As you may have read, I didn’t make any crazy New Year’s resolutions. I’ve found that, despite my best efforts, any resolution is well-intentioned in January and February, but come March, they sorta become forgotten. So because of that, I’m just going to resolve to make more reasonable goals throughout the year. It’s just more manageable that way.

That said, I’m sure you also indulged a little more than usual in December, right? We always go back East, to North Carolina, over the holidays to visit family and friends and as much as I like to feel in control, I really can’t be bothered to think too hard about all that I’m eating, and of course, all that I’m not (like salads and veggies). Bless their hearts, my family loves to eat. We had a pig pickin’, and if that wasn’t enough, we also had chicken pastry and fried chicken “on the side”. hahahaha.


The week after Christmas should have been a week to clear out all the badness, but we were still in NC, and even though Chris’ side of the family follows a more balanced eating lifestyle, there are still sweets galore, and man I do love the sweets. So when it came time to finish off the year, I really didn’t see a need to start all healthy and fresh right away. We figured we’d go ahead and load up on a little more meat, and like everyone else, take it a little easier after midnight. Okay, who am I kidding, not after midnight, but when we woke up the next morning. There are still treats to have after midnight.

So I made an Argentinian feast for six (that probably would have fed 12). MEAT!! We started out with a lighter ceviche (they do eat fish down in South America, by the way), then went straight into the meat with these tasty empanadas. Crunchy, flaky, and filled with beef, I could have eaten more than 2 but I stopped because I knew the third course was ready to be grilled and served. And that, my friends, was a huge plate of lamb spare ribs with chimichurri.  Very tasty.

As for dessert, I have a lovely Argentinian cookie recipe to share, but that will be later. If you like chocolate and caramel, stay tuned!


Flaky Beef Empanadas with Cilantro-Lime Crema
adapted from Food & Wine, January 2013; makes at least 16

other than the fact that these are awesome, the other best part is that you can easily make these in advance, refrigerate them, and reheat them in a 350 F oven for a little bit. you can also freeze them, unbaked and cook them straight from the freezer (obviously, you have to add more time). you can use whatever sauce you like, but I made another batch of crema from the tamale recipe.

time commitment: about 1.5 hours of active time, but include up to 8 hours total for refrigeration, baking, etc.

printable version

6 T unsalted butter
1/4 c plus 2 T lard
1 1/4 lb beef chuck, cut into 1/4-inch dice
kosher salt and black pepper
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3/4 c finely chopped scallions
2 t ground cumin
2 t crushed red pepper

1 c water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T kosher salt
3 1/4 c all-purpose flour
Oil, for greasing

3 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T no-salt-added chicken stock
1 T lime juice
1/4 t salt
1 (8-ounce) container light sour cream
1 large garlic clove, minced

make the filling: In a very large skillet, melt 4 T of the butter in 1/4 cup of the lard. Add the diced beef, season with a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and any liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, pouring any fat in the skillet over the beef.

In the same skillet, melt the remaining 2 T of butter in the remaining 2 T of lard. Add the onion, bay leaves and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is soft and golden, 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Scrape the onion and any fat over the meat and let cool slightly. Stir in the scallions, cumin and red pepper; season with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate overnight or at least for a few hours to let the flavors meld.

make the dough: In a small saucepan, bring the water, butter and salt to a simmer. When the butter is melted, pour the mixture into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the flour and stir until the dough comes together. On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the dough until almost smooth but still slightly tacky with some streaks of butter. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare crema by combining all crema ingredients; chill.

Preheat the oven to 400 F and oil/spray 2 large baking sheets. Work with 1 piece of dough at a time: On a generously floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a 5-inch round plate or cookie cutter, cut out 8 rounds of dough. Moisten the edge of the dough rounds with water. Mound 1 1/2 packed T of the beef filling on one half of each round and fold the dough over to form half moons; press the edges to seal. Pinch the edges at intervals to make pleats or crimp with the tines of a fork. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough to form 8 more empanadas.

Place the empanadas on the baking sheets and bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 35 minutes, shifting the pans once halfway through, until browned. Serve the empanadas warm or at room temperature.


On Starting Over

We fall down, and we get back up. We lose, so that we may hopefully win the next time around. We love, hoping to never find reason to hate. We fail, but eventually recover and succeed. We go through the days, the motions. Week by week, month by month, and year by year.

And at the end of each one, we start over. We begin. Again.

Each and every year, we resolve to become better people – either by way of our own experiences of the previous year or by watching others. We learn from ourselves and we learn from each other, and we make promises to ourselves to change. We resolve to do things differently this time around – this year.

And as I type, I realize that I didn’t make any resolutions last year. But this year, I have 6 very specific, very ‘do-able’ resolutions:

  1. I will lose the 10 pounds that culinary school gave me. That’s easy, right? Well, for a girl who loves to eat, not so much. Especially a southern carb-loving, sweet-loving one. But I will do it. My pants are tight, and sometimes I feel my belly jiggle. I don’t like that feeling one bit. Either of them.
  2. I will send Christmas cards. I’ve got a long time to work on that one, but I will stop being a Scrooge, get over the cost of postage stamps and try to get behind this new fad of the “picture cards” and I will send them to family and friends. That way I won’t be reminded, with every card we receive, of how slack we are in not doing it ourselves.
  3. I will find a way to use my culinary degree as a source of income, without changing careers or driving myself insane in the process. I love cooking too damn much to not use that expensive degree for something besides home-cooking. Think – dinner parties, personal chef, home-made goodies. The B&B in Napa will just have to wait :).
  4. I will become a better friend. I will pick up the phone, I will email, and I’ll take trips to visit those who are far away. I’ll stop relying on facebook. I’ll continue to be honest to them and protective over them. I will love them to no end, even when it hurts – and this year, I will try harder. And when they need me, I will be there.
  5. I will be a better wife. And I’m not saying I’m a bad one by any means, but I’ve seen my fair share of separation, divorce, betrayal and unhappiness this year among friends, family, and strangers. I realize every day how lucky I am to love and to be loved right back, just as much. How lucky we both are to be so terribly in love. And I will make sure he knows it. Because I am so damn lucky and there’s just no sense in not showing it. None at all.
  6. Contrary to resolution #1, I will eat a lot of good food. I’ll get better at eating fruits and veggies, I’ll heavily consider joining a CSA and sometimes I’ll splurge on a really really good meal. Well, more than sometimes. I will also stop cooking long enough to make it to Moto, Otom, Epic, Publican, Naha, Schwa, Topolobampo, and Mercat a la Planxa at some point this year.

Now that’s not so unreasonable of a list, is it? I’m betting number six might be the trickiest since I threw all those restaurants in there. But I will push through. If nothing else, I’m sure to eat some good food no matter how many restaurants I hit up.

And if all else fails, I’ve got a kick-ass super pricey recipe that still costs less than one dinner at any of those other places on my list. Enter tender, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth veal chops. I made them for the first time last month – a definite splurge but well worth it (not to mention the hubs yelling at me for spending too much on groceries in December – he apologized after dinner). And served with one of the best, and easiest, sauces I think I’ve ever made – a rich cabernet sauce that is so decadent you could drink it out of the pot. Serve it up with some mashed potatoes and a light arugula salad, and you’ve got yourself a restaurant meal in the comfort of your home. A definite keeper, and one dish that will certainly be made in 2010.

If that ain’t starting the year off right, I don’t know what is.

Pan-Roasted Veal Chops with Cabernet Sauce
Adapted from Food & Wine, December 2009; serves 4

printable recipe

1/4 c + 2 T evoo
4 thyme sprigs
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
4 12-oz, bone-in veal rib chops
2 c Cabernet Sauvignon
2 lg shallots, finely chopped
1 T unsalted butter
2 T ap flour*
2 c beef stock
salt and pepper

in a large, shallow dish, combine 1/4 c evoo with thyme and garlic. Add veal chops and turn to coat with marinade. refrigerate overnight

in a medium saucepan, combine wine with half of the shallots and boil until the wine has reduced to 1/2 c, about 15 minutes

in a small saucepan, melt the butter. add remaining shallot and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. stir in flour. slowly whisk in stock until smooth, then bring to a boil, whisking until thickened. whisk in reduced wine and simmer over low heat, whisking, for about 30 minutes. strain sauce into the medium saucepan. season with salt and pepper (can be made up to 3 days in advance if needed).

preheat oven to 325 F. in a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil until shimmering. remove veal chops from marinade; discard thyme and garlic. season chops with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. cook over high heat until browned, about 3 minutes per side. transfer skillet to oven and roast chops for about 10 minutes, turning once halfway through; veal should be just pink in the center. transfer to plates and spoon sauce on top.

*use GF flour if needed.