Beef Stew

The calendar says spring, but the nighttime temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest are still chilly.  A satisfying Beef Stew will help to warm you up — this recipe is rich enough for a dinner party but still classic comfort food perfect for family dinner. This can easily be prepared in advance (see the recipe for suggestions). Serve the stew by itself, over steamed rice or a bed of egg noodles. A tossed green salad, warm French Bread and you’ll have a memorable dinner.  J’Nee Delancey has made three wine selections and each pairs beautifully with the finished stew: Scott Paul 2011 Oregon Pinot Noir; Two Mountain 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve and Les Freres Gambier 2013 Bourgueil.

Beef Stew
Serves 8
2 Cups sliced Onions
3 Medium Carrots cut into chunky halves
2 Stalks of Celery cut into generous dice
3 Cups Zinfandel (select an “Old Vine” Zinfandel)
3 Cups Beef Stock
3 Large Garlic Cloves, crushed with the flat of your knife
1 28 ounce can Cento Brand Chef’s Cut Tomatoes
2 Medium potatoes cut into chunks
3 Bay leaves
1 Teaspoon dried Thyme
3 Tablespoons of Flour
2 Tablespoons of Butter (at room temperature)
Salt & Pepper to Taste
1 generous Tablespoon Better than Bouillon brand beef base
Grated zest from one Medium Orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
1. In a large pot set over medium heat, place the beef in a single layer and brown, turning often until lightly browned on all sides. Resist the temptation to crowd the beef! Remove beef to a platter once browned.
2. Once all the beef has browned, if the oil has burned replace it with fresh oil and warm over medium heat.
3. Add sliced Onions, Celery and Carrots to the pot, stirring occasionally cook 3 – 5 minutes until the vegetables have lightly caramelized.
4. Pour one cup of Zinfandel over the vegetables and stir, using a cooking spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
5. Add Potatoes, Smashed Garlic, 2 cups of Zinfandel and 3 Cups of Beef Stock, Cento Tomatoes, Bay Leaves, dried Thyme and stir to combine.
6. Bring the pot to a simmer, and stir in the browned meat. Place a lid on the pot and put into the heated 350 degree oven. Let the stew cook for 1 ½ – 2 hours or until meat is fork-tender and the potatoes are done
.7. Once the meat and potatoes have cooked, remove the pot from the oven
8. Remove the meat from the sauce and reserve, keeping warm. Remove and discard the Bay leaves.
9. Take ½ the sauce, both the liquid and vegetables, and process in a food processor or blender in batches until smooth.
10. Return the stew base back to the pan, keeping over low heat,
11. Make a Buerre Manié: combine the flour and butter in a small bowl and use your finger tips to combine them so that no dry flour remains. Stir the Buerre Manié into the stew base until well incorporated.  The sauce will thicken and turn glossy.
12. Add the reserved cooked meat back into the sauce and heat gently.
13. Season with Better Than Bouillon beef base, and Salt and Pepper to taste.
14. Before serving, finish by adding the grated orange zest.

Prepare it in steps: When you have time, Chop the Onions, Celery and Carrots and store them in a food storage container until you’re ready to use them. At your next opportunity, follow steps 1 – 4 and refrigerate. Pick up the recipe at step 5 and finish it – the completed stew can be refrigerated and gently reheated for serving.

Further. Wash responsibly.

Fortunately I have few regrets in life. I am sorry I am not the owner of the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. That I was not the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie. And that I didn’t come up with the idea for Further lotion, hand soap and candles.

Marshall and Megan Dostal are the brilliant folks behind Further Products. Marshall was producing bio-fuel for his car in a homemade lab in his garage out of depleted waste grease from restaurants in the Los Angeles area. When Megan saw the by-product barrels of glycerin accumulating in the family garage she suggested he come-up with a use for glycerin. Frequently the glycerin is disposed of by dumping in landfills, burning or by composting. Marshall saw greater potential and a more responsible use for the valuable by-product. Thus Further Products was born. It appears that Marshall is the first person to produce a retail product made from reclaimed glycerin.

Further Products are gently fragranced with bergamot, olive and exotic grasses. The hand lotion is particularly wonderful. Silky in texture, the lotion is easily absorbed into the skin without being greasy. It is one of the best lotions I have ever encountered. The Further product line also includes a hand soap and a candle. Currently the candles are made from depleted waste grease from former Seattleite Mario Batali’s MOZZA restaurant.

In the Seattle area you can find them at all Town and Country Markets and Central Markets. He tells me that he hopes to produce products from reclaimed grease from this grocery store chain so we can participate first hand in closing the sustainable circle.


Two old friends

salad-nicoise2Some things seem like they have always been with me. My stuffed dog Muggs, my recipe for Salade Nicoise and my friend Rene are a few of these. I don’t remember a time that Rene wasn’t my friend. We have known each other since kindergarten. We were in the same high school French class that gave us a recipe for Salade Nicoise. It was one of the first recipes that I learned to make and it was, bien sur written in French. We don’t remember what the assignment was that included a recipe for Salade Nicoise, but Madame Cueno provided one. This ultimate salad was served to me by Rene the other day at Sunday dinner at her Seattle home on Lake Washington. It was the best Salade Nicoise I’ve ever had.

Salade Nicoise is a classic composed salad comprised of tuna or anchovies, hard boiled egg, small potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and Nicoise olives. When I was quite young, and didn’t know any better, or didn’t have any better, I used things like canned new potatoes and bottled vinaigrette. The best thing I can say about that is that at least I was trying. Now I would only make this salad in the spring or summer when the freshest vegetables are available. Only canned ingredient I would recommend is very high quality tuna canned in olive oil. You could always use grilled albacore tuna as well. Of course make the salad with canned albacore in water if you wish. Don’t pass on this salad if you don’t want to use expensive tuna. Or omit the tuna if you are vegetarian. Do what makes sense to you. Julia Child recommended that each ingredient be dressed separately. While I respect this I haven’t the patience for it, preferring to drizzle dressing over the completed salad. Over all I think the distribution of the dressing is better Julia’s way, so please be a better person than me and toss each separately. It doesn’t take that much longer. Do not dress the eggs. That would cause them to break apart. Potatoes should be warm when dressed to absorb the vinaigrette.

Salad
2 cans highest quality canned tuna, packed in olive oil
4 large hard-boiled eggs, quartered
10 small boiled new red potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size.
2 medium heads Boston lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
3 small vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces green beans, cut in half
1/4 cup niçoise olives

Vinaigrette
1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 or 3 lemons
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Wisk all vinaigrette ingredients together in small bowl. Set aside.

Using a large plate place lettuce on plate with a little more towards the edges. Arrange green beans, cooked potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, eggs in mounds on lettuce bed with tuna in the center. Scatter red onion and Nicoise olives over top of salad. Serve immediately.
Serves 6

Sated does Puff!

Salmon PyeJ’Nee and I got together the other day with the intention of talking about personal branding and the crisis rocking the British Parliament.  But as these things go, it quickly evolved into cooking, drinking a great Rose wine and a lunch time adventure that involved puff pastry and salmon.  It was a day with an excellent and delicious outcome.

I had brought over a couple of salmon fillets as a hedge against eventual hunger, thinking that teriyaki would be a great lunch.  But as we began to discuss and remember salmon from dishes past, the memories and the flood of options they raised were dizzying: baked in cream, pan sauteed with fresh asparagus, poached in vegetable broth, wrapped in puff pastry . . . well teriyaki seemed tired. 

Our discussion turned to flavors and the plan began to take on new dimensions as we mulled over mirepoix and using the classic French herb Tarragon, but this seemed like too much effort.  Vidalia Onions from Georgia and 1015’s from Texas are now available.  Should they be caramelized?  No!  But sweet onions sauteed with olive oil and baby spinach? Yes! Along with that we could, on our mind’s palette,  taste fresh dill along with lemon zest and juice for a touch of acidic brightness.  All wrapped in puff pastry, served with a dollop of pleasantly spicy Adobo Sour Cream and fresh asparagus sauteed in olive oil with a touch of sea salt and a spritz of lemon juice.  Heaven.

Salmon 1

Lemon, Salmon & Spinach in Puff Pastry with Adobo Sour Cream, serves 6

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 Medium Onion, quartered and thinly sliced

8 oz  Fresh Baby Spinach

1/3 Cup Fresh Dill, Chopped

Zest of one large Lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

12 oz Salmon Fillets, skinned, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

2 Sheets Frozen Puff Pastry — Thawed

1 Large Egg, Beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1. Roll out the thawed puff pastry on separate sheets of parchment paper — you want to be able to cut a 12″ circle from one sheet for the bottom and an 11″ circle for the top from the second.  Reserve trimmed pastry pieces.  Keep rounds and trims of puff pastry in the fridge until needed.

2.  In a large frying pan, saute onion in butter until translucent over medium heat.

3.  Add baby spinach a handful at a time, gently stirring until it is cooked down.

4.  Reduce heat to Medium Low, add the chopped fresh dill, lemon zest and lemon juice to the pan along with the Salmon fillet, stir occasionally and cook about 5 minutes.  Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and set aside.

5.  Remove rounds of puff pastry from the fridge; place the 12″ round on a baking sheet — removing the parchment paper from the round.

6.  Place the Salmon-spinach mix on the pastry round — leave any additional accumulated liquid in the pan; a filling that is too damp will cause the bottom crust to be soggy.  Spread the mix to within 1 1/2″ of the edge of the round.

7.  Brush the edge of the bottom round with egg wash, and place the smaller 11″  puff pastry round over the mix and gently fold the edge down to come in contact with the bottom round.  Firmly crimp the two edges together, to form a nice tight seal.

8.  With a sharp knife, cut a vent or two in the top crust to allow steam to escape.  Use the puff pastry trim: cut decorative designs from these scraps, affixing them to the top using the egg wash.  You can brush the entire puff pastry with egg wash for shiny finish.  With the dish prepared, you can refrigerate it for an hour or until you’re ready to bake it.  Lightly cover it with plastic wrap until ready to proceed.

9.  Bake at 400 degrees, until pleasantly browned: begin checking at 20 minutes for doneness, but baking may take about 25 – 30 minutes depending on your oven.

9.  Let Rest for five minutes, cut into slices and serve with dollop of Adobo Sour Cream, recipe follows.

 

Adobo Sour Cream

To one cup of Sour Cream add 1 Tablespoon of Adobo sauce. 

You’ll find canned chipotle chiles packed  in Adobo in the Spanish section of your grocery store; reserve the chiles for another use, they can be successfully frozen for longer term storage.

Pleasure Postponed

Cave de Saumur Saumur ChampignyPlease don’t feel sorry for me, but I have so much wine in my condo I am tripping over the stuff. It’s everywhere. Stacked high in boxes in my living room, stashed behind my chaise lounge, and laying down on the shelves of my TV stand. It’s a virtual glut of wine. It’s even hidden at the foot of my bed. There may even be some under my bed. I am afraid to look.

As a Wine Steward I am given samples by wineries and wholesalers. It is my duty and obligation to open these aforementioned bottles for “sensory analysis”. These wines are contenders for being placed on display at my store. The exciting prospects get opened immediately, preferably with a friend. This is not always possible. The potentiality that the next wine poured will be mind-blowing and life changing keeps the job exciting.

The last great wine was a 2006 Cave de Saumur, Saumur-Champigny Les Poyeux from the Loire Valley. Made from Cabernet Franc it was quite typical of the region. There was a “green” note to this elegant red wine that makes me crazy giddy. Additionally it is light-bodied enough that it would pair with foods thought to only be compatible with whites. Wished I had a grilled center-cut of king salmon with roasted root vegetables to go along with. Roasted chicken would have been fine too. Unfortunately the only activity that day was hanging closet shelves, not enjoying a well thought-out meal to accompany this delight. The saving grace was there was at the very least someone who could appreciate the wine with me. That said I hereby resolve to open more wine more frequently. After all, never ever postpone pleasure.

Rib Rub

snow-days-001Lately, living in Seattle is a lot like living in CS Lewis’ mythic Narnia: it’s always winter and never spring.  It is hard to believe that this close to spring, snowflakes would be drifting in front of my window.  Rather than focus on the here and now, I think back and look forward to warmer days. 

I got an invitation last summer to visit my friend Scott up in Edmonds who is a master of outdoor cooking and as it happens had devoted much of his grill time last year to perfecting baby back ribs.  The day I went up was one of our text book perfect Washington summer days with bright clear skies; before I got on the highway I stopped off at the store and picked up Dry White Port and Tonic to make a refreshing easy to drink cocktail.

When I got to Edmonds, the ribs were already underway and Scott told me that he had never really bothered with them, but one day he got curious after finding baby backs at a sale price too good to be ignored.  He did a little reading, gave them a whirl and got obsessed.  He lifted the lid on the grill and I took a look: the baby backs lay on the center of the grill, flecked with a dry spice rub; below them was a pan of water with coals banked around it. It seemed too simple and indeed it is.  

Use a dry spice rub to season the ribs, keep the heat at medium low (or about 250 – 275) to cook the ribs slowly, about 2 – 2 1/2 hours (bone side down); the pan of water keeps the ribs from drying out.  This should also work well in the oven.

We threw a couple of potatoes onto the grill to cook and sat outside enjoying Dry White Port & Tonics (1/3 Dry White Port to 2/3 Tonic Water with a healthy squeeze of lime, served on the rocks.  Oh and don’t be shy — you can make these as big as you’d like).  Spring greens from his neighbor’s yard topped with a few crumbles of blue cheese, some tomato and diced Vidalia Onion served as the starter.

After a while Scott checked the ribs, announced they were done, put them onto a large platter and took them over to the picnic table.  During the entire time on the grill, Scott never turned the ribs and they stayed bone side down.  And there was no messing around with any kind of sauce.  If you like sauce wait until the final 10 or 15 minutes before saucing the ribs or serve the sauce table side.

Cutting the ribs apart,  he placed 4 on each plate along with a baked potato.  Butter, sour cream and more diced Vidalia Onion were on hand to top the potatoes.  The ribs were delicious, moist and tender.  If the hallmark of good, well prepared food is silence, we only conversed between ribs. 

After we ate, I got a walking tour around Edmonds which included helping to round up a enthusiastic puppy who’d slipped his collar and watching the sunset on the sound.  When we got up to the house some time later, the rest of the ribs waited.  They made a delicious snack, as good as they were fresh off the grill.  It was a fitting conclusion to the day. 

The dry spice rub Scott used added flavor and a little spicy heat, but when I asked for the recipe he fessed up to not working from one.  Each time he used the same group of spices but his approach was informal and each time the result was a little different.

A few months ago I found ribs on sale at a too good to be ignored price and bought several racks.  I gave the matter of a dry spice rub some thought and came up with the following blend that works well with all types of meat.  Here’s to the warm days of summer!

Rib Rub

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

 1/2 Cup Salt

4 teaspoons Black Pepper

4 teaspoons Paprika (note: you can use Hungarian Sweet or Hot to suite your taste)

3 teaspoons Granulated Garlic

2 teaspoons Cayenne

2 teaspoons Ground Allspice

1 teaspoon Dry Mustard

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon (use Vietnamese Cinnamon if you can find it)

Blend all ingredients together in a large bowl mixing well.  I like to take the blend and rub it through a mesh sifter, to eliminate any lumps.  Keep sealed in a jar and use liberally on your favorite cuts for the grill.

— Michael

In honor of the chai wallah

masala-chai2Call it the “Slumdog Effect” but after seeing Dev Patel’s chai wallah go for broke in the name of love last week, Michael and I decided that a cup of chai was in order. We walked directly to my neighborhood chai house, Mr. Spots, with a very serious craving.  If you don’t know Ballard, Mr. Spots makes an excellent chai: spicy and not at all sweet. You can get it by the cup or you can buy it pre-prepared for at home consumption. Now as tempting as it may be to tote home a gallon of high quality ready-made chai, this girl isn’t going there because chai is so simple and economical to make. From start to finish, the whole enterprise can be accomplished in under twenty minutes – this is perfect because if you’re not within walking distance of Mr. Spots, you can easily satisfy your own chai craving and make your own.  Feel free to customize the spice mix used in the base recipe below to suit your personal taste. I adapted this recipe from one I found on Epicurious.com.

Homemade Masala Chai
2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
6 cups cold water
6 bags of black tea
1/4 cup raw sugar
Place the first 5 ingredients in a plastic bag.  Using mallet or an empty wine bottle lightly crush or bruise spices.   Place crushed spices in medium saucepan. Add 6 cups water; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover pan, and simmer gently 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add raw sugar and tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Strain chai into pitcher and store in refrigerator.  You can make this by the cup by adding your desired milk and reheating. I think a 3 parts chai to 1 part milk works well.  Remember to rinse and save your plastic bag for the next batch of chai you make!

Note: you can change up the spices and the amounts you use. If you like it sweeter than I do, feel free to double the sugar. Personally, since I like chai seriously spicy I increase the black peppercorns to 2 tablespoons and the ginger to 3 inches.  Other traditional spices used in Masala Chai include star anise and chili pepper, although someday soon I think I will go off road and try adding coriander or cumin.
— J’Nee