Monday, January 30, 2006

Braised Short Ribs and Mashed Cauliflower

Braised again??? Who do we think we are, Just Braise?

We swore last week that we'd eschew the braise for the roast - but alas the recipe for Braised Oxtail and Baked Eggs had us salivating... When it came down to it, however, we needed a dinner, not a brunch, and we decided to finally do what we've been pining to do for a long, long time - Braised Short Ribs. (We'll do the Oxtail recipe sometime soon.)

How easy is this braised short ribs recipe? On a scale of 1-10, this is a 4 on the easy scale. The hard part is starting early enough to let that tough meat cook to sweet, tender, buttery, fall-off-bone goodness. Give yourself a total of 3-4 hours from start to finish... The Faux Mashed Potatoes (Mashed Cauliflower) will only take up the last 1/2 hour of that time.

MEATS - 3lb Short Ribs - our butcher buddy at S&S cut these up right off a big hunk of meat in the back with that wonderful band saw. About $3.50/lb, could be cheaper - but still not bad.

We crusted this with a steak seasoning mixture - sea salt, garlic, onion, fennel, and black and red pepper - and pushed the seasoning well into the meat. Heated our dutch oven over medium high and added Can-Oil (that's canola) and seared the individual short ribs on four sides in two batches.

After searing all four sides for a couple minutes each, we removed them short ribs and set aside... then added celery, carrot, and onion to the pan and let those veggies brown. After a few minutes, added minced garlic, 1 cup vinegar*, 1/2 cup red wine (cabernet), 14oz can of diced tomatoes, several liberal dashes of Worchester, black pepper, and a big ol' bay leaf... stirred that all together as it starts to warm (scraping up the browned bits with that wooden spoon from the bottom of the pan that are left from the seared short ribs) and then finally we added the meat back in, settling them on the bottom with tongs. We ended up adding about two cups of beef broth, just until the ribs were covered with liquid.

Bring close to boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer 2.5 hours. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

We don't eat lots of baking/white potatoes when we can use alternatives (Boston Chef #1 diet, Boston Chef #2 plays along...) so we do a mock one with frozen cauliflower (fresh sometimes, but that fresh cauli can be expensive) boiled and then drained. Add light cream cheese and seasoning and mash it up, just like potatoes. These are an excellent substitute for mashed po's!

* Braised Short Ribs - 7 out of 10 - the texture was PERFECT, so tender, "falling off bone" is overused but true in this case - only 1/2 of the ribs actually hung onto the bone! The meat just stripped apart with the slightest touch - this would be perfect to add homemade bbq to the leftovers and make sandies. * Too much vinegar, however - next time 1/2 cup or less. The vinegar DID give it a great flavor, but the cupful was overpowering... The veggies came out great, too. Not mushy (because they were simmered, not boiled) and with lots of the beef and seasoning flavor.
* Mashed Cauli - 8 out of 10 - SUCH a great substitute for high-carb mashed potatoes... with a little of that beef juice spooned over the top, it is such a great side.

Also, Boston Chef #1 dragged Boston Chef #2 to the MALL where #2 was forced to buy new jeans... but it was worth it because we went into Williams and Sonoma with some $$$ left over on a gift card. We bought a great new 9" wok (we needed a wok!) that was on sale for $50 down from $110. So we'll be stir frying very soon and looking around for great recipes - got any? Post in comments!!! Thanks!

Leftovers tonight!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Our Meat Sauce

There is really no other name for it - tomato-based (pasta) sauce with sausage, bacon, onions, garlic, squash, mushrooms, and fennel and other spices... Ragu, Red Sauce, Meat Sauce, whatever! You get it together and you cook it a while and you take it and pour it over the object of your desire - making pasta, bread, even lawn clippings taste fantastic! (Don't eat grass.) Let's do this - photoblog style!

* Hot Italian Sausage (we got Perri) stripped of it's casing
* Bacon cut into one-inch pieces, we had some extra lying around that woulda gone bad before the weekend. Let's use it for the fat (and smokey flavor) in this sauce

onion in little 3/4 inch pieces, diced garlic, yellow summer squash in 1/4 round cubes, sliced mushrooms

two cans diced tomoatoes, two small cans tomato sauce

freshly ground fennel, salt, pepper, oregano, basil

whole wheat Penne and Rigatoni to fill out the amount we need.


Red wine (cabernet sauvignon) to deglaze (about 1/3 cup)


Bacon goes in first to start rendering the fat, while this is going on take the sausage out of it's casing - just make a long, shallow slice lengthwise and turn that sucker out.

Also, get that water going for your pasta!

Add the sausage to the bacon/bacon fat and brown. As it cooks be sure to break it up along the way. As you can see here, we use a splatter screen to - what else? - try and minimize splatter all over the cooktop.

Browned and removed, drain most of the fat, leaving the burny bits from the sausage and bacon at the bottom. Refresh with a little olive oil if you wish and get the onions going. After a minute or so, add the garlic. After a few more minutes the yellow squash is ready to go in. Not long after that, the sliced mushrooms go in.

This is a good time to deglaze, although we could have (should have?) done it sooner, too. Add red wine and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate the burny stuff at the bottom.

Allow the red wine to get nice and bubblin' to burn off the alcohol and really pull the flavors out of the Cabernet (use whatever you like!)

Cook and gently stir all this for maybe 4 or 5 minutes. With that veggie mixture in place, let's season:

We like adding freshly ground fennel seeds that go great with the sausage. We got this great grinder for our wedding from our friends Trish and Brooks - just throw the seeds in and twist. Voila! Ground fennel. We added fresh ground black pepper, coarse sea salt, and dried oregano and basil. (The tomoatoes we're about to add aren't seasoned at all.)

Spice Grinder w/Fennel:

Mix that together and we're ready to...

Add the tomatoes - throw them all in. Because we're not adding alot of liquid, the sauce will provide that liquidy texture and allow some time to cook all the flavors together. Once the tomatoes are up to temperature, go ahead and add the meat back in and combine. Set to low, cover with splatter screen, take a deep breath, and simmer.

At this point, a glass of that same cabernet is in order. After as long as you can take - 10-20 minutes, you're ready to go.

Drop your pasta in when you are about 10 minutes away from being ready. We use whole wheat penne and rigatoni tonight, as we had the ends of those two boxes. Boiling, salted water - 10 minutes til al dente!

The final product after some grated parmesan. That is a BIG plate... plenty of leftovers from this dish. We only boil enough pasta for one night, for leftovers we'll boil new pasta and reheat this sauce in the microwave and combine.

* Pasta Sauce Dinner - 9 out of 10. - Gold star - Super Duper - Grade A - Splendid!
The smokey flavor from the bacon and the fennel-y sausage and deglazed veggies are fantastic. We forgot the green pepper - maybe that woulda gave it that last point!

DELICIOUS! See you next time!

The Boston Chef

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

On Leftovers...

What's there to say about leftovers that hasn't already been said? When you take that tupper-plastic-bowl out of the fridge after it has sat in there a good 24 hours, you just know you're in for something special. Unless you had time to slow-cook your entire meal, there is no way you can get maximum incorporation of flavors in some dishes. When we make our "ragu/red sauce" (that's on the menu for TONIGHT! - pics and words on that tomorrow..) we try to let it simmer and get those sausage/garlic/onion/tomato/etc. flavors to mix like singles at open bar on New Year's Eve... but eventually the champagne is popped and the bar closes and it's time to eat!

The flavors in those meals need time. When you put that sauce on hold for a few hours to get to room temp, then into a plastic tub and into the fridge overnight, you are helping that flavor reach it's final delicious destination. Obviously, the molecules are all slowed down (that's how the food is being preserved overnight) but there is still some action going on in there. Much like after midnight on New Year's Eve!

We often make dinners with leftovers in mind. We make "enough for two nights" so that our whole cooking production (and it IS a production) doesn't have to be repeated nightly, and we can get extra pleasure out of the hard work we put into the cooking process. Often we'll have something scheduled for that 2nd night - gym, tennis, run, shopping, late meeting, etc. - and when we get home late, dinner's ready in 10 minutes. Plan ahead!

We enjoyed the leftover fruits of our labor last night - the leftover Braised Chicken and Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Warmed in the microwave on it's wonderful "Dinner Plate Reheat" setting (ours says "Sensing" as if there are magical little microwaves feeling out the size and texture of the food) along with some frozen spinach (heated, also, in the 'wave), we thoroughly enjoyed the remainder of the meal we made two nights ago.

And tonight it's New Year's Eve all over again!

More leftover advice and tips can be found here and here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Meat and Potatoes - Braised Chicken Pieces and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

What is THE BEST cooking method for chicken? For pork? For beef?

We favor two methods: #1: Roasting... the dry heat and even temperature can produce perfect results. Don't disturb the roast - but monitor that temperature!

#2: Braising. We love braising meat on the stovetop in the enameled cast iron pans we have. Loosley, braising usually consists of browning/searing the (rubbed) meat, then removing the meat and deglazing the pan (fancy term for adding some liquid - usually wine - and scraping the burnt bits from the bottom of the pan with a wood spoon, allowing the wine to cook and evaporate). Then adding water-based liquid, usually stock or broth (what's the difference?), getting that up to temperature and then adding the meat back in, covering, and letting it simmer til it's done.

This method produces results that are different than roasting, but equal in quality. The meat has a nice, seared crust - but the liquid has slowly cooked the flesh and kept it tender.

Last night we went for Braised Chicken with some Mashed Sweet Potatoes!

MEAT! We went with Braised Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks (bone-in, of course) - salt and pepper seasoned and we added a smokey rub - 4 parts paprika to 1 part cumin plus 1/2 parts onion and garlic powder. Seared, turned, removed; added garlic and onion; deglazed; added 2 cups chicken stock (actually 3/4 chicken, 1/4 beef - just an experiment!); lidded; cooked for about 30 minutes.

POTATOES! With this we went for mashed sweet potatoes. We normally do sweet potatos instead of regular because of the nutritional content as well as the taste - read up here for some great nutritional information. Basically, less carbs. We are no diet nuts, but we'll try to watch what we eat when we can by avoiding processed sugars, going with wheat breads and pastas, etc. We peeled and chopped up the potatoes then boiled them for 15 min or so, and we also threw some scallions in the water to give the orange sweet potato (our favorite color) some green (our other favorite) and some oniony flavor. The scallions and potatoes got mashed together with some Promise (fake butter) and milk til they were a nice, mashed consistency.

With all this we had some leftover Braised Cabbage.

* Chicken - 7 out of 10. One thing that is tough with braising is getting that chicken skin crispy. The dark meat comes out great, but the skin doesn't crisp up. Next time we may experiment going skinless when braising. Meat was DELICIOUSLY dark and moist - fell off the bones.
* Mashed Sweet Potatoes - 9 out of 10. This is a great recipe and the scallion gave it that extra flavor point!


Braised Red Cabbage and Seared Asian-Crusted Tuna Steaks

We made Braised Red Cabbage two nights ago after seeing an old 2001 Alton Brown (Good Eats) show on cabbage. Did you know that over 50% of all vegetables sold in the US are technically cabbage? That includes cabbage, bok choy, even broccoli and cauliflower are really derivations of cabbage. Interesting - to food geeks like us!

The braised cabbage was easy - saute a peeled, chopped granny smith apple in some can-oil, add a cup or two of apple juice, salt, and caraway seed (actually a dried fruit - caraway is known to have medicinal purposes and hold special powers!). Then add a sliced-up-into-strips red cabbage, stir it up, and bring back to a boil. Then cover and lower heat and let that thing go for 20-25 mins.

Along with that, we saw some very nice looking tuna steaks for $6.99/lb. at S&S. Although previously frozen, the steaks looked great and we USED to pay up to $15/lb. for this quality, although not PF. Took them home (two 8oz steaks), rinsed them off and they looked and smelled great (as in, no smell at all). Combined a simple rub that included salt and pepper and added Chinese 5 Spice and cumin for an asian flair.

Did the tuna in the cast iron pan on medium-high heat just as the cabbage finished, perfect.

The cabbage was great, added lemon and butter at the end to fill out the flavor. I'd say it needed even MORE acidity in it, but even as leftovers the next night (with Braised Chicken pieces) it still held up. Tuna, although slightly over-cooked, was absolutly delicious and these two items went great together.

* Braised Cabbage - 7 out of 10. Def make again, more acid!
* Seared Asian Tuna - 8 out of 10. No question make again if the price is right - take out of pan sooner for a perfect 10!!!

Who We Are! Or: How I Came to Love Enameled Cast Iron

Hello and welcome to Boston Chef!

We are a married couple in Boston - Ashmont section of Dorchester via the South End to be exact. We are both professionals - but NOT professional chefs! So don't think we do this for a living and definitely don't try this at home... ok, you can try this at home - but don't say we didn't warn ya!

We, the Boston Chef, like to cook. We cook at home, often. Being broke homeowners, we can't go out as much as we used to, but we still like to eat well. So, we do it at home! And we do it on an almost nightly basis... cook, that is!

We are starting this blog to document our cooking successes and failures, influences, likes, dislikes, and everything in between. We plan on documenting what we're making in words and pictures, and invite you to comment on our entries and give feedback, advice, and lots of praise.

Ok, more about us? Recently married, relatively young professionals living and loving in Boston, both born and raised in New England (Maine and Connecticut), new homeowners, old cat owners... and avid cooks. Our cooking influences and ideas come from many different sources. First, we grew up in cooking households that included lots of boiled dinners and typical New England cooking (especially French Canadian- and Irish-derived) - but with some degree of experimentation and variation in those childhood kitchens, as well.

We also get ideas from the media - especially the Food Network (Alton Brown, Emeril, Iron Chef) and cooking shows on Discovery/Travel (Anthony Bourdain). Lots of sites host recipes we reference all the time: Epicurious,,,, the NY Times and Boston Globe's websites, etc. There are many interesting cooking sites available within "the blogosphere", too - see the still-growing link list on this page.

Additionally, we've both traveled pretty extensively and we take ideas from the places we've lived in and traveled to: France, England, Mexico, Costa Rica, Russia, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and more!

We will certainly tell you more about us as time goes on, if necessary. And if we're the only ones who ever read this, so be it! We need to document our nightly culinary adventures for ourselves as much as anyone else...

First REAL entry to follow... again, welcome to Boston Chef!

Boston Chef