Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Oxtails braised with pear cider

I have been using alot of pears lately. They seem so festive for the holidays. Their shape is interesting-so much more elegant than apple. I like the Bosc best, mostly because of the shape, they are so uniformly plump at the blossom end, and skinny at the stem. The seckels are also attractive, but with their diminutive size they are alot of work peeling to get enough for the recipe.

I've also been drinking some marvelous Woodchuck Pear Cider. Refreshing and different, it is a draft cider and does have a small (4%) alchahol content. It has a pale straw coloring with a few bubbles-it almost looks like a champagne. It has a little sweetness to it, but not as much as you might expect-sort of like a dry champagne, and would be great with stews and chilis. I think it would make a great addition to your holiday bar.

I braised some oxtails with it last night and they were delicious. I browned the tails, added some onions, carrots, and flour, to slightly thicken it. I added some beef stock and a bottle of the cider and braised them for about 1 1/2 hours.

As a side dish I made a puree of potato, celery root, and pears. Quite tasty with the brasising liquid. I added some brussels sprouts which I sauteed with some chestnuts. I like chestnuts, but they can be too starchy for me sometimes. I like them best sliced into dressing, or as an addition to a vegetable side dish like the brussels sprouts. They also make an interesting soup that I have made in years past.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Grilled Sea Scallops and Pears

Sea scallops are a sweet meat that always works well with fruit. Citrus, of course, but they are also delicious with pears. I peeled, halved and cored the pears and roasted them with a little honey, white wine, and butter. I grilled the scallops and finished them in a saute pan with the roasted pear liquid, some shallot, and reduced cream. For plating I fanned (sooo 1980's)
the pear. Quite tasty, but epensive, I costed them out at a little over $2 each.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pot Roast

Braised Beef or Beef en Daub would probably be a more elegant title for this technique, but it all boils (please pardon that lame pun) down to the same basic dish. A rather tough, fatty piece of beef is browned and then simmered in liquid for several hours until tender. Cuts like arm roasts, briskets, short ribs, and shanks are best for this dish. I used a 7 bone roast. It is a shoulder roast that contains a bone shaped like the number seven, hence the name. To me, the bone is also an important aspect. Most chain groceries don't even carry roasts with bones anymore they are all boneless-maybe some ribs and shanks if you're lucky.

One of the 'butchers" at the Schnucks-our local chain of Grocery stores-explained that most of the meat is already butchered when it arrives at the store and the bones are expensive to ship (heavy) and difficult to pack. So why do they call them butchers if they mostly weigh out meat and wrap things? I think your best bet for meat is a butcher shop, one of the grocery stores with an honest-to-god butcher like Ladue Market or Straubs, or ordering on line from someone like Niman Ranch or Harris Ranch.

I also recommend wrapping the roast in a dry tea towel for a couple of days to eliminate some extra moisture and concentrate the beefy flavors. Thoroughly sear the outside of the roast and place it in a large roasting pan. Cover with sliced onions, a couple of garlic cloves, thyme leaves, bay leaf, a couple of whole cloves, and salt and pepper. Place a split pig's trotter on the side of the roast and add one cup of port wine and then an entire bottle of red wine-this can be cheap red but it must taste good, I used a $7 bottle of Smoking Loon Merlot-add stock to cover the meat and vegetables, and roast at 325 for three hours. Then add the vegetables to the roasting pan-I used cabbage wedges, portobella mushrooms, potatoes, turnips, carrots, celery, and onion wedges. Return the pan to the oven, lower the temperature to 300 degrees and roast until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned, basting the vegetables with the pan juices.
The natural gelatin in the roast's bone and the pig's trotters make an especially luscious pan juice. Defat and thicken the juice if you like, but not really necessary for a really staisfying winter's dinner.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mrs. Goldberg's Russian Borscht

I got this recipe from a lovely Jewish lady, of Russian descent, when I lived in Chicago. Mrs. Goldberg's family had once owned a small chain of clothing stores, but through financial reversals had lost their businesses and grand lifestyle. The Goldberg family was always plotting ways to recapture their footing in retailing. They were so optimistic and creative that I am sure good things returned to them eventually, but I have lost touch with them for several years now.

I have not lost touch with this delicious soup, written down in Mrs. Goldberg's longhand, with a friendly little note at the end "any problems just give Mrs. G a call".

1 Small head cabbage, thinly sliced
1 Medium onion, diced
2 Quarts of tomatoes (I used my mom's home canned)
Tomato juice to cover cabbage, if required
1 marrow bone (optional-it tastes very good as a vegetarian soup as well)
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 Cup sugar
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Salt and pepper to your liking

Add cabbage, onion, tomatoes, juice (if needed), and marrow bone (if using) to soup pot and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour.

Add the potato cubes and continue simmering until the potatoes are tender, about another 1/2 hour.

Add the sugar and lemon juice, taste, and adjust to make a perfect balance of sweet and sour by using more lemon juice or sugar.

Add the salt and pepper.