Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dark Blue

No, I'm not wearing my sad pants. I'm just listening to Dark Blue by Jack's Mannequin on repeat. It was totally my cooking theme song today and I LOVE it :)

I planned a dinner for coworkers this evening and had quite the ambitious menu planned. We all know I love a good challenge, but even I must admit I may have bitten off more than I could chew. I had a couple kitchen mishaps and a few space out moments, but in the end, everything worked out well :)

I was able to get some prep work done last night when I got home around 8:30...made my Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce from the other weekend, some Eggplant Spread
and baked a larger version of those Pecan Tarts I made for my last dinner fiesta.
Ran to work at 10am with a plan to have everything started by 5pm. Um, fail. I still had to pick up a few items from the grocery store AND get the main dish prepped - Red Wine Braised Short Ribs. Did I mention I had absolutely no plan of attack?? I googled a few recipes and knew I needed a few basic ingredients: short ribs, celery, carrots, herbs, onions, red wine, beef broth and tomato paste. I've only made short ribs once before and I actually followed a recipe. I didn't have a recipe this time around. Oops.

After my pitstop at the Gigante, I frantically searched for a recipe I could follow. I settled on Daniel Boulud's Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine with Celery Duo from Epicurious. Sort of. So remember how I've mentioned that I'm not exactly the best at following instructions and how I'm easily distracted by anything moving or audible? Yeeeeaaah. I basically threw the ingredients I had in a pot and sort of followed the directions. I had maybe 10 short ribs (different sizes) and dusted them with salt, lots of pepper and flour, browned them in batches and then sauteed some carrots, onions and celery in a dutch oven. In hindsight, I really should have trimmed them of excess fat. Tossed some rosemary, thyme and a bay leaf in and then the wine. Boiled it for a bit then added the ribs...then realized I had a can of tomato paste sitting on the counter.

Oops. Scoops went in and got shoved into crevasses before I poured in the beef broth. Overall, not bad. I probably could have kept them in for another half hour, but I was hungry ;p

While those were cooking, I got to work on the other dinner elements: Corn and Black Bean Fritters drizzled with Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce and Crisp Chorizo (AGH! As I type this I just realized I never took a picture of those glorious bastards! How did I let that slip???), Pão de Queijo, Rosemary Polenta, Fennel Salad with Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette (also failed to take a picture...because it was a salad...), and Spicy Garlicky Broccoli Rabe.
I'm a piler. I'm realizing this as I make more fancy looking plates. I like to pile meal elements on top of each other. Is that weird? I think they look really weird side by side. Hm. long as they all taste good together, right?

Another thing I should mention - I'm weird about textures and flavors. I don't like having a plate full of all soft, creamy or rich foods. I like having a varied plate. A little crunch here, a little acidity or bitterness, some rich, tender items...a random corn kernel in my mooshy polenta.

Overall, I think my goodies got a thumbs up? Score. Here are the recipes for you to try on your own:

Corn & Black Bean Fritters
1 c Bisquick
1/3 c whole milk
1 egg
1 c frozen corn, defrosted and drained
1/2 c black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper
1 tbsp manchego cheese, shredded

Whisk Bisquick, milk, hot sauce, egg, garlic powder, black pepper and salt in a large bowl. Stir in corn, black beans and cheese.

Heat a skillet with 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Drop 1 tbsp of batter into the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Drizzle with Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce and sprinkle with browned chorizo bits.

Pão de Queijo (adapted from Amy34's LiveJournal)
3 eggs
3/4 cup corn oil
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups tapioca flour
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded manchego cheese

Bring oil, milk and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour tapioca flour into a large glass bowl. Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir milk and oil mixture into the flour with a wooden spoon (you will not use the whole mixture) until a firm ball forms. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before using a hand mixer to stir in cheeses. Once cheese is combined, add eggs one at a time and mix well.

Preheat oven to 350. Fill mini muffin pan with about 1 tbsp of batter in each slot. Bake for 20 minutes and serve immediately.

I love this cheese bread. I first had it at Fogo de Chão and it's like my crack. I can't get enough of the cheesy, gooey goodness! I'm on a manchego cheese kick which is why it's showing up a lot...parmesan alone would be fine in this.

Eggplant Spread
1 large eggplant, sliced thinly
2 tomatoes, diced with juices
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced thinly
1/4-1/2 c olive oil
1 tbsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a wide saucepan or a frying pan with a lid, drizzle about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and bring to medium heat. Layer eggplant slices on the bottom, overlapping slightly. Follow with a layer of onions, a layer of tomato, sprinkle of salt and pepper and another layer of eggplant. Drizzle that layer with some olive oil and repeat until all ingredients are used. Cover and drop heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook for another 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

A friend of mine made this one summer and I've been addicted ever since! It's such an easy, simple and delicious spread for bread, crostini or pita!

Spicy Garlic Broccoli Rabe
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, cut in half
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp chili garlic paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan with lid. Add garlic and chili paste and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and toss to coat. Add white wine, toss and cover for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Perfect end to a rainy day :)


MarathonVal said...

I used to use Epicurious all the time and kind of stopped... but I should start using it more often, there are so many awesome recipes on there.

Thanks for the reminder ;) Have a great day!

Kelly said...

That eggplant spread looks amazing. I don't know why I always forget about eggplant, it's so yummy!

Travel Eat Love said...

Yum! Everything looks good. I too like variety on my plate.

sophia said...

Girl, next time you're inviting me over for dinner. ;p

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how you come up with this stuff! :) ha, but those pecan tarts? mmmm, i want one!