Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Boeuf Bourguignon

I've been on a bit of a French cooking kick lately.  It all started when I took my most recent cooking class, the Essentials of Burgundian Cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in Manhattan.  Since then, I've made several French dishes (some in the class and some not) including my first try at eclairs which I will be posting soon (they were great!).  I've made boeuf bourguignon in the past, but I've never been happy with the results.  I always left out the caramelized pearl onions in the past, which was a big mistake.  This new recipe, from my French cooking class, is a bit more simplified that some that I have tried in the past, but in a classic kind of simplicity that made the perfect French stew.  This was one of the best meat-based dishes I've ever made, and it had a lovely perfect simplicity to it that was just perfect.  As my husband put it, it was like being back in Paris.  This dish is another one that will be on the list for upcoming dinner parties.  I should note, I substituted regular slab bacon with turkey bacon since I don't eat bacon at home, and made some other minor modifications to the recipe in the class, reflected below.  The meat was amazingly tender and the sauce was stunning and delicious.

Boeuf Bourguignon
8 oz turkey bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (original recipe calls for slab bacon)
2 1/2 lbs beef cubes
6 to 8 T butter (approximate)
2 oz tomato paste
1/3 cup flour
2 cloves crushed garlic
2  bottles burgundy red wine
1 cheesecloth sachet with 12 peppercorns, 2 bay leaves and 5 stems parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb mushrooms, quartered
1 bag pearl onions
1 T minced parsley
2 T sugar
chicken stock, as needed

Cut the turkey bacon and cook in a dutch oven.  You are supposed to reserve the fat, but turkey bacon really doesn't have any.  After the turkey bacon is cooked, set it aside.  Add 2 T butter and brown the beef until it caramelizes nicely.  Remove the beef from the dutch oven and add the flour to about 4 T of butter.  Make a blond roux by cooking the flour and fat over medium heat.  Then add the tomato p[ate and cook for a few minutes until the paste roux mixture darkens and caramelizes.   Add the crushed garlic and cook a few more minutes, then whisk in the wine.  Add back the beef and the sachet of spices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the beef until tender, about two and a half hours, covered on the stovetop.

While the meat is cooking, cook the mushrooms in 2 T of butter or canola oil.  I used canola oil, as I felt this dish had already used enough butter.  I normally don't use butter and substitute canola oil when cooking but this dish really requires butter for the roux.  Its ok to cook the mushrooms in canola oil though, and I did.  Saute the mushrooms for about ten minutes until nicely browned, and set aside.

To prepare the glazed onions, fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add the onions and blanch for one minute.  Then shock the onions in an ice bath.  Peel off the skins.  Place the onions back in  the saucepan with 2 T sugar and 1 T butter and enough chicken stock to cover the onions.  Bring liquid to a boil and let the liquid evaporate.  Set the onions aside for serving.

When the beef is about tender, remove any fat from the surface of the braising liquid  and boil the liquid a bit for a few minutes to thicken to the desired consistency - it didn't take much.  Also discard the sachet.

When the liquid has reached the proper consistency, add the mushrooms and turkey bacon.  Season as needed with salt and pepper, and serve sprinkled with the glazed onions and minced parsley.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Goat Cheese Pita Pizzas

I made this nice quick meal last week when I didn't have much time to cook.  I made four of them, but my husband and I had leftovers as they were more filling than you might think.  This is an adaptation from the halloumi Greek pizzettes that I had made in the past, which were delicious.  These are a nice treat that is of course much healthier than conventional pizza!  I just love arugula on pizza and this is no exception.

Sasha's Pita Pizzas 
8 oz goat cheese, crumbled
four pocketless pitas
1 pint yellow grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cups baby arugula
1 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil, plus more for tasting pita
1/3 to 1/3 cup apricot jam

Preheat your oven to 350.  Brush the pita with olive oil on both sides using a pastry brush and toast for ten minutes.  Spread on the apricot jam.  Top with crumbled goat cheese and grape tomatoes (after halving the tomatoes) and bake for about five minutes.  In the meantime, mix the arugula with the olive oil and lemon juice.  Take pizzas out of the oven and top with the arugula mixture.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis

Recently, I took a French cooking class, the essentials of burgundian cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in Manhattan.  The class was a fun class where we broke into groups and made an entire French meal.  I perfected my boeuf bourguignon skills, which I will be making at home again this weekend.  The dessert for the class was this delicious French style chocolate cake, Gauteau ay Chocolate avec Framboise Coulis, which I made again at home, and it was even better.  My husband was a huge fan of this classic French dessert which is perfect for any dinner party.

Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis
6 oz semi sweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into 1 T pieces
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
3 T pureed almonds, or almond flour
4 T flour
pinch of cream of tartar
pinch of salt

Glaze (I made a half recipe of the laze at home because I thought that was enough)
6 oz semisweet chocolate
4 T coffee
6 T butter

Rasberry Coulis
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 T lemon juice
1 T Framboise
powdered sugar to taste (I like the sauce to be tart, so I only used 2 T)

Spray an eight inch cake pan with pam and line with parchment paper, sprayed with pam.  Preheat the oven to 350.

Melt the chocolate and butter for the cake batter in a double boiler.  In an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the yolks with 1/4 cup of the sugar until the mixture forms ribbons that fall from the mixer.  This takes about four minutes at a high speed.  Add the chocolate mixture and blend together.  Add the flour and almond flour and combine.  Remove and clean the mixer and set aside.

In the mixer with a whisk attachment in a separate bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until it forms a soft peak, on high speed.  Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Fold the beaten whites into the chocolate batter with a spatula.  Pour into prepared cake pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or ubtil cake pulls away from sides of pan.

Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes.  Invert and remove from pan and take off the parchment paper liner.  Cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, heat the chocolate and coffee over a double boiler.  Off heat add the butter and stir gently to combine.  Pour on cooled cake.

Blend the ingredients for the coulis in your blender.  Serve with cake.
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