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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Braising and Business

The last month has been a whirlwind of activity and business for Dawn and I and I am sure that shows in our infrequent posts. Last weekend we visited The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland which is run by Chef/Owner Jonathon Sawyer, one of the 2010 Food&Wine top new chefs. The food was imaginative and superb, beginning with the complimentary country pork pate served with fresh baked bread to the deconstructed pan seared pork chop saltimbocca including country ham and pommes puree instead of the more traditional prosciutto and polenta. The dish truly shined with the addition of a maple glaze on the pork chop, but that gets me to the main reason why we have been so busy and infrequent in our posts.

We have been crunching numbers and researching over the last couple months in preparation of opening a small pizza venture here in Columbus. It is simultaneously nerve racking and exciting. Exciting because of the opportunity to bring extraordinary pizza to an area with a million pizza places and a mere handful of outstanding pies. Nerve racking because the economy is in the shape that it is. We are working on bridging the gap between locally sourced quality ingredients and affordability that customers are looking for in our modern time. But, I will not ramble on forever about the future when there is a dish I want to share with you.

I recently finished a book by Bill Buford titled "Heat: an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany," that resonated with me when I saw beef short ribs in the market. The preparations of meat that are prepared by Dario Cecchini are wonderful and foreign to me in their homage to Italian tradition. This foreignness could be the fascination toward the amazing cuisine of Northern Italy. I altered the slow cooked beef dish to incorporate short ribs with a similar focus on rusticity and the divine nature of slow cooking tough cuts.

One aspect that always draws me toward braising, other than the delicious melt in your mouth texture, is the simplicity. With a handful of ingredients, including beef short ribs, carrots, garlic, wine, milk, rosemary, red pepper flakes, butter, polenta, salt and cinnamon, magical things happen. The name of the dish is 20 Hour Short Ribs over Polenta and Cinnamon Brown Butter Sauce. I hope you will try it, even when you are strapped for time and don't feel like making something after work. It is snap to prepare the night before you are going to eat it. The oven does all the heavy lifting and you can sleep and go to work then pull it out of the oven in time for dinner with only a quick polenta and sauce to prepare.

20 Hour Short Ribs over Polenta and Cinnamon Brown Butter Sauce

1 1/2 - 2 # beef short ribs
2 carrots peeled and chopped in eighths
4 garlic cloves roughly chopped
20 oz. cabernet sauvignon  or other old world red
2 T dried rosemary
1 T dried red pepper flakes

Preferably brown short ribs for a few minutes in the pot you are going to cook them on the stovetop. If you are strapped for time you can skip this step. After you have browned the short ribs add the other ingredients, stir well, and arrange evenly. Transfer in the covered pot to a 250 degree oven for twenty hours checking once or twice to assure there is still a bit of liquid. After the liquid is nearly evaporated and the ribs are falling apart tender remove from the oven.
Cinnamon Brown butter sauce

8 T unsalted butter
1 T light brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

Melt butter until all the milk solids have evaporated then add the other ingredients and stir to incorporate dissolving the salt and sugar. Continue cooking over low heat until browned.


2 1/4 C whole milk
2/3 C instant polenta
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup good (2 year) grated parmigiano reggiano
1 T unsalted butter

Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add the polenta, pepper, and cheese whisking to combine. Turn the heat down to low and add butter at the time the polenta is the desired consistency. Whisk to combine and spoon onto plates.

Spoon polenta onto plates then short ribs and carrots on top. Drizzle cinnamon brown butter, a sprinkle of parmigiano, and pepper flakes on top and enjoy with a nice supple Primitivo.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who says?

There are few things in life more rewarding than a tasty breakfast. Sadly, for most of us I think, we tend to miss out on the many joys offered by this one meal. The type of brekfast I'm referring to isn't the one doused in milk or peeled back from a plastic container. Despite my love for scones and the warm goodness they entail, nor is it a warm scone with homemade gooseberry jam (maybe I'll share that with you later, this summer's favorite new treat).  Those are all well and good, but the kind of breakfast I'm reminescing about with you today is the super traditional, capital b, Breakfast.

Nothing quite beats the traditional breakfast. While I can't (and know very people who can) have the bacon or sausage, some form of of eggs, and pancakes or waffles every morning, there are some mornings where I pine and yearn for the extra twenty minutes to perfume the air with frying bacon and to sink my teeth into the paradoxical crispy chewyness of the perfect waffle.

When such yearnings strike, its rather uncommon to actually be able to live up to and enjoy them that morning. Usually, I've sacrificed said breakfast for an extra twenty minutes of sleep, or for an early start on the Saturday morning bustle, and I have a feeling most of you probably have too. Luckily however, no one ever said breakfast isn't just as good for dinner. Hence the inspiration, for these:

These my friends aren't any ordinary waffles. To make them into a meal almost all on their own (that pair quite nicely with a summer goat cheese and arugula salad oddly enough), these guys take some extra care and devotion. First, they require a perfectly cooked piece of bacon Now, I'm a crispy bacon girl. I love bacon, but any sign of chewyness and I've lost my appetite. With these though, it's important first and foremost to fry them until barely crisp, meaning that the very edges should be crisp all the way around and starting to darken slightly, the middle should be firming up, but you don't want the super crispness on its way to burnt texture. They'll cook a teeny bity more when you get them into the waffle iron ad you don't want bacon pebbles.

Second, is timing. Breakfast is all about timing. Waking up early enough. Cooking the eggs at the appropriate time so they don't become rubber. Cooking the waffles at the right time so they don't become soggy, etc. This dish is no different. So, you'll want to cook your bacon, leaving enough time for the pan to cool slightly.This will ensure you don't make scrambled eggs in the waffle batter later.

Last, is variety. We were lucky enough on a recent trek to Cleveland to score an assortment of cheddar cheese cubes. Although I had envisioned an awesome grilled cheese out of it, this proved to be even more rewarding, giving just the touch of variety in each bite to keep you wanting more.

Bacon Waffles with Apples and Cheddar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
4 tbsp bacon grease, cooled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6-8 pieces of bacon cooked until almost crisp and crumbled 
4 oz assorted cheddar cheeses (white, smoked, sharp, etc). 
2 Apples, sliced thin*

1. Prepare bacon as described. 
2. Preheat waffle iron as needed. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. 
3. In a separate bowl, combine milk and eggs. Carefully whisk in melted butter and cooled bacon grease. 
4. Combine wet and dry ingredients, whisking to remove most lumps. 
5. Cook waffles per manufactures instructions, sprinkling with crumbled bacon before closing iron. 
6. When waffles are done, top with crumbled or shredded cheese while warm.
7. Top with apples.

* You can top the waffles with raw apples sliced thin for a fresher taste. For a truly decadent treat, saute them for a few minutes in the same pan you cooked the bacon in.

There's not much else to say here. It's simply a magical marriage of apple pie and cheddar, and a breakfast super waffle. Enjoy!