Beef Roast(s) & Lists

December 14, 2015

The list is the origin of the culture…we like lists because we don’t want to die.
~Umberto Eco

Admittedly, I have been a daffy list maker since early youth (as you may already know from reading these posts — well, if you have even been perusing). My mother taught me how to compile ceaseless lists as she was an avid maker, and then it became eerily second nature to me. Occasionally, I feverishly scrawled notes next to the bedside table and often have scribbled them before meetings and calls.  Some of my quirks no doubt could have been sadly passed on to my children and mates. Then again, perhaps it has helped for me and others to make haphazard notes, offhand outlines, draft questions, occasionally “fluidly” write, proofread copy, and finally edit. In some senses, listing could prove a vile habit, but at other times making them appears highly efficient. Thanks, Mom.

Not sure lists avoid death, though.

KC STRIP LOIN OR BONE-IN RIB EYE ROAST

2 T sea salt & truffle salt
Black peppers, slightly roasted
2 T coriander seeds, slightly roasted
1 1/2 T herbes de provence

5-6 lb Kansas City strip loin roast, tied at 2″ intervals or bone-in rib eye roast, tied between ribs
8 cloves garlic, minced

1 stick of soft, unsalted butter

2 bunches (not sprigs) rosemary
2 bunches (not sprigs) thyme

1 lbs medium parsnips, peeled and cut
1 lbs medium carrots, peeled and cut
1 lbs medium turnips, peeled and cut

Chanterelles, enoki and shittake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

Horseradish sauce (an aside which can be prepared while the beef roasts or the oven preheats)
1 C crème fraîche
2 T Dijon mustard
3 T grated horseradish
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together crème fraîche, Dijon mustard, horseradish and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and then refrigerate (and/or…)

Aïoli (see January 25, 2009 post for 3 recipes)

Coarsely grind peppercorns, coriander in an electric mill. Combine with herbes de provence and sea salt in a small bowl and sprinkle mixture evenly over roast. Add the minced garlic and massage well all over.  Wrap beef tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Bring to room temperature unwrapped before roasting and cover well with soft, unsalted butter.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Put herbs + branches, parsnips, carrots and turnip slices and set roast atop.

Roast the beef, uncovered, for about 1 hour. Check with an internal thermometer after 45 minutes. For medium rare (at most), take the roast out of the oven when the thermometer registers 115-120 F (as you already may know, residual heat will cause roast to continue cooking as it rests).

Sauté chanterelles, enoki and shittake mushrooms briefly in butter in a heavy pan.  They can be arranged upon the roasts or root vegetables after the meat is done.

Remove and tent with foil, allowing meat rest for 20 minutes because the temperature should rise to about 125 F or so.

Slice the beef (to your liking) into 1/2″ or more thick pieces and arrange on a warmed platter or on plates. As far as the bone-in rib eye, cut at the bone/ribs.

Put the roasted vegetables, garlic and mushrooms in bowls and pass the horseradish sauce and/or aioli separately. Serve with twice baked potatoes or new potatoes and dill and greens, whether a vegetable or salad.

Finish by sprinkling with a green herb, such as tarragon and/or thyme leaves — then bonhomie, baby.

And to all, a good night.

The Donald + Pig Ears

December 10, 2015

Perhaps the less we have the more we are required to brag.
~John Steinbeck

I have long delayed comments on The Donald, but this diatribe simply cannot wait further. No need to tweet here.  Humanity needs to arise despite his fatuous, dégoûtant, and vulgar presence.

The Donald’s paranoid xenophobia, his ethnic disparagement, his irrational bigotry, his racist rants, his limitless enmity (all the while saying he loves thee and everyone adores him — not!), his bellicose behavior, his shameless histrionic comments, his ideological dearth of reality, his lamentable fascism, his endless marination of misogyny, his open fat-shaming assaults, his admitted sexual assaults, his fearful contemptuous demagoguery, his utter lack of policies, his sightless reversal of courses (and blatant lies, deceit), his trash talking bullying and invectives, his lack of simple humility, his nonpologies of grabbing women’s genitals, his unmitigated narcissism is truly extreme, really hyperbolic.  Just insulting, crude, undignified, and dour — not befitting of anyone holding the office of the Presidency of the United States.

And to even think that he has serious supporters, even mild or occasional adherents? Do some even pretend to truly want a hubristic, unfit carnival barker to govern as president?  He is a slipshod celeb, a deplorable clown, not someone who should hold any civic or constitutional office. His relentless vitriol on Twitter is flatly embarrassing. It is that a pure combination of arrogance and ignorance?

The Donald is a revulsive fool who loves feckless fear, antagonistic acrimony, speaks to irrationality, and above all is addicted to his own popularity. You should be ashamed, collaborators, each of you that gives one whit about the democratic process, are often sadly uneducated, lack historical context and take the Donald as a serious candidate. The Donald is a brutish, bulling Duck who waddles aimlessly and loves hearing himself quack. He bespeaks an “empathetic and historical loser.”

Actually, I hope and pray that imperious red + gray combover will carry the Republican nomination and lose woefully, much later, and then a lady will finally inherit the White House — one who is more wisely oriented towards negotiation, not fevered prejudice, saber rattling or war. A loose, inhumane cannon. Condemn the Donald and do not elect him unless you crave for the world to implode. You know precisely who he is…

Perhaps, The Donald’s fear or scorn of African Americans, Mexicans, Latinos, women, the disabled soldiers’ parents, Vietnam vets, sexual harassment victims and Muslims is based upon his silly dismay or confusion or fond reminiscence of his own German (or is it Swedish now?) immigrant heritage. Maybe, it is simply their skin, sex and hair color which differs vastly from The Donald’s.  Who knows what goes on under that desperate reddish-orangish rag and clown fish mouth that spews hatred, countenances violence, spreads petulance and irascibility?

Now, some fellow Republicans have finally noted his small hands (he does appear to have openly splayed smaller digits) which often leads to a minute member regardless of how far he can purportedly drive a golf ball, but he never said he could catch and shoot…but, it all seems far from bizarre where has this has all gone, or perhaps others who support him have the same afflictions?  Sorry for you.  As baffling as this lurid “locker room talk” seems, we should be seriously debating presidential policies.  Then again, perhaps the Donald wants to unravel the GOP.

Of course, he has very few, if any, stated political agendas.  Now, he has demonstrated a thirst and penchant for violence against others, including his opponent and any protesters and has spoken definitely on air about his lewdness, immorality, crudeness and indecency. It is time to awaken, folks. “Mark my words, believe me.”

As Seneca the Younger once remarked, “people take pleasure in giving power to the indecent,” some two millenia before John Steinbeck or even Uncle Joe Stalin, P.T. Barnum, Il Duce, Robert Mugabe, or other authoritarian regimes, and certainly the Donald.

It was not just words, Donald — and I hope everyone knows that.

Now, onto something much more soothing.

PIG EARS

Pig ears, a few (local and high quality)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 or 5 plump, fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 T dried thyme
2-3 thyme sprigs
1 T coriander seeds
Grating of nutmeg

2-3 C chicken stock and cold water
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mixed greens + vinaigrette or artisanal noodles with a tab of butter

Pig ears should be procured from a local farmer. Look for fresh clean smooth ears without marring or stains, and if bristles still exist, singe or shave them.

Marinate them an evening ahead. A healthy dose of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, minced garlic cloves, dried thyme and a sprig or two of thyme leaves, coriander seeds, and a dash of nutmeg.

Cook them in stock, rinse, and then cover with stock and water. Add sliced carrots, sliced and peeled onions, bay leaves and sea salt with black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then put the heavy pot in a low oven, below 200 F for some 10 hours, or until you can easily pinch thumb and finger through them and feel little resistance. Allow the ears to cool completely.

Now, the finish which should be crispy.

In a 450 F oven, roast the pig ears, so as to avoid the spatter of frying them. Put them between pieces of parchment or waxed paper, and weigh them down with another sheet pan, and cook until just slightly brittle, about 15 minutes and slice.

Then, serve them over mixed greens + vinaigrette or artisan noodles with a tab of butter and freshly ground black pepper.

The more you approach infinity, the deeper you penetrate terror.
~Gustave Flaubert

ParisLa Ville Lumière, le Paname…an eternal, perpetual place in many psyches (including mine).

A psychotically surreal Friday the 13th evening. I admit to feeling empty, melancholic, enraged, mournful, abhorrent, sorrowful all at the same time — no way to view a match at the Stade de France, savor a meal at lieux like Le Petit Cambodge, La Belle Équipe café, Le Carillon, Café Bonne Bière, Sushi Maki, La Cosa Nostra and La Petit Balona, or revel in a concert at the Théâtre de Bataclan.

Yet, I feel somehow staunch and resolute en même temps. A bewildering mélange of emotions…confused thoughts, but by no means nothing like the victims’ loved ones whose souls suffer and agonize. The outpouring of empathy has been overwhelming. My sincere condolences and thanks, that simple.

The etymology of the word “terror” is sadly and Frenchly ironic. Terror (n.): from the early 15 century late middle English “something that frightens, causes fear and dread” is derived directly from the Old French terreur (14 century), earlier from the Latin terrorem or “fear, fright, dread, alarm,” from the Latin verb terrere “to make fearful, frighten.”

The term “terrorism” itself was coined in Paris during the wake of the 1789 revolution as a term to describe the government’s bloody campaign against counter revolutionaries. The Reign of Terror also known as Le Régime de la Terreur, a ruthless movement begun after the execution of Robespierre by guillotine in the late 18th century, was meant to purge the country of enemies of the French Revolution. The Reign was incited by competing legislative bodies, the moderate Girondins, also called the Brissontins, and the militant Jacobins, and was marked by political repression and mass executions of purported rivals.

Now, one must perplex at what W (who held hands longingly with a theocratic “royal” Saudi prince), Cheney and Rumsfeld have recently wrought upon the world. Once a country piques or provokes a tribe what other tribes, caliphates or sub-tribes are created? There is little doubt that simple hypothesis was not lucidly thought through at high places.  If not or if so, for shame.

In any event, just wonder aloud, openly discuss, and consider the calamitous precedents before invading other countries with boots on the ground.  Forget not l’Arabie saoudite as have W and his friends, confidants so conveniently done.  Please do not overreact with bellicose language, saber rattling and hawkish behavior as was done after 9.11 and the “War(s) on Terror” which have destabilized the Middle East and have spawned the now thriving Daesh, Dai’sh, Islamic State, ISIS, and/or ISIL. Whatever their nomenclature du jour may be.

This is dire reality not a time for spewing knee jerk, xenophobic and visceral, wrong headed, rash polemic and panic.

You know the drill well, Parigots — stay steady, resolute and resilient, do not deny your lifestyle or rituals, embrace your senses and those about you, rebound however maimed, cherish the ephemeral nature of life, and remain quietly vigilant yet defiant of the malefactors.  No doubt it may prove cursive to feel vulnerable and doubtful, but please keep all in perspective. Please do not allow delirium to trump reason and forever remember those words:  liberté, égalité, et fraternité.

The word “terrorism” has a somehow slightly different, peculiar sense but still maintains the same hues, although the meaning stays insidious. It usually means the “use of violence to human life, fear, coercion or intimidation in pursuit of political or religious aims.” It often is an abhorrent, indiscriminate act of violence against innocent humankind, against society. But, the word still retains its blurred vernacular and semantic ambiguities — for instance, is it mere lunacy?  Who terrorizes, intimidates, displaces another? What constitutes such an act?  While no one definition of “terrorism” has gained universal acceptance or precise use, it does remain an emerging combined military and political-religious word and applies to varied circumstances.

But, the “definition” and “history” of terrorism aside, there remains zero doubt about who should take responsibility for the deaths of blameless victims this Parisian weekend.  The same arcane, cruel and oppressive jihadist bunch that has an apocalyptic black flag and severed head for emblems. Non-believers? Really?

And enough of your false and deceptive misnomer, allahu akbar, bros, as you ruthlessly carve off kidnapped heads with bound hands and fanatically kill and maim innocents with AK-47 assault rifles at close range.   In no way can this horrific carnage be affirmed by any contorted interpretation of the Holy Qur’an or any other known sacred scriptures.

Bistro fare often comforts on dark days. Please slowly dine on this sauté + ragoût with family and friends, preferably with bare feet.

CHICKEN FRICASSEE + LENTILS

2 lbs local chicken wings, legs, thighs (perhaps more goodies, like gizzards)
Some chicken stock, a couple tabs of unsalted butter & extra virgin olive oil

2 medium carrots, peeled and carved into 1″ pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 medium turnip, peeled and carved into 1″ pieces
4-5 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 t dried herbes de provence
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 t dried oregano
2 dried bay leaves

1 lb dried lentilles du puy
3 C water and chicken stock, combined in equal parts (1 1/2 C each)

Splash of apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Grated parmiggiano-reggianno & tarragon

Put the wings, legs, thighs, etc. into a large, heavy, Dutch oven or sauté pan with some chicken stock, butter and olive oil. Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes per side, until the chicken is browned.

Add the carrots, onion, turnip, garlic, oregano, thyme sprigs, herbes de provence, and bay leaves to the Dutch oven or sauté pan and cook for about a minute or two.  Do not burn anything.

Then, add the lentils du puy, water, salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar, and reduce the heat but still boil gently, covered, for some 30 minutes. Assure that the lentils are quite tender and, of course, most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.  Serve in shallow soup bowls with chicken atop, and finish with fresh tarragon leaves and a fresh grating of parmiggiano-reggiano.

A man must keep his mouth open a long while before a roast pigeon flies into it.
~Danish proverb

Le grand débat: white or dark?

Dark meat is composed of muscle fibers that are termed “slow-twitch.” These muscles contract slowly and are used for extended periods of activity, such as casual walking, thus needing a consistent energy source. The hemoprotein myoglobin stores oxygen in muscle cells, which then uses this oxygen to extract the energy needed for endurance and slower repetitive activity. A strongly pigmented protein, the more cellular myoglobin that exists, the darker the meat and the richer in nutrient levels.

Dark meat is flusher than white in minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium, as well as vitamins A, K and the B complex — B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) B6, B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin). Taurine is also found abundantly in dark meat — a nutrient known to aid in anti-inflammation, blood pressure regulation, healthy nerve function, and the production of bile acid (which breaks down fat).

Myoglobin’s color varies depending on the meat’s internal temperature. For instance, with rare beef, the myoglobin’s red color remains unchanged. But, above 140 F, myoglobin loses its ability to bind oxygen, and the iron atom at the center of its molecular structure loses an electron, forming a tan-hued compound called hemichrome. Then, when the interior of the meat reaches 170 F, hemichrome levels rise, creating that characteristic brownish gray metmyoglobin often seen on shoe soles.

White meat is comprised of “fast-twitch” muscle fibers which contract swiftly and are used for rapid bursts of activity, such as jumping or sprinting, and so absorb energy from stored glycogen, a multibranched saccharide of glucose residues. When raw, white meat has a translucent look. When cooked, the proteins denature and recombine, and the meat becomes opaque and whitish to sight. It is admittedly lower in saturated fat and calories, so it has been promoted as the healthier alternative even though white meat has fewer nutrients than dark, is more difficult to digest and contains no taurine. Often obscenely slim on taste, diners often compensate for the dryness and whiteness with sauces, gravies or dressings which render white meat more fatty and less nutritious in the long run.

So, the process of deciding between dark and white will likely prove an alimental impasse. Aromas and flavors should reign instead, and you likely know where my vote lies. By all means though, of course, please make your own call (without presenting ID).

On to the birds. Squabs are simply fledgling domesticated pigeons, typically dressed about four weeks after hatching and even before they even have flown. Thus, they are much easier to snatch before slaughter. They have been bred for centuries, dating back to early Asian and Arabic cultures and now are found on tables across the globe. The term derives from the Scandinavian svkabb which means “loose or fat flesh,” as squabs are dark, tender and moist — often almost silky to the palate.

Damned delectable, dark and sensual critters.

ROAST SQUABS

2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into sixths

4 squabs, about 3/4 lbs each
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 bay leaves
4 large, plump garlic cloves, peeled and slightly smashed
4 T unsalted butter, softened
1/2 T coriander seeds, roasted and ground

4 medium turnips, peeled and halved
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 T olive oil

4 T red wine, such as a zinfandel or burgundy
2 T cognac or brandy
1/2 C chicken broth
2 T butter

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Season the cavities of the squabs with salt and pepper. Inside each, place a sprig of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf and a clove of garlic. On the outside, rub with softened butter and season with salt, pepper and coriander. Tie legs together with kitchen twine so they do not spread.

Put squabs in a large, heavy roasting pan, breast side up. Strew the turnips, parsnips, carrots and apples around them. Brush the turnips, parsnips and carrots with olive oil. Cook 15-20 minutes, basting the squabs and vegetables fairly often with juices and turn the vegetables at least once.

Remove the apples, set them aside in a bowl and keep warm by loosely tenting with foil. Add the wine and chicken broth. Cook 10 minutes longer, basting often and occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan. The birds should be cooked slightly pink in thickest part of the thigh, about 130-145 F with a meat thermometer. Please beware that if squab is cooked beyond medium rare, the flesh becomes overly dry and the flavor livery. Overturn a soup bowl and place under one end of a platter or cutting board so it is inclined.

Lift the squabs with a carving fork at an angle and allow the juices to flow into the pan. Remove and discard the herbs and garlic cloves. Put squabs on the tilted serving platter or cutting board breast sides down and tails in the air, loosely tented.

Meanwhile, place the roasting pan on top of the stove. Bring the sauce beginnings to a simmer, add the cognac and then the butter, and blend together, stirring with a wooden spatula and scraping. Add some chicken broth and cook further. With a slotted spoon, remove the turnips, parsnips and carrots and place in a tented glass bowl.

Cut twine, and only if desired, carve the squabs in halves and serve with turnips, parsnips, carrots, apples and bathed lightly in sauce. Accompany the squabs with puréed or smashed potatoes or polenta or rice pilaf and a green du jour.

Pourboire: Other methods that come to mind would be to braise the squabs in wine and broth or place the squabs first on their sides and cook in a sauté pan, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 15 minutes and then turn squabs breast up and transfer to the oven, roasting for only 5 minutes or so.

The only difference between (people) all the world over is one of degree, and not of kind, even as there is between trees of the same species. Wherein is the cause for anger, envy or discrimination?
~Mahatma Gandhi

Pot-au-feu translates as “pot on the fire,” which is hearty French peasant fare. Granted, there is no raw beef, ginger, cardomom, cinnamon, mint, Thai chilies, basil, fish sauce, noodles (banh pho) or differing condiments and sauces as are found in phở (See February 3, 2009). Also, those seductive noodle sucking sounds are sadly lacking in pot-au-feu. But, given their culinary roots, cultural links, and France’s occupancy, colonization and even decimation of the Vietnamese peoples (preceded by China, followed by Japan and then the US) — it would not be surprising if feu slowly morphed into phở. Both words seem suspiciously harmonious to the ear. However, some etymologists dipute this assertion, especially given the stark culinary dissimilarities between the two dishes and due to some vague historical references.

POT AU FEU

1 lb beef shoulder or brisket
6 pieces of oxtail, cut 1 1/2″ thick
6 beef short ribs
1 veal shank, bone-in

6 whole cloves
2 onions, cut in halves
6 leeks, white part only
2 small celery roots, cut into quarters
2 medium turnips, cut into quarters
1 head garlic, cut transversely
4 medium carrots, cut into 4″ lengths
1 bouquet garni (2 sprig of flat parsley, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 2 bay leaves, stringed together)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 new red and white potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 cabbage head, cored and cut into 7 wedges

1 baguette, sliced
Parmigiano-reggiano, grated

1/2 lb cornichons
1 C coarse sea salt
1 C hot Dijon mustard

In a large pot, combine the beef, oxtail, short ribs, and veal shank, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and as soon as the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat. Set the meat aside and throw out the water. Clean the pot and then put the meat right back into the pot.

Push cloves into each onion half and add the onions to the pot, along with the leeks, celery roots, turnips, garlic, carrots, and bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper and cover with cold water.

Bring the pot to a slow simmer, gradually, and let cook over medium low heat until the meat is tender or around 2 1/2 hours. Skim the cooking liquid with a ladle periodically to remove scum and foam. Add the potatoes and cabbage and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until soft. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Remove the beef (shoulder or brisket) from the pot and slice into thick pieces. Remove the veal shank from the pot and cut the meat off the bone, again into ample pieces. Retrieve the marrow from the veal bone.

Pour some broth into serving bowls along with grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese with thick slices of toasted baguette. Arrange the meats, marrow, and vegetables on a serving platter and ladle some cooking liquid over and around. Serve the rest in a sauce boat.

Put the cornichons, sea salt, and Dijon mustard into bowls on the table.

Cumin Roasted Carrots

June 8, 2010

The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed will set off a revolution.
~Paul Cezanne

A little sidework.

Native to upper Egypt, cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is the seed of a small flowering umbelliferous plant. Cumin “seeds” are actually the tiny, compressed dried fruit of this annual herbaceous plant which belongs to the parsley family. Unassuming by nature, it is an almost timeless spice with a distinctive warm aroma due to its exuberant oil content. Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds (Carum carvi), being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellowish brown in color. Cumin, however, are lighter in hue and have minute bristles barely visible to the naked eye.

This is one old seed. They have been dated to the second millenium BC in what is now known as Syria. The Romans and Greeks used it medicinally and even cosmetically to induce a pallid complexion. In the classic world, cumin symbolized greed. So, the avaricious Roman emperors, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius (his adoptive son), each came to be known behind closed doors as Cuminus.

During the Middle Ages, cumin became recognized as a symbol of love and fidelity, finding its way into the pockets of optimistic brides and grooms. Well, that works half the time…or less.

CUMIN ROASTED CARROTS & ROSEMARY

10 slender carrots, with tops
Extra virgin olive oil
3 t cumin seed, pan roasted and lightly crushed
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 rosemary sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh Italian parsley, stemmed and chopped for garnish (optional)

With rack in the lower third, preheat oven to 400 F

Place cumin in a small, heavy skillet and roast over medium heat just until the essences are released. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Roughly crush with a mortar and pestle.

If the carrots seem too thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not, leave them whole. Cut greens off carrots but leave small lengths of the green tops attached (for effect). Arrange carrots and garlic on a baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil, and season with the crushed cumin seeds, salt and pepper. Strew the rosemary sprigs around the carrots. Toss so the carrots are well coated. Roast until tender and slightly golden brown, about 25 minutes or so, turning once or twice. Cooking time does vary with carrot size, so just monitor color and texture. Remove and discard garlic cloves and herbs before serving.

Plate and lightly sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.
~Victor Hugo

Attributed to a 14th century English friar, William of Ockham, Occam’s razor is the heuristic principle that entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity (entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem). So, it follows that the simplest solution is usually the correct one.

As the esteemed Stephen Hawking noted in A Brief History of Time:

“We could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some supernatural being, who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it. However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us mortals. It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam’s razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed.”

In the kitchen and on the table, the same principle of parsimony often reigns. Slowly cooked root vegetables are a culinary epitome of this theory…agrestic simplicity.

Just cut the turnips and celeriac in roughly the same sizes as the other roots so they cook fairly evenly. Please do not fret — the perfection of imperfection should be the goal.

BRAISED ROOT VEGETABLES

1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T unsalted butter
1 lb parsnips, trimmed, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 lb smaller carrots, peeled and tops trimmed
1 lb turnips, trimmed, peeled and cut thickly lengthwise
1 lb celeriac, trimmed, peeled and cut thickly lengthwise
4 large shallots, trimmed, peeled and halved lengthwise
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 C chicken stock
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 T unsalted butter, chilled and chopped into bits

1/2 C parsley and thyme, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the olive oil and butter into a large pot over medium high heat. Add the vegetables, toss to coat well and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken stock, thyme sprigs, bay leaf and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add butter and toss well. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with mixed herbs.

Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them.
~Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

More white, more chill, more raw drafts, more winter light—with that sometimes dreaded V Day staring you down—all serve to page this comfy stew. So, please don’t lamely bring home those insipid red roses or banal boxed bonbons on Sunday. Instead, usher to the table a bodacious, succulent soul meant to warm your cockles. Peasant fare gone haute cuisine? Doubtful, but that does nothing to diminish the luscious carnality, even nobility, of this dish.

Never forget that careful kitchen caresses often reap sensual rewards.

Bourgogne (Burgundy), a région encompassing the départements of Côte-d’Or, Saône-et-Loire, Nièvre, and Yonne, is a diverse historic region in east central France—a mere 1 hour 20 minutes due southeast of Paris by TGV rail.

The Burgundians were a Scandinavian people whose original homeland lay on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea, where the island of Bornholm (Burgundarholm in the Middle Ages) still bears their name. During the 1st century, they migrated westward to the borders of the Roman Empire. There they established a powerful kingdom, which by the early 5th century extended to the west bank of the Rhine River and later centered on Sapaudia (Savoy) near Lake Geneva. The history of Burgundy is rather complicated, convoluted, even twisted at times. So, I will endeavor to address it in segments in later posts — suffice it to say it is more a state of mind than a place.

BOURGUIGNON D’AGNEAU (LAMB BOURGUIGNON)

1/2 lb thick bacon, cut into lardons (1/4″ x 1″)
1 T extra virgin olive oil

3 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into 2″ cubes, patted dry

2 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thickly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 T all purpose flour

3 C dry red wine, such as a Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir
3 C beef stock
1 T tomato paste
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled

Braised onions
24 smaller white pearl onions
2 T butter
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C beef stock
Bouquet garni (parsley sprig, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, tied in cheesecloth)

Sautéed mushrooms
1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Freshly parsley leaves, chopped (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 450 F

Simmer lardons for 10 minutes in water, then drain and dry on paper towels. Sauté lardons in olive oil in a heavy large Dutch oven over low medium heat to lightly brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a large side dish with a slotted spoon.

Heat lardon fat in same Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add lamb, well spaced, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Place the browned lamb in the dish with the lardons. Add the sliced carrots, parsnips and onions to the same pot and brown, then pour out excess fat.

Return the lamb and lardons with the carrots, parsnips and onions to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle with flour and toss again to coat the contents lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle of preheated oven for 8 minutes, tossing once or twice.

Transfer Dutch oven to stove top and reduce oven heat to 325 F.

Stir in wine and enough stock to barely cover the meat and vegetables. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a kind simmer on the stove top. Cover Dutch oven and set in lower third of oven. Again, bring to a gentle simmer until fork pierces meat easily, about 3-4 hours. While the lamb is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Braised onions
In a deep heavy skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible, remaining careful not to break the skins.

Add the stock, bouquet garni, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove bouquet garni and set onions aside.

Sautéed mushrooms
Carefully wipe out skillet with paper towels and heat remaining oil and butter over medium high heat. Once butter has begun to bubble but not brown, add mushrooms. Toss until they brown lightly, about 4-5 minutes and then remove from heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the pot into a sieve set over a saucepan in order to make a sauce. Wash out the Dutch oven and return the lamb and lardons, strewing the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

Meanwhile, skim fat off sauce in saucepan, and then simmer sauce for a couple of minutes, skimming off additional fat until reduced enough to coat a spoon. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, whisk in a few tablespoons stock. Taste and if necessary, correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, tossing and basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

Serve with artisanal noodles or potatoes, topped with parsley.

Pourboire: Please do not forget Julia Child’s mantra about browning —
(1) The meat should be thoroughly dried
(2) The oil in the pan should be quite hot
(3) Do not crowd the meat in the pan

I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.
~Mae West

Carrots (Daucus carota) are root vegetables that have been traced back to ancient Roman texts of the 3rd century. Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family along with neighboring parsnips, fennel, caraway, cumin, and dill. Ancestors of today’s cultivated carrots likely originated in present day Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago, probably as a purple or yellow root.

Do you suppose more carrot consumption over past centuries could have avoided the collective myopia inherent in Afghan invasions and the seemingly endless conflict? (See below).

Coming in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, carrots are a true multitasker—raw, steamed, roasted, in soups and stews, mirepoix, cakes, puddings, juices, and so on.

Mama reminded that you should down your carrots. Although some debate exists over this maternal advice, it may not have been just intuition or urban legend. Carrots are a potent source of antioxidant compounds, and contain healthy doses of vitamin A carotenes. If your diet is unbalanced and deficient in vitamin A, carrots have been found to help preserve or improve vision. In a five-year study, scientists in Ireland showed that the intake of high levels of carotenoids preserved macular pigments, slowing down the progression from early to late age related macular degeneration. In addition to improving vision, carrots have been traditionally known to treat digestive problems and parasites.

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD

1 lb carrots, peeled, julienned or halved lengthwise then sliced diagonally into 1″ pieces

1 t ground cumin
1 t paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne
3 t honey
2-3 t white wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

1/2 C flat leaf parsley, chopped

Bibb lettuce leaves

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the carrots until just tender. Drain and cool to room temperature. Set aside.

Combine the cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, honey, wine vinegar, olive oil and whisk vigorously. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the carrots and parsley, then toss to coat well.

Marinate for a few hours, then serve over lettuce.

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD II

2 large carrots, peeled

3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, puréed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 t cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 t coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 t sweet paprika
2 pinches cayenne

2 t sugar or honey
2-3 T fresh lemon juice
1/3 C flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Kalamata olives, pitted

Slice the carrots in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife or corer, remove the carrot cores and discard. Then, slice carrots diagonally into 1″ pieces. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil, salt and then cook carrots until just soft but not mushy, about 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and then plunge carrots into an ice water bath to halt cooking. Drain and dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, purée the garlic cloves with the side of a chef’s knife or a mortar and pestle with a little salt. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until the garlic and spices just become fragrant, but do not burn. Remove from heat.

Whisk together sugar or honey, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper and then add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in a stream while whisking. Heat skillet with spices again and then add the carrots back to the pan with the garlic and spices and stir for a few minutes. Add the honey/lemon juice/oil “emulsion” and stir together for a few more minutes, until the carrots are just glazed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to a platter, and garnish with olives. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

ROASTED CARROTS

1 1/2 lbs organic baby carrots,* washed, with greens cropped
1 yellow onion, peeled, cut into 8 wedges
2 T fresh chopped rosemary
1 head garlic, cut across in halves
3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Gently toss together the carrots, onion, rosemary to coat with the olive oil. Arrange the carrots, onion, and rosemary in a baking dish (line with aluminum foil to ease clean up). Gently tossed so they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast until nicely browned, about 30-40 minutes.

*Use organic local carrots which are the smaller sticks (4″-6″ long) with greens still attached, and not the commercial thumb sized variety that comes in a plastic bag.