boop boop

Alright lets get to the good stuff. [cute old school tivo “boop boop” fast forward noise].

Christmas was delightful. Saw the g-parents, they’re looking spritely as always.  Skype’d Auntie K and Unkie J and the pups. Also spritely all around. Got into trouble with the sista in chi-town. Jet-setted back to the east coast to ring in 2012 with Manfriend and had a fantastic little jaunt in the city of Brotherly Love with the Inventor of the Flameless Candle and his blushing new bride.

Back in the Queen City, we rounded out our Beverage lab with individual presentations on various spirits. I drew, in a fantastic twist of service industry fate, Grand Marnier.  I opened my presentation with this (it really hits its stride around 0:40).

Next up: Skills of Meat Cutting. Where you actually spend 5 hours in a meat locker. A 40-degree meat locker. The only class where people are dyyyying to do the dishes (hot water). This was definitely the hardest class I’ve had. For some reason, I just couldn’t grasp all the different cuts of meat and how they related to the anatomy. We had to know poultry, beef, pork, veal, and game. The actual skill of deboning a cut of meat I mastered no problem. But this?

name every muscle and bone. ready, GO.

This was HARD. Luckily, the chef was awesome.  We’re two peas in a pod when it comes to food philosophy–he has “eat” and “local” tattooed on his wrists, and ended every lecture with 10-15 minutes of yoga-inspired stretching before we headed into the arctic. He expected a lot, and gave a lot. And by gave, I mean gave us chicken cracklin’s and pork ribs rubbed with the most amazing dry rub ever.

In the middle of this, Liscious, Sparkles, and sista Leenie came to visit! We drank WAY too much wine, had WAY too much fun, and I impressed/horrified them with my fantastic butchering skills while prepping the Sunday night chickie.

After Meat Cutting, we went to Purchasing and Product Identification, known among the collegians as “Store Room.” You learn to identify product by filling every single purchase order for every single lab in the massive store room in the basement. Well, my group filled the req’s (short for requisition) while the 18-year-olds lounged around and thought about picking up a carrot.

This chef was a great cook–but also a math mind.  We learned how to cost out individual recipes and also how to analyze a menu and pick out which items are making you good money, and which ones need to be fixed.  There was a 10-minute lecture that involved words like “dog” “star” and “plow” that was hands-down one of the most educational experiences I’ve had in a LONG time.    He also had no patience for idiots or sloths, so we got along quite well.

Ahh so many words! so few pictures! what shall we do??

BOOM. carnitas from scratch. actually prepared in my very own kitchen. with quick-pickled red onions, radishes, and jalapeno.

it’s 5’o clock…always.

After Nutrition class, something I’m really interested in and passionate about came Principles of Beverage Service, something I….know very well.

We spent two weeks learning how to carefully pour, mix, and serve cocktails. We spent many hours practicing pouring shots, mixed drinks, and martinis. Our practical required us to choose 8 drinks out of a hat and prepare them in a mere 20 minutes.

I should note this class began less than 1 week after the last Panthers home game, where I prepared roughly 8-10 drinks for rabid football fans between the times of  12:00pm and 12:01pm.

Aside from the mixology portion (where I should note, I got a 99. One point off for filling a martini too full. Seriously? Any real customer would give me extra credit for that.), we learned tons about how practically every spirit is made and consumed.

Our professor was fantastic–super passionate about not only the material, but about making it fun to learn.  I was constantly surprised at the different activities and games she came up with to help us understand the material. We created our own wineries, did quick fire-style cocktail challenges, and created dramatic presentations on different categories of drinks.

polynesian presentation: you put the lime in the coconut.

 

So all of those delicious cocktails at the top weren’t actually potable. Think just for a second about precisely how much liability would be involved in turning 20 or more 18-year-old college freshman loose in a completely stocked bar. Right. So we used water and food coloring. The juices were real though, so if kids wanted to get all hopped up on cranberry juice and sour mix, no problem.

That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of opportunities to taste–we used sip sticks to taste every liquor we talked about, did a beer tasting, and the infamous 8am wine tasting:

Most of the students had already done this activity in Dining Room, so this time we were given a plate full of food items like mint leaves, siracha, potato chips, lemon, goat cheese, and grapes to play with layering flavors and pairing them with the wines. It was a really interesting exercise, and almost more interesting was hearing the different things people liked that I never could have dreamed of wanting to eat (honey and milk chocolate with riesling? someone get the EMTs on call for when we all go into diabetic shock).

One of the questions I get most frequently is, “what do you do with ALL that food?” I think I’ve mentioned before that much of it does get eaten by students. And what can get donated, does. But there is a lot of pushing unwanted food on other students. Every classroom gets at least 1 tray of cookies or cake every day. Sometimes we just can’t eat it.  Sometimes, there is a better use.

happy 19th birthday!

 

meatless monday: mmm mmm mushrooms!

Risotto is one of the meals Manfriend requests on a regular basis.  I usually have no objections, but when this summer revealed itself to be an unwavering sweltering soul-crushing eternal heat wave, creamy warm risotto wasn’t exactly what I wanted to eat. Or stand over, stirring diligently.

At the first whisper of cooler weather…”can we have risotto?”  I had some mushrooms that needed a home so in to the pot they went and dinner was born. Until…

Until I decided not to get my handy step stool ( judge me. do it) to get something from a high shelf, I just reeeeeached up as high as I could. I teetered on my tip toes and leaned a bit to the side and CRASH. My acrobatics knocked the handle of  the pot containing my nicely sauteing mushrooms and the whole lot tumbled to the floor. Your honor, Exhibit A:

This meal quickly would have headed into a monday meltdown had i not saved some of the mushrooms, intending to use them in omelets.  Manfriend assured me, despite my insistence, that I was not actually an idiot and complete failure, and back to the cutting board i went.

So, how do you actually make this stuff? For a basic risotto, you only need a few items: onions of some kind (shallots are best), arborio rice, warm liquid (chicken or veggie stock), and, well, that’s it! From there, you can make it your own. The process is also very simple, it just requires a little bit of time (about 30 minutes, unless you’re cooking for 12) and some upper arm endurance.  We’re going to walk through the whole thing together nice and easy.  I’ll list the quantities I used, but you can adjust them to your taste.

First, heat 3-4 cups of your liquid over low heat so it’s just barely simmering. Barely.  Melt some butter or oil in another pot over medium heat.  Add 1/2 c. onions and cook until starting to soften (don’t let them get brown. If they start to brown, turn your heat down).  Once the onions are on their way, add some flavor!  I added healthy dashes of rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and my mushrooms (for round 2 there was only a scant cup) here so they could cook and release all their flavors into the rice as it all cooked together.

Now, add your rice. No liquid.  (1 cup will serve about 4 people).  Let the rice toast with the onions, etc until it juuuuust starts to turn the slightest shade of tan.  Toasting the rice before you cook it in liquid seals in the starch and helps make your final product nice and creamy.

NOW you add your liquid–sloooowly.  I use a 1-cup measure, dipping it into my simmering broth, which pulls up about 3/4 c. at a time.  What you’re going to do here, is add one ladle of broth and stir stir stir the rice until the liquid is completely absorbed.  This will happen very quickly at first then more slowly as it gets more and more cooked.  If you want to add wine (which is lovely in this), that should be the first liquid you introduce into your rice to maximize flavor and give it time for the booze to cook out.  Once the liquid is absorbed, add another ladle. Stir until absorbed. Wash, rinse, repeat.  A standard ratio is 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice.  l usually use up ending a little more, so I start out with plenty of liquid at the outset so I’m not panicked at the end trying to warm up last-minute water. (Adding cold water halts the cooking process. bad. very bad).

about when you should add some more juice.

A note on stirring: purists say you need to stir this constantly as it cooks. Not fast and furious–but constantly. I’ve made it like that, and I’ve also made it where you’re doing more than one thing at once and maybe only stir it every couple minutes. Both turned out great.  You definitely can’t walk away from it for 10 minutes, but letting it do its thing, giving it a nice stir every so often is just. fine.

When is it done? The only way to know is to TASTE IT! It’s going to start looking all creamy, but I bet in that first bite you’ll find the center of the rice is still a little hard.  Keep tasting every few minutes, and it’s done when you like the texture.  Maybe you want it al dente, maybe you want it a little more cooked and super creamy. Whatever blows your skirt up.

And now, the best step: serve it up! As do most dishes in the DTMS household, we top ours with some grated parmesan. You could add chopped nuts, fresh herbs, anything you desire.

Ta-da! Total comfort food. The mushrooms (well, the ones that survived) added a deep, earthy layer of flavor. Perfect for warming you up from the chilly fall winds.

And look Ma, no recipe! If you actually got through this whole thing, you saw that strict rules and measurements really have no part in risotto-making. You have to make it your own!

more adventures in strange vegetables

Kale! This was my first adventure in cooking kale at home…and after a recent failed attempt at a different recipe, I’m hesitant to ever stray from this again.

It’s insanely easy, and when you pair it with a cheddar-chipotle sausage with peppers and onions, it’s just about the best Friday dinner ever. Add a glass of vino verde and kicking Manfriend’s be-hind at Scrabble and you’ve got yourself one lovely evening.

Sauteed Kale

mary had a little lamb

I’ve waxed lyrical about what a great cook Auntie K is.  Well, full disclosure: her first name is Mary. And this is a Lamb Stew. Ba-dum-dum.

Anyways, this is one well-travelled recipe.  And probably one of my all-time favorite meals.  Athenian Lamb Stew has been our Christmas Eve dinner of choice for…wow is it 10 years?  Auntie K, Unkie J and the Grandparents have been dining on this since…well probably before I was born.  It all started in a quaint little cottage in humble Falls Church, VA.  I came out to the DC Area and Auntie and Unkie promptly packed up shop and headed for California (love you too, guys).  We tracked them down in dreary Sonoma, CA and continued the tradition.  And now in Chicago, the pots still simmer on Dec. 24.

Countless smiles and belly-aching laughs have been shared over this stew.  There’s a reason it’s stuck around–its GOOD. Tender, tasty, and fills your tummy and your soul. To be honest, I have NO idea where it came from.  The original I can recall is a printed sheet from back when Prodigy was the internet service of choice.

I know you’re all thinking, “enough with this sentimental crap! when are you sticking your arm up a chicken’s be-hind again?”  Patience, grasshopper. While you’re practicing this virtue, MAKE THE STEW.

Athenian Lamb Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 med-large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 lbs. lean lamb shoulder or leg, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 28-oz can crushed italian-style tomatoes (Progresso is the brand of choice)
  • 1/2 c. red wine
  • 1-2 c. green beans
  • 1 stick cinnamon

Method

  • Pop the bubbly
  • Enslave Grandma to cube the lamb

full disclosure: those instructions were not included in the original.

  • Prep your veg-a-veg

  • Ok NOW we’re ready: Saute onion, garlic, basil, and lamb in olive oil until onion is tender. Season with salt and pepper.

action shot! into the pot, little ones!

  • Continue cooking until the lamb is lightly browned.
  • Add tomatoes and wine, cook 10 minutes.

what, oh what, to do with 10 minutes and a mostly-full bottle of red wine...

  • Add green beans and cinnamon stick.

  • Cover and cook over low heat 1-1.5 hours, until lamb is very tender.

well hell-O my pretties!

  • Serve with lemon rice.

if you put your stew next to your rice instead of on top, i will judge you.

Wow, you’re thinking to yourself, Lemon Rice sounds good. I wonder how they do that?

WONDER NO MORE.

Lemon Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 c. rice
  • 1/4-1/3 c. onion, chopped
  • juice of one lemon plus enough water to make 2 cups
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon chicken bullion crystals
  • pepper

Method

  • Saute onions in oil until translucent but not brown (medium heat is best)
  • Add rice, water, bullion, oregano, pepper
  • Bring to boil, cover, turn down to simmer
  • Cook 20-25 minutes.

may i dance on your couch?

This past Friday I hosted the 2nd (3rd?) annual cookie exchange for my very favorite girlfriends.  They brought the wine, I supplied the munchies, and a hilarious time was had by all.  Now, let me level with you here: we’re at T-10 days until the fat man falls down the chimney. Holiday time is a precious commodity.

Last week I participated in my very first meeting of Cooking in the Hood where I lit cheese on fire (dad you would have been so proud).  That will be posted over there shortly. The very next night was the Cookie Exchange. These were both weeknight events and contrary to popular belief this blog does not get the rent paid, so employment is necessary. So, the name of the game was advance preparation. I did every possible thing I could in the days before so all the dishes came together as quickly as possible.  Ergo, I recommend all of these for weeknight entertaining.

So here’s how this is going to work (remember that ‘time is of the essence’ thing?): you’re going to get the menu, my final products, and a whooole bunch of hyperlinks. Everything was devoured. The mushrooms and crostini were particular hits. And particularly easy.  At some point in the near future you will be bestowed with a similar-style post with allll of the lovely cookies exchanged.

Crostini with Hazelnuts, Blue Cheese, and Honey

i toasted the bread and hazelnuts in advance for quick assembly.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Brie

stem and clean your mushrooms the night before too

Maple-Soy Snack Mix

ok this isnt the FINAL picture–this was made 3 days in advance and kept in a ziplock. I halved the recipe (its HUGE) and omitted the curry paste to accomodate the milder tastes of my guests 😉

Baked Chicken Meatballs

baked up these bad boys 2 days in advance and just reheated in the oven. Also cut in half to serve because they were quite large.

I also made some Taco Hummus but I didn’t have quite enough tahini so it was just…meh.  Hummis is also easily made ahead of time and actually improves as it sits as the flavors all meld.

And there you go! A great time with great girls, the festive evening was capped off with the physical exchanging of cookies that rivaled the “Who’s on First” routine and some…intimate caroling, thanks to an iphone and my stereo speakers.

oh. yes.

My original intention was to inaugurate the le creuset with this insanely appetizing recipe, but, well, life got in the way. A girl doesn’t often have 6 hours on her hand to sit and wait for short ribs to simmer and her manfriend to come home and gobble them up. Well this girl got lucky and found just that amount of time last week. And MAN was it worth it.

Never having dealt with short ribs before, I was a little unsure what to expect, but the actual assembly of this is insanely easy. You just need to plan to be home and cognizant of your oven for the next 3 hours or so (or, if you live life on the edge, go out and hope nothing blows up).

The Pioneer Woman makes so many delicious things, when she touted these “heaven on a plate,” I knew they had to be good.  Manfriend’s first response upon diving into his plate was a quiet, profound “oh. yes.”  There may also have been a dance or two in excited anticipation as the leftovers were reheated a couple days later.

AND! I’m excited to introduce an exciting new component to DTMS: VIDEO.  You’ll find a handy little youtube link towards the bottom of the post that gives you, in techicolor, the dramatic unveiling of the shortribs.  This was a fantastic b-day gift from Manfriend and I can only dare to imagine the hijinks it will bring to this blog.

Braised Short Ribs – Heaven on a Plate
The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • 8 whole Beef Short Ribs
  • Kosher Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • ¼ cups All-purpose Flour
  • 6 pieces Pancetta, Diced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 3 whole Carrots, Diced
  • 2 whole Shallots, Peeled And Finely Minced
  • 2 cups Red Or White Wine
  • 2 cups Beef Or Chicken Broth (enough To Almost Cover Ribs)
  • 2 sprigs Thyme
  • 2 sprigs Rosemary

Preparation Instructions

Salt and pepper ribs, then dredge in flour. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven, cook pancetta over medium heat until complete crispy and all fat is rendered. Remove pancetta and set aside. Do not discard grease.

Add olive oil to pan with the pancetta grease, and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, about 45 seconds per side. Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.

Add onions, carrots, and shallots to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pan to release all the flavorful bits of glory. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.

Add broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged. Add thyme and rosemary sprigs (whole) to the liquid.

Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 30 to 45 minutes.

the harderst part--waiting

Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving.

CLICK HERE FOR DRAMATIC UNVEILING. (make sure your sound is on)

At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid. (Can also refrigerate mixture, then remove solid fat from the top.)

Serve 2 ribs on bed of creamy polenta, spooning a little juice over the top. ( I totally cheated and used pre-made polenta from a tube and just added milk and cheese. don’t tell)

oh. yes.

and for my next act…

I will use every new appliance acquired in the last month.   This recipe caught my eye recently as I enjoy soups and you all can’t freaking get enough bacon out of me.   After a crazy weekend in the office, it was just the thing to rejuvenate me and break in my le creuset!

(which, for the record, is a fantastic blog you should read….right after this one 😉 )

Ingredients
  • 4 strips of lean bacon
  • 3 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 15 1/2-ounce cans white beans, drained
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Method

First things first:

did you catch the "weekend in the office" part?

  • In a large Dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Let cool, chop, and set aside.

SERIOUS bacon.

a fitting first task.

  • Over medium heat, add the carrot, celery and onion to the pan drippings in the Dutch oven and sauté for 7 minutes; add the garlic and sauté for an additional 60 seconds, stirring constantly. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste.

tried out my new mandolin and promptly took off my manicure.

also broke in the new garlic press. this thing is a WORKHORSE. thanks manfriend 🙂

  • Add 2 cans of beans, bay leaf and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the carrots and celery are soft.

now we're cooking.

you're so pretty.

  • Uncover and remove the bay leaf. Using a potato masher or an immersion blender, partially mash the bean mixture until it thickens slightly. Stir in the last can of beans, parsley and bacon. Taste and re-season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, if needed. Enjoy.

Yum! On the side, I sliced (much more successfully) some leftover yukon golds, tossed ’em in salt, shallot pepper, a little cayenne, and baked at 400 until cooked through and browned. Then, because I was feeling frisky and had a new microplane, I microplaned some parm on top and broiled until cheese bubbled. No recipe. Just culinary brilliance.

gobble gobble gobble

Last night was the second annual Sh*tShaw Thanksgiving–a lovely event for those of us who live in the less-than-savory-but-always-entertaining neighborhood of Shaw.  Everyone brings a dish and their holiday spirit and we have a great time.

This year, with 20+ in attendance, our resident Meat Man prepared the turkey of all turkeys. We’ve all seen them stuffed and brined and deep-fried, but he really took it to the next level by stuffing massive amounts of sausage between the skin and the meat of the bird. Yea, let that kick around in your mental oven for a minute.

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Yea. Add that to this:

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Fill these seats with some of your favorite people:

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And you’ve got one FANTASTIC meal.

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you better believe i ate it all.

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those on sweets patrol were no slouches either.

I brought Bacon-Smashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and the infamous pumpkin cheesecake. The potatoes and pie will be posted shortly.  The cheesecake had rave reviews yet again.

One of the best parts of the evening is once we’re all sufficiently stuffed, Brother Ern has us bring all the leftovers out to Sunday Suppers, a meal program run by a local church that sets up right outside the house where we were.  Its a great way to end the evening–doubling the warm and fuzzies we’re already riding from the wine and sugar by sharing the meal we all lovingly prepared with those in need.

And if you need another reason to make the cheesecake, as we were rounding up the leftovers, one attendee insisted, “there is NO WAY they’re getting this cheesecake.”  That’s the holiday spirit. 😉

the babysitter found the booze

Stacy called a meeting of the Babysitters Club last week to discuss a very important item: booze.  As a professional babysitter, its important to have a wide base of knowledge: superheros, princesses, hopscotch, naptime, you know. We’d mastered the K-5 topics, so it was time to move on to more mature subjects. Specifically wine. Natalie graciously offered to hold the meeting and we all came equipped with our assigned bottle: either a Sauvingnon Blanc or Cotes du Rhone, both wines that pair well with turkey.

We wined, we dined, and inevitably the topics turned to boys. Scenes from a lovely evening:

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