Tag Archives: red wine

Five Onion Confit

I grew up expecting to have to eat the onions on my plate whether I wanted them or not. That’s just how it went at our house, and I didn’t question it.  Good thing I’ve always liked them.   Although I remember my mother telling me my grandfather liked a good onion sandwich, we had them sliced and in salads — mostly yellow onions because they were a staple — but scallions were included once in a while, along with red onions.  Now that I think of it, red onions made their appearance when we lived in Spain because they were served in the cafes, often included with cucumbers and tomatoes in a very light water and red wine vinegar marinade.  No lettuce, just a sprinkle of salt.  It was wonderful.

Onions were chopped and fried in bacon fat for the liver my mother enjoyed so much, and as much as I didn’t want a taste of the liver, I could sit all day and inhale the aroma of those onions.  Chopped onions went into simple spaghetti sauce to flavor it, or in goulash along with other vegetables and pasta, because it didn’t seem right to not have them in the mix.  My mother’s meatloaf wouldn’t be meatloaf without chopped onions.  They were quartered and added to our Sunday pot roast with carrots and celery as well, but I didn’t appreciate their flavor in the braise.  Perhaps it was the sweetness — something I expected in the more predictable foods kids enjoy — not an onion.  I still had to eat them. I liked them best raw on burgers, or a salami sandwich, the crunch and sharp spike of flavor something that was definitely missed if it wasn’t included.

Maybe it was the onion soup my father made one year before a holiday dinner.  I’m surprised I don’t remember the details of his making it, but the flavor of those long cooked onions nestled in a rich broth gave me a different perspective on just how unique the sweetness of caramelized onions could be.  I’d never had onion confit, though, and wondered just how different it might be.  Would the sweetness that it took me years to appreciate be more intense and if it was, would I enjoy it?  Based on many of the recipes I’ve come across where onion confit or jam is included, I’m thinking yes.

But would one type of onion suffice?

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Michael Voltaggio’s Indian-Spiced Short Ribs

Garam Masala

Something happened to our Sunday dinners this busy season.  They’re usually what I manage to hang on to after watching our weeknight dinners dissipate one by one from thoughtful, healthy salads and planned entrees, to a quick forage through the wilted inhabitants of my veggie bin for something to saute with rice or pasta.  Throw in some garlic and it’s dinner, right?  Hardly, but it can be eaten in a bowl, sometimes as late as 9:30 p.m. while we’re huddled in our dimly lit family room in front of a recorded show and making weary attempts at questioning one another about the day.

It’s no wonder that looking forward to uninterrupted time in the kitchen draws my attention to the weekend where the result is pleasant time together over a meal that is special — read:  is served on a plate at a reasonable hour.  The idea of “special”  seems to be part of a process to me;  a recipe catches my eye and lingers on the periphery of the minutiae that accumulates in my head, and somehow I manage to remember the main ingredient while on one of my less than stellarly organized grocery shopping trips.  The remembered ingredient is then wedged into my freezer, which just might contain the very same ingredient somewhere in its depths, as a reminder that Sunday dinner is a possibility.  Hopefully, this classifies me as an optimist.

Time goes by.  Other ingredients are collected in other stop-after-work trips to the store for the cat food or laundry detergent I forgot on the previous trip, and because those ingredients are often perishable, they become part of a different meal (see above).  It’s a vicious cycle.

Finally, the day arrives as it does each year.  Busy season ends, and glimmers of a normal life surface.  The long-awaited day in the kitchen and meal are planned and the big question looms:  Will it have been  worth the wait?


(And this has nothing to do, of course, with the fact that Chef Voltaggio not only took the time to comment on my effort, but put a shout-out about my speck in the food universe on his site, Voltaggio Brothers in “Food Writing.”)

A gracious and hearty thanks to Michael Voltaggio!

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Coq au Vin

Pearl Onions

I love cooking with wine.  Although I do enjoy a dry white splashed into a pan of caramelized shallots for deglazing, or marsala stirred into a mixture of sauteed mushrooms and garlic before a bit of cream is added, I most enjoy meat or poultry braised slowly in red wine over the course of a Sunday afternoon.  Anticipation builds as a heavenly aroma fills the house making us all a bit anxious for dinner time to arrive to see whether the finished product lives up to its promise.

Sometimes, I’m a fairly hard sell.  It isn’t so much that the most recent recipe I’ve experimented with isn’t good;  they very nearly always are.  But think about it.  Once you’ve had an amazing version of something you truly enjoy, it’s challenging for anything else to replicate the wonder of that first bite.

Mention Coq au Vin and someone will ask about what the special occasion might be.  When you consider that any braise is done because the meat used is not an expensive cut, and needs to cook for a long time to make it tender, you know it isn’t necessarily a fancy dish.  In the case of Coq au Vin,  traditionally, the farmer’s old rooster became the dinner.  Bacon, mushrooms, onions, and a liberal quantity of red wine made for quite the send off for that old rooster, and a savory treat for the farmer after a hard day’s work.  All things considered, Coq au Vin is a one pot dish.

I’ve had my eye on a recipe for Coq au Vin I first saw in Saveur. The only reason I haven’t made it before now is that it required marinating the chicken overnight and sometimes my lack of planning gets the best of me.  That oversight hasn’t kept me from making Coq au Vin because I just choose a different version.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t solved the problem.  I’ve wondered about how the marinade might change the complexity of the flavors and whether this particular recipe might be the one to best all of the others.

Evidently, I’m not the only one. It just so happens that it’s the source of the next recipe I’d like to try for Coq au Vin.  Might it be the one?  I’d have to actually find a rooster that doesn’t have his feathers on to get started…and deal with his kidneys.

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Beef Short Ribs in Red Wine

Beef Short Rib Recipe

I grew up eating braised meat.  I don’t think it mattered what time of year it was, but at some point during each month, and usually on the weekend, my mom would make what she called a roast.  Although we don’t have them as frequently, it is something we enjoy.

Essentially, braising involves cooking in liquid — but there’s more to it than just putting a piece of meat in a pot and covering it with water.  Well, if you want it to taste satisfying, that is.  There are some basic steps to take when braising:  1)  Choose the right cut of meat; 2)  Brown seasoned meat on all sides in a bit of fat; 3) Brown the aromatics;  and 4) Add the liquid and cook low and slow.

At the expense of sounding like Alton Brown without the scowl, all four of the steps I mentioned are very important, and if one of them is left out, then you’ll end up with a grey chunk o’ meat — not very appetizing.

The nice thing about braising is that the best cuts of meat to use are those which are tough —    which translates to less expensive.  Easy on the wallet.  Cheap.  They’re all the parts of the animal that get the most exercise.  Chuck was my mother’s cut of choice, but a rump or brisket are also great.  Short ribs are another perfect choice for braising.  They’re squarish cuts of beef that include a portion of bone (ribs, right?) and usually come three to four in a pack depending on their size.

When I think of short ribs, I think of gravy and wide, flat noodles.  Completely delicious!

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Make Ahead Dinner Party Dish: Beef Daube

I know it’s a scary thought, but I do cook things on top of a stove that do not have sugar, or end up in a baking pan.  Yes, I love sugary, baked goods, but when my husbink is leaving for work in the morning and I ask him to smack his lips to consider what he’d like for dinner and he says, “Meats,”  well, then, “meats” it is.  Lots of meats. Savory, rich, delectable tasting beef.

I’ve seen a few recipes here and there for Beef Daube in the course of my on-going love affair with cookbooks and food magazines and have been curious about it.  I still have the May 1999 issue of Bon Appetit, “Provence,” that included the first Daube recipe that caught my eye.  I’ve been more one who leans toward a bourguingnon instead, trying many different recipes and searching for the perfect one.  How different are they?  Not much.  Essentially, they are both ways to braise beef in wine.  It seems that when the sauce is thickened — whether in the beginning or at the end — is what makes the biggest difference.

Depending on the source of the recipe, one can quickly learn what’s most interesting about daube — its name comes from the type of clay pot it is cooked in.  (Yes, you, too, can now win in Trivial Pursuit:  The Food Version…) No, I wouldn’t have a daubiere, but it’s not required.  But I’ll bet it’s cute and if I saw one, I can guarantee you I’d want one, fetish that I have for all things food.

A daube is usually made with inexpensive cuts of meat.  I suppose that point should be stated the other way around:  less expensive cuts of meat are often tough, so benefit from being braised — hence, daube, or stew.  I’ve seen daubes made with a leg of lamb or boar meat, as well as beef chuck — something I’m more familiar with considering it was a staple on our dinner table most Sundays while I was growing up.

The deterrent for me in making Beef Daube has always been that it can take more than a day to make if I’m using an authentic recipe that goes on and on about the type of wine that should be used and the amount of time the beef needs to marinate.  I have no patience for this, unfortunately, but one day, I’d just like to find out how much difference it truly makes…

Beef daube can be the ultimate “make ahead” dish — something we often want to do, right?  It’s actually supposed to taste better the next day.  Who knew?  There are many, many steps to the recipes I’ve seen, however, and I know that is a complete deterrent for many cooks.  What can I say?  I love to be in my kitchen.  I can think of fewer things I’d rather do than to have a whole day ahead of me thinking about cooking — without frustration and rushing, of course.  It takes some planning, but it can be accomplished.

I’ve chosen “Beef Daube with Egg Noodles” from this October’s issue of Bon Appetit to begin my experimentation.  It seemed less involved than the Daube de Boeuf in the May 1999 issue.  And since lamb is something I’m not thrilled about ever, I’ve also passed by “Daube from Avignon” from Michel Biehn’s Recipes from a Provencal Kitchen (which uses a leg of lamb), and “Beef Daube with Dried Cepes” from Georgeanne Brennan’s The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence, (which sounds excellent, but calls for a much longer cooking time).  Some other differences I’ve noticed between the recipes are: whether there’s orange peel added, and whether there’s some sort of pork added in the early phases of cooking for flavor.  The recipe I used doesn’t include the orange or the pork.  It does, however, include juniper berries.  They look a bit like peppercorns, but they’re soft and can be squeezed.  They give off a pungent, but pleasant evergreen scent, and when chewed, taste a bit like pine nuts with a bite.  Interestingly, a very slight oil reminescent of that found on an orange peel lingers on your lips…Fascinating, don’t you think?

Remember:  Inexpensive meat, and can make ahead…What’s not to like?

The recipe for “Beef Daube with Egg Noodles” isn’t listed at epicurious yet, so I’m begrudgingly typing the whole thing just for you…But I am doing my own version of the directions based on how I prepared the dish.  The alterations don’t change the dish — just provide clarity and ease.

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