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Archive for the ‘Meat’ Category

Inspired by my new countertop appliances, the slow cooker and the food mill, (which I really didn’t need since I have a mini-chop. But the food mill’s bigger. And looks sleek. Post-consumer rationalization…) I’ve been pureeing a lot. Last night I whipped up a big batch of garlicky hummus with the chickpeas I’d simmered in the slow cooker. The meal came together around these chickpeas from various points: ground lamb I’d picked up recently and frozen, not knowing what to do with it; a selection of Mediterranean nightshades shivering and withering in the fridge (zucchini, eggplant, peppers, grape tomatoes); a craving for my favorite tahini sauce; and the inspiration of Cafe Maude‘s lamb skewers, which my family loves.

I roasted the veggies with whole garlic cloves and a good glug of olive oil, grilled the lamb kebobs, and served it all with pita and fruity red wine.

For the lamb, I basically made meatballs shaped like lozenges, combining 1 lb. of ground lamb with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, and paprika to taste, and adding an egg and about a quarter cup of coarse bread crumbs and coarsely chopped parsley and/or cilantro. And this tahini sauce, from an old issue of Gourmet, is delicious as a condiment on so many things.

Tahini Sauce

2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 c. tahini
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground cumin

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with sea salt. Whisk together with other ingredients until well combined. Serve at room temperature.

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Meatballs are comfort food, but they can also form the center of a sumptuous meal. Luxury and refinement meet in the meatball when it is handled with care, swaddled in a blanched leaf, braised in aromatic broth, and served in a white dish. Making these fragrant pork meatballs, delicate and gigantic at once, teaches you to handle them like egg yolks. The flavors in Lion’s Head meatballs are tame as well, in spite of their ferocious name. Ginger and warm spice, green onion, a touch of salt.

My first encounter with this traditional Shanghai dish was in the now closed, but fondly remembered Fountain Court, in the Richmond district of San Francisco. Peter and I lived up the hill to the east, just past the fog line, in a one-bedroom with a sliver ocean view. We would make a long evening of it with our poet friend, starting at the Plough and Stars —empty except for us at 6:00. After getting into the groove of our usual hilarity, we’d amble down to Green Apple Books with its countless rooms of used books and music. Soon overwhelmed by the poetry, theory, novels, history, and philosophy I wanted to read, I’d find myself in cookbooks, flipping through recipes and pictures. Finally, we’d find each other and continue down Clement St. to the Fountain Court, where our friend was greeted like a long lost puppy by the owner.

Because it was so good, so particular to that place and time, so perfectly accompanied by sweet roasted eggplants and a platter full of sauteed pea greens, I didn’t consider trying to make this meal for years. A decade, even. But meatballs are simple, aren’t they? They like to be cuddled and coddled like babies, and it’s hard to go wrong.

So, I rounded up a recipe on Epicurious (not very scholarly, I know) and used it as an outline for my own composition, which included a dash of five spice powder—whether authentic or not.

Here are the sweet morsels browning:

Here are two beautiful Japanese eggplants:

Here are the browned meatballs wrapped in blanched Savoy cabbage (the store was out of Napa):

They simmered on the stove for an hour or so, becoming more tender than you can imagine meat to be.

*          *          *

And, to follow up on other culinary adventures in my household… here’s Lizzie enjoying some butternut squash spinach puree I whipped up for her:

And here’s the delicious pot of mayonnaise I whisked up last week, which makes the perfect condiment for just about everything!

Believe it or not, I made it the day before Melissa Clark published this mayonnaise recipe in the NYT Dining section. Must have been some kind of seasonal urge. Now, I’m a total amateur, although I did work for a moment in a restaurant kitchen where they had me prepare the béarnaise, so I know a tidbit about whisking. That said, I was really surprised that she didn’t know about the drops of water… In any case, homemade mayonnaise is worth every second of wrist ache it takes to make it.

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Happy New Year!

Lots of newness around here. Since I posted last, we have a new family member—sweet little Elizabeth Rose:

. . . and we’re buying a new house. Well, the house is old—a classic Minneapolis bungalow built in 1924—but it will be new to us.

On a much different level, another recent novelty for me is Clancey’s Meats and Fish—the simply amazing butcher shop in Linden Hills where everything is local, organic, sustainable, fabulous, or delicious, or all of the above. Our conversion experience happened when Peter’s brother Ned and his girlfriend Mariko were visiting from Brooklyn. We thought, where shall we take the foodies for sandwiches? . . . No foodie among us was disappointed. We ordered the special of the day—the pulled pork Cubano sandwich—and a roast beef, a ham, and a turkey, “with everything,” which at Clancey’s means lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, fresh horseradish, mayonnaise, olive oil, and probably something else I’m forgetting. All of this, with the house-prepared meat, comes in a crunchy baguette from Rustica.

Since that first visit, I’ve become a regular. One of the tastiest treats we’ve tried was a special they make only during the Christmas–New Year’s week: truffled tenderloin patties. These are essentially highly refined hamburgers made of coarsely ground beef tenderloin and flecked with minced black truffle. I served them simply: sauteed and sauceless, with a side of chanterelle risotto and steamed broccoli. (And may I thank Grampa Chip again for the gift of the unsung heroes of Bordeaux!)

If it’s not too weird to follow up on a photo of my new baby girl with some pictures of raw meat, I’ll let you feast your eyes on some of Clancey’s offerings:

Well, it’s time to go cook some dinner. Tonight we’ll take it easy with the wholesome Roman triad: beans, grains, and greens. And another unsung hero…

Wishing you all the happiest of new years!

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Boston butt alla Bolognese

The other night, we had the richest meal I’ve had since, I think, that osso bucco last year.  The main dish, pork braised in milk, was followed by Sharyn’s rendition of sticky toffee pudding with custard, a signature dessert of the Lake District, where our friend Leanda, who just happened to be one of the guests at dinner, is from.  (She demonstrated her approval by having a bit of seconds.)

Sharyn has become something of a co-conspirator on this blog; if she weren’t so materially real she would seem to be an imaginary friend.  But every time we cook a meal together, which is frequently lately, I’m inspired to write it up, to share it, to record it.  We both love to cook, to talk about cooking and food, to plan meals, and to eat them together.  Our husbands and children join us quite willingly.  Jack and Mimi crack each other up, and Jim and Peter enjoy the chance to catch up.

Pork braised in milk was one of the memorable meals from the American Academy in Rome.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to duplicate it, but with the help of Marcella Hazan’s recipe, I thought I might come close.  I started in the early afternoon by browning a Boston butt.  I have no idea why it’s called a butt, since it’s a shoulder, and what it has to do with Boston. I was hoping that Sharon Tyler Herbst’s indispensable Food Lover’s Companion would clarify this question for me, but I was disappointed.  Her pork-cut chart refers to the cut as a shoulder, and as a “picnic shoulder,” which speaks to the description Wikipedia begins with:

Boston butt is a cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg and may contain the blade bone.[1] This pork cut, from the shoulder, combined with the way it is prepared and served, makes it a distinctly American dish. Smoked or barbecued Boston butt is a southern tradition. As a mainstay of Deep South cuisine, particularity in Alabama and Georgia, it is often smoked and sold as a fundraiser on road side stands by charities and local organizations.

Why does this strike me as funny?  Maybe because they don’t explain that it’s “pulled pork” they’re talking about.

Wikipedia then led me to two Boston-based food authorities, Sheryl Julian, of the Boston Globe and Chris Schlesinger, chef and author of How to Cook Meat. Julian offers this explanation, along with a tasty sounding recipe for pulled pork:

the cut was named early in American history. In Colonial times, the shoulders were packed into “butts” – the word for barrels – for shipping or storage.

Anyway, the four kids, between the ages of 3 & 5, who came to eat the Boston butt got a huge kick out of the name.  And the grown-ups were pretty happy with the braise as well. We ate every bit, and even sopped up the nut-brown sauce (made with whole milk from a local small dairy) until the platter was clean.

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gravy

I do love cooking projects that require days.  No-knead bread. Gravy from scratch. I’ve done both this week.  The no-knead bread was for dinner at Matt & Christina’s, where we had a delicious, mostly local meal that unfolded at a nice relaxed pace.  First, Christina cooked up some little pizzas with Indian-spiced tomato-mustard green sauce topped with goat cheese.  The unusual combo worked beautifully.  Meanwhile, Jack followed Matt in and out as he went to fire up the grill, check on the rabbits and chickens out back, and then grill some home-raised rabbit. There was salad chock full of peppery arugula from our Red Root CSA, and for dessert, creme brulee with local persimmons. Jack didn’t want any, until he saw that dessert involved flame! A spectacular, sustainable meal.

The next day, I started the gravy, using Julia Moskin’s recipe from the NYT.  You start by roasting 6 turkey legs basted with butter every 20 minutes.  The house was filled with the most wonderful aromas.  Then, you make the stock, the most elegant detail of which, I think, is the peeled onion stuck with cloves.  I have two cold bowls of fat-topped liquid in the fridge at them moment: the stock and the deglazing liquid, which will all eventually be combined, after I make a rue with the fat and some flour.  I made this gravy two years ago when my in-laws came to hot and sunny Alabama (from cold and leafless Massachusetts) for Thanksgiving.  It was heavenly.

It’s one long week of parties. Tonight, our good friends from Berkeley (who now teach at U of Southern Mississippi), Charles and Monika are stopping in for the night on their way to Atlanta.  These are the kinds of friends with whom you laugh so hard you strain your diaphragm.  I’m hoping to make a meal conducive to good times. We’ll start with something basic and salty: pistachios.  This will be followed by braised cabbage-wrapped meatballs made with semi-local, all natural pork.  (I’m hoping there’s a cabbage in my Red Root bag today when I pick it up with Jack, after school.)  Roasted carrots, pasta (I’m hoping to get to home-made), and for dessert Nancy Silverton’s Irish Whiskey Brownies with walnuts and currants.

Thursday, we’re doing Thanksgiving with Sharyn, Jim, & Mimi.

A good week.

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Thanks to our friend Rena, who lived in Florence for a year, we had some insider recommendations about where to eat.  The most interesting (and delicious) place, by far, was Mario’s, which serves only lunch.

The menu is scribbled on a piece of paper, and is replete with meat.  The seating is first come, first served, and is “con l’altro”—with each other.  Three parties of two might share a big table.  Everyone sits on little wooden stools.  The kitchen runs right alongside the dining area, and the inevitably loud conversations are punctuated by the bang-bang-bangs of the cleaver on the butcher block, chopping up the next set of lunches.

nice ceiling

the most delicious pork and beans I've ever had

Jack liked Marios.

We also went to what many agree is the best gelato maker in Florence: Vivoli.

I know I should have tried the cinnamon-orange, but I couldn’t resist my favorite nutty flavors.

The other high point in dining was Tranvai, a restaurant constructed out of an old tram-station, with excellent food.  They offered offals and brain, but we stuck to slightly more familiar cuts… veal and rabbit.

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It was actually pretty chilly, and the sky was gray, but the fruit trees are blooming, the kids are antsy, and everyone just wanted to hang around in the big back garden yesterday.  The grill was going from 11 to 7.

There were pork sausages of all kinds, veal chops, pork chops, lamb shoulder, lamb leg…. Most of us ate bites right off the grill, with our fingers. Yes, it was greasy and brutish and washed down with plenty of beer and 3-Euro wine.  I brought a salad of romaine, treviso, pears, fennel, and walnuts.  No one ate it. Some of the foods were local and artisanal. Others were, well, hot dogs and cream-in-a-can.

We played ping pong, bocce, kickball, and frisbee.

For more pictures, go to my Flickr page.

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