Friday, March 8, 2013

Comfortable in the Kitchen - Meredith Laurence

My mom knows how much I love to cook, and she also knows  I'm a sucker for good olive oil.  So it was a pretty easy bet when she saw a cooking show on QVC that featured both a cookbook and olive oil that this would be the perfect Christmas gift for me.  

The cookbook is written by Meredith Laurence, a personality I was unfamiliar with.  Apparently she has been in the industry forever, running restaurants, teaching at a culinary school, and now featuring her own show on QVC.  Every cookbook has an angle, and hers is that everyone is capable of being comfortable in their kitchen.  It just takes practice.  So she introduces a basic recipe, then provides several others that use the same technique but with different ingredients, to give you practice without boredom setting in.  

Meredith's recipes are extremely easy to follow, with a short list of simple ingredients for each.  Most of the recipes have big, bright photos, with tips and comments along the way.  

Meredith has four rules that she has taught to many culinary students that contribute to success and happiness in the kitchen.  They are:

1.  Read the recipe start to finish before you begin cooking.  (Ever get elbow deep and hours into a project and realize you don't have ginger, for example?  Yeah.  I've been there.)

2.  Buy the best ingredients you can.  

3.  Do all your prep work first.  Chopping, measuring, etc. done in advance makes things a lot less stressful.  (And allows a leisurely glass of wine along the way.)

4.  Taste your food before you take it to the table.  

I have cooked my way through this wonderful cookbook, but here is one of my favorite (and my family's favorite) recipes.  (Please note that the picture is not is something I found online that very closely resembles the finished product.  I am horrible about taking pictures of my food!)

Orange Braised Beef Short Ribs

2 TBL olive oil
4 pounds beef short ribs
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups orange juice
2 TBL soy sauce
2 TBL chopped fresh chives

1.  Pre-heat large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil.  When oil is hot and almost smoking, season the short ribs with salt and pepper and sear them in batches, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes per batch.

2.  Once the ribs are nicely browned, remove them to a side plate and set aside.  Pour off the discard the fat that has accumulated in the pan.  Add onion and celery and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaf and continue to cook for another minute.

3.  Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Let the wine simmer and reduce until it has almost entirely disappeared.  Add the orange juice and soy sauce and bring the mixture back to a simmer.  Return the browned short ribs to the pan, reduce the heat to very low and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid.

4.  Let the ribs simmer on very low heat, or cook in the oven at 300 degrees for roughly 5 hours.  The meat should be so tender that it falls off the bone.  Remove the ribs from the pan and set aside, loosely covered with foil, increase the heat under the pan and reduce the braising liquid until it has thickened slightly and is almost syrupy like a glaze.  Return the ribs to the pan and turn them to coat.

5.  Serve the ribs over smashed potatoes, spoon a little sauce on top and garnish with chives.  The sauce can also be strained if you prefer a smooth finish.  

This recipe elicited groans from my husband and son.  You would have sworn there were dogs in the room because it seemed like they were even trying to eat the bones.  


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rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love food that elicits groans! LOL I remember once when I was first working in a library and our boss brought back hot just baked chocolate chip cookies for us (5 or 7 of us), and we were in the back eating them and moaning and groaning, and pretty soon a crowd formed outside the office - they thought we were doing something else! LOLOL

JoAnn said...

I'm a firm believer in all her rules!

Beth F said...

The recipe looks so easy!

bermudaonion said...

Yeah, reading the recipe all the way through is key, isn't it? Taking food photos is tough - someone should write a book about it.

This cookbook sounds easy to use and that recipe sure looks terrific!!

Unknown said...

The recipe sounds so good, I've never made short ribs. I love cookbooks, and I need to use mine more!!

Trisha said...

Simple is good. But I am betting your version of simple cooking is not the same as mine. Man do I wish I liked to cook. Perhaps more wine would help.....

Ali said...

I'm terrible about taking pictures of food, too. When I remember to do it, the photo ends up looking totally unappetizing.
This recipe sounds so delicious, and I like the concept behind the book.

Unknown said...

That recipe sounds so good! The advice is interesting though. I never prep all my ingredients in advance. Doesn't that just lead to loads of extra washing up? I also get bored of peeling/chopping etc so like to spread it out a bit. If only I had a dogsbody I could get to do all the annoying bits so I could get on with the cooking (and taste testing!)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

"Read the recipe start to finish before you begin cooking." Simplest thing in the world, but I've absolutely made the mistake of not doing it. That recipe looks so good!

Heidenkind said...


I'm also a sucker for good olive oil. My mom claims she can't tell the difference between one and the other.

Julie P. said...

I'm not sure that my husband and daughter would eat that but I know I would! And my son isn't even allergic to anything in that recipe. I'm looking for this cookbook now!

Laurie C said...

I don't follow any of the four rules, but I agree with all of them. I come closest to following #2, I guess. The recipe sounds like a keeper!

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

I like all of the rules, they make so much sense. I was looking for something to make for dinner tonight and your short ribs look perfect.

caite said...

I totally agree with her 4 rules...not that I always do them, but I know I should. Having everything prepped is such a joy when cooking...

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I'm off to try a cookbook today. Read and cook. Read and cook. I think it's the kind of reading mi esposo will like, too.

Anonymous said...

I'm always forgetting to do the prep work in advance and then miss out on the wine :( Maybe that's my problem with cooking!