Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs

Flavorful and tender, braised beef short ribs make an excellent dinner, especially when cooked with sweet onions and beer. You can use bone-in or boneless for this recipe, and because of the long, slow braise they are easy to prepare in the slow cooker (Crockpot), if you prefer.

Julian's Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs
I usually serve pork as a traditional New Year's meal. But when I found out my guests didn't eat pork, I had to come up with an alternative. This recipe rings in the New Year right. It goes well with just about everything and who doesn't like food cooked in beer? I'm serving it here with a wild rice dish with shaved Brussels sprouts, cranberries and nuts. But it would go equally well with mashed potatoes.

Browning the Ribs in Small Batches
The term "short ribs" comes from the fact that the cut of meat contains only a portion of each long beef rib. However, local grocers and butcher shops often do not differentiate between the various cuts of short ribs, which can come from the beef brisket, chuck, plate, and rib. In the U.S., short ribs from the plate are generally the least expensive cut, followed by the brisket and chuck, and then premium-priced short ribs from the rib area. Rarely will you find these marked.

Boneless short ribs, like those I'm cooking today, are cut from either the chuck or plate, and consist of rib meat separated from the bone.  Don't be confused by something labeled "Boneless country-style short ribs" because these are not actually short ribs at all, but rather are cut from the chuck eye roll, a less expensive cut of meat. I bought my boneless ribs at Costco, and based on the rich marbling, I would guess they are from the chuck. You can find a full discussion of the Costco boneless ribs on this site. I have used these before and find if I select a well-marbled package, they are more tender when braised.

Short ribs generally require long periods of cooking in order to break down the connective tissues and make the meat tender. I'm doing mine in a long, moist braise today. But you can alternatively just dry rub them and roast them covered, very low and slow for about 4 hours (at say 225F degrees.) If they were well marbled and bone-in, these will also come out very well.

Ingredients
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
3-5 pounds beef short ribs (cut into pieces)
BBQ rub (store bought or my recipe)
2 carrots (peeled and roughly chopped)
2 sweet onions (widely sliced)
2 celery stalks (roughly chopped)
2 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)
1 bottle beer, dark
1 bottle beer, light
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
pinch thyme
pinch rosemary
pinch oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions
Preheat slow cooker on low or your oven to 275F degrees.

Season the short ribs lightly with the rub. Heat a Dutch oven or deep skillet over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and heat until very hot (just before smoking). Add the short ribs and brown on all sides, in small batches. Remove from pan and drain all but one tablespoon of fat from pan. Place the browned short ribs into your cooking vessel (roasting pan, Dutch oven or Crockpot.)

Deglaze the pan with the half the bottle of light-colored beer, scraping with a wooden spoon to remove the brown bits. Reduce the liquid by half and pour over the beef ribs.

Will the heat still on high, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and add the onions. Stir gently for about 5 minutes until they are reduced and tender. Add the carrots and celery and cook stirring gently, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Stir in the spices. Pour in the remaining bottle and half of beer and deglaze the pan by scraping up any remaining bits with a wooden spoon. Continued cooking until the liquid is reduced by half and then add the tomato paste and chicken stock and stir together.

Pour the vegetable-liquid mixture over the ribs. Do your best to get all of the meat submerged. Cover and cook approximately 3-4 hours or until meat is fork tender. Transfer the ribs to a plate and cover to keep warm. Using a slotted spoon, remove any vegetable solids that remain and reserve in a bowl.

Let the liquid settle a bit so the fat rises to the top and then spoon off the fat from the liquid, or use a large gravy/fat separator.  Taste and add more salt and fresh black pepper as necessary. Add back the vegetables and either spoon over the servings of meat OR using a stick blender, puree the solids into the liquid making more of a gravy. Serve and enjoy hot.

Ready for the Long Simmer in my Crockpot


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Perhaps the simplest of all pasta sauces, a brown butter sauce takes only a few minutes to prepare and matches beautifully with this seasonal pasta.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce
These ravioli on the other hand, would have taken a good bit of time to make homemade. That's why, when Costco had them fresh (not frozen), I purchased them and they were quite good. Each package (the product comes in a set of two packages) serves 4 adults as a main course, as the sauce is rich. If you have big eaters you may need to increase the quantity. As a first course, one package serves 6, approximately two raviolis per person.

From Costco - Very Good - Link Here
While the link above prepares them with a garlic sauce, I felt a brown butter sage combination would be more seasonal. You can purchase fresh sage in most good grocery stores, which is what I did.

Browned Butter
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 small shallot, minced
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
Juice from half a fresh lemon
Pinch of salt and grind of fresh pepper
Prepared butternut squash ravioli (per above)
Shredded Parmesan cheese (to taste)

Instructions
Prepare butternut squash ravioli by bringing a large pot of salted water to boil. Freshly made (not frozen) ravioli take only 3-4 minutes in the boiling water.

In a 12 inch or larger deep skillet (avoid a dark non-stick skillet), melt butter over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally. Do this until the butter is browned and releases nutty aroma, which takes about 2 minutes. Do not leave the stove top as you don't want it to burn. Off heat, add shallot and sage, stirring until shallot is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm until your pasta is ready.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the well-drained raviolis a spoon at a time into the butter sauce. Toss them gently to coat before adding a second spoon of ravioli. Once all are coated, transfer to serving bowls and top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

The prepared sauce ready for the pasta.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Rum or Cream Cheese Glaze

Nothing says winter, and particularly Christmas, like an old-fashioned gingerbread. The flavor of gingerbread really comes from the combination of spices and molasses. Classic gingerbread is a dense, hard cookie, but you can enjoy these flavors in many forms.

Julian's Festive Gingerbread Bundt Cake
Today I'm making a gingerbread Bundt cake. If you're looking for a great gingerbread cupcake, use this recipe, as it has a looser crumb more suitable for cupcakes. This cake is more dense but equally flavorful.  You can make this and serve it with no topping at all, or just with some whipped cream. Today I'm adding a rum glaze and topping that with a cream cheese glaze, as I want to give it that holiday festive look. But this cake is equally good without either, or you can just use either one.

Just as good without glaze, and bit of whipped cream on each slice.
My original recipe came from King Arthur Flour. I've modified it to amp up the flavor. You can and should use their unbleached all-purpose flour if you have it. Otherwise, regular all-purpose flour will do.

Ingredients
Note: The butter and eggs should be room temperature before use.

Cake
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg,
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 cup water

Rum Glaze (optional)
1/3 cup dark/aged rum
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1.4 teaspoon butter rum flavor (optional)

Cream Cheese Glaze (optional)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
Milk or cream as needed, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Cake
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly grease a 10-12 cup Bundt pan. You can you a spray food release or traditional shortening. There is no need to flour the pan after greasing.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in well after each addition. Scrape the bowl frequently to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. On low setting, mix in the molasses.

With the mixer on the low setting, blend in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the water. Mix until just incorporated and smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet. If using the rum glaze, it can be applied while the cake is still warm. If using the cream cheese glaze, the cake must be room temperature before glazing.

Rum Glaze (optional)
Heat the ingredients, except for the optional butter rum flavoring, over low heat stirring regularly until the sugar is dissolved. Using a long pick, poke small holes into the top and sides of the cake. Stir in the butter rum flavoring. Brush the glaze onto the cake while it is warm.

Cream Cheese Glaze (optional)
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Slowly add milk or cream until the desired glaze consistency forms. Pour the glaze on the top of the cake.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Creamed Spinach

Nothing could be more simple or delicious than fresh spinach that has been sauteed and then cooked with heavy cream. I had never posted this before because I didn't think anyone needed a recipe, it's that simple. But several have asked me to post this, so I'm doing it today.

Julian's Creamed Spinach
Cooked spinach can be a great side dish and can even be prepared ahead and reheated. I never chop the fresh spinach as some do, as it really does cook down considerably and I want my dish to look like it was made from fresh spinach and not that frozen stuff. Below I recommend two large bunches of spinach and you may look at that and think it is way too much for four people. It really is not and you will not have any leftover. It cooks down considerably. In the photos I'm making a half batch, which makes only two small side dishes.

Cooking the Spinach
Ingredients (served 4)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bunches fresh spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup heavy cream



Instructions
Wash the spinach several times insuring all sand and grit are removed. Holding each piece by the leafy top part, peel off the stem as far up the leaf as possible. Discard the stems and re-rinse the leaves.

In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and butter and warm until melted. Stir in the onion and saute for 3-4 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic for another minute. Add the spinach, salt and pepper and stir until cooked down. Add the heavy cream and a pinch of nutmeg and continue cooking 3-5 minutes until the liquid reduces by half. Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies - Cookie Baking Tips

With winter upon us I like to make cookies, especially when it's snowing outside. So today I'm making a simple, no fail recipe that most everyone enjoys.

Julian's Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
The flavors are holiday related with cranberries and white chocolate. These have an oatmeal base and so they are also a bit chewy and not as sweet as some cookies, which is another reason I like them.

Today I also wanted to share some common cookie tips, as I'm often asked why cookies don't come out the way you expect them to.

Test Cookies:  My number one suggestion is to always bake a test cookie first. I know it takes an extra 10 minutes, but it's worth the time. A test cookie lets you know what the rest will be like when you bake them. It tells you how much they are likely to spread so you know how much room you need between them. Don't skip this. I do this on every cookie I make, even if I've made it many times before. After you bake the test cookie, you'll know what, if anything you need to do from the list below to improve the outcome. If you do make a change from the list below, remember to test again before you put in an entire tray.

Flavor and Shape:  The other top suggestion is to make your cookie dough at least a day in advance. Once made, refrigerate or freeze. Chilling the dough for at least 24 hours before baking improves flavor and and helps them keep a nice shape. You can freeze dough months in advance and then let it thaw in the refrigerator before use. This is actually an easy way to have cookies ready at a moments notice, letting you make the dough when you have time, then just thawing and baking when you need them.

Thicker:  If you didn't make ahead and chill and your test cookie has spread out too much and you want them thicker, freeze the cookie dough for 30 to 60 minutes before baking. This solidifies the butter, which will spread less while baking.

More Brown:  Set the oven to 360F-375F rather than the typically 350F degrees. Caramelization occurs at 356 degrees or so.

Lighter/Fluffy: If your cookies seem to dense and you want to lighten them, increase the amount of baking soda to double what is noted in the recipe.

Thick and Chewy: Substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour in your recipe if you want your cookies to be more chewy than crispy. It has a higher gluten protein content and will also spread less when baked.

Sugar Options: White sugar makes a crisper cookie than those made with brown sugar. A brown sugar based cookie will also absorb moisture after baking, helping to ensure that they stay chewy. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes contain both brown and white sugars for flavor and a middle-of-the-road outcome.

Thin and Crisp:  A tablespoon or two of water  or milk added to the cookie dough will help your cookies spread into flatter and crisper rounds.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

This original recipe came from OceanSpray, the makers of the dried cranberries. My version makes about 42 large (#20 scoop, slightly mounded) cookies. You could of course make smaller cookies for a larger yield count.  

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups old-fashioned oats
3 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces Craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)
4 ounces white chocolate, chunked
11-12 ounces white chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth and mix in sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks and chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons or use a #20 cookie scoop onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicon pads. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for five minutes and transfer to wire rack until cooled completely.



Saturday, December 3, 2016

Caramel Apple Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

Great year around, but particularly in the fall and winter, this Bundt cake is moist and delicious. It is very popular every time I make it, and it is simple to prepare.

Caramel Apple Bundt Cake
I got the original recipe from a fellow blogger, but since then have made several slight modifications to make it more reliable. Over time I had trouble with the original recipe with regard to the cream cheese filling, so this version takes care of that problem.

The cut cake.
Perhaps the best thing about this cake is that you should make it 1-3 days in advance, as it tastes better after it sits refrigerated. You can make the caramel sauce below, or use store bought. Both will be good.

Ingredients

Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Ready for Serving
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 medium apples, green and red mixed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 1/4 cups vegetable or canola oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs

Cream Cheese Layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg

Glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla

Caramel Sauce: (or store bought)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half or whipping cream
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla

Instructions
Generously grease (or spray with food release) and then flour a large (12 cup) Bundt pan. (This is the classic size pan). Set aside. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. Peel, core and dice 3-4 apples. Toss the apples with the tablespoon of lemon juice to keep from browning. Add the dark brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and toss to combine. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, blend the oil, sugar, and vanilla until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. The batter will be thick. Drain any excess liquid from the apples (if any) and gently stir the apple mixture into the batter. Pour 2/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Reserve the remaining batter.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese just until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla and egg and beat on medium speed until creamy and smooth.

Using a spoon or butter knife, make a trench in the center of the cake batter (going around in the circular shape of the Bundt pan) about 1-inch deep (just scoop the excess batter to either side if possible. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the trench, working quickly before the batter smooths out. If necessary, have someone make the trench slowly as you follow along and add the cream cheese mixture. Try and keep the cream cheese mixture in a ring in the center of the cake so it has cake batter on either side around the circle. Once the cream cheese mixture is in place, pour the reserved apple cake batter on top of it.

Bake the cake for 60 minutes or until a long pick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Remove from the oven to a cooking rack.

While the cake is cooling in the pan, mix the ingredients for the glaze in a small pan over medium high heat. Allow the ingredients to come to a boil and boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Using a long pick, poke holes throughout the Bundt cake.  Pour the glaze over the cake while the cake is still in the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan before removing.

Turn the cake out onto a serving plate and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serve chilled or at room temperature, drizzling caramel sauce over each piece.

Home made caramel sauce:  For the caramel sauce, mix the butter, brown sugar, half-and-half or cream, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thickened slightly. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a glass jar or container. Refrigerate until cold (or use slightly warm but not hot). If the caramel sauce has cooled in the fridge long enough to harden, warm slightly before drizzling on each serving of the cake.