Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Dinner with Dad

Apple & Crisp Topping

We had another houseguest again this week – my dad, who was here for a business conference.  All too excited to have the chance to cook for him, I made one of his favorites - beef short ribs.  And I whipped up some other great stuff too.  Check it out…

Fall Salad of Pears, Toasted Hazelnuts & Goat Cheese
Merlot-Braised Beef Short Ribs
   Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Carrots & Parsnips
Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

This delicious salad was just bursting with all sorts of goodness – sweet slivers of sliced shallots, toasted hazelnuts, golden raisins (I know, I’ve been using these like crazy lately, just can’t quite resist ‘em), billowy cloud-like clumps of goat cheese, thin slices of crisp pears. 

Fall Salad

Whenever I think up new salads, I follow one rule of thumb – pick a fruit, pick a nut and pick a cheese.  Toss these together with some fresh greens and a quick vinaigrette, and you’ve got yourself once heck of a salad.  In mathematical terms, S = F + N + C + G + V.   S is for salad of course, and then sub in any kind of fruit for F, any kind of nut for N, and well you get the idea,  any kind of cheese, greens and vinaigrette too.  Have fun mixing and matching the flavors. There are infinite tasty combinations.  And it works every time, certainly did this night. Of 
course, I improvised a little bit too, adding a second fruit and the shallots.  But that’s the fun of it.  It’s no set-in-stone rule, just a springboard for a great, tasty salad.  Hope you try it out!

Beef Short Ribs, Salt, Pepper

Wow oh wow, short ribs.  This has got to be the most incredible cut of meat ever.  Way different from the long slabs of grilled BBQ pork ribs, these hulking, meaty ribs of beef are so enormous, just one is enough for a huge and hearty meal.  A little short rib 101:  like any other cut of meat with a lot of connective tissue, short ribs are best cooked by braising, that is, cooked for a long time over low heat, and in a liquid.  Kind of like a stew, except we’re hardly talking about little cubes of meat.  We talking about these beefy giants of deliciousness.  Anyways, braising these guys for a loooong time at the barest of simmers breaks down all that connective tissue, melting it into a smooth gelatin, and turning the meat incredibly tender. 

Braised Short Rib with Rosemary Mashed Potatoes & Roasted Carrots

There are countless possible spins on braised short ribs, and I’m sure I’ll sneak in at least one or two other twists before the end of the year, but tonight I stuck with a pretty traditional recipe.  Deeply browned onions and carrots and garlic, caramelized tomato paste, a fresh sprig of rosemary, a single bay leaf, a couple cups of beef stock and a bottle of red wine.  It’s as classic as it gets.  And it hardly gets any better than that.  The rich, dark sauce was intensely flavorful, so huge in taste and full of complexity, yet so purely true to the essence of the beef.  Taking nothing away from the meat itself, this incredible sauce simply enhanced it. 

Russet Potatoes

I stayed simple with the sides too.  Whipped russet potatoes, so velvety smooth and silkily creamy, with just the barest hint of rosemary.  Infused into the cream, the rosemary flavor was anything but obvious.  A bit mysterious even, hiding just at the edge of perceptible taste.  It had Ben and Dad asking “what is that extra something?”  And that’s just the effect I was after!

Carrots & Parsnips

The idea for these roasted carrots and parsnips came straight out of the Cook’s Illustrated magazine that arrive in our mailbox that morning.  Tossed with melted butter, then roasted in the oven, these beautiful baby root vegetable turned so tender and sweet, they seems like butter themselves.  I know I’m going to be making this gorgeous side all fall and winter long.  It’s just too easy.  And way too delicious.

Apples with Cinnamon & Sugar

And for dessert, apple crisp.   To me there is nothing quite as delicious as warm apple crisp with a cold scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Nothing at all.  I do think it’s my all-time favorite dessert.  And this is my all-time favorite apple crisp recipe.  The apple filling is tart but sweet, and the crisp topping is rich and buttery, crisp and crunchy on top, but chewy and caramely at the edges.  Oh, it’s absolutely divine, every single bite.  And I’m not the only one who thought so.  As I handed out pretty generously-sized servings of ice cream-topped crisp, Dad said I gave him too big a portion.  But he dug in anyways, and then he helped himself to not one but two more bowlfuls!  I think that says it all.  And I think you should try a bowlful or two (or three) yourself, and right away!  Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream!

Buttery, Crispy Goodness

Fall Salad of Pears, Toasted Hazelnuts & Goat Cheese
Serves  4
Fall Salad of Pears, Hazelnuts, Shallots, Golden Raisins & Goat Cheese
For the vinaigrette:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbl apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
1 large pinch ground cinnamon
1 tsp dark brown sugar
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbl vegetable oil
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the rest of the salad:
mixed greens (such as baby spinach, butter lettuce or radicchio), torn into
    bite-sized pieces, enough for four people
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
about 1/3 cup golden raisins
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
about 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
2 Bartlett pears, cored and thinly sliced
Make the vinaigrette: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, thyme, garlic, cinnamon, brown sugar, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Whisk together the ingredients, and slowly pour in the olive oil, then the vegetable oil, both in a thin stream, whisking as you pour.  The dressing can be made ahead and stored about five days, refrigerated in an airtight container.
Toast the hazelnuts: Spread the raw hazelnuts on a parchment-lined sheet tray and roast in a 350°F oven until toasted and aromatic, about fifteen minutes or so, rotating the pan about half-way through.  Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.  Removing the skins can be a real hassle, so just try your best – I like a bit of skin left on anyways.  Here’s a handy trick through.  Take a handful of cool, toasted hazelnuts and, holding them over the colander bowl of a salad spinner, rub them between your hands to remove as much of the skin as possible.  Place in the colander, then repeat with the rest of the nuts, Give the salad spinner a few spins and the papery skins will separate out from the nuts.  Discard the skins.

Assemble the salad: Combine the greens, and most of the sliced shallots, raisins, goat cheese, hazelnuts and sliced pears in a large bowl. (I say most because you’ll want to keep a little bit left over to top the salads. It’s always nice to have some of the pretty stuff right on top.) Drizzle a bit of the vinaigrette on top, enough to evenly but thinly coat the greens. (You definitely won’t not need to use it all – Save the rest for another salad.)  Season with a good pinch of salt and a few good grinds of pepper. Toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

Merlot-Braised Beef Short Ribs
Serves 4
  Braised Short Ribs
1 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
4 large beef short ribs (about 2 pounds total)
2 Tbl plus 1 Tbl butter, divided
1 large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp tomato paste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 bottle Merlot
2 cups beef broth
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat a large, wide-bottomed pot over high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the olive oil, reduce the heat to medium-high, and heat for 1 minute longer.  Meanwhile, pat the short ribs dry with paper towels.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Add the short ribs to the pot in a single layer and sauté, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the ribs to a plate and reserve.  Wipe out the inside of the pot with paper towels, then return to medium-high heat. 
Melt 2 Tbl butter in the pot, then add the chopped onions.  Season with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper, then sauté over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 6-8 minutes.  Add the chopped carrot and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until well browned also, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, 1 minute longer.  Add the tomato paste sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the rosemary sprig, bay leaf and wine.  Bring to a boil, and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add the beef broth, and return the short ribs and any of their accumulated juices to the pot, arranging them in a single layer.  Bring to a simmer, then cover.  Braise at the barest of simmers until the ribs are very tender and the meat has pulled away from the bone, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Transfer the ribs with tongs to a clean plate. Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve, and discard the solids.  Spoon as much fat as possible from the top of the liquid.  Discard the fat.  Transfer the braising liquid to a smaller pot and place, uncovered, over medium-high heat.  Keep at a strong simmer until the sauce is reduced to about 2 cups and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes (but that is just a rough estimate – this time can vary greatly).  Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and stir until melted.  Taste the sauce and season as needed with salt and pepper. 
When ready to serve, transfer the short ribs to the pot, and spoon the sauce over the ribs.  Cover and re-heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until hot.  Serve hot.
The short ribs and sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated in an air-tight container.  Reheat over low heat in a covered pot before serving. 
Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
Serves  4
Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp rosemary, very finely chopped
3/4 stick (6Tbl) butter, cut into small pieces
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Rinse the potatoes in cool water.  Peel the potatoes, then cut into medium-sized chunks.  Add to a pot of boiling salted water and cook until tender. 
Meanwhile, combine the cream and rosemary in a small pot.  Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat.  Set aside, allowing the rosemary to steep in the cream. 
When the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander, then press the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer set over a large mixing bowl.  Fold the butter into the riced potatoes.  Strain the cream mixture through a fine mesh sieve, and discard the rosemary.  Add the cream to the riced potatoes.  Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Mix gently to combine.  Serve hot.
Roasted Carrots & Parsnips
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated Magazine, November & December 2010 Issue
Serves  4
Roasted Carrots
1 # carrots, preferably baby carrots
1/2 # parsnips, preferably baby parsnips
2 Tbl butter, melted
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle position.
Peel the carrots and parsnips.  If using larger vegetables, slice them in half cross-wise, then slice length-wise as needed to create evenly-sized pieces. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine the carrots and parsnips with the melted butter. Season generously with salt and pepper, then toss to combine.  Transfer the carrots to a foil-lined baking pan, spreading them in an even single layer.  Cover the pan tightly with foil.
Roast for 15 minutes, then remove the foil.  Stir the carrots & parsnips in the pan, then return to the oven.  Roast uncovered for 10 minutes longer, then stir the carrots and parsnips again.  Roast again for 10 minutes longer, or for as long as needed until the vegetables are well browned and tender, stirring every 10 minutes.  Serve hot.  
Apple Crisp
Serves  8
 Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
For the topping:
1 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats *
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed to just combine the ingredients.  Add the butter and mix on medium speed until the mixture begins to resemble coarse wet crumbs.  (The mixture should hold together loosely if you squeeze it in your hand, but should still easily crumble apart.  If you mix it for too long, the ingredients will become too thoroughly incorporated, and the mixture will turn dense like cookie dough, so don’t get carried away.)  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.  This topping can be stored for 2 days.

For the filling:
4 large Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
4 large Fuji Apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 Tbl lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
large pinch cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Butter a 9x13 inch glass baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, stir to combine the sliced apples with the lemon juice.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and stir to evenly coat.  Transfer the fruit to the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the topping over the filling.  There’s a trick to doing this:  Grab a handful of the topping and gently squeeze to make it somewhat stick together, then crumble this mass into coarse pieces, spreading the crumbs evenly over the filling.  Bake until the fruit is tender and the crisp topping is golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Cool about 20 minutes, then serve topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

* By ‘old fashioned oats’ I mean oats that aren’t instant oats.  I also don’t mean stone-cut oats.  Definitely not those.  Old fashion oats will look a lot like the flat, flaky instant oats, but are a little more substantial.  I like the brand Bob’s Red Mill, which is pretty easy to find in most good grocery stores.  But I don’t think the regular old Quaker Oats brand could be too bad either.


  1. Kate...I make Apple crisp with raspberries in it. Its so delicious...would be a good add to your recipe. I want to try it with the oats, as mine doesn't call for them. Josh can't wait for me to try my hand at braised short ribs.

  2. I have a ghetto chopper recipe modification question. I invited a friend over to try the merlot braised short ribs and the only ribs on the bone they had looked like beef pinkies... not so fit to be a meal. So I opted for more meat off the bone (the only other option). What kind of cooking modifications should I make for the off bone meat? Less cooking time?

    I wish my ribs were braised in merlot.

  3. Dana - Raspberries would be a great addition to this crisp! I'll definitely try that out soon! And once you give it a try, let me know what you think about adding the oats. I think you'll dig it!

    Katie - Good choice, opting out on those pinkie-sized ribs. Who wants tiny short ribs?! Now this off-the-bone meat... Are these short ribs? Or another cut of beef? If so, what cut? As long as you're using a cut of beef that's good for stewing/braising, your method and cooking time should be about the same, regardless of bone or no bone. It usually the less tender, cheaper cuts of meat that work best, and ironically become most tender with braising. Hope this helped! Let me know if you have any more questions, but I bet you're alright for now :).

  4. looks amazing! im a fan of fresh oats in desserts as well-
    where do u buy your veggies from? they look super fresh- do know a place that has more affordable cuts of meat and veggies that are this fresh?!

  5. Oh, Jenn! Thanks!

    There are three places I like to get my vegetables in the Chicago area: Stanley's on North (which is way inexpensive, and great for most things, but not everything - I rarely get grapes or berries there), Whole Foods (which is on the pricey end, but great for specialty produce, and has the best quality all around) and Strack & Van Til on Elston just across from Target (which is very reasonable, and has really great quality produce).

    For meats, I trust Strack & Van Til above Jewell or Dominicks. It's a wonderful grocery store! Also Costco always surprises me with their great quality meats. Both are relatively inexpensive places for meat. And also Whole Foods is a great meat place (but still pricey).

    Hope to bumb into you in the aisles!