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archive for dinner

dinner for two… or three

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Recipe: chateaubriand and béarnaise sauce

I think Spring is trying to barge in on our Colorado winter. In fact, it’s practically sitting on our faces. I’ve been wearing shorts in the afternoons and leaving the deck door wide open to cool the house down. We’ve noticed the couple of feet of snowfall from the last storm start to dwindle under the sun and warm temperatures these past several days in the Front Range. If there is a trough sitting over the East Coast (meaning stormy or unsettled weather), there is typically a ridge over Colorado (sunshine and blah blah blah). We aren’t slated to get any storms for at least another week, so it’s skate skiing and backcountry touring for us. Up until now, we’ve taken Neva skiing on wide closed forest service roads which allow her plenty of room to run in front or alongside Jeremy. But this week Neva went on her first ski tour on a narrow trail (in sketchy conditions) and she managed not to pull Jeremy to injury or death (but she did pull – a lot). I’d call that a success!

neva is getting better about sitting when we stop

here’s how our girl does après ski on a bluebird day

To be honest, I don’t mind that the crazy winds have calmed down and that I don’t have to bundle up to the hilt when I go outside for exercise. Spring is a lovely time of year to ski, but… we’re not done with winter yet and if spring continues at this pace, we won’t have any snow to ski when it really is spring. Still, I’ll not stress about it too much just yet. Neva is loving the comfortable temperatures on the deck while I work, and we have been treated to some lovely displays in the evenings.

giant wave cloud at sunset (gold stage)

turning orange

fading to a rosy pink

So Valentine’s Day is coming up. I know people either love it or hate it. I personally think it is a stupid thing with a lot of unnecessary social and commercial pressure, but that’s just me. However, if you were to ask me for a recipe to make for someone special, I’m your girl. I have lots of great recipes to recommend, but this is one I recently tried for the first time and Jeremy made googly eyes at me… or at the steak? Chateaubriand was one of my sister’s favorite dishes to order at fancy restaurants if someone would order it with her – because it is typically served for two people. I may have taken a bite or two in my lifetime from mom’s plate (the other person who went in on it), but it was never something I ordered for myself. I’ve described it to Jeremy ever since we’ve been together, but it wasn’t until this week that he finally tasted it for himself.

Chateaubriand is a pan-seared and roasted center-cut whole beef tenderloin served with a sauce of some sort. It could be a mushroom red wine sauce or what I consider a more traditional pairing – Béarnaise sauce. I happened to have the fat end of a whole tenderloin leftover from the bourbon glazed beef tenderloin (also a fantastic recipe) in my freezer, and decided it was time to learn how to make this classic dish. First, start with the Béarnaise sauce which is rich, buttery, slightly tart, with hints of anise (from the tarragon), pepper, and wine.

butter, eggs (yolks), white wine, black pepper, whole white peppercorns, salt, white vinegar, lemon (juice), shallot, fresh tarragon

Make the Béarnaise sauce first because you want it ready to serve as soon as the steak is carved. I recall trying to make this sauce once in graduate school to accompany beef wellingtons for a dinner party, and it tanked in the most unforgivable way. So now, 15 years later, I think I’ve got the chops to do it right – or perhaps a better recipe. It is in essence an emulsion of acids (vinegar, wine, lemon juice), egg yolks, and melted butter. That’s pretty much it. Don’t let it get too cold – it will solidify. If it’s too warm, it will break (separate) and become oily and sad. In general, I didn’t encounter any problems with the sauce.

chop the tarragon

all of the ingredients measured and prepped

combine the vinegar, white wine, shallots, half of the tarragon, and peppercorns in a small saucepan

simmer down until you have about 2 tablespoons of liquid

**Jump for more butter**

the in-between

Monday, December 28th, 2015

Recipe: carne adovada empanadas

The last week of December – that time between Christmas and the new year – always tends to be one of the busiest at the ski resorts. Lots of people take time off for the holidays and head to the slopes with their families and extended families and friends. After the last good powder day on Christmas, we’ve switched from skiing the mountain to hitting the Nordic trails. The big storm tracks have cleared out and the trails are firming up under bluebird skies for some great skate ski conditions. It’s such a great workout that single digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures actually feel pretty good, unless you stop moving… then it gets quite cold quite fast.

jeremy wears two passes: his and neva’s

I’m also using this opportunity to work on some baby quilts. Actually, LOTS of baby quilts – some of which are for babies that aren’t babies anymore, but bona fide kids! I may be years late, but the sentiment is there. Plus, I carried two of my baby blankets around with me until… well, I have them in my bedroom now. These are flannel rag quilts because I don’t have the skill or time to make anything more complicated. Squares are good enough for me.

soft and colorful fabrics

The neat thing about this period before the new year is that parties seem to have an “anything goes” theme. Festive, yet not necessarily Christmas. I rather like that. It’s all about celebrating the end of 2015, looking ahead to 2016, and eating empanadas. Last month I made a big batch of carne adovada and decided to save some out to make empanadas. These are not traditional in any sense, just a New Mexican take on the revered empanada which turned out to be pretty darn delicious.

water, carne adovada, cheddar, paprika, green chiles, salt, vegetable oil, flour, butter, onion

I used the dough recipe from my favorite Argentine empanadas recipe. It’s straightforward to make and has a nice texture when baked. You can, of course, fry the empanadas (they are so so tasty fried), but my pants can only handle the baked version. Plus, it’s less clean up.

melt the butter and water

pace a pinch of paprika in a well with the flour and salt

mix the liquid into the flour

you’ll wind up with a nice oily dough

wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate

**Jump for more butter**

curry in a hurry

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Recipe: massaman beef curry

December already. Neva is now just over eight months old and we are falling into a nice routine. Nice enough that I could get out today for my first skate ski of the season at the nordic center. Keeping active in winter is essential for me, but keeping active outside is the icing on the cake. Winter in the mountains can be long (the longer the better!!!), so the strategy of holing up inside and biding my time until summer is a cop out. It’s probably my dad’s fault because he has always been the type who could never be inside for more than 24 hours before growing aggitated and insisting that we go sailing or fishing or camping or anything OUTSIDE. I do find that getting out into “green spaces” or “open spaces” does both me and Jeremy a world of good when it comes to our mental outlooks.

skate ski day #1, ski day #10

The other night I told Jeremy I am so happy that we don’t live down in Boulder or anywhere on the flats. In the mountains, we spend our time working and playing. When I lived in Southern California, it was far too easy to feel bored and go spend money to unbore yourself – to buy things you didn’t really want and certainly didn’t need only to clutter up your house, your life, and fall into the trap of needing a bigger place and more shit. That’s stressful living. I’m sure plenty of people find the mountains come with their own stressors, but it’s a simpler way of life. And I’m a huge fan of making life simpler if possible.

One thing that has greatly simplified my life is my pressure cooker. I try to incorporate it into recipes whenever possible because it reduces energy consumption, shortens cooking time, and achieves pressures that can’t be reached with conventional cooking methods at our high altitude. A few months ago, a high school pal sent me a note that he had made a few of my recipes on the blog and that they were a hit with the family, but that he wanted to attemp massaman beef because it is his favorite Thai curry. Well, it’s my favorite Thai curry, too! For nearly two decades, I have casually played around with massaman beef to moderate results (still better than any of the Thai restaurants around here), but my friend’s message prompted me to take another shot at it – with my pressure cooker. Don’t worry if you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can still do this with a Dutch oven. So Kevin, this one is for you!

potatoes, massaman curry paste, salt, brown sugar, roasted peanuts, onions, chicken stock, beef chuck, vegetable oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, tamarind concentrate, coconut milk

Most of the ingredients are easy to find in western grocery stores except possibly the tamarind paste and the curry paste. You could make the curry paste from scratch, but I have had good results with Maesri brand curry pastes (based on a tip from a fellow grad student who happened to be Thai). I have also heard good things about Mae Ploy brand curry pastes. [Edit: I’ve had a couple of folks ask if they can substitute red curry paste for massaman curry paste. The answer is flat out no – unless you WANT to make red curry with beef. I’m not being one of those asshole purists – it’s just that massaman curry paste is an essential ingredient for making massaman curry. This is like asking if you can substitute white chocolate for dark chocolate in a dark chocolate soufflé recipe and still get dark chocolate soufflé.] For tamarind, I have tamarind concentrate in my refrigerator, but you can also make tamarind paste from blocks of dried tamarind (Saveur has a nice tutorial). Select smallish potatoes. While most recipes recommend using waxy potatoes, I couldn’t help but use yukon golds, because they have the best flavor. The texture worked out just fine, too.

slice the onions

lightly char or brown the onions

scrub the potatoes clean

cube the beef

toss with salt

**Jump for more butter**