Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beef, it's what's for New Year's Eve or Baby, it's cold outside....

Late afternoon, 12/30/2010

When it's nice and cold, 
I can hold my baby closer to me--
and collect the kisses that are due me.
I love the winter weather 
'cause I've got my love to keep me warm....

Today, Emi and I ran out to get a video game, hit Whole Foods and King Sooper's.  In the middle, we just had to have lunch together.  As we sat by the window of the restaurant, I looked outside and said, "We've got to get home."   There's just this look in the skies and about the air when all hell's about to break loose.  The snow began to fly as we drove south, but it let up by the time we got to the grocery store.  I ran in the liquor store to grab a little Cotes du Rhone to round off the bean soup and wienies for dinner, while she got started on the grocery list.  Five minutes later, I walked in to find no carts at all.  I knew we were in trouble.  It was us and everybody else in Colorado Springs.  All at King Sooper's.  Together.  The bread aisle was slim indeed and I was thanking God I got my bread earlier at Great Harvest.  Milk?  Same story, but thanks be I only needed heavy cream for a horseradish sauce for a friend's New Year's Eve tenderloin.   The lines were 6 deep, but all of registers were open.  Thanks for good planning, store manager.  Emi said, "This is how the store where I live is all the time... and people are not happy in line.  No one talks or smiles.  New Jersey, ugh."  I seldom wait for more than one or two people in front of me; often I'm first.  Wow.

By the time we got out to the car, visibility was zero.  Snow was flying in all directions, mostly sideways.  The wind had picked up to an amazing pitch and the temperature had dropped ten degrees.  Two inches of snow were on the ground and it was a freezing mess to just open the trunk door and throw the bags in.  We felt our way home behind a crawling car in front of us and were very grateful to see the little grey, wooden house coming up on the right...finally.   It was about 2pm and it was obvious it would be dark early, which it is.

Thanks, God, for a warm house, heat, hot water, loving family, a working stove (where the bean soup bubbles) and a lovely fireplace where we'll roast wienies tonight.  Why not?

If you don't cook in the fireplace, try it sometime.  Fun, fun.  This pic if one I took last spring when the menu was the same as tonight.

Meantime, I thought I'd leave you with a great New Year's Eve dinner that you might really like to make--either now or later.  But I think it'd be a wonderful celebration for 6-8.  Not a tenderloin and not the price, this time-taking (yes) prep is made with flank steak.  Cool thing is, it braises slowly in the oven while you share a bubbly or two with your friends and put your feet up on the coffee table.  Once the prep's done, the work is nearly done.  

Here's what it looks like from nearly the beginning to end....  I like some skinny green beans cooked in the microwave, a great baguette, and some fresh pasta with it.  You could make do with a salad and bread.

Ultimate Beef Braciole (Tyler Florence)---Alyce's altitude/seasoning adjustments in italics 
   Note:  do not try and get this tender in the amount of time allotted if you're at altitude

For the Braciole:

  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup buffalo mozzarella bocconcini balls, sliced in half if large size
  • 1/2 cup store-bought, drained and roughly chopped roasted red peppers
  • 3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-pound piece flank steak
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise

For the Braising ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, gently smashed
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 c red wine 
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)
  • 8 vine-ripened tomatoes, separated from vine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped for garnish


To make the Braciole: Toast the panko bread crumbs in a dry skillet with a little olive oil over low heat, until golden. Add to a large mixing bowl along with the anchovy, garlic, bocconcini, red peppers, parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper, to taste. Stir together until well combined.
Set the flank steak on a piece of plastic wrap. Make a deep horizontal slice along the steak almost all the way through and fan open like a book. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, gently flatten the steak until about 1/2-inch thick; take care not to tear. Discard the top sheet of plastic wrap; rub the surface with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the stuffing evenly over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Arrange the eggs lengthwise down the center of the meat and roll up like a jelly roll log, using the plastic wrap as support. Tie the roll with kitchen twine in 4 to 5 places to secure - this will help hold the shape and keep the filling from falling out.  Season outside of roll very well indeed with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put a roasting pan across 2 burners and heat over medium heat. Add a 3-count of olive oil and add the thyme and garlic. Cook for about a minute until fragrant. Carefully add the braciole and sear until evenly browned all over, approximately 2 minutes each side.
Add the sliced onions and bay leaves, then stir in the beef broth to deglaze. Add the canned tomatoes over the top, then nestle in the whole vine tomatoes around the braciole. Bring to a simmer, then cover with foil and put in the oven to braise for 45 to 60 minutes.   Add 20-30 minutes if at altitude...serve when tender. When done, remove the foil and remove the braciole to a carving board to rest. Carefully remove the whole vine tomatoes, with a slotted spoon, to a plate. Let the sauce cool for about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaf, then add the sauce to a blender and puree. Pour the sauce back into the pan and set over medium heat to bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add the balsamic vinegar. Remove the kitchen twine from the beef and cut into 1-inch thick "pin-wheel" slices. Arrange the slices on a platter and arrange the whole vine tomatoes around the beef. Pour the sauce over the top, garnish with
 chopped parsley and serve.

Haricots Verts with Lemon

1.5 # haricots verts
1 t freshly grated lemon rind 
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, microwave proof bowl, place beans with 1/4 cup water.  Cover tightly and cook in microwave at full power for about five minutes.  Test for doneness.  Drain and place in serving bowl.  Dust with lemon rind, salt and pepper to taste.

Fresh Pasta

Here in the Springs, I buy pasta (linguine for this) at Mollica's on Garden of the Gods.  Two pounds for 8 people is plenty and will cost you about $11.   Call ahead to make sure they have some; you can order some a few days ahead to make sure.  Bring 10 qts of water, well salted and peppered, to a boil and gently place raw pasta into the water... you'll need to carefully separate the strands of linguine. Cook until al dente...perhaps five or six minutes.  Remove from water  or drain and, after placing in a serving bowl, add 1T olive oil and  1/4 c chopped fresh parsley.


We liked a Barbera ($) or a Barolo ($$) with this. Vintages Wine on Tejon has some  lovely choices.


Get your baguette at Marigold or La Baguette.


I like a little sparkler and some spiced nuts...not much more.  This is a big meal.  Gruet (New Mexico) makes a sweet sparkler that's not overly priced and is nearly local.   Otherwise, grab some prosecco and be glad. 

Stay warm,  be happy in 2011.  You will be if you eat this for New Year's Eve.
If you live in the Springs, I'm thinking you should have bought New Year's Eve dinner already.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dave's Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest And a Little Christmas


Chocolate Begins Here....

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere and lots of drops to drink.
Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.  Christmas is chocolate.  Sounds like a good song.  And it's just the fourth day of Christmas.  Four calling birds.  And so on.  Until Epiphany...which can also go on.

The chocolate bark from our goodie tray this year is a bark that Dave had made for me for Valentine's Day a couple of years ago.  Truth to be told, his bark is better than mine.  Candy maker, I'm not, though my toffee was to die for this year.  (pat pat)

This bark is at the top and center of the goodie tray.  Gotta have chocolate on a holiday cookie platter.
If you're bringing a little goodie to the New Year's Eve party, maybe you might want to try this sweet bark, which is tres lovely with a nice red.  Of course, I favor Pinot Noir, but you might like a big Cabernet Sauvignon, a Zin or even an Italian red.  No special dessert wine needed.  Just have a little plate of this chocolate ready for dessert.  If you have a neighbor drop by for coffee, this is just the thing to pull out.  Make someone happy.  This recipe came from the Food Network (courtesy Dave Lieberman), as do so many scrumptious things these days.  There is hardly an easier dessert to make except perhaps to clean strawberries and arrange them in a bowl come summer.  And that's not really making dessert.

Dave's Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest

1/2 c slivered almonds
3 cups chocolate morsels (I like 1/2 milk chocolate and 1/2 bittersweet)
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 tangerine, zested

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line a 13x9" baking pan with aluminum foil.

Lay out almond slivers on baking sheet.  Bake in oven until light brown, shaking the baking pan occasionally to mix them around, about 10-15 minutes.

Melt the chocolate morsels in a double boiler over low heat.  Mix in the cranberries, almond slivers and tangerine zest.

Pour into prepared pan.  Smooth the chocolate mixture out into an even layer.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour.  Use a knife to break up chocolate into jagged, varied sized bars.

Oh, I almost forgot this...Jen gets Emi's Hair all beautiful for Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches and Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads

Merry Christmas, Friends, Family and other Loved Ones

A promise is a promise and here are two more of the cookies from the tray:

 These cookies are at the right of the tray and are both shortbread cookies made from the same recipe, but finished differently.  The recipe is Eli Zabar's  (NYC) and I took it straight from Ina Garten.  Just the end results are totally different.  And while these are not terribly innovative, they are terribly delicious.  Addictive, in fact.  Go ahead; you still have time to bake.  No?  How about for New Year's?  Truthfully, the 12 days of Christmas haven't even begun yet.  Get out those trays and crank up that oven.  Take a batch to a neighbor you wish you knew better or run up to the local church for services tonight and give a batch to one of the musicians.  Like me.  I'm working tonight. 

Shortbread Cookies from Eli Zabar via Ina Garten and Alyce Morgan

3/4# soft unsalted butter
1 c white sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3 1/2 c unbleached flour
1/4 t salt (no salt if you used salted butter)

For sandwich cookies:  3/4 c seedless raspberry jam and 1T Cointreau
For chocolate dips:  3-6 oz Valrhona Chocolate melted*; 1T coarse sea salt


Mix together together the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until just combined.  Add vanilla.  Sift the flour and salt and add it to the butter an d sugar.  Mix until the dough starts to come together.  Dump on a floured board and shape into a flat disc. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Roll dough out 1/4"   thick on a floured surface and cut with 1 1/2- 2"   fluted cookie/biscuit cutter.  Bake on an ungreased sheet for about 10 minutes--until edges show the faintest signs of gold.  Let cool to room temperature.

For Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches:

Mix jam with Cointreau and heat briefly; stir well.  Turn cookies flat side up and, holding one, place about 1/2 t jam mixture on it.  Place another cookie, flat side down into the jam mixture and press together lightly.  Place  cookies on racks as you finish them.  When all are done, dust with confectioner's sugar shaken from the shaker or through a small strainer/sieve.

For Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads:

Chop or grate chocolate into a small sauce pan.  Place sauce pan over  another with an inch or so of simmering water.  Let chocolate melt slowly.  When melted, take each cookie and dip halfway.  Place each dipped cookie onto a wax paper lined tray to dry.  Place a piece or two of sea salt, if desired, on the chocolate side before the chocolate dries.  

*Depending on how much of the dough you commit to the chocolate variation.

Store these cookies in tight containers after they are very dry.  Place wax paper between layers.

Merry, Merry Christmas and may all your New Year's dreams come true,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Drop in and Decorate Monday December 20, 2010

Thanks to all involved, particularly Lydia Walshin of Perfect Pantry--(check out her blog) Drop in and Decorate is her brainchild and is now a nationwide cookie-baking and decorating effort to help wonderful things happen in our local communities.  It's a tremendous way of doing a little bit of good and having a great time while you're doing it.  Who doesn't like cookies?  And why shouldn't they bring us together?  You can host your own event (not just in December, either)...check out the info on Lydia's blog.

Our cookies are on their way to The Bridge, Assisted Living Center in Colorado Springs.