Cooking Countdown For The Holidays
Great recipes -- and good wishes -- for a stress-free holiday.
Holiday time invokes thoughts of family and friends getting together eating delicious foods and drinking yummy cocktails. The problem is that someone has to host the warm evening and in order to have a stress-free, successful party, you have work your little bum off a few days before the event. All the hard work is worth it when you are able to drink a glass of wine, nibble on an appetizer and watch your guests having a wonderful time. The key, according to me, is to be super organized and have a list of things to do before the event.
Last year we hosted 20 people for Christmas and I initially was very nervous about what I was going to make and how everything will be ready on time. For some reason I find myself gravitating towards an Italian theme (I think I was Italian in my previous life)- especially last year as we had returned from an unbelievable trip to Umbria where a gentle soul named Paula taught us some simple, traditional Umbrian dishes. I can close my eyes and picture Paula in our rented house, sipping a glass of fabulous red wine- I was a happy person. One of the things she made for us was a lamb roast- it was the most amazing thing I have ever had. The meat was flavorful and falling off the bone. Speaking of bone- the key to this roast is to make sure it comes with the bones intact.
I digress… I marinated the lamb roast (recipe will be posted on 12/15 on www.sharingplate.com) in advance and made two huge bowls of salad. I also cooked a Tuscan style white bean ragu (recipe will be posted on 12/19). For the appetizers, I bought lots of baguettes and made two huge platters of baked brie- one savory with roasted garlic and rosemary and another sweet with maple syrup and cranberries. For dessert I made two huge trays of tiramisu. My point in sharing my menu besides giving you ideas is that I thought of dishes I could prepare in advance. The ragu and dessert were made the night before. The roast was marinating in advance ready to be cooked. The cheeses were assembled and ready for the oven as well. I had two bowls of mixed greens in the fridge and a bowl of simple balsamic vinaigrette as well.
This year I am not hosting a very big crowd; in fact we are away visiting family for the holidays. I do have ideas for all of you in case you are hosting your friends and family.
I was thinking really low stress this season- how about a big pot of braised short ribs with a creamy spinach polenta. You can serve a simple salad to begin with or a soup both of these can be prepared in advance. Purchase lots of crusty bread to soak up the delicious braising liquid from the short ribs and you have a fabulous meal.
Speaking of the short ribs- they are marinated the night before in olive oil, salt, pepper and some herbs. They are then browned the next day and included lots of delicious aromatics including garlic, carrots, chicken broth and wine. The piece de resistance is a citrus gremolata- what is a gremolata you ask? Well, it is a condiment for topping soups and stews. I made mine with orange and lemon zest, garlic, parsley, rosemary and thyme. This mixture wakes up the delicious flavors in the short ribs and makes everything amazingly delicious.
With the ribs, I made an easy polenta dish. I decided to add some aromatics like shallots and garlic. I also added baby spinach to make it healthier. Polenta is generally very quick and easy to make- but I have a product that makes it even simpler. I buy a super fine polenta that cooks in under a minute. It is not an instant variety and definitely not processed. It makes life very easy especially when I want to whip up polenta anytime. Next time you want to make polenta, try this variety.
Now that we have the meal planned out, what about a delicious cocktail. I am sure I have mentioned my husband is a great Mixologist. He came up with this concoction and I think it will go perfectly for a holiday get together.
As I write this, I am little sad about not celebrating the holidays at home- but I think I will be okay cooking in my sister in law's fabulous kitchen in Seattle!
I hope your holidays are happy, safe and most of all, delicious.
Braised Short Ribs with Citrus Gremolata
- 4 pounds short ribs, excess fat removed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
Place the short ribs in a large glass dish and sprinkle the salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Refrigerate overnight. Take out an hour before cooking.
- 2 tablespoons extra light olive oil
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups red wine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat a heavy saucepan with the olive oil until smoking. Brown the ribs on both sides for 4 to 5 minutes each in two to three batches. Keep aside. Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic. Saute on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and sauté for minute. Add the flour and sauté for another minute. Add the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Add the chicken broth and red wine and bring to a boil. Add the ribs back into the liquid and transfer to the oven. Bake for 2 to 3 hours or till the meat is falling off the bone.
Take out of oven and take the ribs out onto a platter. Strain the braising liquid and squeeze all the moisture out of the solids. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the saucepan. Reduce to desired consistency- there should be about a cup and a half to two cups of liquid remaining. Check for seasonings and return the ribs back into the liquid. Top with gremolata and serve.
- 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
- 1/3 cup parsley, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- Zest of one lemon
- Zest of two clementines or half a navel orange
Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, cover and keep aside.
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small shallots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic. Saute on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the baby spinach and sauté till it is wilted and cooked down. Keep aside.
- 1 cup fine polenta
- 1½ cups chicken broth
- 1½ cups milk
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Add the liquids to the spinach mixture and bring to a boil. Add salt and the polenta. Cook according to instructions on the polenta package. Add the cheese and serve.
- 1 ounce orange flavored vodka
- 1 ounce triple sec
- Juice of half lime
- 2 ounces apple cider
- 2 ounces blood orange soda
Pour all the ingredients in a glass with the ice. Stir and serve.