Braised Beef Sandwich

In hot summer months, normal people tend to prepare foods that don’t require too much time standing near a stove top – colorful salads, easy pastas, perhaps seafood. I, on the other hand, had a hankering for braised beef this week. As I stood sweating in the kitchen, I became fully aware this was more of a winter preparation, but then I figured if I put the finished product into a sandwich, it would make it more weather-balanced.

In the end, I was happy with my braise and loved the flavors of the resulting sauce, which I had made by combining homemade chicken broth, a bottle of red wine, diced red onion, loads of garlic, and a bit of tomato paste and brown sugar, along with various herbs and spices. I used London Broil, which is usually cooked quickly (hence the name) to prevent drying out, but after about three hours in a simmering pot, it was tender and full of the surrounding flavors.

To make the sandwich I used a mini baguette I had found at Costco a while back. The instructions on the bag mentioned that the baguettes could be individually frozen for several months, and then reheated in the oven as needed. The process is perfect, it’s like having freshly made bread every single time.

The addition of avocado was a no-brainer because if I have it on hand, I put it in everything, especially sandwiches.

I also knew I wanted something tangy so I sliced up some red onions, blanched them quickly, and then left them to soak in a hot mixture of rice wine vinegar, sugar, minced jalapenos, and a pinch of cinnamon.

I loved this braised beef sandwich. The crusty bread stood up to the moist and savory meat, and the pickled red onions and creamy avocado added even more texture and flavor. I think I’ll be making this meal every season from now on!


Never Let Me Go

When I first watched the film Gone With The Wind, I thought that it was as good as the book by Margaret Mitchell.  The book was great, but the film was also fantastic on its own.  For me that’s a rare feeling, as I usually find the original books to be immensely better.

Last week I finished reading Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (author of The Remains of the Day). The book is about three friends, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, who grow up together in an English boarding school, and continue to be friends into young adulthood. The book is categorically science fiction but the way Ishiguro develops the characters, their relationships, and their experiences made me often forget that point.

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I watched the film version of it just a day after I completed the book and was disappointed. Perhaps because it was so fresh in my mind, I hadn’t had enough time to separate my thoughts and perceptions of what I had just read in order to just enjoy the film. To me, it left out some of the most poignant moments of the book, and also didn’t capture the heightened emotions that Ishiguro had injected into his writing. There’s also a huge twist in the book that the author slowly teases us with. It’s revealed layer by layer, as the characters and their world evolve. In the film, however, it’s presented quicker, and the science fiction aspect is more obvious throughout.

Carey Mulligan first impressed me in the film An Education, and she is perfectly cast in the role of Kathy, the most introverted and thoughtful of the trio. Ruth and Tommy are played by Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield (from The Social Network), and they are also good but not as good as Mulligan.

Overall, I may have enjoyed this film more if I hadn’t read the book first. It was hard to watch when so many details were left out, especially ones that I felt were important to the characters’ stories. To me, the book was amazing and the film was only average.

White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve had an unopened bag of white chocolate chips in my refrigerator for some time now and I finally got around to using it in these cookies, as well as some dried cranberries and pecans I had on hand. I used a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe for the dough because I love the buttery, brown sugar flavor. I really liked the combination of the sweet white chocolate, the tart cranberries, and the crunchy pecans. Next time I make this cookie I plan to overload it with the mix-ins so it’s chunkier.

The Inbetweeners

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A friend of mine recently recommended a British comedy series called The Inbetweeners. I had never heard of it, but found that the first two seasons were available on Netflix to stream instantly.  Each episode is less than half an hour long, and each season was six episodes, so in one lazy weekend I was able to watch both seasons.

The show revolves around the daily lives and mishaps of four awkward teenage boys and their attempts to co-exist with the popular crowd, the bullies, their exasperatingly caring parents, and the most confounding group in their world – girls. As well as finding themselves between social strata, they’re also no longer little boys, but not quite men – hence the title of the show (I assume). The group of four consists of a cautious nerd (Will), an endearing idiot (Neil), a pathologically lying know-it-all (Jay), and an average Joe (Simon).

I found it to be extremely well written, and perfectly cast. It is raunchy, cringe-inducing, and often hysterical, and the chemistry between the four boys is realistic and at times adorable. It’s like The Wonder Years, but far more obscene. As with other successful shows featuring foursomes (Seinfeld, I Love LucyThe Golden Girls, Sex and the City), there’s a character for every viewer.

I’m looking forward to watching the third season, as well as an accompanying full-length feature film that was released in the UK last year.

MTV has produced an American version of this show (which makes sense because the language and situations in the original would never be allowed to air on any basic network here) that will premiere in August, but I saw a trailer for it and it looks awful. The acting is not as good, the script seems to be a watered-down version of the original, and it looks all-around cheesier. I also read recently that an American studio is re-doing the movie, which makes no sense at all, and will probably also be terrible.

Gran Electrica

5 Front Street, Brooklyn
(718) 852.2789

This Saturday I joined a couple of friends in Brooklyn for eating, drinking, and gallavanting. We met up in Dumbo and headed over to Gran Electrica for margaritas and tacos. The restaurant is spacious and consists of multiple rooms as well as a big backyard area with loads of tables, so we chose to sit outside to take advantage of the unusually Spring-like mid-July afternoon. We shared a crab tostada and an assortment of meat tacos (beef brisket, carnitas, and tongue). The food was prepared well and really flavorful, and the tamarind margarita that I drank was tart, sweet, and refreshing.

By early evening, we had ended up in another part of Brooklyn and finished our day off with some excellent handmade ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery (which I had first sampled at Choice Eats 2012). Their salted “crack” caramel flavor is crazy good.