Sunday, January 3, 2010

Recipe #1: Braised Vegetables with Prosciutto, Bacon, or Ham

I've decided to revive this blog to track one of my New Year's resolutions: to try 24 recipes outside of my comfort zone in 2010.

Why the resolution? Because I realized I keep buying cookbooks that I never cook from and watching cooking shows without trying any of the recipes and techniques I see on TV. I've always liked to cook without being all that good at it, but lately busyness and trying to please my 5-year-old has limited what and when I cook. It's not hard for me to find recipes outside my comfort zone because it's down to pasta (at least I do tasty homemade sauces), grilled cheese, baked potatoes, and assorted convenience foods.

Hence, 24 recipes outside my comfort zone, focused on but not limited to cookbooks I've acquired in the past two years. They can be main dishes, desserts, side dishes, whatever, just as long as they use techniques or ingredients that stretch my limited culinary skills and repertoire.

I picked 24 because it's a manageable number. When I cook on weeknights I rarely have time to experiment (or even spend more than 30 minutes getting dinner on the table), but I also cook on Saturdays. So two Saturdays of each month, I'll try something new.

Recipe #1 was Braised Vegetables with Prosciutto, Bacon, or Ham from Mark Bittman's Food Matters cookbook. It's a flexible recipe, allowing you to choose any smoked pork product or leave out the meat altogether, to select two pounds of any vegetables that strike your fancy, and to use stock, wine, beer, or water for the braising liquid. Here are the ingredients I used:

(I borrowed the cast of characters shot from the Pioneer Woman, and I'm going to continue using it, since it puts your mise en place in place.)

That's roughly half a pound each of green beans, kale, sweet potato, and carrots (yes, I used pre-cut baby carrots, so sue me), bacon, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary, olive oil, and an inexpensive Washington riesling for the braise. (I do try to support the local wine industry.)

From start to finish, the recipe took about an hour, most of it spent either chopping or waiting for the veggies to soften enough to eat. Up until I took the first bite, I wasn't expecting much, since it didn't have that much of a smell. Happily, I was wrong. The riesling braise tasted like a sweet, tangy vinaigrette, and the vegetables I chose complemented each other well. My husband agreed, so this one is a keeper. The only fault I can find is that some of the carrots were a little too crunchy, but if I'd let it go any longer the other veggies would've been overcooked.

The 5-year-old, however, took one bite apiece of carrot and green bean and made a disgusted face. Kid has become entirely too finicky.

Here's the finished, plated product:

(I'm also working on some health and fitness resolutions, but they don't currently involve following Mark Bittman's Food Matters program, as I'd intended when I started this blog before assorted health and personal issues drove me off course. I may blog about them, too, if I feel so inclined. But they're all about making incremental changes, and I don't think they're interesting enough to write about yet.)

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