Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Short Ribs and Chicken Fingers

Forgive my unexplained Easter Break. I hope all of you who celebrate the season in prayer and feasting experienced renewal. I had the honor and privilege to cook for two very esteemed visitors to my home- my two granddaughters, ages two and four and a half. Like most kids with parents who are always busy, these two are not likely to graduate to gourmet dining anytime soon. My daughter's admonition to "Keep it simple, Grandpa!"led me to the only solution. I would cook two separate meals and serve the kids first. Then the grownups could eat in peace.So, here was my menu. Kid's Meal:Chicken Fingers and salad.Ice cream for dessert.(breathe); Adult's meal:Baked Brie appetizer, Rigatoni with Tomato Short Rib sauce, Short ribs and salad,Baked Apple crumble with ice cream for dessert.This was really easy to do because I needed to cook the short ribs on Saturday. The short rib sauce needs to be in the refrigerator over night so the fat from the meat has a chance to coagulate on top. The fat can then be disposed of before rewarming the sauce. So, in order of preparation, let me explain how I prepared the meal.

Short Ribs for six

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

You need about a pound of ribs per person. Have your butcher halve each rib if they aren't already.( a typical rib is about 8 inches long, so you are looking for pieces of about 4 inches each)

Using a large, heavy bottomed skillet, heat two tbs. extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat and brown the ribs on all sides in two or three batches.Lay the ribs, side by side in a large, shallow baking pan and set aside. Drain the skillet of fat, but keep the brown bits on the pan.

For the sauce:
One 35 oz. can of Whole Tomatoes
One package "Baby Bella" mushrooms, sliced
4 tbs. tomato paste

One medium onion, diced
Two cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup beef broth

3/4 cup red wine
3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves

1/4 cup parsley (for garnish)
and pepper to taste

Lift each tomato from the juice of the can and crush it with your hand . Put the crushed tomatoes in a bowl and save the juices. Add the beef broth and half of the wine to the tomatoes and set aside.Using the skillet which you used to brown the meat, reheat it with two tbs. of extra virgin olive oil. Cook the sliced mushrooms on medium heat till they release liquid and darken. Salt them now. Push the mushrooms to one side of the skillet, and add the diced onions allowing them to soften (4 min. more), then add the garlic and cook about a minute more (till you smell the garlic). Find another spot in the pan and let the tomato paste fry for a few minutes, then incorporate it into the mushrooms and onions with the remaining half of the wine. Now dump the reserved tomato mixture into the skillet and mix in the chopped fresh thyme. Spoon the sauce over the reserved ribs, cover the pan with foil and bake for 2 and1/2 hours, basting the ribs twice.Then, remove the foil and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Remove the ribs from the sauce, let them cool a bit, and refrigerate tightly covered, over night. Put the sauce in a bowl, cover and refrigerate over night. The next day, place the ribs in a baking dish you can take to the table. Spoon half of the defatted sauce over them and reheat them covered for 25 minutes @ 350 degrees. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. The other half of the sauce can accompany a pasta (Rigatoni).

So, I did the ribs on Saturday. On Sunday I washed and spun the salad, and marinated a can of drained, quartered artichokes, two sliced tomatoes, olives, and a little sliced onion in extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, dried oregano, salt and pepper. I added the marinated artichokes to the salad just before serving. For the dessert, I peeled and cored six yellow delicious apples.Then I sliced them and placed then in a baking dish.

Dessert topping

1 cup a-p flour
3/4 cup quick oatmeal
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of salt

5 tbs. softened, unsweetened butter

Rub the softened butter into the dry mixture till it resembles wet sand. Sprinkle over the apples. Bake @ 350 degrees for half an hour. Serve with ice cream.

The Kid's Meal

Two cutlets cut from the chicken breast. Slice the cutlets into "fingers". Dust the pieces in flour, lay them in a beaten egg with 3 tbs. water, and dip them in Panko (Japanese tempura) breadcrumbs. Fry them in hot Canola oil till they are a deep golden color. Salt them while hot and drain them on a paper towel.
I used some of the reserved tomato juice to make a dip. I added a teaspoon of arrowroot to the juice to thicken it and added chopped canned olives (another granddaughter favorite).

The salad consisted of the bottom of the red lettuce leaves I used for the adult's salad (the crunchy part of the leaves), carrot sticks, sliced tomato and more canned olives. She wanted Ranch Dressing. I put a little olive oil, lemon juice salt and mayonnaise together. Then she wanted "plain" ice cream with sprinkles for dessert. I couldn't find the sprinkles.

I warmed up the baked brie which I found in Stop and Shop when they arrived. It had a layer of almonds, apricots and brandy on top of the cheese, and the whole thing was covered in a dough.It was a great start and satisfied everyone's appetite till we fed the kids.The kid's appetizers consisted of the Easter Basket which was heavy with Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. While the kids ate, I boiled the pasta. It was ready to serve with the rib sauce by the time the granddaughters were sort of finished. I warmed up the ribs while we ate the pasta and served it with the salad. As soon as the ribs came out of the oven, I put in the dessert which I served after the table was cleared.

By the way, don't start with me that the kids should "learn to eat" the adult food. I wanted a relaxing, fun afternoon that allowed me to talk to my family and time to play with the kids.That's what we got!

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