Ninth week in lockdown and even though there’s still no sign of life in any of New York’s 18,000 restaurants, my kitchen hasn’t stopped cranking them out like a hand sanitizer factory. At this point I’d like to say a little prayer: “Dear God, please bless my dishwasher and make sure it never stops running. Amen.”
I will never dispute the fact that browning meat is one of the most crucial flavor-forming processes in any braised dish. But browning is also a time-consuming ritual that usually ends up in oil-smeared cabinets, floors, light fittings and counter-tops. I not only adore the rich, dark and wonderfully Asian flavors of this Braised Short-rib, but there’s no browning required. Eat your heart out. Literally.
CHINESE BRAISED BEEF
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
- 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 3 scallions, white and green parts separated, green parts sliced thin on bias, white parts sliced into 2″ pieces
- 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled, halved lengthwise, and smashed
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 pounds boneless chuck short ribs, trimmed of fat and cut into 4-inch lengths. Do not slice into smaller chunks. That happens later on)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Sprinkle gelatin over 2 1/2 cups water in Dutch oven and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. (Unless using a slow cooker.)
Heat softened gelatin over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in sherry, soy sauce, hoisin, molasses, scallion whites, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, and pepper flakes. Stir in beef and bring to simmer. Remove pot from heat. Cover tightly with sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then lid. Transfer to oven and cook until beef is tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring halfway through cooking. (Alternatively you can use a slow-cooker on High heat for the same time duration.)
Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to cutting board. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Wipe out pot with paper towels. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted liquid to now-empty pot. Cook liquid over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 1 cup, 20 to 25 minutes.
While sauce reduces, using 2 forks, break beef into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Whisk cornstarch and remaining 1 tablespoon water together in small bowl.
Reduce heat to medium-low, whisk cornstarch mixture into reduced sauce, and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Return beef to sauce and stir to coat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is heated through, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle scallion greens over top. Serves 4.
This week kicked off with Memorial Day, and so I had to figure out an indoors-outdoors recipe to make it feel a bit more like the holiday it normally is. And while a stove-top burger might be as taboo as ice-cream in winter, when you grind your own short-rib, bake your own brioche buns and mix your own special sauce, it’s the real deal.
SHORT RIB CHEESEBURGER
For the burger:
- 1lb boneless short-rib
- 1 tblspn cooking oil
- Salt and pepper
- American or Swiss cheese slices
- Brioche sesame bun
- Pickles, lettuce, tomato etc.
Grind the short-rib and bring it to room temperature. Divide the mixture and shape it very loosely into balls. Do not be tempted to press them into patties or compact them too much. You want to keep them fairly loose. Heat a cast-iron skillet on Medium-high until it is almost smoking. Add the oil and when the oil is hot add the meatballs, gently pressing them down into patties. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook without disturbing them for 3 minutes. Flip them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and drape a square of cheese over each patty and cover. Turn off the heat and let the cheese melt for another 2 minutes. Serves 2.
For the Sauce:
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tblspn soy sauce
- 1 tblspn dark brown sugar
- 1 tblspn Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tblspn chives, minced
- 3/4 tsp pepper
Whist all ingredients together and refrigerate until needed. Serves 6.
There are probably a zillion recipes for glazed pork chops, but this one involves a breading batter, which is every bit as simple as it is delicious.
HONEY GARLIC PORK CHOPS
- 4 Center loin pork chops, well trimmed
- 1 cup Flour
- 2 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Black pepper
- 1½ tbsp Ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp Ground nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp Paprika
- ½ tsp Cayenne pepper
- 2 Eggs
- 4 Tbsp water
- For the Honey Garlic Sauce:
- 2 Tbsp Olive oil
- 3 – 4 Cloves minced garlic
- 1 cup Honey
- ¼ cup Soy sauce
- 1 tsp Ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan add the 2 tbsp olive oil and minced garlic. Cook over medium heat to soften the garlic but do not let it brown.
Add the honey, soy sauce and black pepper.
Simmer together for 5-10 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Sift together the flour, salt, black pepper, ground ginger, nutmeg, paprika and cayenne pepper.
Make an egg wash by whisking together the eggs and water.
Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, then dip the meat in the flour and spice mixture.
Dip the chop into the eggwash and then a final time into the flour and spice mix, pressing the mix into the meat to get good contact.
Heat a skillet on the stove with about a half inch of canola oil covering the bottom. You will want to carefully regulate the temperature here so that the chops does not brown too quickly.
Fry them gently for about 4 or 5 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.
Drain on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before dipping the cooked pork chops into the Honey Garlic Sauce.
Serve immediately. Serves 4.
As the weather heats up and the days get longer, you’re going to start seeing more and more salad-y dinners on my lists. I generally don’t start cooking until after the 7pm first responders “clap”, but when the sun only sets after 8:30pm, I don’t want us to be doing major dishes at 10pm. Know what I mean? This is a delightful room-temperature salad and the shrimp can be easily substituted with cooked salmon.
ROASTED SHRIMP AND ORZO SALAD
- Kosher salt
- Good olive oil
- 3/8 pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, (can be substituted with cooked salmon)
- 1/2 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
- 1/4 cup small-diced red onion
- 3/8 pound good feta cheese, large diced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.
Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don’t overcook!
Add the shrimp (or shredded cooked salmon) to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving. Serves 4.
You can never have too many cucumbers, but if you do, here are two amazing cucumber salads. A few weeks ago, I shared my Chicken Satay recipe. This is a heat-free, meat-free variation that uses a very similar peanut sauce – but with the fresh crispness of Persian cucumbers.
CUCUMBER SALAD WITH PEANUTS
- 6 Persian cucumbers (about 1 pound), cut lengthwise into thin spears, then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
- Kosher salt
- ¼ cup salted, roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves (mint can be substituted)
- 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons natural unsalted peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- Chile oil, store-bought or homemade, for serving (optional)
Toss cucumbers with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a colander. Set aside to drain. Chop peanuts, cilantro (or mint) and red-pepper flakes together until very fine. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add up to 1 tablespoon water, if needed to thin mixture. Transfer salted cucumbers to the bowl with dressing and toss to coat.
To serve, place half the cucumber salad on the plate, sprinkle with half the peanut mixture. Repeat with the remaining cucumber salad and peanut mixture. Drizzle with chile oil, if using, and serve immediately. Serves 4.
And I ate something very similar to this one in Greece a few years ago. It’s a heavenly combination of sweet, sour and surprising. (And it has show-stopping good looks too.)
STRAWBERRY CUCUMBER SALAD
- 1 punnet rinsed and thinly sliced Strawberries
- 1 cucumber sliced into discs.
- 2 tblspns roughly chopped hazelnuts
- Balsamic vinegar
- Black pepper
Arrange the strawberry and cucumber slices in concentric circles in a round, shallow dish. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts, balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 2.
OK, confession time. I’m not a great baker. There, I said it. Mostly because you have to be so darn accurate, and also because it’s more about chemistry than alchemy. Whatever. But this week we were inspired to bake the world’s most foolproof Challah ever. It’s another America’s Test Kitchen offering that…just…works. It turned out to be a whole lot larger than we were expecting, but it is a profoundly majestic, statuesque, mahogany work of art with a soft, fluffy, sweet and nostalgia-filled inside. (It also made for an amazing French toast on Sunday. See below)
For the Flour Paste:
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoons bread flour
For the Dough:
- 1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 ¾ cups (15⅛ ounces) bread flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- Vegetable oil spray
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 large egg
- Pinch table salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)
For the flour paste: Whisk water and flour in bowl until no lumps remain. Microwave, whisking every 20 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency that forms mound when dropped from end of whisk into bowl, 40 to 80 seconds.
For the dough: In bowl of stand mixer, whisk flour paste, egg and yolks, water, and oil until well combined. Add flour and yeast. Fit mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 3 to 4 minutes. Let stand for 20 minutes.
Add sugar and salt and mix on medium speed for 9 minutes (dough will be quite firm and dry). Transfer dough to counter and lightly spray now-empty mixer bowl with oil spray. Knead dough briefly to form ball and return it to prepared bowl. Lightly spray dough with oil spray and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise until about doubled in volume, about 1½ hours.
Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and nest in second rimmed baking sheet. Transfer dough to counter and press into 8-inch square, expelling as much air as possible. Cut dough in half lengthwise to form 2 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half lengthwise to form 4 equal strips of dough. Roll 1 strip of dough into 16-inch rope. Continue rolling, tapering ends, until rope is 18 inches long. Repeat with remaining dough strips. Arrange ropes in plus-sign shape, with 4 ends overlapping in center by ½ inch. Firmly press center of cross into counter to seal ropes to each other and to counter.
Lift rope at 12 o’clock, bring over center, and place in 5 o’clock position. Lift rope at 6 o’clock, bring over center, and place in 12 o’clock position.
Lift rope at 9 o’clock, bring over center, and place in 4 o’clock position. Lift rope at 3 o’clock and, working toward yourself, bring over braid and place in 8 o’clock position. Adjust ropes so they are at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions.
Repeat steps 5 and 6, working toward yourself, until you can no longer braid. Loaf will naturally list to 1 side.
Pinch ends of ropes together and tuck both ends under braid. Carefully transfer braid to prepared sheets. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise until dough does not spring back fully when gently pressed with your knuckle, about 3 hours.
For the egg wash: Thirty minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together egg and salt. Brush loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake until loaf is deep golden brown and registers at least 195 degrees, 30 – 35 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 20 minutes. Transfer loaf to wire rack and let cool completely before slicing, about 2 hours. Serves 10.
I happen to think that the only thing more wonderful than pairing fish with Green-goddess dressing is when you can blister the skin into a crunchy crisp. You can use practically any red or white fish here, but after making eye contact with a handsome Red Snapper, all I could think of was: “Get in my belly!”
CRISPY SKINNED FISH WITH GREEN GODDESS
- 2 (6-ounce) skin-on meaty whitefish fillets (such as striped bass, redfish, rockfish, or snapper), patted dry with paper towels
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped scallion greens
- 1/4 cup watercress
- 1/2 cup packed mixed fresh herb leaves (such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, tarragon, cilantro, and/or dill), divided
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 jarred anchovy fillets, drained
- 2 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 to 2 tablespoon grapeseed oil, as needed, divided
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, as needed
- 1 large head Little Gem lettuce, outer leaves separated, heads halved lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons lower-sodium chicken broth
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, papery skins removed and nuts roughly chopped
Place fish fillets, skin sides up, on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours or overnight.
Process scallion greens, watercress, 1/4 cup fresh herbs, mayonnaise, sour cream, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon water, anchovies, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in lowest position. Season both sides of fillets with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high until a wisp of smoke forms.
Lay 1 fillet, skin side down, in skillet, and immediately press down on fillet evenly and with firm pressure using a stiff spatula; press 30 seconds. Check the skin by gently lifting a corner of the fillet; if it needs a little more time to begin lightly browning around the edges, cook an additional 15 seconds. Add the second fillet and repeat. Transfer skillet to lowest rack of preheated oven; cook according to fillet thickness, about 8 minutes per inch. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium. Add lettuce and 1/4 teaspoon salt to skillet; cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and add broth; cook, tossing occasionally, until lettuce is tender, 2 to 4 minutes.
Spread dressing evenly on 2 plates. Top evenly with braised lettuce, fish fillets, hazelnuts, and remaining fresh herbs. Drizzle fish with remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Serve immediately. Serves 2.
When I asked one of my dear friends from Oklahoma if she’d ever eaten French cuisine before, she giggled a little, looked at me oddly and then replied, “Why, of course. French fries. French toast. I love French food!” But seriously, if you’re one of those people who thinks that French toast is just bread dipped into beaten egg and fried in butter, then please prepare your mind to be blown.
DELUXE FRENCH TOAST
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for frying
- ¾ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 4 slices day-old challah bread (3/4-inch-thick) or 6 slices day-old sandwich bread
Heat 10- to 12-inch skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, using a hand-mixer, beat egg lightly in a bowl. Whisk in butter, then milk and vanilla, and finally sugar, flour, and salt, continuing to whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture into a pie plate and soak bread without oversaturating, about 40 seconds per side for challah or 30 seconds per side for sandwich bread. Pick up bread and allow excess batter to drip off; repeat with remaining slices.
Swirl 1 tablespoon butter in hot skillet. Transfer 2 slices of the prepared bread to skillet; cook until golden brown, about 1 minute 45 seconds on first side and 1 minute on the second. Serve immediately. Continue, adding 1 tablespoon butter to skillet for each new batch. Serves 2.
Stay safe. Stay sane, but most importantly – stay at home!