Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some Good ol Home Cookin

Last week I went home for a visit and before I left, was on the phone with my mom who told me that if I had any requests for any cooking of hers that I miss, to let her know. Some of my favorites include her French Onion Soup (she roasts the bones and makes the best beef stock ever) to her melt in your mouth Braised Bbq Beef on a Bun (with her own killer bbq sauce) to her Egg Rolls, Cha Siu Bao (steamed BBQ Pork Buns) and addicting Chiffon Cake and Bran Muffins. For some reason the one thing that came to mind right away was her Gai Gok Fan. Her Gai Gok Fan is basically sticky rice with chicken, Chinese mushrooms, lup cheong (Chinese sausage) and oyster sauce. I told her this and she said "Gai Gok Fan! That's what you waant!? Okaayy..." It is a bit of a strange request coming from me because growing up we usually ate traditional Chinese meals once or twice a week and even then I would say "Oh mom! Can't we have spaghetti?" I never really liked rice growing up with the exception of Congee (savory rice porridge) but its funny how your tastes change as you grow older, I find that all the things I used to dislike, I now love!

This meal consisted of:
-Gai Gok Fan (She made two versions, one with brown rice for my brother and me (my Dad won't touch it!). I ended up still liking the white rice version better.
-Corn Chicken Soup with Egg Ribbons and Green Onion
-Pea Shoots with Garlic
-Dace, a Salty Fish with Black Beans
-Crispy Tofu, with Carrot Flowers and Sugar Snap Peas, tossed in a mixture of soy sauce, whisky, sugar, chicken stock and cornstarch

*Side Note* There were two other things I requested when I got home: Her rice crispy squares and her puff wheat squares. I think I probably managed to consume a whole pans worth of them as they are ridiculously addicting! It's a good thing I only go home once in awhile. I know these classics really shouldn't be messed with but I am determined to find alternative healthier versions!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Short Rib Ragu w/ Pappardelle

I have this obsession with ragu, or maybe its just the thought of a cheap cut of meat that can be turned into melt in your mouth deliciousness. If there is any better comfort food than braised meat over fresh pasta or polenta on a rainy Vancouver day somebody better tell me! So far the best places I've had it have been Gastropod's beef ragu over tagliatelle and Campognolo's pork ragu over tagliarini. After a hunt for a great ragu I thought it was about time I made my own! I stopped off at Cioffi's Meat Market and Deli and picked up some short ribs (okay and maybe a stop at Italia Bakery for a zeppoli and cannoli or two). Even somebody who doesn't normally cook can't screw up braising meat! Longer you cook it, the more tender and fall off the bone it is. I guess thats why crockpots were invented!? I've seen many variations of braising short ribs but came up with my own concoction which included a little vino, fire roasted tomatoes and espresso powder, which added a nice rich depth of flavor to the sauce. After being braised for 2 1/2 hrs the result was a sauce which had reduced into the perfect consistency to coat the fall off the bone tender meat. Served over warm cheesy polenta or ribbons of chewy pasta, it's comfort food I tell ya.

Ready to be browned

I just moved into my new pad and this is the first real meal I've had a chance to prepare in my kitchen! Served with a salad of baby spinach, arugula, oven dried tomatoes, shaved parm and vincotto.

Short Rib Ragu
(Serves 6-8)
3 1/2- 4lbs short ribs (flanken style)
2 small carrots (small dice)
2 celery ribs (small dice)
1 small white onion (small dice)
5 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1 28 oz can fire roasted tomatoes ( or crushed tomatoes)
3 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp espresso powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh thyme (finely chopped)
agave syrup (or sugar) to taste
*flour and s+p for coating meat* (reserve 2 tbsp of any leftover flour)

1. Heat a pot on med-high with oil (I like grapeseed)
2. Coat short ribs in flour seasoned heavily with s+p
3. In batches, brown short ribs until dark golden brown on all sides. Remove from pot and place on a plate.
4. In the same pot saute onion, carrot and celery till soft. Add garlic, cook until soft. Add 2 tbsp of the leftover seasoned flour, cook off for 1 minute.
5. Add red wine, stir and let reduce down for 1 minute
6. Add tomatoes, beef stock and tomato paste and espresso powder. Throw in thyme and bay leaves.
7. Reduce heat to a simmer, put a lid on the pot and cook for 2-2 1/2 hrs or until meat starts to fall off the bone. (Stir or turn the meat over once or twice in between)
8. Take meat out, seperate the bones from the meat and any tough ligament that hasn't broken down. Gently use a fork to pull apart the meat, or if you like big chunks leave as is.
9. Skim off any fat that has risen to the top of the sauce. Discard bay leaves
10. If your sauce is too thick, add more stock. If your sauce is too thin, crank up the heat and reduce down to your liking. Add agave or sugar and s+p to taste.
11.Place meat back in sauce. Serve over pasta or polenta with plenty of parmigiano reggiano.