Cooking · Dinner

A Special Dinner

Since I have been not working my normal 8 AM – 5 PM, Monday through Friday gig, I have been doing a lot of cooking for people. Last night I made an elaborate birthday dinner for that someone special. This person happens to love braised short ribs – something I have never made before, but I welcomed the challenge!

Earlier this week I started looking at a lot of recipes for braised short ribs, because I really didn’t know where to start. I knew the basic idea, you buy bone in short ribs and brown them and then cook them in some liquid (including red wine!) for hours. But that is about all I knew about this project.

I finally settled on a recipe from the Food Network by one of their personalities, Anne Burrell. Sometimes I watch her show on Food Network, when they are looking for a chef to take over a new restaurant. I’m not a huge fan of her personality (possibly one reason I would not make it in the restaurant world?) I mean, seriously – who needs to yell that much? But anyhow. I think this recipe was a pretty big hit. Click here for her recipe. I followed it almost exactly, I didn’t braise quite as many short ribs, I think I cooked 3 pounds, and just brought everything down a bit and kept most of the ingredients to scale.

I bought all of the ingredients for this dinner at Wegman’s. It is the most I have spent at the grocery store in over three weeks. It was nice to shop… I picked up short ribs, potatoes, asparagus, and things to make a pumpkin pie. (I have got to remember to pick up more Libby’s before it is off the shelf in the local stores!!) The bill came to about $80. Yikes – not so great for someone on a budget, but a bottle of red wine was included, and I was making a big dinner for three and I knew there would be leftovers, too. I did not even fret about the bill.

When I got home I decided to make the mashed potatoes first, because I knew they would keep well in the refrigerator after cooling down, and I knew they would heat up easily when we were ready for dinner. I started making the mashed potatoes around 12:15 on Friday afternoon. Mashed potatoes are so good – and they should be awarded best supporting actor in a dinner like this. They are SO important – and they have to be great. I just love making good mashed potatoes.

I washed and peeled the potatoes (I bought 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes):

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Then I cut them up (maybe into fourths…) and put them in a big pot of water that was coming to a boil. I cooked them for about 30 minutes, maybe a few minutes longer. Then I drained the potatoes into a colander, tossed the rest of the cooking water, and then returned the potatoes into the pot. I turned off the stove while I was doing the next steps. I added 3 tablespoons of butter, four ounces of reduced fat cream cheese, 2-3 minced garlic cloves, salt, freshly ground pepper and some milk and a splash or two of half and half. I was mashing and stirring with a big wooden spoon while doing all of this. Eventually I put the potatoes into a serving plate.

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Eventually I covered the potatoes, and after they were cool, I placed them in the refrigerator. These are a great “make ahead” dish when you are making a meal that has a few components.

The next thing I tackled was the pumpkin pie. I created my own recipe:

Heather’s Pumpkin Pie

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt (I started with 1/4 t and added just a smidge more. Most pumpkin pie recipes call for more salt…)

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon all spice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup brown sugar

scant 1/4 cup white sugar

1 can of Libby’s pumpkin purée

2 eggs (beaten)

1 can evaporated milk

1 unbaked pie crust, on a 9 inch pie plate

Directions:

Mix sugars, salt and spices together in a small bowl.

Beat two eggs in a large bowl.

Slowly incorporate Libby’s pumpkin into the egg mixture, stir. Gradually stir in sugar – spice mixture. Slowly stir in evaporated milk. Pour into unbaked pie shell.

Bake pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn down oven temperature to 350 degrees, continue to bake pie for 40 – 50 minutes, until you can insert a knife into middle of pie and it comes out clean. (I covered the edges of my pie crust with aluminum foil so they did not burn. Is it just me, or is this the hardest trick in the world??? I totally burned my finger trying to get the foil to not fall off. Sigh. At least the pie crust was not burned!)

Let pie cool on a cooling wrack for two hours. Serve or cover and refrigerate until dinner!

Serve with whipped cream and or vanilla ice cream!

Here is a picture of my pie before it went into the oven:

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It was a huge hit at dinner last night. People also ate it this morning, for “breakfast”. 🙂

Once the pumpkin pie was finished cooking (it took quite a bit of time in the oven, probably an hour total) I started the main course. The short ribs! I got my Le Creuset ready, and prepped the short ribs. I seasoned the short ribs with some kosher salt. But not nearly as much as Anne Burrell does in her video. Holy salt!! I heated up the dutch oven with olive oil and put the ribs in.

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While the meat was browning, I made the vegetable purée in my Cuisinart food processor (one of my favorite pieces of equipment!)

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I had done all of the chopping and dicing of the vegetables while the pumpkin pie was baking – a good use of time, I thought.

Once the short ribs were finished browning, I put in the vegetable mix and let it cook. It never browned as much as the recipe said it would. But I cooked it for a while. Then I followed the instructions, added the tomato paste, let it cook and eventually I added the wine and cooked the whole mixture for a while. After a bit, I added the short ribs back into the Le Creuset, added water so the meat was covered, and put it into the oven at 375 degrees. I checked on it a lot as it was cooking, and added water a couple of times to re-submerge the meat. It cooked for THREE hours. Once it was finished cooking, I took the Le Creuset out of the oven, put in the potatoes, and the asparagus I had prepped and let those cook. While the asparagus and potatoes were in the oven, we all had a glass of wine and some salad to start off the meal with.

Then it was time for the plating of the dinner. Not quite a masterpiece, but pretty close. The potatoes and asparagus were my favorites. (Obviously!) but I ate the short ribs, too! Everything had good flavor and was tasty. Everyone else cleaned their plates. I just couldn’t, and left an asparagus or two and some meat on my plate. Gold stars for everyone else!

The birthday boy’s plate looked like this:

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Pretty delish! We ate, talked and drank wine in to the early morning hours. It was a great night – and the pumpkin pie was a huge hit. I served it with whipped cream and vanilla bean frozen yogurt.

This morning I feel like my body is recovering from the red meat! I woke up and got right onto the treadmill for 45 minutes. Before coffee. It felt great to move and sweat, especially since I had skipped my daily run due to being in the kitchen all day.

This meal was a lot of fun to put together. I’m off… in search of leftover mashed potatoes! See you soon!

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