Sunday, September 22, 2013


Oh yeah. Who doesn't like stew? Well, since I rhetorically asked, I don't. I wish I did. I feel that if I liked stew I would also be a person who enjoys family get togethers, playing board games, a sensible diet, and other wholesome things. My husband loves stew, which makes sense. He is the type of person that makes me think of Snow White in the woods- small children and picturesque animals gravitate towards him because he's so good. I, on the other hand, am way more like the witch-queen. In fact, my gay Great Uncle Fred (I always think of him in that one phrase, because it sounds weirdly melodious) insisted that our family (the non Jew side, clearly) descended from a Salem witch. 

Wait. Where was I? I lost consciousness for a minute there. 

Oh. right. Stew. So. I find stew depressing and damp, the eating equivalent of a mildewed towel. That said, I like my beef bourgignon because it's doused in an entire bottle of red wine and a packet of onion soup mix. II got it from a now defunct magazine  called Fresh Home. It had really annoying decorating tips, but it did have some good recipes. Also, since my mother tended to cook with wine a lot, I love the smell of wine cooking. I also am white trash and love dip made with onion soup mix, so really this recipe had me at hello. Hello, gorgeous. Well, hello gorgeous taste. It looks, as with most stew-type concoctions, like someone threw up, or as we in the industry call it, Throw Up Meat.  Oh stop it, you know I speak truth to power here. 

And yes, I referred to a Phil Collins song in my title. My friend Jessica Smock had a dog named Sussudio once. Then again, she also grew up with a hippie kid whose parents named him Concrete. She informs me she called him Connie for short, though. 

Beef Bourgignooooonnnnnnn 
(I refuse to include a photo because it looks like a scene from a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie so just paint a picture in your brain)

Serves 6, maybe, but really 4. 

  • 2 pounds cubed stewing beef at room temperature (no idea why, but I do know Gabrielle Hamilton says stuff tastes better at room temperature, and I am afraid of her, so I do it)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (I ignore this and just dribble olive oil in the pot)
  • 1 bottle dry full-bodied red wine (no clue what constitutes dry full-bodied red wine. I used Primal Roots Red because it tastes okay and I think you should only cook with wine you'd actually drink, when possible)
  • I package onion soup mix (the recipe calls for low-sodium mix but I have never seen this)
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 peeled carrots, cut into bite-size pieces (I usually add more)
  • 2 or more garlic cloves, minced 
  • I teaspoon thyme, cut up so there aren't tons of stems
  • 1 bay leaf
  • mushrooms- optional (I think they made it taste soggy, but if you want to be a jerk and ignore me, it calls for one cup of sliced mushrooms)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place stewing beef in a big ass ziploc with the flour (although I totes don't measure it, I just use a handful because I am a wild stallion), zip that sucker up, and then shake the hell out of it. 
  2. Put  butter and olive oil at medium heat in a big dutch oven. I am lucky because my mother-in-law gave us a giant Le Creuset which is probably worth more than one of my internal organs. Let it get mildly sizzly (the recipe actually says "until shimmering," which really aggravates me. Is this a recipe or an episode of She-Ra?) 
  3. Take half the meat and attempt to pat it dry-- this helps it brown better. Apparently. Brown half of the meat, nice and slow, maybe for ten minutes. Then do the other half. Then lie down. I kid! Not really.
  4. Once that's done and you've gotten up from fetal position on the floor of the kitchen, throw all the meat into the pot and cover it with the red wine. Totally pleasing, right? Add the onion soup mix and bring to a boil for three minutes. Then cover it, let it simmer, and go cook the vegetables.
  5. In a frying pan, heat a generous splash of oil to medium- if you throw water on it and it goes insane, that's a little too high. Not that I am judging you. Add the onions and carrots and cook for about ten minutes, until they are transparent. If they start to brown, you've cooked it too long, but I wouldn't freak out about it. 
  6. Add the vegetables, the garlic, the thyme, and the bay leaf to the meat. Cover that sucker and put it in the oven.
  7. It should cook for three hours, but check it every hour. My last batch took two and a half, and I did the last hour at 300 degrees because I didn't want to dry it out. Toss in those mushrooms ALTHOUGH I WISH YOU WOULDN'T in the last hour, and when you check it, give it a stir. 
  8. Take out the bay leaf, if you can find it, and then serve this sucker over nice buttered egg noodles.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mark Bittman, you Complete Me.

Like a lot of people, I suck when it comes to grocery shopping. I have grandiose plans of well-balanced, easily prepared dinners filled with vegetables and protein and deliciousness, and they never materialize.  I cannot tell you how many nights my husband and I have peered hopelessly into our fridge, hoping for...what? Delicious Orchards in there? Instead, what we find in the freezer are egg-free waffles for our son, sweet potato fries aforementioned son CLAIMS he will eat but in fact will not, and multiple half-empty pints of ice cream. The fridge seems to have a lot of cheese and a plethora of Capri Sun juice pouches, and that's it. And yes, I have seen the story about mold in juice boxes and I say that a little mold bolsters the immune system. Maybe. 

I mean, we have stuff to cook, but it all requires effort and patience. At the end of the day nobody got time for that. So we eat something with cheese melted on it and call it a day...and then feel both fat and guilty, which is a good time. As for lunch? Please. The lunches I bring to work take 3209924 years to make because I can't figure out what to bring, and then they still suck. 

So when I read Mark Bittman's column about making lunch in last week's Food Section of the New York Times  I was interested. Now, I should admit, I have Mark Bittman's cookbook and did not particularly enjoy it. It's very serious and sensible. There's no fun food essays, there's no pretty pictures, and it makes me feel like I have ADD. That said, I made two of the three recipes in the article and they were Dyn-O-Mite. 

Now, to be fair, they were not "easy" because Mr. Bittman assumes I am not a pig and have leftover vegetables and cooked chicken at my disposal, and I don't. I mean, I AM a pig. I have cheddar cheese and Schweppes Ginger Ale and possibly some Lake Champlain caramels. And three billion vats of the melted plasticine that are Danimals. 

So I bought two chickens and a ton of veggies, which completely defeats the purpose of using leftovers, but be quiet. I roasted the chickens using the old Joy of Cooking recipe-- basically, heat up the oven to 425 degrees or so, coat chickens in olive oil, salt and pepper and then stick something inside (I did a halved lemon and mashed garlic) and then throw them in, lowering the heat to 350. Cook 20 minutes per pound and use a damn meat thermometer to make sure you don't kill your loved ones (165 degrees). Baste every twenty minutes or never, or all the time, if you have OCD. 

Now, see, I had one chicken for a nice dinner, and one to make the damn lunch thing. Chicken 1 was dinner Labor Day night. I served it with steamed green beans and asparagus tossed in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper, and then some sauteed yellow squash and onions (they don't taste good unless they're burned. Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Snootbasket, I meant CARAMELIZED). 

The leftover veggies, plus the meat from Chicken 2, went into Mr. Bittman's Escabeche Salad:

True, it reeks of garlic, but it is really good-- the vinaigrette is not too overwhelming and goes well with the vegetables. Plus, it's a way for me to eat vegetables and actually enjoy them because they are coated in something tangy. NO YOU ARE. 

So fresh from that triumph, I embarked on the Cold Sesame Noodles.

One note. I bought a can of cheapo tahini that had one of those metal ring pulls, which promptly flew across the kitchen. I then had to figure out how the hell to get the goddam tahini out of the can, because my can opener was totally ineffective. Like an ape, I was. It didn't help that I decided to make this ten minutes before I had to go to work-- my husband had to work, my son had no school, and I was tag-teaming with my husband to race out the door once he got home. My poor kid kept on saying plaintively, "Mama? You said you'd draw Darth Maul for me." 

Eventually, with much cursing and sweating, I managed to get this all tupped up and run out the door only looking a little like a Hobo. Go me. Plus, I began the infinitely wearisome job of drawing Darth Maul's head. Do you know how many black squiggles and horns that man has? My God. 

The noodles were great. Spicy, a little peanut-y, a little whatever tahini tastes like-y, and filled with very crunchy vegetables. I used very quickly steamed snow peas, red pepper, and these grim shredded carrots we buy because they are the only vegetables my son will eat. We ate them for dinner instead of lunch, just because I am spiteful that way. 

So I guess there's something to be said for sensible recipes, huh?