Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sage and Brown Butter Portobellos over Polenta

Developing cooking skills has done so many lovely things for me. I'm more cognizant of flavors and textures. I can show restraint (or not) in the seasonings and amounts I use. And I've grown to adore foods that formally made me retch.

Portobellos here were definitely my gateway mushroom. They're not quite so slimy as some mushrooms to be, and seasonings cling to them beautifully.

I wanted to do a vegetarian dish that was also warm and hearty. I'd bought the portobellos to put on kebabs the night before, but they didn't make the cut, so I put them front and center in last night's dinner.

To start with, I melted butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Once the solids in the butter shifted from golden to brown, I tossed in a handful of chopped sage.

After about thirty seconds, I added the sliced mushrooms.

That mushroom in focus...he seems like a fun guy.
I lowered the heat slightly and sauteed the mushrooms for a couple of minutes, stirring them occasionally to coat, and then added in the Marsala.

Once the mixture came to a simmer, I added the cream and salt and pepper (to taste). I cooked the mixture for a couple of minutes as it reduced a bit.

I then set the heat to low to keep the sauce warm as I made the polenta.

First I brought the milk, water, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Then I slowly poured the cornmeal into the pan and stirred to combine well. I cooked it about twelve minutes until it was sufficiently thick.

Then I removed the pan from heat and stirred in butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. (Oof. So good.)

I then portioned out the polenta into shallow bowls and ladled the mushroom sauce atop. Oh, man. Somewhat rich but amazing and satisfying.

Sage and Brown Butter Portobellos over Polenta
(adapted from The View from the Great Island)
Serves 3 - 4.

1 stick butter
1 handful of chopped fresh sage
8 oz. sliced portobellos
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or regular Parmesan, if you're not as into breaking the bank as I am)
2 tablespoons butter

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Boeuf Bourgignon

Could not stop impersonating Julia Child while making this! Boeuf bourguignon!

I must issue the disclaimer that this is not a true production of the dish, because I did not use burgundy, as I was already slightly breaking my bank in the making of this and the only bottle I could find (after visiting both Fresh Market and my neighborhood store) was $40. I'm a little disappointed with myself on that note, but I still used a French pinot noir and the sauce was aaaabsolutely fantastic. So I would say it's a perfectly acceptable substitute!

My favorite part about making this was getting to make a bouquet garni for the first time.

I began by placing the diced salt pork and rind in a saucepan, covering them in water, and bringing it to a boil for a couple of minutes. Then I drained the pan and set aside the diced pork.

For the bouquet, I unfurled two 22-inch lengths of cheesecloth and then unfolded each to make a 22x8-inch piece. I stacked the cloths and draped them over a medium bowl. Then I added my lovely aromatics (onions, carrots, crushed garlic cloves, thyme, parsley, black peppercorns, bay leaves, oh my!), bundled up the cheesecloth and secured it (twine would have been ideal, but I "elected" to use floss. Substitutions, my friends!)

I love cooking when it's actually light out! When my boyfriend saw this picture, he thought for a second I had bundled up one of the cats for an "artistic" shot. Cat Sacks - they won't catch on.
I placed the bouquet in my Dutch oven and preheated my (American) oven to 300.

Then I set my cast-iron skillet over medium heat and sizzled up some salt pork till it was browned and crispy (about 12 minutes.)

I made sure to press down on the pieces as I cooked them to render the fat.

After I added the pork to the Dutch oven, I poured out all but two teaspoons of the rendered fat--then I set these teaspoons to the side.

Next came the beef. After slicing my beef into two-inch chunks, I patted the pieces dry and seasoned them with salt and pepper.

I handled the browning in two rounds, spreading the pieces out in a single layer in my cast-iron (with the heat now raised to high) and flipping them over once or twice to make sure they browned on all sides.

During the slicing process.

After the first batch, I put the beef into the Dutch oven, added half a cup of water to the skillet and swirled it around, scraping up the browned bits. This too went into the pot.

I then browned the second batch of beef (adding the reserved fat from the salt pork). After adding it to the burgeoning stew, I repeated the water process and poured the resulting liquid into the pot.

I returned the skillet to the burner and set the heat to medium. I melted four tablespoons of butter, then whisked in the flour once the butter ceased foaming.

Then the mixture had turned golden (with a nutty aroma), I whisked in the low-sodium chicken broth and 1 1/2 cups of water. I raised the heat to medium-high and stirred the liquid as it simmered.

Once it was thickened, I poured it into the Dutch oven--along with 3 cups of wine, tomato paste, salt and pepper.

I finally turned the heat on under my Dutch oven, setting it to high. Once the liquid was boiling, I covered the pot and transferred it to the preheated oven (like Russian stacking dolls, these ovens are!)

Then I cleaned my kitchen and listened to Frightened Rabbit, because I am a sometimes-responsible young lady (with a tendency to let her musical horizons stagnate, because Van Morrison often makes other tunes unnecessary. But I'm growing!) and this stage of the recipe takes 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

When it was finally time to exonerate the oven from its larger oven prison (TWO-FOUR-SIX-OH-ONNNNNE! - though I do not mean to imply that the things I cook are miserable), I set it on the (off) stove and removed the bouquet garni, setting it in a mesh strainer above the pot and essentially juicing the remaining liquid into the stew.

I scooped out the beef with a slotted spoon and set it aside.

I let the liquid rest in the pot for fifteen minutes before skimming off the fat.

Then I brought it to a boil over medium-high heat. Without reducing the heat, I let it simmer--giving it the occasional stir--for about 20 minutes. Ultimately, the sauce should be reduced to about three cups and thickened slightly.

I got to work making the garnish. I used fresh pearl onions, boiling them for a few minutes and then rinsing with cold water so I could easily squeeze them out of their peels. It might be easier, though, to buy the frozen, already-peeled version. Your choice!

Using a medium skillet, I mixed the pearl onions, butter, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water and brought them to a boil over high heat.

Then I covered the skillet and reduced the heat to medium-low, letting them cook for 5 minutes until the onions were tender.

I uncovered the skillet and raised the heat to high again, letting all the liquid dissipate.

Then I stirred in the mushrooms and another quarter-teaspoon of salt and let the vegetables brown for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

I set the vegetables aside before adding water to the skillet and scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan (poured this into the stew as well.)

Once the sauce was reduced and thickened to my liking, I reduced the heat to medium-low and added the beef, vegetables, brandy, and the last of the bottle of wine. (No worries--we got another bottle to enjoy with the meal.)

Then I covered the pot once more and heated the stew through for five minutes.

After convincing my cat that she didn't want to lounge on my placemat, we sat down to dine.

I can't resist now...bon appetit!

Beef Bourguignon (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
Serves 6.

Bouquet Garni

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 head garlic, cloves separated and crushed but not peeled
10 sprigs fresh parsley, quartered
6 sprigs fresh thyme
12 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
Salt pork rind


6 oz. salt pork cut into 1x1/4x1/4 inch pieces (rind removed and reserved for bouquet)
4 lbs. chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups burgundy or pinot noir (a true burgundy is obviously ideal, but you can't always break the bank)
1 teaspoon tomato paste

10 oz. white mushrooms (whole if small, halved if medium, quartered if large)
36 white pearl onions, peeled
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons brandy (or cognac)
2 tablespoons minced parsley