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Archive for the ‘meat’ Category

I love brunch. There, I said it.

What’s there not to like? Its a change to eat out on the weekends, normally with friends, have a hearty meal that always follows the same guidelines no matter where you go (pancakes if you want them, eggs in various ways with stuff inside, and other such things), it’s a great way to nurse a hangover, it doesn’t make you feel bad for not waking up before noon, and you can have breakfasty food for what really is lunch.

But sometimes going out for brunch seems like too much work. I just want to laze about at home in my pajamas. My friends don’t seem to be awake anyway. And none of our usual brunch places sounds appetizing. On some of those days coffee is about all I can manage, in others I feel like having real food is worth cooking and waiting for it to be done.

Oeufs en cocotte

Oeufs en cocotte

Lately I’m also having an obsession with baked eggs. They’re always good, no matter what they’re baked with. And if done properly, they go up to amazing. Runny yolks without the crispy whites – I know, blasphemy. What can I say, I never liked the Spanish style fried eggs. No need to have a side of potatoes. And the something else that goes in there is always good, be it spinach, ham, cheese, or – bacon. If you put bacon in there it just can’t be bad.

If we go out for brunch and there’s some kind of baked egg concoction on the menu, I’m likely to order it. Sadly, most places overcook the eggs to the point where the yolks are not runny any more. yes, I know that in a busy kitchen it’s hard to pay attention to the doneness of the eggs, but come on! Cafe Presse makes them pretty well, Smith and Oddfellows have nicer something elses, but overdo the eggs. But hey, if I’m going to be picky, I can always make them at home, right?

They’re actually pretty easy to make, but you’ve got to pay attention.

  1. Butter the container you’re going to bake them in.
  2. Put 1 Tbsp of cream.
  3. Add the other. In this case it’s bacon. Spinach works well. Ham and cheese (something tangy, like gruyere) is a classic. If you have nothing, it’s okay too.
  4. Put the eggs on top. Don’t forget a little bit of salt and pepper.
  5. Bake at 350 F in a bain Marie – in a baking pan halfway full with boiling water.

How long – how do you like your eggs? I like the whites to be barely cooked; in my oven that takes about 15 minutes.

Maneuvering the water bath contraption can be annoying. So experiment. Try a small cast iron skillet if you want. Try a higher heat, or under the broiler. Just watch the eggs and pull them out when you think they’re done. Don’t worry, as long as they’re not raw, even if you overcook them the taste will be good – and you’ll learn not to overcook them the next time.

Last weekend I was feeling fancy, and had some asparagus sitting in the fridge and no visible meals where I would use them. So they bacame part of our eggy brunch. My favorite way to make asparagus is to roast them at 400 F lightly coated with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice for 20 minutes. And so I did.

Roasted asparagus with lemon beurre blanc sauce

Roasted asparagus with lemon beurre blanc sauce

Since I was feeling fancy this particular Saturday, I decided to make a sauce. Lemon beurre blanc, to be exact. It’s a buttery sauce which includes lemon, white wine, and shallots (though the shallots are strained out at the end). I’m not going to give a recipe for it … it was bad.

Though I’ll admit it was my fault. At the last moment I decided to half the amount of butter (trust me, it was a lot of butter) without halving anything else. It was like sucking on a lemon and washing it down with a shot of butter. The asparagus themselves were good, though. And to make matters even worse, not even the photos came out all that well! I messed up the whites balance, and my very impatient post processing couldn’t fix it. And I’d rather not say what i think the sauce looks like in the above photo. Did I mention that the asparagus were fine once you got rid of the sauce?

Breakfast at our place is hardly even a meal. Grab some coffee if you’re not running late, maybe toast if you actually have time to spare. No frills, no trying to eat together. Watching the clock because we have to dash out of the door soon. There is great pleasure in making a real meal out of it, that’s for sure.

Brunch chez nous

Brunch chez nous

If you’re a bruncher like us, don’t give it up when you have no-one to go out with, or getting out of your pajamas seems like too much work.

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This is my version of my mother’s partridge stuffing / meatloaf / capón stuffing. Yes, she really uses this recipe for all those things, with very small variations. It’s that good.

Lots of stuff for this one

Lots of stuff for this one

As you can see, a lot of things are needed. So this is not a dish you can whip up at a moments notice (unless you have a fabulously well stocked kitchen), it requires some planning. Let me stress this again: it’s worth it!

The list of ingredients I have (that my mother sent me) is for the stuffing of a capón, which is a huge bird which ends up looking like a vulture when stuffed. As far as I know, there is no such chicken this side of the ocean – and I can’t say I’m really that sorry, as the way they make / raise them seems quite cruel. Anyway, the amounts I had are too much to make meatloaf or stuff a bird – they’re about right for doing both these thins though. So I will give the amounts I used this time that fit the meatloaf like pan perfectly. If you are using it to stuff something, modify accordingly, and you’ll need less for a chicken.

  • 0.5 lb ground beef
  • 0.5 ground turkey or chicken
  • 1/3 of a packet of bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, very finely chopped or grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 or 2 dl cream
  • 50 g pine nuts, lightly roasted
  • Between 5 and 10 dried prunes, you can either coarsely chop them up or leave them whole, whatever you want (I chop ’em)
  • 1 truffle, very fineley chopped – my mother says this is optional, but I think that if you’re going to make such a complex meatloaf you might as well go for it and get the truffle
  • Salt and oil
  • Spices: white pepper, ground nutmeg, a little bit of ground cinnamon and ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup oporto or sweet sherry
  • If you’re using this as stuffing: foie gras. you’ll slide in a couple of pieces with the stuffing, on top of it, close to the breastbone.

The preparation can be summed up as: MIX EVERYTHING. But I can give a few more details.

If you remember, this first step should be done the day before. I didn’t and it came out perfectly fine.

Mix in a bowl the ground meats, bacon, prunes, truffle, spices, salt, liquor, eggs (mix them before). Also slightly saute the onion and garlic till translucent, let cool, and add to said bowl. Refrigerate till the following day, when you need to take it out of the fridge a couple of hours before making the meatloaf so that the mixture can come up to room temperature.

The day before mixure that wasnt

The "day before" mixture that wasn't

If you forgot to roast the pine nuts, now would be a good time to do it.

Almost there

Almost there

Into the bowl they go. My mother says to mix everything by hand as that’s the best way to make sure everything mixes thoroughly. I used a spoonula and it worked fine.

On day #2 you add the missing ingredients: cream and pine nuts. Mix everything well, untill it has an almost doughy consistency.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

And now you bake. At 350. No idea for how long, but I think mine needed about 40 minutes. Put a bigger dish underneath, because there’s a high chance that liquid will over flow. If you play it by eye, use the usual knife-comes-out-clean technique and you should be fine.

If this looks good, you should have smelled it!

If this looks good, you should have smelled it!

Let rest for about 15 minutes so that it can reabsorb some of the liquid you’ll see down the sides.

If you’re making stuffing, my mother suggest making a sauce with white wine, port, chicken stock, squirt of lemon juice, sal and pepper, and a little bit of truffle if you have leftover. Baste the bird with it.

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

This meatloaf is something else. I don’t think it even plays in the same league as most meatloafs. In fact, it deserves some sort of posh, French sounding name, so that it is no longer associated with a vulgar meatloaf. It can be eaten warm or room temperature (good in sandwiches with a little bit of mild mustard and mayo).

Another photo, I can’t have enough of it!

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

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A.K.A. Good ole beef stew. Looking at the recipe it seemed like too fancy a title for what I was supposed to do. And then out of curiosity I looked for photos to see how this dish is supposed to look and realize that mine has no shallots! No carrots! No potatoes! PANIC! How can I call this something it’s not???!?

Because the book says so! So if you think this is not worthy of such a grandiose name or doesn’t look Français, take it up with Inés and Simone, not me.

This is what you need, the bacon is hiding

This is what you need, the bacon is hiding

The other day at the grocery store I saw one of those little trays with pieces of beef for stewing. Which made me think of all the stew recipes I’d seen lately floating around teh Interwebz, which in turn made me drool. I’m classy like that. So into the cart it went. Afterwards I ended going back for a second tray because I like having leftovers – either to take to work as lunch or to freeze. Also to find shallots, which the recipe called for, and for which I had great plans, following a caramelizing / reduction recipe from my mom (for which I could have used what I have left of the chicken stock I have in the fridge) – alas, that was not to be! No shallots or cute little onions at the store.

Chop em all up!

Chop 'em all up!

Not to toot my own horn, but I was actually able to practice that elusive virtue that is moderation! Go me! RAH RAH RAH!

See that onion? I only used half!

See all that bacon? I not only used a third of it, but I was wise enough to freeze the rest in several little one meal sized packages. The things I am able to do when I stop and think about what I have vs. what I need. Amazing.

What? Am I the only one who buys a packet of bacon, uses what she needs right then and leaves the rest to rot in the fridge? I’m sorry but I really can’t believe that I am the only one that forgets all that porky goodness sitting in the fridge untill it’s too late.

This recipe starts just like my carbonara sauce one: cooking the chopped up onion and bacon over low heat till the onion goes from translucent to golden. My carbonara recipe which I totally stole from Alex’s mom – it’s just so good that halfway through this recipe I was very tempted to just say screw it to the beef and have an affair with a bowl of pasta. Ficklness, thy name is woman.

Fry baby FRY!!!!

Fry baby FRY!!!!

Once golden, make them jump ship and patiently wait their turn, because it’s time for the BEEF and things are about to get surreal.

And have you seen just how CUUUUUTE (kawaii!) my lime green Le Creuset pot is? Doesn’t it just make you smile and want to cuddle it and get all hot and dirty with it? Ejem. Maybe that’s just me. Best. Impulsive. Purchase. Ever. It might have been expensive, but I’m definitely making good use of it.

So, back to the moo.

1. Cook it till evenly browned.

Check.

2. Add a little bit of tomato paste.

Check.

Since I seem to be in a practical frame of mind, I actually remembered to put the rest of the tomato paste into little containers and freeze them too! Sometimes I just amaze myself. In this house, tomato paste is another usual victim of the Ooops-I-forgot-I-had-this-in-the-fridge-and-now-that-I’m-going-to-use-it-it’s-moldy disease.

3. Add a tablespoon of heroin.

Check.

This is will give the recipe that certain je ne sais pas quoi little touch.

4. Slit your veins and let the blood pour out until the beef is covered.

Check.

What? You haven’t invited vampires over to dinner? You lot have such closed minds, you’re not open to making new friends and making them feel welcome in your home! Shame on you!

Once its back to a boil you’re going to return the onion and bacon little divers that were sitting patiently nearby, awaiting their turn. Don’t be mean, you know they want to join into the drugs and blood orgy you’ve got going on in your pot, and they’ve been god and silent whilst waiting for their turn.

Dive in, little baconion

Dive in, little baconion

And the last step is so simple even my friend David could do it. Put a lid on it and let it simmer for a few hours. You might want to stir it every once in a while but I’m pretty sure that if I’d forgotten it would not have been the end of the world; maybe a little crunchy, but still edible.

Let it boil, let it boil, let it boil.

(3 x “let it simmer” did not have the same ring to the tongue and you can’t sing it along to Christmas music)

Oh, and chuck in one or two bay leaves, will’ya? The recipe does not call for them. But as far as I’m concerned, anything meaty and earthy and good that’s going to boil for a while can do with a couple of bay leaves.

Shhhhhh, do not disturb

Shhhhhh, do not disturb

And if you’ve hopped around your house, in a counter clockwise direction, alternating feet, three times, and it’s a full moon, and it’s after sunset – then and only then – you might reach Nirvana when you lift the lid and take a whiff.

The SMELL. So so so so so undescribably GOOD.

This smell takes me back to my childhood and I don’t even know what it is I’m smelling! It’s something in between my mother’s stew which she hasn’t made in years, and her partridge, and yet it’s neither of those. This smell can convince you that you even know what to cook.

Creamy and smooth, I just want to bathe in that sauce

Creamy and smooth, I just want to bathe in that sauce

As for the taste? I’ll come back and report in a few hours.

A few hours later: YUM! That one word summarizes it. My only beef with it (har har har, beef, get it?) is that the meat wasn’t very tender even after those hours of cooking, or at least not as much as I expected it to be. On the other hand, it wasn’t like eating a shoe, it was just a little dry inside the pieces of meat and they didn’t come apart by themselves; but since I don’t think cooking it longer would have changed that and that would have meant less sauce, then I’m happy enough.

Here it is, the final product

Here it is, the final product

There should have been enough to feed 4 people, but it was so good we just had to go back for seconds. A definite success. We’ll fight over who gets to eat the leftover portion which went into the freezer at a later time.

The best thing was the sauce, creamy and smooth, yet with enough consistency to be more than just some liquid coating the meat, an element of the dish in its own right. Forget the meat, just give me a bowl of this sauce and I’ll be happy.

Even though the book (and recipes I saw online when I was trying to determine whether this was actually a beef Bourguignonne recipe and not just glorified stew) suggested serving this alongside potatoes, I chose rice (sautéed in garlic paste and then cooked, for a little flavor) in anticipation of The Sauce. Rice as the side means that when the chunks of meat are gone (because you ate them!) you can get the rice to be coated and absorb whatever sauce is left on your plate, making that last bite even better than the first.

What can I say, I just loved it! Amazing what a few hours of cooking can do to a liquid that just smelled of strong (not very good) wine to produce this liquid that though it, quite literally, looks like shit, tastes divine.

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Last year when I was browsing through the cooking section of a bookstore^^yeah, fine, let’s try again.

Last year, when I was drooling at the pretty food pictures in cooking books, and wishing I had to skill to actually cook those things. Much better start. What can I say,  I do judge books y their cover. Yeah, yeah, shame on me and all that. But let’s get real here: cooking books are intimidating! Obscure references to skillets, braising, and deglazing. I was only just starting to be fine with rehogar, saltear, and freir and now I don’t even know what those are in English!

I dare say that I am not the only one to buy cooking books for their photos. Oh, yes, I’m full of good intentions, I rationalize that these recipes don’t look that complicated and I should be able to do them, or at least one or two. Don’t believe me? I managed to think it would be a great idea to buy a book on GRILLING of all things! I do not own, have access to, or have ever used a grill. Yeah, I can make some of these in the over or a cast iron grill. Suuuuure! The book remains unopened in the shelf.

Anyone want a book on grilling?

Anyway, cooking books. Browsing through a shelf full of them I stumbled upon this! Wonder of wonders. Oh, too lazy to follow a link? Ok, fine. This:

Still not know what the fuss is about? Guess you’re not Spanish, huh?

Go to any home in Spain, look around the kitchen – come on, open all the doors, look at all the cabinets, never mind the dust – and chances are you’ll find a copy of this. In Spanish. Older. Used. To the point it’s almost falling apart.

Some have called it the Bible of Spanish cooking, but that’s not it. It’s recipes are not what most people would identify as typical Spanish cooking, but they are what is eaten daily in a lot of households. My mom used to say that her generation learnt to cook with this book. Her copy is also missing the back cover and a couple of pages.

Still not catching on to my excitment about it? Too bad, because you’re probably going to hear a lot about it in here. That is, if I haven’t bored you to death yet. In which case go ahead and close the window. Don’t bother coming back. BYE!

Goodriddance.

I figured that I was definitely going to be able to cook from this book. And surprisingly, I was right. I’ve already made a few things from this book which turned out pretty good, but I have no photos. I guess that means that I’ll just have to make them again so that the chipirones and gambas can strut their stuff and model for my camera. Not that I’m making anything with squid or shrimp today, but maybe the promise of seafood maked this whole food-bloog-by-someone-who’s-not-even-a-good-cook-or-very-original thing seem less patheti^^^^more interesting.

Soooooooooooooooo, after all this, let’s get cooking!

Heres what youll needHere. My setup.

I’m not a big fan of pork, let’s get that out of the way. Well, except for bacon. And cured meats. Jamón. Chorizo. Salchichón. Sobrasada (which I think is made of pork but I’m nto that sure). Sausage. Mpf, maybe I am a fan of pork and never knew it….

I’m not a big fan of pork as a meat for a main dish. That’s better. No idea why, we never ate much of it at my parent’s house and as far as I am concerned, meat = beef | veal. Also lamb if you want to get fancy. Or game. Just not pork. Pork is cured, salted, and brined, but not seared, stewed or braised.

Wanna see the pork?

Wanna see the pork?

But what’s a girl to do when in an atempt to empty the freezer I find that the only meat I have at home is pork tenderloin? Alex was thrilled. Me, not so much. Instead of taking my usual approach with pork – which is to say to Alex: Here, you cook this. I’ll go make myself something else. – I must have been high on crack or something, cause I was all like BRING ON THE PORK, YEAH! Naw I’m not going to fry it and call it a day, let’s actually make something. Look through the book. No, not this recipe. Mh, this one looks good but I don’t have the ingredients. How bout this other one? Or that one? Uh, this one looks easy.

I finally settled in one which can be summarized as:

  1. Fry the pork.
  2. Make the sauce.
  3. Serve together.

But since that would make for a very short post and would not let me show my photos, lets try to do a little more blah blah blah post picture blah blah another photo blah blah blah photo photo photo blah.

Lets start by taking that meat and browning it.

Better cooked than raw

The sauce had to be pade in the same pan as the pork, so I had to keep the pork warm in the oven meanwhile. Man, it felt so fancy to be putting a plate in the oven to keep it warm and all that stuff. Oh, and speaking of makaing the sauce in that same pan, I could try to throw around big fat words like deglazing but I’ll refrain from doing so just in case I use it wrong and it becomes apparent that I don’t have a clue about what I’m talking about.

Onion sauce. Which has onions. Two big onions.

Cry for me as you chop and slice and dissect me

Cry for me as you chop and slice and dissect me

Have I mentioned yet how all the recipes in this book are made for 6? And we are 2. No?

I very often forget to scale down recipes to meet the amount I have of meat or fish or whatever the limiting ingredient is. Being a fan of onions (cooked, not raw), I did not think twice when slicing those two beauties. Once I saw they almost did not fit in the pan I started to have econd throughts. But my motto is you can never have too much onion (which coincidencely is also related to the there is no such thing as too much cheese school of thought), so whatever.

It took forever to cook. And I still have two tupperware full of leftover sauce. Just sayin’.

And as long as I’m critizing the book, let’s just say that I don’t like how they use water (and nothing else) to make sauces. What’s wrong with throwing some stock and white wine into the onion sauce?? Which also reminds me that I should try making my own stock, but that means that I either have to buy bones (chicken, veal) or convince Alex of just how cool it would be for him to learn how to debone a chicken! And a cow! ….need a little work in that argument.

Cook the onions until they start to turn to mush – or if you want to be fancy: until they are soft and translucent. Add liquid. According to the book, I did good:

Hello onion soup!

Hello onion soup!

Add water (also wine and stock – just water made me afraind it was going to turn out bland and tasteless) until the onions are covered.

What did I learn from this? Too much water! If I had just added the same amounts of wine and stock I did but forgotten the water, it would have been so much better. Whilst I like onion soup, onion-y creamy soup-y sauce is a whole different beast. A sauce should be dense! Otherwise it would be called SOUP.  But we’re not done yet.

Oooooh, look at the pretty bokeh!!!!

Oooooh, look at the pretty bokeh!!!!

Make a creamy white sauce in a different pot. Must. Resist. Urge. To. Use. Words. Like. Roux. And. Bechamel. If. Not. Sure. I. Am. Using. Them. Properly.

Add that to the onion goo and voilà! There’s your sauce. Yeah, fine, mix it well, let it cook for a while. All that usual stuff. But it’s really nothing too exciting.

Dinner is served

Dinner is served

Plate. Make it pretty. Snap a few photos. Taste. Eat.

So what’s the veredict. So so. Meh. It wasn’t bad, but I would not make it again like this (though I’m going to have to make variations whether I want to or not, to use up the leftover sauce).

The sauce was a FAIL as far as I am concerned. In spite of the wine and stock, it was bland and tasteless. And way too liquidy. Next time just caramelize the onions with a little wine and stock and then add a more dense version of the white sauce. Hey, lookit here, I used the word caramelize !

Oh, and good thing I did not use nowhere near the amount of oil the recipe called for. I shudder to think what the sauce would have been like: too liquid, too bland, too oily. Shudder.

It did make for some pretty plating, though.

Voilà!

Voilà!

Let me repeat: it wasn’t bad! It’s just that the sauce was as boring and bland as it looks.

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