Living in a 660 square foot apartment makes in impossible for us to host Thanksgiving dinner, which is too bad because you just know I’ve got that meal all planned out in my head, from the cornbread-chorizo stuffing to the turkey recipe and root vegetable gratin, ready and waiting for the day we get a dining room table! (Also, a dining room. Details.) We also can’t host the major Jewish holidays or but when we asked for the less-popular or significant Hanukah, we were deemed acceptable hosts so long as we don’t poison anyone, so for the second year now, we’ve run with it.
We started with basic potato latkes last night, another Food & Wine recipe from the latke-vodka party feature. (I had made the zucchini latke the day before.) After reading countless articles and blog entries about the glories of deep-frying in peanut oil — it’s supposed to be lighter, have a less-greasy after-effect and a very high smoking point — I used it for the fritters this year, draining them on layers of paper towels and now consider myself converted, too. Although potato pancakes are not deep-fried per se, you need a good slick of it in the pan to get that golden brown, crispy effect so there are many rules that carry over, such as the need for a very hot pan. Despite it’s declining popularity, I’m still partial to non-stick when I cook fritters, at least for the time being as I love the guarantee that they’ll slide right out of the pan even if they land in a oil-free spot as our stove is perennially unleveled.
Because the prospect of standing over a splattering frying pan, flipping latke after latke as guests arrive is my definition of Hosting Hell, I typically avoid making them at all, opting instead for a potato kugel, which essentially a giant baked latke you cut into squares. But, by making them hours in advance, letting them sit at room temperature and reheating and crisping them in the oven I was able to avoid any unpleasantries, keep with tradition, and honestly, you could not tell that they’d been made hours before. I highly recommend this.
As anyone who has ever thrown one knows, there’s something inherently ridiculous about sheer quantity of food served a dinner parties. I mean, we knew that latkes, salad (Bibb lettuce, minced chives, diced grape tomatoes and classic French vinaigrette), a main course and dessert were enough food for two weeknight meals, but by dinner party standards, it seemed skimpy. It seems if your guests are not gutted and glutted by the main course, you’re not doing your job. So, I made a double-batch of August’s garlic soup, too, knowing full well we didn’t need it but that everyone would welcome a warm and bright break between heavier courses, and for myself especially — who woke up yesterday morning with a yucky cold, so unfair — it hit the spot tenfold. Could garlic soup be better than chicken soup for the sniffly soul? I might be converted.
Finally, although nobody wanted to eat ever again by this point, we loaded the dish that had been making our apartment smell so good, we wanted to eat the air for the last two days: the braised beef short ribs from Bouchée Restaurant. Wow, where do I start… Think of a bourguignon made with short ribs instead of chunks of beef. We braised it for five hours at a low oven temperature, let it cool, chilled it overnight in the fridge and then skimmed off the ample, gross solids before braising it for another two hours, straining the broth and cooking it down to a thin gravy. All these steps seemingly to the contrary, it’s not a terrific amount of work for a transcendently good flavor. Braising and short ribs are a match made in heaven, and it’s frankly necessary to have an abundantly long cooking time to get the large amount of fat mostly rendered off. All the bones fell out off before we even had a chance to serve it, and even picking out the pieces of meat from the broth gently with tongs shredded them into tiny flecks. It was that tender.
I was far less enamored with the accompanying vegetables, one of those redunculous steps you know are a time-waster even as you do it anyway out of a sick sense of loyalty to a recipe you haven’t tried yet. They were blah. Next time, I’d take the same mix (with perhaps fewer carrots) and just cook it in the — seriously, have I told you how good this was? — short rib broth. Chicken stock doesn’t hold a candle to that goodness, but duh, we already knew that.
We piled the vegetables and what was left of the short ribs over garlic-rubbed toasts (though mashed potatoes or egg noodles would have been equally sumptuous, I was out of big pots to cook in!) with extra broth on the side, and my oh my. Tonight, we had some of the leftover broth over egg noodles and I briefly considered mainlining the remainder, I kid, I kid. But mostly because that means we couldn’t have more beefy egg noodles for dinner tomorrow. With any luck, we’ll be swimming in this stuff until spring.
Potato Latkes [This recipe has been relocated here with additional tips and tricks.]
Short Rib Bourguignon
Bouchée, via Gourmet, October 2006
This is just like beef bourguignon, except it uses short ribs. Any remaining sauce would be great served over egg noodles.
Makes 4 servings (but we doubled it to serve 7)
For short ribs
4 (8-oz) pieces bone-in beef short ribs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (14-oz) can whole San Marzano tomatoes in juice, puréed
in a blender with juice
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
4 cups brown veal stock or 1/2 cup Demi-Glace Gold concentrate (concentrate requires a dilution ratio of 1:8; 1/2 cup concentrate to 4 cups water)*
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 tablespoon Banyuls vinegar or red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
20 pearl onions (5 oz)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Banyuls vinegar or red-wine vinegar
2 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth (16
4 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 thick bacon slices (preferably applewood-smoked; 1/4 lb total), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces**
8 medium fresh white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
Braise short ribs:
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 250»F.
Pat beef dry. Heat oil in a wide (12 inches in diameter) 3- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown beef on all sides, turning with tongs, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Add chopped carrots, onion, and garlic to oil in pot and cook over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup puréed tomatoes (reserve remainder for another use) and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add wine and boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.
Add veal stock, thyme, bay leaf, vinegars, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to sauce, and bring to a simmer. Skim fat from surface, then add beef along with any juices accumulated on plate and cover pot with a tight-fitting lid. Transfer to oven and braise until beef is very tender, 4 to 5 hours.
Cook vegetables while beef braises:
Blanch pearl onions in a wide 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan of boiling water 1 minute, then drain in a sieve. When just cool enough to handle, peel onions with a paring knife, trimming root end just enough to leave onions intact.
Heat butter in dried saucepan over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook onions, stirring occasionally, until brown spots appear, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar, then add chicken stock and carrots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and boil, if necessary, until liquid glazes vegetables.
While vegetables are simmering, cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are tender and bacon is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to vegetables in saucepan.
Transfer a short rib to each of 4 soup plates and keep warm in oven. Pour sauce through a medium-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids, then skim fat from sauce. Boil sauce, if necessary, until thickened and reduced to about 3 cups. Season with salt and pepper. Add about 2 cups sauce to vegetables (reserve remaining sauce for another use), then spoon mixture around short ribs.
Note: Ribs can be braised 1 day ahead and cooled completely in sauce, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Remove solidified fat from dish before reheating. This is actually a great way to get rid of nearly all of the excess fat.
* I couldn’t find veal stock and found the price of demi-glace concentrate at this quantity leaving me questioning whether it was flecked with gold, so I used canned beef broth instead. I’m not sure what we were missing as I haven’t made it the other way, but I can tell you that we didn’t actually miss a thing.
** Skipped the bacon, as we’ve got mostly kosher peeps in the family.