Simple Cooking

Simple can be good.

I like to cook kind of simply.If I have a roast I think it should be thrown in the oven with just salt and pepper and olive oil. I never cook things that require you seperate the yolk from the eggwhite–so I’d be thrown out of most high fallutin cooking circles right away. The simple way of cooking has never failed me.All that bell and whistle shit just makes it more possible for things to go wrong in my opinion.

For instance: roasting a chicken. I just put it in the oven after I rinse it with cold water, rub it with olive oil and salt and pepper and stuff it with some herbs and a bit of butter,no basting.
The chicken always turns out perfect.

I have a cook friend,Lou.He makes his living cooking in restaurants.He eats for crap when he’s home but he is a very good cook. He cooked for me and a few friends a while ago and I was expecting him to show up with a cuisinart or something.But he made do with my pathetic knives and pots and pans and the meal was delicious.
I tried to stay in the kitchen to watch but at the time my kitchen was as big as a bathroom so I didn’t want to crowd him.But I did pick up a few tips.

One: searing the meat before you roast it is important.
Two: you can fry greenbeans in oil and they will turn out fantastic.
Three: garlic roasted in the oven in it’s skin turns it liquid and sweet.You can use it as a condiment for the meal when it’s done.

Four:You need a good set of pots and pans!
Five: you need some proper knives!

To Demi Glace or not?

The problem of demi glace came up after I wrote about my Daube of beef (or beef stew). I don’t use anything more than red wine and stock when I prepare it but I see demi glace listed as an essential ingredient for a French cuisine. Demi Glace or the absence of it must be that extra bit of complexity I taste when I order in a French restaurant then go home and try the recipe myself… something is missing. That something must be demi glace, a concentrated meat stock that comes from roasting bones for about 3 days.

I prefer to cook more simply. Never substitute gravy from a can or jar when a simple brown sause if easy to make and won’t bring your dinner down to hospital food blandness.
A simple wine,butter and pan dripping sauce is better than preprepared…and just what you might want to use instead of demi glace.
My first experiments with making sauces ended disasterously.Grainy, oily cream sauces where the cheese is seperate from everything…too salty au jus,white sauces that tasted only of flour or milk.
Mistakes just can’t be avoided sometimes!
There are some rules that have to do with basic chemistry such as adding cold liquids to hot flour and butter.This will make the flour go hard and lumpy.You’ll have to start over or go without.

Add warm liquid to a roux (hot butter with flour).

I like to use whatever is in the pan after I roasted or seared some meat to start a sauce.I then add a little flour to that(instead of butter) then pour in a little bit of the broth and then add a splash of wine or Dry Sherry or Madeira. Madieria is excellent for a sauce for meat or chicken. 2 tablespoons are plenty.You can also use tiny amount of Brandy.A sauce made from tarragon,cream,garlic,butter,shallots and brandy is a new favorite of mine. If not my jeans.

You should let a mixture of pan scrapings and alcohol reduce before adding cream or stock. Reducing will make salty things saltier so you should keep that in mind if you seasoned the meat before searing it.

Beef Stew

Recipe for beef stew.

Or to be more fancy:beef daube, or to be less fancy: boeuf bourguignon .
Actually these are all different dishes.I know that. My particular take on the beef stew borrows elements of each dish.So that is why I bother to mention all of them.

Try to save this for a cold day.Even better: a cold rainy day when a hot soupy meal is just what you crave.
Be prepared! This recipe needs wine.It needs 3 hours.It needs your undivided attention.Well, just for the chopping stuff up part.It needs an 8 quart pot with a lid that you know can go on the oven,too. The oven should be heated to 350 degrees.

The ingredientsWine.How often have you been told to cook with a wine you would also like to drink?
This is true.
This isn’t a ploy to get you to toss away a bottle of expensive red,however.
A good bottle of very drinkable wine can be got for under 10 bucks.
My father would say it can be got for under 5 bucks but he is an extremist.
No Zinfandel.
Anyone using Zinfandel in a burgundy situation will be shunned.
Since Merlot and Cabernet are the most popular(so most available) reds-get one of those.Yellowtail has decent bottles for about 7.50.And if your local store charges more than that you are being scammed.Personally I prefer Red Bicyclette or Smoking Loon-but we are aiming for accessibility here and Yellowtail is everywhere.
The meat.
The meat can be gotten in two ways.Whole and you chop it up or in pieces and you don’t have to chop it up.This recipe usually works just as well either way—if the meat is of a good quality. The kind can be chuck–but also only if it is good quality.I don’t know about you but I will happily pay more if my end result doesn’t taste like a mix of hair oil and grease.And unfortunately, regular supermarket stew meat can end up tasting like that–even if you took special care with the recipe.So go to the butcher and pick up 2 pounds of chuck .Your butcher will offer to cut it up for you so don’t be shy– ask him to make the pieces about 1 and a half inches around– or big– or whatever. They want you to tell them what you want. Your local butcher should not be charging more than 4 dollars a pound for stew meat. And again, if they are, you are being scammed. But don’t worry,even if they charge 6 dollars a pound you will be sure it is fresh .And in a supermarket this is not a certainty. And supers love to jack up the prices .

The vegetables:

  • Shallots! 2 of them.
  • carrots, 2 of them
  • one yellow medium onion
  • 3 large spuds uh,potatoes
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 16 pearl onions, these we will not put in until nearly the end
  • 3 cloves of garlic, small
  • a carton of white mushrooms

The fresh herbs:

  • rosemary,2 sprigs.
  • thyme, a healthy bunch

The liquid:

Drinkable wine.
I can be thought of as a cheaterbut I do not care it makes it taste better!
»A can of beef broth with low sodium.

We will be adding our own salt thank you very much.

For the adventurous:hot chili paste.Totally optional.But a teaspoon tossed in when simmering the onions and shallots makes things a little more exciting.

A cup of cold water. If your ingredients all stack up so that things aren’t totally covered by the wine and the broth- get some cold water and pour it on top to cover.
I find that a cup is usually enough.
Olive Oil( a couple of tablespoons–maybe 4 it’s up to you…Just make sure that when hot it spreads out enough to coat the bottom of the pot.)

The Seasoning:

  • Salt– to taste
  • Pepper– to taste– but add at least quarter of a teaspoon,ok?
  • A couple of tablespoons of Paprika.So what if we’re heading into Goulash territory?


Don’t cook cold meat! Take that meat out of the fridge ahead of time so that it isn’t ice cold when you throw it into the pot.I think this makes it seize up and get hard.I could be imagining things,though.

Dice the shallots and onions.
Chop the celeryand the carrots.
Peel and cube the potatoes.
Heat the oil in the pot.Toss in the onions and shallots. Make sure that the heat isn’t too high-about medium-high here is fine.Here is where the adventurous ones will add the chili paste.
While they are simmering enough to get clear- chop everything else.Rinse the mushrooms and snip off the bit of stem.
Now your onions and shallots should be a little see through so go ahead and add the carrots and celery.Cook for a few minutes.

Add the meat.

Let it get somewhat brown and then pour in the wine.
Here is where things can go wrong: you must reduce the wine! Vital! Reducing just means letting the liquid boil down until it is about half the amount it was. And if you have to turn up the heat here to get things going that’s ok.The wine will keep stuff from burning.
But be careful-it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes for the reduction process to happen.

If you had to turn up the heat,turn it back down to medium high.
Then add everything else: the potatoes, the mushrooms and the pearl onions.When everything is stirred up-add the broth and then the water–but only enough water to cover,right?

Here is where you get to get fancy: bunch together the sprigs of rosemary and thyme and tie their ends up with butcher’s twine or cotton string. If you don’t have any just chop it all up and toss it in.If you have cheesecloth handy (I never do!) place the herb sprigs inside and then tie it up-make sure you leave enough string to tie one end to the pothandle.It just makes it way easier to keep from falling apart this way-cheesecloth or no cheesecloth!

I hope you remembered to chop up the garlic but if you didn’t that’s ok because you have a half hour to add it in.Let the stew cook at a low boil for half an hour and then put in the chopped garlic.Put on the lid and place in your oven.Let it cook for about 2 hours.
And that’s it.

Grab the wine and spoon up a bowl (or two) and enjoy.I know everyone says that at the end of a recipe but sometimes cliches are allowed.
I personally think this is a meal in itself but some people need a side dish of rice or noodles to be totally happy.