I can remember watching Julia Child at my grandmother’s house when I was little – she had kind of a funny sounding voice and even on television, where sizes and proportions can be warped, she was one of the tallest people I’d ever seen. And The movie Julie & Julia is one of my faves: there’s a lot of food in it and it’s a chronicle about how Food Blogging can change people’s lives.
One of my favorite parts in the movie though is when Julie makes the Beef Bourguignon – it’s a catalyst of events. Judith Jones is coming over for dinner – and Julie decides to make Julia’s Beef Bourguignon. After working all day at her full time job, and this recipe being simple yet extremely time consuming, Julie is waiting for it to be done into the wee hours of the morning. But when the timer dings, she is in La La land, passed out on the couch (Dave can vouch for how many times this happens at our house, only it’s usually at about 8pm vs. midnight) She awakes – the beef is burnt to a crisp, and after calling in sick the next day to recreate the masterpiece, her dinner guest ends up cancelling because it’s ‘raining out’ – WTF. I think anyone can relate to this horrendous series of occurences happening, the best laid out plans going completely wrong (especially in the kitchen!).
So when trying to decide the perfect dish to create for a French themed potluck dinner, I immediately thought of Beef Bourguignon – although I must admit, it’s not Julia’s exact recipe – I found a somewhat simplified version from my girl Ina – some day when I have a good 6-8 hours, I’ll try the real thing, but in the meantime, this was a great ‘sped up’ version of an old Julia Classic.
*Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
*Yields 8-10 servings – 1 serving = about a cup
1 tablespoon good olive oil
(Ina loves “good” things)
8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
2 – 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac
1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
2) Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a large plate.
3) Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
4) Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
5) Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme.
6) Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 & 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork. (I did mine for 1 hr in the oven and then let it simmer more on the stove top).
7) Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for an additional 15 minutes (or up to 1 hour – this will make the beef even more tender). Season to taste.
6) To serve, toast a baquette or loaf of french bread in the oven and serve the beef atop of that (or mashed potatoes would be delicious too!)
Basically, an amped up beef stew if you will – but the meat was so tender and delicious and the vegetables were cooked perfectly. This could be a really great Christmas Eve dinner for the family, or really on any cold night this Winter (if it ever gets cold – sheesh!) I would definitely give yourself a good three hours to get this together, between the prep time, the cook time in the oven and then some time to simmer on the stovetop.
Best part was that it didn’t take all day and I didn’t fall asleep while making it 🙂 BONUS!
When I started working at my current job 7 years ago, I was a spring chicken at the ripe old age of 23, which back then I thought was ancient. During my interview, I wore my ‘I’ll-only-be-caught-dead-in-this-at-job-interviews’ black business suit, ready to impress. And while I was pretty sure I had the job in the bag, being that my future ‘boss’ was a family friend, I still wanted to come across as very professional and ‘adult’, even though I was only a year and change out of college, and still considered Thursdays to be the start of the weekend. But all you need to be a professional adult is a business suit and a fancy leather folder for your resumes right? Right!
I met Suzanne – she was sweet and inviting, putting me at ease – I could tell that she’d much rather chat about what had happened on last night’s episode of the Bachelor than my credentials, which I loved! Then this other woman charged in the door – wide eyed and guns blazing – and she didn’t even have to utter a word for me to know that she meant business – “Hi , I’m Paula, the Exhibit Sales Manager – you’ll be working with me.” She asked me everything about myself but my blood type and social security number – and the room started to feel smaller and darker, like I was in the middle of an interrogation vs. a job interview. I left feeling good, like I nailed it, but at the same time thinking to myself “I’m kind scared to work with that Paula-woman!”.
And now, 7 years later, Paula is someone who has influenced my life in more ways than I could ever describe. She became a not only a mentor, but a friend, teaching me everything from how to count booths on a floor plan, how to make the best homemade pie crust and how in life, shit happens, and sometimes you just have to ‘let it go’. The life lessons and stories that she’s passed on and her ‘Paula-isms’ like “He’s as old as Jerusalem” or use of the word “Boink“, which still makes me blush, I now use myself, and stop myself. And every time one of them slips past my lips, I chuckle about how much she has rubbed off on me.
Today is her last day with the company – she’s pursuing her lifelong love of writing, hoping to inspire people all over the world with the ‘power of the pen’ and inspirational magnets – and if she can do for them 1/2 of what she’s done for me over the years, than the world will be a much better place.
In the midst of wisdom, she’s passed on some damn good recipes. As a self-proclaimed ‘guinea’, her cooking is beyond incredible – and her recipe for crockpot meatballs is a perfect fall dinner. Takes a little bit of time, but is well worth the wait if you can be patient – and the smell that will fill your house while they’re cooking is better than any celebrity perfume out there.
Paula’s Crockpot Meatballs
(straight from the horses mouth – or email from 2009)
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 lb ground beef 80/20 (more fat makes a softer better tasting meatball)
½ lb ground pork
½ cup Progresso Italian flavored bread crumbs
½ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup water
2 TBS chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
½- tsp pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
1) Mix bread crumbs, egg, water, cheese, parsley and spices together to form a soft paste like consistency.
2) Fold in ground beef and pork, turn to mix paste into meat. Do not over mix you’ll toughen the meat.
3) Shape into meatballs and place on cookie sheet bake at 350 8ish minutes both sides, remove to rack. No need to overcook as they’ll to in the crock pot.
FOR THE CROCK POT SAUCE:
2 large cans of Tomato sauce – whichever brand you prefer
1 large can of crushed tomato – I use a Whole Foods organic Marzano tomatoes
3-4 garlic cloves minced
1 onion cut in quarters
3 TBS butter
5 TBS Olive Oil
½ cup beef broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cumin
2 tsp brown sugar – sugar cuts acidity and brings out the fullness of the tomato flavor
fresh basil – I use 3 leafs
1) In sauce pan melt butter and oil on medium heat, add onions and cook til translucent – do not brown.
2) Add garlic and let it flower – do not brown.
3) Add the 3 cans of sauce and all spices except basil, bring to a slow boil.
4) Add a couple spoons of sauce to crock pot bottom. Add meatballs, then more sauce and the rest of the meatballs. Make sure meatballs are covered with remaining sauce.
5) Cook on low for 5 hours. About 1 hour before done add fresh basil.
*NOTES FROM PAULA – that are totally true
PS – better to make the meatballs the night before and refrigerate this prevents them from breaking apart in the sauce.
PS – I also remove a lot of the onions during the cooking process because they have a tendency to make the sauce acidic
So thank-you Paula, not only for these fantastic crock pot meatballs that I’ve made 39843958490 times, but for everything you’ve been to me over the last 7-years. I’m sure that someday, I will be making these for my grandchildren, telling them about my “Good friend Paula who gave me the recipe.”
It should be said that I ONLY share recycled recipes that have been made 239859849584 times by me if they’re REALLY good. And you’re in for a doozie.
Several years ago, when I started working at my current job, I met Bruce – he was the Vice President of the publishing department at the time, and he was a mean publisher of stuff regarding the A/E/C industry (insider lingo). But little did I know, he was also a mean COOKER of stuff. He’d come in on a Monday, and rattle off this list of food he had prepared over the weekend for one of his impromptu pool parties, or tailgates at a Pats game, and I’d sit there listening to him, drooling all over my keyboard, amazed by the culinary skills of this publisher by day, culinary expert by night. And then there was the fateful day when Bruce walked through the door with a crockpot. He plugged it in, and the smell wafted through the office, and everyone stuck their arms out and did the zombie strut into the kitchen following this smell of heaven. And the smell of heaven was coming from one of the most delicious concoctions of pulled meat I’ve ever tasted – Pulled Chicken. After he sent out the email with the recipe, I looked once, twice, three times and thought, “OMG – even I could make this!” and make I did – over and over and OVER again. It has been a go-to recipe of mine for years. Thanks Bruce!
The reason for the pulled chicken this time around, was a bittersweet one. One of my college gal pals is moving to Dallas in a few weeks with her husband Rudy and their two pooches, Sadie and Lucy. And while Dallas is a smidgen further away than Boston, I’m excited for all the adventures they have coming their way! (but sad that they just missed Khloe and Lamar – I envisioned them becoming BFF’s). So for Liz’s Wine Club send off, southern themed appetizers were an obvious choice. The PERFECT excuse to make Bruce’s Pulled Chicken Sliders!
Bruce’s Pulled Chicken Sliders
8 (or so) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp seasoned salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup of your favorite bottled BBQ sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil (or olive)
1) Heat the oil in a dutch oven or skillet.
2) In a large bowl, mix all of the spices together and then coat the chicken thighs in the spice mixture.
3) When the oil is hot, brown the seasoned chicken on both sides on medium-high heat.
4) When the chicken is browned on both sides, transfer thighs to the crock pot.
5) Deglaze the hot dutch oven with the vinegar and scrape up all the browned bits and pour with the vinegar into crock pot.
6) Pour the BBQ sauce onto the browned chicken in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours.
7) When done, take two forks and shred the chicken in the crock pot and let sit for a few minutes. Serve on slider rolls, or all by itself!
It’s that easy friends – and so delicous. Perfect for an appetizer at a party, or for dinner served with mac and cheese and cornbread. It’ll bring out the southerner in you – promise.
So thank-you Bruce for this classic crowd pleaser that I’ve made so many times now, I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore (good thing, because the printed version I have has globs of BBQ sauce all over it). And to Liz, Rudy, Sadie and Lucy, happy trails to you! Dallas doesn’t know how lucky they are to have you guys – can’t wait to visit! Maybe I’ll bring my crock pot and show the southerners how the yankees make pulled chicken 🙂
Dave can sometimes be competitive – well let’s say like 99.9999999% of the time anyway. And sometimes I think it’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s kind of annoying, especially when he does it with silly, everyday things that really don’t warrant being competitive – like when we go to a restaurant, and he proclaims that he can make that dish better than they can – or when we take a leisurely bike ride to get ice cream like a mile down the street from our house, and he rides 50 feet in front of me doing all these fancy bike tricks while I sit back on my Huffy from 7th grade and roll my eyes. Stuff like that.
So Friday, we decided to try this new place in Allston called Lone Star Taco, being that it was Cinco de Mayo eve. And it was delicous! A very simple menu, with only 6 types of tacos to choose from, a few other side dishes, and a selection of Tequillas that would make your head spin. But one of the favorite flavors of taco that we got was the smoked brisket taco. Yum. And I made the mistake of saying “Ya know, I bet you could make this at home in the crock pot” and Dave went on to tell me that it was impossible, because smoking meat is completely different than cooking it in the crockpot, and you’d never be able to achieve the same flavor – wah wah wahhhhh. And so my competitive side came out and I said “I will accept that challenge”. And accept I did 🙂
Southwestern Pulled Brisket Tacos
*Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen
3 pounds beef brisket
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup dark Karo syrup
(you could also use brown sugar or molasses)
1) Season the beef generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat just until beginning to smoke. Add the meat and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the meat to the slow cooker; leave the skillet on the heat.
2) Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander, and cumin to drippings in the skillet and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
3) Stir in water and pour the mixture over the brisket.
4) Crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the slow cooker; add the tomato juices, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and karo syrup.
5) Cover the cooker, set it on LOW, and cook the brisket until it pulls apart easily with a fork, about 8 to 10 hours (my piece of brisket was only 2.5 lbs, so I did 8 hours)
6) After 8 hours, shred the beef. Strain the vegetables, etc. from the sauce and return to the crock pot. Return the shredded beef to the crock pot as well. Cook on low for another 2 hours or so (this will help the sauce infuse into the meat)
Pickled Red Onions
1/2 cup red wine vinegar 1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 3 really good shots hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
1 red onion, sliced into very thin rings
1) In a small bowl, combine red wine vinegar with 1/2 cup of cold tap water.
2) Stir in salt, the sugar and the hot sauce.
3) Add the sliced onions and let sit for at least one hour.
*As with most things, the longer you let these ‘pickle’ the better!
You’ve waited a long time – GO EAT! As an added optional step, I took the sauce from the crockpot and let reduce for about 20 minutes over low heat in a saucepan and served the sauce with the tacos in addition to the picked onions. Just for some extra flavor.
So what’s the verdict you ask? Was my pulled brisket taco better than Lone Star’s? Well, let’s just say, that after 3 tacos, Dave said “we should definitely make that again” which = “Wow Kate, you were right – you CAN make it just as good in the crockpot” – I’m really good at reading minds 🙂
Hope everyone enjoyed their Cinco de Mayo weekend!