Veal chops with mushroom Marsala sauce

Vealchops

I saw these beautiful veal loin chops at my local market. One of my wife’s go-to meals in a good Italian restaurant is veal Marsala, which is made from very thin scallops of veal. Why not use these same wonderful flavors for chops? This recipe is for two, but it can be easily doubled.

Ingredients

2 TBS unsalted butter (divided)

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2 veal loin chops, about an inch thick.

Flour for dredging.

8 OZ white button mushrooms, quartered.

¾ cup dry Marsala wine.

½ cup beef stock

Salt and pepper.

Recipe

Start heating a no-stick pan over high heat. While you heat the pan dry the chops with paper towels and salt and pepper them. When the pan is hot add 1 TBS olive oil and 1 TBS butter.

When the butter and oil foam, dredge the chops in flour, and put in pan. You want to brown them but not burn them. When they are a golden brown remove to a plate and put in your mushrooms and saute’ them until they give up their juices. Splash in the Marsala and the stock, stir and keep them simmering for a minute or two to reduce a little.

Return the chops to the pan and cover. Turn down the heat. You want a gentle simmer to finish cooking the chops. Depending on the thickness of your chops and the heat source this will take between 8 and 12 minutes. You can flip them over about half way through.

When they are done remove them to a plate. Turn up the heat and reduce the sauce for a few minutes until it thickens a bit and is almost syrupy. Turn the heat off and add the remaining TBS of butter and stir. When it is blended into the sauce pour it over the chops and serve.

I served this over buttered noodles with a tossed green salad and a nice red wine from Italy.

Braised Beef Brisket

Brisket 1

Everybody has a brisket recipe, and they are all delicious. Some have exotic ingredients such as grape jelly, cranberry sauce, chili sauce, etc. Here’s mine; it is pretty basic. This is cold weather comfort food.

Ingredients

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 first-cut beef brisket (I used a grass-fed one) about 5 LBS

5 yellow onions, chopped

4 carrots cut into 1 inch pieces

4 stalks celery cut in 1 inch pieces

4 clove of garlic, smashed, peeled, and cut in half

½ tsp dried thyme

1 TBS chopped fresh rosemary

3 TBS chopped fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

1 cup red wine

1 cup beef stock or broth

½ cup of apple cider vinegar

1 14 OZ can of chopped tomatoes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

Recipe

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Wipe the brisket with paper towels, and generously salt and pepper it. In a large oven-proof lidded casserole heat oil over medium high heat and carefully brown brisket without burning until it is nicely browned. Remove meat and put it on a platter. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté, stirring regularly until they are browned.

Add the wine, stock, vinegar and tomatoes and the herbs.

Bring to a simmer, put the meat on top, cover tightly and put it in the oven for about 3 ½ to 4 hours, depending on the size of your meat (grass fed seems to need a bit more time in the braise.) Some recipes have you turn it or baste it. This seems like extra work to me. I check it once at the half-way mark to make sure there is enough liquid in it.

When it is tender take it out and let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes until it is cool enough to cut pieces across the grain. Better yet, put the whole thing in the fridge and serve it the next day or two.

The traditional way is to serve it with potato pancakes, which is mighty tasty, but some extra work.

I served these with fingerling potatoes and steamed green beans. A sturdy red wine (perhaps a Cote de Rhone or something from Spain) would not be out of place.

brisket 2

 

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)

 

Braised Lamb Shanks with Cardamom, Garlic and Prunes

Lamb shanks 1

We love braises in the winter such as osso buco and short ribs, but I had never made lamb shanks before, although I had enjoyed many good ones in restaurants. The only exotic part of this is the cardamom, which I have on hand because of my Indian and Moroccan cooking. You can find these in any Asian market, and some super markets, and it is worth it to find them for this dish.

This dish is pure comfort food.

2 TBs olive oil
2 lamb shanks
1 large onion sliced
2 carrots sliced
10 cloves of garlic peeled and squashed
The seeds from 7 green cardamom pods, ground with a mortar and pestle
1 cup dried pitted prunes.
3 cups beef stock

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. You need a wide oven-proof casserole with a lid for this one. Brown the shanks in the olive oil until they are nicely brown, about ten minutes. Remove the shanks, and put the onions and carrots in the casserole and saute for about ten minutes until brown. Add the garlic and cardoman, and cook for another minute or two stirring. Then add the prunes and beef stock, put the shanks back in and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven for about two hours.

Serve with crusty bread or couscous. And a robust red wine such as a Spanish tempranillo or a Cote de Rhone.

Lamb shanks 2

(Photos by R. L. Floyd)

If life gives you basil, make pesto!

PestoWe had about as perfect a day as we ever get here in the Berkshires. Not too hot, not too cold, not humid, not windy, lots of sunshine and birdsong, and to top it all off, my little herb garden was yielding the first crop of basil. Welcome summer!

I have made more than my share of pesto in a variety of ways, and they all taste pretty great. The key is fresh basil and good olive oil and cheese.

Here’s my basic recipe, which works with a pound of pasta. I have used many different pasta shapes. My favorite is fettuccine, which I have learned is traditional in Genoa, where pesto originates (they call it trenette there).

Recipe:

2 cups basil leaves, the bigger ones torn in pieces

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 TBS pine nuts

1-2 cloves of peeled and lightly crushed garlic (according to taste)

Salt to taste

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

3 TBS freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 LB pasta of your choice

 

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and cook your pasta al dente

Meanwhile, put the first 5 ingredients in the food processor and  puree them.

Pour them into a large bowl and add the two grated cheeses, blending them with a wooden spoon.

As you cook the pasta save a few TBS of the cooking water and use it to thin out the pesto. Toss it all together and grind some black pepper on it. If you want to get fancy throw  1 or 2 TBS of softened butter into it just before you serve it.

Any crisp dry white wine will taste great with it. We had an Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc with it tonight, because that was what was in the fridge. Enjoy!

(Photo: R. L. Floyd )

Roast Pork Loin a la Nottingham Drive

Pork roast

 

So my local grocery store had a sale on whole and half pork loins, and I thought what a great item for the rotisserie on my grill for Memorial Day weekend. But then the weather got weird, so I roasted this one inside in the oven, and I commend it to you.

I used convection roast, and if you have that capability I recommend it, but this will work fine in a conventional oven.

Recipe

For the rub:

2 tsp. ground thyme or thyme leaves

1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp.paprika

Salt and pepper to taste.

The meat:

1 3-4 lb. boneless or 4-5 lb. bone-in pork loin roast.

How to do it:

Mix the spices together, and rub generously over the roast. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the roast fat side up on a broiling pan (you are not going to broil it, but the broiling pan will keep the juices and fat from splattering better than an open roasting pan) Score the top of the roast with a sharp knife with shallow 1/2 inch diagonal cuts.

Place the roast in the oven (if using convection roast on the bottom rack, if not in the bottom third of the oven). Cook at 425 for 15 minutes, and then reset the oven to 325 degrees. Cook to an internal temperature of 145 (if you like some pink) to 150 degrees (if you don’t) and let sit for 10 minutes before carving. Cut in straight thin slices like a jelly roll.

Serve with baked beans and applesauce. We had a lovely Portuguese Dao with it, but any light red will do.

Enjoy.

 

Clam chowder, clerihews, and Cardinal Newman: The best from my browsing this week

 

Here are some of the best of my recent browsings:

Scott Carson at An Examined Life laments the return of the right to intellectual darkness in his insightful post The Rightward Turn.

Pastor John Castricum shares the recipe for his award-winning clam chowder  at Reflections of a Reformed Pastor.

Halden Doerge over at Inhabitatio Dei gets a lively discussion going on the question: Is there a postliberal theological project?

For those word nerds among you who actually know what a clerihew is, Kim Fabricius has a funny post at Faith and Theology called Poetic Graffiti: clerihews on ten modern Christian poets.

The quick-changing world of information technology is highlighted in a post at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab about how the magazine Foreign Policy is e-publishing (through Amazon) a book about Afganhistan by war journalist Anna Badkhen, comprised of her daily dispatches.

A thoughtful piece appeared in the Christian Science Monitoron the Pope Benedict XVI’s beatification of John Henry Newman. They quote my friend Gabe Fackre, “The heart of ecumenism [or interfaith work] is when each tradition brings its own gifts to the other.” Newman, Fackre argues, was known for the idea that theological ideas have a “trajectory” in which “you don’t abandon the teachings but let them flower – the ordination of women might be an example. It is a very supple concept of doctrine that is a long way from Benedict, who seems to rigidify doctrine.”

Rick’s Oven-Braised Straccato (Pot Roast) over Polenta

 

1 Tb. olive oil
1 3 lb. chuck roast, tied with twine ( I like Black Angus)
1 medium onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sprigs of fresh parsley (optional)
1 cup hearty dry red wine
2 cups beef stock plus more if needed.
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried sage leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper

This is basically a pot roast.  Eliminate the tomatoes and garlic, substitute dried thyme for the sage, add a bay leaf, and you have my basic pot roast recipe. That one I would serve over mashed potatoes, but this one I like over polenta. A straccato is a regional Italian pot roast, and this is my take on it. Let’s call it a North Jersey pot roast!

This is easy but takes a bit of time, which is what braising is all about.  I cook it all in my cast iron Dutch Oven, but you could do it in any fireproof pot that can go from the range to the oven. You can also cook the whole thing on the range top, but I like the even heat of the oven. I made this yesterday, put it in the oven at 4 p.m., went and had my daily nap, and it was all ready to eat by 6:45 (it needs to sit for a bit). Even better make it the day before, slice the cooled meat, heat up the sauce, and you are ready to go.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.  Heat the oil over medium high heat and swirl it around until it covers the bottom. Dry off your roast with paper towels (it won’t brown if it’s damp) and sprinkle it liberally with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Then using tongs, or two wooden spoons, put it in the pot and brown it on all sides (don’t use a fork, because it will release the juices and you want them in there,). Depending on your heat this will take between ten and twenty minutes, but the trick is to get it a very dark brown without burning it, so pay attention (which is what good cooking is all about).

When the roast is nice and brown, take it out and put it aside on a plate, and reduce your heat to medium.  Put in your chopped onion, carrot and celery, and stir with a wooden spoon now and again until the veggies are also nice and brown (but not burnt!), about ten minutes.

Add the garlic cloves and cook for another minute or so, then add you wine, beef stock, herbs and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and, stirring occasionally, let it cook for about ten minutes.

Then lower the meat on top of the veggies.  The braising liquid should come about half way up the meat.  If it doesn’t add more stock, but don’t put too much liquid in, because you want to braise it and not boil it.

Bring it back to a good boil, put the lid on it, and put it in the oven.  A 325 degree oven will typically keep a simmer just about right for braising, though you may need to adjust your heat according to variations in your oven temperature.

You want to cook this for about 2 and 1/2 hours total.  After about an hour, check the pot, lower or raise the oven temperature if needed and flip the meat over. If the liquid is low top it off with some more stock.

 


After two and one half hours, check the meat. It should be nice and tender but still firm enough to cut.  Put it on a platter, tent it with foil, and let it sit for fifteen minutes. While the meat is cooling, put your braising liquid on the range top and simmer it to reduce the sauce a bit, stirring now and again. Remove the parsley sprigs, taste and season for salt and pepper.

Slice your meat against the grain and plate it over the polenta or mashed potatoes, then ladle the sauce generously and enjoy.  We had this with steamed brussel sprouts last night for a hearty winter meal, but a green salad would work fine.  A dry red wine will be just right. We drank a Masciarelli, a nice inexpensive Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, that is our current house red. This makes a nice, pretty easy, meal on a cold winter night that will be a crowd pleaser.

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)

Rick’s Braised Beef Short Ribs

 

We got our first blanket of snow the other day here in the Berkshires, so it was time to make some comfort food. Cold weather always gets me thinking about stews and braises, and one of my favorites is beef short ribs, which are the ends cut off the prime rib. They’re relatively cheap to buy and really easy to make. I don’t have the recipe my mother used to make them with, but I know it involved painting them with ketchup, and it may have had dried onion soup mix (remember that?) in the braising liquid. Whatever was in them they were a treat.

Here’s my version:

3 lbs meaty beef short ribs
2 tbs olive oil
1 good-sized yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk of celery, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup beef stock
½ cup hearty dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Salt and pepper the ribs.  In a Dutch oven or oven-proof pot with a cover heat the oil over medium high heat and brown the meat on all sides, being careful not to burn it. Do this in batches and don’t overcrowd the pot. Also, dry the ribs with paper towels so they will brown properly.

When they are nice and brown, remove the ribs to a plate, turn down the heat to medium and add the chopped vegetables, stirring until they take on some color.

Add the stock and wine and bring to a boil, stirring to get any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the thyme and bay leaves and return the ribs to the pot. Cover the pot and put it in the oven for two hours. The meat should be tender and almost falling off the bone. Remove the ribs to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Put the pot back on the top of the stove, and reduce liquid over medium high heat until it thickens a little bit to a syrupy consistency (you may not need to do this.)

I like to put a rib on each plate over mashed potatoes with a few spoonfuls of the rich braising liquid, but this is nice to over polenta or rice.  Some green beans (or a salad) and some crusty bread and you have a simple and comforting meal.

For a wine pairing I suggest any hearty dry red. This is humble dish and needs a sturdy humble wine. I served our current Italian house red with this, MasciarelliMotepulciano d’Abruzzu, which is also the wine in the braising liquid. Enjoy.

Rick’s Rich Ragu with Wild Mushrooms over Homemade Tagliatelle

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This rich meat ragu is my nod to a traditional Bolognese sauce. The wild mushrooms add a wonderful earthiness to it. OK, so I’m showing off just a little here with the homemade pasta, but you really don’t have to serve this sauce over fresh pasta. It is equally delicious over dried pasta such as Rigitoni or Penne. But if you are going to work all day on the sauce, use good quality imported dried pasta like De Cecco.

But if you have the time, homemade pasta is a wonderful thing, and it’s not really hard to make, but, trust me on this, it does take time. When my children were little, and my wife, Martha, who is a nurse, had to work at night, I would muster my little force and the kids would “help” me make fresh pasta. It kept them busy for hours, and at the end of the process we had lovely Tagliatelle hanging from all kinds of drying racks and everybody (and the kitchen) was covered with flour, and Mom didn’t even have to see it.

I have made this pasta several ways: with just a rolling pin and a sharp chef’s knife, with the pasta extruder on my Kitchen-Aid mixer, and with a stainless steel hand-cranked pasta machine. I like the latter best myself. I bought mine at the First Church tag sale many years ago, and it has made a lot of pasta at the Floyd household.

So if you have the better part of a day to hang out in the kitchen this can be a great project on a cold day. Your simmering sauce will fill the house with lovely aromas. And the ragu itself isn’t very hard to put together, although it takes a certain vigilance over many hours. But the nice thing about it is that during that time you can make the pasta, and at the end of the day you will have a lovely comfort food dinner that will delight everyone at the table.

For the Ragu

4 tbs butter

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
¼ lb. pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion chopped fine
1 carrot chopped fine
1 celery stalk chopped fine
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup whole milk
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 28 oz can good whole Italian tomatoes with liquid
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 oz. dried wild Porcini mushrooms

Salt and pepper to taste<

The pancetta is hard to cut fine enough by hand, so I cut it into small chunks and finish it in the food processor with the onions, carrots, and celery, and that keeps it from sticking to the blade.

Cover the porcini mushrooms with hot water and let sit while you do the next stages.

Heat oil and butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or casserole, and when the butter foams add the pancetta, onion, carrot and celery and sauté over medium high heat until it takes on some color and is beginning to brown.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the beef. Cook, breaking up the pieces and stirring, until the pink goes out of the beef, but don’t brown it. Add the white wine, turn the heat back up a bit, and let all the wine evaporate, stirring now and again. Turn the heat back down to medium and add the milk and nutmeg, and cook until the milk evaporates, stirring from time to time.

Add the tomatoes, squeezing them between your fingers into the pan. Pour the mushrooms through a sieve lined with cheesecloth (or a coffee filter) into a bowl and retain the liquid. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and add to the pot along with their liquid.

Bring it all to a very gentle simmer, partially cover, and literally put it on a back burner for as many hours as you can, stirring from time to time and watching your heat so it doesn’t start boiling. If you are gentle with this sauce it will reward you. How long? The one I made yesterday had at least six hours, but I would say at least three. It should reduce into a thick rich sauce. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

When you are ready to serve it, toss your pasta with just enough of the sauce to moisten it (it’s really rich) and serve bowls of sauce along with it so people can add more if they choose. Top each plate with freshly grated Parmegianno-Reggiano cheese and you’ve got a little bit of heaven on a plate. A salad and some crusty bread will round out this meal. For wine, a good Tuscan red or a Nebbiola-based wine will make you smile.

For the Tagliatelle

Do not be afraid to try this. The dough for this pasta has only two ingredients, flour and eggs. Some people are dogmatic about using pasta flour, but I just use King Arthur All-purpose Flour and extra-large eggs. For six servings I use three cups of flour and four eggs.

Put your flour on a clean counter or pastry board and make a well with it. Then break the eggs into the center of the well (see photo below) and with a fork beat them, while drawing small amounts of flour from the edge of the well. Don’t be impatient; you can do this! Just keep beating the eggs and drawing flour into them until you have a nice soft dough.

Put the dough aside and scrape off your board. Put flour on your hands and on the board and knead your dough for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add extra dough a little at a time until the dough is soft and pliable. When you stick a finger in the dough it shouldn’t be wet, but not too dry. You’ll know.
It is now ready for the pasta machine. The pasta machine has two parts, a set of rollers that rolls the dough, and the actual blades that cut the pasta into ribbons. Set the rollers on your machine for the widest width. Cut a piece about the size of a large egg, and put the rest under a towel so it won’t dry out. Run the piece through the rollers 6 or 8 times until the dough is smooth and isn’t sticky. Adjust the roller to the next smallest setting and repeat the process. Keep adjusting the rollers smaller until you get the dough to about 1/16 of an inch, then put it through the cutting blades and make your ribbons of Tagliatelle. You can put the pasta on a rack, or nest it into a small bundle (see photo below). Then start again with another piece and follow the above procedures until you have made pasta from all the dough. This takes some time, but is strangely calming.

When you are ready to cook the pasta, bring a good-sized pot of water to a boil and cook pasta for only about three minutes, then sauce with the ragu. Yum. This is why my kids call me the “Pasta Emeritus!” Enjoy.

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)

When life gives you beets, make borscht!

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The weather changes quickly here in New England in the Fall. A month or so ago it was hot and humid, and now we are having regular killing frosts and frigid mornings. Which means that the time has arrived for soups and stews and braises.

At the farmers’ market the green things have all been replaced by root vegetables. The other day Martha came home with five lovely beets, and some beautiful carrots. So it was time to make borscht.

There are innumerable recipes for borscht and endless debates about whether it should have meat in it, and whether it should be served hot or cold. There is no right answer to these questions, and I think it depends on the season, but when it gets cold outside I want my borscht hot and with meat.

So here’s my take on a hot, meaty borscht. Our moms would have used a shin bone or a short rib, let it cool, and skimmed the fat off it, but I just use lean chuck. You could buy it already cut up for stew, but I prefer to buy a small roast and cut my own.

5 beets
1 lb. beef chuck, trimmed of fat, and cut in 1and 1/2 inch cubes
All-purpose flour for dredging meat
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 32 oz. container of good beef broth or your own stock
1 28 oz. can of whole plum tomatoes
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
½ small head of cabbage (I used green but red is nice, too) shredded.
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream for garnish
Snipped fresh dill for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim and scrub (but don’t peel) the beets. Wrap them each in aluminum foil, place them on a cookie sheet (they’ll leak), and cook in the oven for 70 minutes.

While the beets are roasting prepare the rest of the soup. I make this in my big cast-iron Dutch oven, but any heavy-bottomed pot big enough to hold the soup will do. Heat the pot over medium high heat. Add the oil. Dredge the beef cubes in flour and add and stir, watching the heat so you don’t burn the flour, until the cubes are all nice and brown. Add the stock or broth and the tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in carrots, celery, onion, cabbage and bay leaf to the pot, cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

When the beets are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them, slice them, and quarter the slices, saving a few whole slices to put on the top of each serving bowl. I should warn you to wear an apron, and do this over the sink, since these beets will give off a lot of juice and you’ll be having a Lady Macbeth caught “red-handed” kind of experience.

Stir the beets into the pot with the vinegar and cook for 30 minutes or until the beets are tender, but still have some firmness to them. You may have to add some more stock or water to thin it out.

When the beets are tender, remove bay leaf, taste for salt and pepper, then put the borscht into bowls, add a generous dollop of sour cream, and garnish with snipped fresh dill. My friend Bev Langeveld, who with her husband Martin, once years ago ran a country inn here in the Berkshires told me that they made borscht once there and stirred in the sour cream and nobody would eat it because it came out the color of Pepto Bismol. So with that cautionary tale in mind let each diner stir in his or her own. Serve with crusty bread, and enjoy!

(Photos: R.L. Floyd)