Weekly Winner: A Big Steaming Pile of Umami Goodness

IMG_0431I don’t do restaurants for Valentine’s Day.  I would much rather cozy-up at home with something wonderfully homemade.  As I have often mentioned, hubby is a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  So for this Valentine’s Day, I decided to make Short Rib Stew.  Absolutely luscious.  Soul-satisfyingly delicious.  Super cozy.  But I’m still not entirely sure it counts as actually “cooking”.  Apart from browning the short ribs, all I really did was chop some veggies and stir.  That’s it.  The perfect definition of a one-pot wonder.  And wonderful it was.  I decided to buy bone-in short ribs and cook them intact.  The bones literally slipped out clean after the 2 hours of cooking and then I just cut the short rib meat into bite size pieces.  But in keeping the bones in, it produced the most amazingly umami-rich, gelatinous broth.  The recipe came from Food & Wine magazine and it is phenomenal.  I cannot wait for the leftovers this weekend.

Short Rib Stew

Serves 8

Ingredients:

3 1/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (I used bone-in and just cut up the meat after it was cooked – bones fell right out)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups dry red wine

3 cups veal or chicken stock

6 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 large onion, cut into 1-inch dice

1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered

1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped

8 sage leaves, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Procedure:

  1. In a large bowl, toss the short ribs with the flour. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Working in batches, cook the short ribs over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 6 minutes per batch. Discard the oil.
  2. Return the meat and any juices to the casserole. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, 8 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the meat is tender, 2 hours.
  3. Skim any fat from the stew. Stir in the carrots, potatoes, parsnips, onion, mushrooms, thyme and sage. Cover and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Weekly Winner – Dogs and Quiches

For my second installment of “the best thing I made this week” I present our Valentine’s Dinner.  First off, an explanation.  You see, I am a long-time fanatic of The Westminster Dog Show.  If you share my love of this annual spectacle, you will know that it is always over Valentine’s Day.  Put that together with the fact that I can think of nothing worse than fighting all the crowds and other couples for a table at a local restaurant and you will see why we always have Valentine’s Dinner in.

So this year I turned to my food bible, Dorie Greenspan‘s “Around My French Table” and prepared her Spinach & Bacon Quiche. Oh. My.  This is not your typical, puffy, mile-high eggy quiche.  This is a simple, rustic and concentrated slice of heavenly goodness. It is the perfect example of less being more:  not a lot of ingredients but what there is melds perfectly.  This quiche and a bottle of bubbly and I was so very happy.  That is until that incredibly worthless excuse of a dog, the Pekingese won Best in Show!  Sheesh, really!?  That’s not a dog, that’s something The World’s Dorkiest Cat occassionally coughs up!

Anyway, I digress… here is the recipe for the fabulous quiche.  I realize the picture could be better, but I forgot to photograph the fresh-out-of-the-oven quiche and this was the last remaining slice the morning after (which I happily enjoyed for breakfast after my workout!)

Ingredients:

1- 9 to 9 1/2 inch tart shell (I made Dorie’s recipe from scratch, but I’m sure a pre-made one would work fine)

10 ounces of ready-to-use baby spinach (or about 1 1/4 pounds regular spinach, trimmed and washed)

4 strips of bacon

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

salt and pepper for taste

2 large eggs

2/3 cup of heavy cream

1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan

Preparation:

Center a rack in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the tart shell on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper after partially cooking the crust.

To cook the spinach, fit a steamer basket into a large pot. Pour in enough water to come almost up to the steamer. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the spinach, cover, and steam just until soft and thoroughly wilted, about 4 minutes. remove the spinach, drain and run under to cool it and set the color.

When the spinach is cool enough not to burn your hands, squeeze it between your palms and get out as much moisture as you can; do this in batches, so you can squeeze harder. Put the clumps on a cutting board and coarsely chop or thinly slice the spinach.

Put the bacon in a skillet, place the skillet over medium heat and cook, turning occasionally, until the bacon is crisp on both sides. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, and pat it dry (set the pan aside). Cut the bacon crosswise into thin strips.

Drain off all but one tablespoon of fat from the skillet, return the skillet to medium heat, and toss in the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft but not at all colored, about 5 minutes; remove from the heat.

Add the bacon and spinach bits to the pan, toss to blend and add a little more salt and a few generous grindings of pepper.

Turn the spinach bacon mixture into the crust, spreading it as evenly as possible. Whisk the eggs and cream together until well blended and pour into the tart shell, giving the custard a minute to seep around the spinach and settle in. Sprinkle the top of the quiche with the Parmesan cheese.

Carefully slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the filling is uniformly puffed (wait for the center to puff), browned and set. Transfer the quiche to a colling rack, remove the sides of the pan and allow it to cool and gather itself for at least 5 minutes or so before serving.