Thursday, January 27, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside!: BRASATO AL BAROLO (Red Wine Braised Short Ribs)

Still pretty cold out there folks.... times like these you crave one of those stick to your bone type meals. Well I've got the recipe for you, a revamped Italian staple: 

(Short Ribs braised in Red Wine and herbs)
It looks complicated and plates gorgeous .... but it is surprisingly easy to make! Just assemble and pop in the oven. While you are waiting you can run some errands .... or watch a few episodes of The Real Housewives of (Insert Obnoxious City Here) Marathon that runs on neverending loop on Bravo. 

Now traditionally this recipe calls for beef chuck roast, which you can use of course, but I find short ribs a much tastier cut of meat when braised. Also adding a bit of Horseradish to the Gremolata topping... while not exactly 'Italian' adds a bit of kick to the beef. Enjoy!

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 16-ounce beef short ribs (or mix of bigger an smaller ribs equal to 16 oz each person)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 16-ounce can of peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand with their juices (Italian San Marzano highly preferred) 
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
½ bunch thyme
½ bunch rosemary
½ bunch oregano
2 cups Barolo, or other full-bodied dry red wine such as Ripasso Valpolicella, Gigondas, Côtes du Rhône, or Zinfandel  
* A HIGH QUALITY red wine is KEY to this dish. If you plan on using some 5 buck chuck from the supermarket you might as well scrap the whole recipe because it will taste beyond mediocre. The wine is the star of the dish. So step up and shell out for some good stuff ... but hey it's only 2 cups. You can drink and enjoy the rest!  

For Horseradish Gremolata:
Leaves from 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley 
Zest of two large lemons
¼ pound fresh horseradish, grated

For Polenta:
3/4 cup Quick Cooking Polenta
1/2 cup Marscapone Cheese
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano (grated or shreded)
1/2 stick of butter 
2 1/4 cup water 
Salt/Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Season the ribs with salt and pepper.

 2. Cook them over high heat until deep brown all on sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove the short ribs to a plate and set aside.

3. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, oregano, and rosemary and sauté, stirring, untilgarlic begins to soften and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.

4. Add broth and bring to a simmer, then return meat along with any juices accumulated on plate to pot. (Making sure the ribs are covered in liquid). Cover pot with lid or heavy duty foil and transfer to oven. Braise until meat is very tender, 2 to 3 hours.

5. Meanwhile, while you are waiting grate the lemon zest and horseradish. 

6. Chop parsley and mix together with lemon zest and horseradish and set aside until plating. 

7. When ribs are done, take out of the oven and uncover. Transfer meat to cutting board/plate. Skim fat from the surface of the sauce. Then return pot to stovetop and boil sauce until reduced until about 1/3, about 5-10 minutes. Return meat to sauce to coat. 

8. About 10 minutes before the ribs/sauce are ready. Boil the water for the polenta. When water comes to a rolling boil, lower heat and add polenta in a slow steady stream stirring constantly with wooden spoon until it starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Then add in cheeses and butter, and continue to stir. 
Note: If Polenta is made too early before plating it will thicken significantly as it cools. 

9. Plate by dividing polenta into 4 plates. Top with 1-3 ribs (depending on size) and a scoop a ladelful of sauce. Top by sprinkling the Gremolata and drink with a glass of the same wine (preferably, or if not available an equally heavy bodied red). Voila! 


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Duck... Duck... BOOTS!!

January.... kind of a downer of a month. Christmas is over, New Year's is over, back to work. It's cold, it's grey, and there is just nothing to start off the work/school day like a solid trudging through 10 inches of snow and brown slush! Now for the fashionable ladies out there, this time of year proposes a bit of a problem. Clearly your cute stilettos and flats are not warm enough, and you don't wanna ruin your expensive suede boots with brown sludge. How do you keep your tootises warm without looking like an Eskimo gone retarded.....
Mariah ... you sooo are not on fi-yah

Granted there is the obvious go-to Ugg Boot .... and don't get me wrong, they are comfortable as hell .... but they are pretty UGG-LY. (ha... yeah... bad joke ... sue me).

So the question remains.... what to wear to keep warm, yet look a little more 'put together'. Here are some more streamlined yet functional options:
(Click any of the pics/links for sizes and prices)

For those of you a little further south, snow isn't normally the winter issue. It's cold, yucky, rain. A good pair of rain slickers is key. And you Yankees can get a leg up on your "April Showers" spring slickers wear with these cuties!
Could these BE any cuter? Channel your inner Blair Waldorf with these Kate Spades.
Here in Brown (for $10 cheaper too!)

And for heaven's sake ladies... don't commit the carnal winter sin. Don't be an
I don't care what the weather is like most of the year. Right now it's cold outside. Cover up. And I'm not just talking about your feet. Or worse, wearing your cute winter boots with hooker clothes.

If you really insist on looking like a cheap prostitute in the dead of winter, try crotchless leggings or something. Your nude limbs make me cold just looking at you.

And remember ... no matter how angsty this weather is making you ... you probably are still better off than this wonderfully special lady in Atlanta, Georgia

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sophia is smarter than Sarah... shocking: Pasta with Mussels and Saffron "In Cartoccio"

Mmm wanna know how to make this? I bet you do. Don't try to resist.
Before I tell you, I wanna get something straight. To clarify so all you 4 pound biatches and yo-yo dieters actually ENJOY the dish when you make it. We all know in this country .... pasta has received a pretty bad wrap. It's all about low carb, no carb, white flour is the devil incarnate etc. etc. etc. This is just BS.
Pasta CAN be healthy. There is this whole country of generally not-fat people who eat pasta every day called "Italy" to prove that point. Sure, when you put 12-lbs of butter and cream on it a la Fettuccini Alfredo .... yeah .... you might as well just go eat a box of Twinkies while you are at it. But, if use some fresh and healthy ingredients, then a little pasta is good for you. In the words of the eternal hottie, Sophia Loren:
"Everything you see I owe to spaghetti."

And if THAT BODY is wrong.... well then I don't wanna be right. 


Pasta with Mussels and Saffron baked in a foil pouch
(Sound better in Italian doesn't it)
350g dried long pasta (I used Fusilli col buco, any long dried pasta such as spaghetti, linguine, etc. will do)
1 28 oz can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 1/2 handfuls fresh cherry tomatoes
pinch of saffron
1 cup dry white whine
1 1/2 lb. mussels
2 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
red pepper flakes
heavy duty aluminum foil
* To see any of the photos enlarged just click on them!

1. Chop the garlic, shallots, and parsley. In a large flat pot heat 1 cup of white wine, add garlic, shallot, and a dash of red pepper flakes to the pot and simmer over medium-high heat until the wine starts to gently boil.

2. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350F and boil salted water for pasta. Add a pinch of saffron to the water. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Cooking the pasta in the saffron water should give the pasta a nice golden color and will add a hint of saffron taste to the pasta itself. Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water after the pasta is finished cooking.

3. Go back to the wine pot and add fresh mussels. Put the lid on the pot but leave open slight so steam can release. Steam until the mussels open. Remove mussels from pan but leave the liquid.
4. Drain and transfer pasta into pan with the wine. Add the 1/2 cup of reserved saffron pasta water. Turn up heat and bring liquid to a soft boil. Open the can of tomatoes, hand crush the tomatoes and drop into the pan. Then add in the fresh cherry tomatoes.
*I mix the tomatoes canned and fresh because Italian San Marzano's (even when canned) are much more flavorful than American tomatoes. You can use all fresh if you want, but you will have a stronger flavor if you can find some imported San Marzano's to add in. 

5. Add back in the mussels and parsley. Mix together and cook for 2 minutes while gently tossing ingredients.
6. Set out a deep baking sheet. Take a large piece of heavy-duty foil and cover the baking sheet and fold up the corner to make a large rectangular "bag" of sorts. Pour the contents of the pot into the bag. Then take another large piece of foil and cover, sealing the corners. Pop the baking sheet into the oven for 6-7 minutes.
7. Plate the pasta making sure there are at least 6+ mussels for each person..... and VOILA!
Yummy AND good for you! Carbs, Veggies, Lean Protein. Fresh and clean. Perfectly balanced meal. Channel your inner Sophia and make yourself something tasty for dinner tonight! Buon Appetito!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Blog is Back... Alright!

Good news. The Blog is BACK. Back harder than when Backstreet was Back. Although the blog lacks a supersweet dance to bust out at the Junior High Winter Social (circa 1998), I'll venture it ages better than Nick Carter did.
After Paris dumped me I ate my feelings, couldn't fit into my clothes, and blew all my money on drugs and Krispy Kremes. Now I have to shop at Plato's Closet. Sweet jacket though right?!

I've gotten several requests over the past months to revive the blog, and I figure the new year is a good time for a "re-launch". I don't know about you, but 2010 was not a banner year for me in general. I'll sum it up in the words of a drunken ex-sorostitute I overheard on New Year's Eve:
"I'd kill a bitch to forget 2010." 

But I'm from Texas ....
And the famous CBS news anchor Dan Rather once said:
There's an old saying..  that you should marry a girl from Texas because no matter how tough things get, she's tougher.
I sure as hell don't want to get married just yet, but Danny Boy makes a good point. It's a new year and I'm starting over. All the selfish, narcissistic, assholes of the world can go screw themselves. All the sad or unfortunate events that are out of my control, I will try to learn to leave in God's hands. 2011 is going to be great. If not great, we are going to at least aim for less shitty. I'll send some good vibes out for all y'all too. 

Last night I watched the DVD of EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Not as great as the book (which if you have not READ yet, please please please do), but I enjoyed it enough. It's a great story about renewal, finding yourself, moving on from the past, and appreciating beauty in life. So I'm going to end on a particularly poignant quote from the book that I think we all should remind ourselves of on a regular basis in the new year:

So with that ..... Bring on the Blog. Here's to a new year of Reviews, Fashion, Beauty, Music, Photography, Film, Books, Travel, Food, Quotes, How-tos, and Making fun of trashy and/or slutty people.
Stay Tuned.... 

P.S. Again if you haven't Kindled (yes I made Kindle a verb) Eat, Pray, Love yet.... please do. Now:
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Or then there is always the vaguely humorous Male spin-off.. 
Drink, Play, F@#k: One Man's Search for Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand