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Archive for the ‘Meat’ Category

This year, Independence Day was not our usual American-style festive occasion. After a masked morning walk in the very quiet neighborhood (hopefully looking for local corn in the Greenmarket; but no, none yet), Tom and I came home, turned on the air conditioners, and resumed our now-inevitable cloistered activities – which, of course, always include cooking.

Toward evening, I took out two nice big veal scallops for our dinner.
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I’d chosen a new-to-me Spanish recipe to try with them. Tom declared that would make a fine patriotic dish for the holiday, to commemorate how the Spanish Armada helped George Washington defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.

So we made Tenera alla Extremeña, or Veal with Chorizo and Green Peppers, from Penelope Casas’s The Foods and Wines of Spain. Preparing the ingredients provided plenty of knife work for my creative historian, starting with cutting both veal scallops in half for ease of handling. While he continued chopping vegetables, I salted and browned the veal pieces quickly in olive oil, in two batches.
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The pieces of veal came out to a plate, and in the same pan I sautéed finely chopped green pepper, red onion, and garlic, for five minutes.
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Next went in thinly sliced dry-cured chorizo, for two minutes.
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Then, very small amounts of a good manzanilla sherry, chicken broth and tomato sauce, along with dried thyme, bay leaf, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
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Back went the veal scallops into the pan, where they cooked slowly, covered, for 15 minutes. being turned and basted in the sauce twice.
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This was a very good dish – an unmistakably Spanish one, thanks to the chorizo spices and the sherry. Though the green pepper had almost disappeared, it had flavored the sauce very pleasantly, as had the onion and garlic, more lightly.
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A slight disappointment was that the veal wasn’t as fully tender as we’d have liked. That’s can be a problem about veal: If you don’t get it into and out of a pan very quickly, the muscle clenches, and it then needs long cooking to make it relax again.

In any event, we had a very nice dinner. It started with sardine fillets on baguette toasts, with extra-virgin olive oil. This was our last can of the excellent sardines we’d brought back from last year’s trip to Portugal.
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Dinner ended, finally, on a July Fourth-ish note, with strawberry shortcake. My historian informed me that this dessert had become a festive tradition because George Washington served it to the Spanish admirals Pulaski and Kosciuszko at the Yorktown victory dinner.

 

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Early June brings two important dates for Tom and me, snugged around each side of D-Day. The 5th is my birthday, and the 7th is our wedding anniversary. Last year we celebrated them with a splendid week in Venice; this year, of course, we were confined to home. Accordingly, we indulged ourselves with two elegant dinners for those days.

 

The Birthday Dinner

The main dish at this meal was based on a long-time favorite recipe for casserole-roasted pheasant – Fagiano ai sapori veneziani – from our book The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen. It has done great things for guinea hen, as well as for pheasant, so I thought I’d see what it would do for a chicken. The “Venetian flavors” here are celery, carrot, onion, pancetta, prosciutto, sage, rosemary, and white wine. The savory combination contributed an intriguing hint of wildness to half an excellent free-range chicken.
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Our first course was two little parmesan cheese custards, sformati di parmigiano. It’s a clipped recipe I’ve had for years and keep forgetting about, then happily rediscovering. It’s rich, easy, and good. Essentially just eggs, grated cheese, and heavy cream, baked briefly in a bain marie, unmolded and served with optional tomato sauce on the side. Makes a lovely light appetizer for company, if one could only have company again!
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The Anniversary Dinner

All through May, the season for fresh morel mushrooms, we searched markets for them, with no success. At last we acquired a single batch of big, beautiful ones.
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After cooking them all and eating half immediately, we froze the rest to save for this celebratory first course: feuilletés aux morilles à la crème. The puff pastry dough was not homemade, but I did cut and shape it into bouchée cases, which became crisp, buttery, flaky containers for the morels.
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Our main course – extravagant, elegant, and utterly simple – was one big, rare, rib of beef, cooked in an open pan on top of the stove in a way that makes it taste like a classic standing rib roast. I’ve written here about this recipe from Roger Vergé’s Cuisine of the South of France. We chose it for this evening specifically to partner with a very special bottle of red wine, which it did to perfection. (See below.) This is a fabulous preparation for the very best beef.
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The Dessert

I saw a luscious-looking raspberry ricotta cake on someone else’s blog and fell in love with it. Google found the recipe for me on the Bon Appétit website, and I made the cake to serve for both our festive dinners. The 1½ cups of fresh ricotta that went into the rich, sweet batter produced a cake as light and cushiony as a cloud. In the mix I substituted fresh raspberries for frozen, which wasn’t entirely wise: fewer fresh berries fill a measuring cup than frozen ones. Fortunately, I had extra berries to serve alongside, with big dollops of whipped crème fraiche. Heavenly! The cake held up perfectly for the second dinner, as well.
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And to Drink . . .

Both days, we started with glasses of Champagne, of course. For my birthday, even though the food was Italianate, it went beautifully with a French wine: a 1990 Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin. The anniversary meal, as I mentioned above, was chosen deliberately to match a wine: one long-cherished bottle of the extraordinary 2006 Ridge California Montebello, which we’d been waiting for just the right special occasion to drink. And, for digestifs both days, snifters of a fine Spanish brandy called 1866.
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Tom has written about the wines in his own blog, for those who’d like to know more about them.

 

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Sometimes I think cooking is more alchemy than science. One day you take ordinary ingredients, treat them in ordinary ways, and produce a delicious dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Another day, it’s just the opposite: equally good ingredients and equally normal treatments turn out what can only be called a bummer. Those must be days when you’ve neglected to activate the philosopher’s stone.

My latest case of the bad magic arose with a little cache of oxtails – four nice pieces that would be just enough for a small main course for two.

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I know several very good ways of preparing oxtails. I’ve written here about an Italian recipe, a Spanish one, and a British one. Now, when I found a French oxtail recipe in the Variety Meats volume of the Time-Life Good Cook series – which, moreover, is credited to Elizabeth David’s classic book French Provincial Cooking – I was eager to try it. It was oxtails cooked with black olives: a new combination to me.

The recipe calls for six pounds of oxtails, so I was scaling it way down. I did take the liberty of ignoring David’s first step, which is soaking the meat in cold water for two hours. The English author might have found that necessary with 1960s British butchery, but I’ve never done it or even seen it in any other oxtail recipe. Certainly, the tails we get here now are very fresh and clean. Other than that, everything about the recipe seemed geared to produce a rich, tasty braise.

I briefly browned my oxtail pieces in olive oil while I made up a little bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and orange peel. Then I sprinkled two tablespoons of brandy into the pot, flamed it, tucked the bouquet garni in among the pieces of meat, poured in a quarter cup of white wine and “let it bubble fiercely for a minute or two,” as the recipe advises.
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Next, I added broth and water to reach just to the top of the oxtail pieces, covered the pot, and baked it in a very low oven (290°) for three hours. Twice I looked in to turn the pieces over. At the end, despite the heavy pot lid, the liquid had reduced somewhat. Perhaps the meat had absorbed some as it rendered its fat, of which there was a good layer floating on the surface.

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David offers the option, at this point, of chilling both meat and liquid separately overnight, to solidify the fat and lift it off easily. I chose not to do that, since I wanted the dish for dinner that night. Besides, there was more cooking to be done, so I could draw off the fat later. I stirred in half a cup of pitted ripe olives and simmered the pot on a stove burner for about another hour, until the meat was ready to fall off the bones.
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This dish should have been good. I don’t know why it wasn’t. The sections of those same tails that I’d used for a previous dish were rich with natural flavor. These barely tasted of meat at all. The wine, the brandy, and the spices had clearly done nothing for them, and neither meat nor seasonings did much for the sauce. The only prominent flavor was the olives, and they were unpleasantly strong and acidic. Such a pity – and the dish had looked so handsome!

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Even more’s the pity, Tom had chosen an excellent Rhône wine to accompany our meal that evening: a 2016 Cornas. The interplay of flavors should have been wonderful. Oh, well: At least we could enjoy the wine while forlornly picking at our disappointing oxtails.

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Roast Lamb Boulangère

Last week I wrote about the emergency replacement of our gas-leaking 25-year-old rangetop. Immediately after that, we had to replace our also-25-year-old refrigerator, which had chosen that time to die in sympathy for its colleague. I’ll spare you the details and only say that we did achieve a functioning refrigerator just in time for Easter.

It wasn’t the Easter celebration we’d been anticipating before the coronavirus struck. Much earlier, I’d found an attractive lamb recipe called Gigot Boulangère in Mireille Johnston’s Burgundian cookbook, The Cuisine of the Rose. Looking forward to making it for dinner guests, I’d bought a lovely four-pound boned, rolled, and tied half-leg of lamb, and tucked it away in the freezer until needed. Alas, it had been sheltering in place there ever since.

With the prospect of any future dinner party getting increasingly distant, and with things from the nonworking freezer starting to thaw anyway, we realized it was time to do something with at least some of that lamb. So, two days in advance, we succeeded in chopping off a 1¾-pound piece from the small end of the roast for an Easter dinner for two.

Here’s the little thing, studded with slivers of garlic and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and dried thyme, ready to go into a 450° oven for an initial 20 minutes.
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Meanwhile, Tom sliced a big Spanish onion for me, which I sautéed in butter for five minutes.
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I spread the onions in the bottom of a baking dish and topped them with very thinly sliced German butterball potatoes. When the lamb’s 20 minutes were up, I transferred it to the baking dish, deglazed its original roasting pan with a little wine, poured the juices onto the lamb, and gave everything more salt and pepper.
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Back into the hot oven went the dish for an additional 30 minutes – just long enough for the potatoes to cook through.
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On slicing, the roast pretty much fell apart when its strings were cut, which was only to be expected from the way that end of the meat had had to be pared away from its bone. But it was beautifully rosy rare, just the way we like it.
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And those roasted potatoes and onions, further enriched by the lamb’s cooking juices, were absolutely beyond delicious.
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So, though our Easter dinner was much less elaborate and in a much lower key than it would normally have been, it was comforting and satisfying to us both.
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The satisfaction was helped along, I might add, by the additional Burgundian touch of a fine bottle of 2005 Morey St. Denis.

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To conclude this tale, I can’t resist a reflection on my new refrigerator. If I’d been able to see the model on display in a store, I’d have rejected it out of hand. It feels as if it’s made of tin, with an interior flimsily furnished in plastic. Obviously, one should never buy a major appliance sight unseen. But with all the stores closed now, we had to shop online, and this was the only model we could find that (a) had only the features that we wanted (e.g., no icemaker), (b) would fit into our kitchen’s tight cut-out, and (c) could get to us within a few days. We needed it, we took it, and we’re stuck with it. Sigh.

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Food writing is full of stories about beans these days. And beleaguered home-sheltering cooks seem to be paying attention. I read that the California heirloom bean supplier Rancho Gordo received more than 3,000 online orders in two days last month. None of them was from me: There are always several bags of Rancho Gordo beans in my pantry. This family likes beans, especially some of Rancho Gordo’s many varieties.

That bit of news prompted me to pull out Heirloom Beans, the Rancho Gordo cookbook written by Steve Sando (who owns the company and is himself a fanatic bean cook), and look for a new bean dish to make. I found a recipe there for our very favorite bean variety, the Santa Maria Pinquito.
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I chose to ignore the tri-tip component of the recipe, both for lack of barbecuing capability and for interest in something simpler alongside the beans. Tri-tip is a sirloin cut, so I substituted a pair of big sirloin burgers, some of which we usually have in the freezer. We shape them from the delicious, freshly ground sirloin we get from Ottomanelli, our butcher. They can taste even beefier than a steak.

My half pound of Pinquitos had been soaked overnight and were ready to cook.
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I moved them to a pot with their soaking water, plus extra cold water to cover generously, and left them to simmer for an hour while I prepared their seasonings.
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When the beans were just beginning to soften, I stirred in the chopped onion and garlic, dry mustard, Spanish smoked paprika, tomato paste, salt, and pepper, and simmered for another 45 minutes, adding small amounts of hot water as needed, until they were tender.

They came out looking plain enough . . .

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. . . but Santa Maria Pinquitos are truly great beans: They hold their shape well when cooked, are richly flavorful in their own right, and are happy to absorb additional flavors from their surroundings. Which this batch certainly did. Tom, the chile maker of the household, swears by Pinquitos for his own complex concoctions. But they’re equally a pleasure to have, as we did that evening, on an everyday dinner plate alongside the bloody rare sautéed burgers.
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That may be simple cooking, but it’s fine eating, especially alongside an eight-year-old Ridge Zinfandel.

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Tom and I can’t let any winter go by without having at least one dinner of tripe. Not many of the friends with whom we regularly dine back and forth can match our fondness for that humble and, admittedly, bizarre cut of beef, so we never force them to meet it at our dinner table. Tant pis for them, we say to ourselves.

Hence, when Tom came home from the butcher’s one day recently with three pounds of honeycomb tripe – looking very like the cow’s stomach that it is – we knew it was ours alone to enjoy.
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When it comes to tripe and other innard dishes, you just have to relax your aesthetic standards.

I have several good, reliable recipes for tripe. I’ve written posts about some of them in past years, e.g., here and here. But since my plan for this blog in 2020 is to focus on previously untried recipes from my current cookbook collection, here was a good opportunity to find something different to do with the tripe.

After checking many of my books, I found a recipe I hadn’t made before in Marcella Hazan’s More Classic Italian Cooking. (I know she later combined her two “classic” volumes into one, but I have the original two.) It wasn’t very different from a recipe of hers called Trippa alla Parmigiana that I knew from the first volume but this one, Trippa e Fagiole, she says is particularly favored in the bean-loving regions of Tuscany and Veneto.

While the two recipes have almost identical ingredients, there are variations in proportions and handling that made me curious. Over the years, I’ve encountered several instances of two Italian recipes that looked much the same but came out quite unlike each other. And this new one of course had beans, which the earlier one didn’t. Definitely worth a try – especially since, for us, a winter without beans is as unthinkable as a winter without tripe.

The first step in the new recipe was to precook 2 pounds of tripe for 20 minutes in boiling water with a carrot, a celery stalk, and an onion. The vegetables were then to be discarded, which seemed like a waste to me: How much could they contribute in so little time? But since I had three pounds of tripe on hand and needed only one pound for the half-recipe amount I’d be making, I precooked it all as directed and put two-thirds away in the freezer. Thus cannily getting triple value from the vegetables. Hah!

Once drained and cooled, my tripe had to be cut into ¼-inch wide strips of any desired length – a little different from the other recipe’s specific size requirements, though the quantity of tripe was the same in both. Tom did the cutting for me with his usual aplomb. He also very finely chopped ⅓ cup each of fresh carrot, celery, and onion, and cut up a big garlic clove. Again, some differences in cut size and quantity from the other recipe.

The onions sautéed briefly in butter and olive oil before the carrot, celery, garlic, rosemary, and parsley joined them to cook for a few more minutes. (Why the onions alone first? I don’t know. They were supposed to turn “faintly golden,” but mine never do. I’m sure all the vegetables could have gone in at once with no harm.)
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Then came the tripe. I tossed everything together so the tripe was well coated with the oil and vegetables, raised the heat, stirred in ½ cup of white wine, and cooked until the liquid had evaporated.
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The last things to add were salt, pepper, 1½ cups of chopped canned plum tomatoes with their juices, and a cup of good homemade meat-and-vegetable broth.
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The covered pot went into a 350° oven for about 3 hours. Checking from time to time, I found it needed a little hot water toward the end to keep the tripe moist. All told, this dish had more wine and less tomato than the first-volume recipe had.

Perhaps you’re now wondering what happened to the beans? Their moment is coming.

In the morning, I’d soaked and cooked ¾ pound of dried white beans in plain water and set them aside. When the tripe was done and out of the oven, the drained beans went into the pot, which got a final simmering of 10 minutes on a stove burner.
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At serving time, I stirred ½ cup of freshly grated parmigiano cheese into the tripe and beans. (The other recipe wanted ¾ cup).
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Well, it was delicious tripe. We thoroughly enjoyed it. And the beans had taken on a remarkable amount of flavor from their brief fling with the other ingredients. But after all my meticulously noting of the subtle differences between the two recipes, I have to say this tripe dish was remarkably like its predecessor.

A suspicious person might wonder if Hazan had varied the details deliberately, to make a standard preparation seem something distinctive and create a “new” recipe for her second book. Or, more charitably, we might say the comparison goes to show how a good, sturdy, traditional recipe can provide opportunities for a lot of leeway in its execution. A useful thing for any cook to remember!

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You might think some computer virus had ridiculously scrambled the words of my title above. But no: That’s the name of a new-to-me Thai dish that I made this week. I found the recipe in The Original Thai Cookbook, by Jennifer Brennan. A 1981 paperback, with much interesting historical, cultural, and culinary information about Thailand, it bills itself as “the first, complete, authentic, Thai cookbook published in America.”

The recipe’s English title is Fried Pork and Long Beans. I’d have given it a name with a different emphasis, because (a) it’s not what we in the West mean by frying but stir-frying, (b) it uses as much shrimp as pork, and (c) the beans are definitely the largest component. So, Stir-fried Green Beans with Pork and Shrimp. By any name, it’s a good dish and very easy to make.
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Acknowledging the limited availability of Chinese “long beans” in American markets, the recipe promptly allows using conventional green beans, which I did. And, as is truly essential for the speed of stir-frying, I measured, prepped, and set out all my ingredients before beginning to cook. In addition to the shrimp, beans, and pork, here’s garlic, nam pla (Thailand’s ubiquitous fish sauce), granulated sugar, freshly ground black pepper, and cooking oil.
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Into the hot, oiled wok went first the garlic, just long enough to color; next the pork, for a few minutes to sear and seal.
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At that point I had to make a change in the recipe’s stir-frying sequence. The shrimp were to have gone in next, for one minute, and finally the long beans, for only two minutes. I knew that wouldn’t be enough time for my green beans to soften, so I tossed them in with the browning pork and gave them three more minutes together before adding the shrimp.
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Even my shrimp took more than one minute to lose their translucency. No size was specified for them, so possibly mine were larger than anticipated by the recipe. However, they still didn’t take long, and I was soon able to stir in the fish sauce, sugar, and pepper to finish the dish. I must admit, the green beans were still almost raw – very firm and squeaky – but that really wasn’t too bad.  In fact, it may have been ethnically authentic. They made a nice textural contrast with the other ingredients.
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What really completed the dish was the nam pla. On its own, this liquid from salted and fermented anchovies, much like the garum of ancient Rome, is extremely pungent – not to say stinky. But mixing with other ingredients here moderated its intensity and delivered a pleasing dose of umami, giving the dish a deliciously different set of flavors from my more customary Western cooking style. I must try it in other Thai recipes.

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As my second decade of writing this blog begins, I’m returning to the formula I started it with: trying out new-to-me recipes from my existing cookbook collection. I think of it as digging for treasure in my own back yard.

And I hit gold with my very first spadeful: grillade marinière de Valence, from Anne Willan’s French Regional Cooking. This is a splendid book in many ways – for intensive coverage of all the provinces of France, for information both cultural and culinary, for photographs of landscapes and foodstuffs, and for recipes ranging from world-famous to all-but-forgotten local. Of its dishes I’d made before, a few have been a little disappointing but others were excellent, including the best poulet aux morilles I’ve ever achieved.

Willan’s current dish, translated as Sailor’s Steak with Anchovies, definitely falls in the excellent category. It’s an odd name in two respects. First, you may wonder why a deeply landlocked city like Valence has sailors. That’s because of its position on the Rhône river, a major barge transport route before the days of the railroad. The second is why a dish called a grillade is not grilled but stewed. For that you might have to ask the Academie Française – or a French sailor.

By the way: Willan indicates that, in the past, this dish was typically made with horse meat, which is much sweeter than beef. That may explain the now somewhat unexpected use of anchovies in a meat recipe.

But on to the cooking.

I was making the quantity for 4, which calls for 1¼ pounds of “beef stewing steak” (sort of an oxymoron to those of us who don’t stew our steaks), cut an inch thick. Happily, I had a piece of chuck in the freezer that was just the right weight and thickness. The other major component of the dish is onions: ¾ pound of them, thinly sliced.
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The first step was to rub a tablespoon of flour into five tablespoons of softened butter and keep it handy. Next, spread half the onions in an oiled casserole, lay on the steak pieces, add the remaining onions, and dot the floured butter over all.
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While my pot, covered, cooked over a low flame, I prepared a seasoning mix: chopping four large anchovy filets, two cloves of garlic, two tablespoons of parsley, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. When the meat had simmered for half an hour, I poured on the seasonings and stirred them in.
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After another hour and a half of cooking over very low heat, the beef was tender. I served Tom and myself each a piece well slathered with the onions and gravy, accompanied by heirloom potatoes boiled in their jackets and sautéed zucchini.
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As you’ll have already gathered, we liked the dish very much. (And the leftovers were still good a few days later.) I’m still wondering about the name, though: I’d have called it sailor’s steak with onions. The great mass of sweet Spanish onions almost melted into the sauce and were a lush, inviting presence. As for the anchovies, you’d notice something a little sharp, a little spicy, in the sauce, but you might not guess it was anchovy. In different ways, that should please anchovy haters and anchovy lovers alike.

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Today marks my completion of a decade of writing this blog. The culinary adventures (both successful and not so) about which I’ve told stories each week have given me great pleasure. To celebrate my tenth anniversary, this post will be a retrospective of some of the dishes I’ve most enjoyed making, eating, and writing about – one for each year.

You’ll notice a strong Western European emphasis in the choices here. That’s a reflection of Tom’s and my general eating preferences, but I’ve actually written about dishes from 24 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. I could have featured many of those others among these favorites.

Clicking on an image below will open the full post about the dish.
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2010

Prosciutto-wrapped Broiled Shrimp

My first blogging year was devoted to one new recipe a week from one of the 200+ cookbooks in my collection. This one, from Ada Boni’s classic Il Talismano della Felicità, makes as good an appetizer as it did a main course.

 

2011

Plum Cake Cockaigne

From my second year, I began including posts about recipes I’d previously known and loved. This one, from Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking, has been a late-summer favorite in our household for more years than I can remember.

 

2012

Traditional Paella Valenciana

I found recipes for this relatively simple paella in two cookbooks: Penelope Casas’ Food and Wines of Spain, and Teresa Barrenechea’s Cuisines of Spain. Both looked good, so I drew steps from both recipes.

 

2013

Bluefish Gravlax

 

Here, I adapted a salmon gravlax recipe from the Cooking of Scandinavia volume of the Time-Life Foods of the World series for local bluefish. I also made the book’s cucumber relish and mustard-dill sauce.

 

2014

Tripe in Golden Fontina Sauce

This is my own version of trippa alla valdostana, from Tom’s and my book The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen. It makes a remarkably rich, mellow, elegant dish – if I do say so myself.

 

2015

Pheasant Pie with Noodles and Mushrooms

Under this pastry crust is faisan à la vosgienne, made from an Alsace recipe in Anne Willan’s French Regional Cooking. Pheasant, noodles, mushrooms, sauce, and pastry were all lavishly endowed with butter.

 

2016

Chickpea and Cuttlefish Stew

Penelope Casas’s book La Cocina di Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain provided the recipe for this Andalucian dish intriguingly spiced with hot red pepper, sweet smoked paprika, and garlic.

 

2017

Poulet Marengo

Anyone familiar with my food preferences will know I couldn’t let this retrospective go by without including at least one chicken dish. This is a classic from Robert Courtine’s The Hundred Glories of French Cooking.

 

2018

Veselka’s Borscht

The Ukrainian restaurant Veselka, in NYC’s East Village neighborhood, serves the best borscht I’ve ever tasted or can imagine tasting. Making a batch of it from the place’s own cookbook was a major accomplishment for me.

 

2019

Apple-Stuffed Pork Roast

Apples, bacon, butter, mushrooms, onions, sage, a pinch of sugar, and a touch of wine vinegar made a delightful stuffing for roasted pork. It’s a recipe I clipped from Saveur magazine and pasted in my big recipe binder.

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So:  10 years, 512 posts, recipes from 120 cookbooks, as well as a few from magazines, newspapers, and the internet. I’ve learned a lot about food and cooking from all this. Now I plan to take the month of January off, to think about how I’d like to position my blog for the coming years.

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Before Tom and I went on the Douro river cruise that I wrote about here last week, we spent two days in Lisbon; the first time there for me. It provided only the briefest taste of the city, but we made the most of it – especially gastronomically.

We had two delightful lunches there that were the very essence of serendipity. At the end of the first morning’s strolling, we happened upon a little street entirely filled with tables set for lunch.

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Checking out the establishments along the route, we stopped at one called Bebedouro, which had a chalkboard menu posted on the wall.
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The list of tapas was irresistible. We didn’t even look inside the door; just grabbed one of the little tables on the street. Not sure how big the modestly priced dishes would be, we started by ordering just two. A good thing that was, because they were large: what the Spanish would call not tapas but racions. Both were fabulous.
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Octopus in confit of peppers

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Potatoes fused with cheese and mushrooms

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The wine list featured flights of three wines for €16. We chose one of the red flights and received generous-sized pours, all from the Douro region and all new to us.
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They graduated quite interestingly from light and fruity to bigger and more complex and made interesting matches with the food. (Tom has written more about the wines we drank in Portugal on his blog.)

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That perfect little meal made us so happy that we returned to Bebeduro for lunch the next day. We chose from the fish tapas this time, both of which were just as delicious as the previous ones.
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Roasted tuna in tomato sauce with hummus

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Sardines in olive oil

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This time we tried one of the flights of white wines – again, all from the Douro. They varied from each other and matched with the tapas just as interestingly as the reds had done.
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The four dishes we had at those lunches were so good that I’m determined to try recreating some of them in my own kitchen. The only one that I could do immediately was the sardines. That’s because we were so impressed by the quality of the Portuguese sardines available in their home territory that we brought back five cans of a recommended brand.

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So here is the tapas plate I made with them just the other day. Not as pretty as Bebedouro’s, but definitely in the ballpark for tastiness.
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Even the olive oil from the sardine can was so good we slathered it all over our bread. (I brought home three bottles of olive oil, too.) Next I’ll be trying the potato, cheese, and mushroom dish because I’ve found a recipe online that looks as if it would work. After that, on to tackle the octopus!

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P.S. Though we had no idea of this at the time, I’ve learned from my back-home Web research that Bebedouro is very well known for both food and wine. It seems to be listed in at least one major guidebook and has an enormously enthusiastic online following. Perhaps I should have titled this post “Lucking Out in Lisbon.”

 

 

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