French Onion Oxtail Stew

This is one of those rare dishes that I liked a WHOLE bunch, but Beloved was kind of lukewarm about… although the fact he’s been fighting off a low-grade stomach virus for the last few days may have something to do with that.

But whether or not he cared that much for it, I am here to tell you that ohmygawd, this is really, really, really good.  It is rich.  It is decadent.  It is intensely flavorful and simply delicious.

Yes, it takes time – you start by browning the oxtails on the stove, then transfer them to a slow cooker, then slowly caramelize the onions (which took about 2 hours in my case) before transferring the contents of the slow cooker to the pan with the caramelized onions and cooking it all a little bit more.  But it is completely worth it.

At least, I think so.

Since the recipe is based on French onion soup, there’s a lot of onions in it – 6 large ones, which gives you about 12 to 14 cups of sliced onions, so use your mandoline if you have one.  A wide, heavy pan is best for caramelizing them; they’ll cook down quite a bit, but you’ll need the space in the beginning as well as the end, when you add the oxtail and liquid from the slow cooker to it.

By the time the dish is complete, it should be more the consistency of a stew than a soup – I guess if you really want soup, you can add more beef stock.  Made as written, though, this is just wonderful over potatoes or cauliflower mashed with chives and Gruyere cheese.

Yum, yum, YUM.

Note:  If you use olive oil instead of butter, the recipe, as written, is dairy-free.

French Onion Oxtail Stew. Rich and decadent, this play on French onion soup and oxtail stew is just perfect on a cold, dreary evening.

Click the image to enlarge

French Onion Oxtail Stew
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 oxtail, separated at the joints
  • 2 tablespoons tallow or other cooking fat
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 sprigs thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
  • 1 cup hearty red wine
  • 6 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 6 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. In a heavy pan or skillet, heat the tallow over high heat. Season the oxtail liberally with salt and pepper; place in the hot fat and cook until the meat is well-browned on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic; continue cooking for another minute or so or until the garlic turns golden and fragrant.
  2. Transfer the oxtail (and garlic) to a slow cooker. Add the wine, stock and thyme. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Before the oxtail is ready, melt the butter in a large, wide skillet or pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized – they will be a deep golden color. (This step could take as little as 40 minutes or as long as 2 hours.)
  4. Once the oxtail is done, remove it from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate; shred the meat away from the bones with a fork. Skim the fat from the liquid in the slow cooker, if desired, and transfer the contents along with the meat from the oxtail to the pan with the onions.
  5. Cook the stew over medium heat for about half an hour. Remove the thyme stems and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over Gruyere-mashed potatoes or cauliflower.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 437 calories, 27.5g total fat, 78.6mg cholesterol, 529.1mg sodium, 951.1mg potassium, 19.2g carbohydrates, 2.7g fiber, 7.7g sugar, 22.3g protein

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto

This recipe is the result of an impulsive purchase of fair trade, organic arborio rice, the huge sage bush planted on the east side of our house, a baby butternut squash from our garden and not enough leftovers for lunch.

Don’t ask me what possessed me to buy the rice or make this for lunch, because I really couldn’t tell you – except maybe that I love risotto and haven’t made it for, well, years.  But when I saw I was going to have to cook something for our lunch to go with the leftover lamb chops from our dinner the night before, I realized I not only had all of the ingredients for risotto (we’d just canned a huge batch of chicken broth the previous week), but all the ingredients for a butternut squash risotto.

So I made this.

And it was incredibly good.

A northern Italian specialty dating as far back as the Renaissance, risotto is traditionally served as a primo piatto (first course) after the antipasto, although in the U.S. it’s usually served as a side, or even a main course. It is made from a high-starch, short-grain rice, such as arborio; the risotto becomes exceptionally creamy as the liquid is gradually stirred into the dish.

This is not a quick recipe, although it’s quite simple; it just requires a lot of attention in the way of stirring, to make sure the liquid – in this case, a good homemade chicken broth – is absorbed so the rice doesn’t become gummy or unevenly cooked.  You don’t have to actually stand over it and tend it non-stop, especially if you’re doing other things to get the meal on the table, but it’s good to make sure it’s well-stirred every half-minute or so.

It’s important to make sure the butternut squash is cut into small cubes, since the liquid added to the rice is also needed to cook that, as well – if cut too large, the rice will cook before the squash is done. (If you’re worried about it, you can parboil the cubed squash for a minute or two in advance, but if cut to a 1/4″ dice, it shouldn’t be a problem.)  You also don’t want to overcook the rice; it should be al dente, so begin tasting it after about 18 to 20 minutes or so.  A mushy risotto is a sad, sad thing.

All in all, this was a plate of creamy, rich, autumnal yumminess, and I was not in the least bit sorry we ate the whole darn pan for lunch (and which also explains why I don’t make it very often).

Note:  This can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth or stock in place of the chicken broth.  If you wish to omit the wine, which adds necessary acidity to counterbalance the richness of the butter and cheese, substitute with 2 or 3 tablespoons of a good quality white wine vinegar.

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto. Winter squash makes a great addition to this autumn-inspired rice dish, which is finished with chopped fresh sage.

Click image to enlarge

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto
[i]Serves 6 as a side dish, or 3 as a main course[/i]
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the chicken stock in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep hot.
  2. Melt the butter in a large, wide skillet or pan over medium heat. Add the onion and squash and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent. Stir in the rice and garlic and continue cooking for another minute.
  3. Stir the wine into the rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Begin adding the hot chicken stock a half-cup at a time, stirring constantly after each addition until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Continue stirring the stock into the mixture, a half-cup at a time, until the rice and squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir the cheese and sage into the rice; season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 336 calories, 11.1g total fat, 29.8mg cholesterol, 481.1mg sodium, 488.4mg potassium, 42.4g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 6.2g sugar, 12.4g protein

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

I sincerely apologize for not having the planned post up Friday, but I had completely forgotten that The Young One and I had an appointment to spend the day at Kent State for something called “Golden Flash Day” where I spent 6 hours with 500 other glassy-eyed parents who looked as if they, too, wondered how the hell they’re going to pay for the next 4 years.  They served us both breakfast and lunch – apparently as some sort of compensation for telling us that the school wants $19,000 a year to educate our kids – but that’s a subject for another post (the Spin Cycle this week is “Why??” and this would be the perfect Spin).

At any rate, today’s recipe was inspired by Hank Shaw, Master of All That is Hunted, Fished and Foraged.  Apparently he and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes are quite chummy because the original recipe, which I’ve adapted to suit my particular dietary needs, is one of many guest posts by Hank on Elise’s site.

And a delicious recipe it is.  We’ve come to love rabbit; it’s really a tender, mild-tasting meat – if you didn’t know you were eating bunny, you’d truly think it was chicken.  Well, that’s true at least of domestic rabbit, which is farmed, and is the kind we buy (if I’m not mistaken, it’s illegal to sell wild meats that are hunted, and I’m not quite up – yet – to going out and slaying the critters myself).

This is a simple recipe, but really quite elegant, although my picture isn’t quite as nice as the one with the original recipe.  The meat is tender and the sauce is tangy and rich; it was just lovely served over a my Cauliflower-Celery Root Puree.

If you just can’t bring yourself to eat rabbit, this would be great with chicken thighs.

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce - a French Bistro Classic, farm-raised rabbit is braised in a creamy, piquant sauce.

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces
  • kosher sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Salt the rabbit well and set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than an hour.
  2. Melt the ghee over medium heat in a wide, shallow enameled Dutch oven or skillet with a lid. Pat the rabbit pieces dry and slowly brown them in the ghee, in batches if necessary; do not allow the pieces to touch. Remove the rabbit to a bowl or platter and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and cook until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the white wine and increase the heat to high, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the mustard, thyme and water and bring to a rolling boil.
  4. Decrease the heat to low; return the rabbit to the pan, turning to coat them with the sauce. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the rabbit is very tender.
  5. Gently transfer the rabbit pieces to a platter and keep warm. Increase the heat under the pan to high and bring to a boil; reduce the sauce by half. Remove from the heat and add the coconut milk and parsley. Stir to combine and return the rabbit to the pan. Coat with the sauce and serve at once.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 444 calories, 28.4g total fat, 127.5mg cholesterol, 455.9mg sodium, 732.7mg potassium, 5.3g carbohydrates, 1.3g fiber, <1g sugar, 36.5g protein

Random Tuesday Watermelon Daiquiri

It’s been awhile since I’ve participated in Random Tuesday Thoughts, and it’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of Be’s cocktail recipes.  So today you get both – sort of a Two For Tuesday type of thing.

Oh – with a picture of A Certain Young Man.  Because Grandmas do that.

It’s been a wild and wooly week and a half – The Young One not only returned home, escorted by Oldest Son, less than two weeks ago, but begins school tomorrow.  Since I’ve literally had a houseful (we have four bedrooms – two of which are unoccupied – plus a futon in the basement, and someone still had to sleep on the sofa), I have had NO time to do anything that even remotely resembles school shopping.

Guess what I’m doing today.  Oh, joy.

And have I mentioned my baby will be a junior this year?

Good gawd.  I’m ancient.

This weekend we were graced with a visit from The G Man, who turned TWO YEARS OLD last Monday (what was I saying about being ancient?).  It was wonderful, because it not only gave me an opportunity to look at this sweet little face to my heart’s content…

The G Man – 2 Years Old

…it gave me an excuse to play with fondant.

Dinosaur Cake

For any “new” readers that might be visiting today, I was a professional cake decorator when I was younger.  About the time dinosaurs roamed the earth, so the theme is appropriate.  And no, I did not eat any cake; even if gluten didn’t make me feel like complete crud, I still wouldn’t have eaten any – when you spend 12 hours a day, six days a week up to your elbows in cake and buttercream for ten years, cake isn’t exactly what you’d call “appealing” any more.

Pie, on the other hand, is a different matter all together.  Which is why I have a grain-free pie crust recipe, but not a grain-free cake recipe.

Yet.

Because our adult children were with us, Beloved took the opportunity to break out the new cocktail shaker we picked up on our trip to Charleston earlier this month.  There were many martinis, a few margaritas (which I refuse to touch), and Be’s take on a cocktail I indulged in during our trip:  a Watermelon Daiquiri.  The version I had there consisted of watermelon pureé, rum and mint-infused simple syrup (bad, yes) – the one Be concocted was less sweet (and a bit more potent, but that’s the way we roll).

At any rate, melons are now in season and the variety available at our farmer’s market is nothing short of amazing.  We have purchased a huge muskmelon and this tiny, seedless watermelon; I have no idea what it is called.  It had no stripes on the rind and the flesh was a delicate pink rather than a bright red, and was quite sweet.  With the the top sliced off and the insides scooped out and pureéd in the food processor, it was not only the perfect ingredient but the perfect vessel for this very tasty drink.

Watermelon Daiquir

Watermelon Daiquiri

serves me

1 part Rum
1 part Watermelon-flavored vodka
2 parts watermelon puree

Pour all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well to blend, then strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a cube of watermelon and a slice of banana that’s been dipped in lemon juice, and serve.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Blueberry-Chipotle Steak Sauce

  • Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste)
  • Distilled Vinegar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Salt
  • Raisin Paste
  • Crushed Orange Puree
  • Spices and Herbs
  • Dried Garlic and Onion
  • Caramel Color
  • Potassium Sorbate (to Preserve Freshness)
  • Xanthan Gum

This is what you put on your steak every time you pour a puddle of A-1 on it.

It could be worse, I suppose; regular corn syrup (such as Karo), while still a refined product, is mostly glucose as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup which is very high in – you guessed it – fructose.  Caramel color and potassium sorbate are generally deemed “safe” by the FDA (not that that means a whole lot) and have been around for years and years.  Xantham gum is a fermented polysaccharide, usually derived from corn, and is a popular thickener and stabilizer, especially with low carb dieters and cooks because it is very low in carbohydrates and very high in fiber.

You’ll have to excuse me if I give A-1 a pass, though – while it lacks nasty things like HFCS and MSG, many of the ingredients are highly refined and since the syrup, caramel color and xantham gum are all very likely corn-based, it is also very likely they are the products of genetic modification.  Thanks, but no thanks.

Lately, if I put anything on my steak at all, it is a reduction of some sort – the pan juices, or some beef stock if we’re grilling, reduced with some red wine and onion or garlic.  Most of the time we merely rub it with steak seasoning, cook it and eat it nekkid.  However, there’s something to be said for a good steak sauce, and when Patty asked me last week to come up with a use for blueberries I began to wonder if I could use them in a sauce for meat in some way.

Yes, you can.  And it’s darn tasty, too – after we drizzled some on our grass-fed steaks the other night, Beloved immediately put the remainder (it makes almost 2 cups) in an old squeeze bottle we had put away that used to hold Heinz low-sugar ketchup.

In the interest of transparency, I used the last of my canned chipotle peppers in this recipe and will either be looking for a different brand or making my own in the future; one of the last ingredients on the can was “wheat flour.”  ::sigh::  I’m a wee bit peeved with myself for not looking at the ingredient list on the can before this point, but I suppose the minute amount of wheat flour contained in that single tablespoon of minced chipotle and adobo won’t kill us, especially spread out over 16 servings.  My apologies to all of my gluten-free readers – try using a tablespoon of ancho chili powder in its place.

Blueberry-Chipotle Steak Sauce

Blueberry-Chipotle Steak Sauce

makes 2 cups, or 16 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, very finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dry red wine
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon canned chipotle pepper, seeded and minced plus sauce
2 tablespoons raw honey (optional)
kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onion, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and sauté until the onion is soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook just until garlic begins to become fragrant, about 1 minute more. Carefully pour in the wine, stirring well; add the chipotle, blueberries and rosemary.

Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by about half and the blueberries are very soft. Remove from heat; remove and discard the rosemary. Place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl and carefully pour the mixture into the sieve, pressing down with a large spoon to extract all of the sauce; discard the solids.

Return the sauce to the pan over low heat. Taste; season with additional salt and pepper and honey, if desired.  Cook until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve drizzled over the steak of your choice.

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Posted in participation of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday