Beef it Up

Dinner: November 30, 2010

Dinner last night was two days in the making, Craig Claiborne’s “Boeuf Bourguignon I” from Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cook Book. Mike did the honors, lovingly prepping slices of bacon and Aquidneck Farm chuck, with bits of carrots, onions, shallots, mushrooms, and garlic, layering them in our Le Creuset, then anointing them with Cognac and rich red Burgundy wine. The whole thing cooked over high heat, then low, then it cooled and sat overnight before Mike brought the pot and its contents back up to temperature while I traveled home from work, also preparing some buttered and parsley-ed egg noodles to serve as a base for the rich stew.

We’ve cooked plenty of versions of this dish, but this was pretty spectacular, the meat coming apart in shreds beneath the tines of our forks, the sauce both light and concentrated. Buy the book, go to page 516, and make this dish, preferably a day before you plan to serve it. You’ll be happy you did.

Back and Blue

Dinner: September 1, 2010

Beets for your liver, radicchio for your gut, blueberries for your heart, and bacon and blue cheese for your soul.

(To everyone who reached out to me with words of encouragement and support, thank you. Thank you. I’m finding my way back, slowly.)

No-sweat Cooking, Day 6

Arcadian Fields heirlooms

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

To me, the most important part of a BLT is the tomato – you just can’t have a great sandwich without slices of perfectly ripe summer tomato, fragrant and juicy.

L + T

I’m particularly fond of these “ox heart” tomatoes from our friends at Arcadian Fields, a dense-fleshed heirloom variety with unbelievable flavor.

B

Sure, the bacon’s important too, but half the fun of eating a BLT is getting a little messy, leaning over your plate as you eat, rivulets of tomato juice mingled with mayo running down your fingers with each bite.

Sundried Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Jam

Melissa Clark’s Sweet & Spicy BLT adds another element to that luscious liquor, calling for a swipe of pepper jelly to add a little heat and sweetness. I opted to use a bit of our food52 friend Mrs. Larkin‘s Sundried Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Jam instead, since we had the last of a jar in the fridge, and it was a delicious addition.

Sweet & Spicy BLT

As summer lunches go, it doesn’t get much better, or easier, than this.

Get the recipe: Sweet & Spicy BLT

No-sweat Cooking, Day 4

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray

Pasta with pesto is a favorite this time of year, when fresh basil is so abundant most people can’t keep up with what their gardens are producing, but I have to admit I get bored with it sometimes. Melissa Clark’s no-sweat version has a couple of fun grace notes added in the form of crisp crumbled bacon and creamy ricotta – two additions that make this simple dish sing.

zucchini ribbons

I made a couple of minor changes to the original recipe, using ribbons of zucchini instead of asparagus since that’s what we had on hand, and adding a spritz of lemon juice to the pesto for brightness. The dish came together in minutes and had a wonderful combination of textures and flavors – it was just what I needed after a long day at the office.

Get the recipe: Arugula Pesto Pasta with Ricotta and Bacon

More Fun with Cabbage and Bacon

Cabbage is hardly the sexiest vegetable, but I’ve grown to love it over the last few years. The trick for me was to move beyond the somewhat boring cabbage soup and ever-polarizing cole slaw, and to focus on letting the cabbage be the star. Where I really fell hard was at lunch with my friend Claudia early last year. We met at A Voce in New York City, and spent a lovely afternoon lingering over a series of shared dishes. When we got to our pasta courses, I was surprised that the one that really wowed me was a simple spaghetti with cabbage, pancetta, and pecorino. The texture of the cabbage was killer, silky and meltingly tender, and I’ve tried many times to replicate that dish, but I never got it quite right until last night.

I started with bacon from Simmons Farm, slicing a few strips into batons and crisping them in a little bit of olive oil while my pasta water got boiling in a separate pot. I removed the bacon and set it aside to drain, then added some sliced red onion and about 5 cups of thinly sliced red cabbage to the hot fat. I gave it a sprinkle of salt, tossed everything until it was coated with oil, then covered the pan and let it cook down. After 10 minutes or so, I added about half a cup of chicken stock and a few splashes of Sherry vinegar, then let it continue cooking, uncovered, until most of the liquid was reduced. I pulled my spaghetti from its cooking water when it was tender but still had a little bite, and added it to the cabbage to finish cooking. I added about two-thirds of the crispy bacon bits off the heat, along with plenty of freshly grated pecorino and cracked black pepper, and tossed it until everything was incorporated. To add a little textural contrast, I combined the remaining bacon with some fresh thyme and chopped hazelnuts, which I sprinkled on top of each serving.

In short, this was a hit. I loved getting ribbons of soft cabbage with every twirl of pasta, and that the bacon was present but subtle, and I was delighted at how beautifully the hazelnuts worked with the other flavors in the dish. I can’t wait to tuck into my leftovers for lunch.

On an unrelated note, can you help us find a home for this beautiful little cat? A local business which shall remain nameless and which used to occupy the space next door to my friend’s office relocated recently, and cruelly left her behind. It has been weeks now, and we assume they are not coming back for her. My friend has cared for her at his office since she was abandoned and reports that she is sweet and affectionate, a non-stop purring machine. He can’t keep her due to severe allergy issues, but he wants to find her the good home she deserves. If we didn’t have three already I’d grab her in a heartbeat, but perhaps you or someone you know has room in your home and heart for her. Thank you.

BLTwist

green tomatoes

Since the day Michael Ruhlman announced his BLT challenge, I’ve had that classic sandwich combo on the brain, and while last night’s version was certainly not our entry into the contest, it was a way to get our BLT mojo flowing.

A really good tomato is, for me, the most important component of a BLT, and since we’re still a couple of months off from from prime tomato season here in New England, I decided to work with what we do have around now: tart green tomatoes.

While my bacon cooked on a rack in the oven (my favorite way to keep the slices flat and stackable), I sliced up my tomatoes and gave them a dunk in some beaten egg seasoned with salt and a dash or three of hot sauce. The egg-coated slices then got a coating of cornmeal before going into a hot pan to fry until golden.

When the last batch of tomatoes had been fried and the bacon was ready, I started layering: a lightly toasted slice of sourdough, a layer of bright green basil mayo (you can make your own mayo, of course, but I didn’t and the world didn’t end), then some bacon, peppery arugula (my leaf of choice for BLTs), some of the fried green tomatoes, and another mayo-spread slice of bread on top.

Dinner:  June 23, 2009

The “soup” I made to accompany our sandwiches was… not so good. (Even after thinning it with a bit of water and readjusting the seasoning, it was more like paste than something potable. Your mileage may vary.) But the marriage of BLT and fried green tomatoes was such a happy one, we barely missed our soupy side dish.