Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ode to a Meat Blog - Parshat Mishpatim

After Moses shares a laundry list of rules with the nation in this weeks portion, Parshat Mishpatim, the nation famously responds - "All the things that God has commanded we will do!" This attitude doesn't last for too long during their trek in the desert, but for the time being the nation, Moses and God are in a really good place in their relationship. In celebration of this Moses builds an altar at the foot of the Mountain where he just got the commandments out of 12 pillars to represent each tribe. Appointed spokespeople for the nation come forward to offer up bulls as sacrifices of well being to God.

Things are looking normal when Moses takes the blood from the animals and dashes it against the side of the alter. But after he reads the covenant out loud and the nation again chimes in faithfully " All the things that God has commanded we will do" Moses starts to sprinkle the blood over the nation saying "this is the blood of the covenant that God makes with you regarding these commandments." Not sure anyone saw that coming.

But let's get back to those bulls. It was this time last year that I was exuberantly writing about Oxtail soup in connection to the bull's cousin mentioned earlier in the portion. This fateful blog entry led to a blissful state of free meat for our family from Golden West Glatt - I would blog for them twice a month with recipes that I tried out on the meat that they sent me. I am sad to say that the free meat has stopped, as has all meat from the Golden West site. There are two posts that I wrote for them that never got published so I thought I would share one of them here with you this week. I'll save the other for another week. Enjoy the meat.

Whiskey Molasses Ribs

Both my father and my husband are big whiskey fans, and along the way I've developed a taste for the smooth drink as well. There isn't one brand that I'm a devotee of but I have learned an important lesson about nomenclature when it comes to this drink. The lesson came on a family trip to Ireland in the summer of 2001. We were in a small pub in Ballina (pronounced bah-lyn-ah), a sweet town along the River Moy, about four hours drive from where my mother's family hails from. We were in the middle of our four week adventure, driving all over the southern part of the country to visit family and sites. The printed maps we had were no help in navigating our tiny car along the swerving, hedgerow-lined streets since none of the roads were clearly marked (The Irish immigrants to Boston must have felt right at home with our equally absent street signs). At the end of that particular day my dad wanted more than the Guinness on tap to wind down and approached the bar tender with a request for a nice glass of Scotch. The pleasant but firm response he got was "Well, you be in Ireland now and we call it whiskey here." Right, he didn't make that mistake again. Calling whiskey Scotch is something you can get away with in Scotland and America, but not in Ireland. However, the mistake had the fortuitous outcome of turning my dad on to a whole new genre of Irish whiskeys.

Aside from enjoying sipping whiskey out of a shot glass, I also enjoy adding it to dishes in the kitchen. It enhances certain pies, and truly shines in meat sauces. When I announced the name of the dish I was serving to my guests several weekends ago people got down right giddy. The Whiskey Molasses ribs live up to their name in their sweet and deeply savory taste. I had actually tasted two right after I removed them from the broiler on erev Shabbat and got very close to changing my mind about sharing them with my guests. Gobbling down these Golden West short ribs with Sam before anyone arrived suddenly seemed like a great idea. The truth is this is my third recipe for ribs that I'm sharing with you here at Golden West Glatt (blueberry glazed and Korean style) and I still can't get enough of this tender and aromatic crispy beef, no matter how I dress them. Whether you take the time to craft an intricate sauce, whip up a simple overnight marinade or just brush them with your favorite BBQ sauce, the results are sure to make you, and anyone you end up sharing them with feel special (not to mention very sad once there aren't anymore left to eat). The Whiskey Molasses recipe is somewhere in between an intricate marinade-sauce combo and a bottled BBQ sauce. It's a recipe that has some Southern hallmarks (including southern Ireland) since it involves whiskey and molasses which come together in a thick sauce that looks like a dark ketchup. But is also has a subtle nod to every New Englander, there's beer in the marinade that gets boiled and cooled for the ribs to soak in overnight.

After eating this dish you won't have much use for a napkin, as you'll want to lick your fingers to hang onto those last bits of flavorful sauce and crispy flecks of charred goodness. The notes of thyme and balsamic vinegar add an interesting complexity that will leave those who weren't in the kitchen with you wondering about how you got those savory notes into a sauce sweet with molasses and sugar. The delicate marbling that you find in the raw ribs adds to the rich flavor after they are cooked, as does the bone itself. Be sure to not remove the meat from the bone for your guests - eating it off the bone is not only fun but helps maintain their marrow-ey flavor. These are not cross cut ribs, which are referred to as flanken, they are individual ribs with the meat on the bone and have been sawed down to manageable sized pieces. The ribs come in square packets from Golden West in a variety of sizes, ranging from from five inches tall and three inches thick to two inches by two inches. Many people like to braise ribs like these in a large pot for several hours but I find that after soaking in a marinade over night they do very well with a few minutes under the broiler on each side. Especially when you get a nice brown/black crisp on them. In the recipe I include instructions to leave the ribs in a warm oven for an hour after cooking, but if you can't wait that long I won't blame you.

Whiskey Molasses Ribs

Inspired by a recipe for Bourbon Molasses Ribs by John Malik which appeared in Bon Appetit in 2003

Make the marinade at night:
1.5 cups water
12 oz light beer
1/4 molasses
5 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp pepper

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium pan over a high flame. Cool the liquid and then place the ribs in a glass baking dish and cover with the liquid. Cover and refregerate over night.

1/8 cup whiskey
1/8 cup water
2 thyme sprigs
Olive oil
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium-sized pot heat the olive oil and then add in the diced onion and stir for 5 minutes until brown. Add in the balsamic vinegar and boil for 2 minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients, stirring until thickened.

Heat the broiler and remove the ribs from the refrigerator after they have marinated overnight. Discard the marinade.

Place the ribs on the broiler rack and coat the exposed sides with the sauce. Broil for 6 minutes and then flip each rib, coat with more sauce and broil for 6 more minutes. Turn the oven down to 150 degrees and leave them there for an hour or until you're ready to eat.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Divided We Stand - Parshat Yitro

Raise your hand if you have too much to do but don't know how to ask for help doing it.

Raise your hand if you get annoyed at waiting in line for people who have too much to do and don't ask people for help doing it.

If you raised your hand for the first thing, you're in the same boat as Moses. If you raised your hand for the second, you're in a boat with the nation of Israel. If you raised your hand for both you may want to look into getting a new boat.

In this week's portion, Parshat Yitro, Moses is trying to handle the task of judging every case that arises amongst the nation by himself. His wise father-in-law Yitro, points out that he should restructure and share the work with others.

"But they all come to me seeking God, they bring me a dispute or they ask me a question and I judge between them or I tell them the applicable rules."

"This system is no good." Says Yitro, "You're wearing yourself out, as well as the nation - you're making them wait around all day to get to you. The task is too much for you - you can't do it alone." Here's his advice: find men among the nation who are trustworthy that you can appoint as chiefs over smaller numbers of the nation. They'll judge most of the cases and bring any big ones that are out of their purview to you. Let them share the burden with you and make your job a little easier.

So Moses takes this good advice and things seriously improve for him and the nation when he implements the divide and conquer strategy.

I've been racking my brain for dishes that have this divide and conquer theme. I once had gazpacho divorciados (two flavors of gazpacho served in one bowl, divided).

But I'm not sure that's what I'm in the mood for this week so I thought I'd turn to you my readers. What could we make that's related to this theme this week?

And should it be served on this kind of plate?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In a Bind - Parshat Beshalach

Last year we talked about this being the parsha of the double portion - so if you're in the mood for some challah baking, go revisit it. As a brief challah update - these days I have been taking the time to make an egg wash to glaze the challah (a combo of one yolk and a tsp of water) and then grinding an herbed salt mix over the top before baking. The crunchy savory outside is a great prelude to the lightly sweet and doughy inside.

But this year we're going to talk about dilemmas. Sure we all come up against them in life and in the kitchen - should I leave out some oil to save my waist but sacrifice on taste ... how can I save my batch of oatmeal white chocolate cookies when I discover that we're out of oats ... should I take the time to chisel away at that brown sugar that has gone hard again or just use white sugar in the recipe? We each have our own ways of reaching a decision in these difficult dilemmas, and in this week's portion, Parshat Bishalach, God has to make His own decisions to save the nation from a few dilemmas.

Pharoh has finally let the people go, but God is a bit nervous that if the newly freed nation sees that they have a hard journey ahead they'll do an about face and scramble back to their Egyptian huts. So, God decides to take them on a longer rout, leading them away from warring nations that they might come upon, and taking them through the wilderness instead, to the Sea of Reeds.

While one crisis is averted another pops right up. Don't you hate that? While the Israelites are camping out near the sea Pharoh gets word and his heart starts to stiffen. He misses his slaves so he leads his warriors on chariots after the nation. But it's all part of God's plan to lead the nation to freedom with some pizazz.

As the Israelites start to hear the thundering of Pharoh's army chariots they started to panic. An army on one side of them and water on the other! They cried out to God to solve their dire situation. But it's not really what God wanted to hear - actually, they say exactly what He was trying to avoid earlier. "Did you drag us out here because there weren't enough graves in Egypt? Take us back, we'd rather have the life of a slave than die in the wilderness."

Moses calms them and says - just sit back and watch this great show God has got in store for you to get you out of this bind. And just them Moses receives word to raise his staff in his hand over the water and split the sea, making a dry passageway, an escape route for the nation. They start scurrying between the two walls of water, fleeing the pursuing army, and again they are sandwiched - but this time in a good way. Acting as a buffer between them and the Egyptian army that's still on their tails is a moving pillar of cloud and another of fire. After a lengthy crossing, when the last souls of Israel make it through to the other side of the sea unscathed, God brings the water of the sea crashing over the Egyptian chariots - and Pharoh finally bites the dust. And that certainly wows the nation - for a little while they're in awe of God, true believers.

Permit me a bit of a stretch this week with the food connection (not unlike the many times you've done so before). This is a case where I've made something yummy that I'd love to share with you, and I'm going to try and fit it into the story. My mom recently sent me a slew of cookbooks for my birthday, and this morning, in honor of a snow day, I cooked up a batch of delicious wheat-corn muffins that have a little surprise sandwiched in the middle. Home made jam (but I won't tell if you buy yours from the store).

OK so what's the connection? These sandwich-esque muffins are reminiscent of the times the Israelites find themselves in a sandwich this week - between the sea and the army, between the walls of water and between protective pillars of clouds and fire. The muffins are quite fluffy, airy and cloud like - and if you use a red jam, like my raspberry peach I made over the summer, it's quite fiery looking. Trust me, you'll enjoy the muffins more than this explanation.

Muffin Jelly "Sandwiches"
Adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2002

There is no cornmeal in the original recipe, but I was really in the mood for a toned down corn muffin and this hit the spot. I filled 6 of the muffins with a sweet raspberry peach jam and 6 with a tart quince jam that I made right after Rosh Hashana. Both went very well with the taste of the muffins.

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg white (you can save the other yolk here for glazing your challah)
3 tbsp canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 jam or jelly of your choice - feel free to use more than one kind
1 tsp granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the flours and corn meal in a large bowl. Add the salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In a separate bowl beat the egg, egg white, and brown sugar. Then add in the buttermilk, vanilla and canola oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until moist - don't over stir.

Let is sit for 5 minutes to fluff up.

Prepare 12 muffin holders (I like to use silicone) on a baking sheet. Spoon 1.5 tbsps into the bottom of each muffin cup. Then add 1 tsp jam to each cup. Finally, top with 1 tbsp of batter, smooth the batter nicely to cover over all the jam.

Sprinkle each muffin with some of the granulated sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes, allow to cool and enjoy.