January 22, 2007

Just Call Me Culinary Jebus

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I cook and bake all the time, (obviously) and for the most part it’s edible. Every now and then it’s not. You win some and you lose some. C’est la vie. The thing is though, I’m pretty critical of the things I make so even if other people claim to like a dish I might not think it was much of a success if it didn’t turn out the way I thought it should have. Also, other people lie. That being said, when I’m happy with a dish it’s a great feeling. It’s like sunshine, lollipops and rainbows… You know, warm and fuzzy on the inside. Tonight’s dinner was one of those rare times that I was really happy with the way my cooking turned out, (dessert was subsequently a failure, but I’ll try not to dwell on that). I’m still savouring the flavour of Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate and Rosemary (adapted from Bon Appetit), served atop a bed of wild mushroom risotto, (my own creation). I’ve never done chocolate in a savoury dish, but it’s chocolate, so I figured it couldn’t possibly be bad. I had no idea it could be this good! You don’t get a strong chocolate taste in this dish but I think it lends a nice amount of richness. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the chocolate was paired with savoury rosemary, delicious red wine and tender, falling-off-the-bone short ribs which was then layered onto a plate of creamy, flavourful shiitake risotto. I’m telling you, this meal was so high quality, that my meals for the rest of the week are destined to pale in comparison. I might as well fast for the week because no food I eat is going to be as satisfying. Am I overhyping this dish enough for you? I think I should put up a warning right now, telling you NOT to make this dish because I don’t want anyone to think poorly of it in case it doesn’t turn out the same for you as it did for me.

Lately I’ve been doing well with savoury dishes, (last night’s dinner was pretty darn good too!) and there seems to be a snowball effect happening here. Tonight’s meal has been built on the back of other good meals, each one contributing a little bit to the final outcome. I always like cooking, but recently I’ve been even happier than usual when I’m in the kitchen. My timing has even improved somewhat. I’m no longer finishing the main course before the sides are ready, or serving dessert before the main. I’m feeling a sense of flow, zen-like if you will, a higher connectedness, a feeling of euphoria, maybe it’s the drugs... As I was making my risotto tonight, I remembered something that I had read, (and pardon me for forgetting which blogger wrote it) about making risotto- that it was similar to the process of kneading bread, all of that stirring being somehow therapeutic. I definitely agree. Risotto’s not hard to make, just time consuming and I was certainly consumed by the process tonight.

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Everything’s a balance though. The more effective I am in the kitchen, the less effective I am with my computer. Blogger is still annoying me, but I’m not competent enough to do anything about that so I’m currently pretending everything works, regardless of whether or not it actually does. Related to my computer problems are recent camera problems as well. I think my camera is on its last legs and it was threatening to keel over and die in my risotto tonight. As a result of this, my photos don’t reflect how great this dish truly was, (I spent waaay too long in photoshop trying to fix them). And in my haste to devour it, I wasn’t too keen on wasting time taking pictures and letting my masterpiece get cold. After putting almost 4 hours into this dish, (granted some of that was idling time) I was going to enjoy it.

In conclusion, this was an amazing meal, but I beg of you, even though I’m providing a recipe, DON’T make it. Trust me that it was as good as I say, but don’t make. Don’t ruin the dream!

I made a huge amount of food last night with the good intention of having leftovers so that I could attempt to create something for a new event called Leftover Tuesdays started by David of Cooking Chat. I wanted to figure out what you could do with leftover risotto, cause it’s just not good the second day. Despite the large amount of food I made, it all disappeared and I consequently have nothing to post. Curses. Next time, I promise.

Braised Short Ribs With Chocolate and Rosemary (Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2006)

2 strips of peppercorn bacon, diced
3 pounds bone-in short ribs
1 finely chopped onions
1 finely chopped celery
1 finely chopped peeled carrots
1 finely chopped peeled parsnip
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups dry red wine
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 400mL can of diced tomatoes
1 T mixed herb paste
½ teaspoon dry thyme
1 bay leaf
2 ½ tablespoons shaved bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat heavy large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown ribs in drippings in pot over medium-high heat until brown on all sides. Transfer to plate. Add onions and next 4 ingredients to pot. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add wine. Boil uncovered until liquid is reduced by half, scraping up browned bits. Add broth, tomatoes, herbs, thyme, bay leaf, and bacon. Return ribs to pot, making sure they’re covered in sauce, cover partially, and put in the over for about 1 ½ hours. Uncover and simmer until rib meat is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours longer.

Transfer ribs to plate; discard bay leaf. Boil sauce until beginning to thicken, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add chocolate, cocoa powder, and rosemary; stir until chocolate melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return ribs to pot. Simmer to rewarm, about 5 minutes.

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I served this on top of a shiitake risotto for which I have no recipe because I made it up as I went along. I had all of the usual risotto ingredients like Arborio rice, butter, white wine, stock and parmesan cheese as well as onion, garlic, peas and a whole lot of fresh shiitake mushrooms. Mmmm mmm good.

*I can tell already, this is one of those posts I’m going to read tomorrow and wonder what the hell I was on when I wrote it, (sunshine, lollipops and rainbows???). It’s also going to result in a myriad of kitchen disasters to bring my ego crashing back down to earth where it belongs. It’s not like I’m Ferran Adria here, I just assembled ingredients, the oven did the work. Someone should remind me of that before my head gets too big and you start calling me Little Big Head like a certain Food Network personality...

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Unknown said...

I don't know why you think the pictures are lacking...they are WONDERFUL! I don't know that I've ever had risotto...yours looks great.

Melting Wok said...

Wow, great idea in using the dried shitake mushrooms with the risotto. Reminds me of this claypot rice my mom made very similar to this, but using plain jasmine rice that is hehe :) Cheers ! :)

Anonymous said...

This looks amazing! I absolutely love chocolate and rosemary together, but I've only paired them in sweet truffles, never in a savory dish. I really want to try this recipe out.

Anonymous said...

First, love your blog and it's new second. Where did you get the template?
Second, where do you get the time to make all this stuff; is this your FT job? I'm jealous if this is the case.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, I meant to say I love the new template.

Lis said...

I'm sorry.. but there is no way I'm not trying this recipe. I don't know when.. but I will, mark my words. And mine will turn out MAGNIFICENT like yours.

I recently had a bad experience with short ribs.. but between you and Kirsten, I'm jonesin' for them again..

K and S said...

ooh it looks and sounds great!

wheresmymind said...

Braised short ribs...yummers!!

Abby said...

DON'T make it? But shortribs are on my list! And I've never made risotto! Surely, you jest.

Anonymous said...

oh dear, i agree the pictures are BEAUTIFUL. drooool! and the risotto looks unbelievable. very very fine indeed :)

Freya said...

It all looks wonderful! And that Gida girl is scary. I saw a show over Christmas with her preparing millions of cookies and her, shall we say, exuberance, scared the hell out of me.

mickey said...

Those ribs look so savorous and rich, I think I must try that recipe. As for leftover risotto, you can make little balls and egg wash and crumb them, then fry them, I think they're called arancinni.

Anonymous said...

Your photography just continues to get better and better - these look so good I feel like I could reach through my screen and transfer that plate to my table...

Just tried, but it didn't work :( Oh well, I guess I'm just going to have to make this myself!

Anonymous said...

I agree completely! Your photos are gorgeous, honey.

I really like the sound of that risotto most.


Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to make a savory dish with chocolate, now I really, really have to get to it!

FH said...

Brilliant photos,Rissoto looks fab!

Anonymous said...

That looks wonderful. I think a great deal of cooking well is about confidence, and you clearly have it right now. Perhaps thats why you're on a hot streak.

As for what to do with risotto leftovers.... Well, the traditional Italian way is to take the cold risotto, roll into a ball, roll the ball in flour, egg wash and bread crumbs, and then pan fry it in some oil (easier if you use more of a crab cake shape). Rounded, however, they're called arancine (little oranges). For a real treat, put a ball of buffalo mozzarella in the centre before frying. Oh my....

Anonymous said...

definate agreement with above.. yum! I've come across lots of savoury chocolate on menus lately: often chilli and chocolate sauce (and incidentally often with kangaroo, probably b/c roo is such a strong flavoured meat, and many find it offputting.. could be useful for other unpopularly strong meats??) anyway, risotto leftovers: you can also make a sort of terrine/lasagne layered thing, with grilled veges or something, baked. or just bake a layer, and serve in wedges like polenta.. if you can keep any leftovers!

Jess said...

I love the addition of chocolate to chili, and I can imagine it would be magical paired with short ribs.

As for leftover risotto, I love to eat it again (duh) heated up in a pan with some additional stock so it gets "loose" and creamy again, but another favorite treatment is to make risotto cakes and dredge them in some fresh breadcrumbs and fry them up in a saute pan - served with a tart little salad... yum.

Anonymous said...

I hate it when people won't tell you what they really think about your food! My family is terriffied of giving any mildly bad reviews, so if you give something "4 and 1/2 stars (out of 5)" that means it's not good enough to make again. Ack! It makes me crazy!

Anonymous said...

That looks sooooooo good. Amazing!

I'm the exact same way about my cooking... overly critical. People could be raving, but I know what could be better about a dish. Yours looks absolutely perfect!