Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Holiday Recap

Yup, I left y'all high and dry once again. Lashings of apologies all round as usual. The holiday season this year was especially stressful for me for various reasons that I won't go into now. Suffice it to say that the lack of postings was mainly due to a lack of having a decent camera, something that was remedied under the Christmas tree when Husband J gifted me with a shiny new digital camera, with which I hope to vastly improve my food photography skills!

Despite the lack of camera and stress, I did indeed keep cooking over the holidays, I just don't have too many photos to show for it. But, here is a quick recap of what I did manage to do, for what it's worth.

1. Roasted veal short ribs: yeah, no. The ribs were such an unmitigated disaster that I've decided tho forgo the hilarious disaster-post that I'd planned, and try making them again for you guys.

2. Boeuf Bourguignon: The familys traditional Christmas dish is boeuf Bourguignon, so finding the recipe in the book, I decided to make it for Christmas Eve dinner. Now when I say tradition, I mean it--Christmas just isn't Christmas without certain things for my family: boeuf bourguignon for dinner, mom's egg casserole for breakfast, the annual squabble over who will pass the presents around in the morning, and a Christmas Eve screening of the greatest Christmas movie ever made:

Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.

Tony's recipe calls for a paleron or "chicken steak," a steak made from the neck and shoulder of a cow. Mom, who was tasked to grocery shop for dinner, could not fund such a thing at the farmer's market where she shops, but made do with a sirloin.

First thing I did was brown the meats, as instructed. Tony advises heating olive oil over high heat until almost smoking, adding the meat in batches, and searing on all sides until brown, not gray. That is all well and good in the cookbook, but in real life, that is a recipe for HOT OIL IN THE FACE. Which I received, and promptly turned the heat down, resolving that gray meat would not kill us.

Next, we add sliced onions to the pot (I learned from my mistake chopping onions for soup, and used a mandoline this time). When they were golden brown, I sprinkled with flour, and added the wine, scraping up the fond. Next, the meat, veggies, garlic and herbs are added, and enough water to cover the meat by one third, for a ratio of two-thirds solids to one-third liquid. The mix gets brought to a boil and simmered for two hours, with the chef stirring and scraping the foam off the top.

Here is when I ran into trouble again. If you have the book, you'll see a pic of deliciously browned beef sitting in a syrupy, thick sauce. Well, I have no idea if I miscalculated my liquid ratio or what, but my sauce would just not thicken. Gram and mom helped: mom by adding some cornstarch and a little more flour, gram by stopping mom from adding too much cornstarch and destroying the stew. Another half hour was necessary for the sauce to thicken nicely. Mom, in the meantime, boiled some egg noodles on which to serve the beef (not in the recipe, but in her book, it's not boeuf bourguignon without egg noodles). In addition, we had a big salad, and I made these tasty popovers from the New York Times.

Despite my troubles, the bourguignon turned out excellent. The meat was tender and delicious, and the sauce worked out wonderfully. We gobbled it up, and had plenty left over for our little cousins to eat during our big Christmas Day dinner.

Sorry again for the lack of photos, but of course, I didn't get my camera until the next morning!

3. New Years Eve dinner: For New Years we had Friend B over for dinner, and I made one of my favorites, rack of lamb with mustard glaze, or carre d'agneau au moutarde. I've made similar recipes for Easter dinners past, so I was excited to make Tony's recipe. As a side dish, I made the gratin dauphinois that Tony describes as "made for" the rack of lamb.

First, I trimmed the fat and silvering from the lamb chops (there was a lot).

Next, while I waited for the lamb to come up to room temperature, I made the potato gratin. This was my first time making gratin not out of a box (the horror!) so I was pretty excited and hopeful.

I sliced the potatoes with my mandoline, and put them in a pot with cream, garlic and herbs.

Then, the potatoes go into a garlic-rubbed covered gratin dish. This lovely red dish was a Christmas present from my sister, isn't it gorgeous?

Finally, the potatoes go into the oven toppd with Gruyere for 40 minutes. And out came a delicious gratin. It was SO EASY you guys. The box gets kicked to the curb for reals.

Once the lamb had rested and warmed, prep was easy. I browned the meat in a pan with olive oil and butter, then removed the meat and stirred in wine, some veal stock, garlic, and a bouquet garni. The sauce boiled and simmered while I finished prepping the lamb.

I sprinkled thyme and rosemary leaves over the meaty side of the lamb, then spread dijon mustard over the meat. Next, I pressed some bread crumbs (homemade from a pepper and cheese loaf that was sent as a gift but unfortunately got stale during transit). Finally, I cooked the lamb at 375. The recipe says that 17 minutes would suffice for medium rare, but I found that it took about 30 minutes for the lamb to stop being blood red in the middle. This actually was a plus, as it took about that long for the sauce to thicken sufficiently. Once the lamb had rested, I sliced it up, covered with sauce, and served.

Unfortunately no pix of finished product--friend B came over during prep, and I was having too much fun visiting with her and cooking to pick up the camera... so sorry! But let me assure you the dinner was both gorgeous and delicious, and we abandoned our dignity and gnawed all the meat off the bones, which is to me the hallmark of a successful dinner.

So there you have it, three more dishes down over the holidays. Yeah,I know you are all sick of hearing me succeed at delicious dinners, so I promise that when I redo the short ribs, I will tell the full tale of my horrendous failure. In the meantime, I promise to take more freaking pictures of the food, and have a great time cooking in 2010!

Lessons Learned: Take more freaking pictures.

Next week: New year means pork, so possibly cote de porc a la charcutiere, or roti de porc au lait.

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