Archive for the ‘Meat’ Category

Poulet au Grand Marnier (or whatever)

12 May 14

[Herself sez: I’m posting this for the Ol’ Curmudgeon]

Yes, this is French in derivation. Yes, there is a reduction sauce involved. Simple and quick – rice takes 30 minutes – 20 cooking and 10 resting. If you start cooking the yard-bird at the same time everything will work out nicely. This is for 2 people – just do the math for more. Don’t faint – there is no butter here (well, not much) – just whipping cream and booze.

2 Tbs orange juice or half an orange – juiced and zested
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut in pieces
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil and/or unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 tsp ginger or 1-1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 Tbs Triple sec, Grand Marnier, Cointreau
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 Tbs whipping cream

If you’ve got a fresh orange, then juice and zest and set aside. Otherwise use orange juice (necessary) and dried orange peel (optional).

Cut up the chicken breast into 1” or thereabouts cubes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. In an iron or other good heavy skillet get the oil and/or butter hot and brown the chicken turning so as to get evenly done and browned. Set the chicken pieces aside.

In the same skillet on low heat cook the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir while cooking over low heat until translucent and soft. About 5 minutes or less. Add the orange flavored booze of choice – and pocketbook – and availability. Triple sec, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau all will work well. Triple sec is probably the most affordable. Anyway cook on a gentle boil while stirring and reduce volume by half.

When the volume is reduced add the cream and orange zest, or sprinkle some dried orange peel into the pan and boil for a minute, stirring the pan pretty often. Add the chicken and stir everything together – then simmer for a couple of minutes until everything is warmed through.

Serve over the bed of choice. Rice is especially good. Pasta is probably O.K. if that is what grabs your taste buds. Anything else that comes to mind is probably O.K., too.

Leg of Lamb with Citrus Dressing

20 April 13

{{Herself Sez: With Pascha (Orthodox Easter) approaching on May 5, 2013, I’m posting (for Himself) one of his recipes for lamb – a traditional food for Pascha. Enjoy!}}

This is a rather good variation on the normal mint-sauce roast lamb. The basic roasting of a lamb leg is not something that varies a whole lot. The main difference here is the dressing. So – let’s roast a leg.

1 leg of lamb – around 3 lbs.
1 Tbs salt
1/2 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small orange, sliced
1 large lemon, sliced
1/2 tsp rosemary (or about 1 sprig fresh)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grind up the salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and rosemary together with a mortar and pestle to make a rough-grained paste. Then rub the lamb all over with the spice mix. Rub gently with the olive oil, don’t rub off the spices. {If the olive oil is rubbed on first, and the spices rubbed on after that, as the roast heats up, about 90% of the spicing drips off. Also, the spices don’t have a chance to “sink into” the roast, giving up their flavor to the meat.} Place the lamb, fat side up, on a rack in a large baking pan and cover with orange and lemon slices secured by toothpicks. If you want a crustier outside then don’t cover with the orange and lemon slices. Baking time will vary, depending on your taste. Essentially, do it as you normally would if you have a preference. I use a thermometer and cook in a 375° oven until it is 155° internally. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes to reabsorb the juices and stabilize temperature – it will coast up to 160°, which is medium and very nice. Since I cook by temperature, not time, oven variation is not a big factor, but I do occasionally mis-time the roast and the rest of the meal. (About 25 min a pound – give or take).

Just before the roast is ready jam the dressing together. This stuff sounds weird, and the first taste is sometimes weird – but it has one of the nicest after-tastes ever. Be prepared with some mint sauce in case someone doesn’t like this – but I think that most will find it very nice.

1 zest of a small orange – or some dried orange peel
1 zest of a small lemon – or some dried lemon peel
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano leaves – or 1 tsp dried
1 Tbs salt – sea salt is good
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Just dump all the dressing ingredients into a blender and make it smooth

Slice up the roast and serve it with the dressing. You can pour the dressing over the slices or serve it on the side in small bowls for dipping. I think you will enjoy this.

Roulade Delicious

20 April 13

It is time to revisit the good old roulade. I have written on these goodies before with the title Roll ‘Em Up – Beef. You can look that one up so I will not give all the discussion in that previous article.

 1  ea flank steak

So what you need is a nice flank steak. You can ask your butcher to run it through the tenderizing machine one in each direction. This should give you a thickness of about 1/4” and also enlarge and tenderize all at once. If you don’t do that just take a tenderizing mallet and keep whacking with the rough side until you get the aforementioned 1/4” thickness. Try not to knock holes in the beef while you are having fun.

Now you need a stuffing. I will give you a recent one that we liked. You are certainly welcome to use your own ideas and variations.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot OR several small ones, chopped (about 1/2 volume of onion)
2 ribs celery, chopped (about 1/2 volume of onion)
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
2-3 slices ham and/or prosciutto, chopped
unsalted butter
olive oil

Heat olive oil and unsalted butter in a heavy skillet until the butter stops foaming and just begins to color. Turn the heat down and gently sauté the onion for a couple of minutes. Add carrots and celery and continue sautéing for another minute or so. Add the mushrooms and continue the sauté for another couple of minutes. You may need a bit more  olive oil/butter.  Add the ham/prosciutto and keep cooking gently for one or two minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

1 cup beef broth, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup rice
salt
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Heat the broth in a saucepan. You can add ¼ cup of red wine to the liquid. That is good. Mix chopped garlic and salt and grind together with a mortar and pestle if you have them, or just use a cutting board and spoon to mash and stir if necessary. Add the garlic and salt mixture to the saucepan. Heat some olive oil/butter in a pan and, when the foaming stops, add in the rice and stir to get all the grains covered with lube. You only need medium heat for a minute or two. We use a rice mix with white, brown, and wild rice. Whatever you use, add it to the saucepan – be careful – if the broth is at or near boiling temp and you dump hot rice in it is going to boil up nicely. Sort of a sizzling rice effect. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. (Or whatever your rice requires.)

olive oil
unsalted butter
1/3 cup vermouth
1/3 cup beef broth

Heat the pan with the stuffing and add the rice to it. This would be a good time to taste and add whatever spices you like. Salt and pepper are just about always going to be needed. Others are optional. Spread the stuffing over the flattened flank steak. You may have some stuffing left over. That is fine. You can make some sandwiches with the goodie and some mayo or whatever later. Anyway, spread the stuffing, roll the steak and tie it up with butcher’s twine enough to hold it together. Be sure to secure the ends also. Get a heavy Dutch oven, lube with olive oil/butter. When the butter stops foaming and is golden start searing the roast. About 2 to 3 minutes for each side all the way around. Remove the roast, turn off the heat and add 1/3 cup of vermouth and 1/3 cup beef broth. Turn the heat back on, boil and whisk all the little pan goodies in. When the liquid is reduced by about half, add enough vegetable or chicken broth to get about 1/2” or so of liquid. Put in the roast and simmer, covered for 20 minutes per side.

3 Tbs butter
1/3 cup vermouth
1/3 cup beef broth
vegetable or chicken broth

While the roast rests (tented with foil on a cutting board) prepare the sauce. Add 1/3 cup vermouth and 1/3 cup broth to the liquid. Whisk while boiling rapidly. When reduced enough to start getting a bit thickish turn down the heat and add butter a tablespoon at a time, whisking each until melted and emulsified. Carve the roast, plate, and drizzle sauce over the slices. Serve immediately.

For those who wondered: the olive oil and butter combo does have a good reason. Yes, you could use either by itself, but the butter gives a sweeter, more intense taste than the olive oil alone. Olive oil raises the burning temp of the butter enough to make it practical as a sautéing medium and is healthier than butter alone. This is a very old and traditional medium and is very tasty and satisfactory. Oh yeah – we use unsalted butter so that we can control the amount of salt in the food and not get over-salting, which is not only unhealthy – but also tastes bad.

{{Herself sez: OMG! This is WONDERFUL! 5 Yummies! But not for Great Lent – or any other Orthodox fasting season.}}

Five-Spice Chicken

13 April 13

OK. I confess. I haven’t been much of a cackle fan over the years. I finally figured it out. 90% of the Americans who cook chickens just don’t take the time to do it right, and the majority of American chicken does not taste like chicken (funny, everything else is supposed to). Mostly American chickens don’t taste at all. Anyway, get free range birds that are not force grown when you can. The taste difference is rather dramatic. Even better – if you are somewhere that you can – raise your own and slaughter them when they are the proper age. We shall serve no bird before its time. (Does anyone else remember Orson Welles doing the wine commercials?) Anyway, Herself is a cackle connoisseur – or a yard-bird yokel, if you prefer, and has convinced me that all cackles are not bad. So now we cackle every now and then.

This is one of those things that can be done several different ways. The marinade can be muchly varied, but this is a very good basic. I’ll do some more elaborate marinades over the next couple of months.

1 Roasting hen – 5 or 6 pounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots
1-1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1-1/2
Tbs
 Nước Mắm – Vietnamese fish sauce (1)
1-1/2 Tbs soy sauce (low sodium is good here)
1-1/2 Tbs dry sherry
Nước Chấm (1)
Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Mince the garlic, shallots, and sugar together. The best way to do this is a mortar and pestle, but you could use a food processor. Get the mix rather fine and add in the salt, pepper, and 5 spice powder and mix together well. Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sherry. A comment about soy sauce: if you use full sodium soy sauce cut the added salt by half or leave it out altogether – that stuff is salty. Gently slide your fingers between the skin and the meat as best you can without tearing the skin. Slip a good bit of the mix in and then rub the rest over the surface of the bird, working it in well. Let things soak at least 4 hours (or overnight) in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can use most any wine you like but the dry sherry is rather traditional Vietnamese.

You can do this three ways that are rather good:

  1. Rotisserie – on the spit for about 1-1/2 hours (my favorite)
  2. Vertical roaster in the oven at 450°F for about 15 minutes and then 350°F for about 1-1/4 hours
  3. Split the bird in half and cook on a grill over medium hot coals skin side down for about 15 minutes, flip and roast another 15 minutes.

No matter which method you use you are trying for done chicken – about 160°F with crisp skin. You will have blackish looking skin, BUT – it should be blackened from the Maillard reaction, not from burning. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes. If you are using an indoor rotisserie then you can keep the spit turning with no heat. That keeps the juices in while they are being re-absorbed.

This goes nicely with a Nước Chấm (1) (2) dipping sauce. Rice is also handy, as is a side salad. The only disadvantage to this method is that the carcass shouldn’t be used for making soup or stock.

(1) Discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

(2) Another discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

Duck, You Sucker

30 January 13

Fesenjan

Persian (Iranian) Duck with Walnuts

1 duck, quartered
2 onions, sliced
10 oz ground walnuts
2-1/2 cups water
salt
pepper
4 Tbs pomegranate syrup
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Remove all the excess fat from the duck and brown the quarters lightly in a large casserole. Lift out the duck and fry the onions until browned, then add the walnuts and 2 1/2 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper. Return the duck to the pan, and bring the sauce to the boil. Simmer for about an hour until the duck is almost tender. Stir the pomegranate syrup and sugar into the lemon juice. Skim as much fat as possible from the casserole and then stir in the juice mixture. Simmer for another 30 minutes until the sauce is quite dark. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water.

Serve with rice.

Duck à l’Orange

1   5-6-pound   duckling
  salt and pepper, to taste
8   oz   chicken stock
1   Tbs   sugar
1   Tbs   champagne wine vinegar
2   Tbs   brandy
12   oz   orange juice
3   Tbs   lemon juice (1 lemon)
1   tsp   butter
4   oranges, peeled and sectioned
4   Tbs   orange zest, julienne
Canard à l'orange

Canard à l’orange (Photo credit: franziskas garten)

Prick the duck with a fork and rub well with salt and pepper.

Roast the duck at 400°F for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and cook until done, approximately 45-60 minutes. Remove the duck from the roasting pan and hold in a warm place.

Degrease the roasting pan. Place the pan on the stove top and deglaze with the stock.

Melt the sugar and vinegar together in a saucepan and lightly caramelize the mixture.

Remove the caramelized sugar from the stove top and add the brandy.

Add the stock, pan drippings and juices to the pan of sugar and reduce until the sauce is slightly thickened, approximately 10 minutes. Monter au beurre. Strain and degrease the sauce.

Blanch the orange zest in boiling water.

Place the duck on a warm serving platter. Arrange the orange sections around it. Sprinkle the zest over the duck. Pour the sauce over the duck and serve additional sauce on the side.

Duck Breast with Red Rice, Chard and Apricot Mustard

 8   duck breasts, skin on
  salt and pepper, to taste
  3   oz   chard leaves, torn
  4   oz   butter
  1   pint   chicken stock
  2   quarts
  Red Rice, recipe follows, cooked
  3   Tbs   parsley, chopped
  1   cup   Apricot Mustard, recipe follows
  1   oz   sliced almonds, toasted
duck

duck (Photo credit: stu_spivack)

Score the skin of the duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife. Season with salt and pepper and place the breasts skin side down in a rondeau. Without turning the breasts, cook them over low heat, rendering the fat from their skin, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, approximately 15 minutes. Turn the duck breasts in the pan and turn off the heat. Allow them to rest in the pan for 30 seconds. Then remove the breasts from the pan and allow them to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Sauté the chard in 2 ounces (60 grams) of the butter until it wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the cooked Red Rice and season with salt and pepper. Vigorously beat in the remaining butter and parsley and heat over moderate heat until the rice is hot, approximately 1 minute.

Slice the duck breasts and arrange on eight warm plates. Garnish with the wilted chard, brush the breasts with the

Sprinkle with almonds and serve with Red Rice on the side.

Red Rice

  1/2
  Tbs   butter
  2   Tbs   shallots, minced
  1/2   lb   red rice
  1   quart
  chicken stock
  1   bay leaves
  1   tsp   salt

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and sweat the shallots, without coloring for approximately 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat.

Add the chicken stock, bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is absorbed,  approximately 20 minutes.

Spread the cooked rice on a sheet pan, remove the bay leaves and refrigerate.

Kielbasa

24 December 12

[Herself SEZ: The Ol’ Curmudgeon wants me to add the following CAUTION:

If you smoke sausage or keep it a long time you need to add cure: instacure or prague powder. About a teaspoon per 5 lbs. of meat will do it. Smoking is the perfect environment to grow certain types of bacteria that can make you very sick. If you add the cure you will be pretty safe.

Herself adds, this is to prevent severe food-borne illnesses – like botulism! Also, cook your homemade sausage to an internal temp of 178deg F and hold it there for 10 minutes. This will destroy the toxin which causes the poisoning.]

The people of the Middle East have a real thing about pigs. Unclean! Unclean! Is the cry of both Jew and Moslem. Notice that both groups come from the same neck of the woods. The reason they have problems with the porkers is actually rather practical, if you:

– keep your pigs in unclean conditions

– allow them to eat offal and rats (they’re as good a ratter as a cat)

– don’t have cold weather for slaughtering

– don’t have modern refrigeration

– don’t cook the meat done

You are probably going to have Trichinosis, a parasitic worm that encysts in the host. Gross! Yech! Not only can kill you, but also hurts! BTW – you can also get it from undercooked game.

However, when kept clean, properly fed, slaughtered in cool weather (not found in the Middle East), and properly refrigerated, the risk is non-existent. The noble pig is a staple of people of discrimination and good culinary taste around the world. Now, everyone except the Jews and Moslems has sausage recipes, but the two groups that have made the absolute most of the lovely creature are the Germans and Eastern Europeans. Volumes could be (and have been) written about the German and Eastern European pork recipes. There are umpteen thousand different sausage recipes.

Sausage, Swojska, Polish, kiełbasa

Sausage, Swojska, Polish, kiełbasa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must admit that my all-time favorite is kielbasa. Now there are a slew of variations on the word (and the recipe), all the way from the Czech to the Polish to the Ukrainian, generally the whole neck of the woods of Northern to Eastern Europe and on into Russia. Mostly we get wiejska kielbasa when we get it from an American supermarket. The Hillshire Farms u-shaped stuff comes to mind. Now this is pretty good. Just slice it into rounds about 1/4” thick and gently heat in a heavy skillet until it is light brown to dark brown on both sides. Just serve it up and chow down. However, if you have access to some sort of Eastern European market, try some of the variations, they’re just about all good. But, if you want to roll your own, here’s a starter:
.

4 lbs. Clean, tender pork – butt is fine, chunk it into pieces

1 lb. Fatback, chunk it up

1 lb. Beef – if you want tender, use veal, chuck for a rougher texture, chunk it up

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tablespoon ground allspice

other spices to taste and to vary – try some marjoram for that traditional Polish taste

lots of garlic and pepper for the Krakow type

or any other spicing which suits

garlic is always good

brown sugar will give it a sweet taste

1/2 cup cold water

Sausage Casings

Pre-mix all the spices. Grind or mince the meat. Add the spices. Mix everything thoroughly. Stuff the sausages per directions of whatever stuffer you have.

If you’ve got the Kitchen-Aid mixer with the grinder and stuffer attachments then the whole process isn’t that hard. If you are really serious, there are good web sites for professional sausage stuffers. Traditional funnel about $10 (the hard way). Stuffer $75 to $100 (the easy way).

Remember, this isn’t what you get at the grocery in the bubble packs. That is pre-cooked. This is raw sausage and will take a bit longer to cook. Make sure you get it done. You can just fry it up and eat it. Bake it, broil it, boil it, smoke it. If you smoke it, fast smoking will wrinkle and shrink. If you smoke extra slow, the skin will toughen and you will get the kind of crunchy bite that is characteristic of Andouille sausage. You only need to smoke to 175°, the pork is fully done at that temp. The Germans do the sauerkraut thing. The Eastern Europeans frequently serve with horseradish. I like the purple horseradish, just take a slice of kielbasa and spread a little on. Heaven.

Now you know I’m not going to pass by the South, so here’s your Grandmother’s Southern Hot & Spicy Sausage Patties –

1 lb. ground or minced pork

2 tsp rubbed sage

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground marjoram

1/4 tsp ground thyme

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp mace

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix is all up. Shape it into patties about ½” thick. Fry it up slowly. Get it done through. If this is too hot, back out 1 or more of the last 4 ingredients. I personally use a lighter touch with the sage, I’m more interested in a balanced taste. And I like a little sweet basil, if fresh.

And, of course, we can’t ignore Basic American Sausage:

4 lbs. Good pork butt

1 lb good bacon (optional)

1 cup minced onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup sage

1 stick butter

1-1/4 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

1 tbsp marjoram

1 tbsp thyme

1 tbsp sweet basil

1 tbsp cayenne or red pepper flakes (optional)

Mix it all up. Stuff the casings. Enjoy. Twiddle the spices to suit yourself. Works well fried, grilled, smoked, cut up and used in various recipes.

Truthfully, just about any meat can be made into sausage. Deer sausage is popular with Southern hunters of the whitetail. Most of the spicing is optional. Even when you talk about sausage from a given area, every single cook has a different recipe. Many regional sausages get their distinctive flavor from slow smoking. The only thing that you can say for sure is that a sausage is totally up to the taste of the cook. You can’t even say that a sausage has a casing. Remember the Southern Patties? However, generally, a sausage has a casing, is usually ground or minced pork, and has various spices.

Marinara Gravy

7 December 12

2012-09-06 - Spicy Marinara Sauce - 0002

2012-09-06 – Spicy Marinara Sauce [Gravy] – 0002 (Photo credit: smiteme)

Kind of a funny name. You have heard of marinara sauce forever. OK – let’s clear up that little bit of linguistic mystery. To the Italians, sauce has no meat in it. If it has meat or meat juice it is gravy. So – this is a marinara with meat. You can make it without the meat, of course, and then it would be marinara sauce. You will find this to be totally superior to the heavy tomato paste based Americanized stuff.

 1/4
 cup
 olive oil
 1  small onion, finely chopped
 1  large garlic clove, finely chopped
 1  stalk celery, finely chopped
 1  carrot, finely chopped
 1  small handful mushrooms, rough chopped
 1/4  tsp  sea salt
 1/4  tsp  freshly ground black pepper
 1  28-oz. can diced tomatoes
 several fresh basil leaves chiffonade
 1  sweet Italian sausage, casing removed, crumbled

Chop up the veggies, heat up the oil in a pot large enough to hold all the stuff. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic and sweat until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. If you want to increase the garlic to a maximum of 5 cloves and gag your neighbors feel free. The Italians range from reasonable garlic use to totally ridiculous. Too much garlic and you can’t possibly taste anything else.

Oh yeah, chiffonade, just a French word for shredding or making rag-like. Easiest way is to take some sharp scissors and snip the basil up. Traditional chiffonade method is to stack the leaves, roll them into a tight tube, then cut into narrow strips. Either way is OK. The traditional method does produce prettier, more uniform strips. There are some good videos on YouTube and other places to learn good chiffonade technique.

Add the celery, carrots, sausage, salt, and pepper. Sweat until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and basil. Simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Don’t let it dry out, add a bit more water as needed. Serve over spaghetti or as a side dish.

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true "par...

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true “parmesan” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste only if needed.

You could shred a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano, but don’t use the powdered crap in the can. I advise tasting before adding anything.

Braised Shank of Lamb

26 November 11
my own photo

Dutch Oven Image via Wikipedia

The shank, or shin, is usually some of the toughest meat on a critter. Think about it – this is the part between the knee and the foot that does a great deal of the work of holding the animal up and moving it around. Lean muscle, as it were. This means that there is lots of connective tissue (collagen), which means tough meat with lots of flavor potential.

What we want to do is cook long and slow so that the connective tissue becomes dissolved, tender, and yields all the flavor back in to the pot. The French, as usual, have a better way – braising with flavorings. Now braising – from the French “braiser” – combines both dry and moist heat. Beef Bourguignon is world famous for its delicious flavor, yet it is only simple braised beef with wine. Here the same technique is applied to the lamb shank – with wonderful results.

2 lamb shanks
salt and pepper
10 cloves of garlic
12 white mushroom caps
1 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 tsp salt
4 Tbs olive oil
1 bouquet garni – thyme, basil, and rosemary
1-1/2 cup Burgundy or other hearty red wine
1-1/2 cups beef stock
1 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F, with the racks set such that you can get your Dutch oven in about the middle of the oven. Yes – you can use something else – but a good cast iron Dutch oven is best. You’re on your own where other utensils are concerned. There are also people who do this in a crock pot – I’m not one of those. Anyway, dress your shanks with salt and pepper and sauté in hot olive oil until well seared on all sides. Reduce the heat and add the garlic. When the garlic is nicely golden – about a minute or so –
add your wine, salt, pepper, and the bouquet garni. If you’ve got fresh herbs, just tie them up with a string. If all you’ve got is bottled then you can wrap them in cheese cloth or –easiest of all – put them in a tea caddy and drop that into the mix. Advice: use a separate caddy for your garni’s or really get it clean after. I don’t think that lamb flavored tea would be quite right. Anyway, slow simmer things for 8 to 10 minutes.

I guess we need to talk about salt somewhere, and here is as good as any. Go easy on the salt – you can add more later, but taking it out can be fun. In fact, if your beef stock is not salt free then don’t add any salt, other than sprinkling the meat before browning.

Add the beef stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and slow simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the oven to 325°F, and cook for 90 minutes. This is called cooking in a falling oven. Quite traditional with the old wood-fired stone ovens.

Turn the lamb over, add the mushrooms and a bit more liquid only if needed. Don’t drown the meat. The liquid does not cover it. Cook for another hour.

Remove the lamb and mushrooms to a covered dish and strain the liquid through a sieve. Add the tomato paste and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pull the lamb off the bones – it should just about fall off and serve with mushrooms covered with sauce.

A Quick Can o’ Peas

15 October 11
The reflection pond at Clemson University

Image via Wikipedia

“A kid comes up to me in a white jacket, gives me a Ritz cracker and chopped liver. He says ‘Canapés,’ I say, ‘Can o’ peas my ass! That’s a Ritz cracker and chopped liver.'”

The Godfather IIFrank Pentangeli to Fredo Corleone

Sometime a happy taste sensation can occur simply because of a need to fill in a corner of the stomach. And, of course, what you have on hand. Anyway – this turned out to make a jim-dandy little snacker – and really simple.

1 part chicken, white meat, chopped fine
1 part quality blue cheese, chopped fine
1 part mushroom duxelles
1 part good mayonnaise
French bread, sliced thin

Chop up the chicken and blue cheese pretty fine, but not a mush. Mix the meat, cheese, mushroom and mayo together until nicely blended. You want to use a really good quality blue cheese. We used the stuff from Clemson University. They’ve had blue cheese growing in local cow juice for many years and it is a really nice strain. Put about a half tablespoon of goop on each slice of French bread and run into a 350°F oven for a few minutes. You don’t want to cook this stuff, just warm it up nicely.

Herself Sez: We learned about Clemson Blue Cheese when I was working at Clemson University back in the ’80’s. They used to have a dairy store with incredible locally made ice cream. Although the shipping eats us alive, we occasionally order a couple of 10oz Krumbles and use them in everything that calls for blue cheese. Oh Yummm!

Mushroom Duxelles has already been written up, and is something you want to keep handy in your refrigerator.

Homemade is the best way to go on the French bread and the mayonnaise.

A Very British Meal (and a Touch of France)

1 June 11

I can’t think of any greater British contribution to world cuisine than the famous roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. A standing rib roast was always the meal that I requested for birthday dinner when I was growing up. My Mother did it rather well.

Then the first girl that I ever really liked was half Brit, and her mother introduced me to Yorkshire pudding. Oh my, that stuff is good.

And of course, you know I have to add a bit of a French touch. The dipping juice reduction is very French.

Yes, rib roast is pretty expensive, but if you really watch your meat prices you can probably get a fairly decent buy once or twice a year. We find that a two rib roast will yield several meals and some nice sandwiches.

bone-in prime rib
cloves garlic
salt and coarsely ground black pepper
red wine
beef stock
chopped fresh thyme leaves

Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature. Maybe an hour depending on the size. 30 minutes is about right for a two rib roast.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Garlic the roast, you know the drill. Make small slits and plunk a slice of garlic in all over the roast. Rub all over with a mixture of coarse salt and coarse pepper. Set it on a rack in a pan, bones down and fat up. (You do know that you need a bit of fat for basting and flavor, don’t you?) You can lube the rack with non-stick spray if you like, but don’t lube the pan. If it worries you then you can put in a layer of aluminum foil. I can’t tell you how long to cook it. About 15 to 18 minutes a pound is what is usually quoted for bone-in and 350°F cooking temp. That ain’t the way to go. Put a thermometer in the meat. Thermometers of the electronic oven type are pretty cheap anymore, and your cooking consistency will improve. What you want is medium rare, or 135°F at the center. Even if you are one of the unwashed heathens that wants done shoe leather, don’t. The flavor is at peak at medium rare. Reheat your slices if you must. But you should really try it the right way first. Tent the roast with foil while you do everything else. The rest will do it good.

If you are going to do Yorkshire pudding you will need a couple of tablespoons of the pan drippings. Be sure to get out what you need and get the puddings going into the oven at this point.

Now here comes the French part. Put the pan over a burner or two on your stove and add some wine. I can’t tell you how much. I can tell you that a 2 rib roast is about 1 cup of red wine. Reduce it over high heat, stirring often and mixing up any pan goodies. Add twice as much beef stock as the wine, 2 cups for a two rib roast. You will notice that the wine/stock ratio is 1/2 and everything else in proportion. Keep reducing and stirring until it is reduced by nearly half. Taste, salt, pepper as necessary. Be careful not to over salt things. Keep it a little lighter than you would normally like, the meat already has salt and pepper on it. We like some thyme in ours. You’d need a light tablespoon full of fresh chopped thyme or about half that of dried for our hypothetical two rib roast.

Slice the roast fairly thin and serve with the juice. Au jus just means “with juice.”

Now the Yorkshire pudding part; which you actually start making as soon as you put the roast in.

Yorkshire Pudding

150 g all-purpose flour (1 cup)
4 g kosher salt (1/2 tsp)
230 g milk (1 cup)
25 g melted unsalted butter
2 eggs
roast drippings

A bit of discussion: According to the aforementioned first girlfriend’s Brit mother it may not be possible to make a true Yorkshire pudding with anything other than true British flour. I have pretty good results with King Arthur all-purpose, but I won’t swear that it is authentic Yorkshire.

Further discussion: The true and original is blended by hand and sat under the roast and cooked with meat juice dripping into it. Not the way it is usually done nowadays, even in England. There are two ways that it is done nowadays, single dish where you get one big pudding. The multiple version is done in muffin tins or something similar so that you get many individual servings. That is how I prefer it.

A note on proportions: This will make about a dozen individual puddings. If you need to double it, add an extra egg.

Dump everything into a good mixer and blend it 30 seconds low speed, 90 seconds on the highest speed you can do without sloshing over. This is probably about speed 6 on a Kitchenaid. This should be nice and smooth and about the consistency of heavy cream. Let it sit, covered, for about an hour.

When you take your roast out raise the oven temp to 450°F.

For a single put a couple of tablespoons of pan drippings into a 9×12 ovenproof dish. Heat the dish in to oven for about 10 minutes. Then pour the batter into the pan, bake for about 15 minutes at 450°F, then reduce the setting to 350°F for another 15 minutes or so.

For the individual, or popover version put about 3/4 teaspoon of drippings in the bottom of each cup. Pop the muffin tin into the oven for about 3 minutes. Then pour batter into the pan, about 1/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes at 450°F and then reduce the temperature to 350°F for another 10 minutes or so.

Keep an eye on things, you want a really puffed up, golden brown creation.

As a point of information: anytime you have an oven temperature reduced partway through the cooking, usually for baked goods, you are trying to mimic the action of an old-fashion masonry oven. This was called a falling oven, and it is one of the things that really expensive baker’s ovens try to imitate.

I should also mention that Yorkshire pudding will not keep. In fact, it begins to deteriorate as soon as it comes out of the oven. So serve it immediately. If you are having some other courses ahead, make sure you time it so the puddings are eaten as soon as they come out.

{{Herself Sez: OMG! Yorkshires get my “inner Labrador” in a frenzy! Himself made the mistake of making 5 the other night. We each ate one. He was going to throw out the rest. I “rescued” them from a fate worse than death – I ATE THEM!! Just YUMMM!}}


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