Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Valentine's Day Again..

I checked out the menus to both Lincoln and Lovely Hula Hands and while both looked good, neither jumped out at me. Going back to my 10 Restaurants-I-haven't-eaten-at-but-want-to list, I checked out Fenouil and Carafe. Whoo boy, that is more my style. Fenouil shot to the top of my list with the Coquilles à la Poitrine Fumée (seared sea scallops. smoked bacon. leek fondue. verjus butter), Magret de Canard Rôti et son Oeuf (roasted duck breast. poached duck egg. toasted brioche. clementine hollandaise. escarole) and Foie Gras au Torchon (foie gras mousse. toasted brioche. fleur de sel). No word yet on a special Valentine's Day menu. Carafe looks pretty good too, with Steak Tartare (Raw Oregon Country Beef seasoned with capers, Dijon, onions and parsley), Crispy Pork Belly (Patatas Bravas, onion-garlic puree), and Braised Short Ribs Bordelaise (red wine sauce, roasted marrow, potato parsley puree & carrots). Carafe may win this contest purely on price, however. Entrees are priced about half of those at Fenouil.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Valentine's Day

is on a Saturday this year. Which means Brian and I will probably actually go out on that night. So far we have bandied about a few ideas: Caffe Mingo (because Brian has never been), Ten 01 (because Chef Jack Yoss is leaving), Nostrana (because Brian has never been). I know we definitely will get to Ten 01 before Jack leaves in March, but I don't want it to be Valentine's Day. We spent our last anniversary there and I want to try something new this holiday. I'm thinking I want to cross one of those restaurants off my list in the sidebar. The two that jump out at me are Lincoln and Lovely Hula Hands. Of course, we have been talking about going back to Toro Bravo soon - and we can walk there! What do you think? Where should we go for the big V-day?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hungarian Pot Roast

This is my second post about pot roast, and my second Hungarian recipe. Hmmm. I don't know anything about Hungarian food, but I have discovered it usually includes paprika and sour cream. That's not a bad thing.

I've been mostly sticking to my South Beach Diet plan, with lots of help from Kalyn's Kitchen, a blog out of Salt Lake City that includes lots of SBD recipes. So that is where I came across this recipe. It looked really good and, it was made in the Crockpot. As you may have guessed from my last post, I received a Crockpot from a good friend named Michelle, and I am having a blast with it.

Cooking with a Crockpot is easy, but deceiving. This recipe has lots of out-of-the-Crockpot steps. But, it all came together easily enough with the help of my other good friend, Mr. Dutch Oven. (My favorite Christmas gift from last year.)

First, I browned a rump roast in the dutch oven, making sure to get a nice brown crust. I plopped that in the Crockpot and dumped in the onions into the dutch oven with some paprika. I had to add a little more olive oil than was listed because the paprika was starting to burn.

Once the onions were just beginning to brown, I added them to the Crockpot, along with a can of diced tomatoes and a couple of cut-up red peppers.

I poured half a box (about 2 cups) of organic beef stock into the dutch oven and let it boil over medium heat until it reduced to about 1 cup.

Maybe it was a little more than 2 cups. Anyhoo, when it was reduced, I poured it over the rest of the stuff in the Crockpot and seasoned it with a lot of black pepper.

Kalyn says to cook it on high for 4 hours, but my schedule didn't work out that way, so I left it on high for about 3 hours, and then turned it to low for oh, another 8 or so hours (overnight). Slow cooking is slow cooking, right?

So when I got up the next morning, I scooped the roast out and strained the broth/juice into the dutch oven, catching the vegetables and setting them aside. Then I again simmered the broth over medium heat until it had reduced by half. I also skimmed some fat off the top.

Kalyn says to whisk in 1.5 cups light sour cream, but I just used my whole pint. I think I had more gravy than she did anyway. *Shrug*

I heated up the sour cream gravy for about 5 more minutes, whisking often and scraping all those yummy brown bits into it. We weren't eating it right away (it was morning, after all!), but I had a few tastes and it was rich and beefy. I plated one up for the camera, then packed the rest in containers for work lunches.

It's not the prettiest dish, but it sure tasted good. The vegetables melted into a kind of mush due to my overcooking, so I wouldn't recommend that necessarily. On the other hand, it was nice to bend it to my schedule and have it still turn out rather good. I added the rosemary sprig in the title picture for color, but it turned out that a couple rosemary leaves added some brightness. Brian also thought it needed some acid, so I suppose you could squeeze a lemon wedge over it.

Please see Kalyn's blog for the recipe.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Michelle's Queso Dip

Ahh, the queso dip. This spicy, Mexican-Style cheese dip is a hit at parties and with kids of all ages. An all-around winner.

Michelle's Queso Dip

1 onion
2 jalapeños (or 1 small can diced jalapeños)
1 8-oz package cream cheese
1 pint 2% milk (or half & half, or whipping cream)
6 cups cheddar cheese
1/2 cup green onions, chopped & divided
Frank's Red Hot sauce, to taste
salt & pepper

Mince the onion as fine as you can manage. I tried to grate it, which was a mess. Mincing/dicing will be fine.

Mince the jalapeños (wear gloves!), removing seeds and ribs as needed. I used the can of jalapeños because that's what I had, but I would use fresh next time.

Sauté onions and jalapeños in a little butter, about 5 minutes or until tender. I used a 5-quart saucepan. (Warning, spicy steam is hard on the eyes!)

Cut the cream cheese into cubes. Add to the pot with the onions and jalapeños. Turn down the heat under the pot to medium-low (3 or so).

Using a wooden utensil, stir the melting cream cheese and combine with the onions, etc. Before it is all melted, add the milk or cream.

Keep stirring until all is melted and combined. Make sure it doesn't get too hot - curdled dairy is no good.

Add the cheddar cheese all at once. I started with 4 cups, but added 2 more as it wasn't cheesy enough and the color wasn't right.

Stir the dip constantly until all the cheese is melted and the dip is combined well. You may want to use a whisk for this.

Add hot sauce if using and salt & pepper to taste.

Continue to heat and stir for 15 more minutes. The dip will continue to thin out as it heats. You will know it's done when there are no more strings of melting cheese and it is a uniform consistency. And, you know, it will be as hot as you want it. Add the green onions at this point, saving a few for garnishing purposes.

Alternatively, you can scoop some into your Crockpot "Little Dipper" that Michelle gave you for Christmas, plug that baby in and let it heat for 30-50 minutes.

To serve, simply unplug the Little Dipper and move it to your coffee table. It will remain at the optimum dipping temperature for at least 2 hours.

We had this with tortilla chips, but it could be good with chunks of bread, fruit, pretzels, kielbasa - anything that goes with cheese, really.

This recipe makes about 4 pints. Now what am I going to do with the other 3 pints?

Guess I'll have to throw a party!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year!

Wow, 2009 already. I'm getting married this year! Guess it's time to start looking for a dress...

Two new things on my sidebar: a "What I'm Reading" section and my Top-10-restaurants-that-I've-never-been-to list. I'm looking forward to crossing some of those off this year.

I am starting the South Beach Diet on Monday, so that means no sugar, no butter, no carbs, no fruit for 2 weeks. And no alcohol! If anyone has some SBD recipe suggestions, I would love to have them.

My sister Jen (of Hungarian Mushroom Soup fame) is visiting from Berlin this month with her sweetie Michael. One of the things I have planned is to do the omakase dinner at Tanuki. Oh Lord, am I excited about that!

Hope everyone has a great New Year!