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Beef Fricassée with Root Vegetables

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Although in retrospect this dish is perhaps more suitable for fall, a bout of cooler, less-humid weather plus our preference lately for large-batch cooking (which has been a life saver during weeknights) resulted in this beef stew.

A fricassée is a meat-based stew that is served in white sauce. The meat itself is usually lightly fried, then simmered (the word fricassée is allegedly a combination of two French words - frire and casser, which mean to fry and to break, respectively). In this recipe I've omitted the frying step in the interest of simplicity, so this is not a "true" fricassée. But I'm hoping you'll forgive me because this dish is nonetheless delicious.

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Don't be afraid if the meat goes slightly longer than the time in the recipe; this is one of the instances where the meat will forgive and actually benefit from being cooked longer. Use any cheap, bony cut you'll find. I used beef neck bones. Beef knuckles or ox tail would also work. You can also use lamb.

For this recipe, one should heed Julia Child's sound advice: always use a bigger pot than the one you think you'll need. I sometimes forget this, and my pot ended up almost overflowing once I've added all the vegetables.

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I'm usually not big on sauces, mostly because I don't have the luxury of time to prepare one in addition to the main dish and I find a lot of dairy-based sauces heavy. But I've learned to appreciate them when we were living in Norway - they are extremely comforting during cooler weather.

And Norwegians know their sauces. Almost every meat dish I've tried there had a sauce of some kind accompanying it. One trick I learned about adding flour or other thickener to stock to avoid lumps, is to premix the flour with a little bit of water, so you get a kind of slush which mixes evenly when you add it to the sauce.

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The sauce in this recipe is light (I used greek yogurt), easy to make, tangy (from lemon juice) and delicious. You can use sour cream instead of yogurt. And of course, dill just makes everything better.


Beef Fricassée with Root Vegetables
Adapted from NRK Mat

Serves about 6

You will need
2 lb beef bone meat (neck bones, ox tail works well)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 medium celery root, peeled and chopped
1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, chopped and cleaned
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp fresh dill

Directions
1. Fill a large pot with about eight cups of water and bring to a boil. Cut the meat into chunks and add to the pot along with a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer the meat, skimming the surface occasionally, about 45 minutes to an hour. Ladle approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the stock into a small saucepan and set aside.

2. After the meat has simmered for about 45 minutes to an hour, add carrots, parsnips, celery root, onion and leeks. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and simmer 10 to 15 minutes more, until the vegetables are soft.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the sauce. Bring the saucepan with the stock you've set aside to a simmer. In a small bowl, mix together the flour and a little bit of water, fully dissolving the flour. Start rapidly whisking the stock as you gradually pour the flour mixture into the stock. Once the sauce begins to thicken, lower the heat. Whisk the greek yogurt and lemon juice into the sauce until the mixture is uniform. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the dill. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

4. Drain the meat and the vegetables (discard the stock or use for something else); return meat and vegetables to the pot. Pour the sauce over them. Mix everything together. Serve over rice, boiled potatoes or as is, sprinkled with a little fresh dill.

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Scandinavian Salmon Tartare Appetizer

Sunday, August 3, 2014

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When we were living in Norway we noticed a recurring ingredient combined with typically savory things (meat dishes as well as salted/pickled herring): something sweet. Meat would be served with sweet lingon berry jam (you can get a taste of the combination if you order the meatballs with lingon berry jam at Ikea). Salted or pickled fish would be preserved in a sweet, vinegary brine.

In this salmon tartare recipe all of these things are present, combined with another key item: dill. We've adjusted the sweetness so that it is not prominent but goes altogether well with the other ingredients.

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We adapted this recipe from one we made at a Scandinavian cooking class we took in NYC, which was an experience in itself. There were some bicontinental Swedes, a Dane, some hipsters eager to learn how to cook a quail, but no Norwegians. Since then we've been making our own version on a regular basis in our kitchen, especially when we want to have something to drink and snack on before dinner.

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This appetizer combines four of the basic flavors: sweet, sour (vinegar), salty, and umami (salmon). As always, please feel free to adjust the ingredients to your taste. Like your savory dish on the sweet side? Double the agave, omit the salt. Don't like horseradish? Skip it. This appetizer responds very well to variations, and although we always use the same ingredients, we don't measure them, relying on taste alone. Sometimes Tony makes it his way, sometimes I make it, it's never exactly the same but the underlying flavor when we both sample it and nod to each other "yes, that's it" remains the same.

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This appetizer goes really well with gløgg or aquavit. If you want to have several options for the smoked salmon tartare appetizer, you can also try the one we made before with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil here.

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Scandinavian Salmon Tartare Appetizer
Adapted from ICE (institute of culinary education) recipe

Serves 4

You will need:
4 oz smoked salmon, finely chopped
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp capers, chopped
1/2 tbsp agave
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp horseradish, or to taste
2 tbsp dill
Coarse salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:
Combine salmon, onion and capers. Add agave, cider vinegar, horseradish and dill. Mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper (depending on your preferences, you might find the saltiness of the salmon sufficient for the appetizer). Serve with crackers or cucumber slices.

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Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

Sunday, July 20, 2014

After eating our way through the Reading Terminal Market, we took a stroll down Market Street, to the water, having only roughly sketched out other parts of the trip. Usually we like to explore without itinerary, preferring instead to stumble upon or into things.

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A house which I was photographing upon closer inspection turned out to be a reconstruction of the house which Thomas Jefferson rented and where he wrote the Declaration of Independence

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Passing the Independence Hall and having missed the line to go inside of it, we tried the door of an adjacent building, which turned out to be open. We were then informed that we were inside a building that housed the first United States Supreme Court.

Then we stumbled into Ben Franklin's print shop.

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I'm sad to report that we didn't make it to the two notable Philly Cheese Steak places, each located across from the other, in some kind of amicable brotherly love type of cheesy rivalry (Geno's and Pat's), having veered too far off course along the winding cobblestone streets.

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Also, having gorged ourselves on DiNic's sandwiches and Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts due to a bout of uncontrollable, almost fainting, hand-trembling hunger after spending two hours on the turnpike, they no longer seemed a priority. But hunger struck again following a two hour ride back.

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So we decided to make some at home, incorporating a DiNic's staple: sharp provolone.

This recipe is ridiculously simple. All you need is a big hunk of meat, which should be put in the freezer for about an hour to enable it to be sliced very thinly. We seasoned the meat with just Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper.

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The rest is easy. Cook up the steak slices, followed by a vegetable topping of your choice (we went with jalapeno slices and onions) in the remaining meat juices in the pan. Then stuff a hoagie roll with meat and vegetables. And sprinkle generously with cheese.

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Pop it in the oven at 350ºF for five minutes allowing the cheese to melt and the bread to crispen. Then consume with reckless abandon. After four hours on the road, this was much-needed sustenance.

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Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
Serves 2

You will need:
3/4 lb sirloin (about 1 1/2 inch thick)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper (eyeball it)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded, cut into half moons
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 hoagie rolls
1/3 cup grated sharp provolone

Directions:
1. Put the steak in the freezer for 1 hour or more (it will not freeze, but firm up to enable you to slice it). With your knife at a 30 degree angle, slice the steak thinly. Season with Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with foil, set aside. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Working in batches, place a few sirloin slices in a pan in a single layer. Cook 1 or 2 minutes per side, then flip with tongs, cooking 1 to 2 minutes more, until just done. Remove into a bowl. Repeat with the remainder of the slices. Set the bowl aside.
3. With the pan going, use the left-over meat juices to cook up the peppers and the onions, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Assemble the sandwiches. Slice the hoagies about 3/4 down the middle, length-wise and place on the baking sheet. Divide the meat evenly between the hoagies. Top with peppers and onions. Top each hoagie with cheese. Heat in the oven, until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

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Day Trip to the Reading Terminal Market

Saturday, July 19, 2014

We realized we have a serious problem when, after telling people that we went to Philly, and in response to their "Oh, did you go see the city hall/liberty bell/the house where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence?" Our answer was "no, we were just there for the food."

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We spent two day-trips there, driving two hours each way to spend just a few hours in this beautiful, history-rich city. Our first stop, our longest stop, both times had been the Reading Terminal Market.

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The Reading Terminal Market is a food lover's dream. Imagine something the size of a huge railroad terminal converted to many shops and stands devoted to nothing but food.

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Located at 12th and Arch Street, the Reading Terminal Market building was built by the Reading Railroad (pronounced Reh-ding) in 1893.

The market at that location was in existence before the terminal was built. Open-air markets were popular in Philadelphia in mid-19th century and lined the city along High Street (later renamed to Market Street). One of them, which was to become the founding for the Reading Terminal food market, was located at 12th and Market.

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When the railroad selected its location to build the terminal, it faced complaints about the closing of the market and the railroad decided to incorporate the market into the terminal. Although the Reading Railroad is no longer in existence, you can still “Take a Ride on the Reading” if you play Monopoly. And the food market remains.

Today it is one of the oldest operational food markets in the country, housing over eighty merchants, where you can get anything from pickle samplings, to roast pork sandwiches, to made-on-the-spot Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts.

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The market also operates as a true food market – you can buy fresh farm produce, meat, sausage and deli meats of the most bizarre variety (such as one made with aspic and pork tongue), and fresh seafood.

After a two hour drive, venturing into the food market, we were extremely hungry. Looking for something substantial, we randomly settled on a roast beef sandwich at DiNic’s.

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A line looped around the sandwich shop. A guy with a notepad went around the line taking orders based on a limited menu, deviation from which is strongly discouraged. When a woman behind me asked for hot peppers on the side, she received a shout so curt of “CAN'T DO IT!” that she nearly burst into tears. As a result, however, the line and the orders move with remarkable, almost assembly-line type of efficiency. What we didn’t know then was that DiNic’s Roast Pork and Beef was named the Best Sandwich in America by the Travel Channel.

It was a damn good sandwich.
 

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