17 March 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!: Guinness-braised beef short rib poutine

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Some of you may recall my mission to create Guinness-braised short ribs, and what I created was, in fact, Guinness-braised long ribs.  This year, I pledged to rectify this situation.  My plan was simple:

1) Buy beef short ribs when my darling butcher put them on special.
2) Label said shortribs.
3) Freeze said labelled short ribs.
4) Easily retrieve actual short ribs from the freezer, thaw and make Guinness-braised short ribs.

I am happy to report that my mission was successful.

I bought; I labelled; I froze; I retrieved; I thawed; I made Guinness-braised short ribs.

Although they were really good with a side of mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, I didn't actually want Guinness-braised short ribs. 

I wanted Guinness-braised short rib poutine.  Tender meat in a rich gravy, over a bed of golden crispy-on-the-outside and fluffy-on-the-inside chips.  Sauteed mushrooms strewn overtop and soft bleu cheese lightly blessing the entire glorious plate.  

Yes.  That's what I wanted.  And that's exactly what I got: a warm dinner plate of happy.

Of course the main part of this recipe is the short rib recipe itself.  I went back to my Steak and Guinness stew recipe and made a few minor adjustments.  The poutine itself is a non-recipe recipe, and very much up to your individual palate:

Guinness-braised shortrib Poutine
Chunky chips
Guinness-braised short ribs, meat cut off the bone (recipe follows)
Gravy from the above short ribs
Sauteed mushrooms
Bleu Cheese (Cashel, if you want to continue the Irish theme)

Guinness-braised shortribs
Serves four

1 clove garlic, minced
1dspn/2tsp/10ml mustard powder
0.5tsp/2.5ml black pepper
375ml/1.5c Guinness (or any other brand of stout you prefer)

1kg/2lbs beef shortribs, cut into 4cm (1.5") pieces
olive oil
400g/14oz mushrooms, sliced
0.75tsp/3.75ml salt
0.75tsp/3.75ml black pepper
2 medium onions, slivered nose-to-tail
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
2 celery ribs, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
625ml/2.5c diced tomatoes, fresh or tinned
125ml/0.5c Guinness (as above...or any other brand of stout you prefer)
375ml/1.5c beef broth
125ml/0.5c tomato paste
1tsp paprika (hot, preferably)
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
40g/3Tbsp/45ml soft butter
25g/3Tbsp/45ml ap flour
1-2Tbsp/15-30ml Worcestershire sauce

Mix marinade ingredients together in a zippy bag and add shortrib pieces. Let marinate overnight.

Remove the meat from the zippy bag, and pat dry.  Do not throw away the marinade.

Heat your brasier pan or dutch oven over a hob and slick the bottom with oil.  Sear the meat on all sides and set aside.

Add more oil, if necessary and add the tomato paste and fry until the sugars caramelise and the paste's colour deepens to a brick red.  Remove from pan.

Tip in the onions (with more oil, if necessary) and caramelise to a light golden colour. Add garlic to the pan and mix.  Once the garlic releases its perfume, stir in the celery and saute until translucent.

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F.

Add the seared meat, with its juices to the vegetables. Pour in the marinade along with the diced tomatoes, Guinness, and enough beef broth to cover. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the paprika, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Stir well. Let the mixture come up to a boil and keep it there for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lid the pot and pop into the oven to braise for two hours.

While the meat is simmering, melt oil and butter together; add salt and pepper. Tip in mushrooms and sauté until lovely and soft. Remove the fungi from the pan and set aside.

Just before your timer dings, knead the butter and flour together into a beurre manié.

After the dinger dings, put the pot back onto a medium-low flame on the hob. Remove about a cup's worth of liquid and mix it with the beurre manié and pour back into the stew. Stir well. Add the mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 20 minutes before serving.

I'm a quill for hire!

14 March 2014

Happy Pi Day! Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Coconut Crust

Happy Pi Day! As many of you know, I'm from Kitchener-Waterloo…home of the University of Waterloo and its renowned maths, engineering and computer science faculties, The Perimeter Institute, and one of North America's fertile tech hubs…so pi day can take on a slightly different feel than in other areas.

Much to my parents' regret, the maths and sciences genes swerved by me, leaving me more interested in pie than pi.  That said, I've been known to watch documentaries and attend lectures about physics, stats and math. And of course a good percentage of my working life--both corporate and as an independent consultant is spent with maths and science inclined colleagues and clients. The numbers part of my brain is alive and well, just happily riding the waves of words, music and art that usually preoccupy my mind.  

I usually let Pi Day pass sans fooferah, but this year, thanks to my unhealthy obsession with all those lovely Buzzfeed quizzes, I found out I am a key lime pie.  That is, the "Which Pie Are You?" quiz offered the following proclamation:

"You're tart and sweet, and so, so creamy.  You think outside the box, which can be your biggest asset.  Nothing's quite as satisfying as your cool graham cracker crust."

Yeah.  That sounds about right.  

But so do the other quizzes I've taken.  I'm Lady Violet, Lizzie Bennett as well as Abigail.  I'm Henry Rollins from Black Flag and I'm Wonder Woman.  I'm so awesome I don't need to give up anything for Lent…especially snickerdoodles.

But back to pie…erhm…pi…erhm…

Needless to say, ever since that pie quiz, key lime pies have been jostling for room in my head.  And it turns out…I happen to have all the ingredients on hand.  Sweetened condensed milk and coconut extract in the pantry, cookie crumbs, coconut and lime juice in the freezer.  The rest --sugar, salt, butter and eggs are almost in use.

The filling is a pretty standard, unfettered key lime pie filling.  The crust is a result of a bit of kitchen playing.  Together they create a rather easy and lovely pie. The only caveat I can offer is that it does take a full workday to set, so make it the night before or the morning of to ensure the filling is properly cooled and set.

Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Coconut Crust

Yield one 9" (23cm) pie.


For the crust
150g/300ml/1.25c less 2tsp chocolate wafer crumbs
55g/165ml/0.66c unsweetened desiccated coconut
20ml/2dspn/4tsp sugar
1pinch salt
40g/45ml/3Tbsp butter, melted
1tsp/5ml coconut extract

For the filling
375g/14oz/300ml/1.25c less 2tsp sweetened condensed milk (one tin)
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
150ml/0.5c+1Tbsp+2tsp key lime juice (or regular lime juice)
1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

For the crust:
Mix all crust ingredients together.  The texture will be damp sand-like.

Press onto the bottom, and up the sides of a pie tin.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  

Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack.  

Leave the oven on as you mix the filling.

For the filling:
Mix the tinned milk with the yolks.  Add the juice and salt and mix until smooth.

Pour into cooled crust.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool on the counter for about 30 minutes and then set, uncovered, in the fridge for 8 hours.

Garnish, if you must, with sweetened whipped cream.

If you're squeezing the lime juice yourself, rasp a couple of teaspoons of zest and mix into the filling.

I'm a quill for hire!

09 February 2014

#lovesochi in a Florentine swirl of red and white

140208 Red Velvet Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies1

A few days ago David Jones tweeted looking for support for Toronto Pride's #lovesochi campaign.  The ask was simple, tweet a picture of your hands making a heart shape and tweet it with the #lovesochi hashtag and a message of support to Russia's LGBTQ community.

For me, it's a no-brainer, and I was happy to tweet.  I have a lot of friends and colleagues who are gay, so I'm privy to some of the issues they've encountered.  I've been privileged to be one of the first, if not the first person someone's come out to, so I've seen and heard the relief when they've not been rejected because of their  preferences.  Really, beyond all of this, to me and a number of others, it's a human rights issue.

I fully admit not everyone shares my view (as is evidenced by Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws, as well as fights for same sex marriages and benefits), so I knew by participating in the campaign, I could open myself up to unkind messages.  Which isn't new: I'm an articulate and informed woman on Social Media, who isn't easily swayed by right-leaning bafflegab.

Would my latest "fan" be more disappointed to find out that he's not man enough for me (or any of my hot women friends…or hot men friends...now that I'm thinking of it, I do have a lot of hot friends), or that I am not a lesbian? Not that I'd tell him: I have enough issues with amorous online sillybillies who are attracted to the fact that I'm an articulate and informed woman on Social Media, who isn't easily swayed by right-leaning bafflegab.

And I know there's a chance by posting this here, I may attract more trolls.  It's a risk I take because not voicing my support is a risk I'm not willing to take.

My hands frame a gorgeous Florentine swirl of red and white, the top layer of a freshly baked tin of Red Velvet Swirl Brownies.  The maroon brownie layer is chocolatey, with the right amount of chew, and unlike many other red velvet cakes, there's little of the telltale bitterness half a bottle of red dye usually leaves. The silky cream cheese topping is a balance between sweet and tart with a hint of cocoa from the dolloped and swirled brownie batter.  Gorgeous, simple and tasty, I followed this Food Network Recipe almost to the letter, but not quite.

140208 Red Velvet Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies2Red Velvet Swirl Brownies
Yield 1 20cm x 20cm (8"x8") pan
Tweaked from Sunny Anderson's Red Velvet Swirl Brownies Recipe
Cream Cheese Layer:
250g/8oz/1 brick cream cheese, softened
50g/60ml/0.25c white sugar
1 egg
0.5tsp/2.5ml vanilla
Brownie Layer:
112g/125ml/0.5c butter, melted
200g/250ml/1c dark brown sugar

1tsp/5ml vanilla
25g/60ml/0.25c cocoa powder
pinch salt
1Tbsp/15ml red food colouring
1tsp/5ml red wine vinegar
2 eggs, beaten
110g/185ml/0.75c all purpose flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 180C/350F and butter and paper a 20cm x 20cm (8"x8") tin.
For the cream cheese layer:
Beat together the cream cheese layer ingredients until fluffy. Set aside.
For the brownie layer:
Cream beat together the melted butter with both sugars and vanilla. Beat in the cocoa powder and salt until well blended. Mix in the food colouring and then the food colouring. Stir in the eggs before folding in the flour in two additions.
Pour most of the cocoa batter into the prepared brownie tin (reserving about a third to quarter cup). Smooth the batter.
Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie layer. Dollop the reserved cocoa batter on top of the cream cheese mixture. With a chopstick, skewer or teaspoon's handle swirl the two batters to create a pretty florentine pattern.
Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Remove to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before cutting.

I'm a quill for hire!
140208 LoveSochi campaign2