Sunday, February 7, 2010


Guys, we just made beer. I got the husband a kit for Christmas and I had been harassing him to start for weeks now. We have some friends who do it and even though beer makes me sick it seemed like a good hobby for us to do together.

We traveled to the newly opened Brooklyn Homebrew a few blocks from our house and got the ingredients for a Belgian beer. The recipe is a cross between a chemistry lab and a Julia Child complicated recipe and we quickly determine that while we had the ingredients, the kit that I bought didn't have a number of important items. This led to a hilarious debate over whether some gauze, argyle stockings, old athletic socks, ugly purple pillow case, or stereo part bag would be the best choice to replace the soaking bag and the use of the packaging to replace a sampler.

Luckily we had two pros on hand and called Jon and Aaron a couple times, but of course, only to confirm that what we were doing was right. The actual brewing of beer is not hard but it is laborious, time consuming, incredibly sticky, and smells like a barn. They also make a big deal about sanitizing everything but the methods they follow are kind of hilarious to anyone who has ever stepped foot in a lab.

We'll wait a few weeks and see how it comes out. I'm in charge next and am going to see if they have any recipes for wheat free beer recipes.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mushroom Sausage Ragu for a Cold Winter's Night

Two forces converged to create tonight's dinner: I randomly bought some Quinoa Polenta and I found a post on for a hardy sausage mushroom ragu. Actually, two other things happened: It's been really cold in New York and I left work at the incredibly early hour of 5:30. This had more prep than usual but can easily be scaled back to reduce the prep time.

This is one of those recipes where if you have the right ingredients and don't burn anything too badly, you can build the recipe by taste. The recipe is an approximation of an dish I build on the fly and could easily read: brown sausage, saute mushrooms, mix all back together, roast portabellos, make polenta according to directions, etc.

Mushroom- Sausage Ragu on Polenta
Based upon Gourmet's Parmesan Crusted Polenta with Sausage- Mushroom Ragu
Serves 6

8 T olive oil
1.5 lbs spicy sausage, taken out of casing and separted into chunks*
3 clove garlic, minced
4 cups mushrooms, sliced
2T parsley, chopped
1T thyme, chopped
1 t tomato paste
1 cup red wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 large can crushed tomatoes

Heat up 1 T olive oil in a large saute pan on medium head, brown the chunks of sausage. Remove sausage and set aside. Add 2 T olive oil and minced garlic until it's golden brown. There was a pretty big mess of fond (the browned bits) on the bottom of the pan which is ok as long as they don't get too dark. Add the mushrooms and stir around to coat with oil. If you need more oil add another T, you just want to coat them not drown them in oil. Saute until they begin to wilt and give off their water, about 5-8 minutes. Scrape up all the brown bits with the edge of a wooden spoon and stir into mushrooms.

Add tomato paste, chopped parsley and thyme, and red wine. Simmer over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add crushed tomatoes, stir and simmer for 5-8 minutes or the tomatoes are incorporated into the sauce. Add the sausage, check salt and pepper levels, cover and set aside.

Make polenta according to the directions. I used one of the polenta and quinoa tubes and added it to instant polenta after it was done. I added lots of salt to the polenta water, pepper, and basil flakes.

Roasted Portabello Mushrooms
3 large portabello mushrooms, cleaned and destemmed
4 T olive oil
pepper to taste

Preheat the over to 300F. Coat both sides of the mushrooms with olive oil. I like to pour about a T on the side with the gills and make sure it is really coated. I also add a dash pepper. Place on cookies sheet covered with tin foil and roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Once you have made all the parts, place a portabello on the bottom of the shallow bowl, add one heaping ladle of polenta, and one heaping ladle of ragu.

* I used half spicy Italian sausage and half vegan Field Roast Italian sausage. They had similar flavor and slightly different textures but I would happily just use the fake sausage again.