Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia

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I am still in love with paninis, and I don’t see that love wavering any time soon. I wanted to make the Chicken Frontega Panini with my own foccacia. As excited as I was for this to happen, my foccacia came out delicious, but too oily for my panini press. It squished all the ingredients out. To my Mother-In-Law’s advice, I dried out the bread in the refrigerator for a day, and it was perfect! Although I could not use it right away because of it’s oil-content, it became a dream. Besides, I couldn’t stop eating it even without any sandwich fillings. It’s great alone, toasted with butter–dipping in sauces. The possibiities are endless.
Making foccacia isn’t difficult, but it doesn’t provide instant gratification as you need to wait for the yeast to work its magic. Save this for your day off–make it in the morning, and indulge for lunch. This is very much worth the wait.
This is the perfect fall recipe; your house will spell like an herbal oasis. Enjoy!
*Although you can use any other pan, this recipe is tailored for a cast iron skillet. I also believe the cast iron skillet delivers in getting the right texture for a good focaccia. If you don’t have one already, invest! They’re very inexpensive and will last for life!*
INGREDIENTS
  • For the dough:
  • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast* (a package is fine)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (you can scale back to one tablespoon if you don’t love herb flavors)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (you can scale back to one tablespoon if you don’t love herb flavors)
  • For the herb drizzle:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, or more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine milk and brown sugar. Warm in microwave for 1½ minutes or until about 110-115˚F. When you stick a finger into the mixture, it should feel hot, but not so hot that it’s uncomfortable. If it’s not warm enough, place back in microwave and cook at 15 second intervals till temperature is correct. If you’re new to yeast, I recommend using a thermometer. They’re very inexpensive. Once the liquid is the right temperature add yeast and stir. Let stand until foamy about 5 minutes. Add two tablespoons of the olive oil.
  2. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, mix the flour, salt, rosemary, and thyme. Add the yeast mixture and mix until a soft dough forms, about 2 minutes. Continue to mix with dough hook for 5 minutes. **If your dough is too wet from the oil, it’s okay! Focaccia is very forgiving, so you can simply leave the wet dough to rise in the cast iron pan even if it’s not a ball. As long as the dough rises over time, you will get the right texture.**
  3. Move the dough to one side of the mixer bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil into empty side of bowl and then turn the dough until lightly greased. Cover the bowl with a  damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk (size), about 1 hour.
  4. Combine all of the ingredients for the herb drizzle in a small microwave-safe container. Cook on high for 30 seconds to release the herb oil and flavor. Set aside to cool.
  5. Preheat an oven to 425°F.
  6. Using your fingertips, press down firmly into the dough to make dimples about ½ inch apart and 1 inch deep. Drizzle the herb oil evenly over the dough. Gently rub with your fingers to evenly distribute the oil. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and let sit for another 15 minutes. Feel free to add more spices/herbs directly on top as well like I did!
  7. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes until golden brown on top. Let cool in the cast iron skillet. Slide the focaccia onto wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with more fresh thyme and rosemary leaves, if desired.

Thyme and Rosemary T-Bone Steak with Potatoes and Broccoli

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Happy Saturday!

I don’t think there is a meal out there that is more satisfying than a steak. To be honest, I eat burgers more than I eat steaks, but when I do have a hunch for a steak, I just have to have it!

I have a fairly good amount of experience with steak and flavor combinations as I worked in a steakhouse as a waitress. I have had my share in making dry rubs, wet marinades, savory toppings like bleu cheese crumbles and caramelized onions. In addition, my father always had a keen sense for how steak should taste (he’s partial to Prime Rib).  Honestly, there isn’t much that is necessary for a delicious steak, but what will sure kill its flavor is overcooking it.

I apologize if I offend anyone, but you really should not be eating steak over medium rare. I love rare to medium rare (believe it or not–I range depending on the cut of steak!) I know that the blood for some people is too much, but really–eating carcinogenic charcoal is a lot more unnerving to me personally. To me, the flavor of the steak comes through when it’s prepared the proper way.

There are many cuts of steak I love to prepare, but I think one of the most romantic cuts (that is, a steak you can split for two), is a T-Bone steak. What I love about the T-Bone is that it’s two different steaks inside one. One half is a New York Strip and the other half is a Filet Mignon. The only problem with cooking a T-Bone steak is that the Filet Mignon, because it’s much smaller in proportion to the New York Strip, will naturally cook more quickly than its counterpart. This is only good is your significant other likes slightly more cooked meat and is partial to the Filet, but if you are sharing equally, you need to be thoughtful to how you prepare your steak with the challenges presented: two different meats, and a bone. Steak on the bone has definitely more flavor, but with the bone inside, the steak will be rarer near the bone and thus appear uneven.

I used to get really pissed off when customers would send a T-Bone back at my job; they would eat almost their entire steak, and then bam! They would cut near the bone and freak out when they saw a little blood. If only these patrons knew that the bone is blocking the distribution of heat hence the rarer inside. Ugh. At least now you know! Knowledge is power.

This meal is great if you are looking to cook a simple, romantic dinner for two.

I decided to make this mostly foolproof by using a few tricks…

1.) The steak is “reverse seared” which means it’s slow cooked in the oven for a short amount of time and THEN seared in a hot, cast iron skillet. Many times, people try to sear the outside first and then finish in the oven, but there is less consistency. If you want more control, this is the method for you.

2.) I used my microwave for my vegetables. Sue me. They taste wonderfully.

3.) Even though I use a few short cuts, I am ultimately using the freshest ingredients: the best meat I can find, fresh herbs versus dried (sorry!), and freshly cracked pepper and salt to form that wonderful crust.

Alright, enough talking. Let’s eat!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound T-Bone Steak (or any other steak of your choice)
  • 1 Steamable Potato Bag (go for petite potatoes or even red potatoes)
  • 1 Steamable Broccoli Bag
  • Four cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (salted or unsalted–your call)
  • Fresh thyme (at least 5 sprigs)
  • Fresh rosemary (at least two sprigs)
  • Freshly cracked salt and pepper (no table salt!)

Meat and Greet

  1. Take your steak out of the refrigerator so it comes to room temperature. Lay it out on a plate and add salt and pepper liberally. With a garlic press, smash four cloves of garlic and press them deeply into the steak.To infuse the steak with herby flavor, take off thyme leaves and rosemary leaves. You will remove these herbs before cooking.
  2. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Get a wire rack and baking sheet. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
  3. While you’re waiting for the oven to pre-heat, make your potatoes. Get olive oil, thyme and rosemary leaves (about 1 sprig of each–more to taste) and rub them on all the potatoes before microwaving. Throw the potatoes in the microwave (it’s usually about 8 minutes) once they are all evenly coated. You may need to microwave them again to make them fork tender (about another 2-3 minutes.)
  4. Once the oven is pre-heated, put the seasoned steak on the rack (take off the herbs). Cook the steak in the oven (flipping mid way through) for about 30 minutes (could be more if the steak is really thick–look at it every 10-15 minutes to be careful!)
  5. Take the steak out and let it rest. In the meantime, heat up your cast iron skillet with 1 ounce of Canola oil (it has a high smoke point) on medium high heat.
  6. Once the skillet is hot enough, sear the steak on about 2-3 minutes per side until a crust forms (this will create a medium rare). Towards the end, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and throw in some whole thyme and rosemary sprigs for aromatics. Baste the steak in the melted butter. Remove the aromatics (the sprigs) after about two minutes.
  7. Let the steak rest. As the steak is resting on the rack, microwave your steamable broccoli. Once the broccoli is done (about 5 minutes), add salt and pepper.
  8. You may re-heat your potatoes in the microwave on a plate with leftover thyme/rosemary leaves, or you may crisp the potatoes up in the already hot cast iron skillet–your choice!
  9. Slice thinly to share, or you may split the Filet Migon from the New York Strip. Your choice! 🙂

 

 

Beef Bourgnoine Pot Pie with Thyme

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Tonight, I am channeling my inner Julia Child; you know, the ultimate American chef who was largely inspired by France; she is the brilliant author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Many culinary masterminds of today revere Julia the same way I do; we bow down to her like she is a shrine. I don’t really believe in buying cookbooks in the modern era (we have Pinterest, blogs, Food Network), but if you’re looking for a worthy investment, buy Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Although her recipes are time-consuming, they are worth every minute of effort, and I have yet to make something of Julia’s that has ever failed.

My goal for this blog is to provide the same sort of confidence in my readers; I don’t want to intimidate readers with the concept of making fancy French food, but I would not really be able to feel like I am offering any true help if all I do is post recipes that are so simplistic that the meals yield tasteless results that barely qualify as “sustenance.” I really love French food, and I believe most people do love it too, but they may not realize that the very flavors that they love is inherently from France. Almost all mirepoix-based recipes (onions, celery, carrots), essentially anything garlic-based, and entirely anything that is braised/reduced from wine is French. Tonight’s dinner, Beef Bourgnoine Pot Pie with Thyme, does all of the above and is fancy without being snobby; it’s comforting without being complicated, and it’s a hybrid of hands on and hands off that this would be suffice for a wintery weekend project.

No, it’s not a “dump” dinner; there are no cans of condensed soup, and there are not any typical shortcuts, but you can use a Crock Pot (happy now?) or simply a dutch oven if you like. There is enough work in this to feel rewarding, and there is enough time waiting to watch a Netflix series or two.

So the classic Boeuf Bourguignon is a beef stew that is enhanced with time and a burgundy wine that is usually paired with noodles. Now as much as I love Julia Child’s Beouf (BOOOF: it’s funny to say, isn’t it?), it needs the carb of all carbs to heighten its deliciousness: A pie crust. Tell me what is better than a flaky, buttery pie crust? I am sure that there is nothing that is reigns supreme. I have always loved pot pie growing up, especially chicken pot pie (which, I will eventually post, but I am so tired of cooking chicken the past few weeks), but there is something about making beef the star of the show that makes this feel elegant and special. Again, this is a great recipe for a wintery night in, and it could be made for individuals (like I did through ramekins), or it could feed a family (like the size of an army). There is enough flexibility in this recipe that it can be romantic or practical: it’s your call. Although I am not offering too many shortcuts, I will offer alternatives in case you’re not feeling like giving it your all: the option for a slow cooker, vegetable swaps, slack on some ingredients, and already prepared pie crust. You can make this what you want, but you will not skimp on anything unless I tell you, okay? 😉

If you like Beef Pot Pie, but want to heighten flavor (or want to stop yourself from drinking too much red wine), this is the recipe for you. This is a slightly upscale and downright comforting pot pie that I hope you’ll enjoy for years to come. Bon appetit!

Tools and Ingrédients (did you know that the latter was a French word?)

Tools

  • Cast iron skillet* (or a regular frying pan is fine)
  • Slow cooker or dutch oven–your choice!
  • Tongs
  • Slotted spoon
  • Chef’s knife
  • Pastry brush
  • Ramekins/Pie plate (depends on whether you’re making for individuals or a crowd)

Ingrédients

  • Two strips of bacon** (optional–didn’t do it this time, but it would be awesome!)
  • 2-3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (I like Chuck Roast; it’s inexpensive and the perfect meat to cook low and slow)
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced (or diced)
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced finely; alternatively, you could use a bunch of pearl onions so you don’t have to cut anything at all!
  • 4 red potatoes (or two full-sized potatoes of your choice: Yukon Gold would be good, too), diced
  • 1-2 cups of peas (less or more to taste–please don’t add until the end!)
  • 1 teaspoon salt for stew, general covering for meat (more to taste, but preferably sea salt)
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper, general covering for meat, freshly ground (more to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour (more depending on thickness preference of gravy)
  • 3 cups dry, red wine (I used Pinot Noir, but typically you would use a full bodied wine like Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Chianti–make sure it’s good enough to drink, not cheap red wine)
  • 2 -3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (I didn’t have any, so I used some sauce because my sauce was thick enough)
  • 6 garlic cloves, mashed (you may choose to add more–I also roasted mine for a more mellow flavor, but that’s optional too)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 cups of finely shredded Cheddar cheese** (optional, but it’s cheese–that’s your conscience)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce
  • 15-18 sprigs of fresh thyme (dried is not allowed; it doesn’t have the same effect)
  • 1-2 bay leaves preferably fresh (optional–I didn’t use it this time; just make sure you remove it before you serve the food!)
  • 1  prepared pie crust (your own, this awesome recipe, or refrigerated/Pillsbury goodness); you could use puff pastry as well!
  • 1 beaten egg (for egg wash on pie crust)

Mode d’emploi (or simply  say “directions”–yes, another French word–you know more than you thought! Oui!)

  1. Prepare all your vegetables (and meat if you are cubing before searing) before doing anything below! Slice and dice for bite size eating!
  2. Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400° (whether you are roasting garlic, using a dutch oven, or crock pot–you will either use the oven the whole time or part of the time!)
  3. Optional: put six cloves of garlic in aluminum foil and put half a tablespoon of olive oil. Wrap up cloves and roast in the oven for 40 minutes until golden yellow. Once garlic is done roasting, stuff into the crevices of the meat. Alternatively, you may skip this and use sliced garlic cloves that aren’t roasted and insert similarly.
  4. To begin searing the meat, heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot (dutch oven) or cast iron skillet (if using slow cooker) over medium-high.
  5. Season Chuck Roast liberally with salt and pepper. You may cut the roast in pieces now or later; I left it whole to get the equal coating, and then cut later. It doesn’t matter.
  6. If desired, add light amount of flour to beef and toss to coat; shake off excess.
  7. Working in batches as needed to avoid steaming meat, cook beef, turning often with tongs, until browned all over, 8–10 minutes per batch or 8-10 minutes per side (when not cut up and meat is left whole).
  8. Transfer to a plate. Make sure you have a sear–don’t lift the meat too early! It should be really cold and rare on the inside, but have a caramelized brown on the outside.  If you haven’t cut your meat yet, now is the time; cut it into 2 inch cubes, skimming off excessive fat.
  9. Optional (bacon is not required): Cook bacon in same pot, stirring often, until brown and crisp.
  10. Dutch Oven: After frying bacon (or not using bacon but just searing meat), add ¼ cup of red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up browned bits, then add onion, potatoes, and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Once softened, add meat back into the dutch oven. Go watch an episode or two of your favorite show on Netflix.
  11. Slow Cooker:  After frying bacon (or not using bacon but just searing meat), add ¼ cup of red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up browned bits, then throw deglazed liquid into a slow cooker that is turned on low.  After a brief sauce, add onion, potatoes, and carrots. After about a half an hour, add meat back into the slow cooker. In addition, take the leaves off of 10 thyme sprigs, soy sauce, tomato paste/sauce, and Dijon mustard. Stir all of the ingredients. Lastly, add the beef stock and rest of required red wine to cover.  Watch an entire season or two on Netflix.
  12. Cover pot and braise in oven until beef is very tender, 1½-2 hours if in a dutch oven. If using a slow cooker, the meat should be ready in about 6-8 hours on low–DO NOT USE THE HIGH SETTING–it will make the meat very tough! Low and slow, baby!
  13. Depending on your method, check on your meat (do not check too often as this will slow down the cooking process) and determine taste and gravy thickness. If you would like a thicker gravy, get equal parts of flour (1-2 tablespoons) and water and whisk. Add floury mixture to the pot and stir contents of the pot until you achieve your desired thickness of gravy. If your gravy is too thick, add more wine or beef stock to reclaim.
  14. Once your meat, vegetables, and potatoes are tender and tasty enough, get out ramekins (individual portions) or pie plate. Also, get our your pie crust from the refrigerator. If you’re using already prepared crust, microwave/thaw to your package’s directions.
  15. Once the puff pastry/pie crust is thawed and ready (and I hope your oven is still pre-heated and ready to go), turn your pie plate or ramekins upside down. Trace slightly outside of the shape in order to cut an appropriate pie portion. If you like, you can cut out shapes with the excess and design your pies.
  16. Put filling (about 3/4ths of the way) inside ramekins/pie plate. Add one sprig of more thyme leaves per individual portion (if using a ramekin, do one per ramekin, eight for a pie). After thyme is placed, throw in some frozen peas. Next add shredded cheddar cheese to coat the top of the mixture.
  17. Next, put pie crust on top with a slight overhang. If you cut too short, you can add an overhang with leftover pie crust.
  18. Crimp the pie crust edges, and use a fork to adhere. Once desired pie crust design is done, beat a single egg and use a pastry brush to egg-wash your pie crust. You need this to get it golden brown! Make sure you paint that whole pie golden yellow with egg wash!
  19. Bake until crust is deep golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Let pie cool for about 15-20 minutes before consuming.
  20. Be glad that you made this. P.S: Leftovers are even better; it’s a gift that keeps on giving! 🙂