Monday, November 30, 2009

Fish Tacos 2.0

With fewer greens this week and Thanksgiving just behind us, I was conjuring up a lighter menu. Fish tacos came to mind - especially after versions 1.0 and 1.5. Holding fast to my goal of not repeating recipes, I elected to create a less-fruity dish.

The Method

  1. Use 1# tilapia filets
  2. Create a marinade:
    • juice of 1 lime
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp fresh jalapeno, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp oregano
    • 1/8 tsp cayenne
    • 1/4 tsp onion powder
    • 1/8 tsp ancho
  3. Marinate for 1/2 hour
  4. Cook in a little oil over high heat 


The Results

IMG00690-20091129-1740The more interesting part of this dish was the selection of toppings. Turning to the CSA and local farms, we added bok choy, cucumbers, and a hard goat's milk cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy. These offset the spiciness of the seasoning beautifully.

Oh, and I marinated and cooked off a few shrimp, too. We served them in whole wheat burrito wraps and a few hard, yellow corn taco shells. A bright, fresh dish.


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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sliders, Grinders, and Chips

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Orchard Pond Organics has partnered with local farms to provide grass-fed beef of varying cuts and cheeses. Junior Chef #1 decided that we should make "sliders" for dinner. This sounded like a terrific idea - any excuse to eat 3+ burgers at one sitting. But then came the wrinkle: not only were we to make ground beef sliders, but "bratger" sliders, too. I figured we should go all the way and make homemade potato chips, too. At some point, I figure the fat molecules glide over one another and straight through your body - never having a real chance at being absorbed. Then again, I'm an optimist.

So we purchased 2# of Red Bridge ground beef along with our CSA share, then headed to the grocery store to buy pork, potatoes, and buns. I settled on a 3# nice Boston Butt, and decided to make breakfast sausage from half and bratgers from the other half.

The Method (Bratgers)
My first attempt at bratwurst burgers (bratgers) resulted in an overly-spiced sausage mix, and struggles with grinding the meat. After a quick Google search, I discovered that placing the seasoned meat in the freezer for a half-hour before grinding might address the latter problem. As for the seasoning, I decided to make do on my own.

  1. Cube 1# pork (1/2 - 1# pieces is fine).
  2. 3-4 slices salt pork, roughly chopped
  3. Create a brat spice mixture:
    • 1 tsp white pepper, ground
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
    • 1/2 tsp allspice (I didn't have nutmeg, or I would have used that)
    • 1 tsp sage, ground/rubbed
    • 1/4 tsp coriander, ground
    • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  4. Combine the meat and spices throughly.
  5. Place in freezer for 1/2 hour.
  6. Grind.
The Method (Sliders)
There's not much of a story to tell about preparing the beef sliders. I added a little salt and pepper, a shake of garlic powder, and 1 TB of horseradish to 1# of meat.
I prepared 5 small patties from both the bratger and beef mixtures.
  1. Melt 2 TB butter on a griddle
  2. Add 1 onion, thickly sliced.
  3. Place the patties among the onions. Flatten with your spatula.
We added blue cheese to a few of the beef sliders after flipping.
The Method (Chips)
swissmar-mandolineIf you don't own a mandolin, making homemade potato chips gives you the perfect excuse to buy one. They are not terribly expensive, and make the preparation of thinly-sliced veggies a snap. They consist of a sharp V-shaped blade set into a plastic or stainless steel surface. A hand guard allows you to work the food quickly across the blade without losing a finger. Some are adjustable to enable you to prepare julienne cuts, or to vary the thickness of the slices.

We used russet potatoes and produced the thinnest slices possible (.75 MM).

We fried these in 375 degree oil for 6-8 minutes per batch. (Don't overcrowd them.) We salted them lightly after draining on newspaper.

The Results
What is there not to love? Topped with the grilled onions, a little mustard, and a dab of pickle relish, sliders are tiny packets of finger-licking goodness. Better yet, we have leftovers - so they'll join us for another meal very soon. Sadly, none of the chips made it - in fact, none lasted but a few moments after hitting the newspaper. Starches receive no quarter here.

The bratger seasoning was a marked improvement over the original version. And, yes, slightly freezing the meat made all the difference: it ground easily and didn't bind up or become gummy in the grinder.

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CSA Week 13

Fewer greens in this week's share than previously. We did receive a bunch of beautiful carrots. In addition, there was:

  • mustard greens
  • bok choy
  • arugula 
  • red radishes (gorgeous - sandwiches on the menu!)
Somehow we missed taking a picture again. Trust me, everything looks very tasty!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Arugula Quiche

A week's worth of eggs and greens greeted me when I returned home this past weekend. It also happened that we were responsible for preparing an apple pie for the Thanksgiving celebration in Junior Chef #2's class. That meant there was pie dough to spare. Time for quiche!
The Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Saute chopped onions in a few TBs of butter.
  3. Add 5-6 C arugula, roughly chopped.
  4. Sprinkle with garlic powder (No, I still haven't bought fresh garlic.)
  5. Add a few leaves of lemon basil, lightly chopped.
  6. Add a few TBs of water to generate sufficient steam to wilt the arugula.
  7. Line an ungreased quiche pan with pie crust.
  8. Cover the bottom of the crust with grated cheese. I used a mixture of pepper jack, sharp cheddar in one quiche and only swiss in the other.
  9. Once the greens are tender, layer over the cheese.arugula quiche
  10. We added whole grape tomatoes to the blended cheese quiche.
  11. Beat 4 eggs with 1 1/2 C skim milk.
  12. Season with salt and pepper.
  13. Pour over the greens.
  14. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
The Results
This is such a simple and delicious dish. It takes only a few minutes, and is wonderful for any meal. The arugula held up nicely. It would have been even better with a whole wheat crust. Next time.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Mac cheese and greens

The combination of mac and cheese with greens has become a personal favorite. Comfort food pure and simple. This is a simple cover version of the original. I did add a little brown sugar and OPO radishes to the greens for variety - and, yes, peas in the mac and cheese (always peas).

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

CSA Week 12

After three weeks of nearly full-time travel, I'm back in the kitchen. The rest of the home kitchen staff collected the CSA produce and cooked while I was away. 

You can see three items apart from the usual array of greens:
  • carrots
  • green chilies
  • lemon basil (front center)

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Seafood Boil

While this seafood boil doesn't involve any of the delicious produce we receive from Orchard Pond Organics, it is a favorite of friend and family alike. It's so easy, in fact, that I generally feel guilty for accepting any credit: Florida fresh seafood makes this dish what it is - Outstanding! (Admittedly, having access to high-quality seafood is also a luxury. The selection below cost $75 here plus $25 more of the other ingredients. I know it would be much more expensive in other locations.)
To be fair, it also is not a boil but rather a "seafood steam." It requires little effort, but does work best if you stage the items as described.
The Method
seafoodpotPurchase a very large steamer pot. (I use a stainless steel pot, which holds 3...maybe 4 gallons.)  imageYou also need something to keep the food off the bottom of the pot during cooking. I use a folding steamer basket.  This works well in pots of varying diameters.

  1. Buy an assortment of seafood items (and accompaniments). Here is a typical list, serving 6 adults and 2 children:
    • 2-3# large wild shrimp (in the shell)
    • 1 doz. clams
    • 1 bag of mussels
    • 8 medium stone crab claws (in season)
    • 8 Alaskan King crab legs (these can be "steamed" in the microwave - thank you, Alton Brown, for saving me space in the pot).
    • 4 ears of corn (in the husk)
    • 6-8 new red potatoes, washed but unpeeled
    • 1-2# sausage (I use turkey kielbasa, andouille, and/or linguisa.)
    • 1 large onion, quartered
    • 1 box (bag) Zatarain's Crab Boil image(I have made my own several times with equally good effect.)
    • Two bottles of good, dark beer (I generally use Sam Adams or Bass. I would not use a porter or other high-sugar content beer, as it may burn or impart too strong-a-flavor to the seafood.)
    • You will also want a measure of good, unsalted butter, ketchup and horseradish (or just buy cocktail sauce), lemons, crab crackers (for the shells), napkins, and several large platters.

  2. A word of advice: you will be working inside a steaming pot during several steps. Be careful.
  3. First, place the spice packet into the pot and cover with the beer.
  4. Set the steamer basket on top. (You can also use a plate or pie tin set upon a ramekin, etc.)
  5. Shuck the corn - setting aside the husks for later. Add the potatoes.
  6. Bring pot to a boil. (Keep at a high boil throughout.) Cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Add the quartered onion and sausages.
  8. Cover with the corn husks.
  9. Cook another 10 minutes.  husks sausage
  10. Add the stone crab claws (and King Crab, if not microwaving). Cook 5 minutes.
  11. Add the shrimp and clams.
  12. Squeeze the juice of two lemons over the shrimp. Leave the lemon rinds in the pot. Cook until the shrimp just begin to turn pink (about 5 minutes).
  13. Add the mussels.
  14. Cook another 5-10 minutes, or until the mollusks open completely. fullpot
  15. Seek assistance of 2-3 friends to remove pot from stove. It will be heavy!
  16. Remove the items to several platters for serving.
The Results
Unadulterated seafood bliss. The beer imparts a little flavor, mainly to the corn and potatoes.  I set ramekins of melted butter (with a little lemon juiced added) around the table, along with homemade cocktail sauce. Everyone fends for themselves - although the Junior Chefs generally need some help with cracking the crab.
You can keep leftovers from this. The mussels reheat well within a day or two; toss them with some pasta, Parmesan, and a little butter. Shrimp...well, there are plenty of ways to eat those. [Does anyone else's Blackberry leave lines in your photos?]remains

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Four corners and layers of flavor

It's odd that I was in the mood for chicken. We eat little red meat and have chicken (or pork or seafood) for most meals. But chicken sounded perfect this weekend. Then there were the greens... Knowing that I have bags of fresh greens in the fridge led me to think about a variation on my fish + greens = goodness recipe in October.

I should confess that I also love crispy chicken skin, so cooking by steaming in a packet wasn't very appealing. Instead I decided to roast the chicken. How then to incorporate the greens? Certainly, they could be sauteed and stuffed in the bird, or perhaps laid underneath during cooking. I opted for the latter.

The Method (Marinade)
  1. Combine:

    • 1 TB dried rosemary
    • 1 tsp ground black pepper
    • 1 tsp salt
    • juice from three oranges
    • juice from one lemon
    • 1/2 tsp mango powder

  2. Marinate chicken pieces for 2-3 hours.
The Method (Greens)
  1. Render chicken skin. (You should have 3-4 TBs of fat.)
  2. Add 5-6 white radishes (peeled), 1 large carrot (roughly chopped), 1 large onion (roughly chopped).
  3. Add 2 TBs garlic, minced
  4. Add 1 TB ginger, minced
  5. Sautee until vegetables begin to brown.
  6. Add 5-6 C greens, roughly chopped (I used mustard greens and bok choy).
  7. Cook until the greens are wilted and almost tender.
The Method (Chicken)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Heat oil in a deep skillet until smoking hot.
  3. Brown the chicken on all sides. (Don't crowd the pan. The pieces will brown faster. I split one chicken into two batches.)
  4. In a roasting pan, layer in order:
    • the wilted greens and veggies
    • a thick layer of cooked brown rice
    • the chicken pieces
  5. Drizzle the remaining marinade over the chicken.
  6. Looking ahead to dessert, I partially cored and placed an apple in each corner of the roasting pan. I set a pat of butter inside the top of each apple.
  7. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is done. (I use a convection oven, which shortens the cooking time a bit.)
The Results
Everything was incredibly moist. The greens, much to my surprise, did not dry out at all. A few grains of rice around the edge of the pan were crispy. Orange infused the entire dish...but was not overwhelming. Rosemary was the most pronounced scent and flavor, but - again- not distractingly so. The apples absorbed the mix of flavors - bit of cinnamon would have been fine.

image Next time, I would perhaps flip on the broiler for the last few minutes to crisp the chicken skin a bit more.  This would work well with fish (if it is firm fleshed and/or oily like salmon), beef, or pork. The addition of carrots was fine but not necessary, while the onions and radishes contributed to the overall flavor of the greens.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

A plate of sunshine

Growing attention is being given to the humane and health aspects of eating corn-fed beef and other industrialized types of meat. (Plenty of good sources, I like Michael Pollen among many others.) We do not limit our consumption to only organic, free-range, or other preferred animals. Perhaps we should, if only for reasons of taste. Eating grass-fed beef, as we did tonight with steaks from Red Bridge Beef, is a different experience than one normally has with supermarket meat.

The distinction between grass- and corn-fed beef during our dinner-time conversation sparked an observation that we were really eating "sunshine." Meat is an inefficient  way to do this, of course, but eating locally-grown and free-range animals is a step in a positive direction. Plus, it is incredibly delicious! (With consideration for our vegetarian friends.)

I failed to take a picture of the raw ribeyes. They were nicely marbled and possessed thick layers of fat in the proper places. Generally, I like to cook steaks on a charcoal grill, but wasn't feeling well-enough to spend the time in the cool air.

The Method

Thank you to my father-in-law for suggesting that we use a recipe he found for Outback's steak seasoning. I reduced the original proportions by half, because I was preparing only two steaks. The result was:

  • 4 tsps salt
  • 2 tsps paprika
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion power
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  1. Bring steaks to room temperature.
  2. Season on both sides with seasoning mix.
  3. Melt 1 TB butter and 1 TB olive oil in a frying pan. Heat until smoking hot.
  4. Add steaks.
  5. Cook to preferred temperature. (Our preferences range from the rare side of Medium-Rare to the well side of Medium.)

The Result

steak We seldom have red meat, and even less often steak. These were marvelous. The flavor was - well - simply two-steps above anything you can find in the store (or nearly any restaurant): "deep" is the best descriptor.  The texture was soft...not quite buttery as would be a filet, but fork-tender. It was a steak to be savored bite-by-bite. The seasoning was excellent, too. I used about 2/3 of the mix on the two steaks, and would reduce it a bit further next time. I might also cut the coriander in half.

Our now-regularly appearing salad of OPO mixed greens with a balsamic vinaigrette, OPO sweet potatoes (diced and boiled until tender), and caramelized onions rounded out the meal. Nothing fancy, but served with a glass of cabernet...the perfect way to forget how poorly I felt most of the day.

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CSW Week 11

The seasons are beginning to change, but apparently the okra continues its steady advance on humankind (or at least upon our CSA). Fortunately, our friends at Orchard Pond Organics ASKED if I would like okra this week. I politely (?) declined, but did accept their offer of additional salad greens. The younger man in line behind me opted for the ubiquitous green pods. I almost offered to run home and bring him the bag we have from last week's share, but he had gleefully trotted off before that idea had come to me.

This week's picture shows the share as it's received. Several delicious, recurring favorites were among the items:
  • mustard greens
  • mubuna (sp?) (Thank you to the OPO women for identifying this for me. Front center, below the eggplant.)
  • bok choy (two types)
  • salad greens (lots)
  • three baby eggplants
  • arugula
  • eggs
image Sunday will need to be filled with aggressive cooking, or else Senior Chef #2 and the Junior Chefs will be stuck with plenty of edible leaves while I am away for another business trip.

By the way, a quick word about washing greens. After trying several approaches, we have settled upon the triple-soak and spin. We fill the sink with cold water. Drop a load of leaves in and churn them about for a few seconds, then allow them to sit for a couple of minutes. Then spin them dry in the salad spinner, re-rinse (generally in the same water...the sand /dirt sinks). Repeat three times. This seems to produce the best results for storing (they last longer) and eating (no grit).

If you have a better method, let me know!

Finally, breakfast today - courtesy of Senior Chef #2 - was homemade french toast using the remaining Anadama Bread. Fabulous!

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Beans, Bones, and Greens.

As I have a few times previously, I found myself confronted with a backlog of greens. There was also the residual humerus from the stuffed pork shoulder to be addressed. Touring the pantry, however, I found few options for dried beans...until I stumbled upon a bag of lima beans. But, these were purchased from Winn Dixie perhaps 5-6 years ago.
Would they still be good?
They smelled fine and were uniformly firm. I decided to quick soak them and see. Finding no issues, I proceeded with the soup.
The Method
  1. Place the dried beans (any type) in several cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cook for two minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to sit for 1 hour. Drain.
  2. Soak a handful of dried forest mushrooms in very hot water for 20-30 minutes.
  3. While the beans and mushrooms soak, brown pork bones in a deep pot. (You could have done this in the oven for an even deeper roasted flavor.)bone
  4. Scrounge three leftover Italian sausages from the freezer. (Why did I have three, single sausages in ziplocs? Why not just cook the extra link each time?)
  5. Brown the sausages along with the bones.
  6. Add six cloves of whole garlic, the mushrooms, 1 tsp dried thyme, a bay leaf, and enough water to cover the bones.
  7. Bring to a boil.
  8. Add the soaked beans.
  9. Add 6-8 cups of roughly chopped greens (bok choy and mabuna).
  10. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Simmer for at least 1/2 hour. (I cooked this for 2+ hours.)
  12. Remove the bones - picking and adding any meat to the soup.
The Result
limasoup Mellow. The sharpness of the greens and roasted pork bones were discernible and the beans created a thick, creamy base. It was the perfect dish, served with a salad and slices of Anadama bread (freshly thawed and heated in the oven), for a cool fall evening. The Junior Chefs added hot sauce to their bowls partway through and reported it was delicious (my bowl was already empty).
limasoupfinalOther things to try. I would certainly make this with other types of stock bones. It would also be worth adding tomatoes or tomato paste midway through cooking. Different varieties of beans would work well, too.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

CSA Week 10

A week of travel for work and plenty of activity at home has kept me away from cooking and the blog. Our week ten CSA share contained the usual suspects and a couple of less frequent items:
  • an array of greens (mustard, bok choy, mabuna)
  • salad greens
  • okra (hmmm...should I hope for a heavy frost?)
  • white radishes
  • broccoli
I wasn't even in town to collect them from the farmers' market, but my kitchen staff obliged. Alas, we have no picture.

We spent the week eating simple salads dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Junior Chef #1 has become quite proficient at preparing the dressing - in part because he likes the word "emulsify." We added thinly sliced radishes, too. There was some complaint that this precluded the creation of radish sandwiches. Epiphany becomes legacy.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stuffed Cider Pork Shoulder

I recently saw a recipe for a smoked pork shoulder stuffed with blanched greens. While I like smoked meats, building an entire meal around a single smoked cut is tricky business. If the smoke is too strong, it could overwhelm the dish. Perhaps I'll try to smoke my own some time soon.

Instead, I decided to work with a fresh pork shoulder, which I deboned myself. (That was a harder task than I anticipated. It did leave me with an excellent bone with which to make a pot of beans at a future date.)

The marinade is also my own creation. I'm blogging prospectively. It's shaping up to be a two-day prep. We'll see how it turns out.

The Method (Marinade)

After deboning the shoulder, I realized that someone (Senior Chef #2) had made a fruit salad using the orange I intended to add to the marinade. This sparked a little innovation.

  1. Season the shoulder, laid out in a roasting dish:
    • Salt and pepper
    • Thyme
    • Allspice (ground)
    • 7-8 cloves
    • 6-7 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
    • 4 sticks of cinnamon
  2. What to use as liquid? I had once made pork loin roasted with granny smith apples. While we had no apples in the house to add to the marinade, we did have...
    • 2 bottles of hard, granny smith apple cider
  3. Cover the pan with foil. Marinade overnight. Flip the meat two or three times.
  4. Retain the marinade after removing the meat. Bring marinade to a boil and set aside to use as basting liquid when roasting the pork.


The Method (Stuffing)

I opted for a mixture of spicy greens to offset the sweetness in the cider and allspice.

  1. Roughly chop 1# mustard greens.
  2. Dice 1 sweet potato (about 1 C).
  3. Bring several cups of water to a boil.
  4. Add the garlic, cinnamon sticks, and cloves from the marinade to the water.
  5. Blanch the sweet potato for 5 minutes.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sweet potato, cinnamon sticks, garlic, and cloves. porklayer
  7. Salt the liquid and return to a boil.
  8. Add the mustard greens and cook until tender (about 10 minutes).
  9. Drain the greens.
  10. In a bowl, mix the greens, 1 TB butter (melted), and one egg (beaten). porkwrap
  11. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper.
  12. Place a layer of greens followed by a layer of sweet potato over the butterflied pork shoulder.
  13. Roll the shoulder to enclose the stuffing. 
  14. Secure with butcher's string. 

The Method (Roasting)

I began by cooking this over indirect heat on the grill for 1 hour, skin-side down. The heat was a bit high (or I left it longer than I should have) and the skin crisped up very quickly.

Next, I flipped the roast and basted it with some of the leftover marinade. (At this point, I add a few briquettes of charcoal to each side basket on my grill. I should have covered the meat with foil, but didn't.)

When I next checked the meat (one hour later), the skin had browned considerably. I intended to make several shallow slices in it to allow the fat to cook down, but it was too hard to pierce easily. I managed to stab a few small slits and basted it. I added a few more pieces of charcoal.

The roast cooked for a total of 3 hours (160 degrees internal temperature is fine). I was distracted and cooked it to 169 degrees. :(

The Result

This reminded me of pig roasts from my youth. The garlic and spices permeated the meat. It cooked longer than I would have liked and was a bit dry as a result.  The greens were exceptionally mild, even though I used mustard greens; and the sweet potatoes were equally understated but tender. porkdone0

The Junior Chefs weren't happy with the amount of fat surrounding each slice. (This is either a boon or bane of pork shoulder - depending upon your fat-titude. I think, too, they were less happy with this cut of meat, because it is much more "gamey" than other types of pork (especially when roasted this way).

The Senior Chefs enjoyed themselves (as did Chuck's best furry friend forever, Ticho, our Havanese). We agreed I should have cooked it for less time and basted it more frequently. Still, the spices and cider marinade worked very well. The meat had a smoked quality from the long roasting. Had I protected and scored the fat earlier on, I think it would have improved things overall.porkdone

Served with brown rice. A solid dish. If you like pork shoulder, this is worth trying. Enjoy!

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Boeuf et Porc: Tried and New

It is an act of pure hubris to blog about making boeuf bourguinon. After the release of Julie and Julia earlier this year, I suspect there are thousands of folks who have made and waxed poetic about this dish. 

You can find a scanned copy of the original recipe here on Knopf's website. This also provides the recipes for the brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms that accompany (and round out) this classic dish. I have made this before, so will provide only a few photos that show the major steps.

(I decided to create a separate pork shoulder post, but I'm leaving reference to pork here because I like this post title.)

The Method (Boeuf Bourguinon)
Brown the beef. I used a top round roast, which I cut into chunks. It does make a difference if you buy good meat and dry each piece before searing.
It is well-worth the time to prepare the mushrooms and onions in the way described in the recipes.
I use a coffee-filter tied with twine to hold the herb bouquet in dishes like this. (You can see this in the onion picture.)
The Result
bbThere's little I could add to your imagination beyond what the recipe provides that could further convince you to take a few hours to prepare beef bourguinon.You deserve to eat this It was, in fact, so good - and late after a night of Halloween festivities - that I forgot to take the picture until mid-way through the meal.

It is so rich, however, that we'll need to wait another couple of months before making it again.

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Kudya Bwino Bwino (Eating Well) © 2009