Tag Archives: dinner

Wrong about ribs

5 Apr

I still remember my first dinner in an American restaurant. That was 2 years ago in Washington D.C. The place was called The Diner. My friend and I, both international students, had landed in D.C. for the weekend just one week after we arrived in the U.S. We knew nothing about the city nor about places to go out. I had a city guide from France saying that Adams Morgan area was great. So we headed to Adams Morgan!

The place was crowded and noisy. People were drinking large beers at the bar and biting into huge burgers, while the waiters were zigzagging through the wood tables bringing orders and water. Some will think nothing exceptional. But for me everything was new. In France, I did not need to show my I.D. to enter a restaurant, waiters would not welcome you with a large smile nor spontaneously bring tap water and above all that I was used to small and gourmet menu restaurants and not to some woody, smoky and smelly American bars and pubs.

I ordered ribs. The Chipotle Baby Back Ribs, drenched with a chipotle barbeque sauce and served with French fries and cole slaw. These were the best I had ever had, at that time. The sauce amazed me and the combination of cole slaw and French fries completely filled my huge appetite. Another time that year I had ribs in NYC. They were the same: a large rack of ribs covered with BBQ sauce and served with cole slaw, corn cake and French fries. I was hooked. Back to France I could never be satisfied with ribs. They were ever too short, too grilled, too dry. Or it was the sauce, too artificial, too red, or too orange. Back to the U.S. this year, I had great expectations about ribs. Going out for ribs was like the ultimate dining experience I was looking for.

The ribs at Hill Country, NYC.

The truth is that it happened randomly and I realized I had been wrong about ribs since that time in D.C.

I was born on St Patrick’s Day. The night of my birthday, we headed to Williamsburg and crawled along some bars. We ended up in the Two Door Tavern serving Irish food. Since the menu did not inspire me, I ordered ribs. I was expecting the same ribs and barbecue sauce, Fries and maybe cole slaw. Sweet memories. But the waiter brought boneless spare ribs, of a grey color, in a red wine demi glace, served with horseradish mashed potatoes. Where was my mouth watering BBQ sauce? The rich brown copper meat? I looked desperately glanced at Tummy Boy, biting my lips. If these ribs were not good, my birthday night would be ruined.

What I discovered enchanted me. The meat was tender, so tender I could slice it without any effort. It was soft and melting in my mouth. The mashed potatoes were light and the sauce reminded me of Boeuf Bourguignon. In fact, it was perfect.

The Mac&Cheese side at Hill Country, NYC.

The ribs experience repeated last week. My parents visiting from France, I wanted to take them out for the best ribs of their life. If they would love the ribs, they would also love NYC, the U.S. and their whole trip. After some research online, I had the list of the best ribs in town. My criteria were not easy: live music, typical American but no cliché setting, good price. And of course, the best ribs. We went to Hill Country smokehouse. It is a market, cafeteria style with live music. First I had a hard time figuring out how much I wanted. I was hungry for sure. I opted for 3 big pork ribs with macaroni and cheese. Simply served on a tray, with no sauce, they were delicious. The meat was juicy, flavorful and tasted like smoke. Only the price kept me from ordering more. The corn pudding was also delightful.

For sure I still have a lot of ribs cooking styles to taste. But now, I’m not wrong anymore.

Boeuf Bourguignon, Julia Child and I

12 Mar

Can you be French and have never cooked Boeuf Bourguignon?

Recently I watched again Julie&Julia, that movie that draws a parallel between the lives of a New Yorker cook and Julia Child, the famous American chef and author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie, the young New Yorker, assigns herself the challenge of cooking the 524 recipes featured in the book within one year. One of the decisive recipe that appears in the movie is Boeuf Bourguignon. It is depicted both as complex to make and succulent to eat. It is also often presented as being the essence of French cooking. It is true, Boeuf Bourguignon seems to be in most of the French restaurants here and my cook friends quote it systematically when talking about French cuisine. Thus, I have been thinking about Boeuf Bourguignon for a while and last weekend I gave myself the challenge to cook Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. My first Boeuf Bourguignon… by an American chef.

Getting ready for the Boeuf Bourguignon cooking night

I read that Boeuf Bourguignon is even better if cook in advanced and re heated. Sunday night was the perfect spot: nobody home, plenty of time, relaxed cook. I got everything I needed and followed the advice of the wine salesman: I took a French wine mixing Pinot Noir and Shiraz, good to cook and good to drink (in fact he was quoting Julia Child who said, “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking. “).

I started at 9pm. By 12am, it was almost finished. I was surprised I did not encounter any major issue. In fact, I did not meet any issue at all. I carefully followed the recipe: cook the bacon, cut it into lardons, sauté the meat until brown, repeat with sliced onion and carrot, simmer wine, beef bouillon with the meat, add flour, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and cover for 2 hours. At the end, when the meat is tender, I added sautéed mushrooms and small onions cooked into the bouillon. I did not have the right pan to simmer it slowly in the oven so I did it on the stove on a big saucepan. I kept the heat very low and it was perfect.

So far, it tastes amazingly good. The meat is tender and the sauce is thick and sweet. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a Julia Child’s recipe, if I am influenced by the movie or just because it is Boeuf Bourguignon but so far, I think it is one of the best meal I have ever cooked.

Tasting and verdict of Tummy Boy tomorrow night though…

The ingredients:

• 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep

• Slotted spoon

• 6 ounces bacon

• 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil

• 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes

• 1 sliced carrot

• 1 sliced onion

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. pepper

• 2 Tbsp. flour

• 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti

• 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon

• 1 Tbsp. tomato paste

• 2 cloves mashed garlic

• 1/2 tsp. thyme

• Crumbled bay leaf

• Blanched bacon rind

• 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock

• 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter

• Parsley sprigs

In the kitchen with Julia child, here