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Friday, December 15, 2017

Sweet Hot Mustard

Sweet Hot Mustard

Still need a few little gifts for friends and associates from work?  Of course.  Need to butter up the boss’s wife.  Oh, yeah!  But you have a slight problem.  Lots to do and little time to do it.  I have you covered and wrapped in ribbons! Sweet Hot Mustard is what you’re looking for.  No wonder both my faithful readers are so faithful.  You’ve come to the problem solver!

Listen closely. All your friends already have a house full of stuff.  The last things they need are trinkets for the coffee table, another ornament for the tree, or a set of coasters. But, do they have something that will turn ordinary ham sandwiches into fabulous treats that fit right in with eggnog and cookies when unexpected freeloaders wonderful guests drop by the day after Christmas?

One big hint:  When you make this recipe, you’ll be able to give away ten little jars to people you just barely like and still have enough to stock your own frig.

Another thing to keep in mind.  In the busiest time of the year, this gift takes very few ingredients and only a few minutes to make. The rave reviews will follow you well into the New Year.  The ravers will be soooooo apologetic they didn’t give you gifts.  Be happy!  The last thing you needed was another coffee cup.

So, let’s get started on Sweet Hot Mustard

Only Six Quick Steps
1.    Combine 6 oz of mustard powder with an eighth teaspoon of powdered red pepper, and a fourth teaspoon each of black and white pepper.  Add only enough water to make a thick paste.  Two Tablespoons of water or less. Stir well.

2.    Put two cups of sugar, one and one half cups of vinegar, and one teaspoon of salt in a sauce pan and boil until the sugar fully dissolves.
3.    Stir the sugar/vinegar mixture into the mustard paste a little bit at a time until all is combined. Don’t worry that it looks a little thin.  The next three steps will thicken it.

4.    Beat three eggs.
5.    Stir the mustard/sugar/vinegar mixture into the egg mixture.  Using an electric mixer is best to prevent the egg from cooking before it is fully combined.  Return the mixture to the sauce pan.
6.    Bring the mixture to a boil.

That’s it!  Now all you have to do is put the sweet hot mustard in jars!  Want to be a little fancy? Print and attach some labels. 

Voilá!  Quick and tasty presents from your kitchen to theirs! Now take a bow!

Because the mixture contains eggs, I suggest refrigeration.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Lemony Beer and Rosemary Beef Stew

Wintertime is stew time.  A good stew warms you in places a roaring fire, or even a snifter of Armagnac can’t reach. Although, Armagnac is a step in the right direction.

I am an unapologetic carnivore and while I do love seafood, chicken and pork, when it comes to stew, my taste buds beg for beef.

Beef stew is boring you say?  Ok, let’s clear away the childhood visions of bland brown gravy and meat and throw in some flavors your stunted imagination may not think of when you think of stew.  Beer.  Rosemary. Lemon. Roaring fire. Red wine. Flaming libido.

Been married a while?  Sorry, guess I shouldn’t have mentioned flaming libido.  Didn’t mean to make you cry.  Have another brandy. There are better things in life than ….no, hell no, there are no better things in life!  But this stew comes close. You’re stuck, I can tell. Better leave the bottle.  Aside from this delightful recipe, brandy is the only consolation I can offer.

But back to stew.  By the way, why do we call it beef when the meat comes from cattle?  Why do we call it pork when the meat comes from pigs?  Blame it on the Normans who conquered Britain in 1066 and brought the French language to the English court.  French words like boeuf and porc took over.  French was the language of English royalty and the upper classes and English was the language of the peasantry until about 1450.  Even today the motto of the English Monarch is in French, “Dieu et Mon Droit.” God and My Right.

Did I say, ‘back to stew?”  Well, this time I really mean it!

Lemony Beer and Rosemary Beef Stew

3 lbs Natural Chuck roast, cut into 11/2 inch cubes
2 Cups beef stock (I use Bovril and water to make the stock)

4 Carrots, peeled and cut on the bias
12 Button mushrooms quartered (I use the brown ones)
1 Can tomato paste
1 16oz bottle of beer (I use English ale, but any beer will do)
1 Large onion, diced
9 Cloves garlic, smashed, hard ends removed
2 Large sprigs rosemary
Juice of one fresh lemon

Salt and pepper as desired.

Olive oil for braising beef and vegetables

Heat oven to 275ºF

Let’s do it!

Add a few squirts of olive oil to a large frying pan and braise the beef in three batches, adding salt and pepper to each batch, as desired. As each batch is braised, toss it into a large bowl.

Use a cup of beef broth to deglaze the pan and pour it over the beef. Let the beef rest while you braise the vegetables, except for the mushrooms.  Use a stew pot to braise the vegetables. About a 3 minute braise.

Put the stew pot on the stove, add the beef, the second cup of beef broth, the mushrooms, the beer, tomato paste, and lemon juice. Stir and bring to a boil.  Toss in the sprigs of rosemary. Don’t bother to pull off the leaves, they’ll come off in the cooking.

Cover the stew pot and slide it into the preheated oven.

I let my stew cook for about 4 hours, but you may not have to wait that long.  When the meat is ‘fall apart tender,’ the dish is ready to please your friends, confound your enemies and rebrand the cold winter as a time of pleasure.

It’s at this point I made mashed potatoes and opened a bottle of dark red Rioja wine.  I let it breathe for 30 seconds before I was overcome by an unrelenting thirst.

Not still thinking about the libido?  Well, I’ve done my job.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pesto Stuffed Pork Chops

Pesto Stuffed Pork Chops

Time for truth or consequences.   Do you like pork chops?  How about pesto?  How about you don’t care one way or another?

It’s my pleasure, in the spirit of the Christmas season, to bless all three groups equally.  For the third group, I implore you to refrain from drinking all the wine, beer, and brandy while the others of us are cooking a remarkable dish that will please every one of your guests and even your very iffy family.

As in all my dishes, as both my faithful readers know, this one is simple.  I don’t do difficult dishes.

But, before we put knife to the chopping board and heat to the oven, let’s take a look at pesto’s origins.  This won’t take long:  Pesto started in Genoa around the 16th Century.  Simple and simply elegant.  Fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.  But, really, any combination of greens, garlic, nuts , cheese and olive oil will do.  And, as in everything else we cook, tinker with the ingredients to get the taste that fits your palate. Start with only one clove of garlic if you must.

How about the pork chops?  Need to mention those.  I get my butcher to cut my chops about an inch to an inch and a half thick.  This time they were about an inch and a quarter.  I also use only pork that comes from animals whose bodies were not enhanced with growth hormones, unnecessary antibiotics, and other medicines and chemicals.

Let’s Get to It!

Prep time:  About 20 minutes
Cooking time:  50 minutes

First, heat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC)

Have 4 big (bone in) pork chops at room temperature.

Have a large baking dish handy. You’ll put all 4 chops in it.

Now make this version of pesto:

½ Cup fresh basil, chopped fine before measuring
1 Cup, spinach chopped fine before measuring (pack it down!) You may also use frozen spinach.
½ Cup Parmesan cheese
2 Cloves fresh garlic, chopped
¼ Teaspoon salt or to taste
1/3 Cup shelled pistachios
1/8 to ¼ Cup olive oil (Note:  You want this to be a thick paste, so be judicious and start small with the olive oil.)

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor to make a smooth paste.  Give it a taste and add more of anything you want.

Prepare the 4 Pork Chops

Make a pocket in each chop. Rub them with olive oil and dust with salt and pepper, then stuff pesto in the pockets, as much as you can.

Put the stuffed chops in the baking dish, cover and slide it in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.  Take the dish out, uncover and slide it back in the oven for another 25 minutes.

Caution:  If you’ve cheaped out and are using thin pork chops, you’re  on your own to decrease the cooking time and to explain to your hungry guests why you didn’t make more of the most delicious pork chops they’ve ever tasted.

I served the chops over a small bed of buttered pasta, accompanied by a side salad and a bottle of a nice Pinot Grigio.

Famous names from Genoa, Italy:  Christopher Columbus, the composer Paganini, John Cabot (English Italian) discovered Newfoundland.