Homemade Franks & Beans

November 1st, 2012 · 33 Comments · Dinner

Full disclosure: What you are looking at was supposed to be what I’ve been calling in my head “Highbrow Franks & Beans.” A few weeks ago, when I asked Andy what we should have simmering on the self-serve stovetop for Halloween night, he said, “Remember you made those baked beans one year while we carved pumpkins? Why don’t you do that again, and then get some really good hot dogs and call it franks and beans?” And so for weeks I’ve been picturing those sweet and bubbly beans inside the oven in our well-worn Le Creuset, while Andy wielded a carving knife and did his best to make the girls’ visions of toothy jack-0-lanterns come to life. Last Sunday, while everyone else was stocking up on bottled water and batteries for the storm, I was tracking down molasses and Niman Ranch franks. I had enough canned food in the pantry anyway — including a nice stash of Trader Joe’s organic baked beans that never allow a turkey burger to feel lonely in our house.

Well, Halloween was canceled. Instead of cozying up in our oven-warmed house, we were sleeping at my parents’ house across town — a house that does not have two sixty-foot oak and locust trees hovering over it — keeping watch on Hurricane Sandy. When we returned, we had no power or heat. And we had a fridge filled with things that had to be cooked or tossed –like, for instance, those hot dogs. But we were grateful for so many things, like our operational gas stove… and the fact that our house was still standing. So when what little daylight there was that afternoon vanished, we sat around the candle-lit dinner table, and pigged out on our fancy franks and those sweet, delicious beans — straight from the can.

Highbrow Franks & Beans
No reason for you guys to go without this just because my oven is down for the count. This is based on a Victoria Granof recipe from Time for Dinner and what I loved so much about working with Victoria (master food stylist and recipe developer) is that she considered it her life’s mission to dream up shortcuts wherever possible. That’s why you don’t see any soaking overnight here. She does the quick boil an hour ahead of time. Also, here is a link to some high-brow hot dogs that might be useful.

1 pound dried navy or great northern beans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 thick strips bacon
3 hot dogs, sliced into rounds as shown

In a large pan, cover the beans with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. Drain.

Preheat oven to 300°F. In a bowl, combine everything else except the bacon. Stir in the beans.

Place 1 bacon strip at the bottom of a large ovenproof dish or Dutch oven. Pour the bean mixture over it, then push the other strip in.

Add just enough boiling water to the pot to cover everything. Cover the pot with aluminum foil, then a lid. Bake for 5 hours, checking hourly to make sure the beans aren’t drying out. (Add more water as necessary to keep them submerged.) Uncover for the last half hour to brown the top, if desired. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, stir in hot dog slices until warmed through.

To help support victims of Hurricane Sandy, please consider donating to the Mayor’s Fund of NYC. One hundred percent of your contribution will go towards immediate relief efforts and organizations.

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Korean Short Ribs: How DALSian is That?

October 16th, 2012 · 45 Comments · Pork and Beef

I’d like to introduce you to a new word: DALSian. It is defined as follows:

[DAHLS'-ee-uhn] adj – used to describe a recipe displaying hallmarks of blog Dinner: A Love Story; simple, fresh, un-intimidating, frequently strategy-driven and generally requiring key ingredients found in non-fetishy food person’s pantry.

Naturally, I’d like to think every recipe on DALS is DALSian, but there are many that seem to deserve the title more obviously than most. (And a few who deserve it less: we ‘d get bored superfast if it weren’t for edible flowers on pizza, Maya Kaimal’s chicken curry, and Bugiali’s high-maintenance, high-happiness Minestrone every now and then.)

A few DALSian champs that come to my mind immediately: Pretzel Chicken, Pomegranate-Juice-Braised Pork with Cabbage, Tony’s SteakSalmon Salad. Some of these, like the pork, I discover by accident; others, like the salmon salad, are tweaked over years and years through tantrums and tantrums. But often, like the Pretzel Chicken, the recipes are sent to me by readers.

Which brings me to the latest dish to be crowned with the title: Korean Short Ribs.

Can you please take a look at the photo up there? That’s pretty much all I needed to make a big pot of them for a showstopping potluck centerpiece this past weekend. The recipe came from reader Anna with the following note:

i just read the tumultuous tuesdays post and felt compelled to email you my top ten crockpot meals.  i send it to all our family and friends when they have a baby.  if they live in town, i print it off and include it with some freezer meals for their family.  if they don’t and i know they don’t own a crockpot, i email the file and send a crockpot from target.  it’s getting the be the season where we all think about using the crockpot. so, enjoy!

xo, anna

Now, first of all, how jealous are you of her friends? And of me — who gets delicious dinner ideas regularly sent to my inbox from nice people in Nebraska! Anna is not just a reader, of course. Besides being the woman behind Clementines Produce & Provisions, she won the Weeknight Recipe Contest a few year’s back — her Kale, White Bean, and Sausage Stew was so DALSian, it made it into my book. I don’t own a crockpot, but I opened up the file and immediately lasered in on the third recipe listed, those aforementioned ribs. You wanna talk DALSian? This recipe listed five ingredients — one of which was water — and one line of instruction. I decided then and there to translate it to my Dutch Oven to see what would happen. This is what happened:

This photo was taken while daylight was still good – the ribs would cook down another hour or so until the beef was rich and melty and the salty-sweet sauce dark and thick. The only problem was that I had somehow neglected to realize that the younger diners attending the potluck might be inclined to eat it too. In my head, like a dummy, I had earmarked it for the adults only (how have I not learned this lesson?) and watched as kid after kid decimated their portion, leaving a scant single rib for each adult diner.

But I guess of all the criteria that define a DALSian dinner, “kid-friendly” should probably be right at the top of the list.

Korean Short Ribs (the no-slow-cooker version)
The only change I made to Anna’s was replacing jalapenos with Sriracha (I didn’t have jalapenos; and yes I realize that Sriracha is Thai) and next time I might add a few slices of fresh ginger in the braising liquid because…well, why not? As Andy would say, it’s not like it’s going to be bad.

1 T. canola or vegetable oil
3-4 pounds beef short ribs, salted and peppered (I used a combination of bone-in and boneless — don’t ask — but I prefer all boneless)
1 c. of brown sugar
1 c. soy sauce, low sodium
½ c. water
2 teaspoons Sriracha
scallions for garnish

Heat oven to 325°F. In a Dutch Oven set over medium-high heat, add oil, then brown short ribs in batches. Whisk together remaining ingredients and add to the pot with all the beef. (The meat should be almost fully immersed when you begin, and then cook down as you go. But keep an eye on liquid — it should be at least a third of the way up the pot. If it’s not, add a mix of 1 part water to 1 part soy, a little at a time.) Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover, leaving lid slightly ajar, and place inside oven. Cook 3 to 4 hours, flipping ribs every 30 minutes or so, until liquid has thickened and meat is falling off the bone. Serve topped with chopped scallions.

PS: How’s this for awesome? Anna has posted not only the slow-cooker version of this for you crockpot owners, but her entire Top Ten Slow-Cooker File. Head over to her site to download. You rock, Anna!

 

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Summer Stew

July 18th, 2012 · 20 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Deconstructing Dinner, Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

I should probably be stripped of my food blogging rights for telling you to do anything with summer corn besides eat it on the cob with a little salt and butter, but you know I can’t resist the urge to share the discovery of a new deconstructible dinner. Last week was not the first time we’ve eaten this corn, chicken and sausage stew — not by a longshot, we ate a version of it almost every August weekend one summer in the 90s. But since then, we’ve had to think a bit more strategically about dinner, which, of course, is another way of saying, we’ve become parents. I was happy to discover last week, that the family classic joins the ranks of the tortilla soup, the salmon salad, and the other dinners on page 158-163 of my book that can be broken down into their individual components so that they can be more palatable to the kids, and less headache-inducing for the cook. It’s a goodie.

Summer Stew with Chicken, Corn, and Sausage
Adapted from Gourmet

3 links chorizo sausage (I used chicken), sliced into coins
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 or 7 boneless chicken thighs, salted and peppered
1/2 medium onion, chopped
red pepper flakes (optional)
2 to 3 cups corn, cut off the cob
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
basil, chopped

In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown sausage in olive oil over medium heat until crispy. Remove.  Raise heat to medium-high and brown chicken (in batches if necessary) on both sides until mostly cooked through. Remove. Turn down heat to medium-low, add onion, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and a little more oil if necessary. Stir until slightly wilted. Add corn and tomatoes and stir until vegetables release their juices.

Nestle chicken and sausage back in the vegetables, cover and simmer another 5-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve with basil and crusty bread in bowls, or separate into individual components for the kid who doesn’t like things “mixed” and serve on a plate.

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The Game Changer

December 6th, 2011 · 68 Comments · Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

The pork loin I braised in red wine last Tuesday night was pretty freaking delicious. I can say this because most of the credit goes to my coworker — remember the one who was plotting her own pork and lentil stew in the slow-cooker while I was plotting drumsticks? After she told me that one, it was on the brain for 24 hours and I knew the only way to get it off the brain would be to try out a version of the pork stew for myself. The problem? I didn’t own a slow cooker. (Well, not true. I own one, but it is in a box deep in the bowels of our basement, and last time I remember using it, I think it was missing a crucial piece, like a lid.) I was working from home the day I decided to tackle the recipe in my Dutch Oven and began cooking just as the girls were scattering their math workbooks on the kitchen table to start homework.

What’s for dinner? asked Abby as soon as she heard the loin hit in the oil.

This can be such a loaded question. When I’m making something new for the girls — which is fairly often — and there’s a good chance that the unfamiliar name of this dinner will set off some whining, sometimes I just lie and say I don’t know yet. But other times, when dinner is simmering away on the stovetop, and an oniony aroma is in the air, I opt for the truth.

Some sort of pork with beans…and maybe kale, I told her.

I don’t like beans! And then, for the next two hours, it was all Do we have to have pork with beans? and Can’t you make those chicken wings again? and Can you make me something else if I don’t like it?

I hate this scenario. The whole point of dinner — the whole point of this site actually — is to get people excited about sitting down to eat. And what killed me is that I knew Abby would love this meal if she had the right attitude. But she couldn’t picture it, so it scared her. I get it  – for the longest time, that’s exactly how I felt about J.Lo on American Idol.

I needed a game changer. I needed Tater Tots.

Abby had hand-selected a bag of them from Whole Foods a few weekends earlier and hardly a day had gone by when she hadn’t begged to have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It was just the psychological latch she needed on the plate to adjust the way she was approaching the table. I piled a mountain of them next to her pork, which she ate absent-mindedly, and which, when deconstructed and cut into pieces, was not all that much different looking than the Pork braised in Pomegranate Juice and Marcella’s Milk-braised Pork she’s had (and loved) a hundred times before.

And I know this is not exactly breaking news, but Holy Christ Tater Tots taste good! The rest of us were pretty excited about dinner that night, too.

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No Kids Allowed (sort of)

September 30th, 2011 · 25 Comments · Dinner, Domestic Affairs, Entertaining, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy

If you come to our house for a grown-up dinner party, there’s a good chance it’ll be just after 8:00, and our two kids will greet you at the door. If all has gone according to plan, they’ll be bathed and pajama’d, their teeth will be brushed, and with a little luck they’ll be in bed, out of sight, 30 minutes later.

It’s not that we worry about the girls being un-presentable or that we fear they’ll pillage the crostini plate before our guests have taken their coats off. (OK, maybe we do worry about the crostini thing. It’s a problem.) It’s that usually the people we have over for dinner are parents, too. Parents who have already spent the waking part of their day doing what parents do – suffering through another Wa Wa Wubbzy marathon, doling out snacks, pretending to lose at Uno – and probably, if they’re being honest, don’t feel a real powerful need to spend valuable babysitting hours doing the same with someone else’s kids.

In our experience, what our guests are looking for is a cocktail with plenty of ice, some tasty food, and a conversation that does not begin with the words, “I am counting to three…” So usually, after our kids make their Dinner Party Cameo – the key with kids, like food, is to leave your guests wanting more — one of us will take them upstairs and shepherd them through their bedtime paces, while the other sets the table and puts the finishing touch on whatever has been braising away all afternoon in the Dutch Oven.

Very often in our house, it’s short ribs. We love braised short ribs for three reasons: one, they’re unstoppably, almost obscenely good; two, they’re impossible to screw up; and three, they require no hands-on time once the guests arrive. Entertaining, for us, is all about not having to start from zero once the kids are in bed, chopping and blanching and reducing – and sweating — while our guests stand in the kitchen, hungry, with one eye on the clock. It’s about having a glass of Barbera and diving into a dinner that is ready to go, but that also feels simultaneously casual and special. And when everything goes right, you can almost forget — for a few hours, at least — that there’s a Thomas the Train track running through the living room, and that you have to be awake at 5:30 the next morning to perform a sock puppet show. – Jenny & Andy

This story appears in the current issue of Bon Appetit. Head over to their website for the Short Ribs recipe, which is a simplified version of an old Balthazar favorite. Photo by Christopher Testani for Bon Appetit.

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A Winning Weeknight Dinner

March 2nd, 2011 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Quick

Full disclosure here: I think I knew the winner of my Go-to Weeknight Dinner Contest almost as soon as I spied the Sausage, Kale, and Bean Stew entry submitted by  “anna” on Day 1 of the contest. Every recipe that came in after this one, as far as I was concerned, had to pass the anna test — as in, is it as appealing sounding as anna’s stew? Because Anna’s Stew had all the hallmarks of a keeper in my house including:

1) A Quick Cook Time – from start to finish it took me about 20 minutes
2) A Forgiving Technique – For 10 of those minutes I was ignoring the sizzling sausages as I sat with my 7-year-old testing her on multiplication flash cards. It didn’t seem to affect the dish in the slightest.
3) An Easy Marketing Plan – It contained two solid ingredients that I could count on my kids eating without a fight (sausages and kale)
4) An Adventure Factor – It contained one (easily extractable) ingredient that I’ve been meaning to push on the kids (cannelini beans)
5) It was really f*%#@*g good!!!

However narrow-minded I was about choosing the winner, I remind you that one family’s keeper might be another family’s pet food, so please head over to the contest post to check out all 78 submissions (so awesome, btw — a big thank-you to everyone who sent something in) because there are a ton of delicious-sounding options. If I was giving out honorable mention, “bugawa” (#43) was a close second with her Jacques Pepin-inspired pork medallions in wine sauce — so tasty, but couldn’t compete with the one-dishiness of anna’s stew. And “Joanna’s” (#59) strategic two-in-one meal plan was incredibly hard for me to pass up (you can take the girl out of Real Simple) but sadly, included pasta, which my 9-year-old still won’t touch. (Why, God, why??)

Anna wins a $75 gift certificate to Allmodern.com. Thanks for playing everyone.

Anna’s Sausage, Bean, and Kale Stew
I halved the recipe for my family of four (if Abby ate 2 sausages, as called for here, she’d be eating about twice her own weight) but this below is written to serve 6 normal eaters or about 8 bird-like ones. Anna called for the sausages to be sliced into rounds after being browned — which might be more appealing for the kids — but I found it easier to crumble the meat with a fork in the first step.

Saute 1 onion (chopped) in Dutch Oven in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add 2 garlic cloves (minced), salt, pepper, and a few flakes of crushed red pepper. Add in 8 links of Italian chicken or pork sausage (casings removed, crumbed with a fork) and cook until brown and heated through. Add one 32-ounce container chicken broth (add less if you like your stews more chunky, less brothy), a 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, and 2 14-ounce cans cannellini beans (rinsed and drained). Bring to a boil. Add 1 large bunch kale, simmer until wilted, about 3 minutes. Serve with a lot of freshly grated Parmesan and crusty bread.

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