I believe there is a way to bring the world together in harmony and certainly longing. A way to elicit a smile on demand. A strategy for healing all wounds. Yes. It is Chocolate. Scientists tell us that eating sugar, and chocolate, (the two aren't always together!) lights up the same region of the brain as cocaine. Yuh???? And your point is? Celebrated and elevated as though it contains the secrets of the universe written on fine papyrus, chocolate just simply connects everyone to joy.
Kinda fun to dress it up, too. Like this super moist, rich, dense, sinful, (I don't need to go on, do I?) dessert. Look at this. A Chocolate Ganche Cake with Chocolate Ganache oozing and draping over the sides like a lazy mink coat is paired with juicy Raspberries soaked in Kahlua Liquor. Even though you know one bite will put you in a serious food coma as well as instantly make you erupt from your present dress size into one much larger, you STILL PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH.
Yep. The power of chocolate.
Ya know you want some...
You want something quick, something to impress, something to make you say, "aaahhh!" Nothing fits the bill like a reduction sauce. Full of flavor, and either transparent or creamy, always luxurious and sinful; you can do it!!
True to form, I did not think of making these two dishes until hours before the meal was to commence. And I frequently create a good reduction sauce when I want to impress and don't have much time. Let me break it down for you and explain step by step how you can create these and dozens of other combinations using these simple techniques.
First, let's talk about a sauce that is served with a savory meat. In this case, both dishes I served were beef. One was sirloin tips, the other Filet Mignon. The point is, you borrow some of the richness from seared meat, using the little cooked bits to take your sauce from so-so to sexy in no time. It is a 4 part process that consists of:
1. Sear the meat and remove it from the pan, leaving drippings and seared bits on the bottom of the pan. Remove meat and set aside under foil.
2. Deglaze the pan using some kind of liquid (like stock or wine and in this case I used Port and stock) which pulls all of that yumminess into the sauce. Then add other liquid if needed such as water or additional wine for volume. Let that simmer for a few minutes.
3. Add aromatics and/or seasonings to enhance and bind together your theme of flavors. For me it was mushrooms in one, and fruit preserves for the other. (If you are not using a meat, you can start by searing your aromatics like onions, mushrooms, vegetables, fennel, etc. in butter or oil. And then you can simply add the acid at that time to deglaze and reduce. Here I let the mushrooms and onions cook in the reduction liquid. Seasoning as needed.
4. Once you've done the above, you can complete by either thickening the sauce, making it creamy, or adding butter to give it shine and softness in the mouth. Then, return the meat to the pan and let it gently simmer to complete the cooking of the meat.
BAM. You just created a reduction sauce. Take a look at how beautiful it looks! At the end I thickened with a bit of corn starch so it would stay transparent. And it all went over beautifully mashed yukons flavored with coriander, tumeric and dill. See the slide show for close up photos of the finished product!
Now, here are some photos of the other reduction sauce I made using filet mignon cubes, using fruit preserves and stock for flavor, and it all crowned a savory rice with bacon, over roasted broccoli.
So. I ate a banana for breakfast, along with a handful of almonds. Ate a salad for lunch...no dressing. Had a plain grilled chicken breast with blanched green beans drizzled with white balsamic for dinner. Uh, I might have quietly snuck in 2 crackers with some brie cheese later on. Yeah, pretty sure I did. Pretty sure it was more than 2.
By 8 o'clock it was obvious that I was not going to end the day with a low calorie award banner gracing my chest. It was cold outside, it had been one heck of a week, and my mixing bowl was clean. Hey, I don't need a lot of encouragement when it comes to snacks!
Seriously easy and ready in minutes, this was the best little pop-in-your-mouth remedy to a day engulfed by no-carb meals. And yes, I had one while it was hot, and I ate it whole...well maybe I had more. Okay, stop bothering me. I am eating.
Download my RAISIN GINGER MINI SWEET BISCUITS now! They're also #fabin40 !!!
Bisquick, and some vanilla flavored coffee creamer created the perfect flavor canvas for the addition of raisins and candied ginger. Brown sugar made it especially decadent. Cinnamon gave it oomph!
Tiny little suckers with TONS of yumminess! Use a small muffin pan to dial down the guilt factor.
You could frost these and serve as dessert, or slather with butter for a sweet note during a savory dinner. Either way, YOU. CAN'T. GO. WRONG!
Cooking is simply a set of perfected techniques, applied to various elements, all strung together to make a recipe sing. So, with that said, I will offer a few secrets to success. First, make sure your meat is room temperature when you start, and your pan should be remarkably hot before you add the oil and the meat. I bought good stew meat, nice and lean, but don't worry if you have tough cuts you want to use. The slow braising is designed by nature to make your meat nice and tender. Here you see that I tossed the meat in flour and salt and pepper before searing in a medium-hot Dutch oven. Only a few minutes on each side does the trick. Then you remove the meat and set aside while you create the next bit of magic for your stew.
By having the stock ready in another pan, I can add the hot liquid to the pan I seared the meat in, a little at a time. Here you see I added about 1 cup of the stock, and then scraped up all those yummy bits of seared meat into the liquid. It is the base of our stew.
Now, add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and let them cook until the onions are translucent which is only about 4 minutes. Put the meat back in the pot, add the other 3 cups of stock, add the Moroccan seasoning, and you're ready to cover the pot and put in a 325 degree F oven to braise for 1 hour and forty minutes. When you take it out, you can see how all the flavors are turning into one, amazing meal, already begging for a spoon.
Yes, I know. It's hard to talk right now it looks so yummy. But stay with me. It's almost time for the bowl. What you see here is how I know adding flavors after the meat is soft is the right way to go. This step is added because there's nothing worse than mushy, colorless veggies in a stew. Why have one part perfect, (the meat,) and another party acting as the sacrificial lamb, (the carrots and potatoes,) all for the sake of efficiency? REMEMBER. Techniques, when perfected, create great cooking.
The addition of Kalamata olives offer texture, color and the right umami saltiness. Golden raisins create the very light hint of sweetness you crave. And it all slowly simmers for about 20-25 minutes until the carrots are tender.
If you like rice, which I do, make a batch of Spanish rice; saffron rice like I did, to put on the bottom of the bowl before topping with the stew. It is a really nice textural backdrop and adds heartiness. But you're fine to serve this on its own and well.
Your last step before plating is to add a handful of fresh cilantro an stir. Do not cook the cilantro. Really, you will ruin in. Just let it float there, looking all green and pretty and adorable.
Feel like you can do it? GREAT! Just download the recipe and watch the following slide show with all my photos, so you can stave off the cold and the hunger during your next cold Saturday night!
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.