Variations on Hugh’s Beef and Farro Soup

Sheila and Rick on Vacation

Rick and Sheila enjoying winter!

Mayor De Blasio of NYC has been hyping the “Blizzard of 2015″ aka ” winter storm Juno,” which – if true – would be the first thing he has gotten right since he assumed office over a year ago.   Personally, I am always interested in how many snowplows the labor unions in NYC can mobilize for a winter storm or how many tons of salt will be spread on New York streets to make sure  auto commuters (and to a lesser extent: pedestrians) are not inconvenienced.    I don’t mean to trivialize the seriousness of a winter storm, but I am terribly disappointed that the YMCA will be closed tomorrow so I won’t be able to enjoy my daily sauna.   (Editor’s Note:  As the picture to the left suggests, the “California Dreamers” still believe they are on vacation.)

In any event, Sheila and I braved the crowds by elbowing our way through Whole Foods to stock up for a particularly bitter winter storm.  We opted for Hugh Acheson’s “Beef and Farro Soup” which was recently featured in  Food and Wine.   While this is more of a stew than a soup, Sheila decided to make several modifications to give the stew (sic soup) more flavor.  Personally, I am glad that she did.

Variations on Hugh’s Beef and Farro Soup

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces  (Editor’s Note:  Sheila recommends a mixture of 50% boned short ribs and 50% chuck for more taste.  Chuck is too dry!)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 9 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 head of garlic, pierced all over with a knife
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, chopped (3 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp of white miso
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika  (Editor’s Note:  Make this a Tablespoon, a teaspoon is useless!)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish (Editor’s Note:  The photograph shows shaved parmesan – grated is better!)

Preparation

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper, add half to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Repeat with the remaining meat.
  2. Pour off all of the oil from the casserole. Add 1 cup of the stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Add the remaining 8 cups of stock along with the meat, garlic, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Stir in the farro and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the farro is almost tender, 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, leek, celery, carrots, kale, miso and paprika. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic and herb sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with cheese and serve.

Again, this is a hearty stew more than a soup.  Enjoy on a cold winter’s day.

Braised Short Ribs with Celery and Onions

short ribsI love short-ribs, but they are rarely cooked properly.  There are few cuts of meat from a range-fed cow that taste as satisfying as short-ribs, but so few are cooked properly that I have finally given up ordering short ribs at a restaurant.

Now that Mamacita has retired (Editor’s Note:  Therese doesn’t like her new name and isn’t into retirement either), she has had a bit more of an opportunity to consult her cookbooks to feed her hobbling patient.  I feel that a slow recovery is required to help Mamacita “get her domestic game back.”     (Editor’s Note:  This comment was not intended to be sexist, but simply to highlight Mamacita’s great versatility).

This delicious recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s More Classic Italian Cooking, published in 1978.   The recipe, Brasato di Manzo con Sedano e Cipolle, actually calls for boneless beef such as chuck or bottom round.  Mamacita wisely opted for two or three lean pieces of boneless short ribs, which we then cut into rather large pieces that we could quickly brown in a stew pot.    I have found that braising meats such as short ribs for a long period of time breaks down the tough fibers of the meat and the vegetables add to the earthy taste profile of the finished dish.  Found below is Marcella’s Beef Braised with Celery and Onions in which we have substituted short ribs:

Braised Short Ribs with Celery and Onions

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 4 or 5 large, meaty celery stalks
  • 1 dozen small white onions
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lean boneless short ribs
  • 2 Tbs of olive oil
  • 2 Tbs of butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup of beef broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Strip the celery stalks of their strings, breaking off a small piece of stalk and pulling it down, or by using a vegetable peeler.   Cut into stalks about 3 inches long and rinse in cold water.
  2. Peel the onions and cut a cross in the root of each one to allow them to cook more evenly (we substituted frozen small onions to save time).
  3. Preheat oven to 350º.
  4. Brown the meat on all sides in the vegetable oil.
  5. Choose a flameproof casserole with a tight fitting cover (we added a layer of aluminum foil) that is just large enough to accommodate the meat snugly.  Add the olive oil, butter, celery, onions and the browned meat.
  6. Tip the pan in which you browned the meat and draw off the excess fat with a spoon.  Put the red wine into pan and turn the heat to high to deglaze.  Pour the contents of the pan into the casserole holding the meat and vegetables.
  7. Add the broth to the casserole, together with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  8. Place the casserole – uncovered – on a burner and bring the liquid to a simmer.  Then cover tightly and place on the uppermost level of the preheated oven.
  9. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender.
  10. Serve the beef and vegetables immediately (if necessary cut the meat into smaller pieces) and pour any excess liquid over the stew.

Enjoy.  Can be done beforehand and reheated.

 

Kale, Sausage and Mushroom Stew

Tuscan KaleThey say that people tend to lose their sense of taste as they grow older.   I suppose that is true given the number of people that watch politicians and their pundits on TV.  Personally, I believe that a bit of Tabasco makes everything more tasteful, with the possible exception of  “hate” TV.   One vegetable that has become a favorite of mine is Tuscan kale, also known as black kale or lacinato kale.  The taste is so distinctive and sharp that no Tabasco is needed to stimulate the saliva glands.   The best thing about kale is that it is full of antioxidants and is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium.  It isn’t often that you find a vegetable this tasty that does so many good things for your body.

I made a New Year’s resolution to promote a more healthy diet in 2011 on GourMay.  Some of my Texas relatives were not pleased with this decision but after watching Jamie Oliver give his vegetable quiz to some West Virginian kids, I decided  to jump on Jaime’s bandwagon and support the American Food Revolution. 

 I mean, imagine a world dominated by McDonalds, KFC, Dunkin Donut and Starbucks.  Pretty grim stuff if you ask me, but a diet of brown rice and tofu would likely send me around the bend.  

Now that I have a granddaughter, I want to make sure that she is brought up properly eating the “right” food.  I don’t plan to go overboard like most of today’s amateur nutritionists who have taken the joy out of eating.  GourMay is  simply going to focus on eating non-processed foods.  In fact, next month we will be launching a new section on GourMay on how to prepare natural baby foods as the solids begin to kick in month four of Corinne’s culinary awakening.

Several months ago, I presented a couple of kale recipes that were quite popular with old and young alike:  Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino and Kale Crunch.    This time, we will experiment with Mark Bittman’s kale stew recipe  (The Minimalist column from the New York Times), affectionately known to his fans as “Bitty,” who was paired with the Claudia “Eye Candy” Bassols in Mario Batali’s delightful and entertaining Spain food Odyssey, On the Road Again.

Kale, Sausage and Mushroom Stew

Ingredients

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3/4 to 1 pound Italian sausage, sweet or hot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound of kale, leaves stripped from stems, stems reserved
3/4 pound trimmed and sliced mushrooms
1 Tbs roughly chopped garlic
1 Tbs hot paprika or dried red  chili flakes, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock or water (not Perrier!)

Preparation

  • Put olive oil in a large deep skillet or casserole and turn heat to medium-high.  When the oil begins to ripple (Langston, that means make waves that you are not afraid to surf in), add sausage and cook without stirring until well browned on one side (about 5 minutes).  Meanwhile chop kale stems into 1/2-inch lengths and shred leaves.
  • Stir sausage and let it brown a bit more.  Remove it with a slotted spoon (don’t worry if it isn’t cooked through).  Cook mushrooms in remaining fat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
  • Add kale stems and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, in 3 or 4 minutes.  turn heat to medium and add garlic, paprika or chili flakes, kale leaves, salt and pepper.  Stir and cook about 1 minutes.  Return sausage to pan and add stock or water.  Raise head to high and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon.  Add salt and pepper to taste, ladle stew into bowls and top with reserved mushrooms.

You are what you eat and, quite frankly, the war in Europe would have been lost if Churchill had been eating tofu and drinking skim milk.