Scott’s Sunday Afternoon Braised Short Ribs with Pasta

This is a perfect recipe for a lazy Sunday afternoon! The short ribs need about 3 hours to cook – so start around 2 PM and you’ll be ready for a great dinner about 5:30 or 6 PM. Have a bottle of good Zinfandel handy – it’s a perfect match to this dish!

The inspiration for this recipe came from Giada De Laurentiis – but I made a bunch of modifications – basically to make it simpler and easier. I really don’t like recipes that use amounts that result in wasting portions of ingredients you buy in standard size packages. So, I adjusted – and simplified using some Trader Joe’s items – and the result was great!


  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 oz chopped pancetta (Columbus Salame package – available at Draeger’s)
  • 2-1/2 lbs short ribs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Mirepoix (combination of chopped carrots, onions, and celery)
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (prefer Muir Glen organic)
  • 1 small can tomato paste (prefer Muir Glen organic)
  • 1 Tbs Herbs de Provence
  • 1 quart Trader Joe’s Organic Beef Broth
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 pound flat pasta – fettucine, tagliatelle (if you can find it), etc.


  1. Season the short ribs with flour, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until golden brown – about four minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Brown the short ribs in the same pot – on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add the Mirepoix to the pot. Add the garlic and parsley. Cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables have softened a bit.
  5. Add the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir.
  6. Add the Herbs de Provence, beef broth, and wine. Add back the pancetta and the short ribs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid and simmer for another 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the short ribs and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season to taste.
  9. Cook the pasta (8-10 minutes in boiling, salted water for dried pasta).
  10. Drain pasta, combine into pot with meat and sauce. Stir.
  11. Serve in bowls – optionally add 1 tsp shaved dark chocolate (we tried this – it was too much – we’d skip the dark chocolate!). Serve with a good Zinfandel!

[First posted: March 14, 2009]

2009 Recession-Era Slow-Roasted Roast Beef

For some weird reason, earlier this week I happened across an old Cooks Illustrated article about Slow-Roasted Beef (link works for those with subscriptions to their online edition).

Perhaps because of the current state of the economy or who knows why, I found the recipe particularly interesting – as it described a cooking technique for cheap beef roast cuts (eye-round, etc.) that made these normally tough roast cuts of beef turn out tender and delicious.

Continue reading “2009 Recession-Era Slow-Roasted Roast Beef”

Adjusting the Williams Sonoma Cooking Probe Thermometer

This post goes in the “notes to self” category. We have a Williams-Sonoma Cooking Probe Digital Thermometer – and lost the manual eons ago. This thermometer was apparently actually made by Polder and private labelled to Williams-Sonoma.

Anyway, it’s the one with the 3 foot long cord to a probe that goes in the oven and into the meat. The problem I have with it is the somewhat arcane user interface it has for setting a different alarm temperature than the various defaults it comes pre-programmed with for the various types of meat. So, here’s how you do it!

Using the Meat button, scroll to the UI page. Hold down the Memory button until the Alert temperature starts blinking. Then, using the up/down (+/-) keys, set the temperature you want for the alert. Hit the Memory button again to store the new value, turn on the Alert switch, and you’re now set.

Happy cooking! 😉

Saturday Supper: Roast Beef & Balsamic Vegetables

Earlier today we picked up a copy of one of those “Best of Fine Cooking” issues at the local market that included a recipe that caught our eye: Roast Beef with Balsamic Vegetables.

This is one of those super easy Saturday or Sunday afternoon dinner dishes. Basically, you slice a red onion, cut small red potatoes in half, mix them in some olive oil, rosemay, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and balsamic vinegar and combine with a well seasoned (kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, rosemary) beef roast in the same 9×13 Pyrex dish.

I went shopping early this afternoon for the “beef rump roast or top round roast” that the recipe called for. The butcher at our favorite local market (Bianchini’s Market in Ladera/Portola Valley) said he’d be happy to cut one of either of those for us but instead recommended their sirloin tip roast. Never one to turn down a professional’s recommendation, I bought a 3 lb sirloin tip roast and it turned out to be a great choice.

The original recipe called for fennel – but we don’t particularly like the fennel taste so we just left it out. We agreed that the next time we make it we’d either add more red onion or add shallots instead of the fennel. Not that it needed either – it was delicious the way we made it without the fennel! [Update: a friend suggests throwing in a few beets to roast as well – great idea!]


  • 3 lb Sirloin Tip Beef Roast
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (we used Herbs de Provence instead)
  • Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 large red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1-1/2 lb baby red potatoes, halved


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice the red onion.
  3. Wash and halve the red potatoes.
  4. Toss onion and potatoes with 2 Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  5. Brush the beef roast with 1 Tbs of olive oil and 1 Tbs of balsamic vinegar. Place roast into the center of a 9×13 Pyrex dish.
  6. Spread the onion/potato mixture around the beef roast.
  7. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes until beef registers 125 degrees on instant-read thermometer.
  8. Remove beef to cutting board – let rest for 10 minutes. Increase oven temp to 450 degrees and continue roasting vegetables for 10 minutes.
  9. Thinly slice the beef and serve with the roast vegetables. A side salad goes nicely with this combination.

[First posted: February 21, 2009]

Update: Baked Penne using Whole Wheat Penne

I made the Baked Penne with Sausage, Beef and Red Wine Sauce recipe that I posted last weekend again today – this time substituting whole wheat penne pasta for the traditional penne.

While whole wheat pasta is undoubtedly healthier, we all seemed to agree that the original version of this particular recipe was preferable from a taste standpoint.

If you’re into the “nuttiness” of whole wheat pasta, you’ll probably find the substitution works just fine – otherwise, stick to the original recipe!

At the local market I also noticed that DeCecco makes a spinach penne – called “penne rigate con spinaci” – we might try that next time! Note that DeCecco doesn’t make a whole wheat penne.

Baked Penne with Sausage, Beef and Red Wine Sauce

This baked penne dish has quickly become a favorite in our household – we first made it last weekend – and, in this modified version, again today.

It’s a great comfort food dish. Takes me about an hour to prepare it from start to serving. The inspiration for this recipe came from Lynne Char Bennett’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle titled “Dry Creek Zinfandel makes a penne-wise partner” – January 23, 2009.

I’ve modified the recipe to a) reduce the mushrooms, b) add red wine to the sauce, and c) simmering the sauce longer to reduce the extra liquid (from the wine addition) and concentrate its richness – along with some other minor tweaks. But the core of the recipe remains Bennett’s.


  • Olive oil (1-2 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
  • 1/2 pound lean (96/4) ground beef
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (1 small onion)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms (cremini if available, otherwise just white)
  • 2 tsp brandy (cheap will do fine!)
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (with basil, oregano – or Italian seasonings)
  • 1 cup red table wine (Zinfandel preferred but any will do!)
  • 1 tsp majoram (dried)
  • 1 tsp oregano (dried)
  • 1 tsp basil (dried)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley (fresh, minced)
  • 1-1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese


  1. Heat oil on large skillet over medium-high heat – I use a large, 12-inch All-Clad Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan. Brown sausage and ground beef, seasoning to taste. Break the meat up into smaller pieces as it browns.
  2. After the meat is mostly browned, push the meat to one side of the skillet and add the onion – cook until translucent about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook briefly.
  3. Add mushrooms to the onion-garlic mixture. Season to taste. Cook about 5 minutes until mushrooms are tender.
  4. Stir together the meat and mushrooms. Add brandy and cook for about a minute.
  5. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, the red wine, oregano, basil and marjoram to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Let sauce simmer for 25-30 minutes until richer and thicker. Taste and adjust seasonings along the way.
  6. While sauce is simmering, preheat over to 350 degrees. Boil salted water for the pasta – cook about 12 minutes in boiling water. Drain, mix into sauce along with the Parmesan cheese and the Italian parsley. Mix well together.
  7. Spoon mixture into 9-by-13 inch casserole disk, top with the grated Gruyere cheese and bake for 15 minutes until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and serve immediately.


Comfort Food: Baked Penne with Meat, Mushrooms and Cheese

This Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine section carried the latest “Pairings” column by Lynne Char Bennett titled “Dry Creek Zinfandel makes a penne-wise partner“. Zinfandel is among our favorite red wines (along with Syrah and Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa appellation) – so the article caught my eye.

Included in Bennett’s column was a recipe for “Baked Penne with Meat & Mushroom Sauce” which we made – with minor variations – tonight.

Her recipe minimizes some of the fat that might otherwise be present – we used 97% lean ground beef, for example, when we cooked it and the mushrooms help extend the flavor along with the herbs that simmer into such a flavorful sauce.

Turns out this recipe was a real family crowd pleaser – we all really liked it, helped ourselves to a couple of servings, etc. We served it along with a simple Caesar salad – yummy! We paired a Ridge 2006 Dusi Ranch Zinfandel with the penne – a great combination!

We’ll certainly be making the baked penne again – and are already looking forward to some left overs tomorrow night!

Apple Cider Braised Chicken

A friend said he was making braised chicken for a family get together tonight – which naturally got me interested in exploring recipes for braised chicken!

I came across one – a modified Food & Wine recipe – at The Kitchen Sink. I’ve always loved apple cider – and this one looked interesting. So, we made our own version earlier this evening and really loved all of its flavors. We paired the chicken with some sauteed vegetables with a splash of balsamic vinegar and fresh lime juice – yum!

Here’s our version of Apple Cider Braised Chicken. Our version uses skinless chicken (lower fat, healthier!) along with simplified ingredients (a whole bottle of Martinelli’s cider, a full 32-oz package of free range chicken stock, etc.). It’s a great treat for a Saturday dinner at home or a Sunday afternoon with friends and family. Serves 4 as is – add a couple more chicken pieces to serve 6.


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 half breasts)
  • 2 skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion (sweet/Spanish), thinly sliced
  • 4-6 sage leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 bottle (25.4 oz) Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider or 2-3/4 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups organic free-range chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat olive oil in large skillet. Season chicken with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, add to skillet and cook over medium heat about 7 minutes. Turn and cook another 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a platter for now.
    Chicken Cooking - Braised Chicken
  3. Add onions to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 5 minutes.
  4. Add sage, bay leaves, and crushed red pepper to the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden – about 5 minutes.
    Onions and Herbs - Braised Chickent
  5. Add the apple cider and simmer over moderately high heat for about 25 minutes until cider is significantly reduced and syrupy.
  6. Add the apple cider vinegar and simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the chicken stock and chopped parsley to a French oven. Transfer the onion sauce to the French oven, arrange the chicken in the sauce – ensuring its covered by sauce.
    Ready for the Oven - Braised Chicken

    Set the French oven, uncovered, in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Roast the chicken for 50-60 minutes until cooked through.

  8. Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover with foil.
  9. Set the French oven over high heat on the stove and boil the sauce until the liquid is reduced – about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a serving dish to serve with the chicken.

Enjoy the flavors!

Note: about 25 minutes before the chicken was ready to come out of the oven, we sauteed a mix of fresh vegetables with chopped garlic in olive oil and added a couple of splashes of balsamic vinegar and fresh lime juice at the end.

A Different Take on Hamersley’s Roast Chicken Recipe

Yesterday, for our New Year’s Day dinner, we tried a different take on Hamersley’s Roast Chicken recipe – one of our all time winter favorites. If you’re ever in Boston, you just have to go get the real thing at Hamersley’s Bistro!

For years, we’ve been making this dish based upon an older version of the recipe that we had found in Fine Cooking magazine almost 10 years ago. We came across this new recipe on the Relish web site and decided to try it instead.

The primary difference is in the marinade – with the new version including parsley and not including lemon juice. We made and applied the marinade ahead of time and let the chicken rest in the refrigerator for about 5 hours before starting cooking.

The result? Clearly a very moist, tasty chicken – with a different flavor in the skin crust from the parsley. The juices – including about ten roasted and crushed garlic cloves along with added lemon juice – added a final touch of flavor. We cooked the chicken with onions and roast potatoes along with roasting some tomatoes and green beans for sides.

All in all, it was a delightful winter meal on a cool and grey New Year’s Day afternoon.

Aunt Maxine’s Strawberry-Blueberry Spinach Salad

We had this special – and delicious – Strawberry-Blueberry Spinach Salad with our ham and tri-tips on Christmas Eve this year. The combination of flavors is just amazing! This is a delicious and easy to make spinach salad that everyone will enjoy.

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 (6-oz.) package of baby spinach
  • 8 oz. (1-1/2 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced in thin wedges
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. poppy seed


  1. Mix dressing ingredients until well blended. If necessary, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. In large salad bowl, mix and toss the salad ingredients.
  3. When ready to serve, pour dressing over salad to lightly coat.