French Onion Soup

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Done correctly, French onion soup is very pleasing. The beefy broth and sweet onion flavors can’t be beat. Served gratinéed, it makes a nice lighter meal as opposed to a starter as it is often presented in restaurants.

I’ve had some excellent French onion soups, but I have also had a few that were less than exceptional. The difference can typically be traced back to the broth and how the onions were cooked. A good – preferably home made – beef broth should always be the base. Secondly, French onion soup takes time. The onions need to be cooked slowly over low heat so they have a chance to caramelize yet not burn. It will take 30 to 45 minutes for this to happen, but your patience will be rewarded. fullsizeoutput_1767

Start over low heat and slowly sweat the onions along with a couple sprigs of thyme and bay leaves. Generously season them with salt and pepper. I like to use a variety of onions including red, yellow, and white. They each bring subtle differences in flavor to the party.

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The onions will begin to caramelize after about 30 minutes. Continue cooking until the onions become very brown.
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Add red wine, bring to a boil, and then reduce reduce heat to a simmer and cook until all the wine is cooked out.

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The onions will once again look somewhat dry.

 

 

Turn the heat to low, dust the onions with flour and cook for about five minutes or until the flour takes on a nutty aroma. You don’t want a flour taste in your soup.

Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves before adding the broth. Bring back to a simmer and cook for another ten minutes. Ladle the soup into heat proof bowls, top with a slice or two of baguette and Gruyère cheese. Place the soup under a broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and just begins to brown. Serve immediately.

 

French Onion Soup

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/4 pound grated Gruyere

Directions

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has cooked down and the onions are somewhat dry.

Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn and cook until the flour takes on a nutty aroma and loses the raw flour taste; about 10 minutes.

Now add the beef broth and bring the soup back to a simmer.  Cook for about another 10 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.

A few minutes prior to serving, preheat the broiler. Slice the baguette into 3/4 to 1″ thick slices and lightly toast both sides of the baguette under the broiler. Then, ladle the soup into oven proof bowls and float a slice or two of toasted baguette on top of the soup. Top the baguette with Gruyère and broil until bubbly and golden brown; 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Beef Shoulder Tender Sandwich

IMG_3340Forget using a rib eye or sirloin, and don’t even think about using an expensive beef tenderloin for making a delicious steak sandwich when there are less expensive, more tender, and beefier tasting options available such as the beef shoulder tender.

Zepplins is a restaurant not far from our house that we frequent with my mother and father-in-law. They have a sandwich on their menu my father-in-law and I like very much called the Stockyard Steak. We call it delicious.

The description on the menu reads “Char-broiled chuck tender, wild mushrooms, Swiss cheese, arugula & cracked pepper aioli on ciabatta.” It’s so good I had to recreate it. I have made this sandwich now a couple of times. The only difference is I use a shoulder tender rather than the chuck tender used by Zepplins. They are similar cuts from the same general area of the cow, but the shoulder tender is rated more tender. As a matter of fact, beef shoulder tender is rated as the second most tender cut of beef trailing only the beef tenderloin. In addition, the cut has a much beefier taste and is half the cost of beef tenderloin. Another very similar cut coming from the same general area you could use for this sandwich is the flat iron.

All three of these cuts should only be cooked no further than medium-rare. Cooking any of these cuts beyond medium-rare will cause the muscle to tighten up and become tough.

Here is what I did:

Beef Shoulder Tender Sandwich
(Makes two sandwiches)

Ingredients

1 Beef shoulder tender (approximately 8 to 10 ounces)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
4 Slices ciabatta approximately 1/2″ thick from a 12″ loaf
Olive oil
4 Tablespoons black pepper roasted garlic aioli (recipe follows)
1 Cup approximately arugala
3 Slices Swiss cheese
4 ounces of mushrooms sliced thin (your choice; oyster, chanterelle, shiitake, cremini)

Directions

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

About 30 minutes prior to grilling, take beef shoulder tender out of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Then season with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and grill beef shoulder to rare or medium-rare; about 4 to 5 minutes per side for rare, 6 to 7 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove from heat, tent with foil, and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Prepare the ciabatta and mushrooms while the beef is coming to room temperature. Brush one side of the ciabatta with olive oil and place under a broiler until toasted. Flip and lightly toast the side without olive oil and set aside. This could also be done on the grill if you prefer.

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a skillet. Sautée mushrooms until softened they begin to slightly brown. Lightly season with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and set aside.

Assemble the sandwich. Place two slices of toasted ciabatta on work surface with the olive oil side down. Spread aioli on these sides. Top with arugala and then Swiss cheese. Next place sliced beef tenderloin tender slices on top of cheese and mushrooms on top of beef. Top with remaining toasted ciabatta slices olive oil side up and serve.

Black Pepper Roasted Garlic Aioli

Ingredients

1 Large egg yolk
2 Teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Roasted garlic cloves
Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk together yolk, lemon juice, and mustard in a medium sized bowl. Combine oils and add, a few drops at a time, to yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified. Should your mixture separates, stop adding oil and continue whisking until mixture comes together, then resume adding oil.

Mash the roasted garlic to a paste. Whisk in garlic paste and black pepper into above mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Aioli will last about a week in the refrigerator.

Lomo al Trapo: Salt-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Grilled in Cloth

I first heard of Lomo al Trapo about four years ago when I read an issue of Bon Appétit Magazine where Steven Raichlen described this South American method of cooking beef tenderloin. Lomo al trapo literally translates to “beef tenderloin in a towel.” It’s made by wrapping a beef tenderloin in a thick crust of salt inside a towel, tying it up, and throwing it directly on a fire until it’s cooked.

It sounds crazy, but it’s one of the easiest, most foolproof, delicious, and wickedly cool methods of cooking beef I’ve ever seen. Do this for a dinner party and your guests will at first think you’re crazy, but once that juicy slice of beef is on their plate and in their mouths they’ll think you’re a genius. Okay, maybe a mad genius. All it takes is beef, salt, a few seasonings, a towel, twine, and fire.

This post is more a description of a technique than it is a recipe. Just follow the basic steps outlined here and use your imagination.

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Wet towel with layer of kosher salt, fresh oregano and thyme. The salt should be about 1/4 inch thick.
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Fold the towel ends in like you would a burrito. Keep compressing the roast as you roll it to ensure good salt contact.
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Roast tied and ready for the fire.
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Nestle the roast directly in the coals making sure it is full contact.
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Pull the roast at about 95°F to 100°F and let it rest until it comes up to 125°F to 130°F. This will give you very nice rare cooked roast. Beef tenderloin is always better when cooked to rare or medium-rare. 
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Crack open the hardened cloth and salt shell to reveal a beautifully cooked tenderloin.
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Beautifully cooked tenderloin roast

Start by soaking a clean, kitchen towel in water. Do not use a towel that you value; you’re not getting this back. I purchase packs of six terry cloth bar towels that measure 16″ square at Target for about $4.00.

Ring out the towel and lay it out on a flat surface. Then spread a thick layer of kosher salt.

Add some fresh or dried herbs if you would like and then begin rolling the tenderloin up in the towel. When you get to the point where the towel will begin to roll under the salt, pull the towel back and continue to roll. You want the beef to be in full contact with the salt. Fold the ends of the towel in like a burrito and then complete the roll. Be sure to compress the roll as you go. You want this tight.

Once the tenderloin is completely rolled. Take some cotton twine that you have also soaked in water and tie the towel to the roast. I start with a tie that runs lengthwise and holds the ends together. Next, I tie the roast about every two inches.

 

 

Place the beef tenderloin package directly into the coal bed. I like to move it around a bit to get it nestled into the coals. I like to use lump charcoal for this as I believe it is cleaner. You can use charcoal briquets if you would like. Let this sit in the coals for about 10 minutes, flip and give it another 8 minutes or so.

Pull the roast out of the fire when an instant read thermometer reads 95°F to 100°F. The heat from the hot salt will continue to cook the roast. I pulled this one right before it hit 100°F and just a few minutes later it was approaching 104° After about 8 minutes the roast will be 125-130°F .

 

Once the roast comes to the desired temperature, crack open the hardened cloth and salt shell. Use a pastry brush to brush off any excess salt. I recommend saving some of the excess salt to use to season any accompanying sides you may be serving. The salt will have a nice smoky flavor. Discard the remaining shell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move the roast to platter and carve to about 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices. The end pieces will be slightly more done. Open a nice dry Malbec and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what I did:

Lomo al Trapo: Salt-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Grilled in Cloth

Ingredients

1 1/2 to 2 pound center cut piece of beef tenderloin, trimmed of all fat and silver skin
Kosher salt (Approximately 2 cups)
Fresh or dried herbs like oregano and thyme

Special equipment:
1 piece of clean cotton cloth, approximately 16 inches square, soaked in cold water and wrung out
Twine

Directions

Prepare a charcoal grill lighting a large chimney of lump charcoal. You should have a good layer of lump charcoal covering the bottom of your grill.

Spread the cotton cloth on a work surface. Spread the salt out on top of the cloth to form a layer 1/4 inch thick that extends to within 1 inch of the edge of the cloth. Place the fresh herbs or sprinkle the dried herbs evenly over the salt.

Place the beef tenderloin on top of the salt and herbs. Roll the cloth and salt around the tenderloin trying to maintain a compact roll. As the cloth begins to roll up on itself, pull the cloth back a few inches to ensure that the tenderloin completely encased in salt. Fold the ends in like you would rolling a burrito and finish the roll. When the roll is complete, first tie the roast lengthwise and then about every two inches.

Rake the charcoal out into an even layer at the bottom of the grill. Lay the wrapped tenderloin right on the coals. Moving it around a little as you place it to ensure that it is complete contact with the charcoal. The cloth will more than likely catch on fire so do not become alarmed. Grill for 9 to 10 minutes. Using long handled tongs, gently turn the tenderloin package over and grill for 8 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 95° to 100°F.

Remove the roast from the coals and let rest. The hot salt will continue to cook the roast. Leave the thermometer in the roast until it reaches the desired doneness: 125 – 130°F for rare; to medium-rare, 140° – 145°F. This will take as little as 10 minutes.

Tap the tenderloin hard with the back of a large, heavy chef’s knife. The burnt shell should crack and easily come off. Brush any excess salt off the tenderloin with a pastry brush. Transfer the tenderloin to a clean platter, cut it into 1 1/2 to 2 inch thick pieces and serve immediately.

Comfort Food: Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

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There are foods that warm the soul and feed the body, and then there are foods that warm the soul, feed the body, and help heat the house on a cold winter day. These red wine braised short ribs are one of the foods. Think of them as little individual pot roasts with a melt in your mouth tenderness.

I like to use a mirepoix to boost the finished flavors when braising the short ribs. A mirepoix is a French term for a mixture of onion, carrots, and celery. I also like to serve the short ribs over whipped parsnips. I find the slight tang of the parsnip adds to the savory flavors of the short ribs and sauce. I simply boil the parsnips. I then add whole milk and unsalted butter and whip them to a smooth consistency using a stick blender or hand mixer.

I suggest a Côtes du Rhône or Cabernet Sauvignon for the wine used while braising provided it is not overly oaked and lower in tannins.

Here is what I do:

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients

5 to 6 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (a Côtes du Rhône or Cabernet Sauvignon)
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
8 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, Do not separate cloves
4 cups low-salt beef stock (preferably home made)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Brown short ribs on all sides, about four minutes per side. Do not over-crowd your Dutch oven. You will need to do this in two or three batches depending on the size of your Dutch oven. Transfer short ribs to a plate after browning and set aside. Pour off all but about three tablespoons of drippings from the Dutch oven.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat. Cook until onions are browned, about five minutes or until onions are browned. Then add flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red; about three minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any juices that may have escaped onto the plate. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half. This will take about a half-hour. Add all herbs to Dutch oven along with garlic. Stir in stock. Return liquid to a boil and then cover and transfer to oven.

Cook 2–2½ hours or until short ribs are tender and easily slide off the bone. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain mirepoix sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Plate in shallow bowls over whipped parsnips. Spoon sauce over short ribs and parsnips and serve immediately.

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Big, meaty short ribs while red wine reduces.  

Kabobs: A Given on “National Something on a Stick Day”

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Today is National Something on a Stick Day.  National Something on a Stick Day doesn’t necessarily mean food on a stick. It is a day when you simply put something on a stick and display it. However this is a food blog and human beings have been putting all kinds of food on sticks for centuries so naturally I thought of making kabobs.

Tonight I made my Garlic – Rosemary Beef Tenderloin Kabobs with Bacon Wrapped Asparagus. I know this is somewhat of a repeat but it is a recipe that begs to be repeated. I made a slight change in the oil used this time and was very pleased with the results. I have been using walnut oil a lot lately in place of olive oil; especially in situations of higher heat. Walnut oil has a higher smoke point and there for doesn’t give off flavors as quickly. I think it worked very well with this recipe.

Garlic – Rosemary Beef Tenderloin Kabobs

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup walnut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 pound beef tenderloin, trimmed and cut into approximately 1” cubes
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Onion cut into large chuncks
  • Mushrooms (Your choice. I prefer Baby Bella.)

Instructions

  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; add beef. Cover or seal, and chill several hours, turning occasionally.
  2. Remove beef from marinade, discarding marinade.
  3. Using bamboo or metal skewers, alternate beef, onion and mushroom.
  4. Sprinkle evenly with pepper, and let stand 30 minutes letting beef come to room temperature.
  5. Grill over medium hot coals 10 to 12 minutes turning frequently to cook all sides and meat is cooked to desired doneness.
  6. Remove the kabobs from the grill and let rest 4 to 5 minutes before serving.

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

Ingredients

Bacon
Asparagus (4 to 5 spears per person)

Directions

Wrap one slice of bacon around four to five spears of asparagus per serving. Grill over direct heat turning frequently until bacon is cooked and asparagus is tender; 5 to 10 minutes depending on heat.

Beef Stroganoff over french fried potatoes with dilled sour cream

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Foods change. Immigrants learn to improvise with ingredients when moving to a new land or substitutions are made when a recipe travels to a new land when the original ingredient is not readily available. Beef stroganoff is no exception. Beef stroganoff originated in Russia. From there it migrated to China were it was served with rice. Later, beef stroganoff came to the United States where the dish was served over egg noodles. So what starch was beef stroganoff originally served with in Russia? Believe it or not, french fried potatoes.

I like to serve my beef stroganoff over hand-cut, french fried potatoes with a dollop of dilled sour cream. I will share my tips for making great fries in a future post. Here’s my beef stroganoff recipe:

Ingredients

1 ½ Pounds beef tenderloin or sirloin top loin
4 Tablespoon butter
1 Large onion, thinly sliced into half moons
½ Pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoon oil
¼ Cup flour
1 ¼ Cups beef broth
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 Teaspoons freshly chopped dill
½ Cup sour cream

Directions

A couple hours prior to cooking place the steak in the freezer to slightly freeze. Freezing the steak for a couple of hours helps to firm up the steak allowing you to more easily slice the steak. Also, take all but two tablespoons of the sour cream and stir in the dill. Refrigerate sour cream allowing the dill and sour cream to marry.

Trim beef of all fat and slice thin strips against the grain.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan and fry the steak about three minutes. There should be a considerable amount of red showing on the meat. Remove steak from pan and set aside. Melt remaining butter and sauté the onions until translucent, about five minutes.  Add the sliced mushrooms, and sauté 2-3 more minutes.  Lightly salt and pepper onions and mushrooms as they cook.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  In same pan heat 2 tablespoons of oil, whisk in the flour and add beef bouillon to make a gravy-like sauce.  Stir in the Dijon mustard and two tablespoons of sour cream. return the beef, onions, and mushrooms and simmer 5 minutes more.  Adjust salt and pepper seasoning.  Serve over french fried potatoes and top with dilled sour cream.

Chili — Nothing like a good bowl of red on a cold winter day

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You can’t have just one bowl of this chili. I use shredded chuck roast and shredded pork roast instead of the ubiquitous hamburger. The beef and pork compliment each other and gives chili a flavor and mouth feel you just can’t get with ground beef. This is how chili should be made.

Chili

Ingredients

1.5 lbs Combination of shredded chuck roast and pork butt roast (Recipe follows)
1 T Olive Oil
1 Onion
4 T Hot Mexican Chili Powder
1 Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes with garlic
1 Can Mexican Styles Stewed Tomatoes
2 Cans Red Kidney Beans (Optional)
1 46 oz Can Tasty Tom (Spicy V8 will also work but Tasty Tom is better)

Directions

Heat olive oil in large stew pot. Add onion and chili powder and sauté until onion just begins to get tender. Side Note: Sautéing the chili powder along with the onions brings out a somewhat smokey flavor to the powder. Add shredded beef and heat until warm. Add tomatoes, beans and Tasty Tom. Heat until chili begins to bubble. Reduce heat and simmer for as long as you like.

Shredded Beef or Pork

Ingredients

beef roast or pork butt roast – trimmed of fat approximately 2 to 3 pounds
1 onion – coarsely chopped
4.5 oz jar minced garlic – unless you want to mince all that garlic
1 to 2 bay leaves
Oregano
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Cumin
olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325F. Rub the beef thoroughly with olive oil. Generously season both sides of the roast with the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano. Spread entire jar of minced garlic on top side of roast. Top with onion. Add bay leaves and wrap the meat in heavy-duty foil sealing the edges all around with tight crimps. Place the meat in a baking dish and bake for about 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the beef is tender enough to fall apart. If you hear much sizzling as the meat cooks, turn the heat down.

When the beef is fork-tender, unwrap the top of the foil package, push aside
the onions, and cook another 5 to 10 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and let the meat cool. Shred it into long shreds with a fork. Beef may be stored in the refrigerator (for up to a week) or frozen. I use this style of shredded beef and pork for tacos, burritos, chimichangas, chili, shepherd’s pie or any other recipe in place of ground meat.