Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The best meatloaf you will never make!

Ok, ok, I know that’s a stupid title. If you read this you’ll understand that my aim here is to remain the lovable didact I have become later in life.

My mantra is, “Be Creative.” I hardly ever cook something that doesn’t include some leftover item from a meal a day or two before. Also, we check out the “Manager’s Specials” at Safeway every time we shop. That’s where you will find meat, chicken, sausage, etc. that is at or 1 day away from its sale date. Never have I gotten home to find these items unusable – they seem perfectly fresh.

I debated consulting “Joy of Cooking” before starting assembly of the meatloaf. But I was short of time and knew exactly what stuff was in the fridge and freezer. The proportions were guesswork. Shopped for items: green bell pepper and an onion.

The most unusual part of the recipe involves the leftover milanesa. I don’t think I got the oil hot enough last night and it ended up kind of tough and, worse, greasy.

It’s not often that I want to overeat. However, this is the best meatloaf I ever ate in my life. And that’s saying something given how often my mother made it and the times we’ve cooked it, and the times I’ve had it at a diner.

I’m sorry, but you will find it impossible to reproduce this. You can, however, make your own version. More or less ketchup, W-sauce, etc., or garlic, onion, green pepper. All negotiable. Bear in mind that what I put together just fit the loaf pan – no room for more meat.

The best meatloaf you will never make! (6 servings)
1 tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, finely chopped
½ green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.25 lb pork “country” ribs (boneless, trimmed of fat)
2 bratwurst, casing removed
5 oz leftover beef milanesa, breading scraped off and saved
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup homemade bread crumbs
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 tablespooons ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp barbeque sauce (commercial bottled)
2 tsp liquid smoke
salt and black pepper
3 slices thick-cut bacon
boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place a rack in the middle position. Boil some water in the teakettle.
Heat the oil in a sauté pan and sweat the onion, pepper and garlic for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Grind the 3 meats via your stand mixer or food processor. Get it fairly fine (judgment call). Put the meat in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl combine the egg, bread crumbs and half-and-half.

Add ketchup, W-sauce, bbq sauce, liquid smoke, and salt and pepper to the meat. Add both the onion mix and the egg mix and the breading from the milanesa. Use your hands and squish it all together. Be thorough.

Put it into a greased loaf pan (size: the width will be exactly that of ½ a slice of bacon). Cut bacon slices in half across and lay on top of the meatloaf. Press it in a bit.

Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet with 1” sides. Place in the oven and pour boiling water around it. 1/3 of an inch is plenty.

Bake for 1 ¼ hours or until a thermometer registers 155°. I use an electronic probe that sends updated temp readings to a receiver in the TV room where I’m usually watching “Jeopardy.”

Remove from the oven and let stand uncovered for 10-15 minutes. If you then cut slabs the thickness of the bacon slices you’ll get 6 portions.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Soup

I blogged the other day about the lupin beans I found in a middle-eastern market. In planning our meals for the week (actually we only do it a day or two ahead) we decided we wanted to use some of the beans in a dinner soup.

Sometimes our soups are based on cleaning out leftovers from the fridge. In this case, not. I had to go do my hausfrau thing this morning at Sunflower Market to acquire the stuff we needed to make this a one-dish meal.

A Soup
2 medium red potatoes, ½” dice (don’t peel them)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
3 bratwurst, casing removed, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 - 2 cups potato cooking water
1 cup beans (any kind…from a can)
pinch each of dried oregano, thyme and tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice
grated carrot (optional)
more olive oil (optional)
croutons (optional)

In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Put on the stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to an energetic simmer and cook until the potatoes and al dente, about 8 minutes.

Use a spider and remove the potatoes to a colander, rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside. Reserve the potato water.

Add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter to a soup pot. When the butter has melted and the foam has subsided, add the onion, garlic, tomato and sausage. Cook until sausage is done throughout, about 10 minutes.

Add broth to the pot along with the kale. Ladle in some of the potato water if it seems needed. The extra water can also mitigate any excessive saltiness which might come from the sausage. Bring to a simmer. Bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with a splash of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, grated carrot, and croutons if you wish.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salmon burgers a la Hubert Keller

French chef, Hubert Keller, appears on public tv from time to time. He's always fascinating. Today's post was inspired by an episode in which he prepared various burgers. His technique for salmon was two-fold. He did a traditional ground meat version, but this one is very interesting and extremely good.

These patties are constructed from about 14 oz. of salmon filet cut crosswise into 3 approximately 1" wide pieces, skin removed. One of the pieces is sliced in half and is wrapped within another slice. In the picture below you can see outlined the half slices wrapped thusly.

Take four 1" wide pieces of foil and fold and twist into a rope-like shape. Twist two of them together to make a long rope (otherwise it might not be long enough to encircle the burgers. Wrap the "rope" around the burgers and twist it to secure it.

Salt and pepper the salmon to taste on both sides. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter until the butter foams and the foam subsides.

Put the burgers in the pan. Cook undisturbed for 3 minutes. Turn and cook for 3 more minutes.

Remove to a plate, remove the foil rope, cover with foil, and put into a warm oven (if you wish) to keep them warm.

Increase the heat under the skillet to high. Whisk in 1 tbsp butter, 3 tbsp white wine, the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a tbsp of capers (you can chop them or not). Let the liquid reduce by half and then spoon it over the salmon burgers when you serve them.

Garnish with parsley if you wish.

Roast chicken a la Julia Child

This picture isn't of today's recipe. I had very little time to assemble this after spending most of the afternoon at a doctor appointment with Peter and then at the gym. However, except for the legs being tied together, this is pretty much what it looked like after cooking.

Using a couple of different gift cards we had been given, we got both volumes of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I've been reading it like a novel, though without going straight from beginning to end.

It may be heresy to say so, but I find the books more useful as idea generators than literal recipe guides. Yes, the recipes are terrifically detailed. When you read enough of them you realize there is more room for flexibility within them than you might think at first blush.

A great deal of butter is used. Vegetables are cooked much longer than I would cook them. Hers are more along the lines of the mushy ones my mother (and so many others of her generation) prepared.

I studied at length a method of "half-boning" a chicken. It looked intriguing. I also wanted to use some leftover squash risotto as a stuffing, adding to it some duxxelle of mushroom. I'd suggest concocting a stuffing of cooked (white or wild) rice, mushrooms, celery, etc. Stuffing isn't essential, but with the half-boned chicken the stuffing lent great flavor and moistness to the breast meat which it came in direct contact with. A traditional bread stuffing (even with a bit of sausage) also sounds fine.

I went with a 3 pound bird from Sunflower Market. I should have examined it more carefully because I discovered at home that the breast skin was torn in a couple of places. Julia's technique was to peel back the breast skin, bone out the breast meat, cut our the entire rib cage, slice the breast into strips, insert stuffing, lay breast strips on it, and pull the skin back over everything, securing with skewers.

I found an alternative method which worked just fine. Also in question was the amount of cooking time. Fortunately we have an electronic thermometer with a remote receiver which we take into the tv room where we have cocktails and watch "Jeopardy" before getting dinner on the table. The cooking time came out to just about 1 hr. 20 minutes. Obviously a larger bird (typical 4 lb. supermarket hen) would take longer.

Roast chicken (or Cornish hen)
1 3 lb (or so) free range chicken or a 2 1/2 lb. Cornish hen
2-3 cups stuffing
2 tbsp butter at room temperature
black pepper

Brine the bird for 2-3 hours: immerse it in water with 1 tbsp kosher salt per cup; additions can be 1 tbsp sugar per cup of water and a tsp roughly cracked black pepper per cup. Refrigerate with something on it to hold it under. Or use a freezer bag in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse the chicken thoroughly under cold water and dry it with paper towels. Slice through the skin at the breastbone from one end to the other. Slice along the bones underneath to free the entire breast portion on each side. Remove the rib cage by cutting it out with poultry shears.

Insert stuffing into the cavity you've created. You won't need all 3 cups, maybe as little as 1, depends on the size of the bird. Save the rest to cook separately in the oven while the bird roasts. Fold the breast meat back over the stuffing and secure with skewers, using at least two, one from each end. It may take a third skewer to tuck up the tail portion over the opening between the legs. Cross the legs over one another and tie them there with kitchen string.

Smear the butter all over the skin of the bird (you can ignore the back) and liberally apply black pepper to taste. Place on a rack over a baking sheet with 1" sides and roast in the oven until the thickest part of the thigh is at 170 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.

Remove skewers and slice off the entire breast portions on each side. Serve the stuffing with 1 drumstick or thigh and 1/2 of a breast.

Lupini beans

I went to a middle-Eastern market last week, mostly because I wanted to get some pomegranate molasses. I wandered through the very few aisles of the store and found a package of what were labeled "lupin" beans. I asked the proprietor about them. He said, "You will not like. Very sour."

Well, you know me, that became a challenge I had to assume. It turns out that, like everything else, there are numerous recipes online for what are apparently more commonly called "lupini." I picked one and followed it fairly closely. Who wants to futz around with something that takes nearly a week to prepare? Yours truly chose to.

There's some alkali sort of thing in the beans and it takes a great deal of simmering and soaking to get it out. Was it worth it? From the standpoint of a curiosity, yes; but from the standpoint of repeating it, no. The results are chewy, a fact that I find satisfying; they supposedly have nutritional value rivaling that of soy beans. The skins are edible and dense, but I don't mind.

I can't tell you you must try this. I'm just reporting here.

Lupini beans
1 pound lupini beans
kosher salt as needed
freshly chopped rosemary
olive oil
black pepper
lemon juice

Ok, buckle down. Soak the beans in plain water overnight (refrigeration not necessary).

Next day: drain and rinse the beans in a large colander. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Drain in the colander and rinse with cold water until cooled. Put them back into the pot and cover with water to which you've added 1 tbsp salt for each 2 cups. I used 5 cups water, therfore 2 1/2 tbsp salt. Refrigerate overnight. Repeat the simmering and salting process each day for 5 days, at which point they should taste good nad be tender enough to eat.

I added an extra simmer at the end because I wanted to further tenderize the beans. They are pretty chewy but quite satisfying.

They can be eaten room temperature or warmed and dressed with olive oil, chopped rosemary (or tarragon), lemon juice and pepper. You won't need salt. They aren't salty after all the brining, but they just don't seem to need any more of it.

Pork burgers with creamed corn

This combination of dishes was fun to make and came by way of a couple of inspired ideas (mine).

First, the pork: I had some bone-in pork loin chops which weighed a total of exactly 1 pound. After the bones and fat were removed the remains weighed 12 oz., an ideal amount for 2 burgers.

I got the idea to render the fat and bones in a sauté pan and use the fat to fry the sage leaves briefly and then sauté the onion for the creamed corn in the fat. If you happen to use boneless chops you could still trim the fat and use it as described.

As for the radishes, the use of them occurred to me while searching through our greens drawer in the fridge. I love sautéed radishes, having originally been turned on to them by Lydia Bastianich. And since pork burgers get cooked all the way through, the radishes suffused them with their own delicate flavor – all the pepperiness cooks out of the radishes.

You could use more onion for the creamed corn if you wish (maybe ½ an onion), but ¼ onion was what we had and seemed sufficient to me. Also, we had half-and-half but no heavy cream. Cream would indeed be preferable. One more thing: use a seeded jalapeno if you don’t have Hatch chiles.

Pork burgers
12 oz. ground pork
4 medium radishes
4 sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil

Trim 1 lb. bone-in pork loin chops of all bones and fat. Chop the meat in a food processor. Remove to a bowl and chop the radishes very fine. Add to the pork.

Use trimmings as below for creamed corn. After the fat has rendered, fry the sage leaves in it for 1 minute. Break up into the ground meat. Mix the sage and radishes into the pork with your hands. Form into 2 burgers. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the burgers 4-5 minutes per side until cooked all the way through.

Creamed corn
Fat trimmings from pork chops or 1 slice bacon
¼ medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 lb. frozen corn kernels
1 chopped Hatch chile, skin and seeds removed
1/3 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

Render the pork fat (or bacon) and set the bits aside. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until softened but not browned.

Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and add the corn and chile. Season with salt and white or black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook covered for a few (3-4) minutes.
Add the half-and-half or cream and bring back to a simmer. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

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