Tuesday, October 28, 2008

JJ, will you marry me?

My face is sore from smiling; my legs are tired from dancing and my voice is hoarse from singing. The JJ Grey and Mofro show last weekend just might have been my all-time favorite concert.

I'm a somewhat recent Mofro fan, but it didn't take long to fall in love with their sound – a swampy mixture of soul, rock, blues and funk. I saw them on a whim last year in Hollywood, and by the end of the first song, I was hooked (and not just because JJ is amazingly dreamy). They effortlessly enlivened the crowd with their Southern-fried soul and back-porch blues.

After an amazing 2.5-hour show, I immediately bought every single one of their albums. And this time around I sang along to each and every song.

Check out their new album. It's amazing.
  1. Orange Blossoms
  2. The Devil You Know
  3. Everything Good Is Bad
  4. She Don't Know
  5. The Truth
  6. Wylf
  7. On Fire
  8. Move It On
  9. Higher You Climb
  10. Dew Drops
  11. Ybor City
  12. I Believe (In Everything) (My personal favorite)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The "ultimate" stew

As promised, here is a picture of one of the most delicious comfort foods I've had this fall -- Tyler Florence's ultimate beef stew. This is the type of meal that makes you feel warm and good all over.

  • 2 to 3 pounds beef shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs, plus 4 sprigs
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 cups blanched and peeled red pearl onions
  • 1 orange, peel cut in large strips
  • Cloves, a few
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bottle good quality dry red wine (recommended: Burgundy)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, for frying, plus more to drizzle
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Bouquet Garni
  • 2 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 pound baby carrots
  • 1/2 pound garden peas
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, cut in half
  • Pinch sugar
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, as garnish
  • Chives, finely chopped, as garnish
  • Garlic puree, recipe follows
  • Croutons, recipe follows
  • Serving suggestion: buttery mashed potatoes with chives and warm croutons with garlic puree

To make the marinade, place the beef in a large glass or plastic container. Add 8 sprigs of thyme, carrots, garlic, red onions, orange peel, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, and the wine. Mix well to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Remove beef from the marinade and blot dry on paper towels. Heat the oil and butter and the remaining 4 sprigs thyme in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on a high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, remove the thyme. Add the beef and brown evenly on all sides. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Strain the marinade into the beef and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up the flavorful bits in the bottom of the pot. Add bouquet garni and beef stock. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the liquid starts to thicken, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours.

After about 2 hours add the baby carrots, garden peas, and mushrooms, along with a pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with chopped parsley and chives. Squeeze some of the roasted garlic onto the croutons, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with the stew.

Garlic puree:
  • 2 heads garlic, cut in half horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a sprig of thyme and fold the foil around the garlic. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until garlic is tender and golden brown.


  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 6 slices bread

Heat about 1/4-inch of the olive oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the bread in batches and fry until golden on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and dry on paper towels.