Monthly Archives: January 2009

Snow Day or Ice Rink?

Ice Skating in the DC burbs

Ice Skating in the DC burbs

It’s our turn for the ice storms that have crippled my home state of Oklahoma and many others across the upper-south and mid-west. We awoke this morning to a skating rink of sorts, all that glistens in the photo is ice. Snow plows are very close to useless on this stuff, skimming off a layer of ice but leaving more still beneath it.
If you still have electricity, or you have a gas stove and a way, perhaps a flint, to light it, it is a perfect day for some hot soup and hot chocolate. Today, the recipe is for bœuf bourguignon. I like to use whatever robust red wine I have on hand, so this could just as well be called bœuf sauvignon or bœuf noir. It lends itself perfectly to the crockpot, so, if you don’t have the day to cook it on the stove and in the oven, you can start it in a crockpot in the morning before you leave for the day, or start it at night before you retire for the night. It can cook all night in a crock pot, then be refrigerated and reheated for dinner. That is, if the aroma doesn’t drive you to some sleep eating. It isn’t exclusive to snow days, as it makes a good Saturday meal, too.

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Bœuf bourguignon, almost

2 T Olive Oil
1 lb stew meat
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 T flour
1 c beef stock or broth
1 c red wine, burgundy
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 T tomato paste
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 – 2 bay leaves

This recipe is adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. There are differences, major differences. One is I do not use bacon. You may choose to stick to the authentic recipe or you may decide to be even more cholestrol lowering by using Olive oil flavored cooking spray. Sadly, there is no bacon flavored cooking spray. Another adaptation is using a crock pot. And, yes, you caught me, I have been known to use catsup instead of tomato paste. I just can’t see the use in opening a 16 oz, sorry 14.45 oz, can for one tablespoon. The tomato paste in the tube just turns into a puddle of goo in my fridge that prefers exiting through a broken slit in the side of the tube rather than the expected opening. As I always say, WNWN, waste not, want not.  Also, the classic recipe is much more difficult. It calls for the sauce to be sieved and reduced, the mushrooms to be sauteed and pearl onions to be brown braised in stock. Not to mention washing out the casserole. All of these are certain to produce a more refined dish, but as for me, when it’s a snow day, I want warm and tasty and easy.

Heat 2 T olive oil on med high heat. Dry Beef with paper towel or skip it if you want, frankly I’ve come too close to setting the paper towel on fire than effectively drying the beef. When the oil is hot, brown beef.
Remove beef to bowl, you can even park it in the crock pot bowl, and toss with flour.
Brown onion and carrots in pan. Return beef to pan and brown flour for about 2-3 more minutes.
Place onion, carrot and beef mixture in crock pot. Add wine and enough broth to barely cover the beef, in fact the beef should be poking out a bit, with the liquid not quite clearing the tops of the beef. Crock pots make lots and lots of broth. Add thyme and bay leaf. Heck, if you are feeling as if you aren’t doing enough, tie it up in a cheese cloth. Set crock pot to high and cook for 3 – 4 hours or on low and cook for 6 -7 hours or until beef is tender and makes lots and lots of broth. Add mushrooms for the last hour.
If you want thicker broth, either reduce it or add up to 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, mixed on the side with a tablespoon of the cooking broth.

If you want this to be more of a stew, add quartered new potatoes for the last hour or two of cooking.  Just in case it isn’t flinty enough for you.

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Doesn’t do the baby no good neither

I admit, that line was Uncle Felix’s comment about a baby swallowing a watch, not kidneys. But, seriously, who discusses kidneys in any context except Steak and Kidney Pie, in a restaurant? Apparently, some men do. While dining at the Panera near to a Washington D.C. suburban hospital, a table of men nearby felt compelled to discuss one man’s kidney issues with details innappropriate to a peaceful lunch. We were trying to find a brief break away from my Mother-in-law’s hospital bed, when this invasion started.
I am posting a link to a genuine Steak and Kidney pie, just because I have to chase visual images from my mind with better visual images. This recipe isn’t Uncle Felix’s but genuine all the same.Click here to go to BBC’s traditional recipe.

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Waterford & Wedgwood

wedding-china-cropped111208

Are there two names more synonymous with gracious dining?  Can anyone imagine a world without these two? Sadly, unless a buyer can be found we may have to envision it.  One of the reasons being cited is today’s more casual lifestyle, one in which there is no room for cut crystal and bone china, the latter known in my bridal days as the “good china”.  If this is true, than a bleak future is ahead for us. Some may fear the cost, after all, the “good china” might be trotted out only once or twice a year. Mrs. Sloan is always one for pinching a penny, not letting go until it screams! Sometimes, I have fallen victim to another old adage, one of being penny wise and pound foolish
A place setting of pristine white bone china banded with platinum is $165 for a five piece place setting. No one could call it cheap. Certainly one could purchase a less costly set for dining. Consider, if one used the “good china” only once a year and owned it for 30 years, how much would it cost, per use?  The cost is a mere $5.50 per use. 

I am of the generation who’s parents lived through the deprivations of the Great Depression. Perhaps because they had suffered great deprivations, followed by the great dangers of WWII, they understood the value of good things and they valued themselves enough to give themselves a few, well chosen things which lasted them a life time.

Perhaps we take a lesson from this generation. That is, choose things of value which last. Pay for them in cash, buy a plate or two for Christmas, a tea cup and saucer or two for a birthday, that is buy them slowly over time. I know I could stand to follow their plan.

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