From D., 28 December 2009, Simple but fancy for the holidays – is it possible?
Q: Hello, gorgeous! How about a fancy-but-not-impossibly-technical new year’s eve dinner menu? Milwaukee needs your help!
A: Hi! Thanks for your e-mail!
For me, winter in Milwaukee means braised dishes. If you plan to serve meat, braises are ideal for dinner parties – you can do almost all the work well in advance, and the flavor improves if you let the meat rest in the braising liquid overnight. If you don’t plan to serve meat, the combination of lentils and poached egg can’t be beat. Poached eggs are a pain to prepare for a group, you say? Just poach in advance and hold in cold water – at serving time, you can warm them up again in not quite simmering water.
Bookend your main course with a beetroot salad and a simple but striking dessert combining bittersweet chocolate, olive oil, and salt on toasted bread, and you’re all set. These recipes serve 8 – feel free to increase proportions if necesary.
4 beets, scrubbed clean
6 ounces Maytag Blue or another blue cheese to your taste, very coarsely
crumbled or cut into large chunks
1/4 lb shelled walnuts
salt and pepper
Sherry vinaigrette – see below
1/2 lb watercress or arugula, washed and spun dry
Drizzle the beets with olive oil and place in a baking dish. Roast until
tender (about 45 minutes) and remove, setting on a rack to cool. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them using a paring knife. The peel should separate easily; if not, just peel with a knife as if they were raw.
Either while the beets are roasting or after removing them from the oven, spread the walnuts in an even layer on a sheet pan and place in the oven to toast. Turn the nuts if necessary. Remove when golden and aromatic.
Cut the peeled beets into sixths. Arrange three to a plate (for 8 people). Arrange walnuts and cheese around the beets and season with salt and pepper.
Toss the arugula or watercress with just enough vinaigrette to coat
lightly. Place a small mound of salad atop the beet/walnut/cheese.
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
ground black pepper
1/3 cup walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk the oil
slowly, drop by drop at first, and then as the mixture emulsifies and
thickens, in a thin stream into the mustard mixture.
8 lb short rib on the bone, cut in 2″x2″ cubes
3 each carrots, celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
6-8 thyme branches
1/4 c tomato paste
3 c red wine
6 c beef stock (chicken stock is ok too, as is unsalted chicken broth from a can or box)
salt and pepper
Prepare at least a day ahead, up to three days ahead. Oven 180F or 250F (read on for an explanation).
Season the beef on all sides. Brown in a little oil until well browned on
all sides. Set aside and remove all but 1 tbsp oil from pan.
Sweat the vegetables in a heavy sauce pot with a lid. Add tomato paste and saute a minute. Add aromatics and wine; burn off wine with a kitchen match. You can skip this burning-off step if flaming alcohol freaks you out.
Add stock and return to simmer. Return beef and any juices to the pot.
Cover with the pan’s lid or with a parchment lid, and place in oven. Braise 10 hours at 180F. For a faster short rib, braise at 250F 4 hours.
Remove pan from oven; remove short rib to container. Strain braising liquid through chinois into shallow pan (or a bain-marie, if you have one) to cool quickly. Add the braising liquid to the short ribs to cover. Chill overnight or at least 8 hours.
Remove cold fat layer from braising liquid and remove short ribs to a
plate. Return braising liquid to a pan and reduce over medium heat until
glossy, smooth, and sauce-like. This step may take from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your volume of liquid, the size of your pan, and the heat of your stove. Cut meat from bone and trim to even size. Return to the reduction to warm through.
At serving time, sauce the plate with a spoonful of the reduced braising
liquid; top with polenta or mashed potatoes, and then a short rib. Spoon a little more sauce around and sprinkle with gremolata.
2/3 c flat leaf parsley, minced
zest of one orange and one lemon, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Poach garlic in hot oil for about 10 seconds and then drain to remove the sharpness. Combine with zests and parsley. Season with salt.
Lentils and poached egg
2 cups Puy lentils
8 thyme branches, divided
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and brunoise (or diced as small as you can manage)
2 stalks celery, peeled and brunoise (or diced as small as you can manage)
1 large onion, diced 1/4″
4 cloves garlic conflit, puree
flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Bring the lentils, half the thyme branches, and the bay leaves to a simmer in water to cover plus several inches. When the lentils are al dente, add salt and continue to simmer until just tender. Drain and remove/discard the herbs.
Add some olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Saute the carrots, then add the onions and celery, then add the garlic confit. When the vegetables are just tender, add the lentils and saute two minutes more. Season with salt, pepper, chopped parsley, and the remaining thyme leaves, minced.