"I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world."

M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Red Stag Supper Club

Sorry for all the silence these past couple of weeks. I started work as a freelance fact-checker two weeks ago, and in my determination to finish my first projects, Amy and Mr. Ito fell by the wayside. I am back, however, with new ideas and a restaurant review, the subject of today's entry.

Two Fridays ago I had the pleasure of dining at the Red Stag Supper Club in downtown Minneapolis. My husband and I arrived with a group of friends furiously hungry. Our motive for going into the bowels of downtown (which is a rare event!): Our good friend's insatiable craving for fish. The Red Stag did not disappoint!

Before the food came, I was already impressed by the Red Stag. Where else stateside can you get both tap water and sparkling mineral water for free?! Yum! I definitely made the water-girl earn her money! As for the rest of the service, it was a little slow, but in a good, Italian-style, this-man-knows-what-he's-doing manner. Our table hardly noticed that our meal took most of the night to eat, from the first sip of water to the last bite of dessert.

Friday evenings are Fish Fry nights at the Red Stag. I threw a quick glance at the regular menu, which contained duck, steaks, chicken, and yummy-sounding sides and starters, all from local providers. The regular menu was not what we were there for, however. We were there for the fish!

The Fish Fry menu changes with the market availability of fish. Our menu included Walleye fish n' chips (our table's favorite), a halibut steak, and mussels, among other items. I ordered the mussels and an order of cheese curds (a guilty pleasure of mine...I'm glad I caved in this case, however; the cheese curds were the best I've ever had!). When the food came, an eerie hushed silence came over the table. Everyone adopted a "less talky, more eatey" attitude, and dug into their meals.

The mussels were delectable. They came in a light, buttery lemon sauce with parmesan baguette on the side. Only two mussels didn't open while cooking, which was excellent because any less mussels would have resulted in me ordering another plate of them; they were that scrumptious! There's nothing like seafood prepared well--ie, with minimal additions that detract from the taste of the fish, crustacean, or mollusk. The sauce was just perfect, and the parmesan bread was perfect for sopping up the leftovers after I finished up the mussels!

I ordered an apple crisp to round out the meal. It was a little heavy on the "crisp" part for my taste (I like almost all apples), but was tasty and hearty and served piping hot. My friends enjoyed a rich, flourless chocolate cake.

If you're looking for a place to spend an evening in gastronomic happiness, the Red Stag will probably do the trick, especially if it's fish you're after.

Miss Browning

Monday, March 22, 2010

Beef Stroganoff with a Twist

When my husband asked me to "make something with ground beef" on Saturday, I thought to things: Tacos and hamburgers. Neither of these things sounded good a the time, so after some hemming and hawing, I went into the kitchen, began to defrost the meat, and stood, weight on one hip, in front of my pantry cabinet. Sigh. I pulled out cream of mushroom soup, an onion, olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper. I wanted white wine, but I was out. Now that the creative juices were flowing, things came together easily. Here's what happened.

for the sauce...
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk (I used whole milk)
1 tbsp olive oil
garlic salt
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tbsp white wine (optional)

for the beef...
2 small onions/ 1 large onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil

3 pounds ground chuck
garlic salt

What's great about this dish is that the sauce takes as much time to cook as the beef does to brown. In total, it takes about 25 minutes from the time you dice the onions to when you serve to finished dish.

I'll give instructions for the sauce first:
Combine the soup, milk, and olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine. Once the sauce starts to boil, add garlic salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the meat is brown. Then, add the sour cream and frozen peas.

Now for the beef:
Sautee onions in the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once they are clear, add the ground chuck and the garlic salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high heat until the meat browns. Spoon out the extra grease that runs off after the meat browns.

And finally:
Now that both the sauce and the beef are cooked, add the sauce to the beef. Turn the heat to low as you combine the two. Serve in bowls over pasta (or alone!). Yum!

Miss Browning

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Most Impressive 15 Minute Breakfast Ever!

In an effort to get myself out of bed at a decent hour and to start the day off right gastronomically, I've decided to start making breakfast for me and my husband. I'm not talking cereal here. I'm talking the whole shebang: Eggs, meat, and bread. This morning, I channeled the 1950s housewife in me and preheated the oven. On the menu: Paula Deen's Easy Rolls*, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Total preparation time, not including preheating the oven? 15 minutes.

for the rolls (makes 6)...
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup milk (I used whole milk, my husband's favorite)
2 tbsp mayonnaise (Yup. You read that right!)
1 tsp sugar

for the bacon (makes 1 serving)...
5 slices of smoked bacon

for the eggs (makes 1 serving)...
2 eggs
1 tbsp whole milk (again, per my husband)
cheese can be nice as well, although I forgot to add it this morning! Try parmesan, cheddar, swiss, or something milder

Timing here is everything. The first thing I did this morning is turn on the oven to 350 degrees. I then checked my email, read NPR.org, etc. etc. until the oven was hot (and my husband was in the shower; no reason to make breakfast just so it sits around!). The rolls truly live up to their name: Mix flour and milk together, add mayo and sugar, and spoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Pop in the oven for 12-15 minutes and you're done!

While the rolls (biscuits, really) are baking, cheat on the bacon. I find skillet-fried bacon too messy and time consuming. Instead, line a dinner plate with a paper towel, lay bacon on top of the paper towel (I can fit about five strips on my plates), and place another paper towel on top. Cook in the microwave 2-2:30 minutes for 3 slices and 3:30 minutes for 5 slices. I like to let the bacon sit in the microwave after it's done for a few minutes because the plate gets really hot, as do the paper towels, which are now soaked with grease (at least you can chuck them instead of siphoning it into a grease jar!).

As the bacon is cooking, melt butter in a small frying pan on medium heat. Beat the two eggs and tablespoon of milk together in a small bowl. When the butter is completely melted and foam-free (thanks for this tip, Julia Child!), add the egg mixture. Add salt and pepper (and cheese!) to taste, and let sit about two minutes, or until eggs start to set. After that, keep a close eye on them; it's easy to burn pan-fried eggs. After two minutes, start to scramble the eggs in the pan, stirring occasionally until they reach your desired consistency. Move to a plate immediately to prevent burning.

By now, the biscuits should be done or near done; all you need to do is make up the plates! My husband was amazed this morning when he had a full, protein-rich breakfast waiting for him when he was out of the shower. I was pretty impressed, too.

Miss Browning

*Deen, Paula H. The Lady & Sons: Savannah Country Cookbook. New York: Random House, 1997. pg. 96.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whole Wheat French Baguette

Since I mentioned that I used leftover whole wheat baguette for my Cheesy Ham Crostini, I thought that I'd share the recipe for the baguette*. Whole wheat bread is much denser than bread made with white flour, so if you're looking for a light, crusty bread, this may not be the one for you. However, if you're looking for hearty bread to serve with soup, salad, or even a roast (like me!), this bread is for you! It's moist, delicious, and lasts (wrapped in tin foil) for almost a week! This recipe makes two long loaves. I froze the second one.

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 tsp. sugar

2 pkgs. dry yeast

2 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. oil

2 tsp. salt

2 cups boiling water
2 cups whole wheat flour
4-5 cups flour

and for the glaze:
1 egg

2 tbsp milk (I used whole milk. Yum!)

Boil the 2 cups of water. Once it's rolling, mix in the oil, 2 tbsp sugar, and salt. Let cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, combine the warm water with the 1/2 tsp sugar, then add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Add the lukewarm water mixture to the yeast mixture, then stir in the flours.

Knead 10 minutes on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place 1 hour. Punch down, and then cover and rest for 15 minutes. Punch down again and turn the dough onto the floured surface. Divide the dough in half, and roll each half into a rectangle. Roll up the rectangle the long way and gently roll back and forth (like you did making worms with playdough). Fold the ends under to seal and place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with second half. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the egg and milk to create the glaze. Use a brush to coat the loaves on all sides but the bottom. I had a lot left over. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

That's it! Bread always takes a while, but if you find yourself at home for the day, it's easy to prepare it while you're doing other tasks. These particular loaves are especially worth your time!


Miss Browning

* Myers, Sarah E. and Mary Beth Lind.
Recipes from the Old Mill: Baking with Whole Grains. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1995.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cheesy Ham Crostini

Entertaining for crowds can be stressful, especially when it comes to preparing enough food to satisfy your guests. The key to keep it simple: Use ingredients you have on hand, limit yourself to two to four ingredients per appetizer, and think about your oven/toaster oven space.

I came up with these crostini while trying to find something simple and quick to eat for lunch. I had some leftover whole wheat baguette and ham steak, so I put two and two together. The product was delicious!

The following makes a dozen crostini.
12 slices of whole wheat baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
12 slices of marble jack cheese (Parmesan is delicious, too!)
3 slices of cooked ham steak, diced

Place the slices of cheese on the slices of baguette; top with ham. Broil in oven (or toaster oven!) ten minutes or until brown on top. Serve hot!

I always use my toaster oven for appetizers because it keeps the number of available hot appetizers down to a plateful, a more manageable size for food meant to be served hot. It also takes less time to cook food in a toaster oven because the space that needs to heated up is smaller than a conventional oven. It is also very easy to set up in an area outside your kitchen, so you can assign the "refilling the toaster oven" duty to a good friend at your party, and relieve some of the burden of hosting.

Miss Browning

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Homemade Chicken Stock

Ahh, the spoils of a roasted chicken. So tender, moist, and delicious during dinner that all you're left with after your guests are gone are the bones. And what wonderful bones they are. Many people unknowingly throw out chicken bones after they're done feasting, not realizing that they're throwing away some of the best chicken broth they've ever tasted, not to mention dollars spent on store-bought broth. With a few extra chops of the knife, they could create chicken broth that would last at least 6 months (in the freezer, of course!).

My husband and I had over some dear friends (and their new baby!) last night for dinner. On the menu was roast chicken. I gave my husband strict instructions before cleaning up that he was not, under any circumstances, to put the chicken bones in the garbage. This afternoon, I filled a large pot with water, and added the chicken bones and carcass. I then took two minutes to chop up two carrots and two celery stalks to add to the stock, and sprinkled in some salt and pepper. Here's what the stock looked like before it simmered for five hours:

And after! Yum! So easy even my husband could do it!

Miss Browning

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Kitchen:Old Kitchen::Eden:Hades

My husband and I are in the process of buying our first home. From a culinary standpoint, it couldn't happen soon enough. We have been in our current apartment for less than a year, and already the kitchen has almost driven me to the brink of insanity. Let me show you the tiny little galley I've been working with:
And, here are all of our wedding gifts we can't have out because there's no room:
And here's what we're getting in a little more than a month!
A nice, square kitchen with a gas stove, side-by-side fridge, a sink that's deep enough to wash big pots in, and cabinet space for all of our new kitchen things! There's also a nice, eat-in kitchen:
Needless to say, I'm very excited. Miss Browning will be in full force once she settles into this new kitchen!

For now, however, I'm stuck in the galley. Tonight, I'm cooking a roast chicken, tortellini soup, and panna cotta with berries for friends. I may complain about the size, but however small the kitchen may be, I can still create hearty, fulfilling meals. And that's what counts, right?

Miss Browning