Monday, February 24, 2014

Time For Some Comfort Food... FINALLY!

We’re finally gonna get some rain here in the San Francisco Bay Area and I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I love the rain for many reasons, one of which is because it’s cleansing. Also because it helps nourish my garden. But mainly ove it because it makes me want to build a fire, get comfy and cozy, and cook some comfort food   like a pot roast! So that’s just what I decided to do. 
a vision of loveliness!

get it good and seasoned!
For my pot roast I use a couple of techniques, one is braising that’s got to be one of the kitchens most best kept secrets! It makes even the most novice of home cooks look like flavor superheroes! This wonderfully simple technique is when you take tough cuts of meat like pork or lamb shanks, pork shoulder/butt, beef short ribs or chuck roast for example, and cook them low and slow in some kind of liquid like water, or my personal favorite - broth or stock, in a heavy bottom pan like a Dutch oven. Many people sear the meat first, for color and added flavor, but isn’t always necessary. 

look at that crust - make sure it's browned all over
Now back to my pot roast. I almost always use a nicely marbled chuck roast from my most favoritest butcher ‘Mo’ at Magnani's Poultry in Berkeley, where I get to see another favorite friend Maria. She’s always there to greet me with a smile and something warm and friendly to say. Once I get it home, I make sure it’s at room temperature, which is important for even cooking. Searing is my thing to do for my pot roast; I feel it gives such added flavor and the color is always amazing.
that's not yuckiness, that's FLAVUH! 
So without further delay, here’s my comfort food shenanigans. Please try it and let me know what you think!

Be well

Angela’s Pot Roast with Brown Gravy
What You Need:
let the flour cook and get brown 
·         3-5lb chuck roast (depending on how many you’re feeding)
·         1 32oz container of beef broth
·         2 tablespoons cooking oil
·         2 tablespoons flour (APF)
·         1 onion, roughly chopped
·         3-5 cloves of garlic, smashed
·         Garlic powder
·         Salt and pepper to taste
·         Heavy bottom Dutch oven or large pot with tight fighting lid
·         Large tongs; wooden spoon; whisk

What To Do:

·         Let chuck roast come to room temperature.
it may get ugly, but don't panic!
·         Heat oven to 325*.
·         Heat beef broth in a separate saucepan to Medium
·         Heat Dutch oven on stove top to Medium-High (pan should be pretty hot).
whisk as if your life depended on it!
·         Pat roast completely dry and season liberally with salt and pepper.
·         Pour 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in the pot, and once the oil starts shimmering or you see light wisps of smoke, put the roast in the pot and DO NOT TOUCH for at least 1 minute! Brown all sides of the roast then set aside.
·         Turn heat down to Medium-Low and add the last tablespoon of cooking oil if necessary. Sprinkle in the APF and stir with wooden spoon for 2-5 minutes, letting the flour get lightly brown and a light nutty smell.
cover tightly 
·         While the heat is low, add the heated beef broth starting with just 1 cup, whisking vigorously; it will get very thick, then thin out as you continue to add the broth; add enough liquid to your desired consistency.
·         Season to taste; add onion and garlic.
·         Put roast back in the Dutch oven, along with all those good juices that leaked out! Stir and place in the oven.

Cook for at least 3 hours, until you’ve reached your desired doneness/tenderness.
Serve with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts; polenta and swiss chard…YUM!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mac N Cheese To Be Celebrated Year Long!

So the holidays are pretty much over, and one dish that's almost always on the menu is Macaroni and Cheese. It's definitely one of my most favorite-est dishes - the creaminess, the cheesiness, the savoriness.... uhhhh! Oops, I digress. Mac N Cheese is traditionally a simple casserole, originating as a simple French dish of just parmesan cheese, melted butter, and a rough that was brought to England in the 14th century. I had no idea it had been around that long, but as a Francophile, I should have known there’d be a French connection! 

It has evolved into something that's not just a side dish mind you, it’s something that you can actually turn into a full on meal too. You can add bacon and broccoli, or mushrooms, or truffles and lobster, or cauliflower and, well you get the picture. And you can also play around with the type of pasta noodle you use too; and please don’t forget the cheese! Cheddar of course, but what about fontina, Havarti, smoked mozzarella, or gruyere? There are so many ways to keep this most basic and humble of dishes interesting, fun, and unique!
And if you LOVE mac and cheese like I love mac and cheese, and think about all the different creative combinations you can come up with, then you must get yourself over to HOMEROOM in Oakland quick like a bunny. They have made this simple and amazing dish the focal point, and the creations they come up with seem to be boundless! Though no where close to Homeroom, my own mac and cheese is pretty darn good! I’ve worked on it for many years, working hard to perfect the balance of creaminess, cheesiness, and firm noodles. Try it out and let me know what you think (send pics too)!

Also, most of my recipes are in my head, and since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been feverishly learning how to write out recipes, making notes on measurements, tools, and techniques when I cook. So bear with me fellow foodies, newbies, and wannabes, as I get it all out. And try out and let me know what you think!
Be well

½ cup of all purpose flour (‘apf)
6 tablespoons of butter
2 ½ cups of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
½ cup of chicken or vegetable broth
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and white pepper to your taste
1 pound of elbow noodles (I like the ones with ridges!)
3 cups (or more!) of cheese; I use:
2 cups of sharp cheddar
½ cup of smoked mozzarella
½ of Monterey Jack
½ cup of parmesan *optional*
Panko or Italian bread crumbs

Small sized heavy bottom saucepan
Medium sized heavy bottom saucepan
Box grater if the cheese isn’t already grated
Casserole dish

·         Pre-heat your oven to 400*

·         Boil your noodles in salted water for 6-7 minutes if you plan on baking the dish in the oven; boil for 8-10 minutes (package directions) if you are not.

·         Get your milk, heavy cream, and stock all heated together in the small saucepan to just about simmering and set aside.

·         Heat the other saucepan to medium heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and whisk til it’s a very light brown, almost blonde. This should take about 2 minutes.

·         Reduce the heat to low, then add the heated milk, cream, and broth mixture slowly, a little bit at a time, while whisking vigorously until smooth - NO LUMPS!
·         *it will get very thick at first, but just keep whisking and slowly adding the liquid – it will be ok!*

·         Let the mixture thicken, then thin, and add more milk if you feel it needs to be thinned out even more. Add salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste, then add your cheese slowly and combine til smooth and cheesey!

·         Once you’ve got your cheese sauce done, combine with your noodles and pour in to a baking dish. Feel free to top with bread crumbs if you wish, then bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly on top (crumb top or not).