Monday, November 5, 2012

"Dining Out at Home" - Beef Stew for Men

Date I made this recipe:  November 4, 2012

Dining Out at Home by Sophie Leavitt
Published by:  Stackpole Books
© 1966
Recipe:  Beef Stew for Men – p. 60

You wouldn’t necessarily think that a recipe titled “Beef Stew for Men” would set off a firestorm within me, but it did.  Call me sensitive, but after hearing some very interesting things coming out of some politicians’ mouths this election season, I feel like women’s lib has been pushed back into the dark ages.   I mean, come on – “binders of women?” 

So then along came this recipe and I have to say, at first I laughed - “Beef stew for men?  So what—I can cook it but I can’t eat it? Suddenly I was thrust back in time to an Irish Spring commercial from the 70’s featuring a woman picnicking with her man (boyfriend, husband – not sure). (And they’re both Irish which of course makes perfect sense for an Irish Spring commercial.) He says that the bar of soap features “two deodorants to help keep a man clean and fresh” and then she utters the famous tag-line:  “Manly, yes, but I like it, too.”

So in the spirit of the Irish Spring commercial, I just had to ask myself just what about this recipe made it “manly?”  Was it the fact that it contained glazed carrots (Ooh fancy, fancy)?  Was it the addition of wine?  Was it that beef is something only men enjoy? (If you think that’s the case, you clearly haven’t seen me tuck in a filet!) 

Suddenly my snort upon seeing this recipe turned into a rant.  My poor husband started backing out of the room as I went on a mini tirade about this recipe:  “Oh sure, women end up cooking it but it’s intended for men?  What the hell is that all about, huh, huh? And did you know that for years and years most professional chefs were men, not women?  So what recipe do women get to make, Baked Chicken for Women….”

If we had a dog, I’m pretty sure the dog would have been halfway down the alley while I was having this “discussion” with my beloved.

I am not a feminist per se but having grown up during the dawn of the women’s movement (the 60’s and particularly the 70’s), I get particularly irked when I see what appears to be dings at all the strides women have made over the ages.  Never mind that this recipe is from 1966 – I’m making it now, damn it!  I am not a binder, I am woman, hear me roar!  (Okay, true confession time:  I appreciate Helen Reddy’s battle-cry, I Am Woman, but as a singer, I thought the song ended on a weak note instead of a powerful one, and Helen seemed almost apologetic as her voice faded away into the night.  Think about some of today’s kick-ass female vocalists like Pink or Gwen Steffani or even Beyonce and oh yeah, no apologies there.  And if Whitney Houston had gotten a hold of it well, can I just say whoa?  Talk about a roar….)

Speaking of roaring about women’s issues, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, who cracks me up to no end, went on a particularly funny rant of her own in the past couple weeks against the Bic pen company.  Having worked in marketing, I can tell you that every company lives, breathes and dies with selecting the right product for the right market, and the Bic [pen] company is no exception. Ellen announced that we’ve made a lot of progress toward equality but something made her think that we still have a way to go and then announced – true story – that Bic had made a line of pens for women called “Bic for Her.”  In classic Ellen fashion, she said “I know what you’re thinking – it’s about damned time.”  She’s right – that was my very first thought besides What the Hell??

So okay, now we have Beef Stew for Men and Bic [pens] for Her.  Wow, I’m feeling so…special.  I mean, men get their beef stew and we get pens (in women’s colors of pink and purple).  We HAVE made strides, haven’t we?! ;)

So one more comment about women before I actually get to the recipe…for men…and that is that whereas once upon a time, a woman chef in the kitchen was about as rare as roast beef, these days women are making strides.  As you may imagine, I watch a lot of cooking shows and I am pleased to see more and more women competing in some of the chef competitions.  Last night, I watched the next iteration of the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef Redemption and hey, a big whopping four out of ten competitors were women.  So we should be pleased, right?  Well…perhaps if the numbers were half and half, or even better, the majority of cheftestants were women I’d be happier but then again beggars cannot be choosers.  A woman in the kitchen competing alongside men is a good thing.  (And can I just say that I have met Alex(andra) Guarnaschelli who kicked butt and won the evening’s competition?  Oh yeah, she rocks it.).  I cannot wait to see if some of these cheftestants make Beef Stew…for Men!

Despite all this gripping and ranting, the recipe was pretty tasty but then why wouldn’t it be?  The cookbook was written by a woman and cooked by a woman.  Oh yeah—I am woman, hear me roar….(and get the hell out of the way of my chef’s knife [for her?!].  You’ve been warned…)

PS—tomorrow is Election Day.  Get out and vote!

Beef Stew for Men – serves 8
4-lb chuck roast, 2-inch pieces, room temperature (I cut the recipe in half and used two pounds of stew meat)
8 carrots, each cut into 3 pieces
1 T fat to glaze carrots (I used Crisco)
1 ½ T sugar
4 T fat as needed (to brown the meat)
4 T flour
3 cups strained, canned onion soup or dehydrated onion soup as per instructions or 4 bouillon cubes, diluted with 3 cups water
1 cup red burgundy wine
3 T tomato sauce
4 allspice (I happened to have whole allspice on hand but if you don’t, then I would use ground allspice but sparingly)
2 large bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
3 large garlic cloves
¼ tsp pepper to taste
1 ½ tsp salt or more to taste

Glaze carrots by melting fat, adding sugar over carrots, shaking, rolling them around until glazed; then set aside on a plate, getting all the glaze up with a rubber spatula.

Wash out skillet, heat with 1 T fat, brown beef, adding fat as needed; avoid crowding, so as to brown better.  Place in casserole; remove fat from skillet but leave brownings in; set aside while you sprinkle 2 T flour over beef in casserole, shake to distribute, heat in oven over 5 minutes, sprinkle other 2 T flour and shake, heat 5 minutes.

Pour rest of ingredients into skillet, scraping up brownings, and bring to boil.  Pour over beef in casserole adding carrots, bring back to boil before putting in the oven with a lid on.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees.  Cook, stirring once in a while, 2-2 ½ hours.  Correct seasonings.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

"A Chicken in Every Pot" & "The Roasted Vegetable" - Chicken Baked in Cider & Roasted Beet Salad

Date I made these recipes:  October 28, 2012

A Chicken in Every Pot by Edith Vanocur
Published by:  Thomas Y. Crowell Company
© 1976
Recipe:  Chicken Baked in Cider – p. 22

The Roasted Vegetable by Andrea Chesman
Published by:  The Harvard Common Press
ISBN:  1-55832-169-1
Recipe:  Blue Cheese, Roasted Beet and Endive Salad with Orange Vinaigrette – p. 93-94

I was feeling in a fall kind of mood this weekend.  The weather has turned colder, Halloween is around the corner and so why not bake and roast and just hunker down for the day (especially with Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the east coast as we speak?)

Selecting today’s entrĂ©e was really easy (how convenient that the cookbook’s cover was a lovely shade of orange just in time for Halloween) and the dish itself took no time to assemble.  It’s a basic dish of chicken with apples, onions and a sauce of frozen apple cider concentrate mixed with Calvados (French apple brandy).  What I didn’t expect though, was that the apples would completely disintegrate, turning my lovely apples into applesauce.  No matter, we ate it anyway. (This gives new meaning to the term “October surprise,” usually used in politics.)

Finding a dish to accompany my chicken proved to be more challenging.  I wanted to do something with onions (I have a cookbook devoted to onions, onions and more onions) but my husband nixed that saying he wasn’t that fond of onions.  Say what?!  I think he feared I was going to make French onion soup, a threat I keep throwing at him and for whatever reason he is just not keen on that concept.  Silly rabbit—what is not to like about an onion soup topped with cheese and croutons?  That wasn’t what I suggested but he wrinkled his nose anyway and so I put that cookbook aside and brought out The Roasted Vegetable cookbook instead.

The challenge with this cookbook was not a lack of good recipes because there were plenty, but rather finding something that complimented my chicken.  At last I found something he could get behind – a roasted beet salad.

Michelle Obama was recently asked how she felt about beets and she said you’re either a beet person (with a beet “gene”) or you’re not and she’s not.  We are.  We love beets and he especially loves beets and blue cheese and so when my man’s eyes lit up when I read this recipe, we had ourselves a side dish. 

Don’t ask me why I was hell-bent on roasting a vegetable though.  It just seemed like the right thing to do despite the fact that I have many, many other cookbooks that I could have selected.  When the weather turns dour (“dour” is anything that is less than 75 degrees and it’s cloudy and gloomy), I hit the books that bring me comfort and roasting (and the warmth of ovens) gives me comfort.

The beauty of these two recipes is that they both cooked in a 400 degree oven so that made is easy—I hate adjusting oven temperatures.  And when I realized that my apples had turned to applesauce, I just turned that into a potato topping and went about my way – no fuss, no muss, no bother.

Enjoy fall.

Chicken Baked in Cider – serves 2 or 3
1 whole fryer
Salt and pepper
2 medium-sized onion, peeled
4 tart apples, peeled and quartered
¼ cup Calvados (optional)
1 6-ounce can frozen cider concentrate

Season the chicken inside and out.  Place the onions in the cavity of the chicken.  Place the apples in the bottom of a casserole and the chicken on top of the apples.  Mix the Calvados and cider and pour over the chicken.

Cover the casserole tightly and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or less, until tender but not quite “done.”  Baste once or twice during baking.  Uncover and bake 10 more minutes, basting frequently.  The sugar in the liquids will glaze the chicken a beautiful brown.

Blue Cheese, Roasted Beet, and Endive Salad – serves 4 to 6
3 or 4 medium-size beets (about 1 pound), tops and roots trimmed to 1 inch
4 heads Belgian endive, sliced crosswise into 2-inch pieces
2 ounces Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup)
¼ cup slivered almonds or chopped walnuts, toasted
½ cup Orange Vinaigrette (p. 94)

For Orange Vinaigrette – makes about ½ cup
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
White or freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grapeseed, sunflower, or canola oil

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Place the beets on a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrap to form a well-sealed packet.  Roast for 1 to 1 ¼ hours, until the beets are tender.  When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 2-inch matchsticks.

In a large salad bowl, combine the endive, blue cheese, and nuts.  Toss lightly.  Add the beets and toss again.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss and serve at once.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl to taste.  Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Use immediately.