In which the world of culinary hedonism is explored with a cup and a half of curiosity, a heaping tablespoon of passion and a dash of clumsiness.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fortieth Post (Yay!) ~ Rustic Beef Stew

This stew is very easy, and it fit the bill the other night when I wanted to throw something together that would cook itself while I worked. Here's what you'll need for this stew, which is good to have on hand during stormy winter weather!

~ One package stew beef
~ Carrots (about two handfuls)
~ 2-3 slices from small onion
~ Mushrooms (I used pre-washed criminis and thew them in whole)
~ 5 or so small red potatoes cut into wedges
~ 2 cups water with 5 beef boulion dissolved
~ A splash of red wine
~ Herbs (I used fresh thyme and tarragon. While I recommend the thyme, the tarragon gave the stew a distinctive "sausage" taste and aroma, since, come to find out, it's one of the key herbs used in sausage. So if you like that taste, go for it, if not, find a different herb!)

Here's the tough part - get your crock-pot out of storage and dust it off. Then dump everything in it, slap the lid on, put it on high, and stir every so often. It takes a few hours, but the resulting aroma and taste are worth it! Plus, prep doesn't get much easier than this!

I paired this stew with Sangre del Toro's tempranillo, since that's what I splashed into it to give it a nice balanced taste. It helped diffuse some of the stronger herb taste (ahem ) and its earthiness brought out the flavors in the beef. A good pairing, and a good stew for lunches and dinners to come!

Yours in the love of good food and wine,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thirty-ninth Post ~ Duck with Tempranillo Reduction

I realize that this is my second post in a row featuring duck. I don't really see that as a bad thing. I bought a package of duck breasts the last time I was at Wegmans, so I guess you should prepare yourselves for at least two more duck entries before the winter is up!

Tonight's dinner was inspired by the fact that I had a Tempranillo on hand and it was just too darn nasty out for me to spare an extra trip to the store. I decided that I could do something creative with the duck to make it red-wine worthy.

So here's what you'll need for tonight's dinner:

~ Duck breast, skin off
~ Red wine
~ Balsamic vinegar
~ Olive oil
~ Garlic
~ Onion
~ Fresh (or dried) thyme
~ Fruit preserves (I favor apricot)

~ Potatoes
~ Salt/Butter
~ Grated parm

In a pan, start the olive oil, and tiny amount of garlic and onion sauteeing with a little less than a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. After it starts hopping around a bit, add some red wine, about two tablespoons of apricot jam, thyme, salt and pepper. Get it really simmering nicely.

In the mean time, boil some sliced red potatoes with some salt, the stalk from the thyme you used for the reduction, and a little olive oil.

After your reduction is starting to meld, add the duck cut into strips. I do this for two reasons: 1) It's faster to cook and 2) There's more surface area to cover in the yummy reduction sauce as it cooks.

As the duck is starting to seem done, move it out to the edges of the pan or take it out completely. You want to cook the sauce down so that it is a true reduction - that is to say, mostly sugar. View the close-up to the left so you can see the texture with all of its sugary goodness.

After the potatoes become "forkable," drain them, butter them, and top with grated parm and a bit of parsley, if you wish. Transfer the duck to the plate and top with a generous amount of sauce.

I served tonight's meal with the same red I used to make the reduction: Sangre del Toro's Tempranillo, direct from Spain. As it is an old-world wine, it is more earthy than fruity, which made a nice complement to the "wild" taste of the duck. This reduction turned out sugary, yet still a bit on the tart side, so if you're cooking with an old-world wine such as this one, you may wish to add a touch of sugar to the reduction. New world wine, with their fruit-forward nature, might not need the extra sugar.

In the end, I thought meal came together nicely, and served to warm me from the inside out against the howling winter storm rattling at my windowpanes!

Yours in the love of good food and wine,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.