Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Coconut-Braised Beef

This was another Sunday night dinner - cooked slow.  I found this recipe from Mark Bittman on the Diner's Journal at New York Times.  Slow is the operative word here, because this method takes a cheaper cut of beef and cooks it until it is fork tender.

Coconut-Braised Beef
from Mark Bittman, New York Times

    * 2 hot dried red chilies
    * 3 garlic cloves, peeled
    * 1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
    * 1 T chili powder
    * Juice and zest of 2 limes, or 2 tablespoons rice or other mild vinegar
    * 2 T olive oil
    * 1 1/2 pounds beef, preferably chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
    * 2 cups coconut milk (or 1 can, about 1 1/2 cups, plus 1/2 cup water)
    * Salt to taste

1. Put chilies, garlic, ginger, chili powder, lime juice and zest in bowl of a food processor, and process until everything is minced, or mince by hand and combine.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a skillet that can later be covered. Add spice paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add beef, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and covered with sauce.
3. Pour in coconut milk, and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer, stirring only occasionally (but making sure mixture is simmering very slowly, with just a few bubbles at a time breaking the surface) until meat is extremely tender, at least an hour and possibly closer to 2.
4. Uncover and cook until sauce is very thick and caramel-colored, stirring frequently so it does not brown. Season to taste with salt (it needed some, that was for sure), and serve with white rice.
Yield: 4 servings or two very starving Mahannahs.

Another note ... I cook with a gas stove, so the instruction to simmer slowly was darn near impossible for me, even with the flame turned very low.  It was still fine.  I also simmered my beef for about 1 1/2 hours and then served over basmati rice.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pink Champagne Cupcakes

This is the recipe that made my mother-in-law a Facebook sensation ... well, at least to my friends. :)  She made these cupcakes on a recent weekend when we were visiting and man ... it took all of my willpower to not eat all of them.

I think this would be a great recipe for a wedding or a baby shower.  For any event, you can change the color of the food coloring or omit it all together.

Pink Champagne Cupcakes

1 box SuperMoist white cake mix
1 ¼ c. champagne—room temperature
1/3 c. oil
3 egg whites
4 drops red food coloring

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine cake mix and champagne. Add oil, eggs, and food coloring. Beat 2 minutes.  Bake 17-22 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan before removing. Cool another 30 minutes.

½ c. butter, softened
4 c. powdered sugar
¼ c. champagne, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
4 drops red food food coloring

Combine.  Just a warning - this makes a ton.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pastitsio - Otherwise known as "Greek Lasagna"

I love Sunday dinner.  When I was growing up this meant a couple of different meals at my folks' house.  On Sundays where we didn't have a ton going on, slowly baked pork roasts served with mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed peas or scalloped corn and biscuits with my grandma's strawberry freezer jam. If we were busy, mom would usually doctor up a couple big cans of Chef Boyardee's Spaghetti with a ton of garlic powder and serve Texas Toast that she turned into garlic bread.  Either meal was fabulous and if I close my eyes, I can remember so many details of those wonderful dinners.

Sundays at my house is either a "thing" (i.e. - really good planned out meal) or cereal.  On a recent Sunday night, I turned to my beloved Ina for some inspiration and made this heavenly pastitsio - or as she referred to it, a "Greek lasagna."  This dish was time consuming, yet it made a ton and was heavenly for about three days after I originally made it - it makes for great leftovers.

This is like a relationship in a pan ...

by Ina Garden

For the Tomato Meat Sauce:
    * 3 T. olive oil
    * 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
    * 1 pound lean ground beef
    * 1 pound lean ground lamb **
    * 1/2 C. dry red wine
    * 1 T. minced garlic (3 large cloves)
    * 1 T. ground cinnamon
    * 1 tsp. dried oregano
    * 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
    * Pinch of cayenne pepper
    * 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes in puree
    * Salt and freshly ground black pepper

** To be honest?  If I made this again, I would not use lamb. My untrained palate really couldn't tell if the lamb made this better and it was just freakin' spendy.  Use 2 lbs of lean ground beef.  OK, now I'm officially going to foodie hell.

For the Bechamel (Editor's note: Do not be intimated by the bechamel!):

    * 1 1/2 C. whole milk
    * 1 C. heavy cream
    * 4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
    * 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
    * 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    * 1 1/2 C. freshly grated Parmesan or Kasseri cheese
    * 2 extra-large eggs, beaten
    * 2/3 C. Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total
    * 3/4 pound small shells


For the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the beef and lamb, and saute over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until it's no longer pink, crumbling it with the back of wooden spoon. Drain off any excess liquid, add the wine, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and cayenne, and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the bechamel, heat the milk and cream together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the warm milk and cream mixture into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth and thick. Add the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the tomato and meat sauce, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the eggs and yogurt and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Don't over-cook because the pasta will later be baked. Drain and set aside.

Add the pasta to the meat and tomato sauce, and pour the mixture into a baking dish. Spread the bechamel evenly to cover the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbly. Set aside for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

One of the weirdest compliments I've ever received about my cooking (other than the "wow, this looks terrible but sure tastes good" one) was when one of my former co-workers told me that I was unabashedly un-humble about my baking skills but that she understood why I raved about my own work.

Although I'd like to chalk up the fabulousness of this recipe to my mad skills, I have to give tons of credit to the creators at Picky Palate and Sinful Southern Sweets for making and blogging about this cookie.  Chopped peanut butter cups added to peanut butter cookie batter - how could that be wrong?  Unless you have a peanut allergy, but barring that - this cookie is ... well, words fail me.  Just trust me and bake these.

"C is for Cookie ... that's good enough for me ..."
Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

2 sticks softened unsalted butter
1 C. packed brown sugar
1 C. granulated sugar
3 T. corn syrup
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
2 lg. eggs, plus one egg white
1 T. pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 C. all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
5 pkgs of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a stand or electric mixer beat the butter, sugars, peanut butter and corn syrup until well combined.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt.  Slowly add to wet ingredients along with the chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Mix only until just combined.  Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 9-11 minutes until just turning golden around edges.  Let cookies cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.