Sunday, February 28, 2010

Braised Beef Short Ribs; Stroganoff; Catalan Beef Stew; Technology & Rage

These dishes were never meant to be. Either the ingredients were cursed or I was cursed from the beginning. Really, the dishes should be good, really good; hell, the beef braises in a "nest" for Pete's sake! But it was not meant to be - the beef was not as tender as I could have hoped after braising, the stove was hot-no-cold-no-hot when trying to brown the ribs for the stroganoff; my pasta rollers got all kinds of jacked up while making the noodles for the stroganoff. To top it off, the photos I took of the stroganoff and beef stew recipes are gone.




Even Time Machine couldn't save me! The best part, best, is that about three weeks ago I decided to reformat all of my memory cards for my camera - there were so may different ones floating around and I though to myself:

If I haven't backed these up - it's on me . . . reformat? . . . confirm . . . contents deleted . . .

So it's on me. I'm sorry. I would make the braised short ribs for the stroganoff again because braised meat + homemade noodles + cream + mushrooms = awesome in my book. The Catalan Beef Stew? An interesting flavor combination (the orange zest against the bitterness of the olives was great) but it will not be making the rotation in the foreseeable future.

What pictures I do have are of the braise itself. Check it:

The braise is a two step process; flavor is developed through reducing red wine and aromatics (seen above), once reduced fresh aromatics are added to the pot along with some beef stock.

The fresh aromatics

Meanwhile, the meat is patted dry, seasoned with salt and pepper and coated in flour. I'm pretty sure I was a little zealous with the flour but after such a long braise, it was inconsequential. The two cuts of meat below are both short rib cuts - the top was from Whole Foods - they offered the whole strips while the Wegmans (bottom) cuts were in pieces. I didn't really have a preference - the pre-cut Wegmans version were already in single serving sizes which was nice for presentation in the later dishes - but ultimately either would work.

Fresh aromatics added to the braise

Seasoned meat
(look it's not a mind-blowing picture but there's a shortage - so I thought I would overload while I can)

Seasoned, Floured Meat

The meat is seared - don't fear the oil - I know that it looks like a lot, but one thing this book has taught me for sure is that it is better to have too much than too little oil in a pan when sautéing. The "lightbulb moment" opposite the recipe for braised short ribs explains the rational in greater detail, but essentially, oil is present in the pan to help transfer heat into the protein (or vegetable). Having enough oil ensures quality searing and sautéing; more so than too little oil.

The vegetables are covered with cheesecloth to allow flavor to transfer freely without transferring vegetable matter. Does the meat turn out nice and clean? Sure. Was it completely and totally necessary? Hard to tell, but my instinct tells me no. For a rustic, no-fuss, family-style dish, it seems a bit, um, pretentious. But, Keller is no hack - so I obey.

The aforementioned "nest"

Beef stock added - ready to braise
(Last photo...savor it)

The meat is covered with a parchment lid (I am getting mighty good at making these little buggers) and braised for several hours. Once tender, the meat is removed, the braising liquid strained and the fat skimmed off, and the meat can rest overnight or up to three days. This is a great make-on-Sunday dish that can be reheated, added to other dishes, or transformed completely (as in Catalan beef stew) throughout the week. Additionally, there was enough braising liquid left over that I could reuse it at least once more with another batch of short ribs.

Tasting Notes:
Listen, the short ribs are good. They are versatile. They are time-consuming. In my case, they were cursed. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't give this a go. Hell, I'm getting back on the horse tomorrow (2.28.10) with a fresh batch of shorties (and a new pasta roller). Sure it's a little intense for a braised one-pot meal (okay two if you count the pan in which I sauteed the meat - but I could have done that in the braising pot) - but it is darn tasty and cooking is fun, so suck it up and take a few hours to braise.

Beef Stroganoff: I will make this again and post a shot photo piece. I gotta say, there are few things more satisfying than making one's own pasta, one's own sauce, and one's own protein - nothing jarred, processed or preserved. I love fresh pasta. I love beef. I love, love, love mushrooms so this dish is a winner.

Catalan Beef Stew: I'm pissed I don't have the pics from this one. So pissed. This dish has a different flavor profile than my palate is used to and so it was refreshing to have braised beef in a non-traditional way (to me). I really liked the bitterness of the olives against the sweetness of the fennel, leeks and orange zest. The sofritto gave the dish a certain richness and the potatoes made for a more filling serving. As I mentioned above, I won't be remaking this dish to recreate the photos - but I will say this is a flavorful, fresh look at braised short ribs that is worth giving a try if one needs a fresh look at stew/braised meat. Need a pic? Here is the real deal.

Short Ribs - Wegmans and Whole Foods
Various Veggies - Wegmans
Cabernet Sauvignon - Yellow Tail via PLCB

I'm slowly digging out - up soon: Oxtail Tartine, Scallion Potato Cake, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Pan Seared Duck Breast, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Ice Cream Sandwiches, Sliced Iceburg Salad, Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing, Brioche Croutons, Sauteed Broccoli Rabe... Stay Tuned.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Without Further Delay... Sauteed Chicken with Tarragon, Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I hate excuses, so I won't bother offering any for the delay in posting. I'm trying to be better, but I can't make any guarantees over the next two months or so. I am behind in posting at least two others dishes - they are completed (oxtail and short ribs - they were good and great, in that order) but I have not found the time to post. Maybe I can make headway this weekend.

Let's get back on task - I made the sauteed chicken breasts with tarragon sauce last night - check it out:

The breasts are rubbed with a half curry/half paprika mixture you see on the left in the photo below and they are placed in the refrigerator to marinate for two hours.

Keller suggests a number of side dishes with the chicken, I wanted something hearty to go along with the two feet of snow that just fell outside, so I selected the garlic mashed potatoes.

A quick aside - I have to spell check every time I spell the word potatoes thanks to Dan Quayle. This one incident singlehandedly makes me anxious every time I spell it.

The recipe calls for potatoes (anxiety) that are two inches in diameter - mine were about four inches in diameter, so I had to cut them in half to cook in a reasonable amount of time. Keller says to boil them gently as to disintegrate the outer layer - since I exposed the flesh by cutting them int eh fist place, I tried to monitor the boil a little more closely to keep the starch from getting too beat up. The potatoes were simmered for about 20 minutes before they were drained and allowed to dry - then peeled and pureed. Keller notes that the potatoes, once cooked and pureed, can sit at room temperature for a number of hours; thus, I was able to have the potatoes nearly complete while waiting for the chicken to finish marinating.

Included in the puree is butter and garlic confit. The garlic confit is slowly simmered in oil for 40 or so minutes until the garlic is meltingly tender. You can see that in action (inaction?) here.

I pureed the potatoes in three batches through my food mill. You will notice that the peeled potatoes are in smaller pieces - my food mill sometimes goes on strike from working so I had to make them nice and small so my mill wouldn't complain and revolt. THe butter and garlic confit are passed through the mill as well.

The resulting texture is uniform and quite smooth but not gluey. The mill does not overwork the potatoes and the medium-sized blade still leaves just enough texture.

Two Hours Later...

Here is the mise for the pan sauce - from the top: white wine (sauvignon blanc), chicken stock (homemade using the Ruhlman method), tarragon, minced shallot.

Chicken is taken out of the fridge, pounded to a uniform thickness (about 1/4") and salted.

Once browned, the chicken is flipped for a kiss of heat on the other side then held in a 200 deg. oven. Look at the beautiful color the spices give the chicken - and the smell at this point? Oh my.

Excess oil now drained from the pan, it's sauce time. The shallots are softened with a little butter, then the wine is added and allowed to reduce followed by the stock. The fresh herbs are added at the end as are a few tablespoons of butter to enrich the sauce.

The final result:

The potatoes were finished by whipping in warm cream over a low flame to heat everything thoroughly. I didn't have chives (probably would have been a bit better) but I did have green onion to finish the dish:

Tasting Notes:
At first thought I anticipated the curry would overpower the dish but I was wrong. The curry offers a nice aromatic spice note to the chicken that is complemented by the paprika. I was particularly impressed by the way the flavors all work so well together; I thought the curry and tarragon would be competing flavors but they were rather complementary. This is most certainly a dish that will be added to the rotation - the preparation was very, very simple; the flavors were complex and interesting and the dish was not heavy or overpowering. This dish is also versatile - depending on the side dish, this could be a great meal for any season. I might grow some tarragon in the garden this year to motivate me to make this dish again and again.

I also think this dish is a nice introduction to the flavor of curry. I happen to love curry in almost any form but I have a number of friends that steer clear of the stuff. My guess is that they don't really know whether or not they like curry - they just think they won't like it and thus avoid it. The curry in this dish is a bit of a secret or surprise ingredient. The tarragon sits first chair, but the aroma and flavor of the chicken adds an additional component to the taste. I also think the spices give the dish a beautiful presentation. The chicken is strikingly beautiful against the fresh green tarragon in the sauce.

Beyond all the flavorful reasons to make this, it is quick and easy. The chicken takes less than five minutes to cook, the sauce about five minutes and the potatoes can be pureed in advance. This may have been the easiest dish that I have made thus far and it is certainly not short on taste.

Chicken from Wegmans
Spices from The Spice House
Potatoes, shallot, green onion from Wegmans