30 December 2011

Beef Stew - An Old-Fashioned Comfort Classic


Beef stew, the old-fashioned kind, is the perfect wintertime comfort food meal. Well-browned organic grass-fed beef gives it a depth of flavor that requires nothing more than the simplest ingredients to make a soul-satisfying stew.

Rod at Rocky Mountain Organic Meats kindly sent* me a chuck roast that I decided to make into a stew. I had thought I might make Boeuf Bourguignon, and I always cut up the meat for that myself. If I had known I was going to be more in the mood for an old-fashioned stew, I might have used their precut stew meat instead. The beef was, as my husband said, so much better than conventional (supermarket) beef, very tender and flavorful. 

*And, in case you are new to Delightful Repast, I always mention when a product was given to me and I always give my true and honest opinion of any products I mention in my blog. I turn down far more product offers than I accept, usually because the product is not something I would ever use or recommend. 

The beef and lamb from Rocky Mountain Organic Meats are 100% grass-fed, grass-finished and certified organic. No hormones. No antibiotics. No grain. No GMO feed. No irradiation. No feedlots where deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria thrive. Rod is dedicated to environmentally friendly agriculture practices, healthy land stewardship and--most important to me--the ethical treatment of animals. The animals are allowed to roam free and are treated humanely.

Notice the photo is of a plate of stew. All my life I had a bowl of stew. But my husband, being neither English nor Southern, is not an "it's all about the gravy" kind of guy and prefers to have stew on a plate. Where do you stand on this important issue: bowl or plate?! 

Beef Stew

(Serves 8 to 10)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 to 3 1/2 pounds lean beef chuck, cut into 1.5-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large onion, chopped (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef or chicken broth
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups drinkable dry red wine or water
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 medium carrots (1 pound), peeled, cut into 1-inch slices
4 stalks celery (8 ounces), sliced diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 1/2 to 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 In 5.5-quart Dutch oven (I use a Le Creuset 5.5-quart enameled cast-iron French oven), heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. You will brown the beef in 4 batches.

2 Dry the beef cubes a batch at a time with paper towels, add to hot oil and brown very well in single layer, sprinkling with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Transfer browned beef to large bowl. Repeat three times.

3 Adding another teaspoon of olive oil if needed, sauté chopped onion until soft. Add to browned beef in bowl.

4 Over medium heat, heat butter and whisk in flour, cooking about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Whisk in broth. Simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir in tomato paste. Add browned beef and onions to Dutch oven.

5 Add wine, water, ketchup (I know, I know, but I promise it adds a certain something and doesn't taste at all ketchupy), marjoram, crushed red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper to Dutch oven. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes.

Note: And, since you have a few minutes before you need to prepare the carrots and celery, you can read my stew-related story, Life Lesson in a Flame-Colored Pot.

6 Add carrots and celery. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

7 Add the potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. During last 10 minutes, thicken with a mixture of 1 tablespoon flour and 1/4 cup water; taste and adjust seasoning.

23 December 2011

Eggnog Ice Cream


Eggnog ice cream was coming. It was just a matter of time. Since I finally got an ice cream maker last spring, I've been making ice cream year-round, but trying to be "seasonal" about it. And winter is eggnog season, so there you go.

Be warned, this ice cream is delectable and has the most perfect texture of any ice cream I've ever had, homemade or store-bought (UK: shop bought); it could be addictive! A guest I served it to called it "the best ice cream I've ever had in my life" and wanted to pay me to make a gallon of it for him!

This is the first ice cream recipe I've developed with a custard base, and I'm going to be developing other flavors in the coming months. It will be fun to conduct taste tests comparing cooked and uncooked versions of the same flavor. So stay tuned!

Eggnog Ice Cream

(Makes about 5 cups)

3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot milk (I use Organic Valley 2%)
3/4 cup cold milk
2 tablespoons brandy or rum, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 In bottom pan of double boiler, heat an inch of water to a gentle simmer. In top pan of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.

2 Gradually whisk in hot milk and cook over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers between 160 and 170 degrees* (but do not boil). Just pull a tall stool up to the stove like I do 'cause it's gonna take a while, perhaps 10 minutes.

*Here's where my new Super-Fast Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer really comes in handy. My old non-digital thermometer was so hard to read, I had to stick my head in the pan to see it; and it was so slow, if I wasn't really careful the custard would curdle (scrambled eggs!) while I was trying to get a reading!

3 Stir in cold milk. Strain custard into a medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure to make pouring into the machine easier); whisk in brandy or rum, vanilla, nutmeg and cream. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

4 Assemble the Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbert Maker; turn it on. While it is running, pour the chilled mixture through the spout. Let mix until thickened, about 20 minutes. Or follow the directions for whichever brand ice cream maker you have. If you have a KitchenAid, you can use their KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment.

5 Transfer the soft ice cream to a freezer-safe airtight container, and place in freezer for at least 4 hours. Even after days in the freezer, this ice cream was very scoopable and did not need to be left out for 15 minutes before serving.

16 December 2011

Eggnog and Equipment Review - Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen


Eggnog gets a bad rap. If you think you don't like it, keep reading. You've probably only ever had the store-bought kind, and it can never be the best and is usually much worse! And if you like the store-bought, you're going to love homemade.

Often associated with the winter holidays, eggnog was just a winter drink in our family. We usually had it whenever my English grandmother came for a winter visit. My mother always made two batches--one with, and one without, alcohol. Eggnog is the classic winter drink that makes any winter day feel like a party! 

Lots of people have no qualms about raw eggs, but I do. So I make my eggnog with a cooked custard base. Though I avoid buying eggs from battery-cage operations and always buy the best organic, free-range (pastured and local, if possible) eggs available, I'm just not willing to take a chance with salmonella. Besides, I think the cooked custard makes for an all-around better eggnog. And I always check the temperature.

Thermapen colors | Photo courtesy of ThermoWorks

Thermapen has been on my wish list for years. I've been making do with a vastly inferior thermometer; but since becoming "a woman of a certain age," it's just too hard to read, besides being far too slow. So when the Utah (US)-based company behind the English-made Thermapen sent me a shiny red Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer for review, I was thrilled. The large, easy-to-read digital readout (Fahrenheit or Celsius) is just one of many advantages of the Thermapen. I don't have to stick my head in the pan to read it! I like the fact that it has auto on/off--no buttons. With a 1,500-hour battery life, I may never need to replace the battery.

(12/19/15 Update: That model has now been replaced by the Thermapen Mk4, the same great thermometer with a few added benefits!)

And the Thermapen is faster and more accurate than any other cooking thermometer. With speedy 3-second readings, my custard won't curdle while I'm trying to get a reading! I like the fact that it's water-resistent because I can get a little splashy in the kitchen! But I use it for a lot of things besides custard. It's the best way to tell if meat is done to your liking, if bread is thoroughly baked, if oil is hot enough for deep frying. Grilling and barbecue enthusiasts swear by it. Besides, using it just makes you feel like a better cook! 

ThermoWorks makes another product (at a lower price point) that also gets rave reviews from cooks: ChefAlarm by ThermoWorks. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm intrigued by the combination thermometer/timer. 

I hope you'll give my recipe a try and let me know how you liked it!  

Eggnog

(Makes about 2 quarts, sixteen 1/2-cup servings)

6 large egg yolks (Make a batch of meringues with the whites!)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot milk (I use Organic Valley milk and cream)
2 cups cold milk
3 tablespoons to 1/2 cup or more brandy or rum, optional
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg plus more for garnish
1 cup whipping cream

1 At least nine, or up to 24, hours before serving time: In bottom pan of double boiler, heat an inch of water to a gentle simmer. In top pan of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.

2 Gradually whisk in hot milk and cook over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers between 160 and 170 degrees (but do not boil). Just pull a tall stool up to the stove like I do 'cause it's gonna take a while, perhaps 10 minutes.

3 Stir in cold milk. Strain custard into a two-quart bowl; stir in brandy* or rum, vanilla and nutmeg. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours.

*Actually, you could leave out the alcohol and let each person add his own favorite tipple or have it alcohol-free. I just use 3 tablespoons of brandy as a flavoring.

4 To serve: Whip cream until soft peaks form. With wire whisk, gently fold whipped cream into custard. Pour eggnog into chilled 2- or 2 1/2-quart punch bowl or pitcher; sprinkle with nutmeg.

14 December 2011

How to Make a Proper Scone




Scones - for Afternoon Tea or Elevenses or Your Morning Cuppa

As The Resident Tea Snob over at that wonderful Britophile blog Smitten by Britain, I've taken it upon myself to point out the necessity of every self-respecting Britophile knowing How to Make a Proper Scone as well as a proper cup of tea! Of course, you'll find my Classic Scones recipe right here at Delightful Repast, but I've shared a different version of it in the guest post. I think you'll like it!

09 December 2011

10 Favorite Kitchen Gadgets


Kitchen equipment and gadgets make me happy. I have some gadgets I never use, and I knew when I bought them I would never use them! But they don't take up much space, so ... But, like most of us, I don't have room in the kitchen for big items I don't use. Deciding what I really need and want to keep and what is simply taking up space and might be actually needed by someone else is a good thing to do once a year.

A massive garage purging, some of it excess kitchen stuff, inspired this list of 10 Favorite Pieces of Kitchen Equipment. First on the list, of course, is my tea "equipage"--all things tea, from kettles to sugar tongs. After that, the items are in no particular order.

And since the photo above is of whisks, and whisks aren't even on the list, I should tell you about them. Left to right: OXO Good Grips Nylon Balloon Whisk, a stainless steel balloon whisk, 15-inch Danish dough whisk from King Arthur Flour and an English cake whisk I got in England long ago. These are all frequently used items. 

10 Favorite Pieces of Kitchen Equipment

Tea Equipage: Love my 1.8-quart white Chantal Enamel-On-Steel Classic Teakettle with two-tone Hohner harmonica whistle! For large parties (or even office use) there's my Zojirushi CV-DYC40 Super VE 4-Liter Vacuum Electric Dispensing Pot. Read my equipment review for more details.

Knives: I don't think most of us really need as many knives as a lot of us have. A good chef's knife, paring knife and bread/serrated slicer take care of most tasks quite nicely. My current favorite is the Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife. Read my equipment review for more details. 

Salad Spinner: I can't believe the number of people who still don't have a salad spinner. I've had the same one for decades and can't imagine life without it. I don't even know what brand it is, but when it breaks I'm getting this one: OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner.

Manual Can Opener: OXO Good Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener. This is THE best can opener, manual or electric, I've ever had. Works so smoothly, there's just no need to have an electric one taking up valuable counter space.

Roasting Pan: I made-do for years with a series of flimsy, handle-less, barely big enough roasting pans until I got fed-up one day and decided to invest in a "real" roasting pan that would not irritate me every time I used it and would last my entire life and beyond. I got the 16x13x4-inch Calphalon stainless roaster with nonstick roasting rack and never looked back!  

Half-Sheet Pan: I use these, Sheet Pan Half Size - 12-7/8'' x 17-3/4'' Heavy Duty, 13 Gauge, for everything from cookies and hand pies to sheet cakes that will feed a crowd. They can also be pressed into service whenever you need an extra tray.

Dutch Oven: A Dutch oven (or French oven, as my favorite brand calls it) is a must. I have three, all enameled cast-iron: a 5-quart round Dutch oven, a 5.5-quart Le Creuset round French oven and a 6.75-quart oval French oven.  

Scoop/Disher: You need a few different sizes for cookies and meatballs, as well as ice cream. This is my favorite for cookies and meatballs: 7/8 Ounce Size 40 Stainless Steel Round Squeeze Disher (13-0638) Category: Dishers. (I've never actually heard anyone say "disher;" have you?)

Ice Cream Maker: I love, love, love my Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream-Sorbet Maker. If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, you can get the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

12-Inch Skillet: My All-Clad 5112 Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan (flared sides) is probably the most frequently used skillet and takes the place of a 10-inch straight-sided skillet I used to have (you don't need both). If you already have that, a 12-inch straight-sided skillet is a good thing to have.

Of course, this list is far from comprehensive. What do you consider essential in your kitchen? And what do you love so much you keep it around even though you never actually use it?

Update 11/27/14: 10 Favorite Kitchen Essentials

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from Amazon through one of my links, I receive a small commission, at no cost to you, which I use toward the expenses of running this blog. Thank you!

02 December 2011

Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls


Homemade dinner rolls simply "make" a comfort food meal. Back in the day, when I was better at multi-tasking, I baked my dinner rolls at the last minute. But these days I bake them as much as a month ahead and freeze them until 2 1/2 hours before serving time. Of course, you can just go ahead and serve these the day you bake them; but I've included instructions for freezing, thawing and reheating.

Sometimes I make other kinds of rolls. I love them all; but these big, fluffy, pull-apart rolls have been my go-to roll for decades. And I think the fact that they have butter, oil, sugar and egg is what makes them stand up to freezing so well.

If, unlike poor little me, you have a heavy-duty stand mixer (I know it must be shocking to find a food blogger who does not!), you can easily adapt my recipe for the mixer. I make all my bread by hand, though I am beginning to think I might need to break down and get a mixer for those days when I'm feeling a little less insistent on doing things the traditional way.

When it's warm, and my house is warm, I let bread dough rise on the counter. In fall and winter, I keep a cooler house than many people do and find that dough takes much longer to rise. So the old slightly-warm-oven method helps hurry things along. Are you a breadaholic like me? Please comment; I'd love to hear about your bread preferences and experiences.


Make-Ahead Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls

(Makes 15 really big rolls)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups water, room temperature
1/4 cup organic canola oil
5 1/2 packed cups (27.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten

1 If your kitchen is cold and you want to speed up the rising time, preheat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. (If you have a really old pre-electronic ignition gas oven, just the heat from the pilot light will be sufficient.) Grease large bowl* with 1 tablespoon of softened butter (for first rise). Grease 13x9x2-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of softened butter. *Using a straight-sided 4-quart bowl makes it easy to tell when dough has doubled.

2 Put water, oil and 3 tablespoons butter in 1-quart glass measure. Microwave on high power until water is warm (110 to 120 degrees), about 2 minutes, depending on your oven. Stir until all the butter is melted.

3 In another large bowl, whisk together 4 1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour, then add water mixture and egg to the well. With dough whisk or large wooden spoon, slowly stir until soft, shaggy dough comes together.

4 Spread 1/2 cup of flour onto work surface, and reserve 1/2 cup to use as needed. Turn the dough out onto floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if needed, until the dough forms a smooth ball. Place smooth ball of dough in buttered bowl and turn to coat all sides of dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in oven until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour. If the oven rack feels quite hot, put a potholder between it and the bowl.

5 Punch dough down (by pressing down in center and folding in edges), turn out on lightly floured surface. Divide* the dough into 15 equal pieces by first dividing it into 3 equal pieces then rolling each piece into a thick log and cutting each log into 5 equal pieces. Keep dough pieces covered with plastic wrap or overturned bowl as you shape each piece into a ball, pulling edges under and pinching them together on the bottom. I also give them a little roll on the unfloured counter, a motion sort of like moving a computer mouse around. Place in 3 rows of 5 in buttered baking dish. Spray the same piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray, cover dish lightly and return to turned-off oven until rolls have doubled in size, about 1 hour.

6 Remove dish from oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover rolls and bake for 25 minutes, or until well browned. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Keeping rolls together, remove rolls from baking dish and cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Double-wrap with foil (probably one layer of heavy-duty would be sufficient); freeze for up to 1 month.

7 Remove from freezer 2 1/2 hours before serving time. Defrost, wrapped, at room temperature for 2 hours. During last 15 minutes, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place foil-wrapped rolls on a cookie sheet and bake about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

*The best tool for dividing the dough (and doing a lot of other jobs) is a bench scraper. If you don't have one, order the OXO Good Grips Multi-Purpose Pastry Scraper/Chopper. I've had a few others, and this one is the best, has THE best handle!
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