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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!)
“Thus was born the fictitious Broccoli Commission of America, whose slogans include: “Broccoli: Now 43 Percent Less Pretentious Than Kale” and “What Came First, Kale or the Bandwagon?” and “Eat Fad Free: Broccoli v. Kale.” Picking on kale — rather than on, say, French fries — was especially brilliant because it mimicked the Great Soda War between Pepsi and Coca-Cola, an entirely bloodless battle that greatly enhanced the bottom lines of both companies. While consumers assumed Coke and Pepsi were in some sort of zero-sum game, the marketing reality was that the idea of a soda war, and the ads created to perpetuate it, brought many more consumers to both companies.”
– Michael Moss, The New York times, on Broccoli’s great new PR makeover.
Too great not to share.
Fall means smoky flavors, thick crusts, and roasted and caramelized veggies. The best way to combine all the flavors of fall in one bite? Pizza! The best part of purchasing the heavy black pizza stone I got a few months ago is the amazing crunchy crusts you get from it. For those that have to do without the heavy duty wood-fire ovens that gourmet pizza chefs love so much, a pizza stone is a welcome alternative.
Homemade Caramelized Apple, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Pizza
- 1/2 pound of bacon (I used Applewood Smoked, fresh from the butcher.)
- 1 italian sausage, cut into small bits outside of the casing (I used a medium heat one, to balance the sweet of the apples. Optional, just if you want a secondary type of meat.)
- 4 oz. of goat cheese (I chose the creamy Chevre version for this.)
- 1 bag of premade dough (I used the garlic and herb type from Trader Joe.)
- 1/2 cup of shredded Mozzerella (or more if you like a lot of cheese.)
- 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan
- Olive Oil
- Garlic, 3 cloves, smashed
- Dried Oregano
- Sea Salt
For the caramelized apples:
- 1 fresh large apple, thin slices
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 2 table spoons of cinnamon
- olive oil
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray your pizza stone or pizza tray with cooking spray or olive oil to prevent your crust from burning or sticking. Take your premade dough out of the bag and let it rest without messing with it for 15 minutes (this lets the air get to the gluten in the flour, letting it become more pliable.) Slowly stretch your dough to the sides of the pizza stone or pan to make the full circle base for your pizza pie (I held my corners down with coffee cups to force the dough to stretch.)
Combine the finely chopped garlic cloves with the oregano, salt, pepper, and olive in a small bowl. Drizzle the garlic oil mixture over the raw dough evenly as your sauce base. Cover the crust liberally and evenly with the shredded cheese, spreading the mozz first and then the parm.
Heat up a small pan with olive oil and put your sliced apples in. Cover the apples with the cinnamon and brown sugar and let it heat up until the sugar dissolves and caramelizes. Take the apples off the heat, let them cool slightly, and then place them on the pizza.
Next layer is the meats. Cut your bacon and sausage up into small bite size pieces and arrange them evenly throughout the top of your pizza. Add small balls of the soft goat cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and pop it into the oven. Bake for about 17-22 minutes, take it out when your crust edges are browning.
Give the pizza a few minutes to chill before slicing out of the oven because the pizza stone will be VERY HOT (believe me.) Slice into thick slices and serve. (I topped mine with fresh mixed greens for a nice crunch to pair with the heartiness of the bacon and sausage.)
This pizza is a crowd pleaser for Autumn afternoons (Including my mom and boyfriend, who aren’t crazy about goat cheese.)
Enjoy with your favorite fall ale, great as a prelude to pumpkin carving.
Thanks and happy eats,
One of the blessings of living in such a culturally and culinarily diverse place is that fresh fruits and veggies can be found with relative ease. California is home to some of the most sought-after produce, which is shipped all over the world. The reason I started this blog was to document all the mouth watering ways local resources can be used, without having to step much further outside of my hometown to find memorable ingredients.
The biggest trend in cooking right now is “farm to table,” which essential translates into cutting out the middleman and eating locally grown foods to further connect communities to their land and their meals. One movement to ensure to become a member of a local CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are known for sourcing local seasonal fruits, veggies, and nuts and shipping directly out to members for a modest cost. For about 30 bucks, I get this huge box that usually contains an range of leafy greens, root veggies, vine veggies, berries, fruits, and other things that might be in-season that week. Depending on the size of your CSA, you can choose themes to get more of the things you enjoy cooking with such as “All Fruit” or “No Cooking Needed” or “All Veggies.” Joining a CSA is great for the local farmers, who don’t end up losing profits by having to sell to large buyers like Safeway or Whole Foods, and so they pass that savings onto you. Totally worth it if you’re trying to turn over a healthier leaf, no pun intended.
One notable downside/challenge of joining a CSA is that even though you get to choose your theme if you’re lucky, you don’t get to individually choose your box contents. Which means you often get veggies or fruits that you wouldn’t normally buy for yourself in the grocery store. One such challenge for me this month: 3 large red Beets, 1 Acorn Squash, 1 bunch of Carrots, 1 large bunch of Lacinato (aka Dinosaur) Kale, and 1 bunch of Radishes. I tried giving them away but no one would take them! So I thought to myself: Be a big girl. Find a way to make these things delicious. Expand your palette.
Know what you do with veggies that you don’t enjoy? Bake them! Sautée them with garlic! Liquify them! My biggest problem with this basket was the Beets. I mean, Beets? Red, staining, tastes-like-earthy-dirt Beets? YUCK. Every time that I’ve tried to give them a try in other preparations or in restaurants, they were cold, slimy, and tasted like I was eating a plant bed. I knew there had to be a way to make them digestible. Luckily, I have Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) on my side. I had forgotten that I had seen a show where she roasts them and then hits them with fruity acidity of orange juice right before serving to cut some of that earthy taste, ingenious!
- 3 red Beets, scrubbed and peeled, chopped into bite sized quarters
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced (or any fresh herbs you have, sage and basil work great here, too.)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t worry about overseasoning here.)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 1 large orange
NOTE: Keep the beet greens at the top for a nutrient-rich easy stewing or sauteing green. It’s insane the amount of Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; and folic acid that you get from a red Beet, which can also be found in the greens so don’t waste them! Serious gift from nature.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. (If you can’t peel them entirely, don’t sweat it. As long as they’re scrubbed thoroughly, you’re fine if some of the outer skin gets left on.) Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. (Small beets can be halved, medium ones cut in quarters, and large beets cut in eighths.)
Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, (I always cover my cookie sheets with tin foil for easy cleanup.) fresh herbs, sea salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with the orange juice. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and serve warm.
(And now here is where we reuse those valuable Beet greens!)
Sauteed Lacinato Kale and Beet Greens
(Generally, this technique can work for any greens you have around, including swiss chard and thicker types of spinach.)
- 1 bunch of Kale, cleaned and separated from the stalk
- 1 bunch of Beet greens, cleaned and separated from the stalk
- Olive Oil (about 5 tablespoons, plus extra for cooking as needed)
- Sea Salt
- Garlic Cloves (four or five, just smashed)
- 1 fresh lemon
Taking a deep pan or dutch oven, heat up your olive oil on medium heat with the garlic cloves. (Stir often to prevent your garlic from burning.) After about a minute or two, just after the oil becomes fragrant, add your leafy greens, ripping them into halves. Toss the leaves gently in the hot oil (don’t be frightened if the oil is making popping sounds, that is just the water in the leaves being cooked down.) Wilting the leaves evenly, squeeze half of a fresh lemon into the pan, hitting it with some of the sea salt and pepper. Give the leaves one last toss, transfer to a platter and hit it with the juice of the other half of the lemon. Serve warm.
Roasted Carrots and Radish Halves
- 1 bunch of fresh Carrots, scrubbed and separated from the stalks
- 1 bunch of Radishes, scrubbed and separated from the stalks
- Sea Salt
- Fresh herbs (any that you have around is fine)
- Dried Oregano (Just a sprinkle.)
- Smoked Paprika (Just a sprinkle and totally optional. Use what ya’ got.)
Heat up your oven to 400 degrees. Take a shallow cookie sheet (it is better if it has a lip on it to prevent any oil spillage in your oven.) line it with tin foil, sprinkle the bottom with olive oil. Rough chop your veggies into halves and place them on the cookie sheet, drizzling more olive oil on top, sprinkling your fresh herbs, sea salt, pepper, and smoked paprika here. Toss the veggies until fully coated and roast for about 15 – 20 minutes until done, tossing them about halfway through. Sprinkle them with just a bit more salt and serve warm.
This is a great way to prep the veggies for eating later in the week, they keep for a while in the fridge and are easy to microwave to heat up. I’m glad to say that I no longer hate beets!
I hope this fall, you discover some new ways not to hate some seasonal ingredients, too.
Thanks and happy eats,
So, this post is ridiculously late but a few weeks ago The Hearty Serving went on a magnificent foodventure into the mysterious and faraway city of Oakland (it’s about 5 minutes away from where I live.)
Every year, Oakland puts on this awesome food truck and local restaurant festival right next to the water in the Jack London marina called the Eat Real Festival. It celebrates small town farms, urban ecology, fresh eating, and supporting local restaurants. This is often the chance for young entrepreneur to debut their fresh new food ideas and dishes to the masses for a full weekend (the event grosses somewhere close to 50,000 people every year across the span of the weekend.)
What’s the catch? Every dish has to be only $5. They can offer sides and drinks that might vary in price but the main dishes have to be only $5.
This year’s event was phenomenal. We made sure to partake in the local beers, cocktails, and even attended a bourbon tasting “experience” from veteran brand Four Roses.
Aside from battling the massive crowds, the event is a must for anyone in the area in September/October every year.
Hopefully, I’ll see you there next year.
Thanks and happy eats,