Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tuscan Beef and Pepper Stew

This recipe is from Simply Tuscan, by Pino Luongo. Also known as Peposo (from the large amount of black pepper), this stew is worth the effort.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds beef stewing meat
2/3 cup finely chopped carrot
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
salt to taste
2 cups red wine
3 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
2 T crushed black peppercorns

In a heavy casserole over high heat, warm half of the oil. Add the beef and sear it on all sides until dark brown. Keep some spacing between the cubes to prevent them from steaming. You won't be able to sear all the beef at once, so do it in batches. Set the beef aside when done.

Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining oil to the casserole. Add the carrot, onion, and celery, and some salt. Mix the seared beef with the vegetables and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the red wine and scrape the browned beef from the bottom of the pan. This is critical for developing the flavor. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until some of the liquid appears to have evaporated. Add the stock and the tomato sauce and cook for 15 minutes more. Add half of the squash and all the peppercorns. The original recipe calls for 4 T peppercorns, which seemed overpowering. You may even want to use less than 2 T. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least an hour. Keep the lid slightly open if you want some of the water to evaporate. When the meat is tender, add the rest of the squash and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Add salt if you wish.

This stew is excellent served over creamy polenta!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

World's Best French Toast

We made this french toast for Easter brunch and thought we died and went to heaven! But seriously, this is undoubtedly the best french toast I've ever had. It wasn't mushy or eggy like other recipes we've tried. The key is keeping toast in the oven until it is ready to serve. Eat it with syrup or powdered sugar and sliced fruit. The only thing we were missing was some crispy bacon.

World's Best French Toast
6 to 8 slices challah bread, sliced 1 inch thick
3 large eggs
3/4 cup 2% milk
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 T butter
1 T vegetable oil

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Get out a baking sheet and set aside.

Put the butter & vegetable oil in a large frying pan and turn on medium heat. Let the butter melt while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk all remaining ingredients together until smooth (not foamy). Pour the batter into a shallow dish or cake pan large enough for 2 slices of bread.

Put 2 pieces of bread in the batter and let them soak for 30 seconds per side. Place the bread on the frying pan and cook toast for 2 minutes per side. The bread should be golden brown, not dark. Put the bread on the baking sheet & into the pre-heated oven. Cook the remaining slices of bread in the same way, and remove all pieces from oven once ready to serve.

The bread will get a tiny bit more brown in the oven, so be aware of this as you are frying it up.

Dig in! Don't worry, you'll be forgiven for enjoying this sinful dish.
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