Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs with Rosemary and Porcini

A sense of satisfaction comes from the way the spice-infused red wine permeates the beefy ribs and provides a backdrop for the earthy porcini mushrooms and fresh piney taste of rosemary. Truly a cool weather, down-home meal if there ever was one.

Molly Stevens

Thanks to Molly Stevens, we obtained this Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs with Rosemary and Porcini recipe from her “All About Braising” cookbook.

A classic trio for braising beef—red wine, tomatoes and mushrooms—there’s no cut more suited to this treatment than beefy short ribs. No need to break the bank when choosing the wine, just look for a big red that can hold its own without too much tannin or bitterness, such as Shiraz, Zinfandel (which we used), or a Rhone blend.

DO AHEAD: Keep in mind that the ribs need to marinate for 12 to 24 hours, so you may want to do this step a day (or two) ahead of the planned dinner (or very early the morning of). In addition, the flavor of the short ribs improves if they are braised 1 to 2 days before you serve them. In this case, complete the recipe through Step 6, and after braising, let them cool to room temperature in their braising liquid. Once cool, transfer ribs and sauce to a glass container, cover tightly and refrigerate.

When ready to cook, scrape off almost all of the solidified fat from the surface. Arrange the ribs in a shallow baking dish, along with the sauce; discard spice pack. Cover with foil and bake in center of oven at 375° for 15 minutes. Remove foil, taste sauce for salt and pepper, and baste ribs with sauce. Place back in oven uncovered, to heat for another 10 minutes before serving.

BTW, beef short ribs should not be confused with back ribs or beef spareribs. These two cuts (one from the back and one from the belly) are what are referred to in the trade as “scalped” ribs, meaning nearly all of the meat has been stripped from the bone and there is very little left to eat—not exactly a hearty meal for company.

You’ll want a bed of creamy polenta or silken mashed potatoes over which to ladle the beef and sauce when ready. Our choice was a potato, celery root mash combo along with roasted carrots and cauliflower.

Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs with Rosemary and Porcini

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

MARINADE:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice berries, coarsely crushed
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 3-4 whole cloves
  • 2 Tbsp. evoo
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 bottle dry robust red wine, such as Zinfandel or Shiraz
  • 3 1/2-4 lbs. meaty beef short ribs, thick fat trimmed away and silver skin

AROMATICS & BRAISING LIQUID:

  • 1/2 oz. dried poricni mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 Tbsp. evoo
  • 1 large onion, julienned
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 1/2 oz. canned whole tomatoes, chopped and juice reserved or 1 lb plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped w/ juice
  • 2- 3-4″ sprigs fresh rosemary

Directions

  1. Marinade: place bay leaves, allspice, peppercorns and cloves wrapped up in a piece of cheesecloth; tie up.
  2. Sauté onion, celery, carrot and garlic; add wine and cheesecloth bundle. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes; set aside to cool.
  3. Place ribs in a baking dish, season and pour over marinade. Cover and marinate 12-24 hours.
  4. Just before braising, soak mushrooms 20-30 minutes.
  5. Remove ribs from marinade and strain marinade into a bowl. Reserve liquid and cheesecloth bundle; discard vegetables. The ribs will have absorbed a lot of the marinade so you should have about 1 cup marinade.
  6. Make sure ribs are dry and season. Sear until deeply browned on all sides; remove to a plate.
  7. Preheat oven to 375°
  8. Drain mushrooms and squeeze dry; reserve liquid. Coarsely chop mushrooms and strain liquid through a coffee filter to catch any dirt or grit; reserve liquid.
  9. Sauté onions; add garlic, tomatoes with juice and mushrooms. Add mushroom and wine liquids and boil until reduce by half. (Since we had no liquid left at the end, we recommend not reducing this liquid.) Return short ribs to pot with any juices. Tuck spice bundle in between ribs and cover with parchment, pressing down.
  10. Cover with a lid and braise on lower rack of oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Turn every 40-45 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove lid and see if liquid is simmering too fast, if so turn down heat.
  11. Remove ribs from pot and discard spice bundle. Remove top layer of fat from liquid. Season remaining liquid. Spoon over ribs.
    NOTE: We had no liquid left in the pot, just fat and veggies. So we first spooned off as much fat as possible. Then we added a cup of warm water, scraped down the browned bits from the side, covered and let the mixture meld, with a few stirs in between.

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White Bean Gratin with Tomatoes and Sausage

Such a humble dish, but once you taste it, it rises to superstar status! Satisfying and economical, it uses a handful of ordinary ingredients. Once this Mediterranean-inspired dish is cooked up, you can’t get enough of it—and with every bite, it seems to get better.

We have been avid fans of chef/author Molly Stevens for decades, and this recipe came from our most recent cookbook addition “All About Dinner” which was released in 2019. It was gifted this past Christmas to The Hubs from one of the adult children, along with three other cookbooks—yes, we are a bit obsessed.

Our original plan was to soak dried white beans overnight. But the morning of, we realized we forgot to do that and therefore just used canned cannellinis which have a silky texture and nutty flavor. Opting for canned saves a step and some time, but if you prefer to soak beans by all means go ahead.

Our topping was not browning in the oven, so we put the gratin under the broiler. If you do the same, keep a close eyeball on it, because it browns very quickly under the intense heat. The next time we make this (which I hope is soon), we plan to drizzle olive oil with the bread crumbs and grated cheese before topping the gratin with it. This should help the browning process.

Do Ahead: The gratin can be prepared through Step 4 up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or so before serving.

White Bean Gratin with Tomatoes and Sausage

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • About ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. fresh sweet Italian sausage, casings removed if using links
  • 1 medium yellow onion (about 7 oz.), coarsely chopped
  • Salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Pinch of mellow red pepper flakes, such as Aleppo, or crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 15-oz. cans white beans, rinsed and drained
  • One 14½-oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs or panko crumbs
  • 2 oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
  • Hot sauce such as Cholula or Tabasco for serving, optional

Directions

  • Heat the oven  to 350°F with a rack in the upper third. Lightly oil a medium gratin dish, shallow baking dish, or ovenproof skillet.
  • Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and use a spoon or metal spatula to flatten it into large chunks. (You get better browning on large flat chunks than crumbles.) Then cook, flipping it occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Break the sausage into bite-size pieces and transfer it to a large bowl and cover to keep warm, leaving the fat and drippings behind in the pan.
  • Return the skillet to medium heat, add the onion, season with a pinch of salt, and cook until softened and lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and a few good grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring, until just fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the aromatics to the bowl with the sausage.
  • Add the beans, tomatoes, with their juice, and parsley to the bowl with the other ingredients. Stir gently to combine without smashing the beans, then add a generous pour of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons), and season boldly with salt and pepper. Taste, being sure to taste both the aromatics and a bean, and correct the seasoning as needed. Pour the mixture into the prepared gratin dish and use the back of a spoon to spread into an even layer.
  • Sprinkle the top of the beans with the bread crumbs and cheese. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake, uncovered, until heated through and beginning to brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes. If the top is not as brown and crisp looking as you like, slide the gratin under the broiler for a few minutes before serving.

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Recipe from All About Dinner by Molly Stevens

Cream of Celery and Celery Root Soup

This Cream of Celery and Celery Root Soup is smooth and delicate, and its elegant celery leaf garnish makes it a perfect first course for a dinner party—which was our original plans. Adding celery root (a relative of celery) imbues the soup with even deeper celery flavor.

Found in our Fine Cooking Magazine, several reviewers mentioned they thought the soup was flat. Au contraire mon ami, we loved the silken flavor profile. Perhaps ours was more robust in that we used homemade chicken stock which amps up flavor tenfold as opposed to any bland store bought version. In addition, The Hubs tossed in a 1/2 teaspoon each of celery salt and white pepper.

Unfortunately the dinner party plans fell apart for a number of reasons, but that didn’t stop us from dividing the soup in half; one part destined for the freezer in the hopes those dinner plans would come together again soon, and the other for us to nosh on for lunch the next day.

Cream of Celery and Celery Root Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 6 cups thinly sliced celery (reserve 1/4 cup celery leaves)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 cups peeled, small-diced celery root
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh or 1/2 dried bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs. crème fraîche
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil for frying

Directions

  • In a 4-quart pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until tender and just beginning to color, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Add the celery root and stir to coat with the butter. Pour in the chicken broth, and then add the thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and purée the soup in a blender until smooth. Pass the soup through a medium-fine sieve and transfer to a clean pot.
  • Bring the soup back up to a simmer, whisk in the crème fraîche (please don’t omit this important ingredient), and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep hot.
  • Heat 1/2 inch of canola oil in a 1-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery leaves and cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the celery leaves to a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the celery leaves.

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Recipe by Melissa Pellegrino  for Fine Cooking

Sautéed Flounder Fillets and Lemony Green Beans

Here’s a speedy and uncomplicated method for cooking mild-tasting fish. From Molly Steven’s latest cookbook “All About Dinner” comes Sautéed Flounder Fillet with Wine Sauce along with a side dish of Green Beans with Shallots, Herbs and Lemon. All you need to complete this light and quick meal is a simple side salad.

Both dishes take approximately 20 minutes total from prep through the cooking process.

Sautéed Flounder Fillet with Wine Sauce

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2-4 skinless flounder fillets, about 6 oz. each
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided into 1 1/2 Tbsp. each
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1 tsp. chopped capers
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • Lemon wedges for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Season all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Set a heavy-bottomed skillet large enough to hold the fillets (or cook in two batches) over medium-low heat. As the skillet warms up, dredge the fish in the rice flour on a plate, flipping so both sides are lightly dusted, shaking to remove any excess.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the oil to the skillet (use only half if cooking in two batches). When the oil shimmers, lower in the flounder. Drop the pieces of butter around the edges of the skillet, and as soon as it melts, tilt the pan to pool the butter and use a spoon to baste the fish. The butter will turn golden.
  4. In 30-60 seconds, when the fillets turn golden, flip them and repeat.
  5. Transfer the fish to a serving platter, flipping the fish so that the browner side is up. Cover tightly with foil while you make the wine sauce.
  6. Give the skillet a cursory wipe to remove any excess fat, but don’t wash it.
  7. Return the pan to medium heat, add half of the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and the minced shallot, and cook stirring frequently, until the shallot is tender, about 1 minute.
  8. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and cook until reduced to a glaze, another 30 seconds or so.
  9. Add the capers, parley and remaining butter. Swirl the pan to incorporate the butter and heat through. Spoon over the fish and serve immediately.

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Green Beans with Shallots, Herbs and Lemon

This side dish is a great model in how a little technique and a few choice seasonings can transform basic ingredients. As Molly says in her cookbook “There is a sort of Goldilocks zone when they loose their raw taste and relax enough to offer a pleasant bite before turning limp and sad.”

At home, you can store green beans in a loose produce bag for a couple of days, but any longer, they start loosing their flavor.

Green Beans with Shallots, Herbs and Lemon

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed
  • Salt
  • 1 /2 to 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Flaky salt such as Maldon

Directions

  • Bring 2-3 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Set a colander in the sink.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, 4-6 minutes. Add the herbs and keep warm over low heat.
  • Once the water reaches a rollicking boil, add the beans in big handfuls, and boil until the color deepens and a bean bends a bit when you lift it out with tongs. For best flavor, stop the cooking when they are tender with only a bit of resistance, 3-5 minutes.
  • As soon as the beans are done, dump them in the colander, giving it a couple of good shakes to remove excess moisture. Quickly wipe out and dry the pan, and return it to the stove. Return the beans to the pan over medium-high heat. Use the tongs to toss briskly until the beans are nice and dry, about 30 seconds.
  • Remove from the heat, add the shallot butter and lemon, scraping the skillet with a silicone spatula, and toss to coat. Garnish with flaky sea salt and serve immediately.

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Three Cup Chicken with Thai Stir-Fried Spinach

Both recipes from Milk Street, this stir-fry combo was startlingly good. Yes, between the two of them, you use over a head of garlic but it didn’t overwhelm in any way. There is quite a bit of prep involved so don’t begin cooking until all of the ingredients are ready; the dishes come together quickly.

Milk Street says Taiwanese three-cup chicken is named for the formula once used to prepare the dish: one cup each of sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine. Not surprisingly, recipes no longer adhere to that ratio, but the name has stuck, so we’re sticking with it too.

If you plan to serve over rice, make sure to start cooking the rice before you begin stir-frying anything. The spinach takes only minutes, but is done in three batches. If you have two cooks in the kitchen, one can finish stir-frying the main chicken entrée while the other works on the spinach.

The original recipe calls for a serrano chili, but with none available at our grocery store, we opted to use a jalapeño, which is not as hot on the Scoville scale as the serrano. Three cups of basil may seem like overkill but it wilts down considerably and imparts a sweet pungent flavor with a clove-like back end.

Three-Cup Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • ¾ cup sake
  • 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 12 medium garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths 
  • 1 serrano (or jalapeño) chili, stemmed and sliced into thin rounds
  • ¼ cup minced fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn if large
  • 1 cup jasmine rice, cooked to package directions

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and soy sauce, then stir in the sake and sugar. Set aside.
  2. Heat a wok over medium-high for 3 minutes, or until a drop of water evaporates within 1 to 2 seconds. Add the oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook without stirring until browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is well-browned and softened, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the scallions, serrano, ginger and sesame oil, then cook, stirring constantly, until the scallions begin to wilt, about 1 minute.
  5. Stir the sake-cornstarch mixture to recombine, then add to the wok. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes.
  6. Off heat, add the basil and stir until it begins to wilt, about 30 seconds.
  7. Serve over hot jasmine rice.

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Thai Stir-Fried Spinach

This simple, bold stir-fry uses regular bunch spinach rather than the water spinach common in Thai cooking. The wilted leaves and crisp-tender stems combine for a pleasing contrast of textures, and is not cooked to death like many recipes. In fact, we’ll go as far to say, it was probably the best cooked spinach we’ve ever had! Be sure to dry the spinach well after washing thoroughly (a salad spinner works great); excess water will cause splattering and popping when the spinach is added to the hot oil.

Don’t use baby spinach, which can’t handle high-heat cooking and doesn’t have stems to offer textural contrast. And don’t allow the spinach leaves to fully wilt in the pan; some leaves should still look fairly fresh, but will continue to cook after being transferred to the bowl.

Thai Stir-Fried Spinach

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp. white sugar
  • ¾ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped garlic
  • 1½ pounds bunch spinach, trimmed of bottom 1½ inches, washed and dried well

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and pepper flakes until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until just beginning to smoke. Remove the pan from the heat, add the garlic and cook, stirring, until just beginning to color, 20 to 30 seconds.
  3. Return the skillet to high and immediately add about ⅓ of the spinach. Using tongs, turn the spinach to coat with the oil and garlic. When the spinach is nearly wilted and the garlic has turned golden brown, 30 seconds or less, transfer to a large bowl. The leaves will continue to wilt but the stems should remain crisp-tender.
  4. Return the skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, swirl to coat the pan and heat until just beginning to smoke. Add half of the remaining spinach and cook, as before, for 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer to the bowl and repeat with the remaining oil and spinach.
  5. Pour the fish sauce mixture over the spinach and toss. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with any accumulated liquid.

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Both recipes hail from Milk Street

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Chive-Thyme Pan Sauce

Here’s turning a conventional cooking method upside down. Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, the salted pork chops are first cooked in a low oven, then seared in a smoking pan. Slowly cooking the meat allowed enzymes to break down protein, tenderizing the chops. The salted surface gently dried out in the oven and became beautifully caramelized in the pan.

I know this recipe calls for bone-in loin pork chops, but we happened to have four, thick boneless loin chops in our freezer and went ahead and used them. It’s essential to keep an acute eye on the temperature when using boneless chops since they tend to take a bit longer to come to temperature, however, this method didn’t tend to make a difference.

TIP: Buy chops of similar thickness so that they cook at the same rate.

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Chive-Thyme Pan Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in rib loin pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick (about 12 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Garlic and Thyme Pan Sauce

  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 4 Tbsp.)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tsp.)
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 3 pieces
  • Table salt and ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275°F. Pat chops dry with paper towels.
  2. Using sharp knife, cut 2 slits, about 2 inches apart, through outer layer of fat and silver skin. Sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 teaspoon salt. Place chops on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let stand at room temperature 45 minutes.
  3. Season chops liberally with pepper; transfer baking sheet to oven. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of chops and away from bones registers 120° to 125°F, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1½ to 3 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat underneath each chop. (Reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn.) Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer chops to plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra tablespoon oil if pan is dry.
  6. Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. Holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops (with exception of bone side) until browned and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chop and away from bone registers 140 to 145 degrees, about 1½ minutes.
  7. Repeat with remaining 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes while preparing sauce.
  8. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon oil from the pan and return pan to medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 1 minute.
  9. Add the broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce measures 1/2 cup, 6 to 7 minutes. Off heat, stir in the thyme and vinegar; whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the pork chops.

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Adapted from a recipe in Cook’s Illustrated

Cider-Braised Pork Ragoût over Creamy Polenta

Just so we’re all clear, ragoût is a French word for stew. However there is nothing terribly French about this dish. The recipe hails from Molly Stevens‘ latest cookbook “All About Dinner” where she explains the title comes from the verb ragoûter which means “to perk up, to revive the taste of,” and that’s exactly what the hard cider does here.

We were lucky enough to have a growler of son Dan’s homemade hard cider that he gifted us over the holidays. The sharp, lightly appley taste brings out the porks natural sweetness and balances the acidity of the tomatoes. The depth of flavor overall was astounding!

While it was fabulous from the get-go, like most stews and braises, this tastes even better a day or three later. That fact makes it a good choice for company, because you can make it a day or two ahead and then just gently reheat the ragoût while making the polenta. Yes, we did have leftovers, and were loving them a few days later…

Cider-Braised Pork Ragoût

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 med. yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 med. carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups hard cider, preferably dry
  • 1 14-oz. can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ay leaf
  • 2 strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler (about 3 ” x 3/4″)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Arrange the pork chunks on a tray and pat dry. Heat a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (4-6 quarts) over medium heat, then add the oil.
  2. While the oil heats, sprinkle salt and pepper on half of the pork (you will season in two batches and prevent the meat from sweating as it sits). When the oil is hot, add the seasoned chunks without crowding the pan.
  3. Cook, turning the pieces with tongs, until nicely browned all over, 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Transfer the browned pork to a plate and repeat with remaining pork.
  4. Examine the empty pot and discard all but two tablespoons of fat, if necessary. Wipe out any black areas, but leave the meaty drippings and browned bits.
  5. Once all the pork is browned, return the pot to medium heat and add the pancetta/bacon and cook, stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon. until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the onion, carrot, fennel, garlic, rosemary, coriander and fennel seeds, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomato paste, working it through the veggies so it is evenly distributed. Let cook for 1 minute, then add 1/2 the cider.
  8. Increase the heat to medium-high, scrape the bottom of the pot with the wooden spoon to dislodge and dissolve all browned bits, and cook at a rapid simmer until the cider is reduced by about two-thirds, about 8 minutes.
  9. Add the remaining cider, return to a simmer, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.
  10. Add the tomato puree, bay leaf and orange zest strips, and bring back to a simmer.
  11. Return the pork to the pot, lower the heat so the liquid barely simmers, and cover. Cook gently to maintain a quiet simmer with bubbles slowly rising to the surface, stirring occasionally to ensure that nothing is sticking, until the pork is fork-tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  12. Meanwhile, make the Creamy Polenta as per the recipe below.

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Creamy Polenta

According to Molly, the difference between mediocre polenta and superb polenta is starting with stone-ground cornmeal and allowing plenty of time for it to cook—45 to 60 minutes. The extended simmer allows the grains to swell into a soft, fluffy porridge redolent of corn flavor. Made with part milk instead of all water, it creates a softer, creamier porridge.

Creamy Polenta

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 5 cups liquid, half water, half milk
  • Salt
  • 1 cup polenta (cornmeal) preferably stone-ground
  • 1 to 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 to 2 oz. Parmesan, grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat 4 cups of the mixed liquid (milk and water) in a heavy-bottomed 3- to 4-quart pot over medium-high heat until just warm. Add a good pinch of salt, then add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking to avoid lumps, and let come to a gentle boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer as you whisk occasionally. Once the mixture begins to thicken, switch to a wooden spoon and stir regularly—once every few minutes at first, less frequently as the polenta gets thicker, scraping the bottom as you go, and continue to adjust the heat as needed so that the occasional fat bubble breaks the surface but the polenta does not boil and splatter like hot lava.
  3. Add the remaining one cup liquid (milk and water) in 1/4 cup increments as need to keep the polenta smooth and creamy. (I used only a 1/2 cup total in this instance.) Continue to to simmer and stir, until the polenta is fluffy and tender, about 45 to 60 minutes total.
  4. Stir in the butter and parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve in shallow bowls and ladle the pork ragoût over the polenta. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Both recipes come from Molly Stevens “All About Dinner” cookbook

Butterflied Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Rosemary and Orange

First order of business for this scrumptious recipe from Molly Stevens is to butterfly—aka spatchcockthe chicken (or have your butcher do it for you). A method we use often because the flattened bird cooks more evenly than a whole one, where the slower-cooking dark meat gets more heat exposure and the lighter breast meat remains protected at the center of the pan.

This recipe arrangement allows for a marvelous flavor exchange as the chicken bastes the fennel-orange-rosemary mix with savory juices, all while absorbing its sweet-citrusy-woodsy aromas. Just writing this is getting my juices flowing! And everything on just one pan, who doesn’t love that?!

If at all possible, try to get blood oranges, with their sweet, yet tart, exceedingly aromatic and juicy fruit. Along with their lovely, jewel-like red color, blood oranges tend to have a noticeable and delicious raspberry edge to their flavor.

With the potatoes around the perimeter of the baking sheet, they get the full brunt of the oven’s heat, producing brown crispy exteriors while maintaining creamy interiors. This approach to cooking a variety of elements all in one pan (with different handling) results in a complementary alliance of flavors and textures. A good bottle of wine would be the only other accompaniment needed…

Plan Ahead: For the best flavor and texture, season the chicken at least 4, and up to 24 hours in advance.

One follow up note, some of the fennel wedges were still not completely cooked through at the end. To solve this issue, first make the fennel wedges only 1/2″ thick, and then slice off some of the inner triangular core of the fennel, but leave enough to keep the wedges intact.

Butterflied Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Rosemary and Orange

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika, smoked (pimentón) or regular, sweet or hot
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 4-lb. chicken, butterflied and patted dry
  • 2 large fennel bulbs (about 1 1/2 lbs. untrimmed)
  • 1 3/4 lbs. med. red or white potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 small blood (or navel) orange, scrubbed
  • 2 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 2 3- to 4-inch fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

Directions

  1. Combine the coriander seeds and peppercorns in a mortar or spice grinder and coarsely grind. Transfer to a small cup and add the pimentón (paprika) and 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and stir to combine.
  2. Pat the chicken dry all over and sprinkle half of this mixture on the underside of the chicken, rubbing in so the spices adhere. Flip and rub the remainder of the bird, including legs and wings, with the spices. Set the chicken, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet or tray. Tuck the wingtips under the back of the chicken, and the thighs are not flopped outward. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 4, and up to 24 hours.
  3. When ready to roast, heat the oven to 400° (375° convection) with a rack near the middle. Let the chicken sit at room temperature while the oven heats.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the fennel into wedges just over 1-inch across at their widest. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch wedges.Cut the orange crosswise in half and set one half aside for juicing later. Cut the remaining half in half, and then crosswise into 1/4-inch quarter moon shapes.
  5. Place the fennel and orange slices in the center of a large heavy rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the potatoes off to one side. Drizzle the olive oil over everything and season with salt and pepper. Toss the fennel and oranges together to coat with oil and seasonings. Do the same with the potatoes but keep them separate.
  6. Spread out the vegetables in a single layer, grouping the fennel and orange toward the center and the potatoes around the perimeter—this will allow the chicken to protect the quicker-cooking fennel and oranges from burning, and ensure crisp brown potatoes.
  7. Place the rosemary sprigs on the fennel and squeeze the juice from the reserved orange half onto it.
  8. Place the chicken on the vegetables, skin side up. The potatoes should be fully exposed or poking out and the fennel mostly tucked under the bird. Pour the vermouth or the wine around the potatoes, avoiding the chicken.
  9. Roast, stirring the potatoes and rotating the pan about halfway through, until the chicken skin is crisp and well-browned in spots. The juices from the breast should run almost clear when you prick it with a knife. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh (without touching the bone) should register 170°, in 45 to 50 minutes.
  10. Remove chicken to a cutting board with trough to catch the juices, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  11. Stir the vegetables, combining the fennel, potatoes and oranges and coating them with the pan drippings. If the fennel and potatoes are not tender, return them to the oven to finish roasting while the chicken rests.
  12. Halve the chicken by cutting straight down the center bone. Cut each whole leg away from each breast half and cut the legs into thighs and drumsticks. Cut each breast half crosswise in half, leaving the wing attached to the upper portion, creating 8 total pieces.
  13. Pour any carving juices over the vegetables and serve immediately.

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Recipe from from Molly Stevens cookbook “All About Dinner”

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup

What’s better than a good soup for lunches during the cooler months, or for a quick, healthy dinner in a time crunch? This Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup is a load-and-go crock pot recipe adaptation from one we found on Eating Well.

While there is really nothing “quick” about it because you first have to soak the beans overnight, the “fast” method in a slow cooker takes four hours on high, and the “slow” method takes seven or eight hours in the crockpot. Not exactly my idea of a quick turn-around. But the prep is quite simple and then its hands off for hours, allowing you to do other things.

As with many recipes, we alter them to suit or own personal preferences. In this case, we increased each of the three bean types from one-third cup to a half cup each. Then we included 4 pressed garlic cloves and a can of crushed tomatoes to address the moisture for the extra beans. All of these changes are noted below.

Bump up the Southwest flavors like we did with all, or some, of these garnishes of chopped fresh cilantro, some crumbled Cotija (or ricotta salata) cheese, sliced scallions and a squeeze of lime, if desired.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 cups water 
  • 4 cups chicken broth, (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • ½ cup dried great northern beans
  • ½ cup dried kidney beans
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Soak black beans, great northern beans and kidney beans in water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain and boil in fresh water for 10 minutes. Drain and add to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Add oil, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, water, broth, tomatoes, barley, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt to the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 4 hours on High, or 7 to 8 hours on Low.

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Recipe adapted from Carolyn Malcoun for EatingWell.com

Japanese Ginger Pork

Japanese Ginger Pork (Shogayaki) is a recipe hailing from Milk Street. They explain that shoga means “ginger” in Japanese, and yaki translates as “grilled,” though the term is sometimes applied to foods that are fried or griddled. In the popular dish known as shogayaki, thinly sliced pork is cooked with a lightly sweetened, very gingery soy-based sauce.

Here, pork tenderloins are cut into quarters and pounded into thin cutlets. A quick soak in a marinade that later becomes the sauce ensures the cutlets are thoroughly flavored. Shredded green cabbage and steamed rice are the classic accompaniments so we paired them with the entrée.

In Japan, the meat of choice for shogayaki is thinly sliced pork loin. The thin cuts of meat cook quickly and make it easier for the seasonings to penetrate. But because making thin, even slices requires some challenging knife work, the thin slices of pork tenderloin are pounded even thinner. As a bonus, the pounding breaks apart the muscle fibers, making it even easier for the meat to season. Additionally, ginger has an enzyme called zingibain that helps tenderize meat.

After another recipe once-over, we decided to double the sauce—soy sauce through fresh ginger. We’re glad we did, but would not double the white sugar next time, it was a tad too sweet. Another major change we made was to coat the shredded cabbage with a one-to-one mixture of rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil with a pinch of salt. Overall, we feel the cabbage should be increased by utilizing the entire head, especially if this meal is to feed four. Finally, we also added an extra half bunch of scallions.

TIP: Don’t crowd the skillet when cooking the cutlets. It’s usually best to cook them in two batches so they brown rather than steam. But how they fit in the skillet depends on their shape after pounding. If you can fit all four in your pan without them touching, cook all at once using the 2 tablespoons of oil.

Japanese Ginger Pork (Shogayaki)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. mirin
  • 2 Tbsp. sake
  • 1 Tbsp. white miso
  • 1½ Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1¼ 1b. pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 2 tsp. white sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch piece
  • ½ small head green cabbage, cored and finely shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • Cooked Japanese-style short-grain rice, to serve

Directions

  1. In a wide, shallow bowl whisk together the soy sauce, mirin, sake, miso and ginger.
  2. Cut the pork tenderloin in half crosswise, making the tail-end half slightly larger, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Place 2 pieces of pork between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder, gently pound each piece to an even ¼-inch thickness. Repeat with the 2 remaining pieces.
  3. Add the cutlets to the soy mixture and turn to coat, then let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  4. Mix the rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil together then add to a large bowl with the shredded cabbage and a pinch of salt. Mix well, and set aside.
  5. In the meantime, cook the Japanese rice according to package directions.
  6. Remove the cutlets from the marinade, letting the excess drain back into the bowl; reserve the marinade. Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels.
  7. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the cutlets in a single layer and cook undisturbed until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip each piece and continue to cook until the second sides are well browned, about another 2 minutes.
  8. Transfer to a large plate, then wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining oil and cutlets.
  9. Return the skillet to medium-high and add the reserved marinade, the sugar and ¼ cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the mixture thickens and a spoon drawn through it leaves a 1- to 2-second trail, about 3 minutes. (Because we doubled the sauce, it took twice as long to thicken properly.)
  10. Stir in the scallions, then add the pork and any accumulated juices. Cook, stirring gently, until the scallions are wilted and the pork is heated through, about 1 minute.
  11. Serve with the shredded cabbage and cooked rice.

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Recipe by Courtney Hill for Milk Street

Perfect Reverse-Seared Leg of Lamb

What many don’t realize is that prepping and cooking a big cut of meat can actually be easier and more forgiving than working with smaller cuts. According to chef Alan Bergo, you just need to know a few basic principles, and a have a simple trick or two up your sleeve. Here he shares his favorite method for serving up a flawless roast leg of lamb on your first try. It employs a surprisingly simple kitchen hack known as the reverse-sear.

Truth be told, while we’ve done the reverse-sear method on a number of cuts of beef, this was our maiden voyage with lamb. In this case, the recipe called for a 3-4 pound leg of lamb, but ours was nearly 5 pounds so the cooking time was actually 2 hours and 20 minutes. We used an internal thermometer to measure the temperature the entire time it was roasting.

One ingredient not included in the original recipe was garlic, so we included 4 cloves and mashed them in a large mortar with salt. Next we added the herbs (which we increased from 1/4 cup to a 1/2 cup since our roast was larger), and mashed it altogether to make a paste.

The lamb entrée was paired with Smashed Sage-Butter Potatoes that were so tender and creamy and Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots. A word to the wise on the potatoes: make sure to get the small baby Yukons. This time around the store wasn’t carrying them, and we picked up 3+” potatoes, shown below. They came out wonderfully creamy, but the sagey butter didn’t really penetrate into the interiors as much.

Perfect Reverse-Seared Leg of Lamb

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Boneless leg of lamb (3-4 pounds)
  • Flavorless high heat cooking oil, like grape seed
  • 1/2 cup aromatic herbs like rosemary sage and thyme, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed in a mortar with salt
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper or more to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a large mortar, mash the garlic cloves with kosher salt until pulverized. If using rosemary, mash that with the garlic and then finish with the remaining herbs.
  2. Season the meat with salt, pepper and the garlic-herbs paste inside and out. Roll the leg up tightly and tie with kitchen twine to ensure even cooking. Let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight.
  3. The next day, 1 1/2 hours before you want to serve (assuming a 3-4 lb leg) preheat the oven to 250 °F and place the leg in the oven. Insert an internal thermometer if you have one and set it for 130° for medium-rare. If all you have is an instant-read thermometer, start checking after one hour to monitor the meat doneness.
  4. When the internal temperature comes up to your target temperature (which could be 2 hours or more), remove the leg from the oven and allow to cool on its rack loosely tented with foil in a warmish location for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Finally, rub some extra-virgin olive oil all around the roast and heat a few tablespoons of grape seed oil in the sauté or cast iron pan on high. Turn on the hood, and or open a window, since you’ll be using some high heat for a few minutes. When the oil is just starting to smoke gently, reduce the heat to medium-high and brown the roast deeply on all sides.
  6. After the roast is browned, transfer to a cutting board, remove the twine, cut into slices with a sharp knife and serve immediately.

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Original recipe by Alan Bergo

Sear-Roasted Salmon Fillets with Chive-Shallot Butter

For deep flavor and a handsomely browned surface, the practice of pan-searing fish fillets on a hot stove and finishing them in the oven is your best bet. This luscious recipe is very simple and takes very little time to prep and cook.

The idea for the butter mixture is that the heat from the salmon will melt just enough of the butter to sauce it lightly and leave a small amount unmelted so it’s apparent when served at the table. Our side dish of Roasted Fennel with Orange-Honey Dressing was a perfect complement to the salmon.

TIP: A metal fish spatula is a great kitchen tool to have, especially if you often cook fish at home. The thin-gauge, flexible metal head is designed to flip and lift delicate fish fillets without tearing them.

Sear-Roasted Salmon Fillets with Chive-Shallot Butter

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 center-cut salmon fillets, about 6-8 oz. each
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut oil, grapeseed oil, or other neutral tasting oil

Chive-Shallot Butter

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped chives
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground balck pepper

Directions

  1. Position a rack near the center of the oven and preheat to 425° (400° convection). Let the salmon sit at room temperature as the oven heats.
  2. Set a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and heat for 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, pat the fish dry and season it liberally on all sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the oil to the skillet. When it begins to shimmer, lower in the filets one by one, skin side up. Sear, without disturbing, until one side is nicely browned, lifting with a metal spatula (or fish spatula if you have one) to check that it’s well seared before committing to flipping, 1-2 minutes. Flip the filets and immediately transfer the skillet to the oven.
  4. Roast until the thickest part of the filets are just firm to the touch, 5-7 minutes (or when an instant-read thermometer reads 130-135 for medium-rare). Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and serve the fish right away.
  5. For the Chive-Shallot Butter: Combine the wine or vermouth and shallots in your smallest saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the liquid is mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes; keep an eye on it so that the shallots don’t scorch. Set aside to cool.
  6. Pound the chives with a 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large mortar to make a coarse paste (or grind in a small food processor).
  7. Place the butter in a mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon or paddle beater, beat until smooth.
  8. Add the wine-shallot mixture, the pounded chives, and the mustard and lemon juice and stir until everything is incorporated. season with salt and pepper.
  9. If you plan to serve the butter within a few hours, scrape into a small ramekin; other wise cover and refrigerate. Let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Recipe from Molly Stevens “All About Roasting” cookbook.

Roasted Fennel with Orange-Honey Dressing

Fennel is a love it or hate it vegetable because of the intense anise flavors. But roasting the bulbous veggie helps mellow the licorice notes and turns its fibrous texture luxuriously creamy. For this roasted fennel, Cook’s Illustrated (CI) began by cutting the bulbs into wedges, which had two benefits: It provided good surface area for browning, and the attached core kept the pieces intact.

Covering the pieces with foil for most of the cooking time allowed them to steam and turn creamy; then remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of roasting so that they can turn golden and deliciously caramelized. Toss the wedges with salted water before covering them, which provides moisture for steaming and helps get seasoning between the layers.

Arranging the pieces on the long sides of a rimmed baking sheet ensures that all the pieces get equal exposure to the heat and browned evenly. However, the original recipe did not specify what size rimmed baking sheet and we used the smaller quarter sheet pan instead of a half sheet pan. Because of that, we think it took much longer for the liquid to evaporate, thus much longer for the fennel wedges to brown. In fact, we even put them under the broiler at the end for a minute or so.

The tart dressing made with orange juice and honey is the perfect complement to the sweet fennel. WOW, we practically swooned when eating it! And it was a great side dish to complement our Sear Roasted Salmon entrée, but I changed the number of servings from 4-6 to 3-4; we almost finished it off between the two of us.

CI Note: Look for fennel bulbs that measure 3½ to 4 inches in diameter and weigh around 1 pound with the stalks (12 to 14 ounces without); trim the bases very lightly so that the bulbs remain intact.

Roasted Fennel with Orange-Honey Dressing

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks (but save some fronds for garnish), bases lightly trimmed
  • 2 Tbsp. fronds chopped coarse, stalks discarded
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp. pepper

Dressing

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 ½ tsp. white wine vinegar
  • ⅛ tsp. grated orange zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
  • Pinch kosher salt

Directions

  1. FOR THE FENNEL: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Spray rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Cut each fennel bulb lengthwise through core into 8 wedges (do not remove core). Whisk water and salt in large bowl until salt is dissolved. Add fennel wedges to bowl and toss gently to coat. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with pepper, and toss gently to coat.
  3. Arrange fennel wedges cut side down along 2 longer sides of prepared sheet. Drizzle any water in bowl evenly over fennel wedges. Cover sheet tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the foil from the sheet and continue to roast until side of fennel touching the sheet is browned, 5 to 8 minutes longer (this may take even longer than that), rotating sheet halfway through roasting.
  5. Flip each fennel wedge to second cut side. Continue to roast until second side is browned, 3 to 5 minutes (or more) longer. Transfer to serving dish.
  6. FOR THE DRESSING: While fennel roasts, whisk all ingredients together in small bowl.
  7. Whisk dressing to recombine when ready to use. Drizzle dressing over fennel, sprinkle with fennel fronds, and serve.

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Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Double Chocolate Cake with Honey-Rosemary Syrup

This unique syrup-soaked chocolate cake was the perfect dessert for our Christmas dinner, however you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to make it.

Floral honey and piney, resinous rosemary combine for a surprisingly delicious match for chocolate, their flavors and aromas complementing and lifting the dark, bittersweet notes.

Erika Bruce for Milk Street

The cake has a fine crumb similar to pound cake, yet is tender and light, and the syrup makes it extremely moist. If you can, plan in advance and make the cake a day ahead; its texture improves as the syrup slowly soaks in. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.

Tips: Don’t measure the ¾ cup water and then bring it boil it or too much will steam off as it heats. Instead, boil a larger quantity of water in a kettle or saucepan, then measure the ¾ cup. Don’t underbake the cake or it will sink as it cools. When testing doneness, make sure the toothpick comes out clean and dry from the cake’s center. Finally, to ensure even absorption, drizzle on the syrup in four applications, with a brief rest between each. If applied all at once, the syrup will pool on the surface and turn the top soggy.

Double Chocolate Cake with Honey-Rosemary Syrup

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 10 Tbsp. (1¼ sticks) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk

For the Honey Syrup:

  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

  1. To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour; tap out the excess. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate and cocoa. Pour the boiling water over top, jiggling the bowl to ensure all the chocolate is submerged. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth; set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar on low until just combined. Increase to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce to medium and add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl once halfway through.
  5. Reduce to low, then add the chocolate mixture and vanilla; scrape the bowl. With the mixer running on low, add about a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk, then scrape the bowl. With the mixer running, add half of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk, then finish with the remaining the flour mixture. Fold the batter by hand to ensure it is homogenous. The batter will be thick but pourable.
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until the cake forms a thin, crisp center crust and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, rosemary, salt and ⅓ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup and cool to room temperature.
  8. When the cake is done, cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary from the cooled syrup, then drizzle about a quarter of the syrup onto the warm cake. The syrup will not be immediately absorbed; let stand for about 5 minutes to allow it to soak in. Drizzle on the remaining syrup in 3 more applications, allowing a 5-minute rest between each.
  9. Cool the cake completely in the pan, at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight (if storing overnight, wrap the pan in plastic and store at room temperature). To serve, run a paring knife around the pan to loosen the cake, remove the sides of the pan and cut the cake into wedges.

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Recipe from Briana Holt of Tandem Bakery + Coffee in Portland, Maine

Brined Honor Guard Rack of Pork with Cider-Bourbon Sauce

This delicious entrée, fancy enough for a special occasion (in our case Christmas), was derived from a few separate recipes; and the Honor Guard Roast was chosen over a Crown Roast. Both are show-stopping menu centerpieces but, chef-author Molly Stevens claims that the honor guard method is smarter and easier. And since we were not making a stuffing, we didn’t have to worry about arranging the two racks into a crown, which often then becomes too big to fit a normal size roasting pan.

The honor guard line up refers to the image of two rows of ceremonial guards standing facing each other with weapons, lifted and crossed to form a covered pathway. We preordered two 7-rib racks for a party of seven, allowing for a very generous two ribs per person (although most of us only had one rib each). Not to mention we grazed on this large charcuterie platter a couple of hours before dinner…

The Cider-Bourbon Sauce hailed from Allison Ehri Keitler for Fine Cooking, and was originally paired with a fennel-apricot stuffed crown roast of pork. As the sauce reduces down from two quarts of liquid to 1 1/4 cups of very concentrated deliciousness, you swear you might have copped a buzz from the bourbon! This Sauce is Boss, so don’t omit it.

Brined Honor Guard Rack of Pork

  • Servings: 7-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 2 cups bourbon
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar; more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the brine:

  • 5 cups cool water (about 50 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, 4-5 inches each
  • 2 garlic loves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

For the roast:

  • 2 7-rib roast of pork racks, chine bone removed and bones frenched
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Make the sauce reduction

  1. Put the cider, bourbon, and chicken broth in a 3- to 4-quart (preferably 8-inch-wide) saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to maintain a very brisk simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced to 1-1/4 cups, about 1 hour. Set aside until the roast is done.

TIP: Sauce can be made a day ahead of time. Store in sealed container in the refrigerator. Reheat over low in a small saucepan. Continue with “the finish” as noted below.

Brine & cook the roast:

  1. Brine: In a large bowl or 2-quart measuring cup, stir together the water, salt, brown sugar, and honey and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Stir in garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes.
  2. Place roast racks in a large ziploc plastic bag. Add the brine and zip close the bag. Press out extra air, seal, and set in a deep baking dish to catch any leaks that may occur. Chill for 18-24 hours.
  3. One hour before cooking, remove the pork from the brine and let the roast sit out at room temperature.
  4. Preheat oven to 250°.
  5. On a wire rack set into a rimmed baking sheet, assemble the two racks with bones up, leaning into each other and interlaced.
  6. Transfer to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 140°, about 2 hours. (Ours actually took an additional 45 minutes to reach 140°.)
  7. Remove from oven and tent with foil for at least 15 minutes and up to 45 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to 500°, and when ready return the roast to oven cook until crisp and browned on the exterior, about 10 minutes; turning the pan halfway around after 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and tent with foil again, allowing to rest for 15 minutes.
  10. Carve by slicing between the rib bones to divide the racks into chops.

Finish the sauce:

This sauce was AMAZING!

  1. Shortly before serving, reheat the sauce in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and vinegar.
  2. Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and additional vinegar. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.

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We paired the pork with sides of Whiskey Glazed Carrots and a Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Bacon and Leeks, also by Molly Stevens.