02.24.09

Pearls

Posted in photos at 4:23 am by wingerz

pearls

It’s been raining a lot these past few weeks. Spotted these beautiful droplets while I was on today’s afternoon stroll.

02.23.09

Braised Short Ribs

Posted in food, home cooking at 3:48 am by wingerz

shortribs

A few weekends ago I discovered the Holding Ranch meat stand at the Menlo Park farmer’s market. It’s got a lot of different cuts of beef, whole chickens, and sometimes pork and lamb. Everything’s frozen so you don’t have to worry about using it right away. I picked up a few pounds of short ribs (and all of the vegetables I needed for the recipe). The woman warned me to be careful of overcooking the grass-fed beef; it cooks faster since it’s got less fat.

(Incidentally, this is one of the cases where the healthier, more expensive option may not be the best one for the environment. I haven’t done a lot of research on this yet.)

I’ve reproduced the recipe unchanged below, but when I made it I lowered the temperatures. For the browning I had the oven at 430 deg F (instead of 450) and braising at 275 deg F (instead of 300). There was very little fat rendered by the browning process so I used a bit of canola oil to soften the mirepoix. After an hour and a half I checked the meat with a fork every 20-30 minutes; it ended up taking about 3 hours.

The end result was quite delicious, and the sauce had a nice, full body.

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine with Bacon, Parsnips, and Pearl Onions
from Cook’s Illustrated

6 pounds bone-in English-style short ribs , trimmed of excess fat and silver skin, or bone-in flanken-style short ribs
Table salt and ground black pepper
3 cups dry red wine (full-bodied)
3 large onions , chopped medium
2 medium carrots , chopped medium
1 large rib celery , chopped medium
9 medium cloves garlic , chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , drained
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon tomato paste

Bacon, Pearl Onion, and Parsnip Garnish
6 slices bacon (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
8 ounces frozen pearl onions (do not thaw)
4 medium parsnips (about 10 ounces), peeled and cut diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange short ribs bone-side down in single layer in large flameproof roasting pan; season with salt and pepper. Roast until meat begins to brown, about 45 minutes; drain off all liquid and fat with bulb baster. Return pan to oven and continue to cook until meat is well browned, 15 to 20 minutes longer. (For flanken-style short ribs, arrange ribs in single layer in large roasting pan; season with salt and pepper. Roast until meat begins to brown, about 45 minutes; drain off all liquid and fat with baster. Return pan to oven and continue to cook until browned, about 8 minutes; using tongs, flip each piece and cook until second side is browned, about 8 minutes longer). Transfer ribs to large plate; set aside. Drain off fat to small bowl and reserve. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Place roasting pan on two stovetop burners set at medium heat; add wine and bring to simmer, scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon. Set roasting pan with wine aside.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons reserved fat in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour until combined, about 45 seconds. Stir in wine from roasting pan, chicken stock, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil and add short ribs, completely submerging meat in liquid; return to boil, cover, place in oven, and simmer until ribs are tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Transfer pot to wire rack and cool, partially covered, until warm, about 2 hours.
3. Transfer ribs from pot to large plate, removing excess vegetables that may cling to meat; discard loose bones that have fallen away from meat. Strain braising liquid into medium bowl, pressing out liquid from solids; discard solids. Cover ribs and liquid separately with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days.)
4. To prepare garnish and finish dish: In Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until just crisp, 8 to 10 minutes; remove with slotted spoon to plate lined with paper towel. Add to Dutch oven pearl onions, parsnips, sugar, and salt; increase heat to high and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Spoon off and discard solidified fat from reserved braising liquid. Add defatted liquid and bring to simmer, stirring occasionally; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Submerge ribs in liquid, return to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, partially covered, until ribs are heated through and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer; gently stir in bacon. Divide ribs and sauce among individual bowls, sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon parsley, and serve.

02.19.09

Shrimp fra Diavolo

Posted in food, home cooking at 12:13 am by wingerz

shrimpfradiavolo.jpg

We picked up some shrimp from the weekend seafood guy at Costco. They were humongous and already de-veined. I used about half a pound in a half portion of this pasta dish, which was wonderfully garlicky and robust. I didn’t have cognac or brandy so I substituted vermouth with a dash of vanilla extract. I have no idea of whether this is a legitimate substitution, but I wasn’t able to get it to flame up (see instruction 2).

Shrimp fra Diavolo with Linguine
from Cook’s Illustrated

1 pound medium-large shrimp (preferably 31 to 35 count), peeled (and deveined, if desired), preferably Gulf or Mexican Whites
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
4 tablespoons minced garlic (about 12 medium or 8 large cloves)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes , drained
1 cup medium-dry white wine , such as Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 pound linguine or spaghetti

1. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil, covered, in large Dutch oven or stockpot.
2. While water is heating, heat 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, toss shrimp, half of red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Add shrimp to skillet and quickly spread in single layer; cook, without stirring, until bottoms of shrimp turn spotty brown, about 30 seconds. Off heat, stir to turn shrimp, and add cognac; let stand off heat until cognac warms slightly, about 5 seconds, and return pan to high heat. Wave lit match over skillet until cognac ignites; shake skillet until flames subside, transfer shrimp to medium bowl, and set aside.
3. Off heat, cool now-empty skillet 2 minutes; return to burner and reduce heat to low. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic foams and is sticky and straw-colored, 7 to 10 minutes. Add remaining red pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt, sugar, tomatoes, and wine; increase heat to medium-high, and simmer until thickened and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Stir in reserved shrimp and accumulated juices, remaining 1 tablespoon garlic, and parsley and simmer until shrimp have heated through, about 1 minute longer. Off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
4. While sauce simmers, add linguine or spaghetti and remaining 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water, stir to separate pasta, cover, and cook until al dente; reserve 1/3 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta. Transfer drained pasta back to now-empty Dutch oven or stockpot; add about 1/2 cup sauce (without shrimp) and 2 to 3 tablespoons reserved pasta cooking water; toss to coat. Divide pasta among warm serving bowls, top with a portion of sauce and shrimp, and serve immediately.

02.16.09

The Rainforest Sphere

Posted in personal, photos at 10:50 pm by wingerz

gecko.jpg

On Saturday Jen and I visited the California Academy of Sciences. It was our second visit since becoming members; the first time it was so crowded that we didn’t get to see the rainforest exhibit, one of the centerpieces of the museum. It’s a glass-surfaced dome 90 feet in diameter. Small, colorful birds dart back and forth, and butterflies flutter about. There are lots of exhibits containing live reptiles, amphibians, and insects. In other words, an awesome place to spend a few hours.

A few photos.

02.14.09

Roasted Cauliflower

Posted in food, home cooking at 4:21 pm by wingerz

cauliflower1.jpg

I picked up some cauliflower from the farmer’s market, thinking that I could roast it alongside some broccoli. Fortunately I checked Cook’s Illustrated before experimenting and discovered that cauliflower takes a lot longer in the oven.

Roasted Cauliflower
from Cook’s Illustrated

1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Trim outer leaves of cauliflower and cut stem flush with bottom. Cut head into 8 equal wedges so that core and florets remain intact (see photo). Place wedges cut side down on foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; gently rub to evenly distribute oil and seasonings. Gently flip cauliflower and season other cut side with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper.
2. Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast until bottoms of cauliflower pieces are golden, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, and, using spatula, carefully flip wedges. Return sheet to oven and continue to roast until cauliflower is golden all over, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with oil (or sauce), and serve immediately.