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stew

 

This winter has been “on/off” since early december. It goes from an “arctic blaze” to just a few degrees above freezing and then back down into the big frozen pit again. We have had a few snow storms and in American terms “blizzards”. But for a Swede, you can only call it a blizzard and a really bad storm when the snow comes at you from down and up and shakes you around as if you were stuck in tumbler. Yes, it has snowed but nothing to write home about. We survived.

Since we unfortunately miscalculated our supply of “snow melt” last year (we ran out of it and couldn’t find any to buy anywhere). We didn’t want to take any risks of that happening again this year. We have a large bucket of snow melt sitting at the bottom of the stairs in our basement right now. A pain to jump over any time you have to go down into the basement but it surely is worth the trouble. We will have leftover snowmelt for next year.

I think we are out removing snow every week. It really feels like an extremely snow filled winter this year. When I first moved to America there was never any snow in the winter. What has happened? Did “Global warming” cousin, “arctic cold winters” move in?

Another way to make the snow melt, well perhaps not make the snow melt but at least feel warm, is to eat winter hardy food. Stews are easy and really fulfilling. A little less rustic stew is to start with ground meat instead of chunks of meat. It can be stewing down in different liquids such as beer, wines or broths.

To mix it up a little, this stew has ingredients from the “antipasto” (or antipasti as some call it) counter at the grocery store. I find it fast and it mixes it up a little from my regular kinds of stews.

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*I love the marinated garlic cloves, marinated whole shallots, marinated olives all kinds, marinated artichoke hearts. It is so hearty to chop this up and add to any kind of dish. Anything from stews to omelets.

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Thanks to my dear friends at home, I get dried chanterelle mushrooms from home. They are absolutely fantastic to add to stews. You just put them in some cold water (don’t use hot water) and let them re-hydrate for a few minutes. Squeeze out the water and add them to the stew.

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Winter Stew:

Serves 6.

1 lb. of ground meat (I used ground beef).

1 finely chopped medium-sized onion.

1 cup chopped mushrooms. Either fresh or dried re-hydrated.

1 cup mixed antipasto items. You decide what. I used marinated garlic cloves, olives, onions and artichoke hearts.

1 cup chopped tomatoes. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, 1 can of crushed tomatoes works well.

2 tbsp. tomato paste (optional).

1 bottle of good a little darker beer or 1 cup wine. Red or white either works or  2 cups of stock. I always use low sodium chicken stock.

Splash of hot sauce (optional).

2 tbsp. concentrated stock (optional. I used my favorite Swedish “secret weapon”).

Salt pepper to taste.

1-3 tbsp. of finely chopped parsley for decoration.

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Directions;

Heat up a cast iron pot or a heavy-duty pot on a medium hot heat. In a splash of oil, fry the onion and the ground meat. When the onion is translucent and the meat has been browned slightly, add all the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Let cook down for about 5-10 minutes. Add the liquids and the antipasto. Let simmer on a low heat for about 35-40 minutes or until all is well stewed down and nice and soft. Taste and make sure the balance of spices is correct and to you liking.

Serve with some home-made mashed potatoes.

sprinkle over some finely chopped parsley for decoration.

Enjoy and stay warm!

 

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I can have cravings for a plate of a good old spaghetti and meat sauce, served with parmesan and a cold beer! A plate of something old fashion, “everyday meal”. Something your mama used to make.

I think that many of us has pasta as a “go to” or a “fast fix” meal. For me, one of the easiest sauces to make is a meat sauce. You can switch the meat out for anything else that you would prefer. Perhaps some tuna, pulled pork or just keep it vegetarian if you prefer that.

I don’t measure anything. I just take a little of this and a little of that. Whatever I have in the fridge will be the base of it all.

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Good old Meat sauce.

Serves 4.

10-16 oz. Ground beef.

1 medium or large onion. Any color.

1-3 cups of chopped fresh vegetables. I usually use a mixture of fresh mushrooms, peppers, carrots, celery.

1 medium can of crushed tomatoes. If you are lucky and have fresh tomatoes, cube those up and use those instead.

Lot’s of garlic. I like it a lot so for me, it will be about 6 cloves but if you only want one, that is good enough.

3-4 tbsp. of tomato paste (or ketchup if you don’t have tomato paste).

Any kind of fresh or dried herbs. About 1-2 tbsp.

Salt & pepper to taste.

A splash of hot sauce in my case but that is optional as always.

Milk or heavy cream. You could also use creme fraiche. If you don’t want to use dairy, just use a broth.

Directions;

Chop or shred your vegetables while you fry up the ground beef in a skillet on medium high heat. When the meat is done, pour over to a bowl. Fry the chopped onions and the vegetables in the same skillet. When the onions are getting a little translucent, pour in the fried meat. Add the tomato paste or ketchup. Start with half the amount since it is easier to add than take out. Let the garlic fry with the veggies and meat just a few minutes so they don’t burn. Add the crushed tomatoes  and the milk/heavy cream/ broth or whatever liquid you prefer to use, to the skillet. Let boil down for anything from 15-30 minutes. It all depends on how much liquid you have added. I add about 2 cups of liquid. If it gets to “dry” before I get a loose and soft sauce, I just pour in more milk. Salt & pepper to taste. Add the herbs the last few minutes.

I serve this with any kind of pasta. This is such an easy weeknight dish. The trick is to cook a lot of sauce and freeze it in badges. You just take it out the night before and let it defrost in the fridge over night. boil the pasta when you get home and heat up the sauce. Super fast. Just the way I like it. And that cold beer is just the crowning of this easy, basic dish.

Add some shredded parmesan and call it a day.

Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas is my favorite time of the year.

I love the smells of the (real) Christmas tree, the “Glögg” (mulled wine), the candles burning, all the food and all other smells that lingers in the house all through early December until the first week of January.

Some people say to me that Christmas is just here for one day. What a crime to only celebrate it for just one simple day. I start with first of advent and go strong until end of the Swedish Christmas season which is at the beginning of January when we throw out the tree.

I start making my snaps early. The same with “Glögg”. We tend to drink a whole bunch of it during the month of December. It is so nice to just crawl up on the couch with a cup of steaming hot “Glögg” after getting home from work.

We always have little Christmas dinner parties all through the season. It is my way of stretching it out as much as possible. I make sure that totally through it all, I have made all the traditional food that the Swedes would serve at the Christmas table. I try to not totally kill it with a giant spread on Christmas Eve which is the day we have a mayor dinner. After all, how much can one person eat in one sitting. It is so much better to spread it out. This way one can really enjoy all the different dishes.

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I always change my Christmas tables around.

It is so much fun to decorate. I make sure that my guests gets feel right at home and that they love all the Christmas spirit at our house as well as the food that we serve.

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The most prominent dish on our Christmas table would of course be the ham. I always bake it in the oven. You could boil it as well, but I think  it becomes a little “pale” in the taste.

The Swedish Christmas ham is a ham that has been resting in a brine (salt solution) for some time. You can ask your butcher if you can get a ham in a brine.

When you prepare it, you first have to rinse the ham off in regular water.

Pad it dry with a paper towel. Place in an oven proof dish and cover with foil. Use a food thermometer and push the very tip into the middle and thickest part of the ham (through the foil).

Bake in a 350 F (175 C) degree oven. About 40 minutes per pound. Make sure to place the ham with the pork rind facing up. The ham is done when the inner temperature reaches 140F (70 C). Take it out just before it reaches 140F degrees since it will keep cooking. Let it rest and cool down.

Take off the pork rind. Cut off as much of the fat as you want. Mix one egg yolk, 2-3 tbsp. of your favorite mustard. You can add a little brown sugar or honey if you want to (about 1 tsp.) Brush it on to the very top of the ham. Sprinkle over about 1-2 tbsp of bread crumbs. You could also cut a diagonal pattern through the mustard mixture and place a clove in the meeting corners. It is not needed but it is pretty.

Bake in a 450 F (225C) degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure it doesn’t burn though.

The first slice right out of the oven is the best you could ever imagine.

A lot of people actually buy a ham on sale after Christmas. They will cook it and have it as sandwich meat. I still do this. It is the best.

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The Swedish meatballs also has a place on the Christmas table. It is served with lingon berries. We eat cocktail sausages and ribs as well.

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There are lot’s of cabbage and kale dishes on the Scandinavian Christmas tables. One thing that I used to hate when I was a kid is Brussel sprouts but now I love them.

I start with steaming them half way through.

I finely cut up about 5 slices of bacon to 3 cups of Brussel sprouts.

Ultimately I use dry dried cranberries but I take what I have. This time I used some dried mango slices that I cut up finely.

You just fry off the bacon halfway. Add the berries/fruit and the Brussel sprouts. Fry until slightly browned.

Salt and pepper to taste. I add some hot sauce of course, but it is optional.

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Christmas would be the ultimate time to bring out all the traditional Swedish old things & crafty stuff.

I always have “branch candles” in the house. I used to make them with my mother when I was a child. I love to make candles.

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The lights in the house makes me happy…

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I try to not over decorate but I can’t help myself sometimes.

My mother-in-law said when she saw the bows in the kitchen ceiling lamp that they where exactly like the bows her mom used to put in her hair before going to school. Well, a bow is a bow I guess.

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This years tree…

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For the different dinners that we would host through the holidays, I try to keep it somewhat simple. The theme and decorations would be the same but I try to change it up a little.

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With all this said about Christmas dinners, It really doesn’t matter what you serve. The best and most important thing is being together with friends and family.

All my best to all of you.

Merry Christmas!!

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St Patrick’s day is here again.

We went to my mother-in-law for the yearly Corn Beef and Cabbage dinner. I never cook it myself since it has become a tradition for her to cook it.

Instead, it has become my challenge to come up with left-over ideas for all the food we get with us home. This year I decided to make Corned Beef and Cabbage Enchiladas. They were delicious. It is easy to come up with “left over” dishes. You just need to have an open mind to what is allowed or not. This year, it snowed like crazy in New York, just when the big parade took place on 5th avenue. But the Irish are troopers. No amount of snow can get them to back up their kilts or bagpipes. The show will go on…

I Always get a special feeling when there is anything Irish to celebrate. This because of my special Irish friends and families… (You know who you are….)

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Corned Beef and Cabbage Enchilada.

4 small enchilada’s.

4 tortilla’s (any kind but on the smaller side).

1 onion, finely sliced.

1 c. chopped cooked Corned Beef and Cabbage,

2 tbsp. taco spice.

1/2 c. tomato sauce or finely chopped tomatoes.

1/2 c. water or stock (I used chicken stock. It is my usual “go to”).

1/2-1 c. shredded cheese. Mixed or just one kind.

Splash of hot sauce (optional).

Salt & pepper to taste.

Directions;

Fry up the onion. Add the chopped (and cooked) Corned Beef and Cabbage. Add the taco spice. Let cook for a few minutes. Mix well. Add the water, tomato sauce (or stock). Add the hot sauce, salt & pepper to taste. And any other spice if needed.

Spray an oven proof pan. Add the tortillas. Spoon up the fried Corned Beef mixture and divide into the tortillas. Fold over and “secure” with a tooth pick. Add the shredded cheese. Bake in a 450F (225C) degree oven. Bake until golden brown. It will take about 10-15 minutes.

Serve with rice, guacamole/avocado, beans or salad.

Enjoy!!!!

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Happy St Patrick’s day!!!!

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This is another one of my very old “go to” recipes.

I have cravings for it ever so often. Pork tenderloin is a very common cut of meat at home. There are so many things you can cook with it. Since it is almost or even as lean as chicken breast it is a great choice of meat.

When I cook Pork tenderloin, I often starts with searing it whole or cut in medallions and then I layer any kind of sauce or sides to it. This version of cooking the tenderloin is very tasty and it is a great comfort food. You can make it less heavy by using half & half (12% fat compared to heavy cream that is 35-38% fat) or a cooking cream. It’s all relative as they say.

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Pork Tenderloin in a Mustard Basil sauce.

Serves 4-6.

2 Pork tenderloins.

1 zucchini (finely sliced).

1/2 leek (finely sliced).

1/2 – 1 red pepper (sliced).

3-4 tbsp. Dijon mustard.

2/3 -1 c. heavy cream (You can also a use leaner alternative or Creme Fraiche).

2-3 tbsp. dried basil. (If you use fresh basil add a little but more).

Hot sauce to taste (optional).

Pepper to taste.

Directions;

Trim the pork tenderloin (make sure you take the “silver skin” off  – “Silver skin” is the tough membrane covering the top of a pork loin). Cut into 2/3″ medallions. Quickly fry/sear on both sides until golden brown. Remove the meat from the pan. Add the leek, zucchini and red peppers into the pan (let all the bits and pieces from frying the meat stay in the pan). Fry for a few minutes. Add the Dijon mustard (in portions so that you can control the taste). Let fry together for about a minute while stirring well. Add the heavy cream & the meat. Lower the heat and let simmer for about 5-8 minutes. Add the herbs and the hot sauce (optional). Pepper to taste. Serve it with a good tasting rice ( I love Basmati rice or red Korean rice for this) or even some mashed potatoes.

Enjoy!

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If you make the presentation interesting, it doesn’t really matter what it is you are serving, as long as it tastes good.

I try to come up with different ways of cooking and serving things. Not that it’s always needed, it is just fun.

I have noticed how I am going back to old classic ways of cooking and taking care of produce.

For example, I love to buy meat and grind it up myself. I can control the fat content better and this way I know for a fact, no added strange things has gotten mixed into the ground meat.

One of my favorite things to do with some ground meat is home-made sausages. I just like to change it up a little and not use the regular casings most often used for sausage making. One simple but a little labour intense way is to use corn husks. You just carefully unravel the corn husks (you could of course use dried corn husks as well. Just soak them a little before using them).

I have made two kinds of sausages here. One is made of ground pork the other of ground beef. But as always, you can use any kind of meat for this. Use your imagination.

The pork version has apples, herbs and port wine in them. The beef version contains herbs & cognac.

I use two ways of cooking them. The first is to boil and then pan frying them. The second is to just bake the little packages in the oven. The later is more of a fancy presentation.

I hope you will try to make your own sausages. Either if you make them with regular casings or like this with corn husks, it is fun and not as complicated as one would think. It just takes a little time.


Corn husk sausages.

Beef version;

2 lb ground beef.

1/2 – 1 onion. Finely chopped & fried until translucent.

2 garlic cloves. Finely chopped or shredded.

1/2-1 tbsp. shredded fresh ginger.

2-3 tbsp. good Cognac (Armagnac or Calvados).

1/2 tbsp. dried tomatoes. Finely chopped and soaked in the cognac.

1/2 – 1 tsp. ground coriander seeds.

1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper (use more if you prefer a sausage with a little “sting”).

1/2 tsp. dried shallots or onion. Finely crushed. Soaked in the Cognac with the dried tomatoes (optional),

Salt & pepper to taste. 

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Pork version;

2 lb ground pork.

1 onion. Finely chopped & fried until translucent.

1/2 finely grated green apple. (Granny smith preferably because it holds up well.)

2 garlic cloves. Finely chopped or shredded.

2 tbsp. fresh herbs, finely chopped (if you don’t have fresh herbs, use dried. Just use a little less since it gets more intense in taste when dried.)

2-3 tbsp. good Port wine. Red or white.

1 tsp. sweet paprika powder.

1 tsp. crushed dried mushrooms (optional).

1/2 tsp. ground cumin.

1/2 tsp. ground fennel seeds.

Salt & pepper to taste.

Note, when you think that you have used enough spices and herbs, add a little pinch more. You can fry a little bit of the mixture to be sure the amount of ingredients are to your liking. If not, add more of what you missed.

 

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Directions;

Mix all the ingredients together and set a side for 15-30 minutes. This just so that the flavors will merge better (or to “marry” as they say.)

Take off all the husks from the corn. Let them overlap slightly if they are too small. Add a couple of table spoons of the meat mixture. Form a sauce shape. Start rolling them up. Make sure they are nice and tight. Tie up the ends with some food strings. Boil or bake in the oven. When firm to touch, they are done. Fry on medium high heat in a skillet for color. If baked in the oven, just serve them “as is”.

Serve with any kind of corn salad or just grilled corn on the cob. 

Enjoy!!!

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These are the steps of preparing the Corn husk Sausages;

* Place them into the corn husks. Overlap the husks if they are not big enough.

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* Tie them well and tight at the ends.

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* Boil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. (They should be firm to touch.)

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* When you take them out of the husks after boiling, they will look very pale. This is ok.

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* If I boil the sausages, I usually fry them real fast & hot for them to get some color.

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* If you bake them in the oven, they will be done when the corn husks starts to get a nice brown color. They should also feel firm to touch.

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When it is getting dark & cold, I have a habit of doing beef stews and things that needs to cook for a long time. There are so many versions of a beef stew. Of course there is the traditional French way of making it but why do we always judge food after the French way of cooking??? I grew up on it and I am sure people all over the world have their own versions. It doesn’t even have to be beef, could be lamb, pork or something else.

So, here is mine. I do slight variations of it but the basic theme is the same. And I don’t use any strict recipes. It is all about feelings and what you have at home.

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My Classic Beef stew.

1 1/2 – 2 lb’s of Beef. Cut up into 1″ cubes. (This is perfect for a cheaper cut of meat.)

I onion. Sliced.

1 carrot, cut in “coin size” pieces or 1/2 c. of baby carrots.

1/2 bottle of good red wine.

Beef broth.

1 Bouquet garni (rosemary, bay leaf, thyme, parsley. Note- you can add other herbs such as basil, anything goes. All herbs should be tied up in a piece of cheese cloth.) If you rather use any herb or spice of your choice that is also fine. I like to see the boiled down spices in my food so it is not needed to have the herbs tied up and taken out from the stew at the end. 

1/2 hot pepper (optional).

Salt & pepper to taste.

Directions;

I like to cook my beef stew in a dutch oven ( large cast iron pot). 

Take the meat and brown it on a semi high heat in a frying pan. Don’t put all in at one time since that would force the juices to come out from the meat and start boiling instead of browning. So, fry a little at a time. When the last part is done pour over the carrots and onions and add in all the fried meat. Let the vegetables fry down for a few minutes. Add the herbs and the pepper. Add the red wine and beef stock. Make sure it just about covers the meat and vegetables. 

Let all come to a boil and then take it down do a very low simmer (slow cooking). Let it boil for 2-3 hours. Perhaps even longer, depending on what cut of meat you have used and how big you cut the meat. I would say, that I usually plan on cooking it for about 3-4 hours. 

Check ever so often to make sure you don’t cook it so long, that the meat falls apart. 

If the liquid is too thin you can thicken it with either some arrow-root, potato flour whisked together with cold water or use any other thickener. Another way is to boil a finely sliced potato together with the stew. The starch in the potato will thicken the stew.

Serve the beef stew with some home-made mashed potatoes and some salad or lettuce. 

Enjoy!!

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