Breakfast for Dinner: Shakshuka

Tunisian-style Ragout with Sausage, Kale, and Poached Egg

Egg, Sausage, Kale Ragout

Shakshuka is a traditional North African breakfast composed of simmered tomatoes, peppers, aromatics, and poached eggs. It’s meant to be spicy which is a nifty DIY method for keeping cool in the Saharan heat. (The more you sweat, the more you cool off). As for us, it’s a warming meal that screams comfort food, perfect for the dead of winter. The Tunisians call shakshuka breakfast, but I’ve added sausage, spinach, and chickpeas and prefer to call it dinner. It’s delicious as is, served with crusty bread for mopping up the egg yolk and the sauce. If desired, spoon prepared couscous (or rice for gluten-free) into shallow serving bowls. Make a well in the center of the couscous and ladle the ragout and egg into the center of the couscous.

Sausage Tomato Ragout with Poached Eggs and Chick Peas

Prepare this in a 10-inch deep skillet and serve family-style at the table. If you have individual skillets (pictured), then prepare the ragout in one large skillet or pot. Before adding the eggs, divide the ragout between individual skillets placed on the stovetop over medium heat, and add one egg to each skillet. Chard or kale leaves may be substituted for the spinach.

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 pound hot Italian or chorizo sausages, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 large garlic clove
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa or hot sauce, to taste

1 bunch spinach, stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
4 to 6 large eggs
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer the sausages with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard the oil from the pan, but do not rinse out the skillet.
2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the onion to the skillet and saute over medium heat until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes, scraping up any brown bits. Add the garlic, paprika, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Return the sausages to the pan and add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and salt. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If more heat is desired, add the harissa or hot sauce to taste.
3. Simmer the ragout, partially covered, over medium-low heat, to slightly thicken and allow the flavors to develop, about 20 minutes, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in the spinach and cook until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.
4. Make an indentation or well in the ragout with a spoon. Crack one egg in a small bowl and gently slide the egg into the indentation. Repeat with the remaining eggs, taking care to not overlap the eggs. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the egg whites are set but the yolks remain runny, about 10 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat. Serve family style or spoon the ragout with one egg into individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley and a grind of black pepper.

Roasted Baby Beet Gratin

Roasted Beet Gratin

This recipe is one of my favorite ways to eat beets, especially in the winter when rich gratins are warm and satisfying. It’s also a great way to introduce the beetroot to any skeptical family member. Small or baby beets are mild and sweet, and their flavor is less assertive than their grown-up relatives. In this recipe, they are thinly sliced and smothered in layers of garlic-infused sour cream flecked with orange zest and a generous shower of nutty Gruyère cheese. All of the ingredients meld together, and while the beets are present, they are not overwhelming in flavor. As they cook, the beets release their juices and saturate the dish with spectacular color, which makes this one of the prettiest gratins I have seen. So give it a try, and let the skeptics eat with their eyes – and also hopefully with a fork.

Roasted Baby Beet Gratin

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Makes one (8 by 8-inch) gratin or 6 to 8 (4-ounce) ramekins

2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter
16 baby beets, about 2 pounds trimmed, scrubbed clean
4 ounces finely grated Gruyere cheese
Finely chopped thyme leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch square gratin dish (or individual ramekins). Whisk the sour cream, garlic, orange zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl.
2. Thinly slice the beets with a mandolin or knife.
3. Arrange 1/3 of the beets, slightly overlapping in the baking dish. Spoon 1/3 of the sour cream over the beets, carefully spreading to cover. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the top. Lightly season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of thyme. Repeat with two more layers.
4. Transfer the gratin to the oven and bake until the beets are tender and the gratin is bubbly and golden, about 50 minutes. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart


This tart is a vehicle for two winter-friendly ingredients – caramelized onions and Gruyère cheese. Caramelized onions are sweet, savory, and slick. A lengthy cooking time coaxes out their abundant natural sugars and releases their juices, resulting in a squidgy heap of golden brown onions. Gruyère cheese is a nutty, piquant Swiss cheese, and a favorite melting cheese in fondue. Combine the two ingredients, and you have the makings for a richly savory and rustic winter meal, guaranteed to spark visions of snowflakes and crackling fires in your imagination (at least in mine, since I live in California!)

There are few ingredients in this simple creation, so every ingredient counts. Take the time to properly brown the onions, about 45 minutes in all, and choose an authentic Gruyère cheese, preferably aged for deep flavor – and you will be rewarded with this simple and seductive tart. Serve it as a light meal, or cut into thin slivers and pass around as an appetizer.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyère Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

Filing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 egg, slightly beaten

1. Prepare the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles coarse meal, with some pieces of the butter visible. Add the water and pulse once or twice – just until the dough comes together, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary. Dump the dough onto a work surface and form it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or pot. Add the onions and salt and cook the onions, until they are golden brown, soft and squidgy, 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Calvados and black pepper and cook until the liquid evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and cool while you roll out the dough.
4. Roll out the dough to fit in the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch round tart tin with a removable bottom. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the tart. Spread the onions in the shell and sprinkle the thyme over the onions. Brush the exposed crust rim with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tart and crust with the remaining cheese.
5. Bake the tart until the crust is firm and golden and the onions are deeply colored without blackening, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature garnished with additional thyme.

Comfort Food Necessities: Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine

short-rib-braise-tastefood

It’s the time of year when we need a recipe like this: A pot of slow cooked, melt-in-your mouth, braised short ribs, blanketed in a rich, fortified, and deeply spiced sauce, evoking warmth, heat, and comfort. You can say it’s due to the climate, the holiday season, or even current events, but this braise will satisfy your craving and smooth your mood, focusing your attention solely on the task of digging into this heart (and belly) warming stew, one spoonful at a time.

I make variations of this recipe under the guise of other comfort-food terms, such as Beef Bourguignon and Irish Stew. The ingredients shift slightly, but the principle is the same: Braising chunks of meat by first thoroughly browning them in a pan, then submerging the pieces into an aromatic stock of broth and wine, before banishing the whole lot to the oven for a couple of hours to simmer, marinate, and acquiesce into fork tender morsels swimming in a heady concoction of heat and spirits. The key is time and patience, which, frankly, is a rewarding exercise in itself. Ideally, you will exert even more time and patience in this process, and begin making this dish one day in advance of serving. This way, the stew can chill overnight, further intensifying the flavor, while allowing the persnickety fat to rise to the top of the stew so that it can be deftly removed the following day before rewarming.

This short rib recipe is a favorite, with a rich and smoky sauce  spiked with the heat of chipotle, and balanced by nuggets of sweet carrot, onion, and baby turnips. I made it recently and captured the photo with my iPhone – we were too famished and greedy to wait for me to fiddle with a camera before tucking in.

Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

Serves 4 to 6.

Dry rub:
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (750 ml) bottle heavy-bodied red wine
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo, chopped with juices
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef stock (or chicken stock)

2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices
8 ounces pearl or small cippoline onions, peeled
1 bunch baby (Tokyo) turnips, trimmed and scrubbed (optional)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Braise:
1. Combine the dry rub spices in a small bowl. Arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking tray. Rub the spices all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour (or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before browning).
2. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding the pan, brown the ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes. (This step is very important, so take the time to do it well). Transfer to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining ribs.
4. Drain off the fat from the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, and garlic and sauté over medium heat until softened without coloring, about 3 minutes, stirring up the brown bits in the pan with a wooden spoon.
5. Add the cumin, paprika, and coriander and cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste and stir to create a nice slurry.
6. Add the wine, chipotles, and bay leaf and return the ribs and any collected juices to the pot. Pour in the stock. If the ribs are not completely covered with the liquid, add more stock or wine to top off the ribs. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven and braise until the ribs are very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring every hour or so.
7. Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover and let the braise cool slightly. At this point you can remove the bones and cut away any gristle from the ribs or proceed with the bones intact – it’s up to you and how you like to serve the ribs. Return the meat to the pot, then cover and refrigerate overnight. (This step is helpful because it will allow the fat to congeal on the top of the stew, which can be easily removed the next day, while allowing the flavors to develop overnight. Alternatively, proceed with Step 2 of the finishing process and skim fat with a spoon while the sauce reduces.)

Finish:
1. At least 1 hour before serving, remove the pot from the refrigerator and lift off the layer of fat on the surface of the stew.
2. Sauté the carrots, onions, and turnips (if using) in 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until they are crisp tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Lightly season with salt.
3. Gently reheat the braise over medium-low heat until the stock is liquid enough to remove the ribs. Carefully remove the ribs from the sauce and arrange in a baking dish.
4. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer over medium heat until reduced by about half and thickened to a rich sauce consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the beef to the pot and add the vegetables, vinegar, and sugar. Simmer until thoroughly heated, 5 to 7 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or keep warm until serving.

Homemade Country Pâté (Pâté de Campagne) with Cranberries and Pistachios

Country Pâté with Boar, Pork, Cranberries, and Pistachios ~

I always make homemade pâté for the holidays. It’s a great appetizer to serve at a party with charcuterie, as well as a delicious savory addition to a fireside dinner. Homemade pâté is surprisingly easy to make and can be prepared well in advance of any festivities. Its method incorporates “packing” – which, in charcuterie terms, involves jamming a terrine mold with ground spiced meat, spirits, eggs, and cream and baking it in a water bath. The resulting baked brick of spiced and fortified meat is weighted down and banished to the refrigerator to sit for a day or two to become comfortable with it’s brash flavorings while anticipation builds –  just as it would the day before Christmas as you eye unopened presents placed beneath the tree. When the time is right (2 days at least) the terrine is retrieved from the refrigerator and its wrapping discarded, uncovering a rich, meaty country pâté, chunky with nuts and fruit.

I have fiddled with this recipe over the years, and lately become enamored of wild boar. Boar reminds me of Europe, where it’s a frequent ingredient in charcuterie. It may be purchased in specialty stores, through a butcher or mail order. Since it’s so lean, it’s important to combine the boar meat with a fattier cut such as pork shoulder. Alternatively, you can substitute veal for the boar meat.

Country Pâté with Boar, Pork, Cranberries, and Pistachios

Begin at least two days before serving to allow the flavors to develop. You can either grind your own meat, or simply have your butcher grind the meat for you.

Serves 20

1 pound ground boar shoulder (or veal)
1 pound ground pork shoulder
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 pound bacon, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing terrine
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Calvados
1/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Coarsely ground peppercorns for garnish

1. If you are grinding your own meat, then cut the boar and pork in 3/4-inch cubes. Place the meat in a large bowl and add the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, allspice, coriander, and cloves. Mix to thoroughly combine, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Grind with a meat grinder before proceeding.
2. If you are using ground meat, combine the boar and pork in a large bowl. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, allspice, coriander, and cloves. Mix to thoroughly combine, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) Add the bacon to the meat and return the meat to the refrigerator while you prepare the onions.
4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent but not brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add to the meat.
5. Combine the eggs, cream and calvados in a small bowl. Add to the meat and mix well.
6. Butter a loaf pan or terrine. Press one third of the meat into the terrine. Sprinkle half of the pistachios and half of the cranberries evenly over the surface. Press another third of the meat into the terrine. Top with the remaining pistachios and cranberries and cover with the remaining meat. Cover the terrine tightly with foil and prick 2 to 3 holes in the foil. Place the terrine in a baking pan. Pour boiling water into the baking pan halfway up the sides of the terrine.
7. Bake in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 155°F, about 1 1/2 hours.Remove from the oven and remove the terrine from the water bath. Place a terrine press over the pate (or a cutting board with cans on top) and cool completely. Transfer the weighted terrine to the refrigerator and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days before serving.
8. To serve, un-mold the pate and scrape off any congealed fat. Cut into slices, about ½-inch thick. Garnish with the peppercorns. Serve with cornichons, Dijon-style mustard, and fresh French baguette or country bread.

Glogg: Hot Spiced Wine, Nordic-style

glogg wine TasteFood

Steamy, fragrant, and boosted with spirits, gløgg is an elixir that will warm the hardiest viking. Throughout the month of December, this libation is a Nordic staple, served in cafes, doled out from street carts, and ladled at social gatherings. It’s the season’s response to the cold and dark and as ubiquitous as herring and snaps. Most home cooks will make their own brew, either enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch, and I encourage you to try this method. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found with mixes and is remarkably easy to prepare. You don’t have to splurge on a nice bottle of wine for this recipe, but be sure it has heft.

Gløgg (also known as mulled wine and glüwein)
Serves 8 to 10

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/2 cup whole almonds (optional)

For the gløgg:
1 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
Zest of 2 untreated or organic oranges, shaved in strips with a vegetable peeler
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles full-bodied red wine

Fresh orange slices as garnish

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (The raisins may be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use). Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from the heat and coarsely chop into large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all of the gløgg ingredients, except the 2 bottles of red wine, in a heavy large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces to about 2 cups, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the red wine, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Heat the gløgg without letting it come to a boil (lest the spirits will evaporate!)

To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds, if using, to a glass or mug.  Strain the gløgg into the glass. Garnish with fresh orange slices and serve with a spoon for scooping up the raisins and almonds.

Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

chipotle short ribs tastefood

I won’t lie: These ribs take two days to make. Now, before you click away from this page, just hear me out. I promise that if you make these ribs, you will be a very happy cook. Your family will be eternally grateful. Your guests will be impressed. And you will be rewarded with a deeply flavorful, warmly spiced, tender and rich braise. The only people who might not be pleased will be your neighbors, because they will have to live through a day of incredible aromas wafting from your kitchen window, knowing full well they are not coming to dinner.

Now if that is not enticing enough, here is some more good news: While it takes two days to make these ribs, most of the time you will have little to do in the food prep department, because the ribs will take care of themselves, braising in the oven or sitting in the refrigerator. You will  be actively involved in the beginning, when you brown the meat (a very important step which will make you feel useful), then when you reduce the sauce (which technically your stove will do for you), and then finishing the braise for serving. Your most difficult task will be…waiting. All of the time invested is for good reason: to tenderize the beef to a supple version of itself, and to infuse the meat and sauce with knock-your-socks off flavor. So go ahead and give it a try. Start on a Friday and eat it over the weekend. And feel free to double the amount so you can freeze extras for another day or have a party – it might be a good time to invite the neighbors.

Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

If you have the time (and patience) rub the short ribs with the spices the  night before browning to develop the flavor. The chipotles in adobo will add a nice kick of heat to the braise. Serves 4 to 6.

Dry rub:
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (750 ml) bottle heavy-bodied red wine
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo, chopped with juices
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef stock (or chicken stock)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rub the meat:
Combine the dry rub spices in a small bowl. Arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking tray. Rub the spices all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour (or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.) Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before browning.

Braise:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding the pan, brown the ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes. (This step is very important, so take the time to do it well). Transfer to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining ribs.

Drain off the fat from the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, carrot, and garlic. Saute the vegetables over medium heat, stirring up any brown bits in the pan, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika, and coriander and cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste and stir to create a nice slurry. Add the wine, chipotles, and bay leaf and return the ribs and any collected juices to the pot. Pour in the beef stock. If the ribs are not completely covered with the liquid, add more stock or wine to top off the ribs. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven and slow cook until the ribs are very tender, about 3 hours, stirring every hour or so.

Refrigerate:
Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover and let the braise cool slightly. At this point you can remove the bones and cut away any gristle from the ribs or proceed with the bones intact – it’s up to you and how you like to serve the ribs. Cover the pot and refrigerate overnight. (This step is helpful because it will allow the fat to congeal on the top of the stew, which will be easily removed before proceeding. It also allows the flavors to develop overnight.)

Reduce:
At least 1 hour before serving, remove the pot from the refrigerator and lift off the layer of fat on the surface of the stew. Gently reheat the braise over medium-low heat until the stock is liquid enough to remove the ribs. Carefully remove the ribs from the sauce and arrange in a baking dish.

Strain the sauce through a strainer, pressing down on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible, and transfer the sauce to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half and has a thickened to a rich sauce consistency, about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over and around the beef. The beef should not be entirely submerged; if you have extra sauce, reserve for serving. Cover the dish with foil. (The beef may be prepared up to 3 hours in advance of serving to this point. Keep refrigerated until finishing.)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the short ribs in the oven and cook until thoroughly heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve with mashed root vegetables or mashed potatoes.