January 22, 2013

Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I managed to score some pretty cool gifts for Christmas too. One of which was the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Since I was down with the flu over the holidays and not really up for eating, let alone cooking, I only managed to peruse the book. As luck would have it, my sister Sara also got the cookbook and was very much up for cooking. So as I stood by offering my "assistance" (read: encouragement), she made the Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels and the Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby. The pretzels were delicious, though as a regular maker of soft pretzels, I would say that maybe they weren't quite worth the effort. I definitely wouldn't be adverse to eating them again, but I think we were both a tad let down that they weren't more amazing. Then again, I'm not a big fan of chocolate chips or brioche, so maybe the letdown was in my own expectations. The Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby was fantastic and well worth making, however - hard to go wrong with eggs, butter and ginger.

After I left for home Sara also made the Pancetta, White Bean & Swiss Chard Pot Pies and Butternut Squash and Carmelized Onion Galette (you can see a photo of it front and center on the above book cover). I was sad to have missed those, but luckily by that point I was feeling better and up for digging into the cookbook myself.

I started with the Vinegar Slaw with Cucumbers & Dill because I love cabbage and anything pickled. It's appropriate that "Vinegar" is the first word in the title - it's a strong component! I made the salad for an after-work dinner with friends, so I actually made it the night before our scheduled dinner so that it would be done in time. As a result the salad sat in the dressing for about 20 hours. I paired it with some wet burritos, so the vinegar sharpness of the salad was a nice counterpoint to the richness of  the main dish. My friend said it was "very bright". The downside is that cukes will pickle quickly, and after 20 hours they were a little too bright. Next time I'll add the cucumbers later so that they only soak for a couple of hours. The cabbage held up really well, and we ate the leftovers over the following weekend.

The latest recipe I've tried is the Balsamic and Beer-braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Puree. Not an extremely appetizing photo (above), but it tasted delicious. Because the process for this dish takes place over several hours, getting the timing right is important. I managed to go wrong in a few places because I was rushing, or making assumptions based on other recipes. I misread the amount of tomato paste needed and threw in the whole can instead the required 2 Tbsp. I substituted garlic for the horseradish. And, I quickly dumped the boiled parsnips into a colander and then into the food processor and didn't ensure that all the water had properly drained off. As a result too much water got into the puree and it was a bit on the runny side. I did include the recommended amount of butter and cream, but next time I'll lessen the cream a little. This is a personal preference because I have an aversion to creamy things. My husband, however,  does not, and he thought it was just perfect. There were a couple of optional steps in the recipe which included finishing off the braised ribs in the oven and creating a brown sauce to go with them. I opted in for both of those steps and I think it was well worth it. The meat isn't flavorful enough to carry both itself and the parsnips, so the sauce really ties the two together.

Despite my mistakes the recipe managed to turn out really well, and I will definitely make this again - perhaps for Remi and Andrew to thank them for giving me such an awesome cookbook!

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