Mock Stroganoff with Tagliatelle

My Mom has always been a whiz at throwing stuff together in the kitchen. She doesn’t give herself nearly enough credit for her ingenuity, but no one in my family has ever gone hungry. One of Mom’s best tricks was pulling whatever was left in the fridge at the end of the week together to make something tasty. A perfect example of this is her mock stroganoff: ground beef and mushrooms tossed together with sour cream and a splash of red wine over egg noodles. Both super fast and super tasty, it was always a favorite. After a conversation with an old friend this afternoon reminded me of Mom’s stroganoff, I decided to update it a touch with some London broil, tarragon, and fresh made noodles.

seared steakI started with an organic, grass fed london broil. Dry your protein and season it well with salt and pepper. Heat a neutral oil, like canola oil, to a high heat in a cast iron pan. (I use this cast iron grill pan from Le Creuset – it’s phenomenal and great for making those classic grill marks!) I seared each side of the London broil for about 3-4 minutes a side and then finished in a 425 degree oven. I like my steak somewhere in between rare and medium rare, so I left it in the oven for about 7 minutes and then pulled it to rest. (Note: this is basically my favorite way to cook any red meat off the grill. Searing the meat first ensures that all your juices stay inside the cut of meat, exactly where you want them. Letting the meat rest after finishing it in the oven allows the juices to redistribute themselves evenly throughout the cut, so your steak will always be perfectly moist!)red wine, mushrooms, and onions

While my steak finished, I sweat one half of a yellow onion in oil and a smooshed garlic clove over a medium heat til they were translucent, and then added 4 sliced button mushrooms. After 3 minutes, I poured in enough red wine to cover the mushrooms and onions. I turned the heat up a bit and let the red wine reduce.

red wine and mushroom reduction with sour creamAs the sauce reduced, I cooked some fresh tagliatelle from Ceriello in boiling, salted water and tossed it with butter. Once the red wine has reduced to an almost syrupy consistency, add in half a cup of fat free sour cream and a tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon and spoon the mix over the noodles. (Adding the fresh herbs right at the end of making your sauce allows them to stay bright green and impart the freshest, best flavor to your sauce.) Slice the London broil thin slices and enjoy! The whole process shouldn’t take more than half an hour – it’s a fast meal with lots of flavor, and the London broil makes for great leftovers the next day. How about tossing some slices in with some gorgonzola, shallots, and vinaigrette in a salad at lunch?

Mock Stroganoff with Tagliatelle


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Roasting a Chicken

It’s been an unacceptably long time since my last post, but hopefully my absence works to your benefit. When I first started this blog, I was happily puttering about the kitchen, content to be an amateur. However, the more thought and effort I put into my hobby, the less satisfied I became with the concept of being an uneducated chef… so much so, in fact, that since January, I’ve been enrolled in culinary school. I am OBSESSED with it: attending is something I’d always wanted to do, but never really considered an option. I’ve been learning a TON and today’s post is dedicated to passing along one of my favorite techniques that I’ve picked up so far.

Roasting a chicken was one of the first things I ever learned how to do in my mom’s kitchen. The concept was pretty simple: rub some stuff on the chicken, throw it in the oven for an hour or so, and call it a day. While that can definitely suffice, what I’ve learned in class beats the pants off of that.

trussed, stuffed, seasoned chicken I used a free-range, organic chicken. It’s a bit smaller than your typical oven stuffer roaster, but I appreciate knowing that my chicken was able to walk around and eat something other than corn. While I never previously paid much attention to the difference between corn fed vs. grass fed chickens, the meat of this organic bird was actually whiter. I started by trimming the chicken wings and cleaning up the drumsticks. I stuffed the cavity with some tarragon and chopped up onions, leeks, carrots, and celery and seasoned the bird (inside and out) with salt and pepper. I trussed the bird to help keep its shape and hold the stuffing inside.

I think this next step is the key to the difference between a good chicken and an awesome chicken.browning the chicken While I’d always previously just thrown the chicken in the oven, browning the skin first makes for a WAY tastier bird. (Not only does your skin get extra crispy and tasty like this, but it also helps make sure all the juices produced during roasting stay inside the meat where you want them.) Heat some canola oil in a medium frying pan. Using a grill fork to turn the bird from the inside, brown the bird on all sides. While you could also use tongs, I prefer using the grill fork in the cavity of the bird in order to avoid piercing the skin more than necessary.

roasting the chickenAfter browning thoroughly, place the bird in a roasting pan over a bed of rough chopped veggies in a 400 degree oven. (If you have the option of a convection oven, I find that using it makes your skin crisp up just a little bit better than a normal oven.) Start with the breast side of your bird facing down; this forces the juices from your bird and the veggies inside into the breast, keeping it super moist and tender. About half way through your roast, turn the bird over so the breast side is facing up. Your browned skin should get nice and crispy. Total roasting time should becarved up pieces around an hour; you’re looking for the juices to be clear and the bird to reach an internal temperature of 150-155 degrees. After your bird hits the proper temperature, let it rest for a few minutes before carving to allow your juices to redistribute themselves evenly.

The beauty of a roast chicken is that you can do almost anything to it… I served mine with a sauce made from reducing the pan juices and a little bit of red wine and honey, but be creative. Maybe try stuffing your chicken with some veggies with lemon and sage, or some tequila soaked oranges? You really can’t go wrong. Enjoy!!

roasted chicken with a red wine and honey glaze

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Veggie Beef Soup

My preferred method of cooking is to take what I’ve learned from a combination of kitchen-osmosis and reading an endless flow of cookbooks, magazines, blogs and apply to something that I’ve never created before, just to see how it turns out. Most times, this turns out rather well for me. Every so often, however, a dish won’t go quite how I planned. In some ways, these are the dishes I enjoy the most, as making them work tests my creativity and the depth of what I’ve learned. This Veggie Beef Soup is one of those ventures.

Start with 1lb of beef in red wine.

I started with 1lb of beef brisket. (Note that I originally asked for chuck roast, as I wanted the beef in this soup to have the tender, falling apart consistency of a pot roast. My first challenge in this soup was the result of listening to my butcher, rather than trusting my instincts.) I removed as much of the exterior fat as possible, cut it into cubes, and put it in the bottom of a 4 quart pot with some red wine, salt, pepper, and 2 cloves of garlic that I smooshed with the flat side of my blade. While the outside of the beef cubes browned a bit, I worked on chopping my veggies.

Slice your carrots into thin discs.

Slice one LARGE (seriously – this was a behemoth vegetable) carrot into thin disks, cube 2 medium red potatoes, and chop one bundle of scallions (both the white and green parts). Set the veggies aside.

Beef Stock and Mushroom Broth

Add one quart of beef stock and one quart of mushroom broth to the beef. Stir, scraping up and brown bits on from the bottom of your pot, cover, and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

Add your veggies to the pot and recover.

Take one 10 oz bag of frozen corn and rinse it in a strainer until it’s no longer cold to the touch. (While I’d prefer to use fresh, the ears at my supermarket didn’t look so great, so I opted for frozen.) Add the corn to your soup.

Cover and let simmer for 2 hours on a medium heat, stirring about every half hour. Add another 1/4 cup of red wine about half way through.

My goal for this soup was to encourage the beef to fall apart in that delicious, stringy way that pot roast does without making a pot roast. However, as brisket is a beef that is generally cooked longer than pot roast, I needed to encourage it along. After two hours of simmering, use tongs to remove your chunks of beef from your soup. Add 1/3 of a pound of ditalini to the soup and recover.

Pull your beef apart to achieve the desired stringy texture.

To fake the right texture using brisket, use two forks to pull it apart the same way you might pull slow cooked pork. Once you’ve shredded your beef into small, bite sized chunks, return the beef to the pot and recover. (Note: While I haven’t yet tested this recipe using a roast, if you are using a roast, it should (in theory,) by this point be able to fall apart while you stir.)

At this point, I encourage you to experiment with the texture of your soup. If you enjoy thicker, heartier soups, then let your creation simmer for another 5 minutes or until the ditalini is cooked. (It should take about 10 minutes total.) Note that the ditalini will continue to soak up liquid leaving you with a thick stew. If you prefer your broth thinner and more in line with the traditional definition of soup, add another quart of beef BROTH (not stock – you don’t need that strong of a flavor at this point,) and let simmer til the ditalini is cooked. Enjoy!!

The final product: a hearty beef and veggie soup!

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Italian Gravy

As any good Italian knows, gravy is red sauce. Not just any red sauce, though, (and heaven help you if you’re even considering something out of a jar,) but the good stuff: fresh, thick, and slow simmered for almost an entire day. However, as most of us don’t have an entire day to babysit the gravy, I’ve adapted my Grandma’s techniques into this easy marinara recipe that you can make on any given weeknight with minimal prep time and effort.

Mince your mushroom extra fine.


checking on my onions...

To start, dice up half a vidalia onion and saute it a large sauce pan with extra virgin olive oil. (I like to use at least a 4 qt. pan; this stuff bubbles a lot.) Use enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Mince (the finer the better – you want these to almost melt into the sauce,) 3 cloves of garlic and one large white mushroom; add them to your onions. Cook the mixture on medium low heat until the onions are clear (don’t brown them.) Add more olive oil if necessary as you go – you always want the onions to have enough.

Next, add two 6 oz. cans of tomato paste. Stir until the mixture is blended well. Add two 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes. (I liked Muir Glen Organic because they offer both a Fire Roasted and a plain tomato and basil variety. I like to use a can of each to add a little bit more depth to my sauce, especially when I’m not cooking it all weekend.) Add salt, pepper, and oregano to taste. Stir and simmer for about 5 – 7 minutes.

Stirring the sauce...

Once the sauce has just begun thickening up a tad, take one of your empty cans of crushed tomatoes; fill it half way with water, and the other half with whatever sort of tasty red wine you have lying around the kitchen. (I happened to have a Concannon Petite Syrah open – it was delicious and worked really well with the flavors of the fire roasted tomatoes. Whatever works though, as long as you follow one rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t drink it alone, don’t cook with it.) Stir and cover, letting your sauce simmer on a medium heat.

Now comes the easy part: walk away.

Letting some steam off...

You can happily leave your sauce to its own devices for the next half hour. After 30 minutes, slide the lid to the side to allow some of the extra water trapped in the sauce to steam off. I recommend leaving it to simmer semi-covered for an additional 15 minutes, although it only gets better the longer you leave it on the stove. After about an hour of simmering time, you’ll have a perfectly thickened, multi dimensional marinara sauce that tastes just like Grandma used to make.

While the sauce is great on fresh pasta or with meatballs, it also works well as a pizza sauce, over chicken/eggplant/veal parmesan, in lasagna, or where ever else you would use a tomato sauce. I especially love to make large batches of this sauce as a time saving measure on weekends. If you pour the sauce into a jar and seal it when the sauce is still fresh off the stove hot, the jar will effectively vacuum itself closed and stay fresh. It also holds up well to freezing, in the event that you don’t have spare jars lying around the house.

Chef’s note: I tend to judge the quality of a dish by how badly I burn myself during the course of making it, as my general lack of hand-eye coordination makes not burning myself virtually impossible. So, if my thumb is any indication, this is a RIDICULOUSLY good sauce, but please be careful of the bubbling and splashing potential when you stir or pour your sauce. It is HOT.

My final product: spaghetti and meatballs with fresh homemade sauce!


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Follow Up from The Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment

For your viewing pleasure, here is a small compilation of musings on Brooklyn Chocolate – some from blogs and critics, some from my co-participants.

Time Out New York:

The Village Voice:

Always Hungry New York: (great post, even though they spelled my last name like I’m a cheese.)

Amy Blogs Chow:

Raspberry Eggplant:

Experimental Culinary Pursuits:


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Tales from The Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment

Nick and Theo have done it again.

Beat Me or Eat Me...

Competition is fierce at The Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment!

I first came across the gruesome twosome during The Brooklyn Cheese Experiment. I had a blast and met a ton of cool people (like the Working Class Foodies – go check them out), so when word got out about The Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment, I was IN.

My offering today was The After School Special: a dark chocolate cherry cookie, served with a shot of warm, vanilla milk on the side for dunking.

For the cookies:

Grind 2 oz of semi sweet baking chocolate to a powder. I like to use the ice breaking function on my blender for this, but you might prefer a food processor. Whatever works.

Cookie batter...


Blend with 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/2 a cup of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1  teaspoon of salt, and 2 big spoons of cherry preserves. (I like Bonne Maman.)

Mix in a stick and a half of room temperature butter. Once this mixture is smooth, add 2 large eggs. Blend til smooth.

In small increments, add 2 1/2 cups of flour.

Add 3/4 of a bag of 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips and a large handful of dried cherries, chopped up.

Bake for 12 minutes at 375.

Of course, what good are cookies if you don’t have a nice glass of milk to dunk them in? While cold milk is fine, I added a little something extra to the game and matched these with a shot of warm, vanilla-bean infused milk for dunking.

For the milk:

While I usually opt for skim, this time, I used 1% to hold up to the added flavors. Per half gallon of milk, whisk in the seeds from one half of a vanilla bean and 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Warm to your liking on medium heat, whisking frequently to avoid clumps and burning.

The Final Product!!!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies with Warm Vanilla Milk

Dunk away.




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Summer BBQ Adventures

This weekend, I enjoyed a fantastic BBQ with family and friends. Some of my favorite dishes from the cookout are below. (Sorry I have no pictures for these. Lame, I know.)

Rosemary Skewered Shrimp:

A quick and easy appetizer that you could easily make into a main course, and a great way to trim back some over grown rosemary plants at the end of the summer. For every five pieces of shrimp, cut a sprig of fresh rosemary. Peel the rosemary leaves off the stalk, with the exception of the tuft at the top. Take some pre-cleaned, de-veined shrimp and make a kabob of them with the now bare rosemary sprig. You should fit approximately 5 shrimp per sprig. Finely chop the rosemary you removed from the stalks. Mix it with 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice and 3T of extra virgin olive oil. Put the stalks in a plastic bag and pour the lemon juice and rosemary mix over it. Leave in the bag to marinate for an hour or two. Grill til the shrimp turns pink and serve. (Hints: protect the rosemary sprigs and the shrimp by placing foil down on your grill before you cook the shrimp. To turn this into a light main course, serve over polenta slices with a mesclun and balsamic salad.)

RIBS. Nuff said.

The morning of the cookout, I was presented with three full racks of ribs and told to go nuts. Of course, I guessed. I cut the ribs into individual portions and poured two bottles of a cinnamon flavored beer over them in a deep pan. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pan with foil, and cook at 300 for an hour, hour and a half. Mix one cup of dark brown sugar with 2 teaspoons of stone ground mustard and 5 cloves of minced garlic. Take the ribs out of the oven, coat the meaty side of the ribs liberally with the sugar rub. Drop the oven down to 275 and cook covered for another hour, hour and a half, or until they’re falling off the bone. Paint both sides of the ribs with a thin layer of BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays Hickory and Brown Sugar) and finish on the grill just for a hint of smoky flavor. Remove from the grill, paint with a thicker layer of BBQ sauce, and serve. YUM.

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