Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick breads

I typically don't follow recipes when I'm cooking, unless I'm baking. Baking scares the hell out of me.

Cue Ratio, the new book by Michael Ruhlman. He's outlined the basic ratios of ingredients to each other when cooking. Allowing you to break free from the confines of recipes books and, with confidence, create your own recipes on the fly. I have to say, it has done what he promised, and liberated me.

The ratio for quick breads (things like muffins, banana breads, etc) is simple 2-2-1-1.

So for any type of quick bread, you mix 2 parts flour, 2 parts liquid, 1 part sugar, 1 part fat. Easy peasy. Salt and baking powder aren't noted in the ratio, but you'll want to add them.

Want to make blueberry muffins?

8 ounces flour
8 ounces milk
4 ounces sugar
4 ounces butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder

How about making apple cinnamon bread?

8 ounces flour
6 ounces milk
2 ounces apple juice
4 ounces brown sugar
4 ounces butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
Diced apples

How about ginger-cranberry bread? (BTW, I just made up this recipe)

8 ounces flour
6 ounces milk
2 ounces cranberry juice
4 ounces sugar
4 ounces butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger powder
2 teaspoons baking powder

Based on this ratio, what's your unique quick bread recipe?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Braised short ribs

I'm in love with short ribs, braised short ribs to be exact. It is the perfect example of a inexpensive cut that rivals any of the more expensive cuts, provide the right technique is employed.

While I'm talking about cuts of meat, can I say that the tenderloin is completely overrated? People gravitate to that cut because of it's low fat content, however, the lack of fat equates to a lack of flavor. Tenderness is it's one saving grace. However, as you'll see in this recipe, proper technique can take a flavor-packed, yet tough cut of meat and turn it into something spectacular.

Making braised short-ribs

Before you start, you're going to need a dutch oven or a heavy bottomed oven-safe pot.

First, stop by your butcher and pick-up some meaty beef chuck short ribs.

You'll also need to gather and prep some basic mise en place: Mirepoix, a bouquet garni, and tomato paste.

Heat olive oil in your dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the short ribs and start to sear.

Be prepared to sear for about 10-15 minutes. You're looking for a deep deep brown on all sides of the short ribs. Once they are browned, set aside.

Add your mirepoix and sweat. About 5 minutes.

Add your tomato paste and then stir. Cook this for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Careful not to burn. If you need to reduce the heat, do so.

Once done, add your short ribs back to the pot along with your bouquet garni.

Fill the pot with beef broth and red wine in a ratio of about 2 to 1. Don't cover the short ribs, fill until the liquid is about 2/3 of the way up.

Cover and put into 375 degree oven for two hours. Once done, pull out the short ribs.

Strain the braising liquid into an pan and reduce by 2/3.

Once reduced, remove from heat and whisk in cold butter to mount the sauce.

I served with Saga Blue Cheese mashed potatoes and garnished with crispy bone marrow.