Boeuf… It’s What’s For Dinner

I don’t speak a lick of French, but I love the cooking terms.  They make me feel more animated.  (Not that I need any help in that department.)  Try saying ragout without a hearty goo on the second syl-la-ble, or mirepoix without a saucy little kiss at the end.  (Julia Child I’m not, but there’s joie de vivre in my kitchen!)

Earlier this month, we feasted on a fabulous roast infused with garlic and smeared with Dijon.  “Pardon me, but would you happen to have...  (Yes, the chauffeur was undeniably British, but Grey Poupon remains indelibly etched in my mind.)

After we ate our fill, I relegated the rest to the freezer for future consideration.  Then inspiration struck.  Voila!  Ragout.

Traditionally, ragout is prepared by searing fresh cubes of meat and simmering them to perfection.  However, my schedule requires speeding things up now and then — kinda like being on “Chopped” in the comfort of my own home, without Ted Allen.

But no matter how rushed I am, a mirepoix is a must.  The marvel of this 2:1:1 ratio of onions, carrots and celery cannot be overstated.  (Unless you dice the onions last — then it’s 1:1:2.)

Confession.  For all of my French word frenzy, I forgot to add one vital ingredient: Cabernet.  I dispensed it in a goblet instead…

Weeknight Ragout

Leftover roast beef (preferrably using this recipe)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 c. onion, diced

1/2 c. carrot, diced

1/2 c. celery, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 c. beef broth or bouillon — another fun word!

1 c. red potatoes (unpeeled), cubed

1 fresh tomato, seeded and chopped

Cabernet, to taste…

1/4 t. ground thyme

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Green onion tops sliced diagonally, for garnish

Cut the roast into cubes; set aside.  Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or heavy kettle, sauté the onions, carrots and celery in oil until translucent.  (Take your time — “sweating” brings out the maximum flavor.)  Add garlic; sauté briefly until fragrant.

Pour in broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Add potatoes and tomato.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are barely tender.  If desired, add wine.  (Or not…)  Stir in beef and thyme.  Simmer until heated through.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls.  Garnish with green onion tops.  Makes 2 lovely servings.

One last thing.  Ragout is generally more of a stew, thickened with a roux.  Woohoo.  But I was content with the way this turned out, so I served it au naturel. ;)  C’est la vie!

Enjoying ma petite foray in the kitchen,

~ Kim

Music, Inspiration, and Caramel Corn

Gumby here again.  Figured I better write something to keep the ol’ blog going.

(Don’t tell Kim I’ve been jumping on her keyboard.)

I see alot from where I stand — like how thrilled she was to bring home fresh Mozzarella and prosciutto and olives from Lovera’s Italian Grocery.  Made a nice looking antipasto plate for lunch, if I do say so myself.  (Sorry…  the camera’s bigger than I am, so I couldn’t take a picture.)

Lately, she’s been hitting the “other” keyboard (piano), too — something about helping a friend record a CD?  Whatever it is, she looks happy.

Music inspires her more than any other art form.  Except maybe for caramel corn.

(Yikes.  That close-up is bigger than me, too.)

Kim added honey roasted peanuts, so it was like homemade “Crunch & Munch.”  Good stuff.  (For the recipe, click here.)

In between practicing, she’s been watching movies (musicals, mostly) — it’s been too hot to do anything else.  Tell me about it.  How do you think the expression “rubber legs” got coined?”  Whew!  A little green guy could melt in this heat.

Here’s where she likes to relax.  Comfy and cozy.  And green. :)

Oops… movie’s over.  Time to lean on the ol’ paperweight.  Bye.

Filling in for Kim,

~ Gumby

P.S.  Woohoo!

Setting Things A-Rite With Alton Brown

After my vacation over the 4th, I promised you some travel highlights and food.  Now that it’s the end of July, I must set things aright (or a-rite as the title alludes…)  And, while I enjoy writing about my own food frolics, sometimes I simply must extol the virtues of “other people’s food.”

“Good heavens, what is she babbling about?” you may ask.

I’m talking about Maid Rites.

Maid Rites are a ground beef phenomenon on a bun.  A Midwest marvel in a sandwich.  A ticket to hamburger heaven…  Okay, you get my drift.  (The Man of Few Words agreed; he signified “aye” with his elbow.)

Simply put:  Maid Rite’s made right.  They’re served right, too.

Notice the classic “burger basket” presentation.  The sandwich is wrapped in logo-laden-waxed-paper with a generous side of hand-cut fries in their own paper basket, artfully assembled on a red plastic tray.  (The previous information was shared with the intent to avert your eyes from the “beef crumble” stuck to my sweet tea glass — oh well.)

The only embellishments necessary for a Maid Rite are thinly sliced dill pickles and onions, which are added when you order.

At the table, ketchup and mustard await in nostalgic dispenser bottles, which you may add.  (I don’t.)  No need to mess with perfection.  Love those little “maid” get-ups.  (Really — I do!)

FYI, hover your mouse over the photos for a summary of this review.  (I often tell a “second story” in the pop-up captions.)  Such fun. :)

Regarding the vacation re-cap, it pretty much consisted of 28 hours in a car with no air conditioning, more relatives than I could possibly include in one post, and R & R by the lake.   A good time was had by all, especially me.  There you have it.  A promise is a promise.

So where does Alton Brown figure into the scheme of things, besides our mutual penchant for road trips and diner food?

In a previous post, I mentioned Alton’s book, “Feasting On Asphalt.”  Not only is it highly entertaining fare, he included the recipe for Maid Rites (or a pretty darn close adaptation), which I know you’ll enjoy very much.  He also wrote a much more comprehensive review.  Give credit where credit is due, I say.

Enjoying the journey (and a Maid Rite or two),

~ Kim

P.S.  My review took place at the Iowa Visitors’ Center, where we stopped to cool off on the way home.  I’m happy to report that the “tipped” cows are now aright — or a-rite, whichever you prefer.  And, something new has been added…

The Prodigal Daughter Returns With Butter

Hi!  Sorry I’ve been out of the loop for awhile, but we just got back from Minnesota.  I’d forgotten how unpredicatable my home state can be in the Spring — it snowed on May 1st, there were windchills in the 20’s on May 2nd, and my car frosted over on May 3rd…

Don’t get me wrong — Minnesota is a beautiful place to live!  It’s just that this Okie export isn’t used to “unseasonably cold weather” (even for Minnesotans) in May.  But, I came home with a heart-full of warm memories and that’s all that matters.

I also came home with a pound of butter…

My Mom likes to surprise me with “culinary gifts” — jars of roasted red peppers and sun dried tomatoes, ramekin sets, unique kitchen utensils, cookbooks and the like, along with hugs and an enthusiasm for “my cooking” that makes me feel special and loved.   (Thank you, Mom.)  I’m one blessed daughter!

But when Mom pulls out the Hope Creamery Butter, I swoon.  (She knows I love it so…)  Hand-packed and creamy, it elevates every recipe to “something special.”  (Just like Mom!)  Hmmmm… what shall I make?

First up on the list was a long overdue batch of chocolate chip cookies for the hubby.  “God blesses us so that we can bless others…”

Then it was my turn…  I wanted something simple and sublime.  My thoughts turned to Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli’s amazing recipes (who, aptly enough, works at a restaurant named Butter.)  I settled on her Seared Porterhouse With Oozing Maitre d’ Butter — oozing is good.

While a Porterhouse wasn’t in the budget after our road trip, I did have a pretty nice chuck steak ready to throw on the grill (even though her recipe called for stovetop searing — next time I get my hands on a Porterhouse, I will!)  With Maitre d’ Butter oozing all over, it was everything I’d hoped it would be, and more.

By the way, that glob of pistachio green on the plate isn’t “jello,” it’s Asparagus Pesto  — another trial recipe.  Although it doesn’t have anything to do with butter yet, here’s how you make it…

Asparagus Pesto

1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1″ sections (remove woody ends before slicing)

3 fresh basil leaves (or dash of dried basil)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup toasted pecans

1 small clove garlic

1/4 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil (or more as needed to reach pesto consistency)

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth.  (Mine turned out a little “chunky” but it was marvelous!)

Credit:  Adapted from a recipe attached to the fresh asparagus spears (no author given.)  They suggested serving it over pasta, which I’m making tonight.  But instead of tossing it with olive oil (per the recipe), I’m using butter.  Lots and lots of butter.  It’s Mother’s Day weekend, right?

Enjoying life one pat of butter at a time (except this weekend…)


P.S.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Comfort Food

What is it about comfort food? Everyone has one — except me. I’d be hard pressed to name one particular “go to” dish that evokes feelings of security, happy memories and world peace.

“Why is that?” I wondered to myself.

Searching through the “food memorabilia” section in the back of my mind, I caught fleeting glimpses of Mom’s macaroni & cheese, Grandma S’s oatmeal with brown sugar and half & half, Grandma M’s kolaches, my sister’s lemon bars, my son’s scalloped potatoes and my daughter’s Pina Colada pork chops. I also remembered every good meal I’ve ever eaten.

“Aha!” I thought to myself again. It’s not a matter of lacking a particular comfort food — it’s a matter of narrowing down the buffet! My brain is a recipe box, it seems…

My collection has expanded exponentially thanks to foodie friends and online recipes. Their marvelous dishes, enticing photography and whimsical, touching stories take me into the heart of their homes — their kitchens — and in turn, I’ve been blessed to prepare some very comforting food for my own family. (And me.)

There are no sweeter words than those of someone you love declaring: “That was really good, honey.” Okay, there are probably a few sweeter words about a lot of things, but for someone who admittedly has a four-word limit on conversational banter, my beloved’s compliments are manna from heaven. I added the “honey” — wishful thinking… :)

In these photos of my results (taken back in the “early days”), I hope to enhance your life with a visual prompt and tempt you to do what I did:  Pick one and have FUN! Food blogs are meant for more than just reading; good ideas –and good times — are just a click away. May you never again ask, “What shall I make for dinner?”

Whether you feel like sinking your teeth into a savory main dish, chopping vegetables for a pay-attention-stir-fry, consoling yourself with a good ol’ fashioned casserole, poking holes into a focaccia that’s as fun to make as it is to eat, or investing time in a labor-intensive batch of chocolate chip cookies chock full o’ bacon (yes, bacon!), you might surprise yourself and discover a new comfort food.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Enjoying sharing the comfort one plate at a time,

~ Kim