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Archive for the ‘Meat’ Category

You couldn’t tell from reading my blog that Tom does a lot of cooking in our house. He does, though. Not big on following recipes, he’s a versatile utility cook. Soups, stews, steaks, chops, pasta, frittata, vegetables – let him look in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, and he’ll put together something good for a meal.

One of his big talents is hash. Tom sees hash as the perfect way to use leftovers to make another, different meal. No two of his versions are ever exactly the same, and he never measures ingredients, but all are a simple pleasure to eat. This week I watched with my camera while he made his latest concoction. Here’s what would be going into it:
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In the front, a few formerly fried potatoes, the last chunk of a good smoked ham, raw celery, and remnants of a roasted duck. In the back, two eggs, an apple, red onion, carrot, and raw potatoes. (The apple isn’t chopped yet, to keep it from turning brown.) As you see, he doesn’t feel hash needs to be overly heavy on meat.

The condiments, lined up in readiness, were Mexican hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.

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And so, to work. He started by parboiling the raw potatoes and carrots for 10 minutes.

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Drained, they went into a frying pan with the onion and celery, and gently sauteed in olive oil for about 10 to 15 minutes. No browning yet wanted.

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Next, he stirred in the ham, duck, and already fried potatoes, cooking the mixture slightly more briskly for another 10 minutes. Generous salt and pepper, plus splashes of Cholula sauce and Worcestershire went in at this point, and everything was vigorously stirred together.

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Finally came the apple and another vigorous stirring, followed by gentle cooking together for 10 to 20 minutes, until the mixture began browning on the bottom and forming a slight crust. The hash was ready.
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Then it was my turn to step in, to poach eggs to top the hash. You need very fresh eggs for poaching, to keep the whites neatly surrounding the yolks. On this day the eggs I had were pretty old, so as an experiment I put a pair of English muffin rings into the pan of simmering water and eased an egg into each one.
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I can’t say it worked completely well. Even though most of the whites stayed contained within the rings, some escaped and floated around wispily in the water. But it didn’t seem to hurt the eggs any.

So here is a plate of the day’s hash, crowned with its egg. The hash itself was richly flavorful, as always. The apple, which he’d never used in a hash before as far as I remember, gave  a nice little touch of sweetness to the succulence of the meats and vegetables. And the liquid egg yolk made its usual perfect sauce.
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Hail to the chef!

 

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This Burgundian recipe from Mireille Johnston’s The Cuisine of the Rose is whimsically titled in French “Le Steak,” as if there were only one kind. The English title is “T-bone Steak with a Mustard, Sherry and Cream Sauce.” Neither name acknowledges the coating of crushed black peppercorns, for which I’d have called it steak au poivre.

I made the dish to match with a beautiful Burgundy wine – a 2001 Bonneau du Martray Corton Grand Cru – that was Tom’s special cellar selection for September. Since the dinner would be just for the two of us, whose capacities are far below what they were in the days of our youth, I’d chosen a boneless strip steak, rather than a whole T-bone apiece. (How big are French steaks, anyway?)

I coated both sides of my steak with crushed Tellicherry peppercorns two hours in advance.

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The recipe’s cooking directions surprised me. I was to sear the meat quickly on both sides over high heat. Period. I’d expected to be told to lower the heat and continue cooking to the desired degree of doneness, but no: That steak had all it was going to get. Fortunately, we both like our steaks bloody rare.
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I put it on a platter in a warm oven to wait while I made the sauce. The ingredients for that were two tablespoons each of sherry, cream, and Dijon mustard. They had to be added to the “coagulated juices” in the frying pan one after the other, stirred “vigorously,” brought to a boil, and cooked for five minutes over lower heat. Not so easy. First, there were no coagulated juices – the steak hadn’t released any. Second, over that high heat, the sherry evaporated immediately, the cream boiled instantly, and the mustard thickened everything almost to a paste.

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To loosen the sauce, I had to add more cream and even a little broth that I had on the stove for another purpose. Even so, it was just about enough sauce to spread over the steak for serving.

Well, despite the peculiarities of the recipe, the steak and its sauce turned out very well. I served it with a gratin dauphinois and peas braised with butter and shallots.
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The beef was tender and flavorful, the peppercorns contributed spice as well as heat, the mustard’s bite was mellowed by the cream and sherry, and – best of all – the food and the wine were a marriage made in heaven.

See Tom’s blog for more about the lovely Corton.

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I chose this recipe, from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking vol. 2, to match with a bottle of 2007 Vintage Tunina, one of the 12 special wines Tom is featuring on his blog this year. It’s the kind of lush, rich dish needed to stand up to this majestic 14-year-old white wine.
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My piece of veal was not exactly a steak, which the recipe calls for. My butcher denied all acquaintance with the concept of a veal steak, and the best I could get was a longish, thickish hunk of boneless veal shoulder. But, at home, Tom contrived to butterfly it and pound it into nearly the requested ¾” thickness.

Of course, once the veal went into a hot pan, to be browned in butter and olive oil, it began to shrink back, hump up, and thicken again. No way to stop it; that’s just the nature of the beast. I resigned myself to whatever shape it wanted to have.

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I salted and peppered the meat; stirred in chopped shallots; sauteed for a few more minutes; poured on white wine and homemade mixed-meat-and-chicken broth; and added two fresh sage leaves. (These last, from my little rooftop herb collection, are by far the biggest sage leaves I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what variety of sage I’m growing. But it tastes just fine.)
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While the veal simmered gently, covered, for an hour, the recipe’s instructions were to wash, quarter, and sauté fresh mushrooms in butter, to be added to the veal for its last 10 minutes. It was my good fortune to have some previously sauteed morel mushrooms in my freezer, perfect for just such occasions. In they went.
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When the veal was tender, it and the morels came out to a warmed platter while I finished the sauce. Removing the sage, I boiled down the cooking liquid almost to a syrup. The shallots had virtually melted into invisibility, leaving behind just their essence.
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I added a good dose of heavy cream, boiled the sauce down again until it thickened lightly, and poured it over the meat and morels. In fact, I was supposed to have swirled in some enrichment butter first, but I just plain forgot. Not a problem, however: the sauce was luxuriant enough without it.
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The veal had cooked perfectly, tender and juicy, and the morels had retained all their woodsy essence. This dish and that white wine, as big and complex as any red, were a marriage made in heaven.

For more about the wine, see Tom’s blog.

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This dish of potato gnocchi with a long-cooked sauce of lamb and sweet red peppers – from my book The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen – has two unusual features: the cut of lamb it used and the way the gnocchi were cooked.

Let’s start with the meat. Its source was the trimmings from a frenched rack of lamb. I always ask for them when the butcher prepares a rack for me. Lambs are running very large these days, so the trimmings from this latest rack came to 1-3/4 pounds.
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Separating bits of meat from those gnarly hunks of fat, fell, and connective tissue is a maddeningly long task, which Tom generously undertakes for me. (He modestly suggests not trying it unless you have the patience of a saint and the knife skills of a samurai.) This time it produced 10 ounces of pure meat.
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You don’t need to go through that much effort for the dish, however. Half-inch pieces of any cut of lamb will do. Salted and peppered, they go into a heavy casserole to be browned in olive oil with two cloves of garlic, two bay leaves, and an optional little peperoncino (dried hot red pepper).
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Once my lamb was browned, I poured in ¼ cup of white wine and cooked until it evaporated. Then it was time to remove the peperoncino and stir in four chopped plum tomatoes – I used canned this time, but fresh are fine too – and two Bell peppers – preferably red, for their sweetness – cut into narrow two-inch strips.
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I covered the casserole and let it simmer gently for two hours, stirring occasionally and checking that the juices weren’t drying up. If they are, adding a little water will keep the solids from frying. The tomatoes dissolve into a sauce, and the peppers become meltingly tender.
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So that was the sauce. And here’s the second unusual feature I promised. The gnocchi I used are cooked right in the sauce – no separate boiling.

When I first saw this imported Italian brand in a store, I was extremely skeptical of its instructions. I’ve made potato gnocchi from scratch for years, and I’d never seen a recipe where they didn’t have to be cooked first in water. That would be like dropping raw spaghetti right into their pot of sauce. But I tried a box of them and cooked them as directed, and it worked! These Mama Emma gnocchi are so good and so easy to work with, I’ve become a fan.

All you do is add a little extra water to your finished sauce – in this case, about half a cup for nine ounces of gnocchi – stir in the little nuggets, and cook until they’re tender, less than five minutes.
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They don’t swell very much (must be partially precooked?), but their final texture is just what it should be. In the long-simmered sauce, the flavors of lamb, tomato, and pepper mellow into an intriguing blend, with just a touch of spice from the peperoncino. A very satisfying down-in-the-country-tasting dish.
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A whole (or even half) ham is not something you choose lightly when cooking for a two-person household. But it’s spring, tulips and daffodils are blooming, and life in our city is opening up a little at last, allowing us to gather vaccinated friends around our dinner table: Just the occasion for a festive ham.
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I can’t even remember the last time I cooked a ham, but I knew I didn’t want to smother this one with sweet glazes or sticky tropical fruits. Rather, something more restrained, amenable to whatever excellent wine Tom would bring out for us from his collection. In Julia Child’s The Way to Cook I found the perfect recipe: Braised Whole Ham in Wine and Aromatic Vegetables. It’s quite a big deal, occupying a two-page spread in the book, and though it calls for a 14-pound bone-in whole ham, it turns out to be perfectly adaptable to a half ham.
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In fact, the half ham I ordered from our butcher weighed in at 12 pounds. They’re growing pigs mighty big these days! I had him slice off a thick ham steak, which left me with a hefty 10-pound hunk of meat.
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I set it on a rack in my biggest roasting pan and strewed the pan with sliced carrot, onion, and celery, black peppercorns, allspice berries, sage leaves, and bay leaves. The recipe gave several options for the wine, which was to be poured in next: dry white, French vermouth, or Port. By the rarest of coincidences, I happened to have 3/4 of a bottle of a pleasant dry white Port in the refrigerator. In it went.
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After adding about a pint of good broth, I covered the roasting pan and braised the ham for three hours at 325°, basting with the pan juices every half hour.

When the ham came out, the knife work began. Tom manned the cutting board and painstakingly trimmed off all the bits of rind, fat, and hard, tough, ragged pieces.
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Julia says it’s normal for the ham to look a mess after this step. I’m proud to say my ham was absolutely normal.
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All the above work was going on in the afternoon. Per the recipe, it should have been done much closer to dinner time, to be ready for its final metamorphosis in the oven. But, with all the rest of the meal to manage, a lot of it needing similar late-stage work, I took a risk that the ham would tolerate a lengthy pause at room temperature. (Which it did, thank goodness.)

Meanwhile, I strained the juices from the roasting pan, to be warmed and served in a gravy boat, and turned several slices of my homemade white bread into fresh crumbs. Later, but still before the guests arrived, I transferred the ham to a shallow roasting pan, brushed some of the juices all over the ham, and pressed the bread crumbs onto the entire surface. I must say, I was very dubious that the crumbs would adhere but, by golly, they did. That made the ham look much more civilized.
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As time for the main course finally approached, I drizzled some melted butter over the breadcrumbs and put the pan into a 500° oven, uncovered, for just 15 minutes – enough time to brown the crumbs and warm the ham. (Julia assured me the ham could even be served tepid, if desired.) Then it was ready to slice.
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I’d like to have shown you the ham and its accompaniments on a full dinner plate, but I got so absorbed by the conversation with the guests that I forgot to take any further photos. It was a wonderful ham: not at all heavily smoky, but rich with the essences of the braising ingredients. The light gravy was equally rich, with just a touch of fruitiness from the port.

To complete our pleasure, the ham and the wine Tom had chosen for it – a white 2017 St. Joseph from the Rhône – could have been born for each other. He is a great fan of Rhône whites, and here the earthiness and roundness of the St. Joseph, and the distinctively intense fruit of its southern French grapes, meshed perfectly with the meat sweetness and light smokiness of that ham. As Italian cooks would say, un buon abbinamento.

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It seems I’ll never learn to leave well enough alone. I essentially ruined a nice slab of beef short ribs this week, because I wanted to oven-roast them.
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Short ribs are wonderful for braising. Long, moist cooking makes them meltingly tender, the meat just falling off the bone. Why can’t I be content with that?

Well, I can truly say “the devil made me do it,” because the recipe that led me into temptation is called Deviled Short Ribs. I found it while browsing in the Beef and Veal volume of the Time-Life Good Cook series, where it’s credited to the American Cooking: Eastern Heartland volume of the Time-Life Foods of the World series. Both sets of books have given me many excellent recipes.

I had to start early in the afternoon to make a marinade for the ribs: mixing minced onions and garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and black pepper in a large bowl. That seemed a promising start.
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I cut my ribs into three pieces and turned them around in the marinade to coat thoroughly.
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I covered the bowl and left it on the kitchen counter for two hours, turning the ribs every 20 minutes to give all the surfaces good contact with the marinade. Then I transferred the ribs to a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
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The ribs were to roast at 400° oven for 20 minutes, then at 350° for another 1¼ hours, “or until the meat shows no resistance when pierced.” That was where my trouble began. Checking initially at one hour – just in case – I found the meat still very firm. After the next 15 minutes, it had softened only a bit. Another 15 minutes brought an improvement, but there was still resistance. The ribs were looking quite dark and somewhat shrunken. I was afraid they were drying out. A final, nervous 10 minutes, and out they came.
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The ribs were far from meltingly tender. Many outside bits were hard and dry. The thicker parts of the meat were chewable and even tasty, though the marinade hadn’t made any noticeable contribution to the flavor. And the abundant collagen layer that in short ribs holds the flesh to the bone – and that melts away in braises – remained as a tough skin that was hard to cut away from the meat.
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When we’d eaten what we could, there was much left to be discarded, alas. But, to look on the bright side, it all went into Tom’s soup scrap bag in the freezer, to ultimately join with other odds and ends of vegetables, meats, and bones in a big kettle of water and be cooked into excellent all-purpose broth.
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Maybe the devil likes his short ribs this way, but I won’t be inviting him to dinner any time soon. So I’ll just draw the curtain over this whole incident, listen to my better angel, and go back to braising for all the short ribs in my future.

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My household is very fond of oxtails. A dinner staple in cold weather, they lend themselves to interesting preparations from many different countries. I’ve done posts about Italian, French, Spanish, and British oxtail recipes, only one of which wasn’t thoroughly rewarding. And every year, before winter ends, I look for new oxtail recipes to try.

This time around, I created a sort of hybrid French-American version: a combination of braising and broiling, working with a recipe published in a French cookbook of 1876 and some changes suggested by a present-day illustrated procedure – both of which I found in the Beef and Veal volume of the Time-Life Good Cook series.
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I started by blanching my oxtail pieces in plain water for 10 minutes. This was probably unnecessary with clean, modern oxtails, but it’s a way to shorten the main cooking time a bit. While they cooked, I chopped a cup each of carrots and onions and spread them in the bottom of a heavy casserole. (The French recipe wanted chopped turnips also, but we’re not fond of turnips.)
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In went the drained oxtails, and over them I poured ⅔ cup of white wine and 2 cups of Tom’s rich homemade broth. (The little white things you see in the picture below are the onions, which mostly floated. The carrots didn’t.)
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I brought the pot to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, covered it, and put it in a 300° oven for 3 hours, until the meat was done enough to be loose on the complex bones of the vertebrae.
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The oxtail pieces then had to cool completely before the final cooking. The French recipe would have had them cool in the braising liquid, but that would have taken a long time, so I drained them immediately and set them on a platter.
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While they cooled, I strained the braising liquid, pressing down on the vegetables and discarding them, and reduced the liquid by about half.

Then it was time for the final broiling of the meat. I salted and peppered the oxtail pieces, brushed each one with a thin coating of Dijon mustard, rolled them in fine dry breadcrumbs, and put them into a broiler pan.
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Then I drizzled a little melted butter over each piece; broiled them 5 minutes on the first side at 6 inches away from the heat; turned them over and broiled 3 minutes on the second side, until they were crisp and very tender.
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The French recipe wanted the oxtails served with a chestnut puree. I thought that would be stultifyingly heavy, so I compromised by making a modest amount of soft polenta. The modern procedure recommended braised red cabbage, glazed carrots, or a vegetable purée. Again, I thought those would be too heavy, so I made just a green salad with vinaigrette dressing.

The oxtails were excellent. The salad was a good, refreshing choice, because even the polenta struck us as a little too heavy. Mashed potatoes might have been better, and they’d have loved the delicious gravy. But whatever you put with them, oxtails are great cold-weather food. The long, slow cooking they need is just perfect for those icy days when you’re happy to have the oven warmth in the kitchen and appetizing aromas all over the house.

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Though potato is the one food named in the title above, it refers only to the casing for a rich baked assortment of meats, mushrooms, herbs, and spices. In Italy’s Piedmont region, La Finanziera is an extravaganza of a stew, involving delicacies such as cockscombs, sweetbreads, and truffles. Applying the approach to more everyday ingredients still makes an excellent dinner dish.

This was the special dish I chose to match with the second of the 12 special wines Tom picked out from his collection to drink, one a month, this year. February’s wine was a 2001 Gaja Costa Russi – also from the Piedmont. I found the recipe on Italian Home Cooking, a blog by Stefano Arturi that I follow. Stefano is a London-based former restaurateur, cookbook author, and cooking teacher. His version of the timbale is an adaptation of one in Il Talismano della Felicità, the great seminal cookbook by Ada Boni. And mine is a slight adaptation of Stefano’s.

I want to show you what the finished dish should look like. (Regular readers may suspect why.) Here’s Stefano’s timballo di patate alla finanziera. The free-standing drum is made of mashed potatoes, with a crust of browned, buttery breadcrumbs. Quite a culinary feat!
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I was making my usual half amount of the recipe, which would still be too much for just two of us, but it wouldn’t have been feasible in a smaller quantity.

I started by preparing the potato. I boiled a big russet potato, mashed it, and mixed in beaten egg, grated parmigiano, ground nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
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My faithful knife man cut up the meats for me. I used luganega sausage, chicken gizzards already prepared in confit, and a small amount of veal sweetbread – not exactly what the recipe calls for, but all things I had on hand.
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In a sauté pan I softened minced onions in butter and olive oil, with bay leaf, sage leaf, ground cloves, cinnamon, crushed juniper berries, grated nutmeg, and black pepper. I added each of the meats in turn, cooking them gently, and ended by deglazing the pan with white wine.
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Earlier, I had soaked, softened, and cut up dried porcini mushrooms and also sliced a few fresh cremini mushrooms. Separately, I sautéed those, also in butter and olive oil, and stirred in the porcini soaking liquid and a little tomato paste.
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When I’d mixed the mushrooms and their juices into the meats, the timbale filling was ready and could be set aside. Now came the tricky part!

A bit intimidated by the prospect of using the recommended tall metal charlotte mold, I chose a broader, shallower Corning ware casserole dish. I slathered the interior heavily with softened butter and coated it with fine, dry, homemade breadcrumbs. On top of that I gingerly poured in some beaten egg, tilted the dish around until the egg covered all the crumbs, and followed with another coat of crumbs.
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Per the recipe directions, I put the mold into the freezer for a while, to make it easier for the potato lining to cling. Which it did, surprisingly easily: With wet fingers, it was just like applying modeling clay.
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In went the filling, with butter dotted on the top. Then a covering of the rest of the potato casing and yet more butter..

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I put the dish in a 350° oven with a sigh of relief. But I was not out of the woods yet. It was supposed to be done in 45 to 60 minutes, when the top was firm and golden. It firmed in about an hour, but it absolutely wouldn’t go golden. I gave it several extra minutes, then took it out anyway and let it rest for the indicated 10 minutes before unmolding.

Disaster! Even after loosening the sides, when I topped the dish with a serving plate and reversed the two, the timbale wouldn’t come out. With repeated shaking, the filling and some of its crust let go and spilled out. The original bottom layer of the crust was stuck to the dish and had to be pried out in chunks, to be laid over the filling.

I refuse to show you what the whole mess looked like. Instead, here’s one of the portions I rescued to put on our dinner plates.
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Despite its total collapse, the timbale was delicious. The meats and mushrooms had retained their individual characteristics, enhanced each other, and picked up more flavor from the gentle medley of spices, herbs, wine, and tomato. The potatoes – even the obviously overcooked layer from the bottom of the dish – had also taken on some of the shared flavors and were delicious too. And it all went perfectly with Tom’s special wine.

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I’d like to add that this dinner was special for us in two further ways. That day, we were celebrating Tom’s birthday, and also, we’d gotten our first Covid vaccine shots. Happiness and relief!

I do wonder why my timbale fell apart, though. Dish the wrong shape or made of the wrong material? Not enough butter or crumbs lining it? Potato layer too thin? Too long in the oven? Or just bad culinary luck?  Stefano, if you’re reading this, I’d be grateful for any thoughts you might have about that!

 

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Each month of 2021 will bring me an appealing culinary project: make a dinner dish to complement one of 12 special wines Tom chose from his collection late last year. January’s wine was a 2011 Italian red called Sabbie di Sopra Il Bosco, from Campania. For this match we picked a recipe from our book La Tavola Italiana: a rolled pan roast of veal.
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The meat is breast of veal, which is a tasty, versatile, inexpensive (for veal) cut. The filling is fairly simple, the cooking is easy, and the result is – if I say so myself – delicious.

This evening’s roll was made up from two small ends I’d trimmed off a large breast piece and saved in the freezer for a small meal for two. They’re pretty unsightly, but just ignore that. The streaks of fat and gelatinous tissue melt away in the cooking and help keep the meat moist.
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Together, the pieces weighed only half a pound, skimpy for two but soon to be bolstered by their rich filling. The larger piece was about 7 x 10 inches, not really enough for a decent-sized roll, so I had to somehow incorporate the smaller one too.

First, I salted and peppered the meat and laid two slices of prosciutto on the larger piece.

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Next, having previously soaked, softened, rinsed, and chopped ½ ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, I spread them over the meat and sprinkled on a mince of parsley, sage, rosemary, and garlic.
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Finally, I plopped the smaller piece of veal onto the larger one, and starting from a short side, rolled them into a cylinder and tied it with string.
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Tying meat is a trial for me, because I never could learn how to tie a butcher’s knot one-handed, so my knots always loosened before I could snug them up. Now I use a sort of “shoelace” double knot, which works, but it’s still a struggle. I was surprised that my little roll came out so neat and even.

In a heavy casserole I browned the roll in butter and oil . . .
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. . . poured on white wine and let it evaporate, added just a little broth, and cooked it gently, covered, for 1½ hours, checking and turning it from time to time. The meat was perfectly tender, and the little roll held together neatly for slicing into rounds.
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The pan juices made a nice small gravy for moistening both meat and egg noodles on our dinner plates, while the varied flavors of veal, ham, mushrooms, and herbs made for an intriguing interplay with each other. They also strengthened the delicacy of the veal so it matched beautifully with the rich red wine this meal was designed to accompany.
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For more about the wine, see Tom’s post about it on his blog.

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With this warm, comforting winter dish, I’m beginning my 12th year of writing this blog. In 2020, I focused on trying new recipes from cookbooks I own, doing posts about 40 American, French, German, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Spanish, Thai, and Ukrainian dishes. This year I’ll be featuring some old favorites, plus recipes shared by friends, found online, or clipped from print sources.

Tripe braised with potatoes and white beans – trippa alla milanese – is a recipe from my own book, The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen. I can reassure the faint-hearted that the dish is not strongly “tripey,” but it does take quite a lot of work. Still, the steps are all easy and can be spread over an entire day or even two.

A good way to start is with the dried beans. They can be given either a two-minute boil plus a two-hour soak or an overnight soak in cold water. Here are 1¼ cups of marrow beans, plumped up after their overnight bath.
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And here they are starting a 45-minute preliminary cooking with seasoning vegetables: carrot, onion, and leek greens. (It was an error here to ignore my own recipe and chop those veg instead of slicing them; you’ll see why below.)
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Next, the tripe. I have to say this batch of tripe was pretty sloppy-looking.  I had to buy the 2½ pounds from a local store rather than my usual butcher, and it was not as well cleaned and trimmed as we’re accustomed to.
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This also had a preliminary cooking: a 1½-hour boil, with salt and a chunk of onion stuck with two cloves. When it had cooled and was quite tender, Tom cut it into smaller pieces for me. Up to this point, both beans and tripe could be done a whole day in advance and refrigerated until needed.

The final cooking required more work for my knife man. Here are chopped pancetta, leek, carrot, and onion, plus several sage leaves.
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In a large pot, I sauteed the pancetta in a little butter to render its fat; added the new vegetables and sauteed them briefly; and stirred in the tripe.
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Now the beans were to go into the pot, along with a cup of pureed canned Italian tomatoes, three cups of hot water, and salt. But wait! First, I had to pick over the beans to remove all the clinging bits of their initial boiling vegetables – which would have been a lot easier to do if those had been sliced rather than chopped. Drat it! I still can’t always be trusted to pay close attention to a recipe, even when it’s my own.
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Finally, I peeled and chunked four potatoes – large German butterballs, an excellent heirloom variety – added them to the pot, cooked gently until the potatoes were tender, and the dish was finally ready to serve.
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As the opening image shows, diners should sprinkle grated parmigiano over their servings, as well as freshly ground black pepper – the last flavor touches to one of winter’s most pleasing down-home dishes. Believe me, it’s delicious. You ought to give it a try.

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