Category Archives: 2017 Cookery Project

2017 Cookery Project — Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

According to Julia Child’s classic recipe, it takes about six hours to make Beef Bourguignon.

The recipe I used, from a cheery little website called The Café Sucre Farine, said I should “Plan about four hours from start to finish to prepare this Beef Bourguignon, with about one hour of hands-on time.”

I wanted Beef Bourguignon for lunch on Friday. The plan was to have everything—except the peas, which would be added just before serving—done the night before. So with that “four hours” estimate in mind, I started cooking just before 8PM….

I was finally able to refrigerate the plastic container I used to store the almost-finished dish at around 1:45 Friday morning, Clean-up would have to wait until later. Much later.

There’s a happy ending to this one, though. The Beef Bourguignon was literally the best I’ve ever tasted. Everything blended perfectly. Sure, I gave up an evening of re-watching Riverdale episodes and playing Gummy Drop, but it was worth it!

And, just as expected, it tasted even better the second day.


My rating. The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Chicken Salad with Greens, Roasted Potatoes, and Shallots

Chicken Salad with Greens, Roasted Potatoes and Shallots

Chicken Salad with Greens, Roasted Potatoes and Shallots

The recipe for this meal of Chicken Salad with Greens, Roasted Potatoes, and Shallots comes from an old issue of Bon Appétit. I couldn’t find the recipe online, so there’s no link with this one. Sorry.

Putting it all together was a three-step process: prepping the vegetables, prepping the chicken, and prepping the vinaigrette.

For the vegetables, I peeled a couple of russet potatoes and cut them into bite-size cubes, sliced the shallots, put them on a baking dish, doused them with olive oil, and roasted them for half an hour. The chicken was dredged in flour and then pan-fried. The shallot and mustard vinaigrette included balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and fresh chopped thyme.

When everything was ready, I plated it on a bed of watercress, and served it hot.

The chicken and vegetables would have been good on their own, but the shallot and mustard vinaigrette was what put the dish over the top.


My rating. The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp

Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp

Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp

Lunch today came from a recipe for Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp on Chungah Rhee’s Damn Delicious website. More on that later.

I’m in the process of putting my house in order, both literally and figuratively. One of the things I’m doing is replacing an old, wobbly, handmade kitchen shelving unit with a tall new wire chrome replacement. But first I want to repaint the wall in back of the shelving. Until I do that, most of the equipment I need to cook anything more complicated than toast is resting in boxes on my living room floor.

I’m great at starting things, but finishing them is another matter entirely, so it may be a while before the kitchen is usable again. Fortunately, I live in a restaurant-rich city, I really love Thai food, and sending out for Thai is easy, in this best of all possible worlds. As for the living room, I can always fall back on my standard excuse that I’m planning a yard sale. It’s worked for years.

On to the recipe.

I shelled and cleaned the shrimp, dusted them with cornstarch, and dipped them in beaten eggs, wondering yet again why shrimp tails are always left on. Two minutes in the pan and a quick flip was as much as they needed. The kicker was the sauce, which was made with honey, orange juice and orange zest, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and ground ginger, cooked down to a syrupy texture. I plated the shrimp on a bed of rice, and poured the sauce over the top.


Now, about that website…

Is it for real?

Everyone pictured on the “Meet Our Team” page is seriously good-looking. Like, model-beautiful, which isn’t really surprising, because their on-line bios are heavy with actor/fitness trainer/model work histories. This isn’t quite what you’d expect of people identified as “Brand Manager” and “Operations Manager.” I also noticed that their individual websites have the look and feel of being created by the same web designer. The websites don’t look alike, but they share a similar aesthetic.

And who is Chungah Rhee?

The Damn Delicious website give includes brief biographical notes, but “Chungah Rhee” does not appear to have a Wikipedia entry. Is she real, or a construct?

Maybe I’m looking to solve a mystery that doesn’t exist.

And besides, from Betty Crocker to Aunt Jemima to Captain Crunch, our food history is full of mythological creators, so whether Chungah Rhee is real, fictional, or a combination of the two probably doesn’t matter.

I sometimes wonder about Alice Waters , though….


I’ve decided to start rating these experiments on a five-star scale, The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — “Tzimmes” Chicken with Apricots, Prunes, and Carrots

“Tzimmes” Chicken with Apricots, Prunes, and Carrots

“Tzimmes” Chicken with Apricots, Prunes, and Carrots

Epicurious had an interesting-looking recipe for Tzimmes, a traditional stew served at Passover meals, when it’s customary to eat honey-flavored dishes. I decided to give it a try.

The defining elements of tzimmes, besides the honey, are carrots and dried fruits, in this case, prunes and apricots. The recipe I used also included red onion wedges, lots of whole, peeled garlic cloves, 20 sprigs of thyme, fresh lemon juice, white wine, olive oil, and ground cinnamon, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper.

And chicken.

I didn’t have a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients during marination, so I had to marinate the chicken separately, and when it came time to bake the tzimmes, the combined components filled two large baking trays.

The results were a knockout. This one made me v happy.


I’ve decided to start rating these experiments on a five-star scale, The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp and Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

Something a bit different this time. Instead of a main, I made a couple low-effort but very flavourful appetizers/starters.

Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

I’m really into asparagus this spring, and this Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto dish couldn’t have been easier. All I had to do was wrap slices of prosciutto around the stalks of asparagus, put them on a baking tray and drizzle olive oil over them, and bake until crisp.

Simple, but elegant.*

Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

Making the Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp was similar, but more complicated. The finished dish had a more complex flavour.

Using a recipe from the Food Network’s website, I marinated a pound of large, peeled, and deveined shrimp in a mixture of garlic, paprika, fresh thyme, and olive oil. After it had chilled in the refrigerator for an hour, I wrapped each shrimp in half a slice of bacon, put them on a baking tray, and poured the marinade over them. Then I broiled them, flipping them once, until the bacon started to crisp, about 10 minutes total.

Addictive.


* FWIW, “Simple But Elegant” is my middle name.

2017 Cookery Project — Steak and Cottage Fries

Steak and Cottage Fries

Steak and Cottage Fries

Because I was mentally and physically exhausted from doing my taxes last night—All those numbers to key into the H&R Block screens! All those NEXT buttons to click!—I felt like staying in and cooking instead of going out today, so I reviewed what I had on hand, and came up with this simple lunch.

I took some top round, seared it, and then braised it in beef stock and red wine, something I could probably do with my eyes closed. (I decided to keep them open, though, because there was no one around to impress with my daring, kitchen skills, and savoir faire, so there was no point in risking major injury. I still have bad memories, and a few second degree burn scars, from the last time I tried it….)

My basic rule for the 2017 Cookery Project is that each dish must include a new-to-me technique or ingredient. This time, that requirement was met when I used a method for cooking potatoes that I learned from a recipe called Chef John’s Cottage Fries from allrecipes.com. I’ll let Chef John himself describe it:

I like it spicy, so I went a bit overboard with the cayenne pepper. I’ll reduce it next time.

I crumbled some bleu cheese over the beef, and garnished the dish with parsley, because why not?

Another success in the kitchen!

2017 Cookery Project — Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce

For whatever reason, I’ve been finding it particularly difficult to get centered now that I’ve returned to the US. It shouldn’t be a problem—I was only gone a couple of weeks—but I’ve been both antsy and low energy since I got back. As a result, I’ve been living on deli and carryout. Good quality carryout, but carryout nonetheless.

Today, for the first time since I left Venice, I made a serious lunch at home.

I turned to an old recipe from Epicurious for Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce. I gave the pork loin a coriander rub, and then pan-fried it in olive oil to give it a golden crust on all sides. Once that was done, I removed it and cooked sliced shallots and a dozen sprigs of thyme in the same pan. Then came balsamic vinegar, red wine, deglazing, and the secret ingredient, sugar. After the sauce cooked down, I swirled in a big hunk of butter, because once I’m in the kitchen, I turn into a total hedonist who cares not a bit about things like high cholesterol levels. The last thing into the pan was a generous portion of dark sweet cherries. The last things out of the pan were those sprigs of thyme.

(This being April, I had to use frozen-but-thawed cherries. Can’t wait to try this recipe again once I can get fresh ones.)

For the side, I used an incredibly simple Martha Stewart recipe. I sautéed minced garlic in—here it comes again—a big hunk of butter, then wilted spinach in it. It always surprises me how much things like spinach and kale cook down. You start with what looks like a three-week supply, and end up with two meagre servings.

It all worked, and it looked great.