fall dinner….mmmmm

Fall cooking. The humidity is finally gone and the temperatures have cooled enough that I don’t feel like my kitchen is a sweatshop.

I have thawed one lonely beef shank we found in the freezer, but it’s not enough for dinner, but I decided it was going to be dinner and decided to get it a companion. So off to Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern Borough I went. They had beautiful fresh beef shanks!

I continued along King Street to Kimberton Whole Foods in Malvern. There I picked up the produce I wanted to add to this recipe plus a few other things. (I would’ve gotten adorable little pumpkins there to except they were $2.99 a piece and I thought that was a bit expensive for pumpkins that were literally very small, but I digress.)

So the ingredients – 2 to 3 beef shanks, Crimini mushrooms, Shitake mushrooms, leeks, shallots, celery, carrots, 2 red hatch chilies from my garden , red wine, two 8 oz. containers of Pacific vegetable broth, one 14.5 oz. can of Muir Glenn fire roasted diced tomatoes, sweet paprika , smoked paprika, 4 cloves of garlic diced, dash of cumin, salt and pepper, fresh rosemary, two bay leaves, fresh thyme.

First I start by dredging the beef shanks in a little flour and kosher salt. I toss into a Dutch oven on the stove with olive oil heating. I brown each of the beef shanks ( I ended up with three for this recipe.)

Then I add about a third of a bottle of wine and let that simmer as I am slicing up my vegetables.

As I am adding my vegetables beginning with the garlic, shallots, and leeks I also add one of the 8 oz. containers of vegetable broth.

After I add the garlic, shallots, and leeks I add diced up Hatch chilies, followed by carrots, celery, and the mushrooms.

Next I add the fresh herbs and a little more kosher salt. (I don’t start with a lot of salt I can adjust it later so I really am being judicious with it.)

Then I add a dash of cumin, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, black pepper, the can of tomatoes, and finally another third of a bottle of wine.

Now my beef shanks are ready for the oven. They will cook in a low oven for 3 to 4 hours.

People like to serve these over mashed potatoes, I also like to serve them over rice. And I like brown basmati rice, or a wild rice mixture.

My apologies that this recipe is it more exact, but it just isn’t. I think people need to judge for themselves the amount of herbs and spices and salt and pepper they want in a recipe.

Anyway beef shanks and mushrooms are a wonderful and hearty fall meal. Slow cooking it means the meet will be fork tender.

Bon Appétit!

cooking gnocchi with mushrooms


I ended up having some people over for dinner last night.  So I butterflied a big roaster chicken and roasted Julia Child style simply with fresh herbs (you can see the chicken in the photo at the bottom of the page – that was what it looked like as it went into the oven – I forgot to take its picture when it came out). 

I served with a fresh mixed green salad to which I added a simple balsamic mustard vinaigrette, and the starch was homemade gnocchi with mushrooms. Dessert in case you were wondering was sliced fresh strawberries from Kimberton Whole Foods.

I have previously given you my gnocchi recipe. So use that as your guide to rolling them out until little logs and slicing them into bite-size pieces, but the dough composition is different and here’s how I did it:

 
1 egg beaten
 
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 
2  medium sized (not huge) potatoes roasted skins removed and smashed up
 
1 cup of ricotta strained to remove any extra liquid – whole milk is best
 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
 
About 2 cups of flour, maybe  less – add half a cup at a time to your dough to see. You don’t want a dry dough with gnocchi, it should always feel not quite sticky but more elastic.
 
1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves dried, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt.
 
Basically you mix it all together until becomes a dough but don’t overwork it. Then I throw a cloth over my bowl and allow the dough to rest for at least half an hour.
 
When your dough has rested, break off pieces of the dough and roll into little logs and slice into bite-size pieces from the log. You can roll them off the edge of the forks so they have those lines in them or you can cook them just the way they are.
 
After I make my gnocchi I lay them out on a large baking sheet on parchment paper and put it on a shelf by itself in the refrigerator till I am ready to cook.
 
 
The sauce is pretty simple:
 
Melt one stick of butter which is half a cup in a sauté pan – a large sauté pan because you will be adding the gnocchi to it later.
 
When the butter is melted and starting to bubble just a slight bit, add half a large red onion diced. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Add one finely grated medium sized carrot.
 
After the onion starts to turn slightly translucent, add thinly sliced baby Bella  mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, and a handful of white mushrooms. Basically you should use one 8 ounce package of shiitake, The same size package of baby Portabella mushrooms also known as crimini, and about 4 ounces of white mushrooms.
 
Next add a handful of fresh sage leaves chopped into small-ish pieces and about a teaspoon of dried rosemary  or if you have fresh dice up a smallish twig.
 
When everything seems to be cooked together fairly well but not mushy remove from heat.
 
I do the mushroom mixture ahead of time and not at the same time I am cooking my gnocchi because there is not enough time.
 
After the mushroom mixture is cooled use a slotted spoon and remove the vegetables to their own bowl for the time being. Leave the butter and liquid from mushrooms in the bottom of the pan.
 
Boil a large pot of salted water and when everything is really boiling toss in all your gnocchi.
 
The same time you are boiling your gnocchi bring the pan with the butter and the mushroom juices back up to heat. You may have to add about another tablespoon of butter and do add a scant 1/4 cup of white wine.  (Last night I was roasting a chicken as I was making these gnocchi for a side dish so I also tossed in 2 tablespoons of pan juices. ) You need that mixture to reach almost boil but not cook off. Also toss in two or three whole sage leaves.
 
The gnocchi will cook probably in about 3 to 4 minutes – when they all are bubbling to the surface and bobbing around, use a slotted spoon to remove them.
 
Put the gnocchi immediately into the pan with butter and wine that should be really bubbling at this point. Move the gnocchi around gently to brown slightly. As you are moving the gnocchi around gently add back the mushrooms and red onion to heat again.
 
Be careful  with your gnocchi they are a slightly delicate things but once everything is browned through toss half a cup of grated Parmesan on on top and some diced flat leaf parsley if you choose. Toss one more time into a bowl and serve.
 
 

side stuff

A lazy Sunday afternoon, warm enough to make a fresh batch of sweet tea, with fresh curly mint from the garden.

What is sweet tea?

Sweet tea is southern style iced tea, where you brew the tea with the sugar in it.  I also add the mint at this stage and tie it with a tiny piece of kitchen twine so I can fish it out after the tea cools, prior to adding the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon.  I am a bit of a tea snob and I like one of two teas for brewing homemade iced tea: American Classic Tea from Charleston, SC or PG Tips from England.  Those are the two black teas I drink, hot or cold.  Good tea is worth the extra money.

So dinner is semi-homemade without Sandra Lee (she’s kind of annoying I think). I have a pre-marinated Smithfield pork loin (Teriyaki), but I can’t just serve that with a salad (even if it is the beautiful red leaf lettuce I bought this week at the East Goshen Farmers’ Market), or there might be a revolt.

Since the 12-year-old loves pasta, I thought a spin on mac and cheese was in order. Now I made this pasta up today, and truthfully, it is rather tasty.

Side Stuff: Ziti with Mushrooms and Swiss Cheese Sauce.

Cook a small box of Barilla Ziti, drain, do not rinse.

Cheese Sauce:

2  cups of grated swiss cheese (I used a blend today that contained Gruyère) 

4 oz of fresh Queso

2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

Dash of Tabasco

Couple dashes of Worcestershire Sauce

salt & pepper to taste

dash nutmeg

4 oz. of sliced white button mushrooms*

4 oz. of sliced baby bella mushrooms*

(*it’s what was in the ‘fridge – you could use shiitaki or whatever fresh mushrooms you have handy except canned. Canned mushrooms are rubbery and gross.)

2 or 3 scallions minced

3 tablespoons of butter for mushrooms/scallions

4 tablespoons flour for sauce (rue)

4 tablespoons butter for sauce (rue)

zest of fresh lemon

small dash nutmeg

squeeze of chilis in a tube (Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper Spice Blend)

Fresh flat leaf parsley

Melt butter for cheese sauce with flour.  Create a rue.  Add a dash of tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and whisk in.

Add milk, whisking constantly over medium heat, until the temperature comes up to just about a boil.

Add the Queso, whisking constantly until blended.  Add the swiss bit by bit, whisking until blended.

Using a small grater or micro plane, give like three runs of a lemon across the blades over the sauce so the lemon zest goes right in.

Salt and pepper to taste.  Nutmeg (seriously not much) Set aside.

Using a small saute pan, take the other butter and melt.  Toss in the chopped scallions, salt to taste and cook until almost transluscent.  Add the mushrooms, cook down.

Return cheese sauce to a medium to low flame and incorporate the mushroom and scallian mixture into it.  Add a squeeze of the chili peppers in a tube, check the salt and pepper.

Pour over ziti in a medium dutch oven on the stove top, mix around a bit, throw in flat leaf parsley rough chopped.  The sauce will be hot, but if the pasta is not warm enough, warm gently to your desired temperature on VERY LOW so as not to burn.

This is literally something I just did for the first time, so you might have to tweak it to your taste.  This is not a stick a spoon in it and it will stand up in the cheese sauce either.

Later……..

Of course, Murphy’s Law of 12 Year Olds was triggered and he went to the neighbors’ house to have dinner with some other kids….and order take-out Chinese.

I am sure the left overs will entice him at some point later this week, and grown-ups will eat this too, incidentally.