What is spaetzle? It sounds like some horrific German monstrosity somehow related to spaying Cocker Spaniels, but instead it is a pasta like dumpling hailing from Alsace.
The pancaked like batter of the spaetzle with fresh tarragon and chives
I had never had spaetzle before let alone made it. At first I thought it was going to turn out horribly and I had no hope that it would taste good. I thought people would chew and pretend to like it saying oh well you know I’ll eat anything. This was not the case. It was universally liked; there were no ah’s and ooh’s of amazement, but no one pushed it around their plate pretending to eat it. I would definitely like to try making it again to see if I could do a better job and next time I would leave out of the tarragon because I have learned that I do not like tarragon (the smell reminds of something akin to toothpaste).
The spaetzle was not the main centerpiece of this meal though it was the perfect complement to these braised cider short ribs. I love braised meats. Well, frankly I like braising anything. Slow cooked to tenderness with deep, fully developed flavors and charred bits of yummy things stuck to your teeth, what could be better? Plus braising lends itself well to cheap meats and cooking with alcohol.
The alcohol of choice this time was Old Rosie’s Scrumpy Cider. Scrumpy refers to small batch or home-made ciders as opposed to mass produced ciders. This was a particularly tangy cider that I was unsure about during the cooking process. The broth took on a very sour flavor at one point that I thought was going to turn out fairly rancid tasting, but after messing around a bit with some vegetable stock and brown sugar I came out with a flavorful, intense sauce with only a bit of tang after nearly three hours of cooking.
The first step with any meat braise is to brown your meat. I started with four fairly large short ribs from Whole Foods and browned them in about three tablespoons of olive oil in my cast iron dutch oven.
The browning process takes about twenty minutes and you don’t want to rush it. You want every side of your meat to be evenly browned. This is not a quick cooking process and you will need to take some considerable time and attention out of your day to do it.
Next you want to remove the meat from the pan and then four chopped shallots (or onions if you’re one of those people). Cook until soft (about five to ten minutes) then add the meat back to the pan.
After putting the meat back in, add one cup of cider and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about an hour then add three tablespoons of brown sugar and two cups of vegetable stock and cook for another hour and a half.
In October I made a number of meals based on alcohol. I generally don’t drink a lot of alcohol or cook with it usually. Usually when cooking with alcohol it is wine or in desserts. I don’t like to drink wine so why would I cook with it?
This recipe is based on Sam Adams’ Pumpkin Ale, a beer that I would never drink but turned out wonderful as a base for hearty beef and barley stew. The broth of the stew ended up tasting like the gravy in Shepherd’s Pie. It was incredibly flavorful and filling.
I started with pre-cut stew meat from Safeway and chopped it into smaller pieces. I browned this with shallots and carrots in some olive oil. Then I added a bottle of Sam Adams’ Pumpkin Ale and a cup of vegetable stock. I brought this to a boil then added a half cup of pearled barley. I brought it down to a simmer and let it cook for about forty-five minutes or until the barley was completely tender.
I used up the last of my ground beef in a sort of hash. I washed and cut up one russet potato. I put this in a skillet with a little bit of vegetable on medium heat, seasoned with salt, pepper, and minced garlic. I browned the potatoes and then added the rest of my ground beef (about half a pound). I added more salt, pepper, and garlic. I let this brown a bit and then I added some diced carrots. Once the meat was browned I added Lipton’s french onion soup mix. I cooked the meat through and served it with a tortilla. It turned out saltier than I would have liked, but it was still pretty good tasting.
Now I hated sloppy joes as a kid. I have never been the biggest fan of ground beef. There is something about the texture that I’m not the biggest fan of. However, I’ve learned to like it because it is fast to cook, easy to prepare, and very cheap. Another thing I hated was the squishy texture of the sloppy joe mixture mixed with crunchy onions. Today I wanted to try to create a sloppy joe that I would like.
I used about a 1/4 lb of 90% lean ground organic beef (the same as I used in my hamburger yesterday), a teaspoon of chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and about a tablespoon of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (that was what we had in the fridge, not my first choice). I put this all in a pan at about medium heat. I also added about an 1/8 cup already chopped raw carrots. While this was cooking, I diced some pineapple and added this to the pan. I cooked this for about ten to fifteen minutes. I toasted a whole hamburger bun, sliced half of a Bacon avocado, and added a couple pieces of brocolli to the pan.
What came out was absolutely delicious. It was salt, sweet, tangy, and a bit spicy. I think it would have been great on top of rice or with rice noodles.
Yesterday I made a hamburger made with 90% lean ground organic beef from Whole Foods Market in Santa Cruz. I mixed about a 1/4 lb of meat with a teaspoon of chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. I heated a skillet with some oil in it and added my patty to the pan. While the first side of the burger was cooking I sliced some pineapple and half of a Bacon avocado. A Bacon avocado is a variety of avocado with a smooth green skin and smaller than a Hass. It has a slight bacon flavor, hence the name. I can’t find them in the grocery store, but they are available around here at farmer’s markets and road side produce stands. After cooking one side of the burger for about six minutes I flipped it over and added the pineapple to the pan. I put some hoisin sauce on top of the burger. I toasted a whole wheat bun in the toaster. After toasting the bun I spread hoisin sauce on the top bun, then added the avocado and pineapple. To finish the hamburger off I sprinkled a little cheese on top. In all, I cooked the burger to about medium (six minutes on each side).
It was very tasty, but I had a hard time eating because I have bell’s palsy right now. I had to take a knife and fork to it.
Congratulations to the Saints for winning their first super bowl. That interception was great and I think Peyton Manning was crying. My friend Katie hosted the game at her house and we made bbq. Andrew (my boyfriend) and I brought over wine and garlic marinated tri-tip from Shopper’s Corner, homemade baked beans, and Heifeweizen. The baked beans attacked me on the way to Katie’s house and I received some burns. I’m very accident prone.
My friend Richard made jalapeno poppers. These were made with jalapeno peppers, cream cheese, and bacon. He sliced the peppers lengthwise, scraped some of the ribs and seeds out to cut down on heat, and filled them with cream cheese. He then wrapped them in bacon and secured the bacon with toothpicks. These were placed on the grill for about twenty-five minutes. The bacon caught on fire at one point. Richard cut himself while making them. It was a day for accidents.
Katie made pulled pork shoulder which is her specialty. It was delicious. She served this with Hawaiin rolls. I’m not sure exactly how she made the pork shoulder, but generally she does worcestshire sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper and puts this in a big covered dish in the oven on a low temperature for about three hours. Then she slathers it in bbq sauce (this time Stubb’s brand) and then put in a roasting pan over the grill for another half hour or so. She pulls the pork apart with a couple of forks and adds more bbq sauce.
Andrew cooked the tri-tip on the grill for about forty minutes. It came out delicious. The wine and garlic marinade makes for the best tri-tip.
Now making home made baked beans was quite an ordeal without getting burned by them in the car. I used dried pink beans. I did not soak my beans overnight. You are supposed to soak them overnight so you get a better texture and a quicker cooking time. They cooked quickly enough for me even though I didn’t soak them. I made a recipe called Boston Baked Beans from the North American section of my Around the World cook book.
- 3 cups pink beans
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 3/4 dark brown sugar
- 8 0z. salt pork blanched and scored or 8 0z. bacon (I used bacon)
- 2 large onions
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 cup boiling water
1. Place your beans in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Bring this to a boil. Boil for about ten minutes then reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for an hour and a half to two hours. Pre-heat oven to 275° F.
2. Chop your onion into large chunks. Place these into a large casserole dish. Pour half the beans into the casserole dish. Place the bacon on top. Pour the rest of the beans on top of the bacon. Mix molasses, sugar, salt, and pepper into boiling water. Pour this onto the beans. Cover with a lid or tin foil.
3. Cook beans in oven for four hours. During the last half hour uncover. Do not spill the liquid out while getting into a car and burning yourself.
I had plenty of jambalya rice leftover from the other night. That meant at least a couple more meals using that as my base. The past two nights I’ve created essentially the same dish with some minor changes.
On Thursday night I layered jambalaya rice, ranch style beans (canned pinto beans with a spicy sauce), baby spinach, avocado, and thin cut steak. I cooked the steak under the broiler for about ten minutes using salt, pepper, and garlic powder as seasoning. I pretty much microwaved everything else except the spinach and avocado. The bottom layer was rice, then spinach,then beans, then avocado, and finally steak. I ate this with a spelt tortilla that crisped up on the stove top. I had never eaten a spelt tortilla before and it was delicious! Of course I covered the entire thing in tapatio sauce after taking the picture. Tapatio sauce is just not photogenic.
The other meal that I made today after work was essentially the same thing without the spinach. I layered rice, beans, babybell cheese, and steak and then microwaved this for about two and a half minutes. Then I added the avocado. I ate this with another spelt tortilla and the requisite tapatio sauce.
When it comes to which one was better I don’t know. I think Thursday night’s was healthier. They were both pretty good.
My dinners this week have not been the most exciting or creative. Dinner tonight consisted of a roast beef sandwich and a spoonful of Better Than Peanut Butter (a peanut butter substitute made from peanut flour). The sandwich consisted of three slices of multigrain organic sandwich bread from Trader Joe’s. On one slice I melted babybel light cheese. On another slice I placed two slices of low sodium roast beef from Trader Joe’s and low-sodium teriyaki sauce. I put these two pieces of bread in the microwave to warm up the beef and melt the cheese. While that was melting I took another slice of bread and spread light whipped cream cheese (also Trader Joe’s brand) on it. This was the middle slice for my sandwich. On the bread with the cheese I put baby spinach leaves. This I sliced diagonally. Simple, quick, and delicious.