Party Dishes

In Praise of the Braise: A Rendezvous with Jamie Oliver's Beef Stew

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Over the past few months, Santa Maria has cooking up an entertainment bonanza. While I handled the day-to-day meals, she constructed remarkable weekend dinner-party extravaganzas. In early November, she feted a friend and her new boyfriend with an arugula salad with sunflower seeds, a marvelous cremini-mushroom, béchamel lasagna, and pavlova. Later that month, she made butternut-squash soup with pomegranate seeds, homemade chicken-pot pie, and chocolate pots de creme for a party of old and new friends. In December, she spent two days preparing a coconut chicken curry for old confidants who we never get to see. At the end of the month, she whipped up roast chicken and pasta pasta all'amatriciana for out-of-town visitors.

She handled all the planning, shopping, cooking, and serving, and I was as much of a guest as everyone else. They were delightfully relaxing evenings that restored a needed balance to our social lives. She was on quite a roll, and we were set to have eight friends over on Saturday night when our busy lives caught up with us. Just this month, Santa Maria’s work increased, and there was no time in her schedule to do the cooking.

I saw this, and stepped in to help with the meal she was planning, a beef stew. The recipe came from Jamie Oliver, and though it was the first time we were making it, we knew it was great. Just the week before we were at a friend’s house, where she served the dish. Her version was elegant and she brought it to the table topped with steamed green beans. My version was a bit more rustic (there were no decent green beans to be found), but no less delicious. 

I was as busy as usual, and though the recipe was described as “easy” on Oliver’s website,  I was a bit daunted. We were doubling it to feed all eight friends, and the very things that made the stew so remarkable were the same things that were giving me anxiety. It’s no ordinary beef stew, you see, but one with Jerusalem artichokes, onions, parsnips, carrots, and butternut squash. Those vegetables soften and combine to make an unusual flavor. But before they can do that, they needed to be peeled and chopped. 

I was not thrilled about all the work that needed to be done, but came up with a time-tested solution. I broke the task of making the stew down into small and manageable pieces. I did the chopping Friday morning before going to work, and felt a sense of relaxation knowing that I was halfway done with the cooking.

Saturday morning, I combined the ingredients the way Olivier suggested, and I understood why everyone said the recipe was easy. There was no browning of the meat, and all that needed to be done was—more or less-to throw everything in a pot, cover it, and let it cook in a hot oven for three to four hours, or until the meat was tender. That’s all there was to it. 

This was my first time braising something in the oven, and I have to say it can’t be beat. I’ve done plenty of braises on the stovetop, but they always require stirring and care to make sure the bottom of the pot is not sticking. In the oven, there’s no such concern. My only caveat is to suggest that you make sure the top of your pot is tight fitting. Other than that, there’s nothing to worry about. Just sit back and enjoy the way the stew will perfume the house. 

In all fairness to Jamie Oliver, I can’t post the recipe here. I did nothing to adapt it, other than convert a few of the metric measurements to U.S. units. Just follow his directions, and you can’t go wrong. Pay close attention to his note about the lemon zest and rosemary at the end. It does make a world of difference. Here’s a link to the recipe.


Clearing a Few things Up about Chili Weather

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The calendar and the thermometer says it’s chili weather, and besides being tasty, chili offers a number of advantages.

  • It can be made in bulk in advance, and it freezes well.
  • It’s a good way to make your meat dollars go further. 
  • It’s healthy.
  • It’s good for parties (and with the Super Bowl coming up, that’s something to keep in mind).

I have a solid, go-to chili that I came up with a few years ago. It has a rich, mouth-watering flavor, thanks to smoked paprika, and I’ve written about it here before. Recently, I realized I need to make a clarification to the recipe. As I published it previously, I called for 16 ounces each of cooked black, kidney, and garbanzo beans.

Every time I’ve made the meal, I’ve been a bit confused by my own directions. I make my beans from scratch (and you should too—more on that in a moment), and I can never remember how many dried beans I should use to end up with 16 ounces of cooked ones. 

When I was making the chili this Saturday, I decided to take action. Instead of being confused, I paid attention. Paying attention is one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’m focusing on the lives of those around me, my own life, and on my inner life. I’m also focusing on the inner life of beans.

Beans have a rich but dry inner life. The bean needs to be re-hydrated in order to be eaten. There are a thousand theories on the best way to do this. There’s the sanctioned overnight soak. There’s the rapid, power soak. And then there’s my way—the no soak. Whatever it is about the beans that I buy in bulk from the Park Slope Food Coop, I’ve found that they cook up just fine without anything more than a good rinse. This takes time, of course. Hours and hours, but I don’t worry about that. I just cook them until they are done. This means, using a big pot of water, I bring them to a boil, and turn them down to a simmer. And then I let them ride until the interior is soft. My point here is that beans are easy to cook

There are more nuanced ways to do this, of course, and there are myriad benefits to cooking your own beans. They are much cheaper and much more tasty (I’ll never forget the first time I had homemade Garbanzo beans; I’ll never touch canned Chick Peas again!). And if you learn how to do this right, you can make a week’s worth of meals out of one pot of beans, as Food52 recently documented.

Here’s my chili recipe, properly annotated.

Smoky Chili

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 strips of bacon, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup dry white or red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • One 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, run through a blender or otherwise chopped
  • 16 ounces each of cooked black beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans (Start with half a cup each, dried; rinse them, and cook them separately in big pots of water until done--probably a few hours.)
  • 1 tablespoons ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

In a bit of olive oil, sauté the onion, bacon, carrot, and celery, until the onion is soft and the bacon fat rendered.

Add the garlic and sauté a moment more.

Add the beef and cook until brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon (or a potato masher).

After the beef is browned, add the wine, and reduce.

Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, beans, and all the spices and herbs. If you start this at the same time you start the beans, then you will have to wait for the beans to finish cooking before adding them. 

Bring to a boil and simmer as long as you feel like it. It doesn’t need much more cooking at this point.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with rice, garnished with grated cheddar cheese, sliced scallions, cream cheese, and/or any topping of your choice.

 


How is a Standing Rib Roast like Stone Soup?

This morning, at a family meditation class that we routinely attend, the day’s lesson was about giving, and the instructor read the children’s classic “Stone Soup.” The version she chose was by Jon J. Muth, and it transposed the old folk tale from Europe to Asia, and changed the main characters from soldiers to Buddhist monks.

In his telling, the villagers start out fearful and estranged from each other, but by the time the soup is done, they light lanterns and have a big celebration. It’s the first time they’ve gathered in such away in a long, long time, and the soup brings them together. They are happy to share the meal.

That they’ve been tricked into sharing all their food and, by extension, into being happy is not discussed, but I think this might be the point. Sometimes, what we think we know to be certain is quite wrong, and if we can just get out of our own ways, out of our own old habits, happiness might just be ours for the taking.

The story made me think of Christmas dinner, the last big gathering that I hosted among my extended family. We didn’t have stone soup, we had a standing rib roast. I had fifteen mouths to feed, and I went a bit overboard. We had all just gathered for Thanksgiving at my brother’s house, and his turkey was one for the ages. Actually, he made two turkeys, because he was hosting twenty-three folks, and both those birds were for the record book. So I wanted to make something else. 

A standing rib roast is an ideal (if slightly lavish) way to feed a large group. The cooking is largely unattended, and when done properly, the cut yeilds both rare and well-done pieces, sure to please every member of your party. It's also fairly foolproof, if you have an instant-read thermometer.

My local butcher sold me an eleven-pound, prime cut, with four ribs. Rib_Roast_Raw_1

It ended up being too much food. Next time, an eight to ten pound piece will suffice.

Because some family members are allergic to flour and others to butter, I didn’t dress the meat up the way I had read about in various recipes. I simply salted it heavily, and tucked some fresh thyme into the space between the bones and the main piece of meat.

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I preheated the oven to 450 degrees, and stood the meat on its ribs in a roasting pan.

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I gave it twenty minutes at 450.

I turned it down to 325 for 1 hour.

And then down to 300 for the rest of the time—about three hours total.

The way I knew to stop was when it registered 125 degrees in a number of spots in the very center of the cut.
The meat had cooked faster than I expected, so it ended up sitting for more than a half hour, but that was fine. I just tented it with foil, and got on with the party.

Here’s how it looked when before I carved it.

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Alaska Salmon Chowder

Christmas Dinner is approaching, and I have visions of standing-rib roasts dancing in my head—I’m hosting fifteen people on Wednesday. To prepare, I’ve been reading recipes, counting knives, looking for chairs, and doing all that work that goes behind the meal.

To take a break, I had friends over for lunch on Sunday. Where I come from, there’s no better way to get ready for a big party than by cooking for even more folks. It might sound crazy, but I was being crazy like a fox.

Deep in my freezer, I had a side of keta salmon that the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute had sent me back in the spring. I’ve cooked the salmon up various ways, and I wanted to try it in a soup. Keta salmon is particularly suited to soup. It’s not too fatty, and therefore not too luxurious, to combine it with bacon, cream, and other mouthwatering ingredients. Keta salmon that has been in the freezer for six months is perfect for this kind of treatment.

Santa Maria was very skeptical of my idea. She thought the fish had gone past its sell-by date, but I knew it was okay, and that it would feed a large group. We had four friends and their kids over, and with the Salmon Chowder and some bagels, we had a fine time. After making lunch for ten people, I almost felt ready to host Christmas Dinner. Almost.

Alaska Salmon Chowder

  • 2 oz. butter
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Half an onion, chopped
  • 2 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 small leek, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill, plus more for garnish*
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 and 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups fish stock or clam juice, or chicken stock*
  • 3 or 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
  • 2 cups Alaska Salmon, cut into 1 inch cubes*
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in the oil and sweat the chopped vegetables, bay leaf ,and thyme slowly until the onions are translucent.

Add the garlic and the paprika and sauté a bit more

Add the tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the flour and cook on low for about 10 minutes, or until the floury taste is gone. Add the wine and simmer until the alcohol is cooked out.

Add the stock or clam juice and the potatoes and season to taste.

Simmer until the potatoes are almost soft, about 15 minutes, depending on how large you cubed your potatoes.

Add the cream and the fish and simmer for about 10 minutes more. 

Add the parsley, correct the seasoning* and serve.

Serves: 8-10

*Notes: I made this with water (I was short chicken stock); I used about 2.5 pounds of fish (one long fillet); I added extra water to compensate for the additional fish; I didn’t measure the cream, but just poured about a cup or so into the pot until it looked right (the original recipe for this soup calls for four cups, so use your judgment); I added about another two tablespoons of dill at the end.


Post-Thanksgiving Recap: Stuffing, Turkey, Cookies and More!

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364 days a year, I’m an abstemious cook. I have a friend who will use more olive oil in one dish than I’ll use in a day of cooking. I routinely cut the amount of sugar in my pancake recipe by a third. Salt is something my wife is always reaching for, but I’ll just use to throw over my shoulder. Thanksgiving, however, I go all in, all out, and, ocassionally, out of my mind (but that's a tale for another time, perhaps a fifty-minute hour).

My brother hosted this year, and each of the guests brought a dish or two. I made Melissa Clark’s stuffing with mushrooms and bacon, and I let the bacon fat ride in the pan, per her instructions. I threw the full teaspoon of salt into the pan, and boom—it tasted like restaurant food! And if you are gluten-intolerant, know that I substituted in gluten-free bread and the stuffing was fantastic; that’s the magic of bacon fat. (I also made Sam Sifton’s Three-Pepper Cornbread stuffing, from his excellent book, “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.”)

The gathering was twenty-three-people large, and my brother prepared two turkeys for the group. They were both moist and delicious. One of them, he said, was dry-brined per Russ Parson’s recipe in the Los Angeles Times (though I would have been tempted by Frank Stitt’s method, in Food & Wine). The other, he told me, he cooked on the BBQ, after rubbing it with an ad-hoc mix of rendered bacon fat and various spices. On my second serving I reached for a turkey wing, and I will never forget its crispy skin for as long as I live.

At twenty-three people, this was the largest assembly of my family in its history. Sometimes, a party this large can be stressful for the hosts, and with good reason. How does one feed all those people (and wash up afterwards, for that matter), without going out of one’s mind? The Thanksgiving meal means added pressure, as most people don’t usually roast a fourteen-pound turkey everyday. The thing about the food, though, is for all of the hype and attention it gets, it is second to people. Getting everyone together to share time at the table is what matters. Corey Mintz, a Canadian food writer, made this point in an essay in the New York Times last week. If you haven’t seen it, and you are ever thinking about having people over for dinner, I suggest you print it out and post it in your kitchen.

And if you want to get people together, it doesn’t always take a giant turkey. Sometimes, it just takes cookies. I may be an abstemious cook, but I know how to have fun. I married Santa Maria, after all. She’s the baker in the house, and the day after Thanksgiving I had a smaller contingent of the extended Stay-at-Stove-Dad family over for an impromptu dinner of hot dogs and dhal. Santa Maria livened it up with a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

 A long time ago, Heirloom Cookie Sheets, a neat little family-run company in Wisconsin, sent me one of its signature stainless-steel cookie sheets. I haven’t used it much, but I broke it out for Santa Maria over the weekend. She was skeptical at first, but she reports that it cooks much better than any other cookie sheet she’s used. So if you're reading this on Cyber Monday, and you're looking to buy something, I suggest getting some for yourself or as a hostess gift for an upcoming holiday party. You’ll be much loved, too, if you bring a batch of cookies. Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Tollhouse cookies)

  •  2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), at room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 package semisweet chocolate chips (12 ounces) (Ghirardelli are my favorite)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, cream sugars with butter; add eggs and vanilla.  Mix with dry ingredients. 

Drop by spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet; bake 7-10 minutes.  


Cochinita Pibil (Roasted Pork with Achiote sauce)

Recently, I received sad news about an old friend, someone roughly my age, who I had spent much of my college years with, having fun and getting bounced around with on the ropes of life. He was diagnosed with a disease that has left him somewhat incapacitated. I want to respect his privacy, so I’m leaving out the details, but the one thing to know, and this always sounds cliché until it is too late, is that every moment matters.

I little before I learned this news, we had been invited by our friends Rob and Olga to a party celebrating Mexican Independence Day. Olga is from Mexico, and she did the cooking. They served many things, including roasted pork tacos, and those were so delicious (and my kids loved them), so I asked Olga for the recipe. She agreed to share it, and after hearing about my friend, and hearing from Olga about how important it was to record the recipe, I realized that the smallest thing can have the biggest impact.

“I am grateful you asked for the recipe,” Olga said, “because, believe it or not, this is the first time it's ever been written. I learned to make it from my mom and she in turn from her mother. I don't think anybody in the family has it on a piece of paper anywhere. That's how most of our family dishes are - from memory. Thus, the measurements are approximate but I felt funny writing ‘about 1/4 cup of this and about 1/2 cup of that.’ I just kind of eye it when I cook.” She continued:

Food is such an important part of Mexican culture and I am always trying to ‘feed people,’ as Rob would say. Everything that is important always happens at the dinner table. We serve this dish on special occasions like baptisms, anniversaries, holidays etc. It is from the Yucatan peninsula, with Mayan origins and there are many variations to it but this is the one we have been cooking for as long as I remember.

It is called Cochinita Pibil. Cochinita means baby pork or suckling pig and Pibil is the Mayan word for buried. The original dish was wrapped in banana leaves buried in a pit.  Here’s a version you can make in an oven  (or a slow cooker). It is served with warm tortillas, pickled onions, and habanero sauce.

Cochinita Pibil (Roasted Pork with Achiote sauce)

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 6 pounds of pork shoulder, bone in
  • 1 package of achiote paste*
  • ½ -¾  cup of orange juice (freshly squeezed, about two oranges worth)**
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled

Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste. Not too much salt because of the marinade. Just a bit. You can always add more salt once the pork is cooked. Mix the olive oil, orange juice and lime juice. Add the achiote paste and dissolve it in the liquid mixture. Put the pork in a large class or ceramic bowl and pour the achiote mixture over it and rub it in. Cover it and marinate overnight in the fridge.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line either a Dutch oven or baking dish with banana leaves. You can find frozen ones from Goya in most supermarkets in the frozen foods aisle. The banana leaves are not essential but they add a bit to the taste. The dish you had last week did not cook with the leaves and I thought it was still pretty good! Put the pork in the baking dish with the marinade and cover it. Toss in the garlic. Cook in the oven about 3-4 hours. Check it for tenderness and decide how it looks. It doesn’t have to be falling off the bone but you do want it completely cooked. Remove from oven and let stand and cool. Pull the meat off the bone and shred it. I always use disposable gloves because the achiote will stain and you might have red bloody looking fingers for a day or two.

Notes: I like to cook it a day in advance, shred it and let it sit in the fridge for that extra night. It makes it taste so much better but you don’t always have the time or fridge space to do so. If you want to use the slow cooker,  I guess about 8-10hours in low or medium setting.

*Regarding the achiote paste: You can get it in Mexican stores or online. I prefer this brand which I buy on Amazon and I get a dozen packs (they last a long time).

**About the orange juice: in Mexico you can buy what are called “bitter or Seville oranges” and we just use that juice. I have never found them here so I use juice oranges and add lime to make it sour.

 

Pickled Onions

  • 2 red onions thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup Red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried Oregano leaves
  • Water as needed
  • Olive oil

Sautee the onions in the olive oil until soft, add the red wine vinegar, salt and a bit of pepper and let the vinegar begin to boil. Add the oregano leaves and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Taste the onions and if it’s too sour add some water (use your judgment; it depends on how sweet the onions are and how bitter the vinegar tastes). Adjust your seasoning, water, vinegar as needed. It really is up to your taste and let it cook a few minutes. You don’t want to cook it too much so that the onions are still a bit crunchy.

Habanero sauce

  • ½ cup white onions diced
  • 1 or 2 habanero peppers (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • Lime juice about 2 limes worth but you might need more depending on the spiciness of the habaneros
  • Salt to taste

Char the habanero chilies on the stove’s flame and put them in a plastic bag. Wait for them to “sweat” it out and then peel them. You most definitely want gloves for this or your fingers, face, eyes etc will burn for days (and everything you touch for that matter). Puree them in the blender or if you want to be true to form use a molcajete and mush them up there. In a separate bowl, mix the onions with the lime juice and add the habanero and salt to taste. Add a bit of chile at a time and taste it. They are very very spicy chiles and you want to be careful.

To eat it, make tacos with the pork and the pickled onions. The habanero sauce is a up to each person. My mom used to make just the onions with the lime and salt without chiles for the kids and we loved adding it to our own tacos. You drink beer with this dish (or tequila or margaritas). I don't think wine would work but I could be wrong.

Also, if you are mildly interested in the Mexican Independence day celebration here is a link to what we call “El Grito” which is traditionally done on September 15th around 11pm when the Mexican independence war from Spain began. Every year, the sitting President recreates the ceremony. 


Dove Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl Giveaway for Fourth of July

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The Fourth of July holiday is almost here, and to honor it, I’m giving away a gift bag of Dove Chocolates and other goodies. The idea came to me* on my recent visit to the Dove chocolate Factory. I had been invited down there to learn all about their chocolate Promises, and how they were adding mint to them. They were quite excited about it, and I could see why.

I love mint (who doesn’t?) and I add it to many dishes. I put it in a so many dishes, including the following

Send me an email or leave a comment with some of the ways you use mint, and I’ll pick the most interesting one and send you a care package with Dove Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl Promises, those bite-sized bits of chocolate pleasure, and other things—gum, soap, lip balm, candles—that are made better by mint.

*Note: I’m doing this to be patriotic, and what is more American than making a dollar? For it’s not just out of the goodness of my heart that I’m showering you with chocolate. I’ve been paid by the Dove Chocolate folks to help promote their new product. 

 


The Case of the Orphaned Pot Roast

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with big, one-pot dish on the weekends. Sometimes, such as with the Smoky Chili, the Mojo-Marinated Pork Stew and the Lamb Stew with White Beans and Turnip, it works out well, and sometimes, well, let’s just say that it just works out. Such was the case last weekend, when I made a pot roast for the first time.

A few caveats here: the first is that I don’t think I’ve ever had a pot roast before, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. The second, is that I hate beef stew, which, as I got deeper and deeper into it, I realize is very similar to a pot roast.  The last caveat is that I was suckered into this experiment by a picture on a blog, and not just any blog, but this very blog that I run. Let me explain. The picture is in this post here, which was written by a friend of mine, another neighborhood dad who made the pot roast look easy and delicious. A week or so ago, I was flipping through Stay at Stove Dad, and I came upon that post. The picture, of a rich and caramelized piece of beef,  was just too enticing.

So I got started. I went to the Park Slope Food Coop for my beef. Bill, the man in charge of the meat there, waxed euphorically about the pot roast, and procured for me a nice cut of chuck, with the bone in the center, which he said was very important. He pointed me to a recipe he used, and had posted on the Coop’s website.

I needed something that I could cook on the stovetop, because my fancy-pants Jenn-Air oven is still, still, still on the fritz (despite repeated calls to the company and a local service shop, but that’s another story for another time). The recipe on the Coop’s site called for cooking the meat in the oven, so I consulted a few other recipes online and came up with my own.

Based on my previous experience with it, I turned to the smoked Spanish Paprika that makes my chili such a marvel. I used shallots instead of onions, and I added some gorgeous fingerling potatoes. Also, I threw in some carrots and some garlic, and a bit of red wine. It started off smelling rich and wonderful, but then something funny happened on the way to way to dinner—it took forever, as in seven hours, to get the meat tender, and I don’t exaggerate.

I think I took the instructions “to cook at a low heat” a little too seriously. I started it at 2 pm that Sunday afternoon, and the meat wasn’t tender until about 9 that night. It was too late for us to eat that evening for dinner, which was fine anyway. All my girls—Santa Maria included—pretty much spurned it all week.

I’m not really sure why they didn't like it. Though I hate beef stew, and this was suspiciously similar to it, I found the meat to be rich and delicious. The sauce was wonderful and savory, (though I would have thickened it up a bit if I was serving it to company).

Because we couldn’t eat it the night I made it, I put the whole pot in the fridge for a day. This allowed the fat to congeal, and I skimmed it off the top, making it a rather healthy dish. I ate it for lunch and dinner a number of times last week. It might have been orphaned by my family, but I adopted it as my own.

Pot Roast with Smoked Paprika

  • One 3-4 lb. piece of beef chuck 
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Sweet Paprika
  • 6-7 shallots, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 6 carrots, quartered and cut into 3-4 inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 6-8 fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2-3 cups chicken or turkey stock

Rub the beef with the paprika and some salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven outfited with a little butter, brown the beef on each side, about five or so minutes.

Remove the meat and set aside in a bowl.

Saute the shallots, carrots, and celery until the shallots are soft.

Add the garlic, and saute a few minutes more.

Add the wine and reduce.

Add the potatoes, the beef, and the stock, and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 3-7 (ha!) hours, or until tender.


Broken Oven Mojo Marinated Pork and Black Bean Stew

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As I mentioned recently, I’ve been cooking big one-pot meals on the weekend, and I’ve been eating them all week. Often, there’s still some leftover that I can put in the freezer. When the oven broke on Friday, I dipped into the stock of a Mojo-Marinated Pork and Black Bean Stew that I had on hand.

I first made this stew a few weeks ago because I had a big cut a boneless pork shoulder in my freezer that was getting in the way of things. At that time, my oven wasn’t working properly, and I wouldn’t have been able to cook it properly at a low heat (the oven was only going down to 350 at that point). So I looked for a recipe that I could do on the stovetop.

A while back, a publicist sent me Emeril Lagasse’s “Sizzling Skillets and other One-Pot Wonders.” In it, I found a recipe for Mojo-Marinated Pork and Black Bean Stew. It sounded delicious, and all I had to do was cut up that pork shoulder. Lagasse says in the head note, “Who can resist the quintessential Cuban flavors of citrus, oregano, and garlic with pork and black beans?” Good question, though I don’t know how Nina and Pinta did with it. I was not home the first night it was served, and I did find a lot of it leftover after that night. This was a good thing, I tell you. You want leftovers from a dish like this. They come in handy when the oven breaks.

Brooklyn-based Mojo-Marinated Pork and Black Bean Stew

  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 8 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed, plus 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano*
  • 3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-2 onions, diced (about a cup and a half)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, diced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups dried black beans, cooked** 

Combine the orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, smashed garlic, 1.5 teaspoons of the salt, the ground pepper, and the oregano in a small bowl, and set aside for about fifteen minutes to let the flavors come together. Add the pork and toss to coat well. Transfer the mixture into a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and close, squeezing out as much air as possible. Place bag in a shallow baking dish and refrigerate overnight, turning at least once.

Remove the pork and discard the marinade. Pat the pork dry and make sure to remove the chunks of garlic lingering on the pieces of meat.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy Dutch oven, and working in batches, cook the pork until it is browned on all sides. Remove the meat to a bowl and set aside. Discard all but two tablespoons of fat in the pan.

Add the onion and sweat it for about five to ten minutes. Add the bell pepper, poblano, and minced garlic, along with 1 tablespoon of the cumin, 1.5 teaspoons of the dried oregano, and ½ teaspoon of the thyme and continue to cook until the onions are a bit brown.

Add the wine, stir to get any browned bits up off the bottom of the pan, and add the stock, and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add the pork and cover. Cook at a simmer for thirty minutes.

Add the remaining cumin, oregano, and thyme and stir to combine. Continue to cook on a low heat, partially covered, until the pork is tender, about 1 to 2 hours. Add the beans and serve over rice.

Notes:

*I bought fresh oregano, but lost it on way home from the store. Use fresh if you can.

**I don’t bother to soak black beans anymore. I just cook them in about three-times their amount in water until they are done, about an hour or two, depending on the age and temperament of the individual beans. For this recipe, I ended up using slightly less than all the beans in the end.

Additional Notes: About those beans. Lagasse says soak overnight and then add to pot about an hour or so before finishing cooking (after the 30 minute boil, when adding the last of the spices), and I suppose that would work well too.

Lagasse’s recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped tomato to be added at the end, but because of a miscommunication with Santa Maria, we didn’t have any tomatoes in the house. The dish is fine without them, but is probably better in the end. They are to be stirred in at the very end, just before serving. Along with 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro.

Obviously, the dish freezes well.


Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, by Sam Sifton

Turkey
Much in the same way that a child might get excited about seeing Santa Claus for the first time, or an adult might be thrilled by meeting Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, Pete Townshend, or Prince (insert hero of your own here), I came home this evening to one of the greatest moments of my life: A turkey—the first one ever at that—in my refrigerator.

Yes, that is correct. I have never cooked a turkey before. I have never hosted Thanksgiving before. I have not, so to speak, achieved manhood when it comes to cooking for the family, which in this case, for this holiday, extends to about sixteen folks. That, my friends, is about to change. I’m the proud owner of a 14.9 pound Bell & Evans bird from the Park Slope Food Coop. (Earlier in the day, when I was at work, Santa Maria sprinted over to the coop to get one as soon as the birds arrived for sale. She brought it home, and it is now on the top shelf of our fridge.)

I volunteered to host Thanksgiving this year for three reasons. The first is because I have never done it before, and I feel like it is time. The second is because I now have an apartment suited to the occasion. And the third is because Sam Sifton, a writer and a cook I much admire, recently wrote a how-to guide to the holiday, “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.” Were it not for this slender volume, handsomely illustrated by Sarah C. Rutherford, I would not have the confidence (I won’t say hubris) to take on the task.

Sifton may have given me one of the nadirs of my family-cooking tenure (it was his pizza recipe in The New York Times that I was following all those years ago when I wanted to emphatically demonstrate to my children my fallibility), but now that I am familiar with his limitations (what the world would call ambitions—it’s not his fault my kids don’t like San Marzano tomatoes), I am confident that his book will help me pull off this greatest of culinary holidays. Here’s his take on it:

Thanksgiving is not easy. The holiday is for many of us a day of travel, of traffic and stress. It is a day of hot ovens, increasingly drunk uncles and crowded dinner tables, of people arriving late or needing to leave early, of burned yams and spouses who forgot to buy the one thing—the one thing!—you asked them not to forget to buy. Thanksgiving can be a hard day to manage. It takes strength.

The cooking can be difficult. (That turkey is so big, and your oven so small.) The interpersonal dynamics are often harder. [Cue tears.] Either you are traveling somewhere to be fed, or opening your home to people in order to feed them. This is not easy, ever. You may be putting feuds on hold or building bridges between clans. You may be sharing family traditions or creating them or fighting against them or all three at once.

With writing like that, I know the book is gem. “Thanksgiving,” the book that is (and the holiday, for that matter), Sifton says is not “for those interested in cutting conrers. Shortcuts are anathema to Thanksgiving, which is a holiday that celebrates not just our bounty but also our slow, careful preparation of it. There is no room in Thanksgiving for the false wisdom of compromise—for ways to celebrate the holiday without cooking, or by cranking open cans of gravy to pour over a store-roasted turkey reheated in the microwave. Thanksgiving is no place for irony. We are simply going to cook. …  Put plainly, we are going to cook Thanksgiving correctly.

I’m all for that, and in the interest of increasing the odds of my success, I want to ask you, my dear readers, for your advice. All these years I have shared my culinary tips with you. Can you tell me the one thing that is most important to you for a successful Thanksgiving?