a yellow onion, diced
Three cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil
Coarse salt
Butter, approximately 3 Tablespoons
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth or stock
1 cup heavy cream
Scant splash of Cointreau

I like to use an enameled cast iron French oven for this, but any pan will do. Heat over medium for a few seconds, and then add 1 Tbsp of Olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. Add onion, and cook until it begins to soften and become translucent. Add the garlic. Add a tiny splash of Cointreau. The liqueur will sizzle into nonexistence quite quickly (as always, don’t pour alcohol over an open flame). Add the can of tomatoes, juice and all. Moosh them up with a spoon or spatula.

Add about one cup of broth or stock to the tomato can, and swirl to collect remaining tomatoey goodness. Add to your pan. Toss in a pinch of salt and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. When it boils, add a generous amount of salt. Cook until al dente.

When the pasta is just done, add 1 Tbsp butter and 1 cup heavy cream to the tomato sauce. Stir. Get the pasta from its pot with a pasta grabber contraption. Toss into tomato cream sauce. Stir again. Taste. It may need a little more salt.

Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls and top generously with Parmesan.

Mmmm! 🙂

Baked Eggs

12 Jan

Hmm. Baked eggs? Given my typical American upbringing, I’m more likely to think of eggs prepared by boiling, frying, or scrambling. On the other side of the pond, though, baked eggs are apparently quite standard (I almost said “common” but I think that might mean “hooker”).

At any rate, they eat them. Baked eggs, that is.

Since I’ve been tv-less and internetless for the last long while – that’s right, I’m blogging from my phone – I’ve been watching lots of older clips from Nigella Lawson’s plethora of cooking shows. I love her. Despite being exceptionally wealthy, she just seems so normal. Plus, she adores food. My kind of lady, really.

Here is Nigella, making her mother’s Ouefs en Cocotte:

Anyway, Nigella’s recipe calls for ramekins and truffle oil. I had neither, so I improvised.

My version:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F
Butter the bottom of a small, oven-safe saucepan.
Gently crack in two eggs.
Sprinkle with coarse salt or sea salt. Even standard old Morton salt will work if that’s what you have – just be careful not to overdo it.
Gently drizzle some heavy cream on top. I probably used a few tablespoons; you can use a bit more or less if you prefer.

Carefully place the pan in the oven. I first tried baking for 9 minutes and the eggs still looked totally raw. I added two minutes, and the yolks turned out just a little firmer than I wanted. Foo. So, for my oven, 10 minutes is perfect. Since all ovens are different, you may have to play around with this a bit.

Once baked, the cream thickens. I just pour the entire contents of the pan onto my plate. It is absolute heaven. Buttery, creamy, warm, and gooey. I eat them straight up, but evidently you’re supposed to dip toast into the yolk. When I become the sort of adult who keeps bread in the house on a regular basis, I’ll have to try that.

I had my creamy baked eggs over my Mema’s leftover black-eyed peas. Fantastic. They’re not very aesthetically exciting, but they taste SO GOOD.