Thursday, February 18, 2010

Classique Beuf Bourguignonne

Classique Beuf Bourguignonne
(Classic Beef Burgundy)
Serves 6
If you've never had it before, Beuf Bourguignon is quite simply the king of beef stews made famous by Julia Childs.  This is a classic recipe but don't be intimidated by the number of ingredients and steps in its preparation,  the result is well worth it.  Use first quality ingredients and pay attention to detail and this recipe won't disappoint.

6 ounces slab bacon, rind removed and reserved, cut into 1/4-by-1 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds stewing beef, relatively lean, cut into 2-inch cubes, patted dry
1 carrot, thinly sliced crosswise
1 medium onion, sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups of good Burgundy wine
3  cups homemade or canned beef stock, plus ½ cup reserved
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic, crushed and chopped
½ teaspoon of dried thyme, plus ¼ teaspoon additional for the bouquet garne
1 dried bay leaf, crumbled, plus ½ bay leaf additional bouquet garne
4 fresh sprigs of parsley bouquet garne, plus additional chopped for garnish
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons additional
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon additional
24 - 36 cipollini or pearl onions (dependant on size), soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, and peeled
1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
Coarse Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 450° F.
2.  Meanwhile, on the stove top heat the olive oil in a Dutch-oven over medium, add the bacon and cook it until it is lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and set it aside on a plate, retain the oil and rendered bacon fat in the Dutch oven.
3.  Increase the heat under the Dutch oven to medium-high and continue to heat the oil and rendered fat until it is just below smoking point (you may test for this by placing one piece of beef in the Dutch oven, if it sizzles immediately its hot enough). Add remaining beef in small batches cooking each batch until it is well-browned on all sides. Remove meat, and set aside on the plate with the cooked bacon.
4.  Add carrots and sliced onions to the Dutch oven and cook until both are browned. Drain off the excess oil and bacon grease from the cooked vegetables and discard the grease but leave the vegetables in the Dutch oven.
5.  Return beef and bacon to the Dutch oven; season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper. Sprinkle the  flour over the beef and vegetables and toss to coat.
6.  Remove the Dutch oven from the stove top and transfer it, uncovered, to the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for 4 minutes. Toss meat and vegetables and bake for an additional 4 minutes. Transfer the Dutch oven to the stove top and reduce temperature of the oven to 325° F.
7.  Turn the stove top under the Dutch oven to medium-low heat and stir in the 3 cups of Burgundy and enough stock to barely cover meat. Add the tomato paste, garlic, ½ teaspoon thyme, 1 crumbled bay leaf, and bacon rind; bring to a simmer.
8.  When the liquid comes to a simmer remove the Dutch oven from the heat, cover it, and transfer it to the lower-third of the oven. Bake, regulating heat so the stew continues to simmer, until beef is fork tender, about 2 ½ to 3 hours.
9.  Meanwhile, prepare a bouquet garne fashioned from an 8-by-8-inch piece of cheesecloth containing 4 sprigs of parsley, ½ bay leaf, ¼ teaspoon of thyme and tied using kitchen twine. Set aside.
10.  Whilst the stew is baking, in a medium skillet over medium heat combine 1 ½ tablespoons butter and 1 ½ tablespoons oil. When butter is bubbling, add the whole cipollini or pearl onions; sauté until they are nicely browned, about 10 minutes.
11.  Add ½ cup stock to the skillet; season with salt and pepper and add bouquet garne. Simmer, covered, until onions are tender and all the liquid has evaporated, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bouquet garne, and discard it. Remove the onions to a plate and set aside.
12.  Wipe out the skillet and return it to the stove top placing it over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil to it and heat until the butter begins to foam. As the foaming subsides, add the mushrooms and sauté them, stirring often but gently, until they are lightly browned. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
13.  When the beef in the Dutch oven is fork tender remove the Dutch oven from the oven and, if stew has a large amount of sauce otherwise go to alternative step 14, pour stew into a large sieve set over a large saucepan. Rinse or wipe out the Dutch-oven. Return beef and bacon to it and add the cooked mushrooms and onions.  Do not turn on the heat under the Dutch oven.
14.  Remove the sieve from the saucepan and allow the sauce to rest for a few moments then skim any fat that has risen to the surface from the sauce.
15.  Now, on the stove top, over medium-low heat, bring sauce to a simmer (skimming off as much additional fat as you can), and simmer for 1 or 2 minutes. Sauce should now be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. If too thin, bring it to a boil and reduce it to correct consistency. If too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock. Correct seasoning with salt and black pepper.
16.  Remove the sauce from the heat and pour it over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven.  Turn the heat under the Dutch oven to medium and bring the stew to a simmer.  Simmer, covered, basting the meat and vegetables with sauce for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with parsley; Serve immediately by either plating to individual service plates and garnishing with chopped parsley for a formal setting or placing the entire Dutch oven on the dinner table and serving family style for a less formal meal.
Alternative step
14.  Add the onions and mushrooms to the stew, stir to distribute throughout the stew. Turn the heat under the Dutch oven to medium and bring the stew to a simmer, adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding a few tablespoons of stock at a time until it reaches the correct consistency (the sauce should be thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon). 
15.  Simmer, covered, basting the meat and vegetables with sauce for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with parsley; Serve immediately by either plating to individual service plates and garnishing with chopped parsley for a formal setting or placing the entire Dutch oven on the dinner table and serving family style for a less formal meal.

Next Week's Posting:  Polpetta alla Sansevero

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bistecca Trestevere con Rucola

Bistecca Trestevere con Rucola
(Beef steak in the Trestevere style with Arugula)
Serves 2
This is a recipe Jo fell in love with when we visited Rome and stayed in Trestevere, it is so simple yet so delicious.  The steak is prepared simply, seared and served very rare (in the Tuscan style) over a bed of arugula (rocket).  As the steak is cut it releases its hot juices which become a dressing for and slightly wilts the greens.  If you like your steak well-done do not even try this recipe . . . putting “shoe leather” over arugula does nothing to improve the taste of neither the steak nor the Arugula.
2 (1 inch or thicker) well marbled, steak (preferably rib-eye)
Extra-virgin olive oil to brush on the steaks
4 to 6 cups of Arugula
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarsely ground Kosher salt

Simple Steak Seasoning (such Montreal Steak Seasoning) (optional)
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan (use a vegetable peeler to shave a block of cheese)

Dressing for the sliced versions (optional):

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
2 medium cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh Italian flat parsley leaves
1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh oregano leaves
Course Kosher salt
Fresh coarsely ground black pepper
Dressing if used:
1.  Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, oregano, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a small bowl until smooth.
The beef:
1. Rub both sides of each steak generously with the extra-virgin olive oil and season with either salt and pepper or simple steak seasoning rubbing the season into both sides.  Set steaks aside and allow to marinate in the rub for about ½ hour.
2.  Meanwhile pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill to its hottest or pre-heat a stove top grill or grill pan until it is very, very hot.
3.  When the grill (or grill pan) reaches its maximum heat, place the steaks on the grate (or in the grill pan).  Allow the steaks to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on 1 side, without moving or piercing the meat . . . you want to create a good, crusty sear outside while maintaining a very rare center. When steaks are browned, flip and sear the other side for 3 to 4 minutes (you want the internal temperature to be either 120° F for rare 125° F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer, do not overcook).
4.  When the steaks are cooked either:
    (a) cover the steaks with aluminum foil and allow the steaks to rest for about 5 minutes meanwhile place half the Arugula on a each serving plate.  When the steaks have rested slice each thinly across the grain, arrange in overlapping slices over the Arugula on each plate (drizzle any juices that may escape during slicing over the steak slices), dress each plate with the dressing over the steak and Arugula and distribute the shaved Parmesan over all
     (b) place some of the shaved Parmesan (if used) on the Arugula on each plate and immediately place the unsliced steaks on top of the Arugula and shaved cheese (you can omit or use the dressing as you desire).  Serve immediately, this is one time you don’t want to allow the steaks to rest, you want them to release their hot juices to make the salad dressing and wilt the Arugula.
5.  When eating be sure to get some of the Parmesan, the Arugula, and steak on each forkful.

 Next Week's Posting:  Classique Beuf Bourguignonne

Friday, February 5, 2010

Caponata alla Siciliana

Caponata alla Siciliana
 (Sicilian Sweet and Sour Eggplant)
serves 6

Caponata, or Capunata in the Sicilian dialect, is a fantastically delicious dish from southern Italy which may be eaten warm as  a vegetable side dish, cold as an antipasto,  or room temperature on thin slices of  toasted French  or Italian bread as an hors d'oeuvres.  I've even known people who claim to "hate" eggplant to wax joyously over Caponata's  agrodolce (Italian for Sweet and Sour) taste.  The selection and handling of the eggplant is critical; choose firm eggplants with few seeds and avoid the temptation to cut it into too small a dice as the pieces will take on so much oil that they will become heavy and you won't be able to fully appreciate their creamy texture and flavour.

2 eggplants, cut into 1⁄2" cubes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced crosswise
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. golden raisins
2 tbsp. pine nuts
2 tbsp. capers, rinsed
12 pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. chiffonade basil
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse Kosher salt
1.  Prepare the eggplant by removing the bitterness by placing the cubes into a colander, heavily salt and set over a large bowl or plate. Top with a plate weighted down with a (or several) large can(s) and allow to drain for 1 hour, the bitter liquid will pool in the bowl or plate. Discard the bitter liquid and rinse the eggplant cubes, pat dry with paper towels.
2.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When the oil is hot add one-third of the eggplant and cook until golden brown, 7–8 minutes. Transfer the eggplant, using a slotted spoon, to a bowl. Repeat in batches of 1/3, adding additional 2 tablespoons of oil if necessary, until all the eggplant is cooked.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining oil, and onions; cook until soft, 14–15 minutes. Add tomatoes and celery and increase heat to medium; cook until tomatoes release their juices, 5–6 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar, and tomato paste; cook until thickened, 3–4 minutes. Add cooked eggplant, raisins, pine nuts, capers, olives, and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook until hot. Transfer to a plate; let cool slightly. Top with basil and parsley. Serve at room temperature

Next Week's Posting:  Bistecca Trestevere con Rucola

Thin and Crispy Pizza Dough

Thin and Crispy Pizza Dough
makes 6 or 2 12-inch pies
This thin and crispy pizza crust makes an ideal base for both traditional (we found that pizzas in Italy have this type of base) and non-traditional pizzas but is especially suited for non-traditional varieties.  Remember this is baking not cooking and where in cooking is an art, recipes are guidelines and you can deviate for personal preferences, baking is a science and the recipe and procedures are a formula . . . deviation will drastically change the outcome.
1 cup lukewarm water (110°F to 115°F)
1 envelope active dry yeast, divided
1 cup all purpose flour, divided

Dough for 6 12-inch pies:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm (110°F to 115°F) water
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 envelope active dry yeast
6 cups (or more) all purpose flour

Dough for 2 12-inch pies:
½ cup lukewarm (110°F to 115°F) water
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups (or more) all purpose flour

to prepare the “sponge”:
1.  Place 1 cup lukewarm water in large bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon yeast (reserve remaining yeast for dough) and 1/4 teaspoon flour over water. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture looks spongy, about 4 minutes.
2.  Add remaining flour and whisk until smooth; scrape down sides of bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow this “sponge” to rest, at room temperature in draft-free area, overnight (at least 12 hours).
to prepare the dough:
1.  Add the lukewarm water, salt, yeast to the matured sponge in the bowl.  To this add 2 or 6 cups flour (1 cup at a time) beating with dough hook to blend after each addition. Continue to beat until dough is smooth and comes cleanly away from sides of bowl, and is only slightly sticky to touch, scraping down bowl occasionally; about 5 minutes. If dough is very sticky, beat in more flour (¼ cup at a time).
2.  Transfer the dough onto lightly floured surface and knead into smooth ball; about 5 minutes do not skimp on this step as it develops the elasticity of the dough.
3.  Lightly coat the inside of a large bowl with extra-virgin olive oil. Add dough ball and turn to coat it with oil (be sure to coat the ball or it will stick to the plastic wrap as it grows). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to further develop for up to 6 hours, “punching” dough down when it doubles (after about 3 hours of rising).
4.  About 1 ½ hours before baking, dust 2 baking sheets with flour. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead gently; shape into 12-inch log. Cut into 2 or 6 equal pieces. Knead each piece into smooth ball. Arrange balls of dough on each sheet. Cover loosely with clean, damp (not wet) kitchen towels and let rise until almost doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
5.  Proceed to form the pizzas.

Next Week's Post:  Caponata alla Siciliana

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