Howdy friends! It’s been a crazy month in the Mischief kitchen! Predictably, I’ve been darting and dashing from project to project, making messes, having fun, and dodging mischief at every turn. Here’s a whirlwind tour of my holiday mischief-making thus far…
Bonnie, Bourbon, & Fruitcake
Every year, my friend Bonnie (Mother to Ben Wieseman and M-I-L to Jennifer Cloe) embarks upon a months-long endeavor of producing her famously sought-after bourbon-infused fruitcake. Make that fruit-speckled bourbon cake. Seriously — eating a slice of cake is like doing a jaegar bomb. But MUCH tastier.
We spent the day participating in the process, which included making the batter, combining it with the bourbon-saturated “fruit” and baking the cakes. We got lots of video and great pictures, which we’ll be releasing after the holidays. Why the delay, you ask? Well, for those of you lucky enough to get one of Bonnie’s cakes, I want you to enjoy eating without the image of me up to my elbows in fruitcake. Consider it my gift to you.
Rest assured that I did wash up beforehand — like a surgeon. It wasn’t pretty, but we had so much fun! Many thanks to Bonnie and Ben and Jen for inviting us to participate, and to Nola & Chester (their dogs) for cleaning up the fallen fruit and nuts. [Note: I am pleased to report that both pups are enjoying their stay at Promises and are both expected to make a full recovery.]
Mischief by Candlelight
Right before Thanksgiving, my folks stopped by on their way to visit my sister. The plan was to have a nice dinner featuring the Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Salad from my earlier post. There was only one problem — we had no power!
Anyhoo, the power was off because we were having roofing work done. But instead of going out to dinner like any rational human being would do if faced a kitchen full of functionless electronic appliances, I decided plunge forward into the abyss. As a kid, I always loved it when the power would go out … I called it “playing Abe Lincoln.” So, with a sense of mischief and adventure, I fired up the grill and went to town!
So I grilled butternut squash, chicken, and onions, plus browned bacon and reduced the dressing. All on the grill. Oh my.
Although it was a little chaotic, I managed to not burn my hands (Thanks, Mom!) or trip over the branches outside (Thanks, Mom!) and dinner was a success. It was my first “Abe Lincoln” Kitchen Mischief … maybe not my last….
Food Styling: Behind-the-Scenes
At work, one of my many responsibilities is to write-direct-produce our video productions. Last week, I volunteered for another duty — food stylist. We were shooting a set-up for a tapas party, so I did a little practice at home and took some pics so that set-up the next day would be as smooth as possible.
There’s not much here … just some cracker arranging and cheese cutting. But I did find this awesomely fun brie “log” at Publix … it’s relatively inexpensive and a new twist on that big honkin’ wheel of brie you usually find. The good news is that the shoot went well and my first official foray into food styling was a success!
Making Holiday Magic
Finally, David and I joined forces to tackle some holiday cooking two Sundays ago. It was a veritable Mischief Test Kitchen … on my side, at least. David was following a recipe from Southern Living for White Chocolate-Dipped Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies. Before you ask — he came up with this idea on his own. He loves white chocolate. Me … not-so-much. So he proceeded to make cookies — eight dozen! Happy holidays, everyone — hope you love cookies!
So while the Keebler Elf was cranking out cookies, I worked on my own project — a short-rib style pot roast. I’ve been obsessed about this project. I’m hosting a little Holiday Gathering, and wanted to serve something easy that tasted fantastic. I loved the bulk/make-ahead idea of beef roast, but wanted to achieve the flavor density of braised short ribs. Much to my dismay, no amount of Googling yielded any real help. So I rolled up my sleeves and figured it out! Here’s the secret…
I don’t want to jinx myself, as my party is just days away and the “Short-Rib Style Beef Roast” is on the menu, but (knock-on-wood) I think it’s a success! To achieve my desired results, I did the following:
1 large chuck roast
salt and pepper
2 onions, diced
1 bay leaf
6-8 garlic cloves, halved
beef stock concentrate
low-sodium beef broth
fresh or dried thyme
half a lemon
[Note: As always with me, measurements are approximations. Use enough oil to barely coat the bottom of your pan. Season your roast generously. You’ll probably end up needing close to half a bottle of red wine, 2 tsp of beef concentrate, and most of a can of tomato paste.]
1. Season the roast, and brown all sides on medium-high heat. Remove to crock pot.
2. After browning my roast, I took the dutch oven off the heat, added onions, garlic, and bay and reduced the eye to medium.
3. Add wine to deglaze if necessary. Add tomato paste and beef concentrate a tsp at a time.
4. Work up some brown bits on the bottom of your pan, then deglaze again. If you add wine, bring it to simmer and cook again to burn off alcohol.
5. Add herbs and more beef stock. Add more concentrate if you don’t give a damn about your blood pressure!
6. Finish by squeezing in half a lemon, then add your sauce to the crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
7. When it’s done, remove meat to cool, then go through and remove leftover fat and unseemly bits. Drain the sauce and put it in the fridge to cool. When it does, remove the (gross!) layer of fat from the top. Reheat before serving.
And that should be it! I’m serving my Short-Rib Style Beef Roast over Smoked Gouda Grits. Yeah, you heard me. Here’s hoping it turns out to be a party pleaser!
That’s all for now … I’m off to tackle more holiday to-do’s! Here’s wishing you a wonderful season full of mischief and merriment!