Archives for category: Red Meat

I have to say, it’s a good thing that I really like eggs as I have been eating a lot of them since our Tahoe trip. Most of the eggs were boiled until the yolks were just solidified and added to a salad. Some I made into single portion deviled eggs (my love of deviled eggs is well documented and knows no bounds). And then I took the great advice from the last post and used a whole bunch of them to make this quiche.

I dare not test my cholesterol anytime soon.

I have always liked quiche, though I tend to like them the most when there is a good crust-to-filling ratio. I’m all about the crust-to-filling ratio. I find that I’m still learning a lot about the things I like and the things I don’t like but at least I always hold true to my convictions.

Case in point, I like crispy breakfast foods. I like my bacon to be so crispy it shatters if you pick it up wrong. I like my biscuits to be browner than normal so they have some bite (rather than being doughy). I like my waffles to be crunchy and light, like buttery toast. I like crispy breakfast foods.

On the other side of the spectrum, I hate noodles in broth. My theory stems back to childhood road trips to visit my grandmother in New York. To prepare for the loooooooongOMG trip back home, my parents would pick up what they called won ton soup. It looked like this:

I should chime in here and say that I get really terrible motion sickness.  About two hours into the trip, my parents would pull over at a picnic area and we would eat this for lunch.  After awhile (I’m talking like 10 years), we started varying what we ate for lunch but the damage was done.  To this day, I cannot eat any kind of noodles in broth.  Pho, ramen, won ton soup – they are all big fat no’s in my book.

So believe me when I say that crust-to-filling ratio is very important to me and that I am quite consistent about it.  I love crust so the lower the ratio, the better.  Take, for example, Chinese dan ta, which is basically like a quiche without the savory ingredients.  I will not eat a dan ta if it takes more than 2 bites to consume.  I’m not talking two Martin bites either.  I mean two Melanie bites.  That amounts to basically a mini cupcake pan’s size dan ta.

When we were in Paris this past summer, one of my favorite memories was walking along some random street in Paris and picking some random bakery to buy lunch based on the goods displayed in their store window.  I chose a thick slice of salmon quiche, the kind that comes from a 9″ deep dish pie pan, if you can see where this is going.  Martin and I took our goodies to a small road-side park across the street from the Moulin Rouge and proceeded to munch away.  I will admit, the quiche was quite tasty but the whole time I kept thinking, “Damn, this is a lot of filling.  And a lot of salmon.”  It was a less than ideal crust-to-filling ratio.

So I’m thinking if I don’t start talking about quiche, I will have to rename this post to something like “Melanie’s Random and Esoteric Quirks.  OMG, seriously?”  And we don’t want that, do we?  So let’s talk about quiche!

This meal pulled together so quickly, thanks to a lot of shortcuts.  Really, the longest parts of this dish were waiting for the puff pastry to thaw out and for the quiche to bake.  And possibly to clean up the kitchen because I try to be a clean-as-I-go-er but if I’m in a hurry (as I was the night I made this), it’s more like let’s-make-the-kitchen-look-like-an-earthquake-hit-it.  A legitimate possibility, given that we live in California, except for the whole “explaining why only our kitchen was affected” dealio.

So, first I used puff pastry as a lazy man’s crust and a rectangular tart pan (crust-to-filling ratio, eeeet eeeez impoooortant!!).  Brushed it with a bit of Dijon, dropped a generous handful of cheese on top, topped with browned sausage and frozen spinach that had been reheated in the microwave.  Covered in eggs and heavy cream that had been whisked together with seasoning and ta da!  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  A great weekday meal.  If you also happen to have 3 dozen eggs in your refrigerator, I wholeheartedly recommend the quiche route.


When I first saw this recipe, I think the first thought in my head was, “That’s brilliant!” Because it was.  It combined so many awesome things:  buttery egg noodles (yum!) and short ribs (more yum!) slathered in a cream sauce (would it be cliched to say yum again?  Because seriously, YUM) to make Beef Stroganoff TO THE MAX!

Then I realized it was inspired by a recipe from Thomas Keller (of French Laundry and Ad Hoc fame), so not only was it likely to be delicious, but it would also involve many steps.  Seriously, read through that recipe.  I would say I would wait while you flip the page to do that, but man it’s long.  Long and with many, many, many steps.

Leslie and I tackled this together one weekend and I can say, having two people was invaluable.  I cannot imagine what I would do if I’d tried to do this one alone.  I think there are ways you could simplify this to get similar results, without having to spend 2 hours actively cooking it (yes, I really think it did take that long but a lot of it is also waiting time).

I think the biggest time-saver would be to choose a different cream sauce.  I’ve made Beef Stroganoff before from one of Gourmet’s recipes, and liked it a lot.  It didn’t involve processing mushrooms and letting cream simmer for 35 minutes or more, which I think chalks up another point in its favor.

In the future, I would probably make a modified version of this.  I would keep the short ribs and the mushrooms and switch out the sauce.  The short ribs are pretty easy since you just stick them in a slow cooker and forget about them until tender.  I absolutely loved the short ribs in this dish (instead of the tenderloin Gourmet recommends), but I also really love short ribs.  If there’s a way to prepare short ribs that I don’t like, I haven’t found it yet.

As for the mushrooms, if you let them get golden brown the way the recipe indicates, are out of this world!  I really felt we should have doubled the mushrooms we sautéed, which might be why I am so indifferent to the sauce – it took a long time AND we didn’t get to have as many yummy golden-brown mushrooms because of it!

Also, don’t do what I did.  I was pretty tired by the end of the recipe and blindly dumped noodles and sauce together before mixing it up.  When I finished mixing, I realized that the noodles were a bit dry, either because the ratio was off or because I just like really saucy noodles.  Next time, I will definitely be more careful.  I think this step is probably pretty obvious, but I always seem to forget it, so it’s a good reminder for me.  If I type out, “Be careful how you mix foods together!” 100 times, do you think I’ll finally do it?

So there!  My very first Thomas Keller recipe.  It was a doozy:  lots of steps, lots of dirty dishes but a very delicious final result eaten together with good friends.  Overall, a good way to spend a Sunday.  🙂

Yesterday was the craziest, raniest day in California that I can remember for a good long while.  I don’t think it stopped raining at all until 5pm and everything was completely waterlogged.

As I looked out the window and stared at the gray sky and watched the rain drizzle down, all I could think was comfort food. I am a huge fan of comfort food so I rarely need an excuse to decide to make it.

I commented on the rainy weather to Amy, who came back right away with a bunch of suggestions to combat the gray day, among them beef burgundy and a provencal beef stew.  You can guess what main ingredient stuck in my head and I asked her about beef stroganoff, which she has always praised as delicious but which I’ve never made.  She directed me towards the Gourmet Cookbook version.

I was instantly sold when I skimmed the ingredients and realized all I was missing was beef, shallots and and egg noodles.  For once, I actually had fresh dill and mushrooms on hand and I knew – just knew – it was a sign that I was supposed to make this dish.

What’s crack-a-lackin’?  Is it sheer yumminess?

When I took my first bite, my first thought was: AH MAH ZING.  The minute I dug into this dish, I was in love.  It was just so perfect and tasty and delicious.  I can definitely see why Amy whole-heartedly recommends this recipe, and maybe licks her lips as she does so.  🙂

The only changes I would make for next time is to increase the amount of sauce by 50% … doubling it is probably too much but the sauce is delicious and you don’t want the pasta to be dry.  Also, I am almost too embarrassed to admit this, but the dish says it serves 6 and in actuality, there were 3 generous portions for us.  Apparently, a dill cream sauce served over tender beef and noodles will put you in some crazy food daze where you won’t realize how much you’ve eaten until you’ve eaten it.

Either that, or we’re total pigs.

Including the recipe, because a search of Epicurious did not lead to the particular recipe I used.

Beef Stroganoff
from The Gourmet Cookbook

3-1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter, separated
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth
1 lb. beef tenderloin, trimmed, sliced 1/4″ thick and cut into 1″ pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil, separated
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
3/4 lb. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved, quartered if large
3 tbsp. sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Buttered wide egg noodles

1-  Melt 1-1/2 tbsp. butter in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat.  Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes to make a roux.  Add stock in a slow stream, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and keep warm.

2-  Pat beef dry and season well with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil in a 12″ heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides.  Add beef and cook, turning once, approx. 1 minute per side.  Insides should still be slightly pink but outsides should be seared.  Remove with slotted spoon to ap late.

3-  Add 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil and heat until hot but not smoking.  Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off have evaporated and they are cooked through.

4-  Return meat to skillet and stir to combine, then transfer to serving bowl.

5-  Reheat sauce over low heat, then whisk in sour cream, mustard, dill, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Do not let boil!  Pour sauce over beef and noodles.

Serves 6 normal people or 3 portions for 1 hungry Swede and 1 hungry Asian

I was in North Carolina for 3 weeks and I didn’t cook a thing.  Sometimes, it was heavenly, like when I would walk downstairs and my parents would have dinner just waiting for me (you hear that, Martin?!).  Other times, it was sad, like when I wanted nothing more in the world than freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and we had no brown sugar.   No.Brown.Sugar!  Not a drop!

So suffice to say, I’ve been on a bit of a cooking binge the past week or so.  And I am here to tell you about one thing I made, which is “braised pork,” as the title aptly tells you.  It got rave reviews and I noticed it was made by the newest of the Food Network stars, Melissa d’Arabian, so I thought I would try it out.

Actually, when I impulsively bought a pork shoulder from the grocery store, I was thinking of maybe pulled barbecue pork sandwiches or something like that. Then I started researching and wow – lots of people want you to use smokers.  I gots no smoker.  I don’t even own a grill!  😦  No happy summertime cookouts for me, no siree.

But don’t cry for me.  I had a pork shoulder!  And a plan on making fall-apart-tender pork in a tomato-wine-veggie sauce.

And that is exactly what it made.  I served it with a cheesy soft polenta that I found in my new cookbook, The Joy of Cooking (thanks, Jordan!).  I will say that 1/2 cup of cheese is not enough to flavor the polenta (I don’t care what they say!).  And that soft polenta is delicious.

After cooking, I strained out some of the copious amounts of fat from the sauce and then I added a bit of starch to the sauce and thickened it up and poured it on top of the polenta (yummy!).  The pork was appropriately fork-tender and pulled apart easily when cut.  Overall, I very much enjoyed it.  Without the sauce, however, it’s very dry so make sure to have sauce!  However, I will also say that based on the reviews, I thought this recipe would change my life.  But it didn’t.  It was a very solid dish, but not one of my all-time favorites.

We had too much leftover and the next time we ate it, I served it with a new side, scalloped potatoes, also from The Joy of Cooking. I have tried better scalloped potato recipes.

PS.  Pork – is that considered red meat or white meat?  Confusing!

So today, I happened to read an article on how to take great food photos.  It wasn’t anything I didn’t know (shoot in natural light being the big one!), but for some reason this one really inspired me.  It inspired me so much, in fact, that I not only shot a photo of what I cooked, but I uploaded it the same day. I know, I know.  I am showing amazing initiative today.

That’s some high-quality initiative there, Melanie!

So this is my version of fried rice.  It’s very “let’s scrounge around the refrigerator” but that’s okay.  This particular version has beef, red onions, peas and egg.  It is my very firm opinion that fried rice can’t be fried rice without egg bits in there.  That was always my favorite part growing up.  I would seek out the extra big pieces that hadn’t been scrambled with the rice and eat them with much gusto.

I scramble my egg separately from the rice.  I did once try the “make a big well in your rice and then swirl the egg around and cook it and then toss with rice” method but all I got was egg-coated rice for my laziness.  I think that method is also the most effective in a wok or a Benihana dining room, both of which I don’t have.  In fact, making fried rice is always a huge ordeal for me because I just have a big skillet, and the shallow sides do not inhibit my enthusiastic tossing and fried rice flies all over the kitchen.

Normally, I would use green onion but I didn’t have any, so I instead use sauteed red onion, to take a bit of the bite off.  And finally, after I had mixed everything together, I added some frozen peas.  Yes, straight to the rice without defrosting them at all!  The heat of the rice cooks those little suckers to perfection.

If you want to add pepper to this dish, make sure it’s finely ground white pepper, for that extra authenticity.

So last night I made roast pork with garlic-onion gravy.  Since I had off yesterday in honor of MLK, I figured I should cook up stuff that I might not have the time to cook during a regular work day.  I had more ambitious plans (such as an oyster dressing!) but I ran out of time.

Here’s Southern Living’s take on what I made (mine was not nearly so fancy):

I was too busy running around like a spring chicken to really take photographs, except for unimportant steps like pouring a mound of sauted-onion-and-celery into aroasting pan.  I suppose in a recipe, every step is important – but it isn’t so fun to look at.  So no photographs – I might as well just go ahead and throw this post up.  🙂

I did skip one step and that was to sear the pork on the skillet before adding the onions and celery.  Because I am lazy, I took the advice of the Whole Foods meat guy and actually just cranked up the oven to 500-degrees F before putting the roast in there.  After placing the roast into the oven, I immediately turned the heat down to 325-degrees F.  It didn’t really form a crust (most likely because it was covered with aluminum) but it was still tasty tasty despite that.

I briefly worried about pan-drippings, and not flavoring the vegetables with the pork essence/flavoring/whatever.  But then you let the pork roast sit on top of the vegetables for 3 hours, so I think there’s plenty of time for the onions and celery to bathe in flavoring to make a good gravy.

Martin really liked it and I was amazed at how it turned out.  I always equate pork with weird dryness, but this one was quite moist.  I used to think I didn’t like pork, but I think it’s more I don’t like dry pork, which – duh.  Who does?

I have subscriptions to both Bon Appetit and Southern Living and I have to say, I consistently like the recipes from SL more.  I wonder what it is?  Do they have more “down-home” cooking recipes?  Do they understand the importance of fat?  Am I just a HUGE fan of comfort foods?  I don’t know. 🙂

There’s no true recipe to follow, just a picture I wanted to share:

When you shove a camera up to a burger, it no longer looks like the size of my dainty fist, which it totally was.  🙂

I mixed in crumbled blue cheese and plenty of salt and pepper in with my ground beef and formed them into slider-sized patties.  I also made my favorite roll standby, Parker House, to use as buns, and carmelized up some onions.  It was tasty tasty tasty.

Wow, it has been a long time since I last posted!  Embarrassingly long, one would say.  Good thing Martin gave me a digital cooking assistant for Christmas, one that promises to practically write these posts about the food I just put in my mouth for me!  There are several out there, and I am not near my normal computer, so I haven’t had a chance to try one out / pick The One (you know, like forever and ever).  But trust me, when I do, you will know!

I have to admit, I was surprised when he gifted me with this, as it only encourages me EVEN MORE to perch my laptop precariously on our kitchen counter as I go about doing my cooking thang.  But if he’s okay with that, I am even more okay with that!  I am especially excited about how easy it is to do things like upload my favorite recipes and turn them into easy-to-print formats.

Anyway, with all of that Christmas excitement out of the way, I will now throw up a post about a food I made a long time ago and subsequently don’t remember too well:

Check out that hot, hot vegetable action!

To explain, I was not in the mood to cook at all and so planned on using our ready-steady-go supply of Ikea meatballs and (gulp) jarred spaghetti sauce (don’t hate me, gourmands!) to make hum-drum spaghetti and meatballs.  Then I realized … I had no spaghetti sauce.  So I rolled my sleeves up (metaphorically, I think I was wearing short sleeves that day), checked my pantry and found Giada’s Marinara Sauce, which sounded different from any marinara I’d ever tried.  And how.  It was chunky and vegetable-y and non-tomtao-y.  It also had the added benefit of using every vegetable I needed to use up in my crisper.

I thought the sauce was okay, good for when you wanted something a bit different.  Martin really liked the new texture and taste. He also liked that, when I forced him to play the “What’s in your food?” game, he could just look down and identify everything by sight.

I think maybe next time, I would add some tomato sauce, to make it a bit saucier.  This is the only picture I have, but hopefully you can see how it’s less sauce, more vegetables barely held together by a binding agent.

And that, as they say, is that.  I’ve been lazy all day this Christmas Day, so it’s nice to know that I can lay claim to some form of achievement, no matter how minor.  🙂  Happy Holidays, all!

Or, more technically, the other week.  I took a photo of it but it’s a pretty sad pile of orange-ness so I thought I’d save you guys the pain.  😉

The other week, I bought some sweet potato pasta from the Farmer’s Market.  I didn’t know what to do with it, but I thought I’d try to emphasize fall-vegetable-ness of it and try something new.  I thought it was pumpkin pasta (and still kept thinking that, until the guy I buy pasta from corrected me yesterday when I asked him why he didn’t have any more) so I probably didn’t do a great job of bringing out its flavors.  Instead, I smothered it in pumpkin flavor.

I chose a recipe for Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage.  Skimming over the recipe, it sounded new and exciting.  But after making it, I realized it was just a basic cream sauce, but with pumpkin for flavoring rather than something typical, like tomato.  It was definitely fall-like, as it tasted a lot like pumpkin pie (the cinnamon and nutmeg helped with that, too).  The sauce was pretty tasty but unfortunately, as I focused on making the sauce, I accidentally overcooked the noodles.  Needless to say, it could have been better.

Alex’s chili.  The only modifications were I added a whole mess of minced garlic, used fresh rather than canned diced tomatoes, did not add the black beans (one can of beans is more than enough for me!), and I felt the sauce needed a bit more “oomph” so I added about 1 tbsp. more of chili powder and garlic powder, each.  I also added a bit more tomato paste than called for, because the sauce was a bit runny for my taste.

The result was very tasty, very oomph-y and very thick.  Good autumn, stick-to-your-ribs food, especially served with grated cheddar and soft spinach bread.

One thing I learned:  when tasting to determine if you need to spice up the seasoning more, do not do it directly after adding the beer.  Because it will taste like beer and weird.  And you will question Alex’s sanity.  But if you wait 30 minutes, after everything has mellowed out, you will realize he actually has some.  😉

Also, I had a revelation the other day.  I think the reasons that my ill-fated baked beans turned out so poorly wasn’t the recipe itself (though that doesn’t necessarily absolve the recipe either).  It was the fact that the dried beans I used were of unknown age and they just wouldn’t rehydrate.  I set a cup of kidney beans out all night in preparation for the chili and they were still as hard as rocks the next day.  Not a good sign at all.  According to a website I found,, that’s known as HTC (hard to cook) Defect.  Age and improper storage will cause this.

Now I have a nice pound of pie weights, for the next time I make pie.  However, with the giant fit I threw over my last pie attempt, it might be awhile before Martin lets me break out the butter and Crisco.  Whoops.