Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fill 'er up!

Here are the recipes for the fillings that went into my Vols-au-vent:

Curried Crab Salad*

1 lb. good fresh lump crab meat, rinsed and drained
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
2 Tbs. finely minced chives
1 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
2 Tbs. capers, drained
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 Tbs. dried curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together gently so as not to break up the crab too much. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve in puff pastry shell, as a salad on lettuce leaves, as a dip with pita chips, as a sandwich on thin, crisply toasted raisin walnut bread...use your imagination!

Cherry Braised Short Ribs
My version, based on recipes from Boulevard, the Cookbook, and my cooking class, incorporating the secret ingredient, fresh cherry butter from Michigan**

3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs
Kosher salt and pepper
about 1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. finely chopped carrots
1/4 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. diced onion
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 stalks of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 c. red wine (can use 1/2 c. port for part of this)
Enough home made chicken stock to cover the ribs (about 4 cups)
1/4 c. balsamic or red wine vinegar
1/2 c. dried cherries
3 Tbs. butter
1-2 Tbs. of cherry butter or preserves, optional.

Preheat your oven to 350. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven, then sear the ribs about 5 minutes per side, working in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan. As each batch is done, remove the ribs from the pan and set aside. When you are done with all the meat, add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic, and saute for about 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme and bay leaf, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Do not allow veggies to burn, but they should be fragrant and nicely browned. Pour in the wine, the vinegar and the dried cherries, and cook until reduced by 3/4. Put the ribs back in, and add enough stock to pretty much cover the meat. If a little sticks out here and there, don't worry about it. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, then cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat literally falls apart when you go at it with a fork. Allow to cool to room temperature, then carefully extract the meat (OK if some veggies are in there, too) to a separate container. The meat will absorb the juices as it cools, making it extra yummy. After the meat is out, put several ice cubes into the remaining sauce, and gently stir them around. The fat in the sauce will cling to the ice, and make it easy to remove by just fishing out the greasy ice cubes***. Repeat with additional ice cubes until it seems like you have most of the fat out. Gently reheat the sauce, adding the butter and cherry preserves. Season to taste, then cook until slightly thickened. Serve with the ribs.

This dish is great over mashed potatoes, cheesy grits, polenta or any other pile of rich mushy starchy goodness. It also tastes oddly great wrapped in tortillas with a dab of sour cream and green onions.

* I put it first in this post in an attempt to diffuse tension in the house. The crab salad felt slighted because I didn't take any photos except the ones of it in the puff pastry shell, whereas the short ribs got 25 extra frames. I hate to see this type of resentment, but honestly, those are the breaks on America's Next Top Puff Pastry Filling.
** Huge thanks to my sister, who sent me an amazing care package from a local cider festival that included this cherry butter, a cherry BBQ sauce, apple butter, and cherry jalapeno salsa.

*** Greasy ice cubes. Yuck!

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