February 27, 2012

Forget the Texas 'Winter,' I'm Making Braised Beef Short Ribs (Take 2)

It's February and a humid 70 degrees outside. I think the lowest temp this winter (or whatever Texas winter we get) has been high 30's for oh, a few days? When I think (and feel) winter, I crave hearty soups, roasted and braised meats, chili, bread pudding.... These past few months, I think I have made one each of the above when I normally make them several times. 

Well, forget the weather. I saw these beautiful short ribs in the store and bam! instant craving. Tomato-y braised meat with white rice. Perfect meal. I've made this once before. Working off the same recipe, I adjusted based on what I had in the fridge/pantry and if you scroll through the below pictures, you may notice a new pot - a fiery red dutch oven thanks to my awesome brother and sister in law! 

Braised Short Ribs
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

3 beef short ribs
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 small yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp of dried thyme (if you have fresh, even better)
2 tsp of dried basil
Dashes of garlic powder
2 cans of chicken stock
1 can of whole tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
Dash of sherry
1 tsp of brown sugar

1. Preheat oven 400 degrees.

2. Make sure your short ribs are nice and dry. Sprinkle both sides with S&P as well as garlic powder.
3. With a hot dutch oven, add olive oil and sear the short ribs on all sides. I do my ribs one by one and it's quick. A few minutes on each side until you get a nice light brown sear.
4. Put the seared ribs on a plate and set aside. Add the onions and garlic to the same pot with all the oil and yummy beef goodness.

5. Once the onions start to get glossy, add in the carrots and potatoes. Keep stirring. Add in the thyme and basil.  Add in the sherry.  Stir, cook for a minute. Ddd in the canned tomatoes, paste, chicken stock and sugar. Give this a good stir.
6. Give the sauce a quick taste to see if it needs S&P, garlic powder, more herbs, etc. Once you are happy with the flavor, add the ribs back to the pot. Cover and put in the oven for 1-1.25 hours.
7. Make some white rice and wait patiently. The below is a beauty, huh? So, the meat falls off the bone, taste is there but it falls off in one entire piece. I still think it could be just a tad more tender (enough to break apart with fork) so next time, I'll probably try to simmer the meat in water for an hour or two before starting this process - like what my brother in law, Eric, does with the pork ribs for his pork sinagong. I know, that means the dish prep goes up to 4-5 hours... Worth it? 

Also, you'll have quite a bit of sauce left over, which I pureed with my immersion blender and added it to some pasta with some Parmesan cheese. Two meals in one! 

February 22, 2012

My Perfect Cup of Coffee. Happiness.

There's no question that I love my cup (or two) of coffee in the morning. Have you seen the Folger's commercial where the smell wakes everyone in the house and everyone has a smile on their face? That's me. The smell of coffee makes me extra happy. A morning without my coffee is a morning you don't want to be around me. 

Before I started working from home, I was a Starbucks regular. Now since I'm home every day, I have my coffee brewing down to a science. I've gone from a coffee maker to a french press, which I think provides me with the best brew. You can control how long the water steeps with the coffee grinds and it provides a more robust or "umph" flavor.  While not food, I thought I'd share this staple of my every morning because sometimes coffee is my breakfast =).

1. Start with freshly grind coffee beans. Seriously. Makes a big difference. Take the extra two minutes in the morning to do this step. 
2. Depending on the coffee beans (I typically like a medium to bold flavor), you'll need to adjust the amount of coffee you add. I add three heaping tablespoons of coffee.
3. With hot water from my kettle, I fill to the top and use my trusty, multipurpose chopstick to give it a good stir. 
4. Add the top and let this sit for a few minutes.
5. While the coffee is steeping, I prepare my milk. I am a soy milk fan. I've tried regular milk and almond milk but soy wins the race. I either use unsweetened soy (but need to add a little more sugar) or vanilla soy milk (already sweetened but I only need a teaspoon of sugar). I filled about 1/8 of my big coffee mug with soy milk and heat it up for one minute.
6. With unsweetened soy, I add 2.5 to 3 teaspoons of sugar. I don't like the taste of Splenda or other artificial sweeteners (they taste overly sweet to me) so adjust how much you add base on the type of sugar you prefer. 
7. Give the soy milk and sugar a good stir and then pour in the coffee!
8. With a happy smile and boost to start the day, here's my perfect cup of joe. Isn't it beautiful? What's your perfect cup of coffee?

February 07, 2012

Seafood Risotto w/Shrimp

Remember this photo? 

Yeps, Christmas dinner feast of lobster and hot pot.  Expanding on our lobster feast, I saved the shells and steaming liquid to cook lunch the following day - seafood risotto with bok choy and shrimp. While it's easy, it does take a little time to cook down the lobster broth and then make the actual risotto.  If you don't want to use the broth right away, I still recommend cooking down the broth and freezing so you can use for future recipes! 

Lobster Broth Ingredients
5 cups water
Remaining water you used to steam the lobster (we had a good 2-3 cups remaining)
Lobster shells (the head has the most flavor)
2 celery stalks, chopped into pieces
1/2 onion, cut into large chunks
2 carrots, chopped into pieces, no need to peel
Couple dashes of garlic powder

1. In a very large pot, put all the ingredients together and bring to a boil. Add more water if you need.  Bring down to a medium heat and cook for about 20-30 minutes. Periodically mix the pot so that the shells at the top get their chance at the bottom of the pot in the liquids.  

2. Once done, take off heat and strain so you are left with the beautiful lobster broth!  Put in fridge if you are not using immediately.  As mentioned earlier, this would also be great to freeze and bring out when you need a seafood broth for a pasta or rice dish. If it's too much to use at once, perhaps freeze them in ice cube trays so when you need a boost of seafood flavoring - say to a great bowl of ramen - you can simply toss in a cube or two.

Lobster Risotto
Lobster broth
3 cups arborio rice
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 onion (remaining onion from above)
1/2-1 cup white wine (or whatever you have left)
10 shrimp, thawed and deveined 
Chopped basil
Freshly grated parm. cheese (however much you'd like)

Beware, you'll be using several bowls and pots!

1. Heat up the lobster broth in another large pot until boiling. Here's a neat little trick - since we'll be serving the risotto with shrimp, I cooked the shrimp in the lobster broth first!  I like to likely under cook the shrimp since we'll add it back to the risotto later.  Keep watch of this as the shrimp cook quickly - take out, set aside and turn the heat to medium to keep the broth hot.

2. Heat a large pot with olive oil.  Add the garlic and onion. Cook until onion is fragrant and somewhat clear. Add the rice and give it a cook mix to coat each grain with the oil olive goodness.  

3. Add in the white wine and give it a good ole stir, scrapping up the bits and yum stuff at the bottom of the pot. Turn down to medium high and let this cook until at least half the wine has been absorbed/cooked off.

4. Hope you are not terribly hungry at this time because it will be another 20 minutes or so before this is ready....  Turn down the heat to medium low.  Take two ladle full of broth, add to the rice, stir and watch the grains absorb the broth goodness.  Make sure to continually stir so nothing sticks.  As the liquid disappears, keep adding ladles of the lobster broth until the rice is cooked and you get a creamy goodness mixture.  Don't feel pressured to use all the broth.  Or, if you are low on broth, you can substitute with chicken broth or water - just make sure to warm it up before adding to the rice.
5. If you'd like to serve with veggies, bring another pot of water to a boil. Toss in the bok choy and cook until done - about 5-7 minutes.  Strain and set aside.  Seriously, any veggies will work in my opinion.  We just needed to balance out the overload of carbs....well, as much as we could..even if just a tiny bit.

6. Once the risotto is done, take a quick taste and see if you need additional salt or pepper.  My broth had a naturally salty flavor so I didn't need to add much.  Toss some basil on top and add in the cheese.  
7. Serve in bowls with 2-3 shrimp and some veggies.  Enjoy!