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Beef in Barolo


Trying to decide what we’re having for dinner is liken to an unending loop of a scene from the film Marty. “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, Marty, what do you want to do?”

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know. What do YOU want for dinner?”

Only the person who asks the question first has an advantage … “Well, I asked you first,” is usually the (not so) snappy retort.

Pick a protein, pick an ethnicity, give me a jumping point and I’ll happily create something, but please decide before I leave for town …

This entire stressful, daily conversation usually takes place before 8:00 am.

This one particular day, a Saturday even, I was saved by a rather large box in the mail. From KitchenAid. A box from KitchenAid is ALWAYS a good thing.

A little back story … When the Dear One and I moved all my worldly possessions to Maine 2 1/2 years ago, my slow cooker was the last thing placed on the truck. When we opened the doors some 9 bouncy hours later, the ceramic liner for my slow cooker was the first thing off the truck … KER-plunk … SMASH … sadness.

It’s has taken me that long to pick up the phone and call KitchenAid (BTW, some of the BEST customer service around) and order a new one. I was SURE it would be expensive. I was SURE they wouldn’t have  it. I was SURE wrong! It was very, very reasonable and the shipping was $2!

While opening the box I knew, just knew, that whatever “what-do-you-want-Marty” meal I was going to cook was definitely going into the slow cooker.

There’s something wonderful and magical about the slow cooker … food goes in, you set it, go about your day, come back to a home filled with wonderful aromas, a couple of quick sides and you’re done.

But what to make?

Wait! In our chest freezer in the bowels on our basement is a chuck roast. The Dear One offered to do the grocery shopping one morning. Thrilled with the idea of rolling over and going back to sleep for a while, I acquiesced. (As an aside, I love food shopping. There’s something about looking at food, loving picking out produce, picking just the right cut of meat or fish that’s just so … well, my fellow foodies, I know you understand.) Back to the Dear One. He wanted a roast. Okay. I made a list and sent him off into the world. He returned with a chuck roast. Not really a Sunday dinner kinda roast cut so I scowled at it and sent it off to the freezer, mostly to be forgotten.

Gazing through the slow cooker books on my shelf, I came across The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone. I’ve had this recipe for Beef in Barolo bookmarked from my very first pass through the book. What cut of meat does it take, you may wonder. Well, a CHUCK ROAST. The Dear One has been saved, the roast has been liberated from the icy depths.

And what a recipe it is! The cloves give the beef and sauce a wonderful warmth, the wine and pancetta … just layer after layer of flavor. There is the bit that early in the morning you’re searing a hunk-o-beef and veggies, but so worth it in the end!

  • 1/3 C all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 3-pound boneless beef chuck or bottom round roast
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 C dry red wine, such as Barolo
  • 2 C peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 1 C beef broth
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium celery rib, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of ground cloves

NOTE: Even here in culinary wasteland of Bar Harbor I was able to find chopped pancetta in the specialty deli section. I always keep a few of these in the freezer for a quick meal and to avoid chopping. I used the wine I had on hand and open. As long as you’d actually drink it and it’s dry any red wine will do.

Combine the flour with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture on a piece of wax paper and roll the meat in the flour.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown it on all sides, about 15 minutes. Place the meat in a large slow cooker. Add the pancetta and onion to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender. Stir in the garlic. Add the wine and bring it to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Ready to Slow Cook

Pour the mixture over the beef. Add the tomatoes and broth. Scatter the carrots, celery, bay leaf, and ground cloves around the meat. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork.

Transfer the meat to a platter. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce. Slice the meat and spoon on the sauce.

NOTE: I served this over garlic mashed potatoes, but polenta would be wonderful. Sadly, the Dear One isn’t fond of polenta.

done 2



Steak and Guinness Pie


I’m cold. It’s cold. There is no end in sight to this frigid weather. There really isn’t anything to do to keep warm. Once you come in from the cold you don’t want to go out again … EVER! Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s winter, but this is a particularly brutal one!

I don’t know about you, but this is the time of year I hibernate. Well, cook and hibernate. And all I want to eat are comforting, warming meals. I was searching through the recipes I’ve collected that I have had every intention of making, looking for something not too complicated, pure comfort food, and packed with flavor. That’s when I came across my foodie friend Amber’s recipe, she’s the wonderful gal behind Bluebonnets & Brownies, for Steak & Guinness Pie.

I must have been mumbling slightly as I scrolled through the recipes. As the words ‘steak and guinness pie’ came out of my mouth there were shouts of joy and a wee bit of begging … please, please make this! And so I did. And she helped. And we ate HALF of it for dinner! And the other half was gone by the morning!

Amber, I am eternally in your debt for this one! I didn’t feel the need to change this much at all. I added a carrot in lieu of a parsnip and used crimini mushrooms instead of porcini.

  • 1 1/2 lb. chuck (stew meat), cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 vidalia or yellow onion, diced finely
  • 8-10 crimini mushrooms, diced finely
  • 3 carrots, diced finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 T of oil
  • 1 12 oz bottle of Guinness
  • 1/2 C of beef stock
  • Double pie crust

NOTE: Now you know what I’m going to say here … you can make your own, which I couldn’t do today (even if I wanted to) because I don’t have any kitchen tools, gadgets or machinery at my disposal at the moment … or you can use ready made pie crust (which I did).  Also, as you can see from my photos, I didn’t chop everything REALLY finely – especially the carrots – but there’s no harm there, except it’s a little chunkier and they take a little longer to soften and begin to brown.

Preheat oven to 400

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet.


When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and mushrooms. Once they’ve started to brown add salt and pepper to taste.  Next add the diced carrots and cook until soft and beginning to lightly brown. Once done, put this vegetable mixture in a bowl on the side.

Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet. Add diced stew meat, allowing to brown while stirring often. You may need to do this in two batches. while the meat is browning, add the minced garlic, and again, salt, and pepper to taste.


When the meat is browned, add vegetable mixture back to the skillet, add the stock and Guinness. Bring to a bubble and lower the heat a little and let the liquid cook down, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes until you have just a small amount of gravy with meat.

Putting pie together

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a pie dish, add filling, and cover with second pie crust. Cut a few slits in the top of the crust for steam.

NOTE: I used a deep dish pie dish.

Pie Slice

Bake  for roughly 45-60 minutes until the pie crust is golden brown.


Grilled Steak with Red Wine Shallot Sauce

Steak Finished

Nice. I have to do something nice. Well, much more than nice. Something … something to thank someone for patience and support, for loving and caring, for pulling you through a very difficult time and still really liking you on the other side of the mess.

As a person whose life events are remembered by meals, what better way to say thank you than a really good dinner and creating a memory.

Dinner. A spectacular dinner. It has to be simple, as most of my kitchen gear is still in boxes.

He’s not too picky and is always happy being the recipient of my experimentation. But it’s a birthday and a celebration and we are tired. My thought has to go to his go to fav … hmmmm … that’s really very simple. Can you say carnivore?

Steak is simple and this red wine shallot sauce makes it a little bit more than ‘just’ a steak. I coupled the steak with Hasselback Potatoes and a salad. A bottle of champagne. THAT Chocolate Cake for dessert. Hopefully this meal will show the dear one just how special I think he is.

  • 4 shallots, sliced in thin rings
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 C red wine
  • 1 C beef broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1 1/2 pound) piece flank steak
  • 1 T cold butter, in small chunks

NOTE: If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it!

Shallots Cut

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the shallots in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Raise the heat to high and add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the broth and reduce by half. Check for seasoning, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep warm on low heat.


NOTE: I am becoming my mother! I read the recipe. I really did. But in my haste, I mixed the red wine and broth together and then realized that they were added seperately. No, the sauce police didn’t come, but I think it would have been thicker and little more syrupy if I had done it properly.

Brush the flank steak on both sides with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Place on the center of grill and sear 5 to 8 minutes per side for rare to medium rare, testing by pressing the meat with a finger: The spongier the meat feels, the rarer it is cooked. Remove from the grill and allow to rest, very loosely tented with aluminum foil, 5 to 10 minutes, to allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat.

Slice the flank steak on the diagonal and place on a large platter. Finish the sauce by swirling in the chunks of cold butter, then top the steak with some of the sauce and serve the rest on the side.

Churrasco Steak with Candied Red Pepper Chimichurri


I made a promise. No more cookbooks.

No more cookbooks forever, or no more cookbooks for right now, she asks, shocked and wounded? Right now, Well, perhaps forever. You have over 200 cookbooks. Really, dear, how many cookbooks does one need, he asks, trying to find a place to hide. All this coming from a man who owns a dozen hammers, pliers of different ilk, shapes and sizes, and more dust and noise making things than one could shake a salt shaker at!

Need? What do cookbooks have to do with NEED!? Doesn’t he understand, cookbooks are like air? Food? Wine?  As the main beneficiary of all the goodness that comes out of these books, you’d think he’d be a little more understanding! And truthfully, he is always very happy to be my favorite guinea pig!

Take this fabulous book, New Latin Classics by  Lorena Garcia. Loaded with updates on some of my favorite Latin dishes.  This will be just the first of many to be tried from this fab cookbook.

Shhhhhh … this new book will be our little secret!

I saw this recipe on line and I knew this one would be a winner. I became a little nervous about the chimichurri after candying the peppers. They seemed a little sweet and a little strange, and the big guy thought they smelled funny. But, when you add in all the garlic and shallots, they counterbalance the sweetness with a sharp kick, the herbs add some freshness. The capers? Well, we l eft them out. SOMEONE doesn’t like them!

This was absolutely great. Steak, a fab arugula salad, crispy potato planks, add wine and the perfect guy … you are in store for a wonderful evening!

For the Chimichurri:

  • 1/2 C finely minced candied red pepper
  • 1/4 C candied pepper liquid
  • 1/4 C brine-packed capers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1/4 C finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 6 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • 2 shallot, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Chimichurri ingredients

To make the chimichurri, place the candied peppers in a medium bowl with their liquid, capers, parsley, cilantro, garlic, and shallots and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is thick and emulsified. Set aside.

For the Steaks:

  • 4 8-ounce skirt steak
  • 6 1/2 t coarse sea salt
  • 3 1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 4 C baby arugula
  • 1 C halved cherry tomato

Prepare a hot charcoal or gas grill.

Season both sides of the skirt steaks with 2 tablespoons of the salt and 1 tablespoon of the black pepper and set on the grill. Cook without moving until there are grill marks, about 5 minutes. Turn over the steaks and cook the other side until there are grill marks and the steaks are cooked to your liking, about 3 minutes for medium-rare, 4 minutes for medium, and 5 minutes longer for medium-well. Use tongs to transfer the steaks to a large platter and set aside.

While the steaks rest, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper in a large bowl. Add the arugula and cherry tomatoes and gently toss to coat.

Arrange the 4 steaks on a large platter in a circular shape. Fill the center of the circle with the arugula and tomatoes and serve with the chimichurri on the side.

Perfect Pot Roast

I love Sunday dinners. Wonderful smells. Lots of hectic people gathered around the table, together, relaxed (HA!), sharing a meal. Laughs, wine, stories, and lots of eating.

Well, that is, unless you are the COOK! You are usually the one, in the kitchen, sweating, juggling pots and pans and ingredients trying to make this relaxed family dinner come off without a hitch.

Seriously not easy. And how did I get to be the sweating in charge person? I don’t remember signing up for this. Oh, yes, I would LOVE to be the chief cook and bottle washer. So much more fun than being the (insert sport here) watching, when is dinner ready asking, unwashed masses who think it appears out of a cloud of pink smoke!

Wow, we just got really far afield here.

So, you want to have this wonderful, stress free, family dinner. The Pioneer Woman‘s Perfect Pot Roast may be your answer. Simple. Hearty. Slow cooking. Not many ingredients, and not a lot to do to the ingredients.

I love this cookbook. Simple, good food that doesn’t leave you trapped in the kitchen trying to disseminate a recipe.

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One 3 to 5-pound chuck roast
  • 2 or 3 T olive oil
  • 2 whole onions, peeled and halved
  • 6 to 8 whole carrots, unpeeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 C beef broth
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
NOTE: Cut the onions in half from root to tip.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast.

Heat the olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the halved onions to the pot, browning them on both sides. Remove the onions to a plate.

Throw the carrots into the same very hot pot and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so. Reserve the carrots with the onions.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pot. Place the meat in the pot and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, add about 1 C beef broth to deglaze the pot, scraping the bottom with a whisk. Place the roast back into the pot and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway.

Add in the onions and the carrots, along with the fresh herbs.

Put the lid on, then roast for 3 hours for a 3-pound roast. For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours. The roast is ready when it’s fall-apart tender.

NOTE: So yummy. I served this with mashed potatoes, green beans and biscuits.

NOTE: This must have been good. The only sounds at my table were forks on plates, no talking. Sometimes a really good thing!

Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

I know you all have heard me say this before, but I love my slow cooker. I am still terrified of it, am still convinced that every siren screaming past my office window is headed for my house, but still am totally enamored by it.

By the way, I live 5 miles from my office, across a river, around a bay, and unless my entire neighborhood was aflame, there would be no possible way fire engines from a fire house near my office would be going to MY house!

But I digress – as I often do.

There really is nothing more comforting than coming home to dinner almost ready and the house filled with comforting aromas – just like every one else does every day in my house! I can see why they keep coming back! If I came home to that every day, I would never leave home either!

Winter into Spring in New York City is a very strange thing. One day it’s freezing, the next it’s hot, and some days manage to pack both into them. I wanted to squeeze this recipe in before it was too hot for this type of meal. The reality is, this is a good all year round recipe. This would be great for sandwiches.

The recipe in Everyday Food suggests serving this over pasta or polenta (which would be FAB-ulous), but I have mashed potato heads in my house, and I couldn’t imagine getting by serving this any other way. Wait, maybe over biscuits or with biscuits!

Okay, I lied! But still try this your tummies will thank you!

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 T tomato paste
  • 3 T chopped fresh oregano leaves (or 3 t dried)
  • 4 lb beef chuck, halved
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 C water
  • 1 to 2 T red wine vinegar

NOTE: Cut as much fat away from the beef chuck as possible.  I used dried oregano.

In a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker, stir together onion, garlic, tomato paste and oregano. Season roast with salt and pepper.

Place roast on top of onion mixture, add water. Cover and cook on high until meat is tender and can easily be pulled apart with a fork – about 4 1/2 hours on high or 9 hours on low.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then shred meat in slow cooker with 2 forks. Stir in vinegar to taste. Serves 6 and freezes beautifully.

NOTE: I used two tablespoons of vinegar. I liked the vinegary kick it gave the beef.

NOTE: One of my favorite parts about this slow cooker recipe is not having to actually saute or brown or cook anything before starting. for me, there’s nothing worse than standing bleary eyed in the morning, cooking things before I head off for work. I want to throw it all in and have magic happen while I am at work counting how many times my house burned down!


Beef Braciola

I am truly enamored with Lucinda Scala Quinn. Have been from the first time I saw her on television. Her cooking style and mine are similar.  Her recipes and ingredients are accessible and easy and wonderful for family and friends, for all sorts of occasions. Many of the recipes from Mad Hungry come from one of Lucinda’s first books, Lucinda’s Rustic Italian Kitchen. Wonderful book with some truly wonderful recipes inside – including this one for Beef Braciola.

It never occurred to me to make braciola. To me it was always something people put in sauce, something the butcher made, and not something I cared for very much. There was something about this recipe and photo that drew me to it – making braciola the star of the dish! How ingenious!

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 10 slices top-round sirloin, very thinly sliced, pounded to 4-6 inches
  • 10 pieces string, 14 inches long
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine (optional) or water
  • 1 28-ounce can best-quality tomatoes, coarsely blended

NOTE: I had the butcher cut this for me. I had 6 slices. I didn’t adjust the amount of stuffing any. I would prefer to have a little left over than not having enough!

You will of course only see 5 throughout this recipe as the Pup helped herself to a slice as I turned my back for a SPLIT second to put down the camera!

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 teaspoons of the garlic in a small skillet over medium heat until it sizzles but does not brown, about 30 seconds. Stir in the breadcrumbs, remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Stir in the Parmesan, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper, the red pepper flakes, and thyme.

Lay the meat slices out side by side on a clean workspace. Sprinkle each slice with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Place a scant 1/4 cup filling over each meat slice, leaving a 1/4-inch border.

NOTE: I pounded the beef a bit to make it thinner and easier to roll. Also, I am so lousy at tying up meat (no comments from the peanut gallery) that I made it as simple as I could and just tied it in one spot. Really it was just to hold it together while searing it,. The Braciola Police were not going to give me a hard time for my ugly tying skills!

Drizzle on olive oil and roll each piece up from the widest to narrowest end. Tie each piece with the string.

Place the remaining 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Just before the oil smokes, add the meat bundles. (Do not crowd the pan or the meat won’t brown.) Working in batches if necessary, cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the braciola from the pan and keep warm in the oven.

Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the onion and the remaining teaspoon of garlic, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Pour in the wine or water, stirring to deglaze the pan, loosening all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Return the beef to the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour. Remove the bundles from the pan, one at a time, snip off the string, and return to the pan. The dish may be made a couple of days ahead to this point, and the taste will improve. Serve as desired.

NOTE: I made a little pasta for the side and topped it with the tomato sauce.  And that thieving pup I mentioned earlier? Seems too much of a good thing IS bad for you! That is how she spent the rest of the night! Not sure if she was hanging her head in shame or suffering from being stuffed and eating raw beef!