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Westchase Recipes: Short Ribs in Belgian Ale

West Park Village resident Jason Sorvillo grew up in the Northeast in a family of Italian descent.

Naturally food played a large role in his childhood.

It wasn’t until he left home to pursue a degree at Boston College, however, that Sorvillo found he enjoyed preparing food just as much as he enjoyed eating it. At first Sorvillo cooked out of necessity when he found that cafeteria food just wasn’t cutting it. There were a few bumps along the road as he concocted recipes in his tiny, dorm-style kitchen.  “I once emptied out an entire eight-story dorm building,” he said with a laugh.

Eventually, he mastered the Italian staples he had grown up with. “There was always tomato sauce in our dorm,” he said.

During a stint in New Jersey following college, Sorvillo lived just down the street from an Asian grocery store and he began dabbling in the art of Asian cuisine. But it was a move to San Francisco that truly ignited his passion for cooking. “Food is a big part of the culture in San Francisco,” Sorvillo explained.

Sorvillo and his wife would spend their Saturday mornings pursing the famous Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, uncovering new ingredients with which to experiment – from an ever-changing assortment of fresh produce to gourmet sausages and perfectly aged cheeses.

Today Sorvillo prefers to focus on the process with which food is prepared, rather than strictly adhering to recipes. “Leaning about technique opens up a whole world in cooking,” he stated. But there are some recipes that are just hard to beat. That is the case with the recipe he has chosen to share with our readers. It was inspired by the recipe for Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale found in The Zuni Café Cookbook, written by the chef from Sorvillo’s favorite restaurant in San Francisco. “When I received this cookbook as a gift, I read it cover to cover,” he noted.

Short Ribs Braised in Belgian Ale

Ingredients:

2½ lb. short ribs
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1½ lb. yellow onions sliced 1/4 in thick
2 bay leaves
A few whole white peppercorns
A few slices dried wild mushrooms rinsed in warm water and coarsely chopped (optional)
Up to 1 cup beef or chicken stock
Up to 1 cup Belgian-style ale or mellow porter or stout
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Preparing the short ribs:

Over medium heat warm the oil in a 3-quart sauté pan. After wiping the meat dry with paper towels, brown the short ribs gently on the meaty sides, approximately 4 minutes per side. Drain excess fat.

In the pan arrange the meat, bone side down and add the onions, bay leaves, peppercorns, mushrooms, and equal parts stock and ale to a depth of three-quarters of an inch.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat until fork-tender, about 2 to 2½ hours.  (You can cook the braise in a pre-heated 300º oven if you prefer.)  Check two or three times to make sure that the liquid is barely simmering, and turn each piece of meat each time you check.  When the meat is done, uncover, prop the pan at a slight angle and leave to rest for 5 minutes. 

Turn on the broiler.

Skim the fat that has collected at the lower side of the pan.  Taste the juice and simmer as needed to concentrate flavor, adding salt as needed.  Make sure each piece of meat is bone side down, then brush or smear the tops with the mustard.  Set the pan under the broiler, about 5 inches from the heat, to brown the mustard and glaze the surface of the onion.  Stew for 5 minutes.

Serve the short ribs very hot, mustard plaster up, with a spoonful of the syrupy sauce and onions.

By Karen Ring

If you have a great recipe worth sharing, e-mail karenringfl@gmail.com

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Westchase Recipes: Quick Shredded Chicken Curry

Village Green resident Suzanne McLay grew up in England eating homegrown, home-cooked meals.

“My first exposure to cooking was baking with my Nana, who moved down from Scotland when I was about 7, and she had the patience of a saint! One of my most treasured possessions is my battered and dog-eared copy of the ‘Be-Ro’ baking book that she gave me,” McLay said.

Her interest in cooking turned to a love of cooking once she moved away from home and had time to experiment in the kitchen. “My first meal for my parents is still a family joke. I made the world’s spiciest curry. My dad thought he was going to faint it was so hot!” McLay added with a laugh.

McLay’s healthy eating habits gave way to indulgence when she began working for an American cruise line. “If you’ve ever cruised, you know that it is a calorie fest and I managed to eat everything in sight and gain a few pounds!” McLay exclaimed.

All of that unhealthiness led McLay back to school, where she completed her graduate degree in nutrition. Today she is a registered dietician.

“My focus now is on all things in moderation. I love to cook great tasting, healthy food that isn’t all lettuce leaves and supplements or fad diets. I feel that basic cooking skills have taken a back seat to other aspects of our lives, but would love to see a resurgence in easy, yet healthy meal prep that families can do together,” McLay added.

McLay has chosen to share her recipe for Quick Shredded Chicken Curry. She noted, “This recipe can be made when you have time on the weekend to use fresh ground spices and steamed chicken or it can be cooked in about 30 minutes on a Wednesday night after baseball practice. The spices can be modified to taste but I would leave in the turmeric and curry powder as these spices are thought to be anti-carcinogenic. Most Indian-inspired food is heavy on the ghee (clarified butter), but in this dish only a little heart healthy canola oil is used and the ground nuts give it another boost of heart-healthy, plant-based fats. You could make it even healthier by adding a handful or two of baby spinach at the end of the cooking time to give it a little color and texture.”

Quick Shredded Chicken Curry

Ingredients:

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast or shredded rotisserie chicken
2 oz. golden raisins
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds crushed (use cumin if you prefer)
1 in. fresh grated ginger
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper (optional for heat)
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. turmeric powder
1 Tbsp. curry powder (hot or mild)
6 oz. ground almonds (either grind in a food processor or buy at Trader Joe’s)
3 fl. oz. water
1 small can crushed pineapple in juice
2 oz. dried unsweetened coconut
2 oz. nonfat Greek yogurt

Accompaniments:

Steamed basmati rice (or frozen!)
Chopped red chili
Sliced banana
Greek yogurt mixed with grated cucumber or radish
Naan bread (purchased)
Sliced almonds (a few)

To Prepare:

Steam or poach the chicken fillets for about 20 minutes. Cool, then shred with two forks or your hands (Note: If you don’t have time to poach or steam chicken breasts, you can use shredded rotisserie chicken or put it in the slow cooker with skinless thighs.)

While the chicken is cooking, chop the onion finely and add the golden raisins to a small bowl and cover with water to soak and plump up.

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the crushed coriander or cumin seeds. Cook gently for a minute then add the chopped onion and cook, stirring often, until soft (a little salt added to the onion will encourage faster cooking).

Meanwhile, grate the ginger and finely chop the garlic (or use a food processor or a pestle and mortar) and add it to the pan with the curry powder, turmeric and cayenne if using. Stir well.

Add the ground nuts and dried coconut to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring. Then add the water and canned pineapple. Stir well and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Drain the golden raisins and add to the pan along with a little salt and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken and heat through for about 10 minutes.

Stir the yogurt into the chicken (crème fraiche also works well). Stir and garnish with some sliced almonds.

Serve with accompaniments and mango chutney if you have it.

By Karen Ring

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Lamb and Short Rib Ragu

Maria Kletchka of the Fords has been cooking for as long as she can remember.

“My parents were from Italy and cooking was like breathing in my home growing up,” she explained.

Kletchka’s cuisine of choice is definitely Italian, but she also enjoys experimenting with Asian dishes.

“I really love cooking because I really love eating! But really at the core, I love cooking because it brings people together. I am never happier than when I am in my kitchen enjoying great food, wine and conversation with the people I love,” Kletchka added.

Kletchka has agreed to share her recipe for Lamb and Short Rib Ragu with our readers. “This is one of my all-time favorite sauces and my go-to comfort food,” she said.

Before tackling this recipe, Kletchka has a few suggestions:

First, the quality of the ingredients you use will make a huge difference so always remember to spend a little extra on good ingredients. Second, if you make this the day before, it’s always better. Third, season each layer. It may seem like a lot of seasoning, but doing so will bring out the best flavors in your ingredients. Last, be sure to dry the meat with a paper towel before you cook it so it browns well.

Lamb and Short Rib Ragu

Ingredients:

1 lb. chopped lamb (see special note about cooking the meat)
2 lb. short ribs (bone in)
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups of good red wine
2 boxes of Pomi strained tomatoes
1 large can of San Marzano diced tomatoes
Salt
Pepper
Dried oregano
Good olive oil
Parmigianno Reggiano

Cooking Instructions:

Before you cook the meat, be sure to have all your veggies diced and ready in a bowl (keep the garlic separate).

Heat a heavy bottom Dutch oven (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Break up the lamb meat and cook evenly, breaking apart any large chunks so it cooks evenly. If the heat is too high, lower as needed. Season the meat with salt, pepper and oregano to taste as it cooks. Meanwhile, season the short ribs on all sides with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the lamb is cooked through, use a slotted spoon and scoop it into a bowl. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and place the seasoned short ribs in the Dutch oven. There should be sizzle so you can get a good brown crust on the meat. Cook them about two minutes on each side. Be sure to gauge the heat in the pan to prevent the meat from smoking and burning. Once each side is browned, place them in the same bowl as the browned lamb.

Lower the heat to medium low and add the carrots, celery and onion to the pot. Add a little olive oil if needed and season again with salt, pepper and oregano. Cook them for about six minutes until soft. Add the garlic. Just when it releases its aroma, add the wine and deglaze the pan. (Only use a wine you’d drink. If you use a cheap wine, it will make the sauce too acidic or too sweet.) Once the wine thickens and has glazed all the veggies, add one box of Pomi, mix well and lower the heat.

Taking a hand blender, blend the sauce so all the veggies almost liquefy, giving the sauce an incredible flavor. Once the sauce is almost smooth, add the other box of Pomi and canned tomatoes. You can add a little water as well. (Maria usually adds a bit of water to each box of Pomi and the canned tomatoes to get every bit of the tomato sauce into the pot.)

Mix all the ingredients so the sauce is well stirred and then add all the meat and any juices from the bowl. Mix well again. Afterwards, cook the ragu low and slow for about two to three hours until the short rib meat is tender and falling off the bone. Once tender, take the short ribs out, shred all the meat and put it back in the sauce. You can leave the bones in the sauce too to add flavor.

Removing the bones, serve the ragu over any pasta you’d like, but be sure to use good pasta such as Barilla or DeCecco. Maria suggests sprinkling it with fresh Parmigianno Reggiano before serving. While pricey, she says a little goes a long way and makes a world of difference.

Have a favorite recipe you suspect your Westchase neighbors would also love? E-mail Karen Ring at karenringfl@gmail.com.

Buon appetito!

By Karen Ring

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A Taste of Romania

For Bridges resident Mona Henson, cooking is a way to stay connected with her homeland of Romania.

Mona moved to the U.S. six years ago after meeting her husband Joe in an operating room in her hometown of Timisoara, Romania. Mona was a nurse and Joe, an orthopedic spine surgery physician assistant, was in the country providing surgical training.

Now, when Mona is looking for a taste of home, she turns to traditional meals from her childhood. While Romania draws culinary influence from both invaders and neighboring countries, it has developed a cuisine that is distinct from that of other European countries. Pork is the primary meat used in Romanian dishes, followed by beef and chicken. Meat dishes are typically accompanied by a variety of pickled vegetables, like cabbage, mostly cured in brine or vinegar. “We always had a large jar of pickled cabbage at our house,” Mona said.

During much of Mona’s childhood, Romania was under a communist regime (she was 13 when the Romanian Revolution put an end to the country’s communist ties in 1989). Meals were made to last and nothing was wasted. Mona holds true to this philosophy today. Typical everyday Romanian meals that can be made to last several days include sarmale (meat and rice stuffed cabbage) and a traditional beef and cabbage stew with a hearty tomato base.

For special occasions – everything from birthdays to holidays – the go-to dish is Salata de Boeuf or "beef salad." This Romanian favorite was originally made with beef, but is now made with whatever meat one has on hand. Mona prefers chicken. What remains constant is the use of potatoes and vegetables that are finely diced. Below is Mona’s recipe.

Salata de Boeuf

Ingredients

Salad
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced small (or substitute beef, turkey, ham, etc.)
1 cup peeled carrots
5 large hard-cooked eggs, diced
1 small onion, skin removed
1½ cups diced pickles
1½ cups frozen peas
All purpose seasoning to taste (Mona prefers Romanian favorite Vegeta brand seasoning available for order online).

Dressing
Mona creates her dressing from scratch using the following ingredients:
1 raw egg yolk
1 cooked egg yolk
2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp. mustard
Salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

OR you can use 1 to 2 cups of store-bought mayonnaise

Preparation

Boil potatoes, carrots and onion, whole. Once tender, discard onion (it is for flavor only) and finely dice potatoes and carrots. 

In a large bowl, combine diced potatoes and carrots, chicken and eggs. Squeeze the diced pickles lightly in a paper towel to remove some of their juice (otherwise the salad will be too watery) and add to the rest of the diced ingredients.

Place frozen peas in a colander and run cold water over them to defrost. Drain completely, patting dry if necessary, and add to the other diced ingredients. Add all purpose seasoning to taste.

To make Mona’s dressing, start by whisking raw and cooked egg yolk together, stirring constantly in the same direction. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in mustard. Gradually add oil until desired consistency is reached. Add lemon juice to taste. Or skip this step and use store-bought mayonnaise.

Add the dressing to diced ingredients in large bowl and toss to completely cover, reserving a portion of the dressing for garnish.

Transfer to a pretty serving bowl. Cover the entire top of the mixture with a thin layer of mayonnaise but enough so that no salad shows through. Garnish the top with reserved vegetables. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to serve chilled or serve immediately at room temperature.

Thanks to Mona Henson for sharing her recipe with us!

Have a favorite recipe you suspect your Westchase neighbors would also love? E-mail Karen Ring at karenringfl@gmail.com.

Happy cooking, Westchase!

By Karen Ring

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Westchasers’ Favorite Recipes: Vietnamese Pho Bo

Fords resident Jay Bravo discovered his love of cooking as a kid growing up in New Jersey.

“I learned early that if you make it yourself, you get to eat whatever you want,” Bravo said.

Bravo’s Italian roots influenced his early culinary endeavors. At the age of 6 he created his first Stromboli by fashioning dough out of a piece of white bread, stuffing it with his favorite fillings and baking it in the toaster over. “I wasn’t allowed to use the real oven,” Bravo said with a laugh.

From there, he progressed to lasagna, assembling it on his own and enlisting his parents to put it in the oven. These days, Bravo is still experimenting in the kitchen, using recipes as a base and then playing with the flavors to make the dish his own. Bravo now draws inspiration from across the globe to create dishes ranging from skirt steak with Argentinean chimichurri sauce to a classic Vietnamese soup known as Pho (pronounced “fuh”).  

Cooking in the Bravo household has now become a family affair, with kids Quinn, Max and Amelia, and wife Jen getting in on the act. Make-your-own-pizza night is a family favorite.

Bravo also brews his own beer and enjoys trying out new food and beverage pairings. He has graciously agreed to share his recipe for Vietnamese Pho, which he says pairs nicely with a dark beer. “A porter will really bring out the cardamom,” Bravo advised. 

The recipe below is for Pho Bo (beef). There is also Pho Ga (chicken). To create a vegetarian version, Bravo advised to simply replace the beef broth with vegetable broth and omit the meat. “Making it is really a two-step process: the soup base and compiling the ingredients,” Bravo said. “I make my own Pho stock using ox tail, beef bones, one whole roasted onion, roasted ginger (about a three-inch piece), a little brown sugar, salt and white pepper. If you’ve never made your own stock, or don’t have the five-plus hours needed to make it, you can start with a packaged beef broth,” he added.

Vietnamese Pho Bo

To make the Broth:
3 qt. beef stock (see directions above or substitute beef broth)
1 cinnamon stick (Chinese cinnamon preferred)
1 whole clove
1 star anise pod (found at Chinese markets, or substitute 1-11/2 tsp. anise extract)
1 black cardamom pod (optional; gives a hint of smoky flavor)

Simmer all ingredients for about 30-60 minutes and strain out the spices.

To make Soup:
1 lb. beef brisket
3 qt. broth (above)
Asian fish sauce (substitute soy sauce, but fish sauce adds more depth)
1 package dried rice noodles, cooked according to instructions on package
8-12 oz. thinly sliced beef top round (to slice ultra thin, freeze the meat for about 15 min. prior to slicing, then pound thinner with mallet)
1 bunch sliced green onions (about 1 cup)

Place brisket in large pot; add stock; bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for about one hour or until done (juices run clear when poked). Thinly slice brisket against the grain when cooled. Return broth to boil and add fish sauce.

Divide noodles into bowls, add brisket and thin raw beef slices. (Don’t worry; these will cook in the broth like fondue.) Ladle boiling hot stock over top and add green onions. Serve with a plate of garnishes below to allow each person to customize their soup to their own liking.

Garnishes served on the side:
Thai basil (substitute mint, not sweet basil)
mung bean sprouts
lime wedges
sliced jalapeno
Sriracha sauce
hoisin sauce

Thanks to Jay Bravo for sharing his recipe with us!

Have a favorite recipe you suspect your Westchase neighbors would also love? E-mail Karen Ring at karenringfl@gmail.com.

Happy cooking, Westchase!

By Karen Ring; Photo by Jen Bravo

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