Saturday, April 24, 2010

What I Almost Made for Dinner: April 24, 2010

Brisket carbonnade.

Bon Appetit magazine, you have steered me wrong wrong wrong.

I don't like brisket.  But I have a bunch of them because apparently that's what you get when you buy a mixed quarter of beef, and I've so far succeeded at finding ways to cook them that range from tolerable to hey! pretty good.  And I was pleased to see a recipe in the May Bon Appetit for a beef stew (called a "carbonnade") using caramelized onions and a lot of Belgian dark beer.  The magazine recommends the recipe for "any muscular cut of beef that's good for stewing."  Sounds good, right?

I tried making it today using an arm roast, figuring that after four hours the brisket would shred into a flavorful sauce.

Nope.  We're on hour five and that sucker is cooked through and still it will not shred.  Additionally, if not worse, the flavor of the sauce is very weird.  It tastes like everything I hate about traditional brisket.

Chuck has gone out and returned with pizza.  I am continuing to simmer that hunk of beef until it falls apart on its own and hopefully I can salvage it for tacos or something.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained; but watch out for Bon Appetit and its insane Belgian recipes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: April 20, 2010

Sauteed chicken breasts with olive oil and lemon; cauliflower with hazelnut breadcrumbs.

Nothing much to say about this dinner except I am impressed with myself that I pulled it off despite a hectic afternoon that involved doing many different and unrelated activities. 

(I am constantly defeated not by time constraints, but by the amount of scatter in my days.  I hardly get the chance to settle into one thing when the next comes storming through the front door, and then the next comes creeping in under the floorboards, and then something else wakes up from its nap and needs clean pants immediately.  But then maybe it would be boring to concentrate on just one or two things all day.) 

Anyway, I think I could eat this cauliflower dish every night of the week.  Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Cauliflower with hazelnut breadcrumbs (serves 6 as a side dish)

1 head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup fresh soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup hazelnuts, skins removed, coarsely crushed (put 'em in a plastic bag and hit 'em with a hammer)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower into florets.  Melt two tablespoons butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown. Transfer crumbs to a plate and wipe out the pan.

2. Return the pan to medium heat and add one tablespoon olive oil. Add the hazelnuts and toast, stirring, until they are lightly browned and fragrant.  Remove the hazelnuts to a bowl and set aside.

3. Wipe out the pan and return to medium heat. Add remaining one tablespoon olive oil and cauliflower slices. Sauté until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer pan to oven and roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

4.  While the cauliflower roasts, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  When it has melted, add the vinegar and tarragon.  Combine this mixture with the hazelnuts and capers Season with salt and pepper.

5. Place the roasted cauliflower in a large serving bowl.  Spoon hazelnut mixture evenly on top and sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: April 18, 2010

Meatballs and tomato sauce.

I will always remember the first time my Aunt Heather made me tomato sauce. I was used to eating our family's traditional four-hour Sunday gravy. That sauce is delicious to be sure, thick, deep and unctuous, filled with meat, but it's easy to forget that it started out as tomatoes. Then one day, I was probably eight years old, we had dinner with Heather and her family and she made a fresh tomato sauce. I was a little skeptical. It had chunks of tomato. Chunks, I don't know . . . and it was spectacular. Fresh, bright, tomatoey--well.

(My Aunt Heather is just a marvelous cook. So are all my aunts, actually. And my mom. And my grandmother, before she lost her palate to age and the hypertension patient's terror of salt. So it runs in the family, and also I have a lot to live up to.)

Tonight, I tried to make something along the lines of that fresh sauce. I used canned whole tomatoes (San Marzano! From Target!) and stewed them with browned meatballs, white wine, a quartered onion, and some whole garlic cloves for about an hour. I removed the onion and garlic before serving. It was much like my memory of Heather's sauce, years ago. And the boys ate up every. single. meatball.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: April 13, 2010

Tacos and Yorkshire pudding.

What can I say? Birthday boy gets to pick the menu. (And the cake; he wanted the molten chocolate dessert from the local Chili's.)

His party with friends was on Sunday

and for that, he requested pizza and a regular cake.

He colored the frosting and placed the fish. The gummi-Lifesavers fence was his idea, too.

For more than four years, he was our family's baby. Even though we have a littler guy now, in a lot of ways Alex is still my baby. It's hard for me to grasp that he's seven.

Happy birthday, you little monkey.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: April 10, 2010

Chicken and artichokes with quinoa salad.

Quinoa is fun to say. Keeeen-waaah, keeeen-waaah, keeeeen-waaaaaaaaah. It's also very tasty when combined with olive oil, lemon juice, dill, and diced cucumber. Keeeeen-waaah.

What I Made for Dinner: April 8, 2010

Pulled brisket tacos.

Thursday night extravaganza yet again. We had two soccer practices and an elementary school open house-slash-book fair, meaning we didn't get to eat these tacos until like 8 p.m. They were waiting for us in the crock pot and we were ravenous and they were really, really good.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: April 2 & 3, 2010

Shepherd's pie; Hash browns fry-up.

Rounding out our Passover series were two delightful, unleavened meals.  And only one included bacon!

The shepherd's pie wasn't exactly genuine because I made it with the chicken left over from our seder instead of with lamb.  But everything else was authentic, following this recipe

The very best thing I made this entire week was the fry-up I had a bad dream about last week.  Everyone should have this in the rotation!  In the biggest non-stick pan or griddle you can find, heat a couple of teaspoons of vegetable oil.  In the oil, add sliced mushrooms; on the other side of the pan, lay about six slices of bacon.  When the mushrooms begin to soften and the bacon starts to crisp, flip the bacon and sprinkle hash brown potatoes all over the pan.  When the potatoes have browned on one side, add some sliced tomatoes, if you like them, moving the potatoes aside so the tomatoes make contact with the pan.  Flip the potatoes.  Finally, crack about six eggs in various spots throughout the pan, tilting the pan so the whites spread over everything.  Continue to cook until the egg whites are set and the yolks are as firm as you like them.  Salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

That is some good food right there.  And okay, it's not kosher (although omit the bacon and you're in business there), but it's unleavened!  And versatile!  You could add more veggies; you could omit the potatoes; you could serve it with hollandaise sauce.  Even better, having eaten my bad dream, maybe I won't have it anymore.

Tonight we picked up some salads and that should just about do it for this year's Passover week.  Back to regularly-scheduled pasta tomorrow.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: April 1. 2010

Matzo meal pancakes.

The recipe came from the 1952 edition of The Complete American Jewish Cookbook. It is perfect for a busy night when a family with two working parents must somehow get two children to two soccer practices and a Cub Scout meeting, and feed them and their picky toddler brother, in the middle of Passover when carry-out food is not an option.

Matzo Meal Pancakes (serves 4-6)
1 cup matzo meal
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
6 eggs, separated
1.5 cups milk (I used fat-free and it was fine)

Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the milk. Combine these two mixtures, mix well, and allow to stand for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the beaten egg whites into the matzo meal batter until fully combined. On a griddle, melt together enough butter and vegetable oil so that the griddle is well-greased. When the griddle is hot, drop the batter by scant quarter-cup measures and fry like regular pancakes. Serve with maple syrup.