Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ribs and Gougeres

Last week I attempted two new cooking feats for our annual holiday meal with Shannon and John.  They graciously donated six pounds of pork ribs from their stash for the occasion, and I found a promising recipe for oven-braised ribs.  

I put the rub together the day before and coated the ribs with it.  The combined ingredients gave off a delicious smell, and I have enough left over to save for grilling season.  

The next day, I mixed the braising liquid and poured it into the foil packet the ribs had been resting in for twenty-four hours.  Unfortunately the foil let out a lot of the liquid, and there wasn't very much to use for the sauce.  Instead of reducing everything for ten minutes and then using the glaze to brush on the ribs, I mixed the cooking juices with the sauce ingredients and drizzled it over the ribs.  The meat was incredibly tender and full of flavor from both the rub and the sauce.    

I chose an unlikely accompaniment for the ribs - parmesan and gruyere gougeres.  Gougeres are essentially a non-dessert version of a cream puff.  The dough, choux pastry, is exactly the same, but gougeres are normally enhanced with cheese and other savory ingredients.  

I was able to try one fresh out of the oven, and it was unbelievable, but they also reheated beautifully later that night and a few days later.

The twenty or so gougeres I made were about the size of a golf ball, but the same recipe can also be formed into eight to ten large rolls.  These delicious little dough puffs taste amazing, and are impressive to serve to company, even when everyone is eating something as messy as oven-braised ribs.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


The picture to the left was taken on my birthday in October, on one of Richmond's last Indian summer days.  I'm getting ready to eat a freshly shucked raw oyster at the Richmond Folk Festival, after watching a phenomenal shucking contest between two sisters. I hadn't ever thought about how difficult it is to shuck an oyster, but it really takes practice and skill.  A couple weeks ago, during a cooking class, I had the chance to try it for myself, and I don't think I had even finished one in the time it took Deborah and Clementine to open more than twenty oysters. 

Everyone knows that time flies when you're having fun, or when you're too busy to finish anything, or when you think you have all day to accomplish one task and all of a sudden it's 5 o'clock and you haven't worked at all.  The holiday season is a combination of all of those, and the days of impatiently counting down to Christmas are long gone.  

I haven't been able to cook very much lately, so I'm trying to make it worthwhile when I do.  I found a nice looking spaghetti squash at Ellwood Thompson's, and since I'd never eaten spaghetti squash before, I decided to try it with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  The spices in this dish have a luxurious taste that really elevates a simple ingredient into a noteworthy one.

I made Israeli cous cous and spinach with cumin seed and lemon on the side, and added chickpeas to the squash like Deb suggests in her recipe.  We ended up combining everything before we ate.  There's something comforting about one bowl meals, and the flavors in this one really worked together.  It also feels good consuming something homemade and healthy amidst never-ending holiday treats.


Speaking of treats, Davy and I were lucky enough to try Aziza's on Main for the first time with some good friends over the weekend.  Deterred by the high entree prices at Millie's (where I also haven't eaten), we went west just a few blocks and settled into a cozy table.  Aziza's isn't fancy, but it has an air of sophistication and confidence that carries over into the food.  I'm going to have to try hummus next time, because I'm a sucker for a hummus platter, and theirs looks amazing.  

I split a sizeable spinach salad with Davy, which had plump cranberries and a generous sprinkle of goat cheese and walnuts.  Everyone at the table got their own pizza, and we were all happy with our selections.  My choice was the wild mushroom pizza with truffle oil, which was a white pizza that had just enough truffle flavor and spice.  None of the flavors were overwhelming, and the mushrooms were beautiful and earthy.  If it weren't for 8 1/2, this would arguably be the best pizza in Richmond. 

After seeing the tempting, homemade desserts when we walked in, I couldn't resist a gigantic cream puff doused in ganache.  I couldn't even finish all of the decadent cream filling, but thoroughly enjoyed trying.      
It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving already came and went, and that Christmas is merely a few weeks away.  I have so much to look forward to, edibly and otherwise, and I'm hoping to appreciate every fast-paced minute of it.