Friday, January 31, 2014

Short Rib Ravioli with Mushroom Sauce

I believe you can read the stages of someone’s cooking based on pasta. Think about it. When you’re just starting out, making spaghetti probably involves dry pasta and a jar of sauce. As you progress, your next step is to make your own sauce. Then, you might start making your own pasta. The next stage, in my opinion, is making your own complicated pasta. Ravioli for example. This is generally not something that your average home cook attempts. But as you get more serious about cooking, it’s definitely something you want to try. Well, the Hubs and I reached this stage recently, and while it certainly is worth the trouble, I have to be honest: it IS trouble. They make ravioli look so easy on Iron Chef, but in real life it’s a whole situation. Make the filling, mix the pasta, roll it out, form the raviolis, cook the raviolis, make the sauce, and finally… devour. To quote the Hubs, “5 hours, 10 pots, pans, and plates used during the prep. Stand mixer, pasta roller, two burners and the oven. Consumed in under 10 mins, and I would do it all again.”

            This is not easy, but it’s really good, and satisfying on a culinary level. Plus it’s just damn homey. I mean, it doesn’t get much more homey than braised meat inside pasta, covered with a rich, meaty mushroom sauce. A little fresh parmesan on top. This is living.

Short Rib Filling
2 lbs boneless short ribs
1 tsp olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 leek, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot,  diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 cup dry red wine (I used merlot)
6 sprigs thyme, divided
4 cups beef broth

We got the idea for this recipe from the Busy in Brooklyn blog, but used Tyler Florence’s pasta recipe for the dough. Start this early in the day since it needs to cook for 3 hours before it’s ready to put in the ravioli. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat up your handy Dutch oven and drizzle in a little olive oil before searing the short ribs on all sides. Remove them from the pot and toss in the leek, garlic, carrot and celery. Saute for 5-7 minutes and then deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add the short ribs back into the pot and pour in the broth, 4 sprigs of thyme, and a little salt & pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, before covering and putting it in the oven for 3 hours at 300 degrees. Don’t forget to wrap a little foil around your lid handle to protect it.

After the meat has cooked for three hours, remove it from the pot and shred it, getting rid of the bones and any large fatty pieces. Use a sieve to strain the cooking liquid from the vegetables and add those to the meat. Remove and toss the sprigs of thyme. You’ll use the reserved cooking liquid for the sauce, so keep it. You can put it in the freezer for about twenty minutes to let the excess fat congeal, then skim it off. Or, if you are like me, you can get a $10 gadget that is made to separate fat from gravy and use that. It’s pretty magical. Either way, get rid of the fat and then set the liquid aside to use in the sauce.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 Tbsps water
1 yolk & 2 Tbsps water, for egg wash

Using your stand mixer with the dough hook, combine the flour and salt before adding the eggs one at a time. Continue to mix as you drizzle in the olive oil and then add a little water until the dough starts to form into a ball. Then sprinkle some flour on a work surface and knead the dough for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Finally, wrap it in plastic and let it (and you) rest for about a half hour.

We cut the dough into fourths to form our noodles. Dust the counter and the dough with flour. You want to do this often to keep the dough from getting sticky. Roll it through the pasta machine on it’s widest setting a few times, then slowly reduce the setting, running the pasta through twice each time. Tyler’s directions said to go until the machine was on its lowest setting but we only went to 7 (ours goes to 9) and it was really thin. Use your judgment.

Lay out the sheet of pasta on the (floured) countertop and brush the surface with the egg wash. Put about a tablespoon of filling on half the pasta sheet in tight little piles two inches apart. Fold the other half of the past sheet over the top of the filling. Try to get the air out of the pockets around the filling and make a seal. May God help you with this because it was impossible for us. Finally, cut each pocket into squares using a crimper or plain old knife. These stick like crazy so if you are not cooking them immediately be sure to dust them in cornmeal or flour.

To cook the ravioli, get a big pot of salted water boiling and cook them a few at a time. They float to the top when they are done. Tyler’s instructions said to cook them 10-15 minutes, but I only had to cook mine about 4-6 minutes. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon. Make sure to have the sauce done and ready as soon as the raviolis are done because they get cool super fast.

Mushroom Sauce
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chopped assorted mushrooms (I just used baby bella)
1 tbsp flour

To make the sauce (last part, promise), sauté the shallots and garlic for a few minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic. Then add in the mushrooms and cook over high heat until the liquid evaporates. Sprinkle in the flour and mix it in, sautéing until the mushrooms start to get some nice golden color. Then add in the cooking liquid, 2 sprigs of thyme, and a little salt and pepper. Cook a few more minutes until it reduces and thickens. Then pour it over the ravioli, grate a little fresh parmesan on top, and enjoy! The eating process is much quicker than the cooking process but very delicious.

We actually ended up making about 15 raviolis and using the rest of the dough to make noodles. Then we mixed the leftover meat into the mushroom sauce to top the noodles. This was also a delicious way to eat it, and practical since we had so much leftover meat.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Spicy Chicken Tacos

We have a LOT of taco recipes on this blog. Obviously, my co-hort and I love tacos. Add this recipe to the list of delicious taco recipes. I found this recipe from The Pioneer Woman's blog. She says this is her brother's recipe, but it doesn't really matter because it turned out great. I didn't follow her/his recipe exactly. I didn't fry up the tacos, and I used Mrs. Renfros Habanero and Mango salsa (which is VERY spicy, by the way). I also sliced up some avocado and added cilantro. Overall, I think it turned out great. If you want to know how the Pioneer Woman does it then click on this link. Enjoy!

16 whole Corn Tortillas
4 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut into pieces
Salt, Cumin, Chili Powder to taste (or use taco seasoning)
2 tbsp Canola Oil
2 cans (4 oz) Diced Green Chilies
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 whole avocado sliced
Mrs. Renfros Mango and Habanero Salsa

Season chicken liberally with the spices above. Next, take out a large skillet, and add the oil. Heat to medium-high and add in the chicken pieces. Cook for a couple minutes, and then add in the canned green chilies. Stir. Cook until the chicken is completely done. Turn off heat and set aside. Take out your corn tortillas and heat on the skillet for a couple seconds over medium. Remove and add to the plate. Top the tortilla with the chicken, sliced avocado, cilantro, and salsa. Do this for the remaining tacos and enjoy.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I've posted a couple chocolate chip cookies on this blog. You can't have too many, right? I've posted a thin and crispy chocolate chip cookie recipe, a nutella chocolate chip cookie, and now this chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe. I found this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction, and she offered up a lot of great tips on how to get cookies to come out chewy. She suggests using one egg and an egg yolk and a little corn starch. She also suggests instead of rolling them into balls to roll them so they stand tall. Overall, I think these cookies were a huge hit, and I will definitely make them again. Enjoy!

2 and 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour, measured correctly
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 170 grams) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup (150 grams) light brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (180 grams) chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

Take out a large bowl and toss in the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside. Next, take out a medium bowl and melt the butter. Then, whisk in the sugars and stir well. Next, whisk in the egg and egg yolk. Stir well. Finally, whisk in the vanilla. Stir well. Then, fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix together. Now, fold in the chocolate chips. The dough will be very sticky because of the melted butter, but just try to get the chips as well incorporated as you can. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. 

When you're ready to bake; take out the dough from the fridge and allow to soften for 15 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 325, and line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Roll the dough so they're taller rather than wider. Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes. The cookies will come out of the oven looking soft and underbaked. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Then, move cookies to wire rack to cool completely. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mushroom Parmesan Farro

I have a sixth sense. And right now it's telling me that you want to ask something... it's becoming clearer... you want to know..."What in tarnation is farro, anyway?" Did I get it? Yeah, I thought so. Ok, so, good question. I really didn't know what farro was either until recently, but here is the lowdown. Farro is a grain, basically a kind of wheat, similar to barley. You can buy it (from a higher end grocery store like Fresh Market or Whole Foods) and it comes in three kinds: whole, semi-pearled and pearled. Whole is the most nutritious, but takes the longest to cook. I used whole for this recipe and based on how good it tasted, I think I would stick with whole. It's always good to have something healthy also taste great! I found this recipe on Cusineous, and only modified it to add mushrooms to make it more of a robust meal, and I used part chicken broth and part water instead of all water, for flavor. I was the most worried that the Hubs wouldn't be into it at all, but he really enjoyed it. It was a lot like risotto, very creamy, very homey. It had a bit more "tooth" than risotto does, a little more chewy, but I liked that. It really filled me up and that full feeling lasted for a while, so it's not only healthy, it keeps you satisfied. If you are looking for a healthy meal, give farro a shot!

1 cup farro
3 cups liquid (I did 2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup water, but use any ratio you like.)
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (give or take) mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 tbsps olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste

So, we weren't exactly sure if we were supposed to soak the farro or not. Some people say soak overnight, some say just cook it, so we hedged our bets and soaked it in cold water for about an hour. I don't think you need to do this step, it just might lower the amount of time you need to cook your farro. Maybe. Do it if it makes you feel better. Then add the farro and liquid (chicken broth and water in any ratio you desire as long as it makes 3 cups) to a pot, cover and bring to a boil. Then turn it down to simmer and simmer until the farro has absorbed all the liquid. For us it took about 45 minutes. About 10 minutes before your farro is done, you can start the rest. In a pan over medium heat, heat your oil and add the mushrooms. I also like to salt the mushrooms just a touch. Cook them for around 7 minutes until the mushrooms start to get golden brown, then add in your garlic. Cook that for another couple minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't brown or burn. Then add the farro, cheese and parsley and stir. Add some pepper and taste to see if it needs more salt (ours didn't) and then serve right away. Like risotto, it doesn't do well just sitting out for awhile, so keep that in mind. I hope you will love it and give farro a chance!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Carrot Apple Ginger Juice

Watch out, world! I got a juicer for Christmas. Don't be afraid, I promise that I won't become one of those "juicing people." I still like for most of my meals to involve chewing. But that doesn't mean that I won't be experimenting with some interesting juices in the future. I have a recipe saved that involves beets, spinach and celery. Not so sure about that one. But this Carrot Apple Ginger Juice turned out great, especially considering it was my first attempt. I even got the Hubs to drink it and enjoy it (he doesn't know that he'll be trying the beet-spinach juice as well). It was sweet in a really natural, nice way with a little zip from the ginger. I'll be honest that it didn't smell great. The ginger really has an astringent scent to it when it's juiced, and so the drink smelled a little like carrot-scented cleaning fluid. But it tasted great. Really. Did I just unsell you from trying it? I hope not. You can find recipes for this juice all over the internet, I'll just tell you what I did.

6 carrots
4 apples (I used Cameo)
1 inch nob of ginger (if it's your first time, start with a little less)

I peeled the carrots, but left the peel on the apples. However, I did remove the core and seeds of the apple. I know they say you can put the whole apple in, but seeds have trace amounts of cyanide in them. Although it's completely fine and your body can process it, I just have some sort of aversion to putting cyanide in my body I removed the seeds. Totally up to you. You should also peel the ginger. Then, juice away! I had no idea how violent the juicer is. That is something you definitely don't want to get your fingers in. Anyway, this made 800 mL of juice (about 27 ounces) which made for a nice big glass for two. And if my recipe calculator is correct it's only about 100 calories which is awesome. Much healthier than juice you buy at the store. Hmm... maybe I'm turning into a juice-person after all!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tomatillo Ranch Chicken

I’ve never had a tomatillo before. I guess I always put them in the tomato category, and as you know, I’m not a big fan of tomatoes. Plus, tomatillos are just weird. The husk, the green color, and when you cut them open, the inside isn’t what you’d expect at all. But the photo for this recipe made me forget all my tomatillo prejudices. I saw it on Le Crème De La Crumb, and it looked absolutely mouthwatering. The sauce has this great greenish hue to it with chopped cilantro and a creamy texture. It’s a little like Ranch dressing, but more tart and with a fantastic Mexican flair. The Hubs commented that it feels a bit more like a dressing (like, for salad) than it does a sauce, and that’s true, but it was still wonderful paired with the juicy grilled chicken and served over rice. And it’s opened my eyes to the possibility that the tomatillo might be worth my time after all. I also think this would be a great recipe for kids.

1 cup mayo
½ cup buttermilk
1 package hidden valley ranch dressing mix
5 cloves garlic
1 cup cilantro
4 tomatillos, husked and chopped
½ teaspoon lime juice (or juice from 1/2 lime)
3-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

The directions are SO easy. The only difficult part is remembering to marinate the night before. I suspect it would be ok if you forget, but it really does make the chicken so juicy, so it’s very worth it. Simply put all the ingredients (except the chicken) into a blender and puree until smooth. Personally, I have trouble getting the garlic to puree, so you might want to mince that before putting it in. The garlic came through strongly, so if you’re not a fan, you might want to cut back. Put your chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag and pour in a third of the sauce to marinate them in. Marinate overnight, then remove the breasts, toss the marinade and grill until cooked all the way through (time depends on the size and thickness of the breasts). You could also bake on 375 for about 25 minutes, but the char from the grill is really nice. Serve over rice and spoon the remaining (non-marinade) dressing over the chicken. If you have any dressing left over you might try it on a salad as well!