Friday, December 25, 2009

This ain't no turkey dinner

It's hard to plan for Christmas dinner when you could be called away at a moment's notice. This is to say where, with whom and what you eat is all subject to a quick change of plans. I hate being on call; I think I hate it more than anyone I know... really!

Today is Christmas and I needed to prepare something that could evolve with the demands of the day. I started by plunking some smoked pork hocks into a pot, creating a broth and rendering the meat fork tender. Ultimately, the pork was used to garnish the beef shortribs which were braised for the better part of the day with bacon, prunes, parsnips, fresh herbs, mustard, lamb fat, leeks, garlic and parsnips, resulting in a beef that cut like butter smothered in an 'au jus' to which the pork hock broth was used to flavor. I like to 'cut' the richness using something vinegar based so I stole the brined shallots that I had intended to use in a baby lettuce salad. Let me just say, the shallots were never happier! Allow me to translate:

beef shortribs
6 strips of bacon
1 c leeks chopped
10-12 cloves of garlic whole
1 shallot chopped
1/4c parsley stems chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 TBSP whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup of red wine
10 dried plums / pitted prunes
3 pieces of fat trimmed from a leg of lamb (optional)
salt and pepper
1 lb of parnips whole

for the broth: two smoked pork hocks simmered to create a broth
for the pickle: one shallot thinly sliced, covered with vinegar, 1TBSP each kosher salt and sugar

Preheat the oven to 425F

1. Start by browning the shortribs on all sides in vegetable oil (preferable over olive oil which burns at high temperatures). Set aside

2. In the same pan saute the shallots, garlic and leeks with chopped bacon, until fat is rendered and vegetables are translucent over medium heat. Season as you go. Add the parsley, rosemary and thyme. Raise the heat to high and add the red wine, cinnamon and mustard, allowing the alcohol to simmer off.

3. Into a casserole dish or roasting pan place the spareribs and pour the sauteed ingredients over top. Add the pieces of lamb fat, prunes and parsnips. Again season with salt and pepper. Cover and roast at 425 for 20 minutes, then drop the temp to 325 and slow cook for 4-5 hours. An hour into the roasting remove the parsnips and set aside.

4. While the ribs are cooking, fine slice a shallot. I use a mandolin and cover with vinegar adding a tablespoon each of kosher salt and sugar. Allow this to 'pickle' until plating.

5. When the ribs are fork tender remove them from the roasting pan, then add 2 cups of the pork broth, bring to a simmer seasoning again to taste. Strain the solid bits, reserving the sauce to dress the plate. Immerse the parsnips in the sauce to reheat.

6. Plate the parsnips with the shortribs, garnishing with a few morsels of the smoked pork and a dollop of the shallot pickles, parsley and the broth.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lunch 12/12/09

Anyone who knows me, knows that if I didn't have to work, I wouldn't. Weekends are now times when I am able to do 'my own thing', and though I am not always sure what that will be, often times it involves some time spent in the kitchen. Right now I enjoy keeping things simple, neither fancy nor complicated, adopting a 'less is more' approach. In the past I might have dismissed food like that as boring, but now I see a challenge in using fresh seasonal food to make food that has character, soul and allows the ingredients to speak for themselves.

I am intrigued by the concepts of slow-food and the challenge of sourcing foods from within a 100mile radius from home. Some day I hope to tackle the 100 mile challenge, but recognize that right now making that lifestyle change might be difficult. Thus, presently, I am content approaching food with the mind to keeping it minimally processed and seasonal, representing my present mood and place in life.

This morning, I enjoyed homemade muesli, given to me from my friend Julie, inspired from Heidi at 101cookbooks, accompanied by cafe au lait made with coffee from the Oregon Coast in my aeropress maker. After that, I spent a couple of hours at my friends' home 'shopping' for gifts presented by their friends (artists) at Roberta's annual event called "Fatto A Mano" - made by hand. Felted wool stones, handknits wools, etched italian prints, handmade precious gemstone jewels. Spending a few (!!!) dollars I got hungry and prepared this lunch:

Not quite 100 mile sourcing, but somewhere under 200, except for the parmesan cheese and olive oil. The Mediterranean, unfortunately, is greater than 100 miles away.... I used bacon and pork from the Swinery, vegetables from the farmers' market (cannellini beans, lacinato kale, leeks, thyme), a poached egg and homemade grain mustard. I was lucky that our Seattle winter, though crisp and cold, has so far been sunny, affording afternoon sun to allow me to take the photo. Good food is good, no?