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.


Shanks for the Memories

Dinner: October 1, 2010

The first year I lived in New York, Mike took me to Prune for my birthday. It was a freezing winter night and I was laden down with packages that my parents had mailed to my office, which the hostess was kind enough to stash downstairs so they’d be out of the way in the tiny space. The entire night was magical, and made me fall hard for that little restaurant on the Lower East Side, but I was positively bewitched by the lamb I had there.

preserved lemons

It was the sort of dish that wouldn’t look out of place at your grandmother’s house, but underneath its humble exterior was an exotic heart, with warm spices that were familiar but hard to pin down permeating the lusty sauce. I have tried for years to duplicate it, and while the true flavor of the dish I ate that long-ago night at Prune has faded in my memory, I’ve come up with a rendition I adore. Mike brought home some gorgeous Simmons Farm goat shanks from the downtown farmers’ market yesterday, and they were absolutely delicious prepared this way – so good, in fact, I thought they deserved their very own post rather than just a photo in my usual weekend wrap-up.


This is the sort of dish you’ll want to eat from a deep bowl while snuggled in front of a fireplace with someone you love. Don’t be afraid to eat the meat with your fingers, and suck the marrow from the bones.

Braised Goat (or Lamb) with Couscous

1 lb. goat or lamb shanks
Kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely diced carrot
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 oz. dry white vermouth
1 cup whole peeled tomatoes with juice, lightly crushed
1 stick Ceylon cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup preserved Meyer lemon, seeds removed
12 Castelvetrano olives
Couscous for serving
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Season the shanks heavily with salt and set aside.

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small, dry skillet until fragrant, then grind them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat until it is shimmering. Pat the shanks dry, add them to the pot, and brown them well on all sides. Remove the shanks to a platter and set aside.

Add the onion and carrot to the pan, season it with a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent. Clear a spot in the bottom of the pan and add the tomato paste, allowing it to caramelize briefly before stirring it through. Sprinkle the ground spices over the vegetables and stir. Add vermouth and let it bubble up, scraping the bottom of the pan. Return the shanks to the pan with any juices that have accumulated on the platter, and add the bay leaf, cinnamon, preserved lemon, and tomatoes.

Add enough water to the pan so that the shanks are covered about 3/4 of the way. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan with a parchment lid, and cook 2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding additional water as needed. Add the olives to the pan for the last 30 minutes of cooking time.

Serve over couscous, and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.


Dinner:  December 8, 2009

One of the most fun things about this past year has been my involvement with food52. The weekly challenges have made me look at cooking in new ways, and there’s a real sense of camaraderie there that isn’t present in a lot of other online forums. I have met, virtually and in person, so many great people, have become aware of a ton of new-to-me food blogs, and have been hugely inspired by the great dishes being put forth every week by the food52 community.

This dish is one that caught my eye a while back, and with cold, stormy weather headed our way, I knew it would be perfect for last night’s dinner. It comes from Brooke of not lazy. rustic., and it was just as delicious as I thought it would be. The Point Judith squid, inexpensive and sustainable, came from Mercato del Mare, and it became incredibly tender as it simmered in a bath of red wine, stock*, tomatoes, and aromatics. The olives really made the dish, mellowing as they cooked ever-so-briefly in the stew and leached a bit of their briny flavor into the rich broth. If you’re looking for a new take on seafood stew, give this one a try.

Recipe: Squid, Potato & Olive Stew on food52

*Brooke’s recipe calls for clam juice, which we didn’t have, so I substituted an equivalent amount of Maine shrimp stock that I had in the freezer.

Sea-food Diet

Dinner:  September 11, 2009

Commuting to Boston can be rough, and it makes for some very long days (12 hours from the time I leave in the morning to the time I walk through the door in the evening, assuming I don’t work late or have train delays), but it’s worth it for many reasons. Like Providence, Boston is a great food town, and it’s a treat to venture out on my lunch break to source out items for dinner.

One of my favorite discoveries since moving back to this part of the country is Mercato del Mare (a/k/a “the cutest fish market ever“), a jewel box of a store located in the North End. Since Friday was grey and gloomy, I decided to head to the store to pick up ingredients for a light but warming seafood stew.

In a riff on my standard preparation, I decided to toss some Point Judith calamari into the mix. I generally grill or fry calamari, but since tasting a red wine-braised version at Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Local Food Fest over the summer, I have been eager to try a long-cooked preparation, and the calamari turned out as meltingly tender as I had hoped it would be.


Seafood Stew with Saffron, Tomatoes and Fennel

½ lb. calamari, cleaned (bodies, tentacles or a mix of both)
½ lb. skinless, firm-fleshed white fish (I used cod), cut into 1 inch chunks
½ lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ lb. cockles or other small clams, scrubbed
2 T extra virgin olive oil
kosher or sea salt
1 cup diced shallot, red onion, or leek
a big pinch of saffron
¼ cup dry white vermouth
1 28 oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes with their juices (I prefer San Marzano), lightly crushed
1 cup peeled and cubed russet potato
½ cup chopped fennel bulb
1 cup water

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the shallot, onion or leek and a big pinch of salt, stir to coat with oil, and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften. Slice the calamari bodies into rings. Add the calamari rings (and tentacles, if using) and another pinch of salt, and stir to coat with the oil. Clear a spot in the center of the pan and crumble in the saffron, letting it toast briefly before stirring through. Add the vermouth and the tomatoes with their juices. Stir and let cook over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Let cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, and partially uncovering if the heat is too high. Add the potato, fennel and remaining onion, plus up to a cup of water and a pinch more salt, stir and let cook until the potatoes are just tender. Add the chunks of fish, the shrimp, and the cockles at the end, letting them simmer in the hot broth until they are just cooked through – about 5 minutes should do. Remove from heat and ladle the stew into wide, shallow bowls. Serve with plenty of toasted garlic-rubbed bread on the side.

(Weekend Eats (and Drinks) will return next week.)

Summertime Stew

Dinner:  June 22, 2009

You wouldn’t know it by looking outside, but the official start of Summer has arrived. Mother Nature has decided to ring in the season with a heaping helping of rain, wind, and grey skies, and I am none too pleased about it. For starters, it makes meal planning a challenge – I want to be outside, grilling something fresh and light and eating it under the stars with Mike, not rummaging through the pantry for an alternate dinner that isn’t another. damned. pasta dish.

Don’t get me wrong – I love pasta, but I was desperate last night for something, anything other than old reliable pasta, and as I stood in front of the open freezer, a plan began to form. I pulled out two little zip-top bags of previously cooked Rancho Gordo posole and some homemade red chile sauce. From the fridge, I gathered homemade stock and a big bunch of beet greens, which I stemmed, chopped and rinsed. I chopped up some red onion and a hefty amount of garlic, and sauteed them until soft before adding the chile sauce to the pan to warm. The stock went in next, then the hominy, and I brought the whole thing to a boil before reducing the heat and adding the greens. When the greens were tender, I turned off the heat, tasted it for seasoning, and brightened the flavor with the addition of plenty of fresh lime juice. To dress our plates up a little, I added shavings of a tangy sheep’s milk cheese, sliced radishes, chunks of creamy avocado, and a scattering of chopped cilantro.

And that was dinner. And it was good – better, in fact, than this mishmash of leftovers had any right to be. Take that, Mother Nature.

Rain and Spain

Dinner:  October 24, 2007

I subscribe to Food and Wine magazine, and when the October issue arrived last month, I was delighted to see an article entitled “Spanish Food & Wine (A Crash Course).” I’ve been playing more and more with Spanish flavors, and I guess you could say I’ve developed a bit of a crush. A recipe for Galician Fish Stew sounded particularly appealing, so I decided to work it into our dinner rotation soon.

The unseasonably warm weather we’ve had these last couple of weeks has not been particularly stew-friendly, so I was hoping I would have to put the dish off for too long, but as it turned out, yesterday was the perfect day for it – cool and rainy, just the kind of night when you want to curl up with something warm and hearty.

I fiddled around with the proportions of the original recipe just a bit – since I had only purchased enough halibut for the two of us rather than the four fillets called for in the recipe, I decided to reduce the number of potatoes as well. I haven’t gotten around to making a fresh batch of fish stock yet so I substituted plain water, but I kept everything else pretty much the same, and in the end, we had a richly flavored, light yet filling dish. The aroma of the paprika-garlic oil alone makes this recipe a winner.

Galician Fish Stew
(Adapted from a recipe by Janet Mendel in the October 2007 issue of Food and Wine)

For the stew:
Two 4-6 ounce skinless halibut fillets
Kosher salt
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup water (you can substitute fish stock or clam juice)
1/2 cup white vermouth (or dry white wine)
2 bay leaves
1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
3-4 cups coarsely chopped Swiss chard leaves

For the ajada:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Season the halibut with salt and refrigerate for 30 minutes. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, combine the potatoes, water or stock, vermouth or wine, bay leaves, onion, chard and 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over low heat until golden. Add the paprika and red pepper off the heat, stirring well to incorporate, and set aside.

Lay the halibut on top of the potatoes and simmer, turning once, until the fish is just cooked through (6-8 minutes, depending on thickness). Remove the halibut to a plate, and spoon some of the stew into shallow bowls. Set the halibut on top. Ladle some of the broth into the garlic oil and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir well, pour it over the fish and serve.

Big-City Meets Low-Country

Dinner:  September 12, 2007

A month or so ago, as I flipped through one of the food magazines I regularly read, I came across a recipe for a dish called Frogmore Stew. It was too warm at the time to think about making the dish, but I filed it away as an option for a cooler evening. Summer’s heat is waning now, and corn and tomatoes are at their peak of flavor, so I thought last night was the perfect time to make this dish. The only problem was, I couldn’t find the recipe I had originally looked at. A quick Google search turned up two recipes that sounded similar to what I remembered: Hugh Acheson’s recipe from Food and Wine, and The Lee brothers’ version. I ended up using these two recipes as a jumping-off point and winging the rest according to what we had on hand, and I have to say I was very pleased with the result. My version is in no way authentic low-country cooking, but it’s a darn tasty dish for a crisp early-fall night.

Frogmore Stew

1 tbsp. each butter and olive oil
1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces (I used kielbasa from Tamarack Hollow)
2 cups diced red onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 cups diced fresh plum tomato
1/2 cup white vermouth
3 cups water
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp. smoked chipotle powder
1 tbsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. fresh thyme
8-10 small/medium new potatoes, halved or quartered
2 ears corn, cleaned and cut into 6 rounds
1/2 lb. shrimp, deveined but with shells on
Kosher salt
Chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges for garnish

Melt butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned. Remove and set aside. Add the onion, season with salt and cook a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic and plum tomato, another pinch of salt and cook a few minutes more. Stir in the vermouth and cook until mostly evaporated, then add the water, bay leaves, Old Bay, chipotle powder, lemon zest and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the potatoes. Cook uncovered until the potatoes are fork-tender. Add the corn and shrimp, cover, and cook until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning, remove the bay leaves, then ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the broth.