Month: February 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy

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A slow cooker is a wonderful thing. Anyone who has one knows the incredible feeling of coming home at the end of a long day to a place filled with intensely rich food smells, and a hot meal bubbling away in the kitchen already. I’ve been known to descend on the crock pot immediately, without removing pumps or tights first. It’s that irresistible.

Slow cookers have been around forever and as a result, there is a glut of recipes out there especially for them. I feel like this next statement should be in caps… not all slow cookers recipes are created equally. I have had some truly awful food that was cooked to death all day inside the crock pot (sometimes created by mine own hand, I’m ashamed to admit).

The trick is recipe selection. Tough cuts of meat are the best; they’re super cheap and stand up really well to the low and slow method. Also, they become mouth-wateringly buttery soft after getting the low and slow treatment. The other thing to think about is vegetable mixture. You will need to use a recipe that calls for vegetables that don’t fall apart or turn into mush when cooked all day. To use this beef burgundy recipe as an example, carrots can handle the long cook time, and strangely enough, so can mushrooms; they become melty and smooth and imbue the rest of the pot with their delicious meaty flavor.

Finally, everyone embarking on a delicious foray into the world of cooking with a slow cooker should know the cardinal rule. Don’t open the lid until the very end of the cooking time! The heat is so low, it takes forever for the pot to build up the heat lost from opening the lid.

Enjoy!

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Vinaigrette

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I love Brussels spouts. I’m not ashamed, I’ll tell anyone, they are delicious. Truth be told, I only tried them for the first time within the past few years. I was a picky kid and I think that no one thought to try them on me; they probably would not have paired well with my plain spaghetti and butter anyway 🙂

I had some (OK, a lot, they looked so good in the grocery store that I went pretty wild bagging them) of leftover sprouts in my fridge from making a roasted Brussels sprouts side with a special Valentine’s Day filet mignon. I needed to use them up before they went to waste and I was craving a light dinner, so I made a Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon and Vinaigrette. Despite using just a few ingredients, this was complex tasting and very satisfying. Next time, I’ll buy Brussels sprouts especially for this dish!

Ingredient list:

Brussels sprouts
olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper
bacon
parmesan cheese for grating
good quality balsamic vinegar

How to Have Oysters at Home

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I went on the most delicious jaunt to Aquagrill the other week, but when the bill came and after I picked myself up off the floor from the sticker shock, I thought, why not do this at home? Yes, forgo the intimate restaurant experience, but really, what’s more intimate than the two of you cuddled up at home over something as luxurious and special as oysters?

The sight of all the oysters gleaming on the plate reminded me of the piles of oysters that I walk past every week at Whole Foods. Now, I never gave those a second look before but this week I bee-lined for them and was delighted to find that they are half the price of the restaurant and from the same bays and coves. I bought a half dozen of the same gorgeous Blue Point oysters I had at the restaurant, a few Wianno and Choptank oysters, and an oyster knife. Emphasis on the fact that it was an oyster knife. This excellent blog post on the subject of eating oysters at home assures me that any other knife makes the task of shucking even more dangerous than it already is (especially if you’re me, apparently. After hearing the sounds of swearing and stabbing coming from the kitchen, my boyfriend came in, picked up the knife, popped the hinge and had the stupid things open in no time. It is possible to be oyster savant, and I am definitely not, but maybe you are!).

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I picked up a dozen total, a half dozen for each of us, which was plenty for an evening treat. They went into a bowl covered with a damp towel and right into the fridge when I got home from the supermarket. Apparently these will keep that way for a few days, but who could look at them for a few DAYS without succumbing and eating them? We couldn’t and these were devoured a few hours after they came home.

The best shaped dish I had for creating a bed of ice for these to sit on was a pie plate. So, into the pie plate they went! Our fridge doesn’t crush ice, but that’s okay, because I do :). I tossed a bunch of cubes into a freezer bag, wrapped the bag in towels, put the wrapped bag onto a wooden cutting board (to protect the counter), and beat the whole thing with a hammer until crushed.

Shucking is the biggest challenge of this whole endeavor, and I can’t possibly explain it better than the people over at Legal Sea Foods. Although, I have to warn, they make it look very easy but it does take some force.

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Lemon Bars

It seems that lemon bars are everywhere on the internet lately. I spotted them here, and a key lime variant here. A commentor even made mention of my beloved Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Ina Garten’s famed lemon bar recipe. Had enough yet? We’re not done. I agree that our taste buds need a jolt this time of year to get through this period of wintertime blues, so I’m throwing my hat in the ring as well.

I found this recipe about a year ago in Cooking Light magazine and have yet to taste it’s equal. Never say never, but using less sugar and cutting calories in the shortbread bottom makes for a delightfully light, tart bar, with a crisp cookie crust. I whipped these up using Meyer lemons I found at Trader Joe’s last week while stocking up on my tomato sauce and beef winter staples.

Baker’s Note: I omitted the toasted pine nuts in the recipe, lovely as they sound, because they are a bit more expensive than I wanted this batch to be. I’ve substituted almonds in the past, but wanted to see if this could be made nut-free for potentially serving to people with allergies. To make up for it, I used a cup of lightly spooned flour, stead of 3/4 of a cup. Worked like a charm.

This came out so well, that I think I’ll whip up another batch to bring to work for Valentine’s Day!