See the fireworks the hearty serving created by blogging on WordPress.com. Check out their 2015 annual report.
At the beginning of 2015, I was randomly offered a chance to attend the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show. I stepped inside the huge San Francisco convention center and I WAS HOOKED. I was amazed at the variety of cheeses, wines, snacks, sauces, and small businesses that were featured at the show. We got to try things that hadn’t even hit the shelves yet, that were in beta testing with the specialty food market. And the samples! All the samples. I left with two tote bags full of seasonings, salts, cheeses, dips, drinks. It’s enough to fill your pantry for a month.
Luckily, I managed to get in and register so I get to go again this year! Serious foodie excitement happening here.
If you’re interested/hungry, the tickets are still in pre-sale: Fancy Food!
Now, I’ll be having dreams until January of imported pate and gorgonzola.
Until then, I guess we should focus on Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, right?
San Francisco is celebrating what the is normal October with shorter, warm days and cold, brisk nights. On nights like these, nothing warms my bones more than old country, rustic French beef stew, as dictated by the Queen of the Kitchen herself, Ms. Julia Child herself.
Some basics before you attempt this classic recipe, re-envisioned for the modern chef:
- You absolutely need a nice, heavy dutch oven/casserole type of pot to do this type of slow roasting cooking in. Using cheaper pots won’t conduct heat the same way and the long period of 3-5 hours in the oven could potentially ruin your cookware. Check out the major brands like Le Creuset (because the French do it best when it comes to slow cooking, let’s be honest.)
- Your heavy dutch oven will be getting very, very hot during this process. Make sure you have some heavy duty oven mitts so you don’t break it when you drop it from sheer shock from taking it out of the oven.
- Never cooked in a dutch oven before? You might need to look into seasoning it beforehand, especially if it is just straight up cast iron with no enamel coating.
- One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon (or half a pack of regular thick cut, grocery store bacon. I prefer pre-smoked in this application, it added additional depth of flavor.)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra, to add if your veggies and meat dry out too much.)
- 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 large carrot, sliced (or I used four small seasonal rainbow carrots here.)
- 1 white onion, diced (an important part of the mirepoix triumvirate.)
- 2 stalks celery, diced (adds flavor and soaks up some of that broth.)
- Salt and pepper (I prefer kosher sea salt, it tastes better than iodized here.)
- 2 tablespoons flour (this is an estimation.)
- 3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy) ((I used the whole bottle of Cabernet because why not? It for sure did not hurt anything!))
- 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (about one box)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (again, I used the whole mini can, just to save waste.)
- 2 cloves mashed garlic (I added about two heads of garlic here. This is really up to personal preference. You need a lot of garlic to stand up to the wine.)
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- A crumbled bay leaf
- 18 to 24 white onions, small (about one bag that you can get in the veggie section)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
- Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
- 1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered (Don’t miss this part! Buttery, stock mushrooms are the best.)
Let’s get cooking:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sauté bacon lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in your dutch oven over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish that has a paper towel draped draped over it with a slotted spoon; it’ll soak up some extra grease.
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. (One of Julia’s most famous tips. Check out her explanation of it here at 3:15.)
Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Take it off the head, and put it off to the side and add it to the lardons.
In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust).
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees. (This is where your oven mitt comes in handy!)
Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.
Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. (Don’t crowd the mushrooms! Use a pan that has a big enough surface area that can brown without overlapping.)
Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.
Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.
Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.
Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley. (I served it next to these super convenient garlic and herb baby potatoes with lots of those yummy mushrooms and onions. Some wheat beer goes great to offset the heavy meat here, too!)
Wine is crucial to a well-stocked and diverse kitchen, in my opinion. And clearly, I share the same opinion of many. To taste all the local wines galore, my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to attend the highly popular Wine Riot 2013, a national tour that makes stops at top cities across the United States to bring wines from all over to thirsty palettes.
Other than making the mistake of not eating enough before going on a tasting rampage or over 50+ different wines and wine cocktails, we had a fabulous time. If you’re a wine enthusiast like us, I highly suggest buying tickets early and attending one of the 2014 events. The tickets may be on the pricey side but the variety of local and family-owned wineries is completely worth it.
Thanks and happy eats,
One of my favorite things about living in such a foodie-centric area is that people here love their food and they like to celebrate it publically: food festival style! This weekend, we attended the San Francisco 14th Annual Guinness Oyster & Music Festival, which was replete with food, cocktails, and lots of amazing live music.
While I’m not a crazy oyster fan, my friends got to enjoy a nice selection of live and BBQ-ed oysters from all over the west coast, with neighboring food experts coming in from Seattle to San Diego.
As the icing on the oyster cake, I got to see one of my favorite bands live, wailing on the keytar: Mutemath! They definitely made the whole experience sweeter.
If you get the chance to visit, food festivals would definitely be a must-see on my list for any visits to San Francisco.
Thanks and happy eats,
I have a serious addiction to French Onion soup. Not just any will make the cut. The broth has to be slow cooked over hours with beef drippings, and red wine, and melt-in-your-mouth strips of onions that soak up all the flavor so it becomes a cardinal sin to leave any behind straggling in the bowl. The crouton floating happily at the top has to be thick enough to survive the cooking process but not as dense as a brick. The cheese has to be high quality swiss, preferrably Gruyere, and melt steadily so when spoon meets soup, it becomes one joined symphony for cheesey-beefy-oniony-magic for your tastebuds to behold.
As somewhat of a culinary snob when it comes to French Onion soup, it’s almost impossible to amaze me anymore. I’ve had some many that were just subpar that wowing me takes effort. Today, I met my match. Absinthe, you have won the battle. French Onion domination is yours.
So, with French Onion soup already on my mind, I ordered a perfectly paired Absinthe Lemonade to go with it: which consists of equal parts lemonade, ginger beer, and cranberry juice. (There is surprisingly no alcohol in it.) AMAZING! So simple and the flavors pair so well together, I will clearly have to make this again this summer.
To round out my lunch, I had a wedge of their Cloth-Wrapped Firm White Cheddar with their expertly paired Apple and Golden Raisin Chutney along with their mixed greens salad.
My boyfriend chose a more heartier router and ordered their deliciously dippable roast beef sandwich and Caesar salad.
If you’re willing to venture off of the famously beaten paths of downtown and the Mission district for some delicious food, I highly suggest giving Absinthe a try. The decor and delightful service make it a must.
Thanks and happy eats,
Such a gorgeous day in San Francisco today! Perfect for drinking some summer shandy’s and frying up some shrimp.
My favorite culinary exploring partner/boyfriend had his heart set on sandwiches for lunch today. We decided to spruce up this recipe for the classic Shrimp Po’ Boy by Jeff Mauro a.k.a Food Network’s The Sandwich King.
In an effort to cut some carbs and focus more on the the contents, we switched out the hefty dutch roll for a low-calorie, high fiber wrap. We then piled high with more veggies than the King asked for, so it basically turned into an open-face tartine/shrimp salad hybrid.
Vegetable oil, for frying
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay (we used regular cajun seasoning instead)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup buttermilk (we switched it out for regular 1% milk)
2 teaspoons Sriracha (consider adding more or less to taste)
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and butterflied
4 Soft Hoagie Rolls, brushed with butter and slightly toasted in the oven
Horseradish Remoulade, recipe follows
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced into rounds
8 leaves green leaf lettuce
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Whisk the flour, cornmeal, seafood seasoning and sprinkle with salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, Sriracha and egg and set aside.
Place the shrimp into the buttermilk mixture, let the excess drip off, then dredge in the flour mixture and shake off any excess. Place the shrimp onto a wire-racked baking sheet. Repeat until all shrimp are breaded.
Fry the shrimp in batches, not overcrowding the oil, until golden brown and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Place the shrimp onto a paper-towel-lined-plate. Repeat until all the shrimp are fried. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Spread both sides of the rolls heavily with the Horseradish Remoulade. Place the shrimp on top and then the tomatoes, lettuce and some onions.
Horseradish Remoulade: (Worth buying all the ingredients, this makes the dish!)
1/2 cups mayonnaise (we switched out low-fat mayo)
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon lemon juice (we love our lemon so we put in half a fresh lemon, it offsets the horseradish)
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard (chunky! the type of mustard you’d find in a German restaurant)
1/2 medium shallot, cut into chunks (1/4 cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Add the mayonnaise, capers, Sriracha, horseradish, lemon juice, relish, vinegar, mustard, shallots and sprinkle with salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend until slightly chunky.
Whether you choose to make it his way or with my changes, this one is a winner. The shrimp turned out crispy and well-seasoned, pairing perfectly with the fresh veggies and remoulade.
Thanks for reading and happy eats,