Tag Archives: dinner

The Art of ordering from a menu

Charcoal_venice_Oysters-Josper

Don’t covet your neighbor’s dinner – order for flavor and experience!

Reading a menu at your favorite restaurant can be a lot of fun (especially if they’ve added new items that you haven’t tried) unless you’ve waited too long to eat and you’re starving! Then your eyes start darting around and you’re completely distracted by all those beautiful dishes passing you by – and at nose level! I suggest buying time with some bread so that you can actually pay attention to the dishes that the chef spent so much time creating.  Go ahead, order the drinks to start and with a few bites of bread to calm those hunger pangs you’re ready to go.

Over the more than 20 years that I owned restaurants we approached menu creation logically.  When my chefs came to me with menu ideas, our goal was to create menus that offered guests a chance to experience a particular flavor combination using what was in season, especially if one of us had just returned from travel with new ideas. I wanted our guests to enjoy the food, the friendship that brought them to the table, but definitely not to envy each other’s dinner because they thought they’d ordered wrong.

That’s where the art of ordering from a menu comes into play.

Your response might be “Ordering from a menu is art?” Depending on the restaurant, yes; just as much as it is an art in preparing the food for you to enjoy.

When I was a child, my parents had friends from China who frequented our dinner table. It was at that time that I learned how many Asian families prepare and eat food: small dishes of all kinds of different preparations, shared around the table so that everyone got a taste of something different. It was one big social experience that happened to involve food.  I didn’t realize it then but it’s the perfect way to eat a meal – tasting multiple dishes.

Mexican and Spanish “tapas” (snacks or small plates) cuisine has evolved in the same way. Everyone orders their favorite dish to share with everyone else at the table – what we used to call “family style dining.” This style of restaurant (shared plates) and type of ordering has become extremely popular.  Everyone gets to order something that has caught their eye on the menu and the whole table gets to taste different dishes that they might not have tried before.

The traditional way of ordering from a menu, what you might call the “mainstream” approach, is to order by course – appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert (if you can manage it) – none of which is shared, except for maybe a bite or two that someone else at the table might ask to taste from what you had ordered. The problem is that many people look at the entrées first to decide what they want for their main course and then they decide if they want an appetizer or salad.  That is exactly the opposite of  what I do even if I’m at a traditional restaurant and not a tapas style place.

It doesn’t matter if I’m at Sfixio, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, Charcoal Venice, in Los Angeles where everything is wood-fired and delicious, or the incredible restaurant at The NoMad Hotel in New York City that I make sure I visit every time I’m there so I can indulge in as many appetizers as I can handle and still have room for “Chicken”.  I always order the same way.

Look at the menu carefully and you will see that the chef is his most creative in the appetizer section and perhaps even in side dishes.  I’ve found that these dishes tell more of the story of the chef and the type of food he wants to share than anywhere else on the menu.

If I am with at least one other person, we find at least two-three appetizers that we both are happy with, find a side dish or two that look good and then maybe share one entrée if we’re hungry.  Of course, if those appetizers look absolutely amazing then we might just add a couple more and skip the entrée all together.  If it’s a party of four, then I add at least one or two more appetizers, another side and a second entrée.

You will get to taste more items on the menu than if you just ordered by “course” and you’ll also understand better how the chef views food.  Perfect!

Then, of course, you might still have room for dessert.

Enjoy!


PHOTO: Oysters Josper, from Charcoal Venice

What bread plate is mine?

Tabletop place setting

Easy tips for setting your table, for every day!

When my kids were at home, we always ate our meals at the kitchen table, and if I was having a party, the meal would move to the dining room.  Somehow all that changed when the kids left for college.  There were times that it seemed like it was just too much effort to set the table – after all, it was “just us” –  and on occasion, we would find ourselves eating in front of the TV.

Not too long after the kids left for college, I decided that we would no longer be eating in front of the “boob tube.” We would return to the table where we could have a real conversation together, find out what went on during each of our days and get re-connected after a long day of work.

To be honest, my preference has always been to enjoy a nice meal and conversation around a table with my friends and family. That means setting the table! When you do it right, even your garden variety basic meal can be turned into something everyone enjoys. All you need to do is take the time to put everything in order on your tabletop.

Don’t be embarrassed though if you can’t remember where to put the bread plate and whether (or if) you should put out a soup spoon.  It can get very confusing and so many people get it wrong.  After twenty years of owning restaurants, the right place setting is practically tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. I still fight the urge to fold napkins when I’m at a friend’s home for dinner.

Always remember this one basic rule: set your table for the meal you’re having, not for a fancy party (unless of course, that’s precisely what you’ve planned). If you’re not having soup, don’t put out a soup spoon. If you’re not serving bread, don’t put out a bread plate. To be honest, unless you’re setting a formal table you don’t really need that bread plate anyway.

According to Emily Post, a place setting is an array of dishes and utensils and the dinner plate is the “hub of the wheel.” But, if your goal is to entertain friends and encourage conversation, don’t get too fancy.

I usually set an informal table. I like to “stack” my plates: dinner plate on the bottom, with salad plate on top (if I’m serving salad). Where I put the napkin depends on my mood – sometimes I put it under the forks (like my mother did), sometimes it’s folded on top of the dinner/salad plate, sometimes I use a napkin ring, and sometimes I put it in the water glass!  It just all depends on how I want the table to look that day.

Forks always go on the left of the dinner plate with the largest fork closest to the plate and then smaller ones next to that. Knives are placed to the right of the plate and spoons to the right of the knife. The sharp edge of all knives should be turned to face the plate.  Placing the sharp edge of the knife facing inwards dates back several hundred years when it was considered aggressive to place the sharp edge of the knife facing outwards.   The bread plate goes on the left, above the forks.

Place water, champagne, and wine glasses in a line on the right, just above the knife and spoons. And remember, the water glass is the first glass placed with champagne and wine glasses to the right of the water glass.

Remember, simplicity! Only set the pieces that you will use during the meal, but if you’re serving dessert, you can place the dessert fork above the plate (I like the way that looks). That means that if you’re not serving champagne, don’t put a champagne glass on the table.  I like to set coffee cups and dessert plates out only when it’s time – otherwise, the table gets way too cluttered, and on my table, all that extra stuff won’t leave any room for the actual food!

Just because you might be having a very casual BBQ outside, or serving hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner, and you’ve chosen to use heavy paper plates and plastic forks and knives to simplify clean up, doesn’t mean that setting all the pieces in their proper place on the table won’t make it feel special.  You might want to use string or ribbon as a napkin ring to dress it up just a little bit.  You can even make a “roll up” out of the napkin, plastic ware and a piece of string (it’s what restaurants give you when you order “to go”) to make your very casual table more fun!

By the way, there is nothing better than a little candlelight to add a little ambiance to the meal. Even if your tabletop is completely disposable, dim the lights, light some candles, and – voila – you’ve just added something fun to the experience. Never use scented candles at a table. Seriously. Who wants “country cinnamon” competing with the Pasta Bolognese that you labored over in the kitchen?

What you want is a comfortable setting that eases everyone into an enjoyable dinner experience.

 

A Different Friendsgiving

How about a Friendsgiving?

Take your Thanksgiving Dinner to a New Level – In 5 Easy Steps!

When I was growing up Thanksgiving was always at our house.  We had a very small family, just 5 of us and no cousins anywhere close by, but my parents did have several close friends and their families would come.

My Dad always made the turkey (he was the good cook in our house!) and I loved the smell of it cooking for hours in the oven.  One of my very favorite food memories is my Dad making what he lovingly referred to as Turkey Carcass Soup the next day with, you guessed it, the carcass of the turkey.  It was always delicious!

Today my siblings live far away, my parents have passed and my close friends are my family.  I know I’m not alone in this situation as my friends and I talk about the looming holidays every year.  Some of them travel to their families to celebrate and some are lucky enough to have family close by but there’s always a group of us that are adrift this time of year.

Now we have what has been dubbed a “Friendsgiving” and I have to tell you it’s the BEST.  It only takes a few friends, 3-4, to pull this off so you don’t need a crowd at all just a little pre-planning and being firm that it’s a POT LUCK – everyone contributes!

Here are the 5 easy steps to pull off your own Friendsgiving!

  1. Plan the menu a few weeks ahead (3 to be safe) and put it up on a Google Doc so that everyone can sign up. Make sure that the menu includes how many servings are needed.  The host ALWAYS makes the turkey (or if you don’t cook- you can buy it already cooked at your local market).
  2. If you don’t have enough chairs and tables, rent them or your friends might have a few extra. You can get very inexpensive table cloths and napkins at Target or IKEA or a local thrift store.  The same thing goes for plates, flatware and glasses.  Target, IKEA or your local thrift store.  They do NOT have to match.  Part of the fun is the eclectic setting!
  3. Set the table the night before. I actually do this every time I have a party.  It saves not only time but also me from going crazy on the day of the party.
  4. Instead of a formal bar – you can use a cooler filled with ice and put bottles in it to keep cold. These are your friends, after all.
  5. Serve dinner buffet style with little cards with the description of the dish and who made it.

Remember, the whole point of this is to gather your friends and share a wonderful meal that everyone has helped create.  Then sit back and watch football!

5 Rules for Throwing a Dinner Party That Never Ends

photo-dave-lastovskiy_dinner

Have a party that they’ll be talking about for years.

One of the best dinner parties I ever went to started at a normal hour, 7:30pm, but no one left until well after 1am!  Nobody wanted to leave.  The best part?  The host didn’t want anyone to leave either!  If you follow these very simple rules you can have a never ending dinner party that your friends will remember with love for years.  If you get really good at it, you will be known as the dinner party queen/king and the envy of everyone you know.

  1. Be careful of your guest list. That doesn’t mean to keep it to a specific number of guests but to pay attention to the mix of guests.  Be aware of any tension between any of your friends and make sure you don’t stir that hornet’s nest-it won’t bode well for a convivial evening.
  1. Serve dinner “family style.” When you try to create individual plates everything becomes more formal and that’s the exact opposite of your goal.  You want everyone to be comfortable.  When people need to “please pass the potatoes” it gets people talking to each other – a great way to encourage conversation.  When you serve “family style” on large serving platters your guests are encouraged to have seconds or even just another bite of something.
  1. Plan your menu with food that doesn’t need to be a certain temperature – food that is perfectly fine served at room temp. If you’ve ever had a large group over for a meal and you’ve tried to make sure that the last person served gets food that’s as hot as the first person served you will know exactly what I’m talking about.  This way the food can stay on the table as long as you and your guests are at the table (which you want to be a long time!) and still taste great.
  1. Make sure there is plenty of wine on the table for your guests to serve themselves. Don’t be precious with it – you don’t want to have rules about what is being poured when during the meal.  Stick with bottles that are similar in flavor and body whether they are red or white – but make sure to have both opened.  Leave those bottles on the table for easy refills by your guests.  Be careful to not run out!
  1. Candles are key. Atmosphere is the quickest way to turn your dinner with friends into a real party and candles do that effortlessly.  Use candles of different heights on your table and light them ALL.  The lighting changes as your night progresses from fresh candles that are newly lit to a soft glow from those that burn the longest.  Be sure to have a lot of them as they will burn at different rates – only some will last all night but that just contributes to the wonderful atmosphere you want to have.

I promise that if you follow these 5 simple rules your next dinner party will be a greater success than you could have ever wished for.  Enjoy!

Crispy Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto

PIC_crispy-tortellini-with-peas-and-prosciutto

A Brilliant Crispy Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto

Peas are a wonderful spring vegetable – absolutely delicious freshly shelled – but equally as delicious even when they’re frozen!  The great thing about frozen peas is that you never have to thaw them to use them in a recipe – just toss them still frozen into whatever hot dish you are preparing and they come out perfectly every time.  This recipe is so simple because it uses not only frozen peas but also frozen tortellini – BRILLIANT!  It’s from one of my favorite sites – smittenkitchen.com – created by Deb Perelman and posted on May 9, 2016. Great for a gathering of friends, family, a date night, or colleagues. This recipe serves two; just multiply and it will serve a crowd.

In the Skillet

  • 3 thin slices prosciutto (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 13-14 ounce package frozen cheese tortellini (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, no need to defrost
  • 1/3 cup water

To Finish

  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or mascarpone
  • Juice of half a lemon, more or less to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few fresh mint leaves, cut into thin slivers
  • Grated parmesan (optional)

Heat a large, deep skillet with a lid** over medium-high heat. If using, add prosciutto in a single layer and cook until curling and browned underneath, about 2 minutes. Flip over and let cook until browned on the other side. Transfer a paper towel to blot oil and cool.

Add oil to same skillet and heat it for a minute. Add frozen tortellini in a single layer and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until they’re browned underneath. Sprinkle with frozen peas and add water to pan. Be careful; it’s going to ROARHISS wildly. Put the lid on, and let them steam for about 5 minutes but don’t go too far because if the water cooks off too quickly, you’ll want to add a splash more. At 5 minutes, all water should have cooked off. Scoop pasta and peas into bowl. If you find any pasta has stuck, just add a splash more water over high heat to “deglaze” them off — loosen them with a thin spatula and toss them around until they’re crisp again.

Immediately dollop on crème fraîche so it melts over the pasta. Squeeze lemon juice over, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, crumble prosciutto over (if using), then slivers of mint and Parmesan, if desired. Dig in. Give your freezer a pat on its back.

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Cherry Tomato Panzanella

crispy-chicken-cutlets-cherry-tomato-panzanella

A Fond Food Memory in the Making with Panzanella

Chicken cutlets are great for a week night dinner as they cook quickly and with the colorful cherry tomato salad served on top you’re basically done with dinner preparation and you’ve easily created a wonderful food memory!  The recipe calls for “bone in” chicken breasts but I would buy boneless/skin on chicken breasts and eliminate the need to debone the chicken – way easier – just be sure to pound the breasts evenly so that they cook properly.  There were a few comments posted with this recipe where the writer used boneless/skinless chicken breasts and loved the recipe that way so if you don’t want skin it will definitely turn out well.  This was created by Alison Roman and was published in bon appétit July 2015. Serves 4 friends or family members.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup torn country-style bread, (from about 1/4 small loaf)
  • 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup parsley leaves with tender stems

Directions

  1. Combine onion and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add bread; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until golden brown, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Wipe out skillet.
  3. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut bones and cartilage from chicken breasts. Pound chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4″ thick; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook 1 chicken breast, skin side down, until golden brown and nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until cooked through, about 1 minute more; second side will not brown. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining cutlet and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (no need to wipe out skillet).
  5. Cut half of tomatoes in half. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same skillet over medium-high. Add whole tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly blistered and starting to burst, about 5 minutes. Toss in sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar. Transfer to bowl with croutons. Add pickled onion with pickling liquid, halved tomatoes, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss. Serve chicken with panzanella spooned over.

Easy Recipe for Gnocchi Skillet with Sausage and Tomatoes

Gnocchi on your Favorite Skillet

Food Memory in the Making with Gnocchi, Chicken Sausage, Tomatoes and your Favorite Skillet

This recipe is so quick and easy to make and looks beautiful on the plate – color in the dish is always important as we eat with our eyes.  It reminds me of a favorite food memory – the first time I ever tasted Gnocchi – they were so soft and delicate.  I found it on a great website, thekitchn.com, in their 23 Romantic Recipes post this week.  One of the best things about this recipe is that you can use store-bought gnocchi and any type of Italian sausage you like. Spicy, anyone? They also suggest that if you want to finish the skillet with Parmesan that you can but that it’s not necessary if you’d rather not have cheese. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 9 ounces (about 3 links) cooked chicken sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick coins
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 to 2 ounces fresh basil, julienned (1/2 to 1 cup loosely packed)

Preparation

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling; cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Heat a 10-inch or larger cast iron skillet over medium heat with a light drizzle of olive oil. Add the sausage and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it begins to brown. Push the sausage into a pile at the edge of the skillet and turn the heat up to high.
  3. When the skillet is quite hot, add the tomatoes, skin down, crowding them in if necessary. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until they are blistered, then stir in with the sausage. Cook for 2 more minutes, until both tomatoes and sausage are slightly browned. Stir in gnocchi and cook just until all is combined, but the tomatoes have not broken down into sauce.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Cooking tip: a cast iron skillet is preferred only because it will give you the best color and sear to the sausage and tomatoes but any skillet will work as long as it does NOT have a non-stick coating.  That will interfere with the browning.

Something for a Rainy Day: Beef Stew with Potatoes and Carrots

Beef Stew with Potatoes and Carrots

Author: Recipe by Maggie Ruggiero

One of the things I love about rainy days is how they beg for me to be in the kitchen for just a little while and after several hours in an oven with no further effort from me. The dish I’ve put together becomes something fantastic making the whole house smell amazing! Those are the days to invite a group of friends over for a Sunday afternoon watching sports or just drinking a great glass of wine together and sharing stories while waiting for the fabulous thing that you’ve put in the oven to finish cooking. I’ve come across a recipe that I’m going to do just that with – it sounds incredible and the reviews are fantastic. It is by the wonderful Maggie Ruggiero and I found it on one of my favorite websites, Epicurious.com, though it was first published in Gourmet Magazine December 2008.

Ingredients

  • For braised beef:
    • 5 pounds boneless beef chuck (not lean), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 carrots, quartered
  • 3 celery ribs, quartered
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine (about 3 3/4 cups)
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups water
  • For potatoes and carrots:
    • 2-1/2 pounds small white boiling potatoes
    • 1-1/2 pounds carrots
  • Equipment: a wide 6-to 8-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid
  • Accompaniment: crusty bread

Instructions

  1. Braise beef:
    • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
    • Pat beef dry and season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
    • Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown meat, without crowding, in 3 batches, turning, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, then add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 12 minutes.
  3. Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook paste, stirring, 2 minutes, then stir into vegetables.
  4. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in wine, bay leaves, and thyme and boil until wine is reduced by about two-thirds, 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. Add broth to pot along with water, beef, and any juices from platter and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in oven until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
  7. Set a large colander in a large bowl. Pour stew into colander. Return pieces of meat to pot, then discard remaining solids. Let cooking liquid stand 10 minutes
  8. Cook potatoes and carrots
    • While beef braises, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges. Slice carrots diagonally (1-inch).
    • Add potatoes and carrots to stew (make sure they are submerged) and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 40 minutes.

There are a couple of suggestions in the “reviews” part of the recipe posting that I will definitely follow. For instance, take the braising vegetables, puree them and return them to the pot with the broth. Don’t forget to remove the garlic skins, thyme stems and bay leaves before you puree them. I will add mushrooms as well; I do love mushrooms in anything. And do NOT forget that crusty bread. I can’t wait to try this!

Recipe for Cranberry-Cherry Compote for Thanksgiving All Year!

Cranberry-Cherry Compote

Recipe by Anna Stockwell

Who doesn’t remember Cranberry Sauce, especially the Ocean Spray “jelly” kind in the can?  I loved that stuff growing up and could never understand why we only ate it once a year at Thanksgiving.  My palate has grown a little bit since those days so I’m always looking for an easy but tasty recipe for something that actually resembles cranberries but more of an actual relish.  I think I found it in this year’s November issue of Epicurious. I haven’t made it yet but I’m definitely going to if only to put on sandwiches with sliced turkey- who doesn’t love a taste of Thanksgiving all year?

Ingredients

  • 20 ounces frozen or fresh cranberries (about 4 1/2 cups)
  • 10 ounces frozen dark sweet cherries (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup bourbon

Instructions

  1. Bring cranberries, cherries, brown sugar, cider, and pepper to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then stir in bourbon. Reduce heat, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring often and pushing fruit against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon to break apart slightly, until thick and syrupy, about 25 minutes more. Let cool completely.
  2. Do Ahead: Sauce can be made 5 days ahead; cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

 

Easy Skillet Recipe for Gnocchi with Sausage & Tomatoes

Recipe: Gnocchi with Sausage and Tomatoes

This recipe is such a great one – quick to make and looks beautiful on the plate. It’s from The Kitchn, a favorite website that always has so many yummy recipes posted. This one popped up on their 23 Romantic Recipes post this week. One of the best things about this recipe is that you can use store-bought gnocchi and any type of Italian sausage you like (spicy, anyone?). A great suggestion if you love cheese – finish the skillet with Parmesan!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 9 ounces (about 3 links) cooked chicken sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick coins
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 to 2 ounces fresh basil, julienned (1/2 to 1 cup loosely packed)

Instructions

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling; cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Heat a 10-inch or larger cast iron skillet over medium heat with a light drizzle of olive oil. Add the sausage and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it begins to brown. Push the sausage into a pile at the edge of the skillet and turn the heat up to high.
  3. When the skillet is quite hot, add the tomatoes, skin down, crowding them in if necessary. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until they are blistered, then stir in with the sausage. Cook for 2 more minutes, until both tomatoes and sausage are slightly browned. Stir in gnocchi and cook just until all is combined, but the tomatoes have not broken down into sauce.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Chef’s note: A cast iron skillet is preferred only because it will give you the best color and sear to the sausage and tomatoes but any skillet will work as long as it does NOT have a non-stick coating. That will interfere with the browning.

For the Love of Mustard

Recipe: Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

Author: Recipe adapted by Deb Perelman from Regina Schrambling, NYT

It’s cold outside. Maybe it’s raining or snowing where you are. But that means soups and stews that take a while on the stove or in the oven can make your house smell amazing along the way! This stew is one that caught my eye the other day. It’s from a website that I found and really love, Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman. I particularly LOVE the photos she adds of the recipe steps. This stew has a LOT of mustard in it, so if you don’t love mustard, this probably isn’t the one for you. One of the great things – a short list of ingredients! I’m going to follow Deb’s suggestion of serving this over wide noodles and I’m going to get some crusty baguette, too. I’m excited to try it out on friends on a Sunday afternoon!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound salt pork, pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter, as needed
  • 2 pounds beef chuck, in 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Cognac (see Note)
  • 2 cups unsalted beef stock
  • 1/2 cup smooth Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons coarse Dijon or Pommery mustard (an extra sharp mustard from Meaux, France)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into half-moon slices
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and quartered
  • 1/4 cup red wine (see Note)

Instructions

  1. Place salt pork in a Dutch oven or a large heavy kettle over low heat, and cook until fat is rendered. Remove solid pieces with a slotted spoon, and save for another use, like your salad, vegetables or, uh, snacking. Raise heat to medium-low, and add onion and shallots. Cook until softened but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large bowl.
  2. If necessary, add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan to augment fat. Dust beef cubes with flour, and season lightly with salt and more generously with pepper. Shake off excess flour, and place half the cubes in the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until well browned, almost crusty, on all sides, then transfer to a bowl with onions. Repeat with remaining beef.
  3. Add Cognac to the empty pan, and cook, stirring, until the bottom is deglazed and any crusted-on bits come loose. Add stock, smooth Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon coarse or Pommery mustard. Whisk to blend, then return meat and onion mixture to pan. Lower heat, cover pan partway, and simmer gently until meat is very tender, about 1 1/4 hours.
  4. Add carrots, and continue simmering for 40 minutes, or until slices are tender. As they cook, heat 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté mushrooms until browned and tender. Stir mushrooms into stew along with remaining mustard and red wine. Simmer 5 minutes, then taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

 

Pasta Recipe: Bucatini With Tomato, Guanciale, And Chile

Bucatini With Tomato, Guanciale, & Chile

Original Recipe by April Bloomfield & Josh Evan

I love a good Pasta Carbonara, but sometimes the combo of the bacon and eggs can get a “little much”. I found this in the September 2014 issue of Bon Appétit. It looks amazing and simple AND they use tomatoes instead of eggs – it’s going to be my next pasta with friends!

Ingredients
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 4 ounces guanciale (salt-cured pork jowl) or pancetta, very thinly sliced
  • ½ medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces bucatini
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 ounce Pecorino, finely grated
  • Olive oil (for serving)
Instructions
  1. Microwave rosemary on high in 20-second intervals until leaves are brittle, about 60 seconds.
  2. Remove leaves and grind to a fine powder with a spice mill or mortar and pestle; you should have about 1 tsp. (Alternatively, very finely chop leaves.)
  3. Cook guanciale in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until guanciale is browned and crisp, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
  4. Cook onion in same skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until softened and golden brown, 8–10 minutes.
  5. Return all but 2 Tbsp. guanciale to skillet and add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and rosemary powder.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 5–8 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 8–10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  8. Add pasta and ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce. Cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
  9. Serve pasta topped with Pecorino and remaining 2 Tbsp. guanciale and drizzled with oil.