Cooking Nigella Lawson’s Beer-Braised Beef Casserole

A month or two back I sat down with my usual stack of cookbooks and wound up walking away with several recipes from Nigella Kitchen. I had about an equal number of hits as misses, but this one, more fully titled Carbonnade a la Flamand (a.k.a. Beer-Braised Beef Casserole, page 330) was a home run. This recipe is super easy to make, but you do need several hours for it to cook. Since I work from home, this wasn’t such a big deal, but if you’re working full time and like to cook, I’d recommend giving in a whirl on a nice fall or winter weekend.

You might be wondering about that first photo above. That’s molasses in some sugar because I realized just as I was about to make this dish that we didn’t have any brown sugar. I’ve since remedied this, but after looking up what brown sugar actually is (sugar mixed with molasses), I figured this would be a good workaround. I think it worked out pretty well.

Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with this recipe by name, but it’s pretty similar to others I’ve made. You start off by cooking bacon in your Dutch oven. When it’s done to the crispness of your liking — we like ours nice and crunchy — you then cook onions in the bacon fat. This infuses not only the pungent veggies, but the whole dish with a rich fatiness that plays well with the right ingredients. The beef and spices go into the pot after that followed by flour and then the beer and beef broth. I happened to have a Brooklyn Brewery sampler pack on hand, but I can’t tell exactly which kind I used because that pic is so blurry.

And then you just let it cook for three hours. The recipe suggests putting it in the oven, but I just let it simmer on the stove top and thought the results were delightful. The beef takes on a sweet, tangy quality that made this dish a delight both fresh and as leftover. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the entire opening story before this recipe because if I had, I would have noticed the part about serving this meal over egg noodles which would have really soaked everything up. I’m definitely keeping that in mind for a nice winter meal.

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Disney World Bonus Food Pics: French Breakfast & Moroccan Dinner

french breakfast You know what I love in pretty much any combination? Ham and cheese. You really can’t go wrong there, you guys. One morning we decided to hit Epcot and to start our day we headed over to the World Showcase to get breakfast in France at a place called Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie. When you add ham and cheese to a buttery piece of bread you’re really onto something. Good on the French for figuring that out.

moracco salad

For lunch we went to a place in Epcot where I not only had a bad experience but also didn’t enjoy my food, so we’ll just skip right past that. That night, my wife and I had planned on going out for a date just the two of us. We wanted to try something new and interesting so we decided on going to Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco back in Epcot in the World Showcase. We both went with the Taste of Morocco – Royal Feast which included (*deep breath*) “Jasmina Salad: Lettuce, Tomato, Olives, and Feta Cheese in Mustard Vinaigrette, Seafood Bastilla: Layers of thin Pastry filled with Grouper, Shrimp, and Mushrooms, Lemon Chicken: Braised Chicken seasoned with Green Olives and preserved Lemon, Roast Lamb Meshoui (A Moroccan tradition – Roasted Lamb Shank in Natural Juices),  Couscous with Seven Vegetables and Assorted Moroccan Pastries.”

moracco entree

As you can imagine, it was quite a meal. First off, everything was fantastic and interesting. I was a big fan of that salad, which is kind of a strange thing to single out when talking about so many different kind of food. The lamb fell of the bone and I don’t have much experience with that particular protein, but I enjoyed it. The lemon chicken was also nice and tangy. I even dug the desserts which is something I don’t always say. So, if you’re looking for something unique and packed with variety, do yourself a favor and hit up Restaurant Marrakesh.

Second Christmas Remembered: Traditional Ruhlman’s French Onion Soup

The last thing I made for Second Christmas was French Onion Soup. It also happened to be the most complicated and worrisome of the group because you basically cook these onions for hours until they get to the right color. Because of the long cook time I was worried that I might let them cook too long or not enough, but thankfully I seemed to get it dead on and we had our French Onion Soup!

But, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. The recipe itself from Ruhlman’s Twenty is called Traditional French Onion Soup (page 75) actually comes with pictures which was really helpful for such a long-form dish. One thing I didn’t mention in the other posts is that I went for a solid no-meat meal because my mom is a vegetarian. When I mentioned I was making FOS, she asked about the beef broth and I told her it didn’t have any. I hadn’t read the full description of the recipe, but Ruhlman writes that a lot of FOS recipes call for broth, but that’s not how it was made in France where poorer houses wouldn’t use more-expensive broth when you can get a solid flavor from just cooking onions in a tablespoon of butter.

Of course, the key to this dish is the onions. I sliced up almost a full bag of white onions on the mandolin which was faster than cutting them by hand, but still felt kind of clunky. Anyone, those went into the Dutch oven with a tablespoon of butter and cooked for about four hours. After you get to the right shade of amber, you add in the water, taste and then alter with vinegar, salt, pepper and sherry to get the flavor you want. Then you put your dried-out bread on top and the cheese (I actually used the Emmenthaler shown in the post about Mac & Cheese from the same meal), pop that under the broiler and have FOS a few months later. I actually thought it wound up being a little sweeter than I usually like, but as a whole I thought it wound up being a really good dish. The whole meal might have had a lot of cheese and onions, but I think it worked well together! Happy belated Second Christmas!

Second Christmas Remembered: Ruhlman’s Mac & Cheese With Soubise

As I explained yesterday, I made what turned out to be a pretty great Second Christmas dinner for my family all from Michael Ruhlman’s book Ruhlman’s Twenty. In addition to the Leeks Vinaigrette, I also made his recipe for Mac & Cheese With Soubise (page 87). As regular readers — and anyone who knows me — will remember, I’m a huge fan of macaroni and cheese and have been since my Kraft’s Blue Box days. But, I also like trying new recipes and seeing how they compare to one another. I don’t know if I’m ever going to find one that will become the default version, but if so, this one might be up for the spot.

This particular recipe has four kinds of cheese involved including basic Swiss, sharp cheddar, Emmenthaler (which I’d never had before, but is another kind of Swiss) and Parmesan for the top. If you look closely at the picuture, you’ll see that there’s Asiago on top there, but I just grabbed the wrong block for the picture.

The major difference between this recipe and other ones that I’ve made is that you not only carmelize the onions, but also put the entire pre-cheese sauce in a food processor to whir it all together. Aside from that, though, you’ve got a recipe that’s similar to other ones I’ve tried. As always, I got all my ingredients as prepared ahead of time as I could, separating out spices and whatnot that would be added together. This all made the process a lot easier. Also aiding the process was the fact that I used the food processor to cut the cheese up, a trick I always use for mac & cheese and also got this whole thing ready in the morning. You can get 95% of the mac & cheese ready, refrigerate it and then pull it out when you’re ready to go. The only thing you don’t add before the cooling process is the buttered breadcrumbs. When we were ready, I got those together, put them on top of the dish and in it went into the oven.

The finished product had a very creamy, very cheesy feel to it. My wife heard somewhere that you can actually replace milk in a mac and cheese recipe with water. I’m going to try that next time I make this or any other similar dish. I just didn’t want to try it like that the first time as I was making food for a larger group than just the three of us. That is a lot of dairy as the recipe is written, so if that’s something that bother’s your system, watch out.

Cooking Salade D’Onglet (Sorta)

I really enjoy reading Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook because the recipes sounds really interesting and I’m a fan of Bourdain’s. However, there’s a lot in there that isn’t super practical when trying to figure out what to make in any given week. Still, I try looking around stumbled upon a recipe for Salade D’Onglet (page 123) that I didn’t quite nail, but think will make for a good dish to work on moving forward.

Ingredients wise, the list is pretty basic, mostly things I was able to find at my grocery store. I didn’t have dark veal or chicken stock around (need to make some more chicken stock), so I used the stuff I had from the store. The real problem, though was that I could not find onglet or hanger steak at my grocery store. I probably could have asked the butcher, but I’m kind of on a time crunch when I get our food, so I wound up settling for a beef round Swiss braising steak. I have no idea how close that was to what I was supposed to get.

I also didn’t quite get the timing down for this one. Things have been a little crazy around here lately so, I didn’t get the meat marinating over night, but I did get four or five good hours in which he said would work. Aside from that, though, this is a pretty simple and easy meal to put together, it just has a fair amount of working parts when you take into account the marinating, sauce and dressing making and putting everything together. Still, it’s pretty easy.

I think I might have cooked my sauce a little too long or added too much soy sauce in one of the steps because the finished product turned out a little salty. Not, spit everything out on the plate salty, but still maybe a little too salty. Like I said, I’ve got some work to do to really nail this the next time, but I’m willing to try again.

Cooking Betty Crocker’s Coq au Vin

I’m a strong believe in the power of bacon. It’s such a delicious ingredient that it can elevate a boring dish or make an already awesome dish, like chili, even better. As such, when I was flipping through my copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook and saw her recipe for Coq au Vin (page 286 or here), which is basically a pot roast but with chicken instead of beef and bacon. Plus, you cook it in a pan an not in the oven. But, aside from all that, it’s pretty much the same idea.

The only changes I made to the recipe were using boneless chicken breasts instead of miscellaneous poultry parts and I didn’t have the materials for a bouquet garni, so I just used dry spices from my spice rack. I know, I know, it’s not super French to do any of that, but what are you gonna do?

Oh, I also cooked the bacon after chopping it up instead of doing the pieces whole and then breaking them down. Again, this is just easier for me, I don’t know if there’s a downside, but I haven’t hit one yet. Before chopping that up, I peeled and cut the carrots and also got the flour mixture ready (I try to do veggies and whatnot before meat for obvious contamination concerns).

With that done, the bacon pieces went into the pan. After they were browned and done, I got them out then dipped the chicken in the flour mixture and got the pieces cooking in the bacon fat. The recipe says you should move them to one side and then cook the thawed pearl onions and mushrooms, but I just mixed everything together and let them get together. You then add in the rest of the ingredients and let it all cook together for a while.

I was really impressed with this dish. Sometimes I’m not sure about making international dishes from the Betty Crocker book because they might not have the original balance of spices and herbs, but this dish turned out to be pretty great, though whether or not it’s traditional Coq au Vin, I have no idea. But, the combination of bacon, pan fried chicken, pear onions and herbs was a delightful one. I’ll definitely give this recipe another whirl or two during the cold winter months ahead.

Bonus Food Pics: French Onion Soup & A Ruben At Fox Fiddle

The week before last I didn’t write any posts here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. I played it coy a bit, but as I explained over on Pop Poppa in my Photo Diary posts, I was actually commuting into the city with my dad and mother-in-law to visit my wife who was in the hospital post-surgery. Everything went well and she’s back home healing up.

Of course, you’ve still got to eat and after a few days of hospital cafeteria food, we decided to head out and get something. We were originally going to go to Chickpea, but it happened to be pretty full and I saw the sign for Fox N Fiddle and redirected us thataway. It’s an Irish pub which meant there would be two things there that I wanted: non crappy food (or at least less crappy food, depending on how Irish it really was) and beer.

I wound up getting a few Samuel Adams’ winter seasonal beers, then had a crock of French Onion Soup and followed that up with a Ruben. I probably wasn’t the best judge of anything that day, but I thought both the soup and sandwich were pretty darn good. I left very satisfied and didn’t feel like it was too expensive, which can easily happen at places in NYC.

Inventing Beef & Black Bean Chili Omelets

One of my go-to ideas when it comes to leftovers is to turn whatever it is into an omelet. I love omelets and I think they’re super versatile and that’s without even getting into crepe territory, which I’m mostly unfamiliar with. Well, after making Bobby Flay’s Beef and Black Bean Chili last week, freezing some and eating some for lunch, I was looking for something new to do with it.

So, I ladled a few scoops of chili into a small pan just to heat it up. At the same time I heated some olive oil in a larger pan and cooked one clove of diced garlic. While both of those warmed, I whipped three eggs together and poured just a tiny bit of milk in there (I’m still figuring out these ratios, but the less the better). By this point, the chili was bubbling a little, so I took it off the heat. I then poured the eggs into the larger pan and let them cook for a minute or two.

Then I poured the warmed chili in there. I should have strained out more of the juice. All that liquid in there made things a little tricky. While the eggs cooked and the chili heated, I shredded some cheddar over it all. I let that cook for a few minutes, tried folding it over, but didn’t have luck until I put it on the plot. I topped it with a dollop of sour cream and was good to go! I gotta say, this was a pretty good little mash-up. I could see this working with pretty much any kind of chili and will hopefully used them when I start my restaurant/food truck called Nachos & Omelets (the two most versatile foods).

This Week’s (Intended) Menu: French, Italian & Poultry, Oh My!

I was feeling ambitious when I started working on this week’s menu plan. I’m not only attempting my first crack at French cooking thanks to an unexpected gift of Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook from my mom, but also the first recipe of many out of Northern Italian Cooking by Franceso Ghedini and a pair of other recipes I hope to whip up pretty quickly. Both of the cookbooks rely heavily on big vats of sauce and stock that should be made ahead of time and while I do want to get to those experiences, I went with ones that didn’t require either. I’m also a little limited because our oven isn’t working, so I can only work with the top five burners. For what it’s worth, I don’t think about which meals will be eaten on which day, but here’s what I’m hoping to cook this week. Hopefully our darling daughter will not only allow us to run to the store, but also not freak out in the evening too much so I can actually cook. Fingers crossed.

Boeuf a la Ficelle (Les Halles Cook Book by Anthony Bourdain, Page 122) Bourdain translates the name of this dish as “beef on a string” but says you don’t really need a string anymore. Basically, you toss carrots, turnips, leeks and onion in a pot of water, boil and then cook the beef in there. Take the beef out, make a sauce and serve on a plate. I like the simplicity of this recipe and that it already includes a vegetable. Here’s hoping this will be a good introduction to French cooking.

Maiale Ubriaco (Norther Italian Cooking by Francesco Ghedini, Page 135) Again, I liked this recipe because it isn’t super complicated and doesn’t involve the red sauces that pack the front of this cook book. I’m really excited about getting to those recipes, but just don’t have the time yet. This Tuscan dish is explained as “braised pork chops with wine sauce” and involves cooking the chops in a skillet for a while, removing and then making the sauce. The only problem is that I’ll have to make another stop to pick up the dry red wine.

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce (The Pioneer Woman by Ree Drummond, link) I’ve never cooked any of Ree Drummond’s recipes. In fact, I hadn’t heard of her before last week when I started seeing ads for her new Food Network show. I checked out her website and was blown away by her photos. Man, some of these food bloggers know how to snap pics! Anyway, I was looking around at her recipes and this one stuck out because I’ve got a lot of basil growing in my mini herb garden. I’m no stranger to pesto, so this one should be tasty and not too difficult (hopefully).

Grilled Chicken with Arugala (Food Network by Tyler Florence, link) This is the only recipe this week that I’ve cooked before. It turned out well last time and I’m hoping for a repeat performance. I’m a fan of pretty much anything with olives, so I’m guessing it will be!

There you have it. Considering it’s Monday evening and I haven’t made it to the store yet thanks to a generally cranky baby (notice, I didn’t say “colicy”) I might wind up dropping a thing or two from the menu. By the way, I’m always looking for interesting vegetable side recipes, so if anyone has any good ideas for what should go along with the pork chops above, let me know!

Restaurant Review: King’s Pommes Frites

King’s Pommes Frites
255 Main Street
Cornwall, NY 12518
(845) 534-1500

One of the great things about living in the area we do is access to all kinds of different food. If you’re feeling like Mexican, Thai, Spanish or Chinese, you’re not too far away (though I do wish we had a Greek place in the neighborhood). Any time we see a new restaurant going in somewhere, we get really excited and we’re not the only ones. When a Chilis opened up in Newburgh, it took three to four weeks to actually get in without waiting 45 minutes or more. I wish I was joking, but I’m not.

So, when we saw a tiny place in Cornwall with pommes frites on the sign (French for French fries), we got jazzed. We’ve been to King’s probably a half dozen times since it opened in the last six months and every single time it has been a wonderful experience. Here’s the deal. Every day you can roll in and order varying sizes of fries accompanied by 31 different dipping sauces. In addition, they have daily specials that you can keep up with by liking them on Facebook. To let you know how much I like this place, they’re one of the handful of things I actually like on Facebook. Some days, I only use FB to see what King’s has on schedule for the day. I’m talking everything from barbecue ribs and bleu cheese burgers to fritatas and pot roast. I’ve never had anything bad at King’s and the best part is that the meals they cook would be perfectly at place on any menu in town, but they’re made even better by being placed on fries!

Speaking of restaurants, the place itself is actually pretty small with a few tables plus a bar type set-up looking out on Main Street Cornwall. The tables have these holes cut into them that allow you to very neatly place your cone of fries or even a dipping sauce in. The decor is nice without being too much, but the real focus is on the food.

Last week my wife had been keeping an eye on King’s FB page and was very excited about the burger specials. They had both cheese and bleu. We wound up ordering one of each for dinner and had a wonderful time sitting on our living room floor shoveling fries into our mouths. I hadn’t really been paying attention, so I didn’t realize that my cheeseburger special was actually ground beef and cheese sauce over a basket of fries with ketchup. It was wonderful. Not the kind of food you’d probably want to eat every day and still stay in a modicum of shape, but a delightful treat every now and then.

Overall, King’s is a great restaurant in its own right, but also makes a great addition to Cornwall’s already awesome selection of eateries like Woody’s, Painter’s Tavern, The River Bank, Fiddlestix and Prima’s. Do yourself a favor and get some fries!