Archive | February, 2010

PMAT Live! Episode 3a: “Doin’ the Pretzel Twist”

23 Feb

One of my jobs at the restaurant was to be the Pretzel Lady.  No, I didn’t just open a bag of Rold Gold and be done with it, thank you.  Smart aleck.  No, I made chewy bread pretzels and baked them every day.  They were Awesome, if I do say so myself.

We based our formula on Alton Brown’s pretzel recipe and fancied ours up with a sprinkle of sel gris and some Crazy Good Taleggio-Porter Fondue for dipping.  We used to hope that there would be one or two left over at the end of service so we could Eat Them.

If you’re interested in the Full Set of Rules for making pretzels, check out my guest post over at Reluctant Gourmet.  The recipe for the fondue is over there, too.

And now, without further ado, here is Episode 3a of PMAT Live:  Doin’ the Pretzel Twist.  As you’ve prolly guessed, this video is mostly about twisting the pretzels, but you’ll also see me scaling the dough.  And you’ll meet the newest member of the PMAT Live! Team–Monte, the stereo microphone.  As well, I found some Pretty Keen music, and I’m trying to Hone my Editing Skills.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Sunday Suppers (Monday Morning Edition): Fish-N-Chips–So Good They’ll Make You Drop Your Aitches and Break Out Your Best Rhyming Slang.

22 Feb
fish and chips recipe

'Ello, me loverlies.

So, from what I understand, it’s Lent.  Somehow I forgot about Fat Tuesday altogether, and I didn’t get soot smooshed on my forehead on Ash Wednesday.  I don’t give up anything for Lent, mainly because I am Pious and Holy all year long and spend a lot of time Denying Myself Items I Want.  But for some reason, this year I have fixated on Fish on Friday.

I don’t even like seafood.  Honest.  One time I took The Beloved away for a Surprise Birthday Weekend à la plage, and for dinner he ordered some sort of Witch’s Cauldron full of Ominously Bubbling Stuff with tentacles and claws and What Not hanging out of it.  I had to Look Away and try to concentrate on my blackened chicken pasta.  That’s pretty much the only alternative to seafood at a seafood restaurant, unless you want to go the Kiddie Menu route, and I can no longer pass for 12.

So it was truly out of character for me to pipe up with, “Hey, how’s about some fish-n-chips for dinner on Friday?”  The Beloved’s mouth fell open a bit, but as he rarely gets seafood at home he quickly agreed.  So, we snagged 12 ounces of flash-frozen cod fillets and tossed them in our freezer until Wednesday evening, when I decided that I prolly needed to thaw them out before deep frying them.

Now, where does a fish disliker (hate is too strong a word) like me go to learn how to make fish-n-chips?  Why, Alton Brown, of course.  I looked at his recipe for a general idea of proportions and for his specific beer recommendation (brown ale) for the batter.  And then, I left it up to The Beloved to come up with the seasonings.  Here’s what we ended up with:

Beloved’s Beer Batter

  • 6.5 oz flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Old Bay, onion powder and garlic powder, to taste
  • Some Penzeys 4S–the Spicy Kind
  • a 12 oz bottle of brown ale (we used Brooklyn Brown Ale)

Whisk all dry ingredients together.  Pour in the beer, and whisk until the batter is Pretty Smooth.  Because of the dark beer, it will be an ugly color, but just go with it.  I promise it will all turn out Okay.

Let the batter sit in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before using.

For the fish

  • some corn starch
  • seasoning of your choice
  • at least 3 quarts of peanut oil.  You could use another kind, but it’s what we had that was Suitable for Deep Frying, so it’s what we used.

Take your fresh or thawed fillets and pat them dry.  Very Very Dry.  Sprinkle with the seasonings of your choice (we used some more Spicy 4S), and then dredge lightly in corn starch before dunking them in the batter and carefully placing them in the hot oil.

For the Chips (Fries)

  • 2 Big Ass floury baking potatoes–we were amazed at how big they were, and we just had to have them
  • The aforementioned oil
  • whatever sort of salty seasoning you prefer.  We used a mixture of 4S and fine sea salt.

We pretty much followed Alton’s rules for dipping the fish and frying them.  We also did the two-stage fry for the potatoes.  The first at 325F to blanch and the second at 375 to brown and crisp them up.

If you don’t want to go look at his rules, Alton says to make the fries first and hold them in a 200F oven while you’re dipping and frying your fish.  That’s what we did.  We mixed up the beer batter before we made the fries, so it probably was in the fridge for closer to 30-45 minutes.  It was Extremely Thick when we took it out to use.  I think next time we’ll reduce the flour to 6.5 oz.  I have used that measurement up there in the batter ingredients.  If you think you’ll use it within 15 minutes, go ahead and use a full 9 oz of flour.  Of course either way it’s up to you.  I’m just trying to present you with all your Options.

beer battered cod

'Ello, beer battered and fried cod.

After the two-stage (325F/375F) chips/fries fry, we fried the fish at 350F.  I think ours took us between 5-7 minutes to cook, but I’m not really sure.  Besides, yours could take longer.  Just keep an eye on it and take it to a lovely deep golden brown.  Maybe even a little deeper than you think you should.

homemade seasoned French fries

Cor Blimey, but them whips are beauties!

We served ours with malt vinegar, and I even made Jaunty Newspaper Cones for the fries.*  Sometimes I fear that Martha is trying to Possess Me.

Anyway, take it from me–even if you are not a fish person, you will at least be pleasantly surprised by these guys.  The fish was juicy and perfect and plump; the batter was crisp and deeply golden brown; the chips were very potatoey and fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside.  All in all, it were a Fine Meal Indeed.  One that’ll make yer Minces light up an’ get yerself to the Aunt Mabel as fast as yer Scotches can carry ya t’ shove them in yer Boat an’ take a big bite wif your Hampsteads.   A Simply ‘Eavenly Meal, innit?  I Turtle Doves ye, I duz, Lillian-n-Jocks.**

eating fish and chips

The penultimate bite.

homemade fish and chips

'Appy, 'appy 'usband.

*from The Funny Times.  We read it first before we made cones out of it.  Thanks to lovely Neighbor Roberta for hooking us up with FT.

**Fanks to Cockney Rhyming Slang for the translation.

My Must-Have Treat After Being Killed in the Park Multiple Times by Multiple Imaginary Creatures

20 Feb
mocha pudding

I meant to put some coffee beans artfully atop the creamy goodness. Please just pretend that they're there. Thank you.

First, I’m not really dead.  But I was killed yesterday–many, many times–by an 8-year-old with an Incredible Imagination.  His mother, lovely Neighbor Roberta, invited me to go to the park with them yesterday, and I, without realizing what this Outing would Entail, said yes.  It turns out that “going to the park” is a euphemism in their family for “getting killed by the creatures of Jackson’s imagination.”

First, he said he would protect us, and then he’d turn into any one of a number of Terrible Imaginary Creatures–Toofurs and Nodurs are the ones I remember–and Harm Us with pine cone hand grenades, stick swords, energy beams of various sorts and plain old ripping out of throats.  Every once in awhile, Jackson would emerge to say he really would keep us safe, and then he’d become some other Bloodthirsty Creature who wanted nothing more than to Eat Us.  It was kind of like going to the park with Sybil.

In a good way, mind you.  It was very cool to be around a kid with an incredible imagination.  It was also Rather Exhausting.  What with all the fresh air and killing and running and searching for Rings of Fate and The Book of Mysteries, not to mention the grenade throwing, Miss Jenni was surely in need of a nap before it was all over.  As soon as I got home, I grabbed myself a bowl of pudding and then curled up on the couch to nod off to Jurassic Park.  A lovely way to recover, indeed.

After the Park Mocha Pudding (based on Brenda’s Chocolate Pudding from Gooey Desserts)
This doubles nicely, so if you are in need of Lots of Pudding, go for it.

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 oz granulated sugar
  • 3 oz brown sugar
  • 1 oz flour
  • 3 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder (rounded as much as you like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup very strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 oz. unsalted butter

Now, the Actual Rules say that you should temper the boiling starch-thickened mixture into the eggs, but I wanted to make One Bowl Pudding.  Plus, I knew that the starch in the flour would Impede Curdling of the eggs, so I whisked everything together except the vanilla and butter over high-ish heat until it thickened and came to a boil.  Then, I poured it through a fine strainer into a bowl (that’s the One Bowl I was talking about) containing the vanilla and butter.

If you’re going to cheat like I did, make sure you whisk madly the entire time you’re heating your mixture.  Mine frothed up and was quite poufy and creamy.  Whisk and whisk.  When it’s thick enough and Ready to Pour, you’ll know because all the whisked up bubbles will magically go away.  Do make sure you let it boil for at least 10 seconds or so to cook out the raw starch taste of the flour.  As long as you are whisking madly and then immediately pour the Molten Pudding through a strainer, you shouldn’t have any Curdling Issues.

Once you get all of your ingredients (minus the butter and vanilla) mixed up, taste it for seasoning and add more salt if you need to.  If you don’t find it Coffee-ish enough, add in a bit of powdered espresso or some coffee extract, if you can find some.  Trablit is an excellent one that we used to use at the restaurant.  It’s pretty expensive, but it lasts a long time ’cause you get a whole liter.

Oh–that topping?  I made it Specially to top the last bit of pudding that I had Selflessly Saved for The Beloved.  It’s just some sour cream whisked together with some sugar and a pinch of salt.  Let it sit for a few minutes so all the sugar dissolves, whisk it again, and then top whatever with it.  Very easy and very tasty.  Plus, the tang of the sour cream cuts the richness of the pudding a bit.

sour cream topping for mocha pudding

Yes, it is Girl Scout Cookie Time. For those of you not In the Know, that's a Caramel D'Lite (formerly "Samoas") and Thin Mint Cookies which aren't as good as they used to be, but still aren't bad at all.

I would have shared with Jackson, but I don’t think he’d like it.  He pretty much only likes Chicken Nuggets.

PMAT Live! Episode 2b: The Way to Weigh, Part Deux

16 Feb

Here’s part two of my sweeping epic, The Way to Weigh.  I’m thinking about entering it in a film festival.  What do you think?

My next video will have Excellent Sound, courtesy of my new friend Monte, the stereo microphone.  He flew in a few days ago, and we have been getting acquainted.  Emmet, my wee tripod, is quite taken with him, and I consider that a Good Sign.  We three shall make an Awesome Team.

Due to Popular Demand, the next video will be about making bread pretzels.  As always, let me know if you guys have any ideas for Topics.

And that’s all I have the Strength for right now–it took like Eleventy Billion hours to upload the video, but I did it in HD because I love you and I care about your eyesight.  You’re welcome.  Anyway, that’s why I’m posting this while simultaneously watching the Top 24 Episode of American Idol.  I’m having a hard time dredging up some Care for these people, but I am trying.  I mean, after all, this is what they have to live up to:
Case closed.  Good luck, Season 9…

Sunday Suppers, Valentine’s Sunday/Early Monday Edition: Spicy Beef Enchiladas with Pepper Jack Mornay Sauce (Con-Fusion Cuisine) and a Play-by-Play of Our Valentine’s Dinner

15 Feb

I am torn.  Should I first taunt you with a Valentine’s Meal Extraordinaire that The Beloved and I got to enjoy and you didn’t (although you were all There in Spirit, I can assure you), or should I begin with the cheesy-homey-this-is-what’s-in-the-house-what-can-I-make-with-it dish?  Decisions, decisions.  I think I shall go with the latter, since this is a Sunday Suppers post.  If you care about our Valentine’s Dinner Extravaganza, you can keep reading.  If not, stop.  If you just want to hear about the Valentine’s Meal, skip ahead.  I strive to Accommodate Everyone.spicy beef enchilada recipe

So, I bought some weird steak-type stuff the other day.  I honestly don’t know what cut it was, but it had long muscle fibers a la flank steak, ‘cept it didn’t cost as much.  I purchased about a pound and a half, and used half for this meal and am saving half for a vague vision of peanut buttery/orangy/beefy stir fry.  We’ll see what happens.

I also came across some Ro-Tel that was supposedly seasoned for chili.  Now, I’m not Overly Keen on convenience products, but I generally make an exception for Ro-Tel.  For those of you not In the Know, Ro-Tel is basically diced tomatoes and green chiles living together in a yellow can.  It comes in mild, spicy, chunky and the One I fell for:  seasoned for chili.  Other than a mention of a Calcium Chloride (billed suspiciously as a “firming agent”) towards the end of the ingredient list, the rest of the ingredients are pretty straightforward.  Plus, it’s called Ro-Tel, but on the can the Ro and the Tel are smartly separated by a red star.  I like that.  See for yourself.

So, here’s what I did.  As usual, please don’t get caught up in a “recipe” for this–think of it as a technique and just use whatever ingredients you have on hand that sound good.

La Technique
Brown meat.
Cook aromatics and season.
Add some liquid-type stuff.
Add some creaminess.
Roll filling up in tortillas and slap them in a baking dish.

Make a mornay-type sauce, thusly:
make a seasoned roux
pour in milk and bring to a boil.  Reduce to desired thickness.
Off the heat, stir in shredded cheese, a bit at a time.
Taste for seasonings

Pour sauce over rolled tortillas
Bake Until Bubbly and Golden Brown
Plate and put in face

Now that you know the technique, here’s my list of ingredients:

  • about 3/4 pounds mystery steak, cut into wee pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • salt, pepper, cumin and chile powder
  • 1 can of Ro Star Tel for Chili (that was the liquidy ingredient)
  • 2 Tablespoons cream cheese
  • 8 8″ whole wheat flour tortillas (use any kind you like)

For the mornay:

  • equal parts flour and vegetable oil–maybe 2 Tablespoons each
  • salt, pepper, cumin, hot sauce
  • about 1 1/2-2 cups whole milk
  • shredded pepper jack cheese (plus a little cheddar thrown in for good measure)

Make and assemble according to La Technique.  Perhaps it should be Les Techniques…

Anyway, bake at 375 for about 1/2 hour or so, until things are nice and bubbly and golden brown and lovely.spicy beef enchilada recipe

enchiladasI served these with some jarred hot salsa and some sour cream.  You can serve yours however you wish, of course.

I think next time I’ll make them with pork, tomatillos and cilantro.  Maybe I’ll make a traditional enchilada sauce, which is basically just  dried-then-reconstituted chiles pureed in broth, stock or water.  Who knows.

The vague inspiration for this dish was actually from a “creamy chicken enchilada” thing my friend Debbie used to make back in the late ’80s.  It called for cream of chicken soup.  I must admit, I used to like how creamy that dish was–that’s why I added a shot of cream cheese to this.  And it was very good.  Yeah, maybe not traditional–I made a type of French mother sauce for the topping for goodness’ sake, but I was able to turn 12 oz. of meat into a filling meal for four, or even 5-6, if there are children involved.  You could always cut down on the fat some by topping the whole thing with enchilada sauce or salsa verde or even regular old salsa or picante sauce as opposed to the mornay.

Okay, so that’s that.  And now, onto the Valentine’s Dinner Extravaganza.  The Beloved got us reservations at J. Betski’s, a wonderful upscale German/Austrian restaurant in Raleigh.  No buxom Frauleins with braids slinging mugs of lager here, folks–this is white tablecloth all the way, and their Valentine’s Price Fixe Menu did not disappoint.

Bread Service:  thinly sliced sour rye bread with whipped salted butter

Amuse-Bouche:  chicken liver mousse crostini with lingonberry jam and pumpkin seed oil

Me:  Beef Cheek Pierogis with red wine reduction, sauteed mushrooms and a touch of sour cream; Venison Shank Goulash with braised red cabbage and a dumpling; Sachertorte

The Beloved:  Oysters with fennel sauerkraut, bacon cream and Emmenthaler; Sirloin steak (medium-rare) with limburger butter, caramelized onions and spaetzle; cherry and cheese strudel

We also enjoyed a fabulous bottle of Austrian pinot noir with our meal.  With dessert, we had Special Coffee.  Mine had Vanilla Stoli, Godiva liqueur and something-else-that-I-can’t-remember.  His contained Bailey’s, Frangelico and something-else-that-I-can’t-remember.

The meal was Ridiculously Good.  The highlights were the texturally complex chicken liver mousse, my Beef Cheek pierogis (which was the whole reason I chose J. Betski’s in the first place.  I mean, they’re pierogis.  Filled with minced beef cheek.  Awesomely Delicious), The Beloved’s steak-the limburger butter/caramelized onion pungent/sweet combination was Excellent, and the Sachertorte, which was as traditional in components and flavors as a Sachertorte made in Raleigh, NC could be.

I was focused on dessert, of course, so I don’t have any dinner pix, but just feast your eyes on the loveliness:J Betski's sachertorte

Traditional bitter glaze and chocolate torte made with nut flour–pretty authentic, and very good.

Strudel from J Betski's

And they even hand stretch their strudel dough!  The wee crunchy looking things are the toasted bread crumbs that they sprinkle on the buttered dough before rolling it up.

cherry cheese strudel from J. Betski'sThe cherries were juicy and flavorful.  I could’ve done without the cheese part, actually.  Not that it wasn’t good; it just made it a bit heavy for the end of a big meal.  Plus, I wanted more cherry.

dessert coffee from J Betski'sAnd that’s that.  I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day, or Anti-Valentine’s Day, depending on your Point of View.  See you later.

PMAT Live! Episode 2a: The Way to Weigh, or Why and How You Should Use a Kitchen Scale

9 Feb

Video is an amazing thing.  It catches a snapshot in time.  A moving snapshot, but a snapshot nonetheless.  In the case of this Particular Snapshot, it captures me in a more innocent state than I am At Present.  Trying to edit it over the past couple of days, I kept shaking my head at that Naive Me looking back at me from a time of innocence.  Long ago and far away.  Last Wednesday, to be exact.

You see, between the blissfully innocent filming and Right This Very Second, The Beloved and I have entered the wonderful world of Kitten Fostering.  You know, where you take care of one or two wee kittens or cats until they can find a new home.  It sounded like such a High Calling.  It was a way to indulge our kitty love without becoming the Crazy Cat People who own a billion cats.  We could still have our own cats and then serve as a Compassionate Way Station for one or two other needy kittens.  In essence, we wanted to Have Our Cake and Eat it Too.

I will forgo the spirit breaking Play by Play and fast forward to the present.  I’ve been spending my time cleaning up diarrhea and vomit of Linda Blair proportions.  It’s really rather impressive, if you don’t have a sense of smell.  We’re shoving white and yellow liquid medicines down their little throats and keeping them far away from our guys.  To keep them from catching Communicable Diseases.  Between the sneezing and the snobbling and the round worms, I sit at this keyboard a newly humbled Online Pastry Chef.  A chastened and solemn ghost of my former self.

Friends, I am here to tell you, and I think The Beloved would concur, that it is Not Possible to Have One’s Cake and Eat It Too.  Heed my warning.

Oh, and did I mention that these wee kittens–who are very sweet, if prolific eliminators, by the way–were supposedly spayed/neutered by their former owners.  But guess what?  Sweet Alice is Preggers. As I refuse to believe that owners who would surrender their pets to a Kill Shelter would ever tell an Untruth, I can only conclude that Alice’s case is the first documented case of Immaculate Feline Conception in the history of the world.   Maybe our Cake will come in the form of 15 minutes of fame courtesy of The Star or The National Enquirer, alongside a picture of a pancake bearing the likeness of the Blessed Virgin herself and a potato chip that looks just like Richard M. Nixon.

At any rate, let’s leave that rather unpleasant subject behind us.  It’s time for Episode 2A of PMAT Live!  As promised, it’s all about using a kitchen scale.  There’s a piece about the fabled tare function and some Illuminating Demonstrations.  I hope you find it helpful.  I’ll be posting part 2B in another few days.  That’s it for now.

You technical people, or helpful people in general, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  And as always, you can submit your topic suggestions in the comments section or through email to onlinepastrychef at yahoo dot com.

If You Think Pound Cake is “Too Vanilla,” Have I Got a Cake for You.

5 Feb
chocolate pound cake

Have some dignity, people. I can see you drooling from here.

If you watched Ye Olde Premiere Episode of PMAT Live, you know that my mom is famous for her chocolate pound cake.  If you haven’t watched it, you know now.  Anyway, just to give you an idea of how Beloved this pound cake is, consider the case of Aunt Charlotte.  We aren’t related by blood, but like Auntie Ev, Uncle Ray and Auntie ‘Leenie, we are relatives of the heart.  Her birthday is on December 31, and every year my mom bakes her a chocolate pound cake.  She’s been doing this for Decades.  Even so, Aunt Charlotte will Drop Hints starting in October, just to make sure that mom Won’t Forget.

Aunt Charlotte is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.  She is a dear, dear woman and would (and does) do anything for anyone.  She is practically a saint.  The one facet of her Make Up, aside from her still being alive, that keeps her from being canonized is her Very Selfish Streak when it comes to mom’s chocolate pound cake.  She is very proud of the fact that she can hoard each cake for weeks.  If a neighbor or family member is lucky enough to be offered a piece, she makes certain that it is so thin that you can read through it.  I know this because this near-sainted woman actually brags to my mom about how thin she can cut the cake when forced to share.  Any cake that can turn an otherwise generous and loving woman into Mrs. Scrooge is One Powerful Baked Good.

This is the very cake that I tried, and failed, to make for my friend in college.  This is the cake whose batter is so tasty that my brother and I were thrilled that mom’s Bundt pan wouldn’t hold all of it, so we could eat it like pudding.  This is the batter that, when I bought mom a Big Enough pan, we all mourned for ourselves, just a little bit.  This is the cake that I decided to make for Friend Susan’s birthday during the Great Blizzard of ’10.  Yes, I am Just.  That.  Nice.

So, I called mom, and if you want to hear how the conversation went, I’m afraid you’ll just have to watch the video.  My fingers are tired, and I still have Much to Write.

It turns out that the Basic Ingredients for the Magical and Storied chocolate pound cake are almost identical, both in kind and in quantity, to the ingredients for any iteration of my Famous-in-my-own-mind Van Halen Pound Cake.  I did do some tweaking.  I mean, did you really think that I could just Leave It Alone?  No, I didn’t think so.  I immediately quadrupled the salt, increased the baking powder by a smidge, added a bit of soda to balance out the sour cream that I felt was necessary and added just a hint of heat with a sprinkle of cayenne.

And now, without further Ado, here it is:

Selfish-Making Chocolate Pound Cake

  • 12 oz. butter, soft-ish
  • 6 oz. brown sugar
  • 13 oz. sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • splash o’ vanilla
  • 5 eggs
  • 12 oz. cake flour
  • 2.5 oz cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 oz. half and half
  • 4 oz. sour cream

Make sure that all your refrigerated ingredients are at cool room temperature. Please use The Creaming Method to make this cake.  Edited to include:  Bake at 325F.  It takes about an hour to an hour and ten minutes to bake.  I start checking at 50 minutes and then go from there.

chocolate pound cakeOh, you like that glaze?  Thanks.  The white layer is just my regular old glaze–powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, vanilla and half and half.  After just using the vanilla glaze, I decided that the cake wasn’t Festive Enough for a birthday, so I rummaged around and came up with some chocolate chips.  I melted them along with a wee squirt of corn syrup (for shininess) and some half and half.  Then, being Rather Lazy and not wanting to walk up our Sixteen Steps, I put the glaze in a plastic bag and snipped off a wee corner.

The Beloved and I wandered the cake over on Saturday evening, and we got back a clean plate on Tuesday.  I think it went over Pretty Well.

Yes, we did get to Enjoy a Slice.  Mostly because we said we wouldn’t leave unless they shared.  It was Very, Very good.  A little fudge-y, very chocolate-y and with a tight-ish, meltingly fine crumb.  From Prior Experience, I can tell you that if you can stand to wait, this cake is even better a few days after baking.  It just gets fudgier and fudgier.  Eat it with a tall glass of whole milk.  Come back and tell me all about how it has Changed Your Life and made you Occasionally Selfish.  That way Aunt Charlotte won’t feel so isolated in her Chocolate Pound Cake Scrooge-dom.

Introducing PMAT Live! Episode One, In Which I Blather on About the Video Series’ Purpose. And Roll My Eyes at My Mother. Once.

2 Feb

Well, here it is.  Episode 1 of Season 1 of PMAT Live!  I think I might need to come up with a better name.  What do you guys think?  At any rate, this Particular Video introduces the series, gives you a teaser about the next episode and shamelessly solicits ideas from you, my readers-turned-readers-and-viewers.

I realize my face is in shadow; I’ll have to work on that.  I also apologize for any “ums” and “ahs” and other Verbal Tics that I have in my vast Tic Arsenal.  I’m new to this whole video thing.

Eventually, I will have some keen music, but I need to find some with a PMAT Vibe.

And now, if I haven’t frightened you away, please enjoy my Maiden Voyage into the world of videos.

Sunday Suppers (Monday Edition): Italian-Inspired Braised Short Rib Ragú

1 Feb
This is not mine--I don't have any pictures of the process, actually.  Shocking.  This is pretty similar to the color and texture of mine.  It looks like this person used homemade pappardale.  You certainly could, too, if you want.

This is not mine--I don't have any pictures of the process, actually. Shocking. This is pretty similar to the color and texture of mine. It looks like this person used homemade pappardale. You certainly could, too, if you want.

Photo Credit

Hello, all.  I do hope everyone had a lovely weekend.  We spent ours Snowed In.  The Blizzard of ’10 began on Friday evening and didn’t let up until late Saturday night.  We were prepared, though.  In our kitchen, we had the Means to Create hot cocoa, egg dishes, chocolate pound cake for Lovely Neighbor Susan’s birthday and Short Ribs.  What more could you ask?

I purchased Said Ribs a few weeks ago, and had them nestled in the freezer in the event of Inclement Weather.  When we heard that the Blizzard was going to attack on Friday evening, I stayed one step ahead and cooked the ribs on Thursday evening to eat during the White Out.  This goes completely against my Spur of the Moment Nature, and I cannot explain why I played Against Type in this instance.  Suffice to say, I’m glad that I did.  So was The Beloved (who incidentally is hard at work right down the hall since we are Still Snowed/Iced In).

My initial thought was to make French-inspired short ribs.  I was going to use some Herbes de Provence and go with sort of a Boeuf Bourgignon-type construction, with pearl onions and mushrooms as garnish.  When I consulted the Spice Cabinet, I realized that I don’t own Herbes de Provence.  I also realized that my carrot was bendy like Gumby.  Oops.  That’s more like me, don’t you think?  So, I can’t make a classic French mire poix without a carrot.  I briefly entertained the idea of Asian-inspired ribs, but we had just had the Asian-type chicken wings a few days before, and I didn’t really have enough Asiany ingredients for garnish.

I puzzled and puzzled ’til my puzzler was sore, and decided to go Italian.  So, down came the canned tomatoes, the red wine, the balsamic vinegar and my wonderful Tuscan Sunset from Penzeys Spices.  Here’s the list of ingredients and what I did with them to make Something Incredibly Satisfying:

Italian-inspired Braised Short Rib Ragú
Ragú (from the French ragoût) is just a well-seasoned meat-based sauce usually served with pasta.

  • 4 meaty, meaty beef short ribs (on the bone)
  • olive oil
  • I did not own a big old onion, so I peeled about 15 pearl onions and used them. Use a big onion if you have one.  Or not.
  • 1 large rib of celery, diced
  • 1/2 shallot, minced (yes, that would have been a part of my French flavors, but it was Pressed Into Service for my new idea)
  • some high-quality Italian seasoning.  That Penzeys stuff rocks–I highly recommend it.  It has some fennel in the mix, which is lovely)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (Penzeys expects us to believe that, with their Tuscan Sunset “who needs salt?”  Well, I do.  And so do you).
  • some mushrooms, sliced (I think mine were wee portobello, but use what you like)
  • a cup or so of dry red wine
  • about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • some chicken stock (I made some about two weeks ago.  I used a bunch for chicken and dumplings, and I still had almost a gallon left over.  I reduced it down to a quart for easier storage.  I used about a cup of it, plus about a cup of water).
  • a large can of whole tomatoes, juice and all
  • dried porcini mushrooms (they were here, so I snipped some up with scissors and just dropped them in the pot–I used maybe 3 of them)
  • some sugar

Okay, this is going to sound like a Very Lot of Work, but it’s not so bad.  I put the ribs together, including browning, in under 30 minutes.  Honest.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 225F (or so–anywhere from 210F-250F will be just fine)
  2. Let ribs come up to room temperature.  Pat them dry.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, and sear on all sides in hot olive oil.  Set aside.
  4. Add the onions and celery.  Let them get kind of golden, and then turn down the heat.
  5. Add the shallot (or garlic, if you’d rather) and the fresh mushrooms and cook everything down until dry-ish.
  6. Deglaze pan with wine and vinegar.  Reduce until almost dry.
  7. Add the chicken stock, water (if you’re using it) and tomatoes.
  8. Throw in the Italian seasoning.  Taste and add salt and/or pepper, if necessary.
  9. If it’s tasting at all bitter or weird, correct this with a bit more salt and some sugar.
  10. Snip in the dried mushrooms.
  11. Nestle the seared ribs into the sauce you’ve just built.  Pour in any juices that accumulated under the ribs.
  12. Let everything come up just to a boil, and then cover and let it finish cooking in the oven for at least 1 1/2 hours.  I forgot about ours and ended up letting them go for about 4 hours.  They were just fine, because I was cooking at such a low temperature.
  13. Test the ribs-they should literally fall off the bone and shred very easily with a fork.
  14. Now, cool everything down in the pan.  I ususally take a big old ice pack, put it in a big freezer bag, and put it in the pan to help cool things off quickly.
  15. Once it’s cool-ish (no more than about 110F), remove the ice pack, put the lid back on, and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

Whatever you do, Do Not Remove the Meat and let it cool separately.  If you ever read a recipe that tells you to take the meat out, just ignore that step.  Braised meat must be cooled in its cooking liquid.  If not, as it cools–alone and naked–any liquid that is in them will be squeezed out as the proteins contract.  Then, no matter if you serve them later in a sauce, they will be Dry and Stupid.  Always, always cool braised meat in its cooking liquid so that some of that moisture is trapped in the meat protein structure when everything cools together.    Heed my warning, humans.

  1. The next day, skim off most of the fat.  Leave some of it–some of it is olive oil, anyway.  Plus, keeping some of the fat will add to the overall lip-smackiness of the dish.
  2. Remove the ribs from the sauce, shred the meat and discard the bones and any huge fatty pieces.  The bones have Given Their All for the Cause, so don’t be sad about tossing them.
  3. Set the shredded meat aside and reheat the sauce to a boil.  Let the sauce reduce for a few minutes, just to intensify the flavors.  Taste, and adjust the seasonings.  You might need some salt, pepper and/or sugar.  I even added a touch more balsamic at this point.
  4. Now, take your immersion blender (or use a regular blender) and blend the sauce until it’s smooth.  That’s right–blend all that onion, celery, tomato, mushroom, et al into a thick, smooth sauce.  Or you can leave it a little chunky.  I like the mouthfeel of the thick smooth sauce, though.
  5. Once the sauce is smooth, turn the heat to Pretty Low and add in the shredded meat.  Let the meat warm up while you cook your pasta.
  6. I used a pound of wide egg noodles because I like Egg Noodles.  Other possibilities include rigatoni, farfalle, penne, ziti or any other hearty pasta shapes that will hold a thick sauce.
  7. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it, reserving just a bit of the cooking water.  Put the pasta and water back in the pot and pour on all the sauce.  Add either a healthy splash of olive oil or do what I did–add a couple of tablespoons of butter.
  8. Over high heat, stir everything together, blending the sauce and the pasta well, until the butter is melted and the sauce is velvety.
  9. Serve with bread for mopping up the sauce and a salad, if you want.  We did without the salad because there were so many veggies in the sauce.

The whole vat of ragú and noodles fed us for three meals.  If we had bothered to make Side Dishes, we probably could have stretched it to 4 or even 5 modest portions each.  I generally get tired of leftovers after the second day.  That’s when I tell The Beloved that I don’t want to eat Poison Food and I’d rather eat a pack of ramen noodles.  But this was so good–so rich and flavorful and warming and filling–that I happily ate leftovers not once, but twice.  High praise, indeed.

So, guess what?  My video camera came last Thursday!  I’ll be spending the rest of today trying to put together the Inaugural Episode of PMAT Live!

Have a lovely day, all!

PS  Ever wondered how folks in our neighborhood have fun in the snow?  Well, here you go:

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