It has begun! Ok, so after much anticipation we’re diving into this cookbook and excited to be blogging again. For those of you chiming in for the first time we’ve decided to pick a cookbook to cook from for each month this year. The first book, All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking by Molly Stevens seemed the perfect choice for the short, cold winter days that find us more inclined to hibernate than hunt and gather. But we do manage. Our first recipe pick is a twist on one of our favorites PORK RIBS!!!

I really try to stick to to recipe when its new to me, but I couldn’t this time. The recipe states that the final sauce will be the thin drively stuff that is now on the stove reducing. I know it won’t result in a thick gooey sauce, but still I’m confident it will be improved on. I mean really how bad can it be, its a deliciously sweet, tangy pork infused broth! The author of the cookbook suggest this be served as an appitizer, but this will be our Linner (late lunch and dinner). I made a little salad of thinly sliced cabbage seasoned with a little chili garlic paste and teeny tiny bit of canola oil. Will serve the ribs in a bowl on a bed of Jasmine rice and the cabbage salad.

1c sugar

1/2 c water

1T fresh lemon or lime juice

1/3 c fish sauce

1/3c sliced shallots

1t cracked black pepper

1 slab baby back ribs

1. Making the caramel: sugar, citrus and 1/4 c water in heavy skillet. Heat over medium heat til it liquefies, stir a few times. Reduce heat to medium low and let boil til reddish brown in color. Should smoke a little around the edges and begin to smell toasted.

2. The caramel braising liquid: remove caramel from heat, slowly add fish sauce and 1/4c water, be careful not to let it all bubble over. Its fine if it hardens. Return to heat, stir and let boil 4 mins, then add shallots and pepper, simmer another 2 mins. Remove from heat and let cool. (can be made ahead and refrigerated up to a week)

3. The braise: separate ribs, pour sauce over to coat, bring to a simmer, cover and braise for 1 1/4 hours. Check every 10-15 mins and make sure ribs are evenly coated with the sauce. Ribs are done when tender and pull away from the bone.

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LOL, time for some comic relief. So, while I sat here feeling all smug about my choice with the sauce and just having a good time prattling on as I blog, Sarah says to me….”do you smell something burning?” We immediately hustle to the kitchen only to see what used to be a non-stick skillet over flowing with and black, smoking molten lava with little plumes of flames. Was that immediate retribution from the kitchen gods, or what? Least the ribs are safe.

Wrath of the kitchen gods!

Happy 2011!

While we here at Shy Chi Foodies have been inconsistent about keeping up with our writing here, we have a project that we will document here in 2011:

We plan to work our way through one cookbook every month, and write about our meal plans and review and share some of the recipes. Our meal planning will be intentional, rather than strict, leaving some flexibility for dining out and allowing for random cravings.

Our first choice is All About Braising by Molly Stevens. The recipes in here sound amazing, including:

Red cabbage braised with maple and ginger

Fennel braised with Thyme and Black Olives

Whole Chicken with Pears and Rosemary

Pork riblets braised in Vietnamese caramel sauce

Mmmm…. I can’t wait!

 


Baguette

Originally uploaded by chifoodies

I haven’t been baking for a while (or blogging for that matter) for various reasons, mostly because I have been working too much these last few months. Also, I had reached a plateau with my baking – I just wasn’t happy with how my breads were turning out.

Inspired by the holidays and a couple of resources that I recently found, I baked up some baguettes for Christmas. Happily, I had an excellent result. Still not perfect, but such an improvement upon what I had been baking before that I know I can get it right.

Over on The Fresh Loaf, I found a great List of Tips for Better French Bread. The thing that finally struck me is that I can’t be afraid to get my hands dirty (duh). I can’t be squeemish about working with wet, sticky dough. In fact, it is moisture that makes the loaf tender on the inside, and crispy on the outside. Also, I have to crank the oven as high as I can, and spray the oven several times throughout the baking to get some nice steam going.

Voila, I turned out two beautiful (if I do say so), crispy, and tender-in-the-middle loaves. Also, the tips for autolysing and folding (as opposed to punching down and kneeding) I think made a huge difference in improving my crumb, though I still have to practice.

Another new inspiration: A recipe for Sour Dough English Muffins that could not have been easier, but was still impressive. We had home-made English muffins for our Christmas breakfast! Pretty darn cool.

Since we were just lamenting with some friends about how hard it is to find decent bread in Chicago, I am more determined than ever to master this art. Now I just need to acquire that pizza stone. Mmmhmm.

Our tomatoes have the blight *again*! We got new dirt for our potted toms, and washed out the pots, but we didn’t use bleach or any other disinfectant, and I guess that was our mistake. Our beautiful tomatoes are infected again. We have two plants that are potted in entirely new pots, so we’re hoping that they don’t have it. But it could have jumped.

I was already getting excited for our 200-plus tomatoes and all of the meal planning and recipe research, and then, disappointment.

We are trying to chalk it up to learning, but when the grocery store tomatoes and even the farmers market tomatoes leave much to be desired, we are once again…..sad tomatoes.


2010 tomatoes

Originally uploaded by chifoodies

Our tomatoes are here! We ordered six heirloom plants from Seeds of Change this year. From left to right (variety in parenthesis), we have Goldie (yellow perfection), Xavier (marvel striped), Paul (Paul Robeson), Cal (red calabash), Tilda (German queen), and Malachi (Amish paste). We’re hoping for some fruit in late July. We can’t wait!

Well, it is Spring again, and we’re ready for planting. Last year, our tomatoes sadly failed, succumbing to the blight that was harming so many others across the country. So, I did a little research and reached out to my Twitter and Facebook community, asking for advice. What I have gathered so far is that this year, blight shouldn’t pose a problem. A gardener on Twitter advised me to throw out the soil in our pots and start over. I wonder what we would have to do if we had planted in the ground! We’re playing it safe and dumping out the dirt and starting out with fresh potting soil.

This year, instead of going to a big box store, we ordered seedlings from Seeds of Change, some heirloom tomatoes and with some herbs (thyme, chives, bay, sage, oregano, and rosemary). They arrived yesterday. We got all ¬†of the rest of our supplies today, so tomorrow we plant. It has been unseasonably cool here in Chicago this year, but I think we’re safe now, and we can safely plant our babies without fear of frost.

With luck, by mid-summer we will be harvesting some Yellow Perfection!

While we don’t have major family get-togethers on major holidays, we take full advantage of the days off and the national tradition of cooking a delicious meal and busting out the elastic-waste pants.

At Chez Conner-Smith, we love Thanksgiving.

And Gillian, chef extrordinaire that she is, has been in planning and preparation mode all week. Today we did our final shop. I had been at the office all morning, and when I came home, she had been busy getting all of the recipes out, brining the turkey, and making check lists.

And this is all just for the two of us.

So, tomorrow, we’ll post our menu, recipes, and photos. And over the weekend we will report on what we do with the leftovers.

 


Baguettes

Originally uploaded by chifoodies

In Oakland we lived within walking distance from Arizmendi, a fantastic bakery where we would get fresh baguettes or other baked goods whenever we needed them. Being dissatisfied with the offerings of bread in our neighborhood in Chicago, I have gotten back into baking.

Our Saturday morning ritual now is listening to our favorite NPR shows while I make baguettes or some other baked good for the week. By noon, we are enjoying fresh coffee, bread, butter, and jam (or lavender honey). Yum.

The baguette recipe is so easy, I don’t know why I haven’t been making it all along. I found it on Epicurious, and I have been trying to perfect it ever since. You can see from the photos that I am having a little trouble with the slits after the final rise. Gillian suggested wetting the blade of the knife, and I’ll report on the results next week. Meanwhile, though imperfect, and a little shy of salt, they still taste pretty good, and the crust has a nice crisp.

We have been seriously remiss in updating Shy Chi Foodies. Sorry folks! We promise to make a better effort from now on.

Suffice it to say that I have a new job that is monopolizing my time, and, frankly, I am the one who is more inclined to write at this point. That is something that may change as Gillian finds her voice more and more.

Meanwhile, my update this week is that my favorite social bookmarking site is back after a long hiatus, and I have created a group for foodies there, called, what else, Foodies.

Please join me there! Ma.gnolia is a wonderful resource for sharing resources about all interests. I’m a huge fan.

I also found an interesting article from the New York Times from September 22, 2009, about culinary resources on the internet. Gillian and I are fans of Epicurious.com, and there are a few other good ones listed here, too.

I have been asking Gillian to find some sourdough starter for me for a while now, and for my birthday, she gave me two different kinds so that we could compare the flavors. One company actually sent us two containers of starter, so now I find myself with three different starters.

With the third starter, I am experimenting by feeding it with spelt flour instead of wheat. Inspired by the beautiful spelt bread that my dad step-mother always have when I visit them in Minnesota, and by my nephew who learned recently that he cannot eat wheat, I am going to start baking with all kinds of different flours. I thought it would be nice to have some sourdough starter that is non-wheat.

This weekend I will make a regular wheat bread, and as I write this, the sourdough starter is enjoying a nice meal and getting ready to leaven some dough for me. Of course, I will post the results here.