I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

December 26, 2011

Boxing Day at the Beach

What is Boxing Day? According to Wikipedia:
Boxing Day is traditionally a day following Christmas when wealthy people in the United Kingdom would give a box containing a gift to their servants.Today, Boxing Day is better known as a bank or public holiday that occurs on December 26, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws. It is observed in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and some other Commonwealth nations.
It's not traditionally celebrated in the US except to call it "the day after Christmas" where you give people who deliver boxes a fifth of Scotch.
I'm sure there are many other definitions and traditions that go along with this multi national holiday but I think I just found my favorite one today in my dear old hometown of Ventura.

The Jolly Oyster set up shop in the parking lot of the Buenaventura State Beach off of Harbor Boulevard some time ago. And like the meat market I mentioned a while back, I have been meaning to get there forever...but of course work and life get in the way of most fun things I want to do. Finally today worked....
A dear friend and fellow foodie helped to organize a casual day down at the Jolly Oyster on Boxing day to help celebrate the day with the owner who hails from the British Isle and let me tell you....I kind of want to adopt this holiday for myself

The Jolly Oyster sells a few different varieties of oysters in the shell, mussels and clams. You have to shuck or cook everything, but fortunately they sell the shucking knives (and have band-aids for those of us who slip!), there are are a few picnic tables and multiple barbecues surrounding the space so you have plenty of opportunity to spread out, cook and snack if you don't want to just take them home to eat.

It was a great turnout with families and groups of friends barbecuing and shucking for hours on end....A few bottles of bubbles later, some bread and cheese and my friends and I kind of shut the place down while taking the last few oysters they had on hand.

If you like oysters at all or have an interest in learning about them or trying them for the first time with someone who is knowledgeable, personable, funny and has an infectious passion for what he is growing, selling and shucking this is THE place to go. 

All you need is an oyster knife, cocktail sauce or ponzu (or mignonette if you are fancy pants), some lemon and hot sauce and an honest love for the wonderful simple things in life. It is the middle of December and we were sitting at the beach in the sun sipping champagne and slurping oysters, how much better can you get???

Please go visit them and enjoy as much as we did!


December 25, 2011

A Christmas Dinner Party.....

Alternate titles for this post were "Why I need a dedicated photographer" and "Bon Appetit makes it look so easy!"

Last week I found out one of my best friends was coming in to town for the holiday weekend and we were making plans to go out on the town to celebrate, when one thing turned in to another and all of a sudden I was having a dinner party at my house for 8 people. No big deal right?
Except as I mentioned in my last post I've been living off of leftovers, takeout and food from moms house for a while. In the fridge was 4 carrots, a bunch of celery and about 8 mushrooms that were about to be no bueno. With nothing as a foundation for a meal I was all over the board as to what the heck I should make. With 8 people I knew I could get away with something a little fancy, but not overextend my wallet and spend 8 hours in the kitchen. Fate was on my side when I found bone in short ribs at the market and after a few searches on google and epicurious I came up with a recipe that sounded like it fit the bill.

I cleaned the house, set the table with a very Martha Stewart like setting, set the ribs to marinate and chopped and diced like mad to get things going so that I could sit back and relax when my guests arrived instead of staying chained to the stove. And wonder of wonders I managed to sit down and have a glass of wine a half hour before Clover got to the house.

But I took one picture of the food. Hence the need for a photographer.

This is the short ribs after a quick sear to get the outsides caramelized.

But even though I didn't get a whole lot of food pics, I managed to get a few good ones of my friends who thoroughly enjoyed the dinner I made along with copious amounts of wine and loads of conversation and laughs.
Bon Appetit magazine will do a dinner party article every once and a while and the photos always show a relaxed host (with perfect makeup and hair of course) with a glass of wine in hand casually chatting with their guests in a perfectly manicured backyard or gorgeously appointed kitchen with seating for 12 not including the bar with which to watch over the cook. Then there is a multiple course meal with appetizers that they seemingly "threw" together.

It's a little different in my house.

I have a lovely kitchen that will accommodate exactly 3 people as long as no one moves, a dining room table with 6 chairs so we use patio chairs when more than 6 are here. The backyard is great when weather  agrees with us, but in the winter it confines us to the living space which gets a little crowded and a little loud.  Dishes abound and the whole place looks like a tornado hit it after I have people over.

But damn we have fun!

These two recipes were perfect for a crowd because of the make ahead factor, and the fact that I had very little leftover speaks to the sheer awesomeness of the meal. After begging and pleading from my friend Mandy I got myself on the computer and am going to share with you a new favorite.

Please enjoy, I hope your holidays were as happy as my own!

Stout Braised Short Ribs
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

1/4 cup packed Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon Curry Powder
2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
2 teaspoons Ground Pepper
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
4 to 4 1/4 lb Bone in Beef Short Ribs
2 Medium Leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped (2 cups)
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 medium Carrots, chopped (2 cups)
3 Celery Ribs, chopped (1 1/2 cups
1 Fennel Bulb, Chopped
2 Bay Leaves
3 Roma Tomatoes, Chopped
1/4 cup chopped Garlic (5 to 6 large cloves)
1 3/4 cups Beef Broth (14 oz)
2 (12-oz) bottles Stout such as Murphy's or Guinness
1/4 Cup Molasses

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Stir together brown sugar, paprika, curry powder, cumin, pepper, salt, and mustard in a small bowl until combined.

Pat ribs dry and arrange in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan or a shallow dish, then generously coat all sides of ribs with spice mixture. Marinate, uncovered and chilled, at least 1 hour....I would do more if you have the time.

Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating water, then lift out leeks and drain in a colander.

Heat oil in pot over high heat until hot but not smoking and quickly brown ribs on all 3 meaty sides (but not bone side) without crowding, in batches if necessary, about 1 minute per side. Transfer meat to a large plate, then add leeks, carrots, celery, fennel and bay leaves to pot and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add broth, beer, molasses and tomatoes with their juice, then add ribs with any juices and remaining spices accumulated on plate and bring liquid to a boil, uncovered. Cover pot and transfer to oven, then braise until meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Skim off excess fat from surface of sauce and reduce sauce, thicken with slurry or roux if needed or desired, correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

Porcini Mushroom Risotto
Makes enough for 8-10 side dish sized servings

1 medium Onion, diced
2 T Butter
2 packages Dried Porcini Mushrooms, Reconstituted  in 3 cups hot water, chopped
Reserve 1 Cup of the porcini mushroom liquid
16 oz Arborio Rice
1 Cup Dry White Wine
5-6 cups Chicken Stock
3/4 C Shredded Parmesan Cheese
2 oz Goat Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot and saute onion until its soft. Add rice and stir for a few minutes over medium heat. Add wine and stir until all wine is absorbed. Add in 1/2 cup of porcini liquid and 1/2 cup stock and stir until absorbed. Add in mushrooms, remaining mushroom liquid and a little broth. Repeat and repeat and repeat with stock in 1/2 cup increments. Stir the whole time and cook until rice is tender and creamy. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

At this time you can take it off the heat and hold until you are almost ready to serve. Add in the cheese and heat through before serving.

December 18, 2011

A much needed time out!

If you are anything like the rest of the population at this wonderful time of year you are most likely overwhelmed, over scheduled and feeling like there is just not enough time to get anything done. Between work, family, shopping, holidays, birthdays and just STUFF I feel stretched to where I hardly have time to enjoy half of what I am doing. This weekend I planned some things to take me away from the craziness if only for a bit and did my damnedest to enjoy myself.

Oh hey...I actually cooked! Yeah...me. Who hasn't blogged since October probably because cooking at my house has consisted of cereal or an English muffin in the morning and heated up frozen chili from some random cooking spree three months ago. Even on Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, I was so busy cooking and sipping champagne that I didn't have time to really sit back and enjoy the process (even though I loved the outcome). 

When a birthday in mid December for my friend Mo came along, my friend Sarah and I decided we needed a girls night so we could spoil our birthday girl with an awesome meal and a girls night with lots of wine, food and a relaxing night "off". Between Sarah's & Mo's insane schedules that include full time jobs, a 2, 5 and 7 year old and all the other fun things that go with them and my crazy ass work schedule we were able to squeak out a night where it would work for all of us.

Now the question comes up....what do we make, right? Well......Since the middle of November when I heard that Ventura was getting a new meat market specializing in local, humanely raised and butchered meats as well as some exotic and interesting meats I've been wanting to get over there and check it out.

From and aesthetic standpoint, the place is clean and very open, spotless floors, white walls and lots of glass. You can stand behind a glass pane and watch one of the lovely gentleman wearing a white collared shirt, bow tie and butchers apron slice up your meat to order, tie up a crown roast or in my case, French out a rack of lamb since I was feeling lazy. The meats are displayed in a nice big case and true to their claim of having good variety they were showing off venison loin, bison steaks, pheasant, rabbit and duck as well as gorgeous bone in pork loin chops, marbled rib eyes and freshly ground beef, turkey and bacon which I understand is a wonderful thing.

I'm thrilled to have them here and can't wait to see what they do next....I understand housemade sausages and charcuterie are on the to do list!

As for what I did to the lamb, I am pretty sure this is one of my top picks for rack of lamb recipes. It has a couple components to it and each by themselves would have been amazing, all together they had an awesome wow factor. The sausage crust was amazing on its own and the pan sauce was light but really flavorful. And the lamb? Freaking perfect. Thank you Ventura Meat Company, I'll be back!

Roast Lamb with Sausage Crust and Fresh Grape Pan Sauce
Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe

1 cup halved seedless red grapes
1 cup Port
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Sausage Crust and Lamb
1/4 cup halved seedless red grapes
1/8 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove
4 ounces ground meat (the original calls for lamb, I used 3/4 beef & 1/4 turkey which VMC so conveniently had for me!)
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 well-trimmed racks of lamb
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
1 1/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread

Preparation for sauce
Boil all ingredients in large saucepan until reduced to 2 1/3 cups, about 20 minutes. Cool. Puree in blender.

For lamb

Pulse grapes, olives, chopped rosemary, vinegar, and garlic clove in mini processor until olives are chopped. Transfer to bowl. Mix in by hand ground meat,1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Sprinkle rack of lamb with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add rack, meat side down, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Set on rimmed baking sheet, meat side up.  Cool lamb completely.

Add 1/2 cup broth to skillet. Boil until reduced to glaze, scraping up browned bits. Add to sauce. Cover and chill.

Spread each rack with 1 tablespoon mustard. Press sausage over top of each rack (layer will be thin). Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons oil, and 2 tablespoons mustard in medium skillet. Toss over medium heat until beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Press crumbs over sausage on each rack. Cut through crumb crust (not lamb) between bones to score. Roast until thermometer inserted into center registers 135°F, about 30 minutes for medium-rare.

Transfer lamb to platter; let rest 10 minutes. Pour juices from baking sheet into sauce. Simmer in small saucepan until reduced to about 1 1/3 cups, about 9 minutes (sauce will thicken slightly). Season with salt and pepper.

Note: The sausage crust can crack and fall off a bit, but not to worry, just pat it back on and devour, it still tastes great!