Braised Beef Short Ribs & Gnocchi with Tomato Saffron Sauce

Today Kitchen Monkey returns to present a most savory dish that he made, with the help of his family, on Christmas Eve Eve. The ribs recipe is adapted from one of Charlie Trotter's books, and for the gnocchi, I consulted Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking. The key to the short ribs is cooking time, which should be at least 4 hours, but I let it braise at a low temperature for 8 hours. It was unbelievably succulent, quite literally falling off the bone, and the braising liquid was reduced into a delicious sauce that would have been fine on the gnocchi, but I don't get to cook for the family very often, so I had to increase the fancy. Hence the tomato saffron sauce, also quite good. Best thing about short-ribs? These little puppies are cheap. See the comments for the ribs and sauce recipe. The gnocchi recipe will be posted later. My sister Kelly's boyfriend, Jean-Jacques, helped by making the gnocchi. The spot of flour on his face was staged, I'm afraid, by my sister, who thought it would make it seem like he had been harder at work.



What is this? Yes, another dessert. I still insist that I'm not much of a dessert person, despite recent posts to the contrary. Nick was making dinner, a delicious curried snapper soup with curried potatoes and home made paneer, an Indian cheese, and I felt I should bring a dessert. I don't do much Indian cuisine, but I make a good basbousa, which is a Middle Eastern dessert (cake-like, but definitely not a cake) with coconut and a whole lot of sugar. Oh, and those white thing sticking in it? Blanched almonds of course. It's simple, delicious, and odds are good you have most of the ingredients already. See the comments for the recipe.


Leek and Mushroom Soup

Sorry, no pictures of the soup, only the mushroom/shallot sauteeing stage of the leek soup.

This was another test run for an upcoming holiday feast. A couple weeks ago I made several quarts of chicken stock, which I thought would last forever, but somehow I've managed to use almost all of it already. But that's OK, it gives me an excuse to make more. This soup was delicious, but a little too salty, so go easy and let people add salt if they want more. Whole Foods finally opened here in Sarasota, which has thrilled all of us. My roommate got a job there today, so I smell a sweet 20% discount coming down the pike. Anyway, that's where I bought the chantarelle mushrooms and organic leeks, and Liz contributed some imported, dried porcini mushrooms. Shallots too! Check the "comments" for the recipe.

And because there haven't been any monkey pictures lately:

He looks a little bit like Shane MacGowan from The Pogues. Don't believe me? Check out this picture.

Here are some very interesting facts about proboscis monkeys, courtesy of animalplanet.com:

Proboscis monkeys are only found in the islands of Borneo in Malaysia.

They are also known as "Dutchman monkeys," in a somewhat irreverent nod to the region's former colonial rulers. Locals thought the two groups resembled each other — both had large, red noses and potbellies!

Their partitioned stomachs are equipped with fermentation chambers in which the digestion of leaves is facilitated by special bacteria.

Adult males sometimes reign over harems of 10 or more females.

Well, you know what they say about guys with big noses.


Key Lime Mascarpone Cocannolis

I'm beginning to enjoy the making of desserts. I think its temporary, and I will never make a cake. I hate cake. Except carrot cake, which I like about as much as the lesser members of the pie family. Don't ask me to make a cake. I won't.

These were concocted in preparation for a five course meal I'm planning to cook for the family around Christmas. The recipe comes from Bon Appetit, I certainly can't take credit for it, but I did make some changes after the first batch didn't turn out quite to my liking. Also, the magazine refers to them as Key Lime "Cannolis". My favorite dessert is the almighty cannoli, and I should stress that these are NOT cannolis. They are similar in shape, maybe, but the "cookie" that forms the tube is completely different, and comprised mainly of flaked cocoanut. That is why I call them Cocannolis. I'm not saying its clever, just more appropriate.

That said, they are really good. The key lime tartness counterbalances the intense sweetness of the shell, and the shell itself has a really fragile texture--it almost disintigrates in your mouth. Yum.

Now, to save space on my main page, I'm going to start posting the recipes as comments. So if you wants to make the things you sees, click on "comments" below this post. Sometimes I'll be lazy and won't post the recipe right away, and then maybe I'll even forget. So, if you want a recipe and don't see it, just ask!

Oh yeah, the orange stuff, that's mango, diced and sauteed with a little water.



One of my favorite foods of all time. I would gyoza far as to say that they’re on my top ten list.* You can keep your fried wontons and your bland American dumplings. Gyoza have three things going for them. 1) they taste like little pieces of heaven 2) you can get your friends or family involved in stuffing them, saving you time and making them feel important 3) they have a nice balance between fried and steamed, so they don’t feel heavy, meaning you can eat 10 of them and not regret it. This time around we made between 80 and a 100 gyoza: they freeze nicely. But most packets come with 40 wrappers, so this recipe should make about 40-60 gyoza. If you have leftover filling, its great scrambled with eggs for breakfast.

*Credit (or blame) for this pun goes to Nick, who is a master of culinary wordplay, and whose garden I envy deeply.

What you need:
1 pack of 40 or 50 gyoza wrappers. They are round and very thin. Square wonton wrappers aint gonna cut it bub. Find a good Asian market if you haven’t already.
2/3 pound of ground pork
½ pound of shrimp, peeled, any kind will do
½ head of nappa cabbage (if you can’t find nappa, green cabbage is fine)
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 or 3 scallions
fresh, peeled ginger root, about the same amount as the garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sake
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Here’s what you do:
1) A food processor is very helpful here. You want everything to be very small. Separately food process the cabbage (cutting it into pieces first helps), the garlic, the ginger, and the scallions. The shrimp you may want to dice with a chef’s knife. I should also mention that shrimp are optional, and your gyoza will be perfectly delicious with just pork.
2) In a large bowl mix all the ingredients (not the wrappers, please) including the soy sauce, sake, and lemon juice. Use more or less of the three liquids according to your taste, just make sure the mixture is solid enough to be formed into wee lumps. Set up your wrapping area, with a clean flat space, a platter, several spoons, and a bowl of water.
3) The folding: A) lay out a gyoza wrapper and use your finger to wet the outer rim of one half of the wrapper. B) Spoon a small amount of the mixture into the center of the wrapper, about 2/3 a spoonful. C) Fold the wrapper over so the outer rim of the two sides meet, you should have about a third of an inch around the filling, press down around the semicircle. D) set the gyoza on its “base” and begin crimping the outer edge, starting in the middle and then down the sides, folding the ridge in on itself. The base should be rather flat now. Begin process anew.

4) Use a nonstick pan. Trust me. I know that gyoza are akin to Chinese “potstickers,” but the right pan will make your life easier. Put about 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil (I usually throw in a little pure sesame oil too) in the pan, over medium high heat, and rapidly set about eight to ten of the gyoza in the pan, on their bases. Rotate them with tongs if necessary so that they all brown at the same time. You want the bases to be a good crispy brown color, not dark brown or black. Once they have achieved this color on the bottom, quickly add about a half cup of hot water to the pan. The water will cook off in a couple minutes and steam the remaining part of the little gyozas.

The sooner you eat them after removing from the pan, the better. Don’t burn your mouth.

I almost forgot! The Ponzu sauce! Very important for dipping. This is actually a little different than many ponzus, because I like it a little bit sweeter and use more OJ. Grapefruit is also good.

Ponzu Sauce

½ cup soy sauce
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1 lemon

That’s it. Platter those gyoza up, serve with a side of ponzu, and watch them disappear. They may not look quite as pretty as restaurant gyoza, but here’s a dirty little secret: a lot of restaurant gyoza are frozen and come from a factory. True.


Chocolate Taffy: How to Mess up Your Kitchen and Ruin Your Teeth

The other day Senorita Palomo and myself were watching a Halloween episode of Good Eats that implored us to make chocolate taffy. As I mentioned previously, I have no real sweet tooth, unless it’s for, say, cheese cake, dutch apple pie, or good cannoli. But I have nothing against fun, and pulling taffy seemed like fun.

So Sunday was devoted to taffy (and chicken stock and gyoza, but those are for later posts). All I can say after the experience is: follow the recipe. Our hubris was our downfall. How foolish we were to believe that heating the chocolate mixture to 230 degrees would be sufficient. After letting it cool a bit on the parchment paper, the attempt to fold and form it into a long snake went horribly awry. Dig:

Liz vs. the tar baby

We thought maybe once it was worked a little the mixture would solidify a bit more. No. A subsequent attempt to get the goo back in the pot turned into an embarrassingly cartoonish fiasco. We lost about half the chocolate and it took me a while to scrub the kitchen to its former state, but eventually we did bring it up to 260 degrees, after which it formed quite nicely. Tasted good too. Like extra hard tootsie rolls. I’ll post the recipe as a comment soon. Follow it.

Liz pulling the taffy


Pocky, Muscat Gummi, and Sport Balls

At the Korean market in Manhattan I picked up these two candy items. For Liz, not for me, I really don't have much of a sweet tooth. They are both from Japan, which is the mecca of strange candies. The one on the right is a bag of Muscat Gummy, made by Kasugai, who also makes many other flavors. They are quite good as gummy goes, and you will also be treated to some classic Japanese "Engrish" marketing. Behold the text on the front of the bag: "It's translucent color so alluring and taste and aroma so gentle and mellow offer admiring feelings of a graceful lady." This is far preferable to Kasugai's Sardine Gummy, which offers the annoyed feelings of an ornery old man.

The one on the left is a berry variation of Pocky, the popular baked wheat cracker, which, according to the box, "has been loved throughout the world for many years." No humble claims for this wheat cracker. Men, are you craving Pocky, but find yourselves unable to be seen in public with the foo foo-looking box or wrapper? I understand your dilemma. Fortunately, Glico also makes "Pocky for Men".

And lastly, with no explanation as to the bottle's origin, we woke on Monday morning, our host Ian gone to work, to find a note saying farewell and offering us one of these:

If anyone can explain Coconut Sport Balls, please do.


Jumbo Shrimp Scampi - Oyster Mushroom Salad

This was my sister Kelly's birthday dinner, but somehow she paid for the groceries. I'm not sure how that happened. I must be a real jerk. Anyway, I made it in D.C., the day after T-Day, and it turned out rather well I think. A trip to Whole Foods endowed us with the most beautiful jumbo shrimp, really fresh produce, a bottle of my favorite white wine, and truffles! The scampi is very simple, but use the best ingredients you can find and you'll be more than pleased.

Jumbo Shrimp Scampi

8 Jumbo Shrimp, washed, but with shell left on
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 or 3 shallots, sliced
3 large tomatoes, diced or chopped then salted lightly
dry white wine
fresh thyme
fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil

After preparing all the ingredients, heat a liberal amount of olive oil in a good size skillet. Add the shallots and allow to sautee until translucent, add garlic and sautee for one minute more. Add tomatoes and about a third of a cup of wine and allow to cook for 10 minutes or so over medium heat, letting the wine reduce. Add the herbs and the shrimp at the same time and let cook until the shrimp are done. I served it over a mixture of egg linguini and spinach linguini.

The wine we had with dinner was one of my favorites, a Pouilly Fuisse from the Dubois vineyard.

I also made a light salad: spring mix with salted tomatoes and oyster mushrooms sauteed in a little olive oil. Delicious! The dressing was a simple mixture of olive oil and lemon juice.


Food Adventures in DC and NYC

Kitchen Monkey has returned! A few pounds heavier and many many dollars poorer! Let's have some highlights of the trip's many dining experiences.

Thanksgiving: A delicious, traditional Thanksgiving dinner prepared by Kelly's coworker Erin and her aunt & uncle. If Erin wants to post her very tasty poppyseed dressing/strawberry salad recipe, she should do so!

Birthday dinner: I made a jumbo shrimp scampi for my sister Kelly that will be documented in the next post. Keep yer eyes open.

Sushi: We took the Chinatown bus to NYC and ate at West Side Sushi in Midtown Manhattan. Not the best sushi I've had, but not bad either.

Ramen!!!!!!! For me this was the dining pinnacle of the trip. I had read about a ramen shop in the NY Times: a small, out of the way joint in the East Village called Minca. If you already know how I feel about good ramen, you'll understand how much I enjoyed what you see in the picture above. Usually the pictures I post on this website are of food prepared by myself and friends--but I had to make an exception here. The pork slices were so tender that they almost dissolved on the tongue. The seaweed had more flavor than any I'd tasted before. The shitake mushrooms had a wonderful smoky flavor, and the noodles were perfect, a nice bite and good flavor. I lost all sense of time and place while slurping the broth, which was almost a meal in itself. The price was out of sight too: $8.50!

You should sit at the bar, so that you can watch the chefs prepare the ramen. After we had finished, Kelly and I watched in gluttonous awe as the head cook hoisted, one at a time, four enormous and beautiful pork loins from a dark steaming broth where they had been simmering. They looked and smelled so good we were transfixed, and only after a couple minutes did we notice the cooks and the waitress smiling and laughing at us (good-naturedly). I'm quite certain they see that particular hypnotic stare on a regular basis.

Korean BBQ and karaoke: For Sunday dinner my friend Ian took us to a Korean/Japanese place in "Korea Town" called Wondo. I had Korean BBQ'ed beef, with lots of accoutrements. Dear lord do I love me some kimchi! We washed the grub down with Korean vodka, which has a strength and taste somewhere between vodka and sake.

After dinner we went to a dive karaoke bar in Chinatown called Winnie's. Kitchen Monkey sang Neil Diamond's Love on the Rocks, but Ian brought the house down with a fiery rendition of Lionel Richie's All Night Long. Below, witness Ian and my sister doing a rendition of Pump Up the Jams. Does it get any funkier than this? Yes, but not in Chinatown on a Sunday night.

Too much injera: Back in DC we ate at a great Ethiopian joint called Addis Abbaba. An enormous spread of lamb, chicken, and veggies all scooped up with a sponge bread called injera. Despite a warning about the expanding properties of injera, I ate a lot and paid for it with more than my American Express.

Yes, we were struck by the irony of stuffing ourselves silly at an Ethiopian restaurant, and yes, the guilt of living in an overindulging country does settle on me on a somewhat regular basis. Make up for being an overconsuming American by giving to Amnesty International, USA for UNHCR, and UNICEF. Great organizations doing hard work.

I promised early on to make this blog free of politics, and for the most part it will be. But there is a real difference between a partisan diatribe and a simple reminder that we are damned lucky to be able to enjoy the food we're eating, and that there are millions of people who do not have our luck. So forgive this quick stepping onto the soapbox. Check out the sites for the organizations I mentioned or others like them, see what's going on, see what you can do. We owe it to each other. That's all.