Savory Braised Short Ribs.

What’s not to love about short ribs? They’re pretty cheap, super meaty, and easy to cook because after a bit of prep, you can just walk away and forget about them. My kind of meal. These short ribs are fantastic and feature one of my all-time favorite flavors in the world ever in the history of the universe: Worcestershire sauce. I’ve loved it since I was little (though we did break up for a short time, when I discovered “anchovies” on the ingredients list. But I got over it and we’re back together). I love cumin and bay leaf with Worcestershire, so they got thrown into the mix, and thyme is always a good time/thyme., so he’s here, too. As far as side dishes go, I like to add petit pois at the end of the cooking process and make a sort of one-pot meal, but short ribs also go great with mashed potatoes, grits, or some delicious buttery rolls. Just go carnivore-nuts on their deep amber goodness.

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INGREDIENTS

5-6 short ribs (I actually prefer boneless short ribs, but my store was sold out, so I used bone-in. Boneless usually don’t need to cook quite as long, so keep that in mind if you go for boneless.)
butter
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 small onions (or 1 large onion), diced
1 1/3 cups carrots, sliced into segments
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cups stock (beef stock would be best, but all I have is my homemade chicken stock, and it does the trick)
optional: 1 1/2 cups frozen peas (J‘adore les petits pois.)

Just the Recipe link: Savory Braised Short Ribs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a Dutch oven or other large, stovetop- and oven-safe pot with a lid, heat butter and olive oil on medium high. Season each side of the short ribs with salt and pepper, and brown them in batches, careful not to crowd the pan. Don’t worry about cooking them through; we’re just trying to get some color on these babies. Once all the short ribs have had their time to brown, set them aside.

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Turn the heat down to medium and add more oil to the pan if necessary. Toss in the carrots, onions, and garlic. Cook until softened, and then stir in the cumin, red pepper flakes, thyme, and bay leaf.

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Cook until fragrant, and then pour in the Worcestershire sauce. Stir the veggies around as it steams, and then nestle the short ribs back into the pan. Pour in the stock and bring to a bubble. Taste for seasoning, and add salt as needed.

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Place the top on the pot and put the whole thing in the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure you have enough liquid to keep things good and moist.

Once they’re falling-off-the-bone tender, the short ribs are done, so take the dish out of the oven and remove the bay leaf.  Use a large spoon to remove some of the fat from the top of the juices. Then, if you love peas as much as I do, stir them in now and then re-cover the pot, letting the heat cook them through.

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That’s it! Dig in and let the tender melty goodness fall right off the bone and into your heart/stomach. And watch out for little canine stomachs, who might want to steal a bite.

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Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork.

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INGREDIENTS

1 large onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
3-4 lb pork shoulder (also called pork butt)
salt
1 tsp peppercorns (or 3/4 tsp pepper)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (or scant 1/2 tsp ground mustard powder)
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced (throw in a few more if you like it extra spicy)
1 tbsp adobo sauce (the sauce from the canned chipotle chiles)
2 bottles root beer (about 24 oz – I used Berghoff Root Beer, because I’m a good Midwestern girl)
1 cup water (optional – use if you want more juices leftover after it’s cooked)

Just the Recipe link: Spicy-Tangy-Sweet Pulled Pork

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Lay the onion wedges in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid. Season the pork with salt.

If you’re using whole peppercorns and mustard seeds, grind them up using a mortar and pestle until they’re broken up, but not pulverized.

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Sprinkle your pepper and ground mustard over the pork, and place the pork in the pot, on top of the onions.

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Next, add the chipotle chile and adobo sauce to the pot, and pour in the root beer. Optional: add the water. Do this if you want more sauce at the end – I made mine without the water, and it had just enough sauce for the pork to soak it all up. If you like it a little saucier, add the water.

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Cover the pot and put it in the oven for at least 3 hours (I cooked mine for just over 4 hours). Flip the pork over once during cooking.

You know you’re there when you can easily shred the pork using two forks. At this point, remove the pork from the pot and shred it completely. Discard the bone.

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There should be just enough sauce left in the pot to coat the pork, so add the shredded meat back to the sauce and stir. That’s all!

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Obviously this makes a great pulled pork sandwich, but I served mine with these refried beans and this red cabbage slaw.

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Pork perfection, ready for its close-up.

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Bacon, Bean, and Egg Skillet.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m eating a little bit differently now than I have in the past. One of the big changes I’ve made is cutting way down on grains and sugars, and completely eliminating them at breakfast time. It’s been kind of hard, given that a lot of the most delicious breakfasts in the world involve both of these things. So I’ve had to get a little bit creative, especially when I’m in the mood for something more dramatic than simple eggs or yogurt. That’s what this is. I don’t really have a story for this bacon, bean, and egg skillet, other than that it was delicious. I had been craving a recipe from Rachel Khoo that is similar but involves béchamel sauce and white bread, so I altered it a bit and created this dish. Yum. And if you’re making this, please see my note about bacon – it definitely makes an improvement on my original recipe.

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INGREDIENTS

3 slices of turkey bacon or regular bacon* (or however many it takes to line your skillet or baking dish)
1/4 cup refried beans (or, again, however much it takes to spread in the dish)
2 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded cheese, for sprinkling

*A note about bacon: Cook your bacon halfway before you use it in the recipe. I didn’t pre-cook mine, and when the whole thing was done, the bacon was just barely cooked. Still delicious, but it would have been even better if I had given it a few minutes on the stove or in the microwave. It just won’t get the cooking love it needs when it’s covered up by the beans and eggs. Do yourself a favor and pre-cook it.*

Just the Recipe link: Bacon, Bean, and Egg Skillet

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cook your bacon about 50% of the way. Then lay your pre-cooked bacon in the bottom of the pan, forming a base for the beans.

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Watch out for little bacon-lovers, who may be drawn to you at this point.

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Spread the beans in a smooth layer all over the bacon, a little higher toward the sides of the pan and a little shallower in the center, where the eggs will go.

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Crack the eggs into the center of the dish.

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Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cheese.

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Bake until the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny. Watch them carefully so as not to overcook. Be sure to cut right into those yolks and let them run all over. Oh yeah.

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And watch out, in case the little bacon-lover returns to beg.

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Harissa Grilled Pork Chops.

Often the best meals are the simplest, and these simple harissa pork chops are both easy to make and a little bit special, too. It’s the harissa. This spicy Tunisian mix of flavors has a real transformational power when it comes to seasoning meat, and I find myself using it more and more these days. You’ll see the rest of this recipe’s ingredient list is quite simple and basic – the harissa really stands on its own, with very little else needed by way of flavoring. And I just love recipes that are a breeze like this one: throw the marinade together with the meat in the morning, let the flavors develop and sink in all day in the fridge, and at the end of the day you’re just 15 minutes away from a tasty and speedy dinner. I’m having this for dinner again tonight!

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

for marinade:
4 small pork chops (I used 4 2oz chops)
2 tsp harissa (I get mine from The Spice House)
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed with the side of a knife
salt and pepper, to taste

for yogurt sauce:
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
harissa, to taste
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Just the Recipe link: Harissa Grilled Pork Chops

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, stir together harissa, olive oil, garlic clove, and salt and pepper. Pour the marinade over the pork chops and use your hands to work it into the meat a bit. Cover and let the chops marinate in the fridge; I waited  about 45 minutes for the first batch I made, and 24 hours for the second. Both were great.

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When the chops have had their time with the marinade, remove them from the fridge and let them come to room temperature a bit while you preheat the grill or pan. Over medium high heat, cook the chops a few minutes on each side, depending on how think they are, until cooked through. Mine took about 3 minutes per side.

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The yogurt sauce couldn’t be simpler: just combine all the ingredients. Serve a big scoop of sauce over the chops and enjoy.

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Cabernet Beef Stew.

Because life is a cabernet.

Chicago has had a very chilly start to May, especially over the past few days, and this weekend I found myself with a crazy craving for beef stew. On Saturday, I built our beautiful new kitchen island, so I decided that Sunday would be the day I put it to good use and make a glorious pot of stew. Having just drooled over a DVR-ed episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina Garten makes a food-porn-o-rific batch of Parker’s Beef Stew, I used her recipe as inspiration for this one. And of course, I added paprika to my recipe, because I can never make a beef stew without paying at least a little homage to goulash (the absolute king of stews, in my humble opinion). I give you, cabernet beef stew.

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INGREDIENTS

1 – 1/2 lbs stew beef, cubed (I like mine cut into small, bite-sized pieces)
1/2 cup potato starch flour (all-purpose flour is fine here, too, but you’ll need a bit more of it)
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, washed and sliced
1 small sweet potato, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bottle of cabernet sauvignon*
2 cups stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 canned whole tomatoes, chopped, plus a tbsp or two of canning liquid
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or about 1 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tsp paprika
1 cup frozen peas
marjoram, for garnish
*Note: the flavor of the cabernet sauvignon is quite strong here. If that doesn’t sound good to you, I recommend cutting back to about a quarter bottle of wine.

Just the Recipe link: Cabernet Beef Stew

DIRECTIONS

In a mixing bowl, stir together potato starch flour, salt, and pepper. Drop a few pieces of meat in at a time and toss to coat. Shake off the excess and set aside, until all the meat is coated in flour.

Heat a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium high heat and add olive oil. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Remove the browned meat from the pan and set aside.

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Preheat oven to 300 F.

Add carrot, celery, sweet potato, and onion to the Dutch oven, along with bay leaves. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add garlic and cook two more minutes. Remove vegetables from the pan and set aside.

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Pour red wine into the pan, along with the rosemary and paprika, and stir to deglaze, making sure to loosen all the brown bits from the bottom.

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Add stock, Worcestershire sauce, and tomatoes. Then add the meat back to the pot, followed by the vegetables.

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Give it a stir, cover the pot, and bring to a low boil. Then place it in the oven and cook for 2-3 hours, until the meat is fall-apart tender or until you can’t wait any longer. I ended up turning the heat down to 275 F about 20 minutes in, to keep the stew at a low bubble instead of a more active simmer.

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Once the stew is done cooking, remove from the oven. Turn off the oven at this point – we’re done cooking.

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Stir in frozen peas and re-cover the pot. They’ll defrost and cook in the heat of the stew.

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Serve with warm, crusty bread, and if you like, sprinkle a bit of marjoram on top.

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Green Taco Burger Wraps.

I love lettuce wraps – I think I even prefer when things are wrapped in lettuce to any tortilla or bun (excluding hot dogs, of course). The cool crunch and the light freshness of the lettuce just seems to pair well with a lot of the foods that we think of as bun-worthy. This recipe for what I’m calling “green taco burger wraps” combines the best of cheeseburgers and tacos and wraps the whole thing in nice crunchy lettuce. The burger meat is spiced with cumin and oregano to give it a bit of Mexican flavor, and the toppings are all my taco favorites (especially avocado….mmmm). They’re easy and healthy and so delicious!

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INGREDIENTS

about 3/4 lb ground meat (I used beef)
1 egg
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
red onion, diced
cheese, sliced (I used cheddar)
cilantro, rough chop
tomato, chopped
red pepper, raw or lightly sauteed
4 large lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
avocado, sliced
green onion, sliced
1 lime, sliced

Just the Recipe link: Green Taco Burger Wraps

DIRECTIONS

First, season the burger meat. In a large bowl, add meat, egg, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and red onion to taste. I set the rest of the red onion aside in a little ramekin to top the burgers with later. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together.

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That’s the only cooking prep you’ll do in this recipe. At this point, I set the meat aside to let the flavors hang out a bit while I chopped up everything else and put all the amazing toppings into their own little bowls.

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When everything else is ready to go, cook the burgers. First, use your hands to form them into small patties (we made two little patties per person). I cooked them on my beautiful new Le Creuset grill pan from Williams-Sonoma, but a regular grill or a pan can do the trick as well. Put your pan over medium high heat and lightly grease before adding the burgers. Cook until browned on each side and medium-rare in the middle (or however you like your burgers cooked!). Set aside for 5 minutes to let the meat rest.

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The next step is just assembly!

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I started with the lettuce wrapper, then laid the burger on top and placed the cheese on top of that, so it would get a little melty. Then it’s only a matter of topping to your heart’s content – cilantro, red pepper, red onion, green onion, avocado, and a finishing squeeze of lime make these a perfect fresh and healthy lunch. Before you take a bite, just wrap the lettuce around your taco-topped burger. Then dig right in!

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