Archive for April, 2011

So back when I was at the Foodbuzz blogger festival back in November, I met the founder of Foodiacs, a site for food fanatics.  They have a cool promotion going on where if you visit their site and enter their Spring Fling from HERE — Lazy Cook Crazy Cook, you could win a prize and I could win one, too!  The Spring Fling is a KITCHENAID Stand Mixer.  If you don’t have one, you want one, trust me.  Mine’s royal blue and I named it Chuck.  He rocks the heavy mixing jobs in my kitchen.  You also could get a year’s supply of King Arthur Flour AND $50.  It’s kind of fun.  So I’m spreading the word.  Check it out – let me know what you think.  And here’s hoping I put the widgets / magic referral codes in correctly.

Good luck!

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When New Belgium Brewing threw down a Foodbuzz  challenge to create and share a beer-inspired dinner, I bellied right up to the bar!  (Note: I did receive a stipend from New Belgium Brewing, but the recipes and ideas here are my own.)  I have grown to love beer almost as much as wine and I marched myself straight to the store to pick up not one, but three six-packs of New Belgium beer: Fat Tire Amber Ale, 1554 Black Ale and Straight Arrow Pale Ale.  And then I enlisted my friend Susan to join me for a beer-tastic cooking extravaganza.  Here’s what we made:

Here you have Beer-brined Grilled Pork Chops with Roasted Cipolline Onions and Teeny-Tiny Roasted Potatoes and Sautéed Spinach (we figured we redeemed ourselves with a green vegetable).   But we couldn’t stop there!  We made Beer Ice Cream and garnished it with crispy, crunchy salted blister peanuts.  Shut up!  We were over a beer-barrel of foodie delight at how delicious everything turned out, considering we made up these recipes on the fly and – full confession – were dutifully “tasting” New Belgium’s brews throughout our beer cooking adventure!

The pork chops swam around in a brining solution of Fat Tire Pale Ale, water, apple cider vinegar, honey and kosher salt for about eight hours before they hit a hot grill, and while they were really high-quality chops (given to me by my friend Bob, a farmer and owner of Harvest Moon Farms, from one of his Red Wattle Pigs), I gotta think this brining thing would turn any pork chop into a marvel of tenderness and flavor. The sides were just things I like and things I figured would pair well with the pork and the beer.

As for the ice cream: we were going to do beer floats with vanilla ice cream and New Belgium’s 1554 Black Ale, but then inspiration struck!  We were like, “why use vanilla ice cream? Let’s make BEER ice cream!”  We had little luck finding recipe guidance online, so we made it up and it was DIVINE!  The 1554 Black Ale has a mild sweetness to it, reminiscent of chocolate and maybe molasses and makes GREAT ICE CREAM!  And because beer and peanuts are such good friends, we garnished with some super-crunchy, salted blister peanuts (I find them at Trader Joe’s). Smashingly delicious.

So wanna re-create these cheerful, beerful dishes?  Alright, grab a beer and read on!

Beer-Brined Grilled Pork Chops


2 bone-in pork chops

1/4 C kosher salt

1 C Fat Tire Amber Ale

2 C water

1/8 C honey

What You Do:

1) EIGHT HOURS IN ADVANCE: mix up all the liquid ingredients – I used a quart-size zip bag – and plop the pork chops in.  Squeeze out as much air as you can and zip it WELL. Put the whole lot into the fridge, on top of a plate, so the chops stay submerged (more or less). Leave it be for eight hours.

2) Remove from fridge about an hour before you want to grill, to let them come to room temp.  Light a grill (or you can heat a grill pan on your stove, over high heat). Take the chops out, chuck the liquid, and use a paper towel to pat the chops dry. Rub with a bit of oil (olive, vegetable, I don’t think it really matters) and season with a bit of fresh-ground pepper – you don’t really need any more salt (I did season with salt, but I won’t next time). 

3) Grill over high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on how thick your chops are.  Cook to 140 degrees, minimal, for medium done-ness (no one likes rare pork). Let them rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Serve with your sides and enjoy with a glass of New Belgium’s Fat Tire was our favorite with the pork chops!  Cheers!

Beer Ice Cream

OK, I now share with you the pride and joy of our New Belgium cheerful, beerful meal – dessert!  We decided to go the “cheater’s route” to ice cream (the no-cook kind) because honestly, it’s delicious and it’s easy.  We adapted a recipe for vanilla ice cream, and used my Cuisinart ice cream maker (takes 30 minutes to make homemade ice cream! It’s insane!)  It had amazing flavor. The beer flavor was not overwhelming – just delicious. And I spiked it with a bit of black pepper, just for fun – it nicely countered the sweetness of the 1554 Black Ale.  You definitely need a strong, dark beer for this, in order for it to triumph over all the creamy, dairy deliciousness that’s going on.  I’ll definitely make this again.  And maybe you will, too.  Here’s how to do it:


1 C half-and-half

1 C heavy cream (whipping cream)

1/3 C whole milk

2/3 C New Belgium 1554 Black Ale

3/4 C brown sugar (I used light)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

What You Do:

1) In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients.  Stir until brown sugar dissolves.

2) Dump mixture  into the freezer bowl of your ice cream maker (warning: they aren’t kidding when they say that bowl has to live for 24 hours in the freezer before you use it), and flip the switch.  Let her ‘rip for 30 minutes.

3) Transfer the ice cream (which will be a little gloppy and melty, not fully frozen) into a one-quart container, put the lid on the stash it in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

4) To serve: we put the ice cream into tall pilsner glasses, just for fun, sprinkling a few peanuts in between layers, and some on top.  DELISH!  Hope you enjoy!


Roasted Cipollines and Teeny Potatoes


1 lb cipolline onions (these are the sort of flat, flying-saucer-shaped onions; you could also use pearl onions)

A couple Tbls of olive oil

1 tsp fresh, chopped thyme

Salt & pepp

What You Do:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2) Trim and peel the onions. You can do it the old-fashioned way (trim top and bottom and use a paring knife to peel), or you could pop them into a pot of boiling water for precisely ONE MINUTE and then dump into a colander and the peel slips right off.

3) In a cast-iron skillet or on a baking sheet lined with non-stick foil, toss your onions with some olive oil, just enough to coat them, and sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepp.   Pop them into the oven for 30 minutes.  At 30 minutes, check them, and use tongs to turn them.  They should develop a nice, caramelized exterior. Turn and cook for about 10 more minutes.

4) Remove from oven and let sit while you get the rest of the your act together.

Roasted Potatoes

I found these CUTE teeny-tiny potatoes at Trader Joe’s and they’re just fun.  But you could really use any kind of spud – quartered or halved Yukon Golds, red potatoes, whatever you like / can  find.


1/2 – 1 lb. potatoes

Olives oil – just enough to coat

Fresh rosemary, chopped

Salt and pepper

What You Do:

1) Really, it’s the same deal as the onions: toss the spuds just to coat them in olive oil and season with rosemary, salt and pepp. Pop them into a 400 degree oven for 35 -45 minutes (depending on size).  At 30 minutes, toss them / turn them to get all sides crispy.  That’s it!

2)Remove from oven after 30-45 minutes, and let them  hang out with the onions while you saute some spinach (which takes, like, 5 minutes.)

Sautéed Spinach

This is such an easy go-to veg for me. Minimal oil, tons of flavor.  And I happen to love spinach.  Know this: a 12-ounce bag of spinach will feed two (barely). Spinach cooks down to NOTHING so buy what you think might be a ridiculous amount. 


12-16 ounces fresh spinach leaves

1-2 Tbls olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves

Juice of maybe 1/3 of a lemon


What You Do:

1) Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat for two minutes; add garlic cloves; heat for two more minutes.

2) Pile in your ridiculous amount of spinach, stir it about for two minutes and then put the hat on the pan. Cook for two more minutes, til it’s all wilted, but still bright green. Season with salt, spritz with lemon juice and serve.

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In honor of the fact that it is maybe 40 degrees out in Chicago today with a biting west wind, combined with the fact that I’ve been ridiculously busy lately and haven’t had enough time  to cook and blog as much as I’d like to, I thought, “hey, it’s not too late to share Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe!”  Yes, this is a dish best savored in winter months – but April seems to be acting like one, so here we go! 

Delicious looking, non?  It is.  Especially with a nice glass of Cabernet.  But, know this:  while it is not difficult to make, but it does take several hours to make, and on top of that, it actually tastes better after it chills out in your fridge for a couple of days.  But do it anyway!  Crank up your iPod and spend a rainy day in the kitchen and you will be rewarded with more than a bowl of beef stew – Julia’s method builds a depth of flavor that is extremely warming and satisfying.  Ready to go crazy with me?  Come ‘on.  First let’s check out our ingredients:

Boeuf Bourguignon Ingredients:  (Note: this recipe is adapted from Julia Childs’ “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”  I took a few liberties for ease.  For instance, instead of using bacon with rind on, I used regular store-bought bacon, etc.)  This recipe serves at least 6 people.

1 Tbl. olive oil

6 oz. bacon, cut into little strips (I use kitchen scissors for this; so easy)

3 lbs. lean stew meat (beef, duh)

1 sliced carrot (you can use more if you want; I think I did)

1 sliced onion (red, white, it doesn’t matter)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 Tbl. flour

3 C. full-bodied red wine, like a Cabernet or a Merlot

2-3 C. brown beef stock (which you can make from bouillon cubes if you want)

1 Tbl tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, mashed

1 bay leaf

Pearl onions – Julia says to use 18-24, but I really like pearl onions, so I used a lot. And you have to brown-braise these separately from the rest of the dish. I know. But it’s worth it, trust me.

1 lb. white mushrooms, quartered, sautéed in butter – again, prepared separately.  Just do it.

Wide egg noodles, for serving, and fresh parsley for garnishing

OK, let’s start cooking!

What You Do:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

1) Get your big enameled cast iron pot out (like a Le Creuset), or a big stainless Dutch oven pot.  Saute the bacon in the oil about 5 minutes, to brown it – it  doesn’t have to be crispy.  Remove the bacon to a side dish.

2) Reheat the bacon fat that’s in the pot til it is really hot – almost smoking – and start sautéing your beef, a batch at a time.  BEFORE YOU ADD THE BEEF: make sure you use some paper towels to dry it off so it browns well.  When each batch is done, remove to plate.

3) OK, now add your onion and carrot to the empty pot and brown them for about 8 minutes or so.  Keep them in the pot.

4) Add the beef and bacon back to the pot and toss w/ salt and pepp. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss things about. 

5) Now, pop the pot, uncovered, into the middle of the preheated oven for 4-5 minutes.  Take it out, toss things about again and shove it back into the oven, again uncovered, for another 4-5 minutes.   This browns or cooks the flour and covers the meat with a bit of a crust.  Nice.

6) Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F, and take the pot out, back onto the stove top, over medium-high heat.  Stir in the red wine and enough beef stock (or bouillon) so that everything is swimming nicely, just covered in liquid.  Add the tomato paste, garlic and bay leaf.  Bring it to a simmer.  Then put its hat on and nestle it into your 325-degree oven – for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. 

But wait – you’re not done yet!  Time to make the pearl onions and the mushrooms!


1) In a big skillet,heat  1 1/2 Tbl butter and 1 1/2 Tbl olive oil depending on how many onions you’re using. Confession: I normally like to use fresh pearl onions, which are a pain in the ass to peel, but man, they are so good.  But this time I “cheated” and used frozen pearl onions from Trader Joe’s – I can’t lie – they were very good, but not great. If you want to use fresh pearl onions, trim the tops and then cut a tiny “X” into the bottom of each one and blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute (no more!) and the skins will slip right off.  If you use frozen – THAW THEM well ahead of time and DRY THEM so they braise properly (mine were a little wet and it took a long time for them to brown).  

2) Alrighty, when your butter/oil mixture is hot, dump in the onions and saute over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until they’re – well, browned.  You just have to roll them about for a while so as many sides get brown as you can – don’t worry if they’re not all uniform.

3) Now, add about 1/2 C of beef stock (again, you can make it from bouillon cubes, so handy), salt and pepper to taste and maybe some dried or fresh thyme and a bay leaf.  Put a hat on your skillet and simmer on low heat for 40-50 minutes. Uh huh – it takes a long time.  Here’s what mine looked like after 50 minutes.  When they’re done, just let ’em sit in the pan until your beef is ready.

Whoosh, okay, on to those mushrooms!  They’re pretty easy.


Get another skillet out (I know, you’ve got a lot of pans going on, but it is what it is.)  Clean your mushrooms with a damp paper towel and trim the stems. Quarter them.  Heat 4 Tbl. butter and 2 Tbl olive oil in your skillet. When it’s hot, add your mushrooms.  At first, the mushrooms will absorb all the fat and look a bit dry, but then after about 3-4 minutes, the mushrooms release their moisture and begin to brown.  The whole shebang takes about 10-15 minutes.  When they’re nice and browned, add salt to taste and again, let them hang out in the pan until the beef is ready.

Now, maybe you sit down for a minute  and have a nice glass of wine and chill out while your beef finishes cooking.  The home stretch is in sight!


Check it at 2 1/2 hours – if the meat is fork-tender, you’re good to go.  (I usually just let mine go the whole 3 hours – nothing bad happens to it!)  Now comes the messy part. 

– Take the pot out of oven and take its hat off.  You are going to use two big oven mitts and carefully pour the whole lot into a big sieve or colandar SET OVER A BIG BOWL OR SAUCE PAN (you do not want anything going down the sink – this is your sauce!).  So now you have the sauce / liquid in a bowl or pan and the meat and veg in the colandar.   Put the meat and veg back into your big post and add the onions and mushrooms.

– After the sauce has sat for about 10 minutes, some fat will rise to the surface – skim it off and chuck it.  I use a big metal spoon for this – you won’t get it all and that’s fine – you just don’t want your final dish to be greasy.

– Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer it for maybe 10 minutes, to thicken it a bit.  Too watery? Add a touch of corn starch.  Too thick?  Add a bit of water or beef stock.  When the sauce is ready, pour it back into your big pot with the meat and veg – and voila!  You just made Boeuf Bourguignon!   You can enjoy it immediately (I serve over extra-wide egg noodles), garnished with some fresh parsley, or you can shove the whole pot, covered, into the fridge for a day, 2 days, 3 days.  To reheat, bring it to room temp on your counter and then just gently heat it up til it’s bubbly.  You can also freeze this (keeps for up to 2 months), and I’m telling you, it’s a beautiful thing to come home and think you have nothing for dinner and find Boeuf Bourguignon in the freezer.

As Julia would say, “Bon Appetit!”

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