First the ribs… After a seemingly early spring thaw, winter came back with a vengeance bringing super cold temperatures and another load of snow. Ribs at our house are typically slow-cooked outside in a wood-fueled smoker, but not during the winter. When I checked out at the grocery store with my rack of spareribs, the cashier commented that only a devoted “super-griller” would be willing to stand outside that day and cook ribs. I was happy to respond that I’d be making ribs in the oven!
These ribs cook in a savory caramel sauce that starts by melting sugar, a step that used to terrify me, but I am slowly becoming more comfortable with. The sauce is rounded out with some beer (I used stout) and bourbon along with other savory ingredients.
The ribs, cut into 3- or 4-rib portions, are coated in the sauce and then baked in the pot for a couple of hours, turning occasionally. The pork became meltingly tender, practically falling of the bone.
I opted to serve these “French-Style” with plain white rice, though when Howard read the open page of the cookbook, he wished I’d chosen the suggested Mashed Potatoes. Even though mashed potatoes probably would have been tasty, I thought the rice was the perfect platform for spooning some the sticky sauce.
We both enjoyed the ribs. It’s exciting have new winter option to cook when the smoker is buried under a pile of snow.
Two weeks ago, I made the Wheatberry Salad with Radicchio and Root Vegetables. We had just returned from a week in Florida, and though I made this dish on time, I couldn’t get it together to write about it.
I love roasted root vegetables. Fall and winter, a steady supply of them fill the refrigerator and a “make shift” root cellar. I’m getting to the end of my stockpile, but I roasted a combination of watermelon radish, celery root, parsnips, and carrots, a colorful medley. Radicchio is something I’ve only eaten in salad, so throwing chopped radicchio on top of the root vegetables in the oven for a few minutes to wilt was a new trick.
My salad was based on farro because I’m enamored with Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro. The farro is parboiled so it really does cook in just 10 minutes, though I forgot to add a bay leaf when I cooked it for this recipe.
The farro and vegetables are tossed together with a dressing made tangy by the addition of pomegranate molasses. You’ll notice that I didn’t add the pomegranate seeds. Pomegranate seeds in this salad would have violated Howard’s rule prohibiting the mixing of fruit with savory. Also, pomegranates just went out of season here, so I couldn’t find any anyway.
I served this salad as a side with roasted chicken thighs. Another hit that will be repeated.
Finally, there’s the Merveilleux, on the schedule back in February. This was a dessert that just didn’t want to get made. David Lebovitz challenges anyone who doesn’t like meringues because they’ve never tried a merveilleux. I like meringues. The problem is that I’m not a big fan of whipped cream. I really dragged my feet on this one. When I first set out to made these last month, I was out of confectioners’ sugar. Earlier this week, I restocked and made the meringues. When I got ready to make the whipped cream filling/coating, I found that the whipping cream was spoiled. Off to the store again.
I whipped up the cream with a tinge of espresso powder, making it reminiscent of tiramisu. To construct the merveilleux, I sandwiched the cream filling between two meringues, slathered the outsides with more cream, and rolled them in chocolate, before chilling them for a couple of hours. This is one recipe where I wish the book had included a picture. I still have no idea what merveilleux are supposed to look like.
Howard renamed these “Merv Griffins” because it’s easier to say. Neither of us were fans, obviously because we don’t care for whipped cream. I made a half batch of five, so hopefully I can find three friends to share the remainder with before they get soggy.
If you don’t have My Paris Kitchen in your cookbook collection yet, you should add it. So many of these recipes are winners. If you want to try any of these recipes yourself, you can find Pork Caramel Ribs on page 187, the Wheatberry Salad on page 240, and Merveilleux on page 281.
To see what my friends thought of these recipes, check out their posts from Cook the Book Fridays.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Erin go bragh!
This year, I’m participating a Mastery Challenge of food preservation hosted by Marisa McClellan at Food in Jars. The challenge for February, the second month, is Salt Preserving. There were so many different avenues to explore in this category. I decided to focus on this technique for extending the lifespan of herbs.
While February is not the ideal month for fresh herbs in the garden, it is still a good month to practice with store-bought herbs in anticipation of the summer season.
My first experiment was Salamoia Bolognese. I’d read about this Italian herb salt on You Grow Girl a while back, so this was the perfect opportunity to put it into action. I followed Guyla’s recipe more-or-less. I hand-chopped the sage and rosemary, chopped the garlic in a mini-chopper, and took the liberty of adding peppercorns which confined in a ziplock bag and whacked with a rolling pin to crack them. The mixture is spread on a baking sheet for a couple of days while the salt dehydrates the moisture from the herbs and garlic. I sometimes wish that blogs came with “scratch-and-sniff”. While the mixture did its magic, it smelled fabulous every time I walked by.
I also used this mastery challenge as an excuse to make The River Cottage’s Vegetable Bouillon, another recipe I’ve been wanting to try. The food processor made quick work of chopping the vegetables and herbs. Again, the fragrance was enticing. This mixture of salt, celery root, carrots, fennel, and leek, along with cilantro and parsley, is packed into jars that are refrigerated or frozen. A spoonful added to a cup of boiling water makes a cup of vegetable bouillon. I used several spoonfuls to make vegetable stock I used in a roasted carrot soup. I ended up with more jars than I need for the foreseeable future so I shared some, put one in the fridge, and a couple in the freezer for later.
My final experiment builds on the Italian herb salt. After finding some stalks of lemongrass in my vegetable drawer, I decided to invent a Southeast Asian herb salt from garlic, ginger, lemongrass, serrano pepper, lime zest, and cilantro. I combined all the ingredients with a healthy dose of coarse salt and left it out to dry for a few days. This salt smelled even more amazing than the original version. Because there was a higher ration of moist ingredients than the Italian version, it took a little longer to feel dry. After the first day, I felt impatient, so I let the herby salt spend an hour in the oven on the Dehydrate setting (120F) which accelerated the process. After another day at room temperature, it was ready to pack into a jar.
I really enjoyed these projects. Now I’m excited about the combinations I can dream up during the summer when my prolific back-door herb garden cries to be used. Holiday food gifts in the making!
Southeast Asian Herb Salt
Yield: 1½ cups
2-3 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 large lobe of ginger, peeled
1 Serrano pepper, seeded
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and any dry layers removed
Zest of 1 lime
Leaves from ½ bunch cilantro, washed and dried
1 cup coarse sea salt
In a mini-chopper, finely chop the garlic, ginger, hot pepper, and lemongrass. Depending on the size of your chopper, you might need to do this in batches. Transfer the chopped ingredients to a medium bowl. Hand-chop the cilantro leaves. Add to the bowl along with the lime zest. Add salt and combine well. (I used my hands.)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the salt mixture evenly on the baking sheet. Let it sit at room temperature for 48-72 hours until it feels relatively dry to the touch. If you are worried about dust or pet hair, mostly cover the sheet with an upside-down baking sheet of similar size. Don’t cover completely because the moisture needs a way to escape.
When ready, if the salt seems clumpy (mine did), transfer it to a bowl and lightly break it up with your hands before transferring to a jar.