Friday, November 16, 2007

A couple of tidbits to warm your tummy...

Gracious! Old Man Winter, that big blowhard, is giving us a taste of things to come today! Even here in the North Country, folks have still been rocking the shorts and flip-flops, though the calendar on the wall tells us that it's nearly Thanksgiving. But there is a vicious wind a-blowing today, and up here (at school) on the bluff overlooking Lake Champlain, it's particularly vicious. On a day like today, we need something warm and satisfying in our tummies, and I have just the thing--beef stew. And not just any beef stew, but a wonderful short rib beef stew with ale, a recipe I found on Simply Recipes (which was, in turn, adapted from a recipe from the October 2007 issue of Sunset Magazine). I made a couple of minor adjustments, as is my way, and one major one that should help busy people as we head into the holidays. Elise's recipe calls for the stew to be baked in the oven which, no doubt, would add more flavor. But I tried making it in the crockpot, and it was delicious, and so nice to come home to at the end of a long day. I'm sorry that I didn't take a picture of said stew, but click on one of links to Simply Recipes, and you can see better pics than I could have managed. ;-)

Short Rib Beef Stew with Ale
(Source: Simply Recipes)

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons hot paprika (I used regular paprika plus 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne)

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

salt and
freshly-ground black pepper
4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed of excess fat (I used boneless, as that's what I unearthed from the freezer, but meat is always better "by the bone" as Nigella would say)

4 strips thick-cut bacon (I used six strips of regularly-sliced bacon), roughly chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bottle (12 oz.) brown ale (I used Saranac Scotch Ale from their winter assortment, but you can use anything you like--the original recipe simply called for beer)
1 can (14.5 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes (I used red ones)

2 large carrots (I might double this as the carrots were sparse and/or add some parsnips)

1 pound turnips (this gave us the opportunity to use the turnips we procured from Cape Cod and though they are optional, I recommend them--I don't even like turnips, but they take on the other flavors in the stew and eventually become indistinguishable from the potatoes)
*1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (this is my critical addition...and I think it gave the stew that last finishing note that it needed)

1 Preheat oven to 300° (if using the oven for this). Combine flour, hot paprika (or paprika + cayenne), smoked paprika, one teaspoon of salt, and one teaspoon of black pepper in a large bowl. Dredge the short ribs in the flour mixture.

2 In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook bacon until fat renders. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels and reserve. Pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat from pot. Add short ribs and brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

3 Transfer short ribs to a plate and reserve. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the pot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ale and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes and their juices and reserved bacon. Increase heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Return short ribs to pot, cover, put in the preheated oven, and cook two hours. (Or add everything to the crockpot and cook on low for about 6-8 hours.)

4 Peel potatoes, turnips, and carrots, and cut into one-inch pieces. Add to short ribs along with salt and pepper (to taste), cover, and cook until veggies are tender and meat pulls away easily from the bone, about 30 minutes in the oven, or 2-4 more hours in the crock pot.

5 Spoon off excess fat. Remove the bones if you like (and if there are any) before serving. I like my beef stew served over steamed rice, but I will leave that up to you.

Serves 8. Go ahead and make the whole batch--it tastes even better the next day as leftovers!

Then for dessert, I would highly recommend a cookie that I made for trivia this week, a delicious sable from Dorie Greenspan's baking book. I also made the fabled and ballyhooed World Peace Cookies, but as I am not the chocoholic that some of my teammates are, I wanted another cookie as well. I was going to make just "plain" sables that are the French version of shortbread with the same rich, buttery flavor but usually less sweet and with a characteristic sandy texture (sable means "sand" in French, don'tcha know). But one of the things I love about Dorie's book is that she always includes a section next to each recipe called "playing around," offering creative twists to boilerplate recipes. For the sables, she offered lemon, pecan, and spiced versions. But it occurred to me that I might want a sable that was both nutty AND spiced. Thus was born the spiced pecan sable. YUM!!! It is a homely little cookie that seems to scream "Frost me! Sprinkle me!" (You'll have to take my word for this as I didn't have a chance to take a picture of these before they were all gobbled up.) But they are scrumptious even without extra adornments. The flavor is bold and delicate at the same time and quintessentially autumnal. Give it a try and/or add it to your Christmas cookie repertoire.

(Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan)
Makes about 50 cookies (I got 48)--feel free to halve this recipe or better yet, freeze one log for future use

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature, plus 1 large egg yolk, for brushing the logs
2 cups all-purpose flour
Decorating (coarse) sugar (optional)

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. The mixture should be smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in two of the egg yolks, again beating until the mixture is homogenous.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and the counter from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek -- if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. (If most of the flour is incorporated but you've still got some in the bottom of the bowl, use a rubber spatula to work the rest of the flour into the dough.) The dough will not clean the sides of the bowl, nor will it come together in a ball -- and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy (rather than smooth) dough. Pinch it, and it will feel a little like Play-Doh.

Scrape the dough out onto a smooth work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long: it's easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log. Wrap the logs well and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. (The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Remove a log of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Whisk the remaining egg yolk until it is smooth, and brush some of the yolk all over the sides of the dough -- this is the glue -- then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with decorating sugar.

Trim the ends of the roll if they're ragged, and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies. (You can make these as thick as 1/2 inch or as thin as -- but no thinner than -- 1/4 inch.) Place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between them.

Bake one sheet at a time for 17 to 20 minutes (mine took only 13-14 minutes), rotating the baking sheet at the midway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top; they may feel tender when you touch the top gently, and that's fine. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest a minute or two before carefully lifting them onto a rack with a wide metal spatula to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remaining log of dough, making sure the baking sheets are cool before you bake the second batch.

SERVING: Serve these with anything from lemonade to espresso.

STORING: The cookies will keep in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days. If you do not sprinkle the sables with sugar, they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Because the sugar will melt in the freezer, the decorated cookies are not suitable for freezing.

Playing Around

LEMON SABLES: Working in a small bowl, using your fingers, rub the grated zest of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons (depending on your taste) into the granulated sugar until the sugar is moist and very aromatic, then add this and the confectioners' sugar to the beaten butter. (Sables can also be made with orange or lime zest; vary the amount of zest as you please.)

PECAN SABLES*: Reduce the amount of flour to 1 1/2 cups, and add 1/2 cup very finely ground pecans to the mixture after you have added the sugars. (In place of pecans, you can use ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts.) If you'd like, instead of sprinkling the dough logs with sugar, sprinkle them with very finely chopped pecans or a mixture of pecans and sugar.

SPICE SABLES*: Whisk 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg into the flour.

*For the spiced pecan variant, follow the instructions for the pecan version, but just add the spices to the flour as in the spice sable instructions. Also, instead of ground ginger, I used some organic candied ginger that I grated with a Microplane, and it was heavenly--gave the cookies a nice bite.

1 comment:

Just the Right Size said...

Goodness! Where did you go? There was nothing for days, and then...wham!

Thanks for the beef stew recipe. I'm always looking for good slowcooker goodies, but they just don't have the body I like. This sounds very good.