Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beefy, stewy goodness

I've been developing this beef stew recipe for nearly 8 months and I've finally got it to where I would like it to be, as far as the cooking technique and the right ratio of ingredients. I'm still kicking myself because, the first time I made this, I didn't write down what I was doing! Let this be a cautionary tale for you: When playing about in the kitchen, keep a notebook! Michael Smith does it, now I do, and so should you!

Anyway, enjoy this stew. It's really simple to make, tastes great, and I love any recipe that allows me to do all the work before company arrives so that I can start things off with a clean, clutter-free kitchen.

Beef Stew
(download PDF here)

Ingredient List
stewing beef (~ 500 g)
onions (2 medium)
garlic (5 cloves)
tomato paste (156 mL/5.5 fl oz can)
beef broth (2-3 cups)
red wine or beer (1-2 cups)
potatoes, white or Yukon Gold (3 medium)
carrots (4 medium)
vegetable oil (2 tbsp)
bay leaves (3)
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Cube 500 g stewing beef into large, bite-size pieces. Allow beef to come to room temperature while preparing remaining ingredients.

Finely dice 2 medium onions and mince 5 garlic cloves. Set aside.

Pat beef dry with paper towel and liberally season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil over medium high heat, in a dutch oven or other oven-proof vessel with lid. Brown one batch of beef in a single layer in the oil for approximately 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Remove browned beef to a plate. Add more vegetable oil to the dutch oven and repeat with the remaining batches of beef.

Add diced onions to the empty dutch oven and cook them until they soften, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add 1 can tomato paste and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Return the beef and its juices to the dutch oven and pour over enough liquid to completely submerge the beef. Aim for an approximate ratio of 2 cups beef broth for every 1 cup red wine or beer.

Peel 1 medium potato and shred it with a box grater. Add the shredded potato to the stew, along with 3 bay leaves, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Bring the stew to a boil, then cover the dutch oven with the lid and bake in oven for one hour.

Peel and cube 2 medium potatoes and add to stew. Return stew to oven for another hour.

Peel and cut 4 medium carrots into coins and add to stew. Return stew to oven for another 30 minutes-1 hour. The stew is ready when the beef is fall-apart tender and the vegetables are cooked through.

Optional: Just before serving, add 2 cups frozen green peas and/or 1 package chopped spinach, thawed and drained, or serve stew over a bed of fresh baby spinach.

Makes 6 one cup servings.

A chuck roast (from the shoulder) or some other tough cut is best for stewing. When buying generic “stewing beef”, choose a package with good marbling and lots of connective tissue.

Nutrition (per serving)
Calories 438
Total fat 11 g
Saturated fat 3 g
Cholesterol 74 mg
Sodium 750 mg
Carbohydrate 46 g
Dietary fibre 9 g
Sugars 18 g
Protein 35 g
Vitamin A 167%DV
Vitamin C 82 %DV
Calcium 9 %DV
Iron 39 %DV

Best Peanut Butter Cookies . . . Ever!

My mom's favourite cookie of all time is the peanut butter cookie. Every birthday, Mother's Day, anyday, I like to make her a batch because I know she likes them so much. I used to make the cookies from the recipe on the back on the Kraft Peanut Butter jars, but this February (her birthday), she commented (as did Gabriel) that she preferred chewier peanut butter cookies over the crispy ones that this recipe yields. Instead of going back to the books, looking for a different recipe and figuring out which is best through trial and error, this time I applied my newly acquired cookie-science-know-how and came up with my OWN recipe. It was fantastic. The cookies are sweet, peanut-buttery, and oh so moist and chewy. Gabriel says that the only way I could improve it is to find a way to pack in even more peanut butter taste. In the mean time, this recipe rocks. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cookies
(Download PDF here)

Ingredient List
bread flour (1¼ cup)
butter (½ cup)
brown sugar (¾ cup)
granulated sugar (¼ cup)
peanut butter (smooth or crunchy) (½ cup)
egg (1 large)
vanilla extract
baking powder
baking soda
table salt

Combine in a small bowl: 1¼ cup bread flour, ½ tsp baking soda, ½ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp table salt.

Heat ½ cup butter until just melted.

In a medium bowl, beat together: melted butter, ¾ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup granulated sugar. Beat in ½ cup peanut butter, followed by 1 large egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Gradually add the dry ingredients until completely incorporated and uniform in texture and colour.

Form dough into balls and place on baking sheets. Gently flatten dough balls, partially with hands, then with fork tines, making the criss-cross markings on the top.

Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake for 9-11 minutes until bottom edges of cookies begin to brown and the middle of the cookies appear set. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 18 cookies with a 35-disher.

If bread flour is not available, AP flour can be substituted but cookies will not be as chewy in texture. In this case, beating the mixture for an extra minute after incorporating the flour will help produce more gluten, making the cookies slightly chewier.

Nutrition (per cookie)
Calories 157
Total fat 9 g
Saturated fat 4 g
Cholesterol 24 mg
Sodium 141 mg
Carbohydrate 17 g
Dietary fibre 1 g
Sugars 9 g
Protein 3 g
Vitamin A 3 %DV
Vitamin C 0 %DV
Calcium 2 %DV
Iron 3 %DV

Friday, April 16, 2010

As smooth as velvet

Sorry for the delay in posts, but I have good news! Gabriel and I are having our kitchen redone in May. And when I say "redone", I mean completely torn out and built from scratch. The walls, the floors, cabinets. It's so exciting. We're even switching from an electric to a gas stove. That will make cooking SO much easier (yay for a uniform heat source!). Pictures will be forthcoming.

So today I do not have a recipe for you, but a question: Where can I get good liquid food colouring?

For the Easter weekend, I baked a Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. It was delish and there were no leftovers. But before I go transcribing the recipe, I need to figure out a better way to make the cake red. As you can see from the picture, it's more pink than red, and I think it has to do with the fact that the recipe calls for liquid food colouring, and the only kind we have in Canada is the cheapy Clubhouse brand. I may investigate a way to use my better-quality Wilton colouring pastes and just add some liquid to compensate. Eitherway, I promise to perfect this recipe and get it out to you because, even if it is pink, it's one damn good cake!