I Want Delicious Comfort Food

Braised Short Rib Stew

braised-short-rib-stew
I love short ribs, I could eat them with a spoon. I wanted to make them for dinner Sunday night, and my husband wanted stew (beef bourguignon, to be exact)….so, I decided to integrate the two.  Braised short ribs in a red wine-french onion sauce, served over creamy goat cheese polenta. How do you like that, Julia Schmulia?

Recipe

  • 3-4 lb bone-in short ribs
  • 1/4 cup corn starch or flour
  • 2 pieces bacon
  • 1 medium onion
  • ~1 bottle red wine (I used pinot noir)
  • 1 can french onion soup
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped carrots

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Start by cooking the bacon in a large dutch oven over medium heat on the stove. Once all the fat has been rendered, transfer the bacon to a plate and increase the temp to medium high. Pat the short ribs dry, trim off any excess fat, sprinkle with S&P, then dust with either flour or corn starch (I was cooking gluten free for my sister, so opted for corn starch).  Add the short ribs to the pot, browning on all sides (about 4 minutes per side). Once browned, transfer the meat to a plate and add the chopped onions – drizzle with a little olive oil if necessary. Cook for several minutes, then deglaze the pan with about 2 cups of red wine. Let reduce for about 5 minutes over medium high heat. Place the short ribs back in the pot, then add in the french onion soup and beef broth. Tie several sprigs of fresh thyme with kitchen string, then throw them in with a bay leaf. Add more wine to almost submerge the ribs (I used almost a full bottle). Cover the pot, then place in the oven. Cook for two hours, then add in the carrots and mushrooms and cook for 1 hour more.

When ready to serve, transfer the meat and vegetables to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Remove the bones from the short ribs (they should just fall right off). Place the pot on the stove over high heat, and bring to a boil for several minutes to thicken up, skimming off the fat as needed. If necessary, add in a couple tablespoons of corn starch or flour – whisked with water – into the mixture. I used 2 tablespoons corn starch.

I served the stew over creamy goat cheese polenta, recipe to follow!

Honey Barbecue Chicken

honey-barbecue-chicken
I’ve been waking up most mornings lately with food ideas in my head.  Usually they are inspired by something, and this one was no exception.
Whataburger Honey BBQ chicken sandwich. Please don’t judge me. The advertisements are everywhere and I can’t get it out of my head. Don’t worry – I’m not making the chicken strip sandwich. But the HONEY BBQ CHICKEN…yes please.  I woke up and I wanted to eat it…so, that’s what we did. And let me tell you – you will LOVE this. It moved into my #1 slot…it is gooooood.
Recipe
  • Mix of bone-in chicken breasts & drumsticks, skin removed by butcher(~2lb)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 bottle (16 oz) sweet barbecue sauce (recco: Rufus Teague)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Dash Worcestershire
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • S P
  • 2 large appetites
Start by preheating the oven to 300. That, right there, is the key to this delicious, fall-off-the-bone chicken – cooking it low and slow in a pot full of flavorful liquid. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry, salt and pepper.   Brown each side of chicken, about 3-4 minutes each side.
Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the chopped onion to the pot, and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine (this is optional…you can use a little chicken broth or nothing at all)…I just happened to have an open bottle of red wine next to me and I love the smell of cooking onions in red wine.
And the best part, here comes the BBQ.  I usually use my trusted Austin’s Own BBQ sauce, but I was horrified when I went to Central Market and they were totally sold out. Central Market never lets me down, and I have to admit I felt really hurt and betrayed. But, when bad things happen, you just have to pick yourself up and keep going. So I asked the friendly CM man what he recommended, and without batting an eye he gave me this:
and OH MY GOD. I could eat this with a spoon. Or through a funnel. It is sooo good. Pour in the whole bottle.
Next comes the honey.
I dumped in the whole cute little thing. I think it’s probably about a half cup. Next, throw in a couple dashed of worcestershire.
Mix it alllll together, inhale the amazing aroma, and feel like everything is right in the world.  When you’ve come to, put the chicken back in the pot.
Make sure all the chicken is good and coated (add up to a cup of water if necessary), then put the cover on and bake at 300 for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the meat is literally falling off the bone (it will be done after 1 1/2 hours, it will be more tender after 2…).  Now, the next part is optional – but highly recommended. I transferred all the chicken in a glass baking dish, scooped a bunch of sauce over them, and put them under the broiler for a few minutes.
See that? The sauce gets kind of caramelized/crispy on the outside.
You won’t believe the tenderness and flavor of this chicken – I beg you to make this for your next dinner party.

Meatloaf

Movies truly have a way of inspiring people. They can highlight issues that often aren’t spoken about quite so publicly, and bring a whole new perspective to the mind of the viewer.  I can think of so many movies that have impacted me in some way, whether it be the messaging, the acting, the historical significance, or the simple comic relief. Often, the most significant quotes or lines from a movie are a big part of the lasting influence it has on us. I’d like to talk about one such quote that has left a lasting impression on me. For all the stupid comedies and light-hearted ridiculous quotes Will Ferrell has delivered through the years, once in a while he comes up with something truly genius, truly pivotal, and something applicable to all of our lives.

“MA! THE MEATLOAF!”
Wow. Doesn’t that just hit home? Really, Ma, where was the meatloaf? Why were you not bringing it fast enough? And in a more global and far-reaching sense, why aren’t we (we being society) eating more meatloaf?
Thank you, Will (aka Chaz), for bringing this issue to the forefront. We needed a cold hard dose of reality. Unfortunately, I know exactly why people don’t eat more meatloaf, and in some cases even frown upon it. It’s because ‘loaf’ is in the name. Meatloaf. A loaf of meat. Gross. 
I’m here today to stop the madness and get people on the meatloaf bandwagon; stop being so shallow and get past the name – you won’t regret it.
I got this recipe from my co-worker Trent, and let me tell you it is particularly delicious. The first time we talked about it, he described the meatloaf in such detail that I literally dreamed about it all night long. I think I took the meatloaf shopping with me, and he ended up being a real drag so I ate him. 
Anyway, I made a few modifications to this recipe because we’re not garlic eaters (if you are, you can add up to 3 chopped cloves and a pinch of garlic powder), and we love brown sugar so I added a bit more. Thank you Trent for this recipe – I will be making it again and again and again. 
Recipe

For the meat:

  • 1 1/2 lb ground sirloin (or ground chuck)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 large onion, chopped and sauteed 
  • 1/2 cup of the liquid mixture below
  • Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
  • 1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 3 teaspoons worcestershire
  • Splash balsamic vinegar
Optional additions to the baking pan:
  • Sliced carrots, onions, mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 350. Start by sauteeing the onions for about 10 minutes in a little bit of olive oil. In a bowl, mix the meat, parsley, bread crumbs, egg, and onion when it’s ready. Add about 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
In a separate bowl, mix together all the liquid ingredients. Add about 3/4 cup of the liquid mixture to the meat.
Mix everything together with your squeaky clean hands.
Next, form the meat into a loaf (there’s really no better word here – log, roll, hunk)…in a greased pan large enough to leave some space on the edges.
Pour the rest of the sauce over it…
And now here is a very optional but very delicious step – surround the meatloaf with plenty of sliced onions, carrots, and whatever vegetables you enjoy. We added mushrooms as well, but you don’t want those to go in the oven right away.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the vegetables, and sprinkle it all with salt and pepper. Bake for about 1 hour. If you are adding mushrooms, throw those in with about 30 minutes to go.  And finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…
 Soooo good…
 And another shot…
Enjoy everyone. And for crying out loud, eat more meatloaf.

Braised Short Ribs

braised-short-ribs
Oh boy. If you haven’t ever experienced the pure bliss that is short ribs, do it now. I made them for the first time on Sunday night, and now I’m having an affair. Cheating on my husband with short ribs…is that allowed? I can’t stop thinking about them. And all they did was slow roast down into a tender, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth meat…how is that for courtship? I think John tried a lot harder.
The funny thing about short ribs is the price. Have you ever ordered them in a restaurant? They’re not cheap. But in a grocery store, they’re one of the cheapest things in the meat case. What a pleasant surprise.
Recipe:
  • 2 lb bone-in short ribs
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups red wine, like Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2-3 cups beef broth
  • Sprig of rosemary and thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • flour
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
Here they are, the new loves of my life:
Amazing, cute little fat short ribs. About to rock your world. Just kidding, that was weird. Let’s get to the point…
Start with the bacon. Cook the bacon in a dutch oven over medium heat until very crisp.
I used this very heavy cast iron pot that seals very tightly – it was perfect for this. Plus it looks good.
You’ll notice my oven is pulled away from the wall. It broke. I don’t know what happened but I think I made it work a little too hard. So, I ended up having to make these stovetop, but normally I would do the long slow-roasting part in the oven.  Anyway, back to the bacon.  Cook the bacon until very crisp, to render all the fat. Meanwhile, salt, pepper, and flour the short ribs (skip this if cooking GF). Transfer the bacon to a plate, and turn the heat to med-high. Place the floured short ribs in the hot pan to brown all sides….about 45 seconds on each side. Add a little olive oil if there is not enough fat in the pan from the bacon. That’s a gross sentence. But do it, add more fat. We all know this dinner isn’t on the Weight Watchers meal plan.
Once the meat is browned on all sides, transfer to a plate and reduce the heat to medium.
Add the carrots and onions to the pot, cooking for about 15 minutes.
 Keep stirring…
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Now it gets fun. Take out a bottle of wine.
And start pouring, about 2.5 cups.
Pour yourself a glass, preferably by a fireplace.
Those are both for me.
Continue cooking and stirring, bringing to a boil and then reducing it down…about 5 minutes.  Add an equal amount of beef broth, about 2 cups. Stir and cook for a couple minutes.  Add the meat back in the pot.
Then I picked some fresh thyme and rosemary from my herb garden.
And threw them in…
 Then the magic begins. Cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and simmer for a solid 2 1/2 hours. Or, you can put the pot in the oven at 350 degrees for 2 1/2 hours. That is probably easier, and the method I would have used had my oven not protested. Walk away, and leave it alone. The smell will make you want to sing from the rooftop, if you’re into that.
2 1/2 hours later…
Tender, fall-off-the-bone deliciousness….some of them will come right of the bone, by the way. That’s a good thing. Remove the meat to a plate. You’ll want to let it sit for about 15-20 minutes before serving, to let it settle.
Place the pot on the stove top and turn the heat up to medium-high to boil and thicken. Ladle out any fat that rises to the top. Mix the corn starch with about 1/4 cup water, and add to the gravy. It should really start to thicken up. If not, you can add more corn starch (always mixing with water first to avoid lumps).
Finally, it’s time. These should be served over something like mashed potatoes, to soak up the gravy and make this the best meal you ever had.
Get ready to eat your face off.
PS…these might even be better the next day, so if you need to make ahead, do it.

Beef Bourguignon

I’d like to know who decided to spell Bourguignon that way. I understand it’s French so I’m really in no position to judge, but really? That was what you came up with? Surely we could cut out a few letters.
Still, this is a lovely dish. I never use the word lovely but I think that’s how Julia Childs would describe it. This recipe is a merger of Julia, Ina Garten, and Dorie Greenspan inputs – 3 of my favorite cooking ladies. Make this on a cold fall or winter day, serve with a good bottle of red wine and enjoy.
Recipe
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 10 small red potatoes, cut in half
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound frozen whole onions
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
  • Bay leaf
Start by heating the olive oil in a dutch oven over the stove, over high heat.  Cook the bacon, then transfer to a plate. Use the bacon fat to cook the beef. Pat the meat dry, then brown each side, working in batches if you need to. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Transfer the meat to a plate.
Add the carrots, sweet onions, and potatoes to the pot, cooking for about 15 minutes.
Add the meat back to the pot, then add the cognac, tomato paste, garlic and thyme.  
Pour in a whole bottle of wine….I used Marc Cellars Pinot Noir.
Add the beef broth until everything is just about covered.
Add a couple bay leaves. Mix the flour and butter together, and stir into the sauce. Bring the stew to a low boil.  Meanwhile, cook the mushroom. I sauteed them in butter for about 5 minutes.
Drop them into the Beef Bourguignon, and add the frozen onions. Place the bacon back into the stew. Cover the dish and cook in the oven for about 2 hours.  Return the sauce to medium-high heat over the stove, and boil to thicken the sauce. If sauce is not thickening fast enough, you may add more flour and boil down (you will want to mix the flour with a little water before adding to the dish). Serve with country french bread for dipping.

Macaroni and Cheese

macaroni-and-cheese

Our wedding was a blast. Yes, I am biased, but I truly believe that overall, everyone had a blast. I clearly did, as evidenced in this photo:

And this photo:

In my mind, there are 3 essential elements for a successful wedding. Plenty of booze, good dancing music, and delicious food. As this is a cooking blog and not a drinking or dancing blog (although maybe it should be), I would like to focus on the food aspect of our wedding.

People are still talking about the dinner that was served at our wedding – I have received so many compliments not only on the deliciousness of it, but the choices.  The food really was amazing, Chef Danny at our Country Club is one ridiculous cook. But the choices were really the key – they were fun, different, and everybody found something they loved. Our approach was to do all of ‘our favorite things’….well, not ALL of our favorite things, as we clearly did not have room for 97 different options – but some of our favorite things. We wanted to combine a little bit of Texas, since we live here now, and a little bit of Wisconsin – since the wedding was there and I’m from the lovely state. The menu consisted of BBQ brisket sliders, roasted pork tenderloin, grilled corn on the cob, a giant cheese display (yeah Wisconsin!), Southwest caesar salad, shrimp cocktail (I’m not sure where that fit in, but I really wanted it), and last but not least: gourmet macaroni and cheese. Yes, tons of food. While most people bring a second pair of shoes for post-dinner dancing, I actually had to bring a second dress – in a bigger size.  Just kidding. But it would have been nice to have.

Ok, now to the point of this blog. The mac ‘n cheese was a total hit. I decided I wanted to make it on my own, so I started doing some research. It turns out there are 11,674 macaroni and cheese recipes out there. I combined a number of the recipes, and I am convinced this has to be the best one. It was divine.

Recipe

  • 4 cups pasta – I prefer the shells
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2-1/2 cups milk – preferably whole
  • 2 teaspoons ground yellow mustard
  • 1/2 pound grated sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 pound grated fontina
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • paprika
  • panko bread crumbs
The cheese sauce in here does magical things to people. It made my husband help me clean the kitchen after dinner. It made me want to skip dessert. It turned my mom into the best dancer at our wedding. It could probably even help Obama figure out how to fix the economy, if only he would try it.
Start by cooking the pasta. You’ll want it very ‘al dente’ – it bakes in the oven for quite a while and you don’t want it to get mushy. I checked the pasta after about 6 minutes of boiling, and I think I left it in for another minute or so. You want it slightly underdone.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Make the roux. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Don’t burn it! Sprinkle in the flour and whisk together. Continue whisking for about 5 minutes.
Next, add the milk. Don’t be a wimp here – use whole milk. Skim is for sissies. Whole milk really adds to the creaminess of the cheese sauce. Whisk together, then add 2 heaping teaspoons of ground mustard. Continue whisking for about 5 minutes, until the mixture gets very thick and gravy-like.
Reduce the heat to low. Next, you need to ‘temper’ the egg. Basically you need to introduce some of the gravy mixture into the beaten egg first, to avoid cooking it when you add it to the pot.
Using a 1/4 cup, retrieve a little of the gravy mixture from the pot. Add it to the beaten egg, and whisk constantly to avoid cooking it. Keep whisking until the mixture is cooled.
Then, pour slowly into the large pot, whisking constantly.
This is when it starts to get really good. Time to add the cheese! Add all but 1/2 cup. I forgot to do this, I can’t be trusted when in the presence of excessive amounts of cheese.
 Oh my god.
Stir until totally melted, then turn off the heat.
YUM. Don’t lose focus yet, you need to keep going. You can do it. Now is the time to add extra spices if you desire. I added paprika, and it was a very good decision. Also add the salt and pepper here.
Pour in the drained, undercooked pasta and stir until combined. Transfer the mac ‘n cheese to your desired baking dish, and top with remaining cheese. Since I used all of my cheese, I used string cheese! The mozzarella addition was amazing – highly recommend it. It looks sort of stupid though.
Finally, prepare the bread crumbs. I think I used about 3/4 cup bread crumbs, and mixed with about 2-3 tablespoons melted butter. Spread over the macaroni and cheese. Almost there!
Bake for 25 minutes! So close!
DONE! There are no words. Make this if you want to be voted Person of the Year. Or, if you want to have a really fun wedding.
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