Thursday, March 8, 2007

Evolution of a Dinner Menu

Steinbeck was so right, about the "best laid plans" thing. So we had dinner for 5 adults it turns out. The menu turned out like this instead of the post from yesterday:

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Spring Garlic, Red Wine and Porcini Mushrooms
Roasted Root Vegetables with coarsely ground Cardamom - carrots, parsnips and potatoes
Apple and Blueberry Crisp with almonds and oatmeal

The meal was good. I didn't have time to deal with a starter at all. It was actually a double dinner party night. I made pork ribs, fried potatoes and broccoli for my two boys and two others BEFORE our adult dinner guests even arrived. I'd do the crisp again, but use lots more topping and very thinly slice the apples as the Pink Lady apples were quite firm.

I'm most proud of the short ribs. No recipe, just winging it and they were awesome. Here's what I did:

Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs
Serves 5-6
3 lbs Beef Short Ribs cut into 3" pieces (ask your butcher)
2 Tablespoons Flour
Salt and fresh ground pepper
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 heads green/spring garlic
3 whole carrots
3 stalks of celery
1 large onion
500 ml (3/4 bottle) red wine - something good, but not fancy
1 15oz can Beef Broth
1 oz. package dried porcini mushrooms
1 Cup boiling water
bouquet garni of fresh herbs - 3 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs rosemary, 3 sprigs thyme, tied into a bundle of cheesecloth
In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Open up your meat package, rinse the meat and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the meat. Sprinkle with the flour. In small batches, fry the beef ribs in the oil making sure to brown on all sides. This takes time, but it's worth doing a good job. As the beef finishes, remove to another dish and set aside.
Chop the onion, garlic, celery and carrot into large dice (3/4" - 1"). Make sure to remove any fibrous outer layers of the garlic heads.
When the beef is all browned, pour out all but 2 Tblsp. of the oil. Add all the diced vegetables and lower the heat to medium. Stir well coating the vegetables with the hot oil. Cook for about 5 minutes while you prepare the bouquet garni and boil water for the mushrooms.
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl. Add 1 C boiling water. Let sit 10 minutes. Taste the soaking water. If it tastes good, not musty, not dirty, but like mushroom tea, use the water in the dish. If the water tastes terrible, don't use it, just strain the mushrooms, use them and a cup of water instead.
Salt and pepper the vegetables in the pan. Return the beef ribs to the pan. Tuck the bouquet garni into the mix. Pour in the wine and beef broth. Now add the mushroom water. Bring to a boil. Put on a tight fitting lid.
Put in a medium low oven (325F) for about 3 hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Pull out the meat and put on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables to another bowl. If you'd like, de-fat the juice and return to the pan. Reduce, the juice for a few minutes and taste for seasoning.

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