This was an unusual Christmas for my husband and me. It's the first year neither one of our daughters was here to celebrate -- with one visiting in-laws in Milwaukee and the other with her boyfriend's family in Chicago. Christmas Eve for us was spent at our neighbor's; a tradition, now that we are no longer traveling over the holidays. We have amazing neighbors and I've made it clear to all of them that they can never move away from me...
When we finally gathered yesterday with family, our Christmas dinner was French Onion Soup and a Salad of Arugula, Roasted Peppers, and Steak. Dessert... a Lemon Meringue Tart.
To start off our midday meal, we drank small glasses of spiked eggnog. Fortunately, the rich aperitif didn't seem to kill anyone's appetite... I stirred a good sprinkling of Chinese 5 Spice into organic eggnog, then added golden rum... to taste. The top was covered in a thick coating of whipped, heavy cream, along with a generous grating of nutmeg.
Whitney with her Frenchie, Midge
As usual, Bisous waiting for anything edible to drop from above.
This will now be my go-to French Onion Soup. The best I've ever made. I made some slight changes to a recipe by Ina Garten.
When finishing the soup, you will want to top it with the best Gruyére cheese you can fiind. It really makes a difference. I could eat this soup every day...
This is one of my favorite "hearty" salads, and I make it often during the summer for our alfresco meals.
La Fin... Lemon Meringue Tart. Perfect any time of the year...
French Onion Soup
• 3 3/4 pounds yellow onions, halved, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
• 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 2 bay leaves
• 3/4 cup medium-dry sherry
• 3/4 cup Cognac
• 2 1/4 cups good quality dry white wine
• 3 quarts organic beef stock
• 1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
• 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
• 2 teaspoons concentrated beef base (such as Better Than Bouillon brand)
• 1-2 French baguettes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 4-5 cups grated Gruyére cheese
1. In a large stockpot, over medium heat, sauté the onions with the butter and bay leaves until the onions turn a rich golden brown color. Take your time with this -- approximately 45+ minutes. You want to slowly caramelize the onions and not burn them.
2. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and brandy and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer uncovered for an addition 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
3. Add the beef stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Stir in the concentrated beef base, starting with 1 teaspoon. Taste, and add additional base if needed. Adjust salt and pepper; remove the bay leaves.
4. Brush the baguette slices with the melted butter and place on a baking sheet. Transfer to the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake until the bread slices begin to lightly toast and turn golden. Remove from oven. Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls. Place several slices of baguette onto each bowl of soup, then generously cover with grated Gruyére. Place several bowls on a baking sheet with 1-inch sides and slide onto middle rack of oven. Broil until cheese is melted and gooey. Repeat with remaining bowls. Serve.
Lemon Meringue Tart
• 2 T. sliced almonds
• 1 cup unbleached flour
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 5 1/3 T. very cold butter, 1/2" dice
• 3 T. ice water
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 tsp. salt
ˆ 1 cup water
• 3 T. cornstarch
• 2 egg yolks
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 2 T. butter
• 2 tsp. grated lemon rind
• 5 egg whites
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Make pastry dough and chill for 2 hours. Line a 9-inch tart pan and bake blind at 400˚F until golden brown.
2. Dissolve sugar with salt in 3/4 cup of the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with the remaining 1/4 cup water and stir into the sugar-water mixture. Stir constantly until thick and clear. Remove from heat. Beat egg yolks with lemon juice until slightly thickened and stir into cornstarch mixture. Return to heat and bring back just to a boil. Take from heat and stir in the butter and grated lemon rind. Cool slightly and fill the baked tart shell.
3. To make meringue: Place egg whites, at room temperature, in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add salt and start beating with a whisk attachment. Once frothiness has been achieved, slowly start adding the granulated sugar and the cream of tartar. Continue to beat at high speed until the egg whites just begin to hold stiff peaks. Do not overbeat or the whites will become dry and start to separate. Mound the billowy, cloud-like meringue onto the tart and bake in a preheated 375˚F oven until golden.
TAKE a LOOK:
It's become somewhat of a tradition that on Sunday night all of our family joins us for dinner. Last night our meal was Shredded Beer Braised Beef with Poutine. All I will say is, make this for your family, and you all will thank me for passing the recipe on to you. Use the best German Lager you can find for braising the beef...
+ recipe from Vince Camillo | Cooking Channel
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 4 pounds beef chuck roast, preferably grass fed
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
• 2 large onions, sliced (about 5 cups)
• 3 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 1 bottle Lager beer
• 4 cups low-sodium beef stock
• 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 pound frozen crinkle-cut French fries
• 8 kaiser rolls, split and toasted (I used purchased Brioche Buns. If you have time, make your own. Recipe HERE)
• 3 cups shredded Muenster cheese
1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat until hot. Sprinkle all sides of the beef with salt and pepper, and then add to the pot. Sear the beef, turning with tongs until all sides are evenly browned. Transfer the beef to a plate.
2. Add the garlic and onions to the pot and cook until soft and slightly browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in the flour until it coats the onions, then pour in the beer, scraping the bits of onion off the bottom of the pot. Add the beef stock, mustard, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt and return the beef to the pot. Bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid. Simmer until the meat is very tender and falling apart, about 3 hours.
3. Heat the oven to 425˚F.
4. When the meat is almost tender, spread the fries onto a baking sheet and cook according to manufacturer's instructions until crispy.
5. Remove the meat from the liquid, and let cool slightly, then shred with a fork. Discard the bay leaves from the pot. Bring the braising liquid to a simmer over medium heat and cook until reduced to a gravy and almost thick enough to coat a spoon. Return the shredded meat to the pot and warm.
6. To assemble the sandwiches, place a handful of French fries on the bottom of each roll, having some of them hang off the edge. Top with a heaping 1/3 cup of the cheese and 1 cup shredded meat.
TAKE a LOOK:
We welcomed 2015 with our annual New Year's Day Brunch. And I must ask, how do so many people take such stunning photos of their elaborate meals? Documenting my brunch is usually an afterthought. There is just too much going on in my kitchen! Maybe next year I'll ask everyone attending to bring along their cameras (or phones) and click away. I did, however, get a few shots of the celebration, and here they are!
ABOVE... Gruyére Gougéres and Canelés de Bordeaux welcomed our guests, along with Pomegranate Champange Punch to wash it all down.
• Pomegranate-Champagne Punch (recipe HERE)
• Canelés de Bordeaux (recipe HERE)
• Beer-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Corn Pancakes
• Oranges with Vanilla and Rosemary (recipe HERE)
• Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Walnuts (recipe HERE)
• Tartine's Banana Cream Tart with Chocolate and Caramel
My friend Lynn arrived early to assist me in the kitchen. Without her help, we would have been eating hours later... a New Year's Day dinner instead of brunch.
I have to admit, everything on the menu was pretty delicious! I quadrupled the recipe for Beer-Braised Beef Short Ribs. After braising the ribs, I was left with a huge pot of beer broth to reduce. I did that very slowly, and was rewarded with a thick, dark, flavorful sauce for the shredded beef.
I roasted enough of the Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Walnuts (recipe from Stacey Snacks) to have leftovers. The first thing I thought about this morning was heating up a bowl of the sprouts for breakfast. Unfortunately for me, my husband was thinking the same thing. I found the empty container in the sink...
• recipe from BREAKFAST for DINNER by Lindsay Landis & Taylor Hackbarth
Makes 4 servings
FOR THE SHORT RIBS
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 1/2 pounds beef short ribs
• 1 large yellow onion, chopped
• 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
• 1 (14.9-ounce) can beer, preferably a stout such as Guinness
• 1 cup beef broth
• 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
FOR THE PANCAKES
• 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 2/3 cup cornmeal
• 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 3/4 cup whole milk
• 1 cup fresh corn kernels (I used frozen corn)
• Olive oil, for cooking
• 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1. Preheat oven to 300˚F. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ribs and sear for approximately 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly on all sides. Transfer ribs to a plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and jalapeños to the pot; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add beer and broth, and cook briefly, stirring to remove any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the brown sugar, tomato paste, honey, cinnamon, cumin, salt, and pepper. Add the short ribs and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot and place on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, turning the ribs once, until the meat is very tender. Remove ribs from liquid and when cool enough to handle and shred the meat. Dispose of bones and any fat. Place the beef in an airtight container and refrigerate.
3. Transfer the liquid to a large bowl or pitcher and refrigerate until cold and the fat has solidified on top. (You can do this up to a couple of days ahead as I did). Remove as much fat as possible from the liquid.
4. When ready to proceed with the recipe, return the liquid to a large saucepan and over medium heat, reduce the liquid by at least one-third. I quadrupled my recipe and had a huge amount of liquid. I reserved about 4 cups to freeze for future use, and reduced the remaining beer-broth liquid over medium-low heat to about half of its original amount. I then stirred in the shredded beef, and simmered the mixture, until heated through.
5. While the broth was reducing, I mixed up the pancake batter. Preheat oven to 200˚F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the corn kernels.
6. Pour a small amount of olive oil into a large, non-stick skillet (I prefer to use cast iron). Heat over medium-high heat and when hot, drop batter into the skillet and spread into 3-inch rounds. Cook until golden brown, flip and brown the other side. Place the pancakes on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while making additional pancakes. To serve, top each pancake with the braised, shredded beef. Sprinkle with diced Granny Smith apples.
Tartine's Banana Cream Tart with Chocolate and Caramel
I always say, if anything happens to the main course... there's still dessert! And this Banana Cream Tart was as good as I remember it being when I sampled a piece at Tartine in San Francisco several years ago. After our brunch, there was one slice left. When all of our guests departed, I ran into the kitchen and downed that remaining slice; no sharing by me. It was probably pay-back when my husband left me with an empty brussels sprouts container.
TAKE a LOOK:
This Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Olives is a recipe I wouldn't necessarily make this time of year. It's a rather hearty meal that I prefer during cooler months. Usually, by now... by May, it's getting warmer and nice enough to be outdoors occasionally for dinner. By this time, I should be composing salads and wondering when the radishes will be big enough to pick and add to the greens. I should be purchasing strawberries at the grocery for a strawberry-rhubarb tart -- all things I had hoped to do while my family visited from Ohio for four days.
But we had yet another snow this past week. And although we were lucky here in St. Paul, Minnesota, not to receive snow that needed shoveling as many near-by communities did, our snow was mixed with a cold, constant rain that lasted for days. All of the meals I prepared for my family were baked in the oven. Nothing was grilled outdoors, and there was no sitting on the patio under warm spring sunshine. The way this year has gone so far, we may be eating hearty pasta dishes well into July...