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French Onion Soup with Beer Bagel Crouton

2 Nov

My house smelled frickin’ amazing last weekend when I made this.  I made the beef stock on the same day – which happened to be a cold, rainy, dreary fall day that was absolutely perfect for simmering stock and standing over the stove caramelizing onions.  I used a couple of oxtail bones and a stewing bone, which added a ton of flavor and body.  The homemade beef stock was rich and unctuous, balanced perfectly by the sweet, slowly caramelized onions, pungent cheese, and subtle beer flavor in the bagel.  In fact, the beer bagel is what really takes this over the top in deliciousness, adding just enough of a small spin on a classic to make this dish truly exciting.  It was the absolutely perfect meal for a gloomy fall evening – totally warm you from the inside out comfort food.

French Onion Soup with Beer Bagel Crouton

French Onion Soup:

Adapted slightly from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

1 1/2 lb. or about 5 cups of yellow onion, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2″ pieces lengthwise

2 tbs. butter

1 tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. sugar

3 tbs. all purpose flour

2 quarts homemade beef stock

1/2 cup dry vermouth

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tbs. cognac, optional

2 beer bagels (see below), halved and toasted

1 cup gruyere, finely grated

1 cup Swiss cheese, finely grated

In a medium Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium heat.  Add onions and stir to coat with the fat.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Uncover, raise the heat to moderate, and add salt and sugar.  Cook for forty minutes or longer, until onions have turned an even, deep golden brown.  It is important to stir the onions every 2 minutes or so, scraping up any brown bits (hopefully, not burned bits) from the bottom of the Dutch oven with a wooden spoon.  Keep a very close eye on the onions, because if they burn, you have to start over.

Toward the end of the cooking process, bring beef stock to a rolling boil.

Stirring constantly, sprinkle in the flour and stir for three minutes.

Turn off the heat under the Dutch oven.  Add the boiling liquid while stirring.  Add the wine.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Simmer, partially covered, for at least 40 minutes, skimming occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Stir in cognac, if using (I didn’t).

Preheat broiler.

Ladle into four oven proof bowls.

Float one half of a bagel in each bowl.  Top with a small handful of each type of cheese.  Transfer to broiler and broil 5-7 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Beer Bagels:

Adapted from

Note: Clearly, this makes far more bagels than you need for the soup.  They are excellent in any way in which you would normally eat a bagel.

4 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 (.25) oz. packages active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm beer (we used an American pale ale brewed by my favorite home brewer, Zak)

4 tbs. white sugar, divided

1 tbs. salt

Preheat oven to 375º.

In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour and yeast.  Mix beer, 3 tbs. sugar, and salt together and add to the dry ingredients.  Beat with a hand mixer for about half a minute at low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl clean.  Beat at a higher speed for about three minutes.  By hand, mix in enough flour to make a stiff dough.

Turn out onto a lightly flour surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.  Cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Cut into 12 portions, shape into smooth balls.  Poke a hole in the center with your finger, and gently enlarge the hole while working the bagel into a uniform shape.  Cover, and let rise for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, start a large pot of water boiling.  Add remaining tbs. of sugar.  Reduce to simmering.

Put 4-5 bagels into the water, and cook 7 minutes, turning once.  Drain them.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.  Serve warm or cold.

Short Rib and Goat Cheese Empanadas

2 Jun

I have to start by apologizing for my long and unexplained absence.  Finals rolled in, then wedding stuff and work and a day or two slid into a week or two before I looked at my homepage and realized it had  been weeks since I posted.  I’ve really no excuse, other than a little bit of business and a whole heck of a lot of laziness.  So, to those of you who check this blog from time to time hoping to see something new, I’m sorry.

Anyway, I thought I’d get my butt back into gear.  These short rib and goat cheese empanadas were absolutely bursting in flavor, thanks in no small part to the delicious Pinot Szechuan sauce from The Czar’s Fine Foods, which I won awhile back from Noble Pig and finally had the occasion to use.

Empanadas are admittedly quite a bit a work, but there are several ways you can cut it down so it isn’t completely overwhelming.  The first thing is to use leftovers, or mostly leftovers, for your filling.  I already had some short ribs hanging out in the fridge from having some friends over for dinner, so it was as simple as chopping up some mushrooms, tossing with sauce, and adding a dollop of goat cheese to each empanada.  The second tactic is to use pre-made empanada shells, if you are so inclined, or even puff pastry.  You can also make the dough the day before and keep it refrigerated until you want to roll it out and assemble, which is what I did.

Regardless of whether you use all of the short cuts or none of them, these tasty mouthfuls of succulent beef and mushrooms with spicy, peppery sauce and tangy, creamy goat cheese are totally worth the investment.

Short Rib and Goat Cheese Empanadas

Empanada Dough:

4 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup cold water

1 whole egg

1 egg white

1 tsp. vinegar

1/4 cup shortening

Lightly whisk together water, egg, egg white, and vinegar.  Set aside.

Add flour to a food processor.  A little bit at a time, while pulsing, add shortening.  If necessary, add more shortening or flour to get a crumbly, moist consistency.

With machine running, slowly pour in egg and water mixture until dough just forms.

Remove from food processor and knead until dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, up to 24 hours.

Short Rib and Goat Cheese Filling:

3-4 leftover beef short ribs, shredded (for example, beet braised beef short ribs – the ones I used were braised in the slow cooker with pinot noir and some Pinot Szechuan sauce)

1/2 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/4 cup Pinot Szechuan sauce (or substitute something like hot barbecue sauce or sriracha or Tabasco)

Mix together all ingredients.

Assembled Pork and Sweet Potato Empanadas:

Makes about 6-8 empanadas

Empanada dough, see above

Short rib filling, see above

1/4 cup goat cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher salt

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400º

When making empanadas, work with a floured surface and rolling pin.  Roll out dough and, using cookie cutter (or, if you’re like me and don’t have them, a round bowl 6″ in diameter), cut into circles.

Place a heaping tbs. of filling (see above) in the center of the empanada dough.  Add a tbs. or so of goat cheese.  Brush edges with water and fold in half to form a half moon.

Crimp edges on both sides with a fork.

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Add empanadas.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake about 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Grilled Meatball Sandwich with Roasted Tomatillo-Parsley Sauce

29 Apr

It has been relatively chilly for late April, especially following a week or two of eighty-degree weather in March.  Oh, the vagaries of Cleveland weather.  So when it warmed up into the low sixties with sunny skies the other day, I decided I wanted to do some BBQ.

This grilled meatball sandwich is absolutely delicious.  So much so that I didn’t even bother to repurpose the leftovers the next day – I simply warmed them up and ate the exact same thing again.  The rich, smokey, beefy flavor of the meatball is offset by the bright, tangy taste of the roasted-tomatillo parsley sauce.  Ensconced in some lightly grilled ciabatta, this makes for a real home run.  I love the crispy edges of the grilled meatballs, balanced nicely with the moist, creamy interior.

The sauce is also particularly lovely with either salmon or eggs, if you have a little bit leftover (which I did).  It’s also nice on a bit of toast, so make extra if you love bright, tangy tomatillos and the herbaceous flavor of parsley.

Grilled Meatball Sandwich with Roasted Tomatillo-Parsley Sauce

Grilled Meatballs:

1 lb. ground beef (I used local, grass-fed, free range)

1 large egg

1 slice whole wheat bread, pulsed in a food processor until coarse crumbs

2 slices whole wheat bread, soaked in 1/4 cup milk, squeezed dry, and torn into small pieces

2 tbs. dried parsley flakes

1 tbs. paprika

1 tbs. garlic powder

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat your grill and spray your grill grate with nonstick cooking spray, spreading charcoal into a single layer (if using).

Using hands, mix together all ingredients thoroughly.  Form into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter.  It will yield about a dozen meatballs.  Place on skewers.

Add skewers to the grill.  Grill about 8 minutes per side, being sure not to attempt to move them for at least a couple of minutes (otherwise, they will stick).

The internal temperature of the meatballs should be about 160º.  Remove the meatballs from the grill slightly before reaching that temperature (or desired temperature), because the meat will cook while it rests.

Let rest 2-3 minutes and then assemble sandwich (see below).

 Roasted Tomatillo-Parsley Sauce:

3 small tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed, halved

3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

2 cups fresh parsley

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 tbs. red wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Add tomatillos, cut side down, to preheated grill.  Cook 8-10 minutes until very soft and charred.  Flip and cook another 5-7 minutes.

Add tomatillos, garlic, parsley, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to a food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped.  With food processor running, slowly add olive oil until well incorporated.

Assemble sandwich (see below).


Grilled Meatballs (see above)

Roasted Tomatillo-Parsley Sauce (see above)

2 rosemary ciabatta rolls (or store bought rolls of choice), toasted on grill if desired

Cut roll lengthwise, nearly in half.  Spread a few tablespoons of the roasted tomatillo parsley sauce on each half of the bread.  Add 2-3 meatballs and drizzle a tablespoon or two of sauce over top.  Serve immediately.

Pinot Noir Marinated Roast Beef with Pan Sauce and Roasted Root Vegetables

31 Mar

I’ve had this roast in the freezer for awhile, since I ordered some local grass-fed beef from Geauga Family Farms a few months ago.  This week, I was craving some red meat in a bad way.  More specifically, I was craving some roast beef.  When I remembered I had this roast tucked away, I could not have been any happier.  On a day when I only worked a half day and the weather had cooled down from the unseasonably warm 80-some degrees we’d been experiencing (which I am so not complaining about – I love the warm weather), I knew it was the perfect day to preheat the oven and make some roast beef.

I marinated the roast in pinot noir, created a flavorful rub, seared the meat, and then roasted it over some carrots, celery, and parsnip.  Served with a quick pinot pan sauce (containing yummy bits from the rub), this meat was juicy, flavorful, and really hit the spot.  The roasted veg went really well with the pan sauce and caramelized nicely.  Plus, this smelled absolutely divine as it was roasting.  The flavorful beef reaffirmed my love of grass fed beef, which has a very intense flavor in comparison to grain fed beef.  The beef was extremely satisfying served the next day cold on some white bread with a light smear of mayonnaise, crushed black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

Pinot Noir Marinated Roast Beef with Pan Sauce and Roasted Root Vegetables

2.5 lb. rolled beef top roast, preferably grass fed

1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, divided

2-3 cups dry red wine (such as pinot noir), divided

2 tbs. ground mustard

1 tbs. paprika

1 tbs. dried parsley

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 tbs. butter, divided

1 tbs. olive oil

Whisk together red wine, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 tsp. pepper.  Pour over roast in a bowl and let marinate, refrigerated, 1 hour, turning and pouring excess wine over the roast occasionally.

1 hour before cooking time, remove roast from the refrigerator to bring up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 325º.  Place two oven racks in the center of the oven one setting below each other.

Mix together remaining spices.  Remove the roast from the marinade, reserving marinade, and pat dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels.  Roll the roast in the spice mixture and pat to adhere well.

Heat olive oil and butter in an oven proof pan.  Add roast and brown about 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove roast to a cutting board for a moment.  Spray a roasting rack with nonstick spray and place in the pan.  Place the beef on top of the roasting rack.  Pour the marinade over the roast.  This will deglaze the still-hot pan.

Place the roast in the oven.  Roast 45 minutes without opening the oven.  Remove the roast and pan from the oven.  Add another 1/2 cup or so of wine to the pan (most of which should evaporate from residual heat from the oven).  Add vegetables to the pan and toss to coat.  Return the pan to the oven on the lower rack and the roast directly above it.

Roast another hour or so until internal temperature reaches 135-140º for a medium-rare roast.  Cover with tinfoil and let rest ten to fifteen minutes.  The final internal temperature should be about 145º.

Meanwhile, remove the vegetables from the pan.  Whisk pan drippings, adding additional wine if necessary.  Reduce by about half.

Thinly slice the roast against the grain and serve with a few spoonfuls of pan sauce and roasted vegetables.

Balsamic Short Rib Grilled Cheese

10 Nov

I am a real sucker for a good grilled cheese.  Heck, even a bad grilled cheese can turn my mood around.  I had an extra short rib in the refrigerator after making beet braised beef short ribs and was thinking about what to make.  While on a walk with Zak and the dog, I had a stroke of genius.  Grilled cheese!

I used a combination of colby jack and pepper jack.  The heat of the pepper jack worked well with the subtle sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and the colby-jack added a lovely creaminess to the whole thing.  As you can see, I slightly burnt the bread, so I adjusted the cooking time accordingly.  I wasn’t planning on posting this so I figured it was no big deal to walk away from the sandwich in the pan to do something totally unnecessary – but it was so darn good I couldn’t resist despite the slightly charred appearance.

Balsamic Short Rib Grilled Cheese

2 slices whole wheat bread

1 tbs. olive oil

Meat from one leftover short rib, shredded

1 tbs. balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup colby-jack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

Non-stick cooking spray

In a small sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add shredded short rib and cook until ends are darkened and caramelized.  Add balsamic vinegar and cook until reduced.

Spray both sides of the bread with non-stick cooking spray.

Place one type of cheese on each slice of bread.

Spray a 10″ cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Add bread, cheese side up, and cover.  Cook until cheese is slightly melted, about 2 minutes.  On one side of bread, add shredded short rib.  Assemble sandwich and cook another 2 minutes until cheese is totally melted.

Cut in half and serve immediately.

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