Entries Tagged as 'Pork and Beef'

I Want to Marry Marinating

October 9th, 2012 · 43 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Pork and Beef

I’m just going to ask you point blank: Do you know about marinating? Do you know how marinating has the power to change your dinnertime? (Which is to say, of course, your life?) Do you know that marinating can be a working parent’s best friend?…That I, Jenny Rosenstrach, take thee marinating to be my lawful wedded….

Yes, I’m sure there’s a science to it, and yes if I were a real food writer I would give you exact measurements for each of the following three-minute marinades that you can assemble in the morning in order to be that much more ahead of the game when you walk in the door at night. But to get all scientific is to lose the beauty of it. Marinating is like braising — it’s very very difficult to screw it up and even someone with the tiniest bit of culinary courage could wind up having fun with different combinations of flavors. Just remember that you need to whisk some acid in there (lemon, lime, vinegar, buttermilk — to help with the tenderizing) and getting creative with a fresh torn herb or two is never going to be a bad idea, but otherwise, it’s up to you.

Marinade: A few shots soy sauce + 1/2 cup bourbon + spoonful brown sugar
Add
: A pork tenderloin for Pork with Apples (shown; page 71 Dinner: A Love Story just replace the peaches with apples that hold their shape when cooked, like Cortlands or Jonagolds)

Marinade: Cup or so of buttermilk + dollop of mustard + heavy drizzle olive oil + salt & pepper
Add
: Chicken drumsticks for Oven-fried Chicken

Marinade: Mostly yogurt + juice from one lime + chopped peeled ginger + olive oil + torn cilantro
Add: Chicken thighs or breasts for Yogurt-marinated Chicken

Marinade: Maple syrup + soy sauce + rice vinegar + oil (I’d go same amounts for all but syrup which you only need a heavy drizzle of…)
Add: Pork chops for Rory’s Maple Candy Pork Chops

Marinade: White miso + sake + mirin + sugar
Add: Cod for Nobu’s Famous Miso-glazed Black Cod (OK, fine that one takes three days, but you’ll have to eat on Friday, too, right?)

There. Doesn’t it sorta seem like there’s a little sous chef at home thinking about dinner so you don’t have to? How good does that feel?

Feel free to share your favorite combos as well.

 

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It’s All in the Marketing

September 6th, 2012 · 13 Comments · Dinner: A Love Story, the Book, Picky Eating, Pork and Beef, Uncategorized

From the mailbox:

Dear Jenny,

About a month ago we were having chili for dinner. Our son hates chili. All types. Tomato, white bean chicken, we have battled over it all. I have pushed, he has pursed (his lips tightly). I have threatened (which I know is not the way to promote healthy attitudes toward food), he has cried (I’m not proud of this). Anyway, he asked what we were having for dinner  this night and I said, “Chili.” But instantly I recalled these words which I had read only hours before, “It’s all about marketing.” and so I quickly changed the title. “Actually, I mean, it’s soup. Two bean, ground beef, tomato soup…on a potato.” “Oh. It really looks like chilli.” he replied. “I know, crazy huh?”  He then proceed to eat the. whole. bowl, asked for more and did not complain about it once.  Yes, it really is all about marketing.

So, in closing, I’m so glad Amazon recommended your book and I’m so glad to have been introduced to your blog through it (aaaand  books we love??! Oh man your blog was really made for me!) I love it.

Sincerely a very happy reader,
Katie Leonard

Thanks Katie! PS: Here’s the “two-bean, ground beef, tomato soup” that works in our house. And, incidentally fits right into my More Freezer Dinner School Year Resolution Plan. PPS: The photo above is from my book, which has a whole chapter devoted to my personal experience with my very own (recovered) picky eater. Do you have a marketing plan?

PLUS: Help for Lunch-Packing Dreaders! (To my knowledge, that includes all parents of all school-age children?)  A back-to-school interview I did with Epicurious.

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Summer Stew

July 18th, 2012 · 20 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Deconstructing Dinner, Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

I should probably be stripped of my food blogging rights for telling you to do anything with summer corn besides eat it on the cob with a little salt and butter, but you know I can’t resist the urge to share the discovery of a new deconstructible dinner. Last week was not the first time we’ve eaten this corn, chicken and sausage stew — not by a longshot, we ate a version of it almost every August weekend one summer in the 90s. But since then, we’ve had to think a bit more strategically about dinner, which, of course, is another way of saying, we’ve become parents. I was happy to discover last week, that the family classic joins the ranks of the tortilla soup, the salmon salad, and the other dinners on page 158-163 of my book that can be broken down into their individual components so that they can be more palatable to the kids, and less headache-inducing for the cook. It’s a goodie.

Summer Stew with Chicken, Corn, and Sausage
Adapted from Gourmet

3 links chorizo sausage (I used chicken), sliced into coins
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 or 7 boneless chicken thighs, salted and peppered
1/2 medium onion, chopped
red pepper flakes (optional)
2 to 3 cups corn, cut off the cob
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
basil, chopped

In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown sausage in olive oil over medium heat until crispy. Remove.  Raise heat to medium-high and brown chicken (in batches if necessary) on both sides until mostly cooked through. Remove. Turn down heat to medium-low, add onion, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and a little more oil if necessary. Stir until slightly wilted. Add corn and tomatoes and stir until vegetables release their juices.

Nestle chicken and sausage back in the vegetables, cover and simmer another 5-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve with basil and crusty bread in bowls, or separate into individual components for the kid who doesn’t like things “mixed” and serve on a plate.

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The Dadoo Special

June 15th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Quick, Uncategorized

I remember this vividly. When I was six years old, I was in the basement of our house on Aldenham Lane, playing with my dad. Our basement was the kind of basement I feel bad that my kids don’t have today – a concrete floor, an old wooden workbench, high metal shelves sagging with caulk and stains and Maxwell House cans filled with screws, a queen-sized foam mattress, a pool table (with ivory inlays and broken slate), and a paint-splattered station where my older brother would lose entire afternoons building these intricate models of Spitfires and Messerschmitts. The kind of basement, in other words, where you could dismember GI Joe dolls in relative peace.

Anyway, we were sitting on the floor, building something with my Erector Set.

“Dad?” I said.

“Yes?”

“Is Santa Claus real?”

He paused.

(A parent now, I know what he was thinking.)

He looked at me.

“Nope,” he said.

Cue sound of bowling ball crashing through giant pane of glass. The bracing, ammoniac sting of honesty like that! Wow. Damn! I still, to this day, give him grief for this. (Me: I can’t believe you just came out and said it. Dad: Well, what was I gonna do, lie?) This could be the adult in me talking, but I feel like I remember the room going all wobbly, like the staircase shot in Vertigo. Clearly, my dad did not believe in secrets.

Except when it came to his cooking. And by cooking, I mean the one meal he was responsible for making all by himself, from start to finish. His lone specialty was known around the house as The Dadoo Special, a name which, it’s true, does have a certain grandeur to it, but which – no offense, Dad — also sounds a lot like something a dude with zero chops in the kitchen would name the one dish he figured out how to make on his own. I loved the Dadoo Special. Partly because I loved my dad, but also because it did, in fact, feel special. It tasted really good, and appeared only in the warm summer months, when school was out and the Weber was up and running and the grown-ups enjoyed their grown-up drinks outside, in the woodchipped area out back, behind the azeleas, where my dad had set up – this was the seventies, after all, the era of lawn sports, mandals, and non-ironic mustaches – a freakin’ horseshoe pit. Looking back, the Dadoo Special was nothing more than a souped-up burger – a little sweet, a little spicy – that, amazingly, required no ketchup at all. I would tell you exactly how my dad made it…if he had ever let me watch him make it. The Dadoo Special, you see, was always prepared in private, behind closed doors, on a need-to-know basis only. And I, apparently, did not need to know.

“What’s in it?” I would ask.

“That’s a secret.”

“Seriously, dad.”

“Get out of the kitchen,” he’d say, and to stay and risk not having Dadoo Specials for dinner always seemed a risk not worth taking.

I still don’t know exactly what was in the things, and – since my dad probably hasn’t made one in thirty years – I doubt he does, either. But I do remember the taste, and the slight crunch of the onion, and feel fairly confident that I can recreate it – heck, maybe even improve upon it — here. We’ll be making these on Father’s Day, in honor of my dad, and in the spirit of openness. No more secrets, not in this house. – Andy

P.S. Re the photo above: Yeah, that’s a puka shell necklace I’m wearing. And yeah, that’s zinc oxide on my nose. And yeah, I’m wearing plaid JAMS. The thing on my dad’s upper lip? That would be a mustache. Viva los 70s!

The Dadoo Special

Okay, so the Dadoo is basically meatloaf on a bun. Pretty sure my dad used Heinz barbecue sauce, but the homemade stuff is better. (See our recipe for that on page 238 of Jenny’s book.) In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ pounds ground beef, 1/3 cup barbecue sauce, ½ cup of finely chopped Vidalia onion, a couple dashes of Worcestershire, and lots of salt and freshly ground pepper. Combine gently, as you want to preserve some of that loose texture of the meat. Grill over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side.

Reminder: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on the comment field of this post, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!

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I’ll Take My Steak Rare, Cut in Microscopic Pieces

April 2nd, 2012 · 19 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Pork and Beef, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t call up about a line that Lisa Belkin wrote in the New York Times two or three years ago. In an article about overparenting and the self-esteem generation used to getting praise at every turn, she asked Are we raising kids who are prepared for college, but not for life? I think about it when my 8-year-old refuses to tie her cleats by herself because she likes the way her parents tie them tighter. I think about it when I read about Ramona walking to kindergarten by herself (or maybe with Henry) while we have a really hard time letting our 10-year-old walk home from a friend’s house around the corner. I think about it when I’m reading about 11-year-old Laura Ingalls helping Pa turn straw bundles into kindling in sub-zero blizzard conditions during The Long Winter. I think about it when I see my daughters’ ballerina classmates twisting up their own buns (complete with hair net and bobby pins), when I am picking up their rooms, and hanging their wet towels, and reminding them to pack their homework, and on “Steakhouse Night” when I’m cutting their filets into teeny tiny pieces because if left to their own devices they’d probably shove Buick-sized chunks into their mouths. Or at least that’s what I think they’d do. Since I’ve never trusted them to cut their own steak, I don’t really know what they’d do. And even though I wish I was a different kind of parent, the way things are going, I don’t think I’m going to find out any time soon.

Steakhouse Night
“Steakhouse Night” includes about 2 pounds of filet, Andy’s no-cream creamed spinach, and pretty much always takes place on a Saturday night. The only variable is the potato dish. This past weekend we did a rosti (or, as Abby calls it “the hugest potato pancake ever”) but nothing should stop you from switching it up with twice-baked potatoes or oven fries.

Grilled Steak

Generously salt and pepper four steak filets. Grill over medium-high heat about 5-6 minutes a side (depending on thickness) until meat is firm but not rock hard. Cut into microscopic pieces if serving to a child under 21.

Potato Rosti (or “Hugest Potato Pancake Ever” as Abby calls it)
This is the kind of thing you don’t really need a recipe for. If you have two or three baking potatoes you can make a thicker rosti; if you only have one, it will work fine, too. Just be sure to add the potatoes to the pan as quickly as possible after shredding to prevent the potatoes from turning brown. But if it does turn brown, fear not, they’ll still taste as good. They just won’t look as golden.

1 to 2 baking potatoes, peeled
1/4 to a 1/3  small onion
salt and pepper
vegetable oil and butter

Using a grater or the shredding attachment on a food processor, shred your potatoes and onion into a large bowl. If you have time, take a paper towel or dishtowel and pat the potatoes to soak up as much moisture as you can. Add salt and pepper and toss. (You can also get creative with add-ins here — herbs, shredded cheese, etc.)

In a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of butter. Add potatoes to the pan, spreading and pressing flat so it looks like a large pancake. Let sit for 8 to 10 minutes until the edges look golden and crispy.

Place a large plate on top of the skillet and, working carefully, invert pan so cake flips onto plate. Add a little more butter and oil to skillet and slide the cake back into pan, uncooked side down. Cook another 8-10 minutes until cooked through. Cut into wedges and serve.

Creamed Spinach

Thaw a box or a bag of frozen spinach by placing it in a colander and running warm water over it for a few minutes. Press down on the spinach to squeeze out all the liquid. In a small frying pan over medium heat, add olive oil and a half a large onion (chopped), salt, pepper, a few red pepper flakes (optional, as always). After about 5 minutes, add spinach and toss with onions until spinach is heated through. Sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons of flour (this will prevent curdling of milk in next step) and stir. Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of milk (lowfat, 1%, whole…any kind but chocolate!) depending on how creamy you like your creamed spinach, and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. Stir until heated through and serve.

 

 

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When the Pasta-Hater is Away…

March 5th, 2012 · 15 Comments · Pasta, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Quick, Uncategorized

God knows, it’s not that I don’t love the kid. I have pledged my undying devotion to her here — she’s our firstborn, is kind to animals, has the soul of a poet, and is generally an all-around solid performer at the table. But Phoebe does not eat pasta. Phoebe, in fact, actively dislikes pasta. She hasn’t touched the stuff in five years. She wrinkles up her nose at the sight of it, says it’s slimy, boring, without flavor. I don’t know where she comes from, when she says things like this. The girl has not one but  two Italian grandmothers and she doesn’t like pasta? As they say in the Old Country, WHAT THE? To each her own and te gustibus and etc. — we all have our food bugaboos, and there’s no accounting for them – but the upshot of Phoebe’s pasta aversion is that Jenny and I, two lifelong pasta lovers, have basically given it up in the interest of family dinner harmony. (Hence the minimal pasta entries on the ol’ DALS recipe index. Apologies!) But then, last Saturday morning, Phoebe woke up with some kind of virus. “Churny,” is how she described the feeling in her stomach. She didn’t have a bite of food all day, and spent much of the afternoon in bed. You know it’s for real when Phoebe says dinner doesn’t appeal to her.

Again: I love her dearly and I evinced real sympathy for her plight, but I also chose to see this as a rare opportunity. Jenny was out with friends, so it was just Abby, me, and a bag of good linguine. Phoebe, nursing her mild fever, was fully laid out — a sad-eyed Lady with the vapors — on the kitchen counter, a couch cushion under her head, watching us as we cooked. As Jenny has noted here before, the recipe we settled on (below) looks so much more daunting, when you write it all out, than it actually was to pull off. This was a pure and simple pantry meal: we did no pre-planning, and no shopping. Everything we needed was already in the house — and most of it was frozen. When it came time to eat, Phoebe couldn’t bear to sit with us at the table: the sight of food, she said, would put her over the edge. So she sat in the TV room, reading Garfield under a blanket, as Abby and I tucked in. “How good is pasta?” I said to her, but she didn’t answer back. Her mouth was full. – Andy

Pasta with Vegetables and Pecorino

We used frozen corn and peas here, but you can use anything, really: broccoli would be good, as would spinach. You can also skip the pork at the beginning, but adding bacon in our house is like baiting a hook, and Abby can’t resist. So we went with the pork. Which doesn’t seem to gratuitous, as the chicken broth base makes this feel somewhat light, and a little bit healthy.

1 pound linguine
1/4 cup bacon, pancetta, or good country ham, chopped
1 shake red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon salted butter
Pecorino Romano, grated, in great quantities

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, over medium-low heat, cook bacon in olive oil with red pepper flakes, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and turn heat to medium. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping any brown bits on bottom of pan as it cooks. Dump in peas, corn, scallions, salt and pepper. Stir and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon and butter, and stir until it’s silky and emulsified. Dump cooked pasta into skillet and toss with tongs. Serve topped with plenty of Pecorino Romano.

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Real Deal Bolognese

January 17th, 2012 · 59 Comments · Pasta, Pork and Beef

Like a lot of people I know, I returned from my first trip to Italy in 1993 determined to teach myself how to cook. The eating in Florence, where Andy was “studying” art for the summer, was so revelatory that I didn’t waste a whole lot of time once the wheels touched down Stateside. On the way home from the airport, I stopped by our local bookstore and found my friend Matt behind the counter. I asked if he could recommend a good Italian cookbook that might offer even just a hint of what I had just experienced across the Atlantic. As far as I know, Matt never cooked a thing in his life, but he will forever hold a special place in my heart because he handed me The Classic Italian Cookbook, by Marcella Hazan, and, with the understatement of the decade, told me, “People seem to really like her.”

The name was familiar — Andy’s Aunt Patty had already introduced us to Marcella’s milk-braised pork loin — so I plunked down my five bucks for the mass market-y looking paperback, started flipping through it, and for almost twenty years have not stopped. That’s probably why the book, held together by masking tape, now looks like this:

It’s sort of like looking at Luca Bear, my daughter’s dingy teddy-bear lovey with the frayed bowtie that she has been sleeping with since she was 13 months. One look at him and you know that thing has been on the receiving end of some serious love.

The summer I first bought CIC, I tried out a few of the recognizable recipes — Tomato Sauce 1, Tomato Cream Sauce, Blender Pesto — making some real knucklehead comments in the margin as I went along. “Too garlicky” I wrote after adding three cloves of garlic to a tomato sauce that didn’t call for any garlic at all. Improvising with a Marcella recipe, I’ve since learned, is not something one does, unless one does not want to learn how to cook. You make the dish exactly the way she tells you to. In a nod to her shortcut-obsessed American audience, her headnotes are studded with phrases like “if you insist” and “if you are so inclined” (Fettucine with Gorgonzola Sauce: “You can try substituting domestic gorgonzola or other blue cheeses, if you are so inclined, but you will never achieve the perfectly balanced texture and flavor of this sauce with any cheese but choice Italian gorgonzola”), but the effect is the opposite of liberating. It makes you desperate to not disappoint her. (There are also many less passive instructions such as this one, under Mayonnaise: “I can’t imagine anyone with a serious interest in food using anything but homemade mayonnaise.”) The ingredients she uses in her recipes are all basic staples of any kitchen — butter, ground beef, salt, onions — which means that in order to yield the kinds of dishes that have earned her exalted status in the food world, it is absolutely imperative that you do not deviate from what’s written. For Hazan, who was trained as a biologist and went on to teach cooking classes in her New York apartment, it’s all about technique. When I do what I am told (literally leveling off two tablespoons of chopped onions), not only do I find  myself with insanely delicious dinners I’d be proud to serve to Grandmas Turano and Catrino, but I find myself a little smarter in the kitchen. Her bolognese, which you are looking at above, was the first Hazan recipe that we fell in love with for this reason. “It must be cooked in milk before the tomatoes are added,” she wrote. “This keeps the meat creamier and sweeter tasting.” And then: “It must cook at the merest simmer for a long, long time. The minimum is 3 1/2 hours; 5 is better.” We, of course, always do five. (more…)

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Quick and Easy Pork Fried Rice

January 11th, 2012 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Quick

It’s almost irresponsible of me to tell you about the way I served this meal to my kids — because it’s exactly the way that, if practiced often enough, will drive you to swear off family dinner forever. I love fried rice. Before Andy and I had kids we’d make it with shrimp and pork and chicken all the time. Or at least we’d always make it when we had leftover rice from sushi or Chinese takeout, which was surprisingly often. Nowadays, though, with Trader Joe’s frozen cooked rice (which I highly recommend) we can, in theory make fried rice meals as the main event instead of the spinoff. But we don’t. That’s because, as most of you know by now, we have two miniature egg-o-thropes in the house. And one rice-hater to boot. I’ve spent more hours that I should probably admit, thinking about how to deconstruct this old favorite so that we can all enjoy it in one form or another as a family meal. But as I found out yesterday, some things are just not meant to be. Even quick and easy and cheap and deLISHous meals like this one. Abby ended up having her version as you see below — with pork, rice, and peas that were tossed with soy sauce tableside. Phoebe ended up having…a barbecue pork sandwich on a biscuit and a butter lettuce salad with tomatoes and onions on the side. What was supposed to be quick and easy and delicious became drawn-out and complicated and…delicious. In spite of the drama, I’m giving you the recipe anyway — it’s pretty clear I won’t make it again until the girls are college-bound, but it’s too good a recipe to not share with families who might have better children luck. Who says I don’t do anything nice for you? (more…)

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Four Strategies for Nervous Nellies

January 9th, 2012 · 7 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Pork and Beef

I was at a dinner party with two other couples last year when the host approached me discreetly in the living room. “Can you come here?” she whispered, motioning towards the kitchen. She led me to the oven, pulled out a roasting pan filled with eight split chicken breasts whose skin were all a nice caramel-ly brown. “They’re ready, right?” she asked. I always get nervous with thick chicken breasts, too, so I asked her how long they’d been in. “About an hour,” she told me. I had a feeling they weren’t done yet. “Can I touch one?” I asked. I poked one of them in the thickest part. It felt too soft. The rule for doneness with chicken, I told her, is that it should feel firm to the touch but not rock hard. “It needs more time.” Andy walked in and I pulled him over for his opinion. Along with his tight spiral and his general kindness towards humanity, gauging meat doneness is one of his greatest qualities. He poked the chicken once, and with a conviction I envied, declared, “Five more minutes.”

Five minutes later we were sitting down to a delicious, well-cooked herby chicken with market-fresh greens.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in the same situation as my chicken-roasting host. Or I should say, how many times I used to be in that situation. It’s not that I’ve become so confident when face-to-face with, say, a lamb shoulder, or a $20/pound Christmas filet mignon or a bacon-spinach-stuffed ribeye, but I don’t stress about cooking meat to proper doneness nearly as much as I used to. Part of the reason for this — OK most of the reason for this — is that Andy is so preternaturally gifted with meat that it just makes sense to cede the floor to him when a Porterhouse or a flank steak is on the menu. But the other reason is that I’ve discovered a whole bunch of ways to prepare meaty main dishes that involve absolutely no stressing about doneness at all. These are the strategies I tend to fall back on when I’m having people over for dinner and there’s a 100% chance that I would be filling a sippy cup at the exact moment a meat thermometer would hit the point of no return.

1. Put Away the Meat Thermometer and Braise. Large hunks of meat become much more friendly when you braise them. This basically means you are cooking a loin or a shoulder in liquid in the oven or on the stovetop for a few hours at a low temperature. Beyond the fact that this technique makes it impossible to overcook or undercook, it magically transforms cheap cuts of meat into melty tenderness and is almost always just the thing for a warm-your-bones winter meal. See: Marcella’s Milk-braised Pork Loin; Braised Short Ribs; Pork Ragu; Baked Chicken with Mascarpone. (That last one is less braising than submerging, but it’s equally effective and takes much less time.)

2. Think Small. It’s much easier to gauge the doneness of small pieces of meat and fish than it is to make the call on larger pieces. Just think — if you’re not sure, you can break open a small piece of chicken in a stir-fry to check for the telltale shiny pink and the dish won’t be any worse for the wear. You can’t really do this with a whole roast chicken without releasing the trapped juices that make a perfectly roasted chicken so tasty. See: Chicken with Broccoli; Pan-seared Scallops; Beef with Broccoli.

3. Hack! One of the reasons I fell in love with salmon salad was because after a fillet was roasted or grilled you had to shred it into pieces and toss it with the vegetables and vinaigrette.  This meant that if you weren’t sure the salmon was cooked to proper doneness you could definitely take a peak in the middle with a knife or a fork or a pick axe — and if it wasn’t ready, just send it back for another few. Who cares what the thing looked like if you were going to eventually hack it all up, right? See: Salmon Salad.

4. Make Clams. Every time I prepare Andy’s clams — which, as you can gather by the name, is not that often — I am amazed at how easy they are. This meal is a bonanza for people who fret about whether something has cooked through or not. Think about how beautifully unequivocal it is that clams, when cooked properly, will open up their shells to tell you that they are done. It’s like they have little mouths. I’m done! Take me out! Eat me! To me this is as much of a miracle of nature as the Blue Footed Booby. See: Spaghetti and Clams; Steamed Little Necks (more…)

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Split Pea Soup with Ham

December 20th, 2011 · 16 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Dinner, Pork and Beef, Sides, Salads, Soup

I don’t want to be mean about it or anything, but if you don’t make this soup the day after you make a holiday ham, something is wrong with you.

P.S. Tonight’s dinner of atonement: my favorite latkes topped with sour cream and smoked salmon. And for dessert: gelt!

Split Pea Soup with Leftover Ham

In a large stockpot, over medium-low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add one onion (chopped), 2 stalks celery (chopped), 3-4 carrots (chopped, about 1 cup). Cook about 8 minutes until vegetables are soft.

Add leftover ham hock (with or without meat still on it), 1 3/4 cup split peas, and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour 10 minutes.

Remove ham hock. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup in the stock pot until it’s mostly smooth. Add a little more water if it seems too thick. If there was meat on the hock, pull it off the bone and add back to the soup. Serve with croutons or baguette toasts.

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Ham for the Holidays

December 19th, 2011 · 19 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Dinner, Entertaining, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Uncategorized

Do you have certain meals that you make rarely, on special occasions, and then, as soon as you’re done eating them, you say to yourself, Damn, that was good. Why don’t we eat this once a week? I do. Roast turkey with stuffing and gravy is one of those meals — so deeply satisfying, and come on, would it be any less satisfying on a Sunday night in January? Pasta with fresh clams and basil is one of those meals: why do we only make it in the summer, when we love it so much? Our New Year’s lobster is one of those meals and so, I’m not afraid to admit, is the twice-a-year kid birthday staple, Hebrew National pigs-in-blankets, with which I shall never ever dream of arguing. But the biggest heartbreaker for me is our beloved yet marginalized friend, the glazed ham. Why is it that we only eat glazed ham in mid-to-late December, at holiday-themed dinner parties? Who made up that rule? No disrespect to our entertaining stand-bys — short ribs, ragu, pork loin braised in milk — but is there really anything tastier or more dramatic looking or, honestly, easier to pull off than a crispy, sweet, salty, diamond-scored, slightly caramelized, fat-marbled, relatively inexpensive, even-better-the-next-day ham sliced up tableside (more…)

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The Game Changer

December 6th, 2011 · 68 Comments · Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

The pork loin I braised in red wine last Tuesday night was pretty freaking delicious. I can say this because most of the credit goes to my coworker — remember the one who was plotting her own pork and lentil stew in the slow-cooker while I was plotting drumsticks? After she told me that one, it was on the brain for 24 hours and I knew the only way to get it off the brain would be to try out a version of the pork stew for myself. The problem? I didn’t own a slow cooker. (Well, not true. I own one, but it is in a box deep in the bowels of our basement, and last time I remember using it, I think it was missing a crucial piece, like a lid.) I was working from home the day I decided to tackle the recipe in my Dutch Oven and began cooking just as the girls were scattering their math workbooks on the kitchen table to start homework.

What’s for dinner? asked Abby as soon as she heard the loin hit in the oil.

This can be such a loaded question. When I’m making something new for the girls — which is fairly often — and there’s a good chance that the unfamiliar name of this dinner will set off some whining, sometimes I just lie and say I don’t know yet. But other times, when dinner is simmering away on the stovetop, and an oniony aroma is in the air, I opt for the truth.

Some sort of pork with beans…and maybe kale, I told her.

I don’t like beans! And then, for the next two hours, it was all Do we have to have pork with beans? and Can’t you make those chicken wings again? and Can you make me something else if I don’t like it?

I hate this scenario. The whole point of dinner — the whole point of this site actually — is to get people excited about sitting down to eat. And what killed me is that I knew Abby would love this meal if she had the right attitude. But she couldn’t picture it, so it scared her. I get it  – for the longest time, that’s exactly how I felt about J.Lo on American Idol.

I needed a game changer. I needed Tater Tots.

Abby had hand-selected a bag of them from Whole Foods a few weekends earlier and hardly a day had gone by when she hadn’t begged to have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It was just the psychological latch she needed on the plate to adjust the way she was approaching the table. I piled a mountain of them next to her pork, which she ate absent-mindedly, and which, when deconstructed and cut into pieces, was not all that much different looking than the Pork braised in Pomegranate Juice and Marcella’s Milk-braised Pork she’s had (and loved) a hundred times before.

And I know this is not exactly breaking news, but Holy Christ Tater Tots taste good! The rest of us were pretty excited about dinner that night, too.

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Long Live Broc

November 16th, 2011 · 10 Comments · Cameos, Dinner, Pork and Beef

I feel passionate about broccoli. It’s not often you hear these words come out of someone’s mouth. Let alone a mom’s mouth. And yet, there I was a few weeks ago, having lunch with my friend Melissa Roberts listening to her talk about broccoli in a manner someone might use to talk about lobster or Shake Shack or the Green Bay Packers. But I knew enough not to change the subject. Melissa was a food editor at Gourmet for almost nine years before it folded (on the same day as Cookie, where I was working a few floors up); She was a cook and a stylist in the Food Network Kitchen and is currently a regular contributor to CTbites; Perhaps most important, she is the one who supplied me with the recipe for Peanut Butter Noodles, which, Google Analytics tells me, you guys seem to click on more than any other vegetarian meal in the DALS archive. But even if you are in the 1% of readers who haven’t made them yet, Melissa has probably found a way into your kitchen some other way. I find it’s impossible to do a search on epicurious without her name popping up on every recipe I end up printing.

But back to broccoli. She feels passionate about broccoli and guess what? It’s in season right now. (Bet you didn’t know it had a season. I didn’t either!) So I’m turning the mic over to her for a guest-post treat and a kick-ass recipe. Thanks, Melissa!

Everyone knows about the beauty of broccoli when you have kids in the house — how it’s an excellent vehicle for dips, delicious topped with melted cheese, simply drizzled with olive oil and salt, or tossed with butter. And I’m not sure I know anyone who hasn’t at one point in their parenting career marketed the little stalks as “trees.”  We rely on it so much, that we’ve all come to see it as an evergreen vegetable, one of convenience, but broccoli is actually a cold-weather crop, best eaten in the deep dark cold months of winter. I try my best to hold off buying broccoli until there’s a chill in the air, but in spite of my best efforts to eat local and seasonally, this has proven a hard resolution to keep because my finicky 9-year-old will go weeks without touching a vegetable…except broccoli. (more…)

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First Place Loser

October 19th, 2011 · 20 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Quick, Rituals, Uncategorized

There’s this thing Abby and I do, before every soccer game. She’s usually sitting on the wooden bench by our door, in her too-big uniform, and even though she’s in third grade, I’m enabling…I mean, tying her cleats. When I’m done, I give her a pat on the knee and look into her eyes.

“You ready?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says. The affect couldn’t be more flat. She has heard this before.

“You gonna be tough out there today?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says.

“Good,” I say, “because if you lose, don’t bother coming home.”

She rolls her eyes.

So when I was loading my stock pot full of chili into the back of our car at 8:30 last Saturday morning, on my way to deliver it unto the judges of our town’s first annual Chili-Off, Abby saw her opening.

“Hey, Dad,” she said.

“Yeah, Abby?”

“If you lose today, don’t bother coming home.”

You know where this is going, right?

We’d signed up for this Chili-Off — which would take place at the Pumpkin Fair, which raises money for our town’s elementary school — a few weeks ago, and Abby wasn’t the only one having fun at my expense. Jenny, too, had been gleefully applying the pressure, getting all up in my mug about it. (“Remember that venison chili Francine made for us like ten years ago?” she asked a few days beforehand, out of nowhere, which I took as challenge — brazen in its passiveness — to my manhood. “Mmmm, that was so good.” Damn, I thought. Should I be using venison?). The night before the contest, she’d been watching me like a hawk as I got my mis en place going, hovering, looking skeptical, asking me if I was nervous, if I knew anything about “the competition,” if I had a secret ingredient up my sleeve (meaning: you might need one), if I’d be able to show my face at the coffee shop if we lost. But I had waited until 9:00 on the night before the contest to start cooking, and I didn’t have the time or bandwith for new recipes or special ingredients. Go with what you know, as they say, and so I did. I’m not about to abandon the chili I love because there might be someone out there building a better, prettier one. It’s called loyalty, people.

Besides, I only know how to make one chili by heart. It’s quick and easy, about thirty minutes of hands-on time, and is a regular in the family rotation. Every Halloween, actually, we make a batch of it for friends and neighbors, who stop in before they go trick or treating, or while they’re out trick or treating, sort an open house kind of deal. It’s a dinner party in a pot. We stick a ladle in the Le Creuset, put some paper bowls and fixings on the counter — sour cream, cheese, cilantro, avocado, chips — and everybody stands around with a glass of red wine and serves themselves. It’s become something of a tradition, and nobody has ever complained about the food. To my face, at least.

The chili itself is a pretty straightforward base with lots of possible variations, but for the First Annual Chili-Off, I decided to go classic (beef), with a slight twist (chorizo). The chorizo adds some subtle heat and smokiness and, in general, just really good depth of flavor. I mean, it’s sausage, for chrissakes; it’s not going to make it worse. By 10 pm, the stock pot was in the refrigerator, marking its time until Judgment Day.

We showed up at the fair at 12:30, having completely missed the Chili-Off, not to mention the panel of seven judges who apparently tasted all fourteen entries with the seriousness of the dead. The day was beautiful, sunny and windy, the leaves just beginning to turn. High clouds were blowing through in long formations. A soccer kind of day. One of Phoebe’s friends ran right up to us as we walked in. “You guys came in second place!” she said. “Phoebe, your dad almost won!”

Almost. Hey, I tried, right?

Jenny looked at me. She smiled. “Second place, wow,” she said, throwing an arm around my shoulder. “Not bad, not bad. But you know what George Steinbrenner said: Second place is really first place loser. I’m just saying.”

Ouch. I don’t the name of the guy who won first place, but I have two things to say to him: Congratulations, your chili rules. And: Stay away from my wife. – Andy

Second Place Chili
Serves 12 to 15 (more…)

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No Kids Allowed (sort of)

September 30th, 2011 · 25 Comments · Dinner, Domestic Affairs, Entertaining, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy

If you come to our house for a grown-up dinner party, there’s a good chance it’ll be just after 8:00, and our two kids will greet you at the door. If all has gone according to plan, they’ll be bathed and pajama’d, their teeth will be brushed, and with a little luck they’ll be in bed, out of sight, 30 minutes later.

It’s not that we worry about the girls being un-presentable or that we fear they’ll pillage the crostini plate before our guests have taken their coats off. (OK, maybe we do worry about the crostini thing. It’s a problem.) It’s that usually the people we have over for dinner are parents, too. Parents who have already spent the waking part of their day doing what parents do – suffering through another Wa Wa Wubbzy marathon, doling out snacks, pretending to lose at Uno – and probably, if they’re being honest, don’t feel a real powerful need to spend valuable babysitting hours doing the same with someone else’s kids.

In our experience, what our guests are looking for is a cocktail with plenty of ice, some tasty food, and a conversation that does not begin with the words, “I am counting to three…” So usually, after our kids make their Dinner Party Cameo – the key with kids, like food, is to leave your guests wanting more — one of us will take them upstairs and shepherd them through their bedtime paces, while the other sets the table and puts the finishing touch on whatever has been braising away all afternoon in the Dutch Oven.

Very often in our house, it’s short ribs. We love braised short ribs for three reasons: one, they’re unstoppably, almost obscenely good; two, they’re impossible to screw up; and three, they require no hands-on time once the guests arrive. Entertaining, for us, is all about not having to start from zero once the kids are in bed, chopping and blanching and reducing – and sweating — while our guests stand in the kitchen, hungry, with one eye on the clock. It’s about having a glass of Barbera and diving into a dinner that is ready to go, but that also feels simultaneously casual and special. And when everything goes right, you can almost forget — for a few hours, at least — that there’s a Thomas the Train track running through the living room, and that you have to be awake at 5:30 the next morning to perform a sock puppet show. – Jenny & Andy

This story appears in the current issue of Bon Appetit. Head over to their website for the Short Ribs recipe, which is a simplified version of an old Balthazar favorite. Photo by Christopher Testani for Bon Appetit.

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Fall Ball

September 26th, 2011 · 14 Comments · Pork and Beef

It’s not that I’m not an autumn girl. I do love how the backyard Japanese maple turns canary yellow and my kitchen window frames it like a painting. I love the crisp air thing. And even though I complain about the weekend-eating game schedule to anyone who will listen, I love the return to soccer. Not a whole lot thrills me more than watching pony-tailed girls sprinting down a field in uniforms.

It’s more that, at heart, I’m a summer girl. And so for me, fall means the end of summer. The end of evening swims, sundresses and flip-flops, lazy nights drinking Dark & Stormies by the grill, tomato sandwiches. The end of coming home from work and feeling like there are still hours and hours left in the day to actually see the kids, make a nice healthy dinner, and in general, have a life.

Not Andy, though. He practically sprints to the calendar on the day he gets to flip the page from August to September. Back when we were in Brooklyn, he used to make a point of cranking up the volume when he sat down to his first football game of the season. (I always wanted to answer “No” when Hank Williams Jr. screamed “Are you ready for some footbaaalll?”) For Andy, if he can get through the first week back after Labor Day, September marks the beginning of a beautiful stretch of bourbon, baseball playoffs, and, of course, braising. I think it was in the middle of this past July — you know the month where New York had 15 straight days of 90-degree days — when he started talking about braising meatballs. When the weather turns, he’d say, I’m going to make pork and sage meatballs. Through August, his vision gained momentum, as though thinking about how to make them (lemon zest! he said driving north on the Saw Mill River Parkway one day) might will the weather into dropping 30 degrees, and he could be back where he belonged: Calling the lines of a soccer game in the late-afternoon autumn light; walking around in fleece; being surrounded by Cortlands and Honeycrisps at the farmer’s market. The market was where he had the final epiphany about his meatball magnum opus. (Apple-cider braised pork meatballs!) And last night when we finally ate them, even a summer girl like me had to admit he was onto something.

Pork Meatballs Braised in Wine and Cider

Using your hands, mix together all the following ingredients and form into golf-ball size meatballs.

1 1/4 pounds ground pork
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

Set a medium saucepan or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Brown meatballs on all sides (in batches if necessary) and remove to a plate. They do not have to be cooked through.

Add 1 large shallot (chopped) to the pot and cook 1 minute. Add 2/3 cup white wine, 1/2 cup apple cider, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, a little salt, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low, add meatballs back to the pot. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes.

Remove balls from pot, whisk 1 tablespoon heavy cream into the braising liquid. Serve meatballs with sauce spooned on top.

We served them with “confetti” brussels sprouts.

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Fry-up!

September 13th, 2011 · 11 Comments · Entertaining, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Rituals

At what point do I stop feeling that pit in my stomach, that gnawing sense of dread, when summer ends? Is it me, or was last week officially the longest four-day week in history? Okay, maybe that’s overstating things, but still: I was hurting, in a real back-to-school way, and I’m a grown-ass man. Back behind my desk, staring at the screen. School lunches to be packed. Bills to be paid, rising anxieties to be tamped down, alarm clocks to be set, soggy basements to be dried, soccer and piano schedules to coordinate, times tables to be memorized, reality to be reckoned with and, most crushing of all, vacation officially over. We did a little posting from our trip in August, but in case it didn’t come across: we had fun, and were extremely fortunate to have had it, and were unbelievably bummed to be back. We had so much fun, we kept looking for ways to relive our trip once we were home — inflicting our pictures on polite friends (“hold on, you gotta see the sandwiches we made for that picnic in Place des Vosges”), making epic photo albums, leaving our souvenirs around, in prominent places, to remind us of where we’d been, replaying our favorite moments (walking up the Eiffel Tower, hiking the South Downs, napping on trains, watching a clueless, jet-lagged dad try to pay for a crepe in Paris with a ten dollar bill) with the kids around the dinner table.

If you were to call this a form of denial, you wouldn’t be wrong. Two weeks after coming home, we’re still denying, still holding on. This weekend, in homage to the few days we spent in England on the way home from Paris, we had a fry up — cardiologists and vegetarians, avert your eyes — and kicked off our Sunday with an absurd plate of runny eggs, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, baked beans, and toast. Of all the unhealthy things we ate in England — to name a few: rock cake, apple tart, banoffee pie, Cadbury bars, clotted cream, rose and chocolate eclairs, scones, currant scones, cheese scones, lamb shoulder, beef roasts, fish and chips, Victoria sponge cake, summer pudding, maple pecan ice cream, etc etc etc — none was more bald in its unhealthiness, or more satisfying, than the fry-up. It’s one unapologetic, greasy, bursting plate of deliciousness. We’d like to live long enough to see our kids reach their teenage years, so we’re not making a habit of this, but man (blimey?): the Brits know from breakfast. I love this, particularly with the beans. I love vacation, particularly with the kids. Can it be summer again? – Andy (more…)

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Better on Vacation

August 22nd, 2011 · 17 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Quick, Travel

I remember, as a kid, thinking that food tasted better on vacation. I don’t mean this in the figurative sense, either. I mean that when my brother and I would come back to the house after four hours on the beach in South Carolina — my tawny brother coated in Coppertone Deep Tanning oil, with his Terminator glasses perched on his head, and me, with my zinc-ed nose and plaid Jams — we would have lunch on the screened porch, under a whirring ceiling fan, and marvel, as much as boys marvel, at the beauty of it all. This Boar’s Head turkey and Swiss: it was different, right? The Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread, toasted, the Utz potato chips: just a little fresher, a little more crisp. A tall glass, filled with tons of ice and a fizzy Coke: why didn’t soda taste this good at home? Not that we would have ever put it like this, but it was like our senses were heightened when we were away from home, and every Cheet-o, every Pecan Sandie, every drop of French’s mustard, every bread-and-butter pickle was that much more tasty, that much more special. This was discussed as an actual phenomenon, nothing imagined about it: it was different on vacation. We knew this to be true.

Turns out, we were just hungry. Food is food, of course, and it only tasted better because we were kids and we imagined that potato chips could somehow sense when we were on vacation and, in response, decide to make themselves just a little more delicious.

Yet another example, for the record, of the way adulthood sometimes seems to exist to crush dreams.

This past week, though, we’re beginning to reconsider the cold logic of…reality. We spent eight unreal days in Paris, and we cooked in five of those nights* and while I’m aware of how this will sound, each of those meals was better than anything (more…)

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