Archive for ‘Meat’

November 19, 2012

Steak Au Poivre

About six years ago, I met a steak that I just couldn’t get enough of.  I’m not a huge steak person, so this was remarkable.  I only have a good steak a couple of times a year and while out to dinner on a work junket, I was treated to a nice steak dinner.  Being a fan of cracked pepper and a saucy food guy, I chose a Steak Au Poivre off the menu.  What showed up was nothing short of amazing.  The bite of a thickly crusted cut of beef with pepper corns and topped with a delicious pan sauce was nearly too much for me.  I was in heaven.  Best.  Steak.  Ever.

Years later, during the heart of my addiction to the Food Network, I ran across an Alton Brown show about Steak Au Poivre and was reminded that I REALLY needed to make myself this dish.  Au Poivre is simply a French pepper steak with a creamy pan sauce.  It sounds so simple but the flavor explosion is fantastic.

Below you will find the recipe I used for this.  I decided to truly endulge myself and served it with an equally decadent Goat Cheese Potato Gratin.



Steak Au Poivre

serves 4



4 steaks (approx.1/2 pound to a pound each)

Salt, to taste

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or other high smoke-point oil

3 T. black peppercorns, cracked

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

1/4 cup cognac or other brandy

1 cup beef broth or stock

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley


Sprinkle salt and cracked peppercorns generously over both sides of the steaks and let them come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, take the pan off the heat.  Pat the steaks dry with paper towels (steaks brown better if they are patted dry first) and place in the hot pan. Return the pan to the heat and turn the heat down to medium-high. Sear, without moving the steaks, for at least 4 minutes. Try to pick up a steak with tongs, and if it comes clean, flip it and turn the heat down to medium.

Once the steak is done to your liking remove the meat from the pan and tent with aluminum foil and let the steak rest while you are preparing the sauce.

Make the sauce. Add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the brandy and as it boils, deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all the browned bits. Once the brandy is almost cooked away, add the beef stock and turn the heat to high. Boil the sauce down until there’s a noticeable trail when you drag a wooden spoon through the center of it (4-5 minutes).

Pour in the heavy cream and resume boiling. Turn off the heat and add the parsley and any remaining black pepper (no more than 1 Tbsp, the rest should have already been used to pepper the steaks). Taste for salt and add if needed.

Pour the sauce over the steaks right when you serve.

June 3, 2012

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

This recipe comes from a local restaurant Lucy’s Table, in Portland, OR.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was a casualty of the economy and closed last year.  It was sad to see a local favorite go, but luckily their wonderful ravioli recipe will live on.  It is amazingly simple to make and utilizes wonton skins in place of the traditional pasta dough.  Before you pass judgement on the nontraditional approach, you have to try it.  It allows this to be made on a weeknight, in no time at all.


  •  2.5 lbs. goat cheese (Chèvre)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. bread crumbs
  • 1 package of fresh wonton skins
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, blend goat cheese, egg, bread crumbs and salt and pepper.  Spoon 1 Tbsp. of stuffing onto wonton wrapper. Brush edges with beaten egg.  Fold over to form triangle. Press with fork to seal edges.

Drop raviolis into boiling water. When ravioli floats, they are done.  Drain and serve with Brown Butter Sauce and toppings.

Brown Butter Sauce

  • 1/2 lb. salted butter
  • 1/2 lb. unsalted butter
  • 1.5 qt. heavy cream

Over medium heat, cook butter until light brown. Whisk in heavy cream and 
continue cooking until sauce thickens.


  • 1/2 lb. parmesan reggiano – shredded
  • 1/2 lb. pancetta – diced into 1/4-inch cubes and rendered in olive oil over low heat until crisp
  • 1 small shallot, diced and carmelized
  • Equal parts chopped italian parsley and chives for topping/garnish

ravioli assembly line

cooking the shallots and pancetta

dinner time!

The richness of the dish is amazing.  It’s not at all heart healthy and is truly a splurge. Enjoy!

January 26, 2012

Restaurant Review – Le Pigeon Portland, OR.

Last week, Margie and I made a reservation to go to one of our most favorite restaurants in Portland; Le Pigeon.  Chef Gabe Rucker has created a uniquely Portland restaurant, with it’s small dining area, open kitchen, reservations made long in advance, communal table, mismatched tableware, and amazing good, simple food.  I have had the pleasure of eating here five or six times over the years and can honestly say I have never had anything I did not like.  I don’t know of many restaurants I can say that about.

On this particular night, we got a seat at the counter overlooking the open kitchen.  This is a great spot to sit and just watch all the work that goes into each creation.  Every order is made to order, one at a time with at least three people checking it over before it goes to the table.  The attention to detail is something to behold.  If you get seated at one of the longer communal tables, I think you will find it a fun experience eating next to strangers.  You never know what you might over hear and you might even make some new friends by the end of the night.

We stared at the small menu for about 10 minutes, not being able to decide just what to have.  I found at least three entrees that I really wanted that night, but between the two of us, we had to formulate our plan to order the top two we liked best.

Once we had the entrée portion figured out, we had to find an hors d’oeuvres to try as well.  We chose the Gnocchi with Pheasant, Pears and Parsnips, as gnocchi is a favorite of both of us.

After a short while, the beautifully plated gnocchi was presented in front of us.  It smelled amazing.  There was a nice earthy aroma that came from it and we dug in.  The mix of the creamy gnocchi with the pulled pheasant meat was delicious and the pear and parsnip added a nice contrast of taste and texture.  If this dish is on the menu, it is a must have.

I usually end up ordering the classic Rucker inspired Beef Cheek Bourguignon, but tonight I promised I would try something new.  Before moving along to what we actually ordered, I thought this dish deserved a little praise.  The Bourguignon is a dish I have had here a couple of times before and it is just hard not to love this dish.  It is a wonderful take on a classic French dish that has the pieces of beef cheek melting in your mouth.  There is a good smoky richness to the meat and vegetables that just feels so comforting.  It’s awesome.  There’s no denying it.

On this particular night the Beef Duo had called my name.  The pairing of a Rib Eye and a Short Rib with Celery Root and Hedgehog Mushrooms was too much to pass over.  The dish came out and I was surprised at the immensity of the portion.  Exactly what I like to see with a good cut of meat!  The mushroom sauce was very earthy and rich and suited the beef very well.  Margie asked me what I thought of it and all I could say was “this is one beefy sauce!”  It’s complexity and depth of flavor really enhanced the cuts of meat and were a perfect fit for a rainy Portland winter night.

Margie decided on a very interesting dish for her entrée; one that I was eyeing as well.  The Chicken with Spätzle, Truffle, and Turnips was also delicious as we both heartily approved.  The dis had a nice rustic flavor and was beautifully plated as are nearly every dish they serve.  The chicken was perfectly cooked and very moist.  Spätzle is a fun little accompaniment that you don’t see often.  I have had it a couple of times and it is a nice change of pace for a starch component to a dish.

We managed to get persuaded to try dessert and settled on a Smoked Almond Cake with S’mores, Huckleberry, and Chocolate Mousse.  It was a very tasty dessert to finish the meal with and was just right as I finished up my glass of Oregon Pinot Noir.

This is easily one of the best restaurants in Portland, in my opinion and is one you should definitely try if you are ever in town.  If you do live in Portland and haven’t been here, you are really missing out.  The food is beautifully superb.  The atmosphere is bustling and unique.  It’s truly a great culinary experience.



Le Pigeon


also try their sister restaurant, Little Bird

November 27, 2011

Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

Braising season has definitely arrived in the Pacific NW so we decided to dust off one of our favorite braising recipes. I love lamb in general so I was immediately smitten with this dish when Mike served it to me on one of our earliest dates. I was so taken with the dish that Mike claims I didn’t speak for 10 minutes and he feared that something was wrong (alas, he couldn’t have been more wrong). That night, he actually served it over parmesan mashed potatoes but we now sometimes alternate preparing it with the white bean dish as it was originally intended. The mashed potatoes are amazing with it but the white beans give it a healthier edge.

Braised Lamb Shanks over White Beans

The recipe is originally from Gourmet Magazine. We used 2 mammoth-sized lamb shanks and otherwise scaled the proportions of the recipe in half.

Lamb Shanks:

6 lamb shanks

2-4 T. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped coarse

4-5 carrots, chopped coarse

3 ribs celery, chopped coarse

8 garlic cloves, chopped coarse

1 bottle (3 1/3 cups) Bordeaux or Cabernet wine

4 cups chicken stock

3 T. tomato paste

2 sprigs (or more) fresh thyme


3 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves, minced


2 T. olive oil

2 small onions, chopped fine

2 carrots, chopped fine

2 celery, chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 cans cooked white beans (Great Northern or Navy were recommended but we typically use and enjoy Butter Beans)

2-2 ½ cups chicken stock

2 T. unsalted butter

1 bay leaf

To FINISH:   (we’ve never done this part)

1 T. unsalted butter

1 T. chopped tarragon leaves


First things first. The recipe didn’t mention this part but I guess it’s assumed for the experienced chef. I took on the task of meat preparation that Mike normally does. After he demonstrated the process for me, I worked on removing both the fat and the “silver skin” (which lends a gristly quality to meat). The key is to remove both while removing as little meat as possible. I have to admit it took me quite a while, but these were also enormous shanks. It definitely made me appreciate Mike’s meat-cleaning skills.

Next, pat lamb shanks dry and season well with salt and pepper. In heavy Dutch oven (we use our Le Creuset) over moderately high heat, brown shanks well in batches, transferring to a plate as browned. Then add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté until onion is softened. Add wine and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups. Return lamb shanks to pot and stir in broth, tomato paste, and thyme. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer, covered, stirring and turning lamb shanks occasionally for 1 hour. Uncover the pot and simmer the shanks another 1.5-2 hours, until shanks are tender.

Lamb Shanks Braising

TO MAKE THE GREMOLATA (while lamb is cooking): In a small bowl, stir together ingredients and set aside.

TO MAKE THE BEANS while lamb is cooking. In a saucepan, heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add beans, 2 cups broth, butter, and bay leaf and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and adding enough broth to keep beans moist and to reach a creamy consistency, about 45 minutes. Discard bay leaf and add half of gremolata and salt and pepper to taste.

White Beans Simmering with Veggies

TO SERVE: Place serving of beans in a shallow bowl, top with shanks and vegetables, then sauce from shanks. Finally, sprinkle with gremolata.

Lamb is Served!

September 12, 2011

Pappardelle alla Bolognese

Pappardelle alla Bolognese


2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3   tablespoons butter

3   carrot, finely, diced

2   medium onions, diced

4   rib celery, finely diced

5   cloves garlic, diced

1   pound ground beef

1   pound ground pork

1   pound ground lamb

¼   pound pancetta or slab bacon, ground

9   oz. tomato paste

3   medium tomatoes, roasted and diced

1   cup milk

1   cup dry white wine

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Wide noodle pasta, cooked and drained


In a large 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the beef, pork, lamb, and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Add the meat over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together until browned.

Add the tomato paste, roasted tomatoes, milk, and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 ½ hours.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat.

Mix a little sauce with cooked and drained pasta and toss gently.  Serve in large bowls and add additional sauce as necessary.  Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pasta has long been near the top of my favorite comfort foods list.  There is something about it that just makes me feel so satisfied after a nice bowl of tasty pasta.  I don’t make pasta dishes nearly as much as I should at home and I am always browsing restaurant menus for my favorite combination of pasta and sauce….a wide noodle Bolognese.  I love meat…and by definition, Bolognese is a meat sauce.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

I have had many different versions of Bolognese and they all seem to be a bit different; mostly all good, but just different.  With a little time in front of the computer with my friend, Google, I set out to find out what a real Bolognese sauce was.

From what I was able to gather, Bolognese is a simple, hearty meat sauce in every sense of the word , that dates back at least to the 5th century.  The meat is usually comprised of beef and pancetta and sometime pork as well.  It is mixed with very few other competing ingredients, such as the traditional mirepoix (a mix of diced carrots, celery, and onions), garlic, tomato paste, wine, and milk.  It really is a very simple mix that yields a very meaty, thick sauce.  Some add tomatoes, including myself, giving it more of a red color.  The traditional recipe, without the tomatoes, yields a much more brown colored sauce.

With my admission of adding tomatoes, I guess the word is out that I am not a cooking purist, so I might as well divulge my other straying’s in the Bolognese world.  I have been experimenting with the different meats included and have found that mixing several types yields a much more complex, deeper taste.  In this recipe, I used, beef, pork, lamb, and pancetta.  That should be enough meats!

It should be noted that the Italians do not pair a Bolognese sauce with the pasta shape spaghetti. Wider shaped pastas are thought to hold up to the heavy sauce better and provide the right balance of noodle to sauce.  To each their own though…

August 23, 2011

The Christening

There is one universal truth about men. They love their grills. I’m positive if you took a poll of men, you would find a direct correlation between their satisfaction in life and their satisfaction with their grill. Once the man in your life starts to question the worth of his grill, you should probably start budgeting for his birthday or Christmas grill. If his standards are pretty high, you may have to count the grill towards multiple gifting occasions. In Mike’s case, his mom and his wife (that’s me) co-gifted a Weber for his birthday.

New Weber Grill

Wine + Weber = One Happy Man

My parents seem to have a real knack for timing. Not only did they visit the first week we had a solid run of exceptional weather, they also timed it so they could help us christen the grill. After hearing our chatter about lamb burgers, they had to see what all the fuss was about. In perfect summer tradition, we hit up the PSU Saturday market. We scored some local grass fed lamb and located lots of beautiful produce.

I was planning to grill miniature tomatoes that wouldn’t require slicing and also wouldn’t fall through the grate.

Before I start, let me give you an overview of the toppings. You may pick and choose but the sauce is an absolute must.

  • Lightly toasted brioche or other worthy bun
  • Roasted tomatoes (you can either slice and roast in the oven, grill, or cheat and buy them from the Zupan’s olive bar) or sun-dried tomatoes
  • Crumbled feta cheese
  • Leaf lettuce (we used romaine)
  • Diced kalamata olives
  • Cilantro Mint Chutney
Lamb Burger Toppings Bar

Lamb Burger Toppings Bar

If you’ve got at least two able bodies in the kitchen, I would suggest that one person work on the chutney and the other person work on the lamb patties. In our case, we had a few extra able bodies so it was something of a circus atmosphere.

Cilantro Mint Chutney

1/3 cup         plain greek yogurt

2 T.                onion, chopped

1                jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped

1 ½ T.           fresh ginger, chopped

1/3 cup         fresh mint leaves

¾ cup           cilantro leaves

1 lg. clove     garlic, chopped

½ t.               salt

pinch            sugar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

My love/hate relationship with the food processor: love its efficiency but hate how annoying it is to clean.


Lamb Burger patties

1 pound           ground lamb

1 ¾ T.              ground cumin

¾ T.                 ground coriander

1 t.                     onion powder

1 lg. clove        garlic

2 T.                   balsamic vinegar

to taste             salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients well in a non-reactive bowl and form into patties.  Do not press patties too firmly.   1 pound of meat yields 3 respectable patties.  Patties are best when thicker than normal, helping them to not over cook on the grill.

Grilling Instructions:

Heat grill to medium high.  Brush grill surface with oil.  Grill lamb patties to a nice medium doneness.

Fire and Meat

Toast buns as the burgers finish cooking.

Some of the best grill marks around. Kudos to both the grill and to the grillmaster!

Add all the toppings and see if you can actually fit your mouth around it. I suggest pairing it with a Greek salad.

Lamb Burger

The Best (and probably only) Lamb Burger You’ve Ever Tasted

Did the parents like the Mediterranean lamb burgers? I’d have to say so. I think my mom is a fairly bird-like eater. She’s always doling out half of her sandwich, steak, etc, to her hungry tablemates. (Is she really your mom, you ask?). Both of my parents had polished off their plates completely. I even checked under the table to see if they’d stashed the remnants in the napkins on their laps (this was an old trick my sister and I employed with peas). Nada. Just a couple of distended bellies and satisfied grins.

May 16, 2011

Braised Beef Short Ribs

In spite of Margie’s recent cholesterol test results, we decided to combat the extra long Pacific NW winter gloom with some of the best comfort food known to man – braised meat. Braising is a slow-cooking technique used to produce tender meats. We like it. A lot. In addition to being tender, the resulting dish tends to be rich since the meat cooks in its own fat and juices. Bring on the fat, but don’t tell Margie’s doctor. When dining out, we’ve started noticing the same technique applied to vegetables like “greens.“

Before embarking on a labor-intensive recipe (such as this one), it’s important to ensure you are properly equipped. From time to time, we’ll try to introduce you to some kitchen tools. For now, we’d like to introduce you to the absolute basics.

Proper Footwear: For time-consuming recipes, you’ll want to ensure your feet remain comfortable and pain-free. For us, this means crocs. Just like our cats, our crocs are “indoor only,” not to be worn in public, by anyone, EVER.

Crocs (our ideal cooking footwear)

Cooking Oil: No, we’re not talking about grapeseed oil or olive oil (although they’re now finding that it does not tolerate heat well)…we’re talking about the fluids that help loosen you up for some good, creative cooking. If your craft is golfing, you know this as “swing oil.” We recommend that you find a bottle of your favorite wine or craft beer and pour yourself a nice glass before embarking on the cooking mission ahead of you.

Cooking Oil


Another goal we’d like to accomplish with this blog is to introduce folks to some cooking terminology. As our repertoire expanded beyond collegiate favorites (Margie’s roommates would vouch for the brilliance of “chicken in the mud”), we’ve been forced to learn some hoity-toity kitchen terms. We thought we’d share some of those with you.

Several of the ingredients in this recipe constitute what is called the “trinity.” This describes the medley of chopped carrots, celery, and onions, often used in sauces and braises. Margie is NOT a fan of cooked carrots, but is oddly accepting of them in this somewhat camouflaged form.  If you are over for dinner and hear Margie refer to it as the “trifecta” or “triumvirate”, nod in agreement, but keep in mind she meant trinity.


And now for the recipe…

Braised Beef Short Ribs

3.5 lbs           beef short ribs



2 T.                  cooking oil  (we used grapeseed oil, but vegetable or olive would work)

1T.                   cooking oil

1                      yellow onion, diced small

3                      garlic cloves, minced

3                      carrots, diced small

2                      celery stalks, diced small

2 T.                  thyme, chopped

750ml             red wine (preferably a strong one like cabernet sauvignon)

4 shots           espresso

32 oz.              beef stock

15.5 oz.           canned diced tomatoes

3 oz.                canned tomato paste

4 T.                  grainy mustard

3 T.                  flat leaf parsley, chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim all beef ribs of excess fat and any silver skin.  Season meat generously with salt and pepper, on all sides.  In a heavy, cast iron pot (we used Le Creuset) heat 2 T. cooking oil over med-high heat .  Add short ribs to pot and brown on all sides.  Cook meat in batches if necessary.   Once browned, remove from pot and discard rendered fat.  Wipe pot clean.

Meat browning in progress


Heat remaining 1 T. cooking oil in pot over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions and sauté until browned, about 5-7 minutes.  Add carrots and celery, continuing to sauté for 3-4 minutes more.  Add thyme and stir to mix.

Add the wine, espresso, and half of the beef stock to the vegetable mixture and bring to a boil.  Add diced tomatoes, tomato stock and mustard and mix well.

Braising begins...

When we decided to make this recipe, Mike invited our good friend Scott to join us.  Mike and Scott decided the meal was worthy of one of their “big guns” wines. Both Mike and Scott had acquired a bottle of this fantastic wine, a 1997 Super Tuscan, Bacio Divino, years ago. We opened the first one while we were still cooking to sample the wares. While both wines were excellent, they had both aged to have very different taste profiles. Ours was fairly earthy while Scott’s was a bit more fruit forward.  Both were excellent wines, and it was interesting to taste two identical bottles next to each other and compare difference, bottle to bottle.

Mmm, tasty!

Return the browned short ribs to pot and add beef stock until all ribs are covered by liquid.  Place pot in oven, covered and braise for 3-3.5 hours until meat is tender, flipping occasionally throughout braising period.

Remove short ribs from pot and set aside.  Reduce liquid over med-high heat until reduce by at least 1/3, or to your desired thickness.

As sides to the braised short ribs, we served some Parmesan polenta, over which the ribs were placed along with some roasted shallots and Brussels sprouts.   Not everyone is a fan of polenta, but Mike has been somewhat fixated on it lately, so that is what we had that night.  The choice of Brussels sprouts was an easy one for us, as it is one of our favorites (look for a blog post about our favorite recipe for them in the future) and simple roast vegetables satisfy Margie’s health quotient while also not detracting from the star of the show.

Veggie Nirvana

Serve beef short ribs over parmesan polenta of mashed potatoes.  Drizzle with reduced sauce.

Sprinkle with parsley to finish.


Dinner is served

Did I mention it was a great night?

Good food was had with good wine and good friends.  Sorry we didn’t save any…

CPC (clean plate club)