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Archive for the ‘Meat’ Category

As chilly late-fall weather is settling in, I’m again looking forward to hefty, long-cooked, stick-to-the-ribs dishes. A recipe that I’ve been saving for just this season is a peasant dish of pork chops baked with cabbage, a specialty of France’s wild, mountainous Auvergne region and a preparation with some unusual aspects.

The recipe for Côtes de Porc à l’Auvergnate is in the Cooking of Provincial France volume of the venerable Time-Life Foods of the World series. Written by M.F.K. Fisher, with consultants Julia Child and Michael Field (how’s that for a culinary trinity?), it was one of my earliest cooking bibles.

The amount of cabbage called for seemed enormous: three pounds for four servings. Half a big head of Savoy cabbage was just enough for two portions. Chopped up, it looked like a bushel’s worth!
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I usually give Savoy minimal cooking to preserve its sweetness, but this cabbage had to get a lot of cooking. To begin, I boiled it for five minutes, then drained and sauteed it in butter with a little onion, garlic, salt, and pepper for another five.
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With the cabbage transferred to a bowl, I used the same pan to brown two big pork chops, in more butter and oil. These were quite a bit thicker than the recipe called for, but since there were two hours of oven cooking ahead, I hoped that wouldn’t be a problem.
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After removing the chops to a plate, I deglazed the pan with ¼ cup of white wine, cooked until it reduced by half, and poured the liquid into the bowl of cabbage. And here I did something wicked.

I was supposed to have discarded most of the fat in the pan before adding the wine. I did draw off the fats, but I couldn’t bear to lose all those good pork and butterfat flavors. Also, my cabbage had instantly absorbed the entire wine reduction, so I just stirred in all the excess fats as well. Cabbage loves fats.

Now I was ready to assemble the dish for baking. That needed a small, deep, heavy casserole. The procedure was to lay in one-third of the cabbage, then a chop, another third of the cabbage, the other chop, and then the last of the cabbage. I was sorry not to have had a still smaller casserole, because a lot of my cabbage went into the space around the chops, rather than making generous layers between them and over the top one.
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Next was to scald half a cup of heavy cream and pour it into the pot. Sweet cream and cabbage are a combination I’d never have thought of. Seemed bizarre, but I did it; then brought the pot to a simmer, covered it tightly, and put it in a 350° oven. It was to bake for 1½ hours, but because my chops were so thick, I gave it an extra 15 minutes. It was perfuming the kitchen with a rich, savory aroma.

And we weren’t done yet. The last stage was to sprinkle the top layer with a small mixture of dried bread crumbs and grated parmigiano, and return the pot to the oven, uncovered, for another half hour or until the top was crusty and browned. Again, after testing the chops with a fork for tenderness, I kept the pot in the oven for an extra 15 minutes.
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When I disentangled the meat from the cabbage, it was clear the two chops had had very different experiences in the oven, the one dark and crusted, the other pale and soft. My fault, I guess, since I couldn’t get the upper chop sufficiently covered with cabbage. But putting them on the cutting board allowed me to carve us each some of each chop.
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The cabbage, happily, hadn’t turned into a mass of mush. Though the cream had clotted into it a bit, it had absorbed all the good cooking flavors, to taste almost like a meat-sweet sauerkraut. The chops themselves were a bit disappointing. I just don’t have good luck with pork – it tightens up, no matter how I try to keep it moist and tender. The taste of the chops was fine, but their texture distinctly chewy.
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However, with the addition of little boiled German butterball potatoes, the dish made a satisfying peasanty sort of supper, with the lush, fragrant cabbage actually the star of the show.

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I’m just back from 10 days in Rome. Much about the trip was lovely, some was stressful, but from the gastronomic viewpoint it was a pure delight. Tom and I ate wonderfully well at old favorite restaurants and a few new ones, mostly choosing traditional Roman specialties. I already long to taste those dishes again!

Our last dinner on the trip was at La Matricianella, an almost aggressively traditional Roman restaurant in the city’s historic center, which we’ve patronized with pleasure for more than a decade. This time, after a carciofo alla giudia (deep-fried artichoke) for me and two fiori fritti (batter-fried cheese-stuffed squash flowers) for Tom, we both ordered trippa alla romana: tripe Roman-style.

Here is a poor photo of my dish – the room’s lighting confounded my simple camera – but take my word, it was ambrosia. We thought it was the best trippa all romana we’d ever had.
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As soon as we began planning meals at home, I knew I wanted to try recreating that dish. I’d never made tripe in that style before, but there are recipes for it in every Roman cookbook. The main problem is, we can’t get the right kind of tripe here in the USA. We have only honeycomb – one of the four kinds of beef tripe used in the dish in Italy. All are just different enough in flavor and texture to make the true dish inimitable. Still, I’d do my best.

I picked up a pound of tripe from the butcher, and Tom cut it for me in bite-size chunks.

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For the cooking, I adapted steps from several cookbook recipes. First, I boiled the tripe in plain salted water until it was tender. That took all of three hours. Fortunately, I’d expected as much and had started very early. When the tripe was ready, I sauteed a mince of carrot, celery, and onion in olive oil for five minutes.
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I added the drained tripe, stirred it around in the pan, and poured on a quarter cup of red wine – which the tripe just sucked up immediately.
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Next came a cup of my own tomato sauce, preserved from the summer’s San Marzano tomatoes, salt, black pepper, and a pinch of ground clove. All that simmered, covered, for half an hour, to blend the flavors, and the dish was done.
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The pan sat at the back of the stove until I reheated it at dinner time. I served the tripe topped with freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese. (The cheese should have been mixed with chopped mentuccia, the special Roman mint, but I have only ordinary domestic mint, a flavor so different, I didn’t want to chance it.)
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So: This was a perfectly good plate of food. Tripe tender and flavorful, sauce very tasty too. Unquestionably pleasing for innard lovers. But overall, it didn’t rise to the character of true trippa alla Romana. It was a bit monotone from the single variety of tripe, and it lacked zing, somehow. Probably I should have added a peperoncino, that tiny dried red pepper that perks up so many Italian tomato sauces. But we still wouldn’t have had the Ur-Roman ambiance of La Matricianella.
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Image from matricianella.it

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Sigh. When will we ever get back to Rome again?

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Wild Boar Stew

For a special dinner recently, Tom placed an online order for foie gras from d’Artagnan, and then, on an impulse, he included a package of wild boar stew meat. I’ve only ever cooked boar a few times in my life, but I was game to try working it into the menu for his special dinner.

A truly wild boar, from which this meat was asserted to come, is a tough, muscular animal. It requires long cooking, traditionally preceded by long marination to break down the fibers and tenderize it. Evidently, all that marination actually does is enhance flavor, but I don’t see anything wrong with enhancing flavor, so I was willing to marinate my boar anyway.

Most recipes for boar are extremely complicated, but I found a relatively easy one for stufato di cinghiale, wild boar stew, in Wilma Pezzini’s Tuscan Cookbook. This modest book has produced consistently excellent results for me, so I happily adopted its approach. It called for two pounds of wild boar shoulder meat, which would be perfect for a dinner for four.

 

The marinade was a lively mixture of red wine, wine vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, salt, black pepper, and three fresh herbs: basil, sage, and thyme. The pieces of boar soaked in it for two days: in the refrigerator at night and on the kitchen counter during the day. I turned the pieces a few times, when I remembered to do so.

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When it was time to cook the stew – one day before the dinner party, because stews are always better the second day – I drained the meat, rinsed it in warm water, and dried each piece individually.
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Then came flouring, salting, and peppering the pieces before putting them in a casserole, where they browned in olive oil along with chopped garlic and fresh rosemary.

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I must admit they didn’t brown very much, having taken on a purplish hue from the marination. But the surfaces sealed, which was the point. Next, I added two skinned and chopped plum tomatoes, a cup of mixed broth, and half a cup of red wine, stirring well to deglaze the casserole.
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Covered, the stew simmered over low flame for an hour to start. At that point it had to receive another cup of broth and half cup of wine. I also added an ingredient not in the recipe: half a pound of small cremini mushrooms. It just seemed like a good idea. (It was.)
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After a second hour and part of a third, the boar had become nicely tender. I turned off the heat and left the pot on a windowsill, covered, for the rest of the day; then refrigerated it overnight. The next day, as dinner time approached, I slowly reheated the casserole – uncovered, to thicken the sauce.

The meat had turned a rich, warm golden brown, as had the gravy. And the stew was superb – mushrooms included. Luscious! Everything you could ask for in a dish of wild game. We at the table were very happy indeed.
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Here’s a little background about that special dinner. It arose because Tom needed a post for his blog about his October cellar selection wine, which was a 1989 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Émile, vendange tardive. The foie gras was ordered to match with that extraordinary late-harvest wine. Which it did, splendidly. You can read about it here.

It would have been a sin not to share that experience with other food and wine lovers, so we’d invited two good friends to dine with us. The rest of the dinner took shape around that match.

We had aperitifs in the living room, with champagne. The foie gras and a dab of fig compote, with the Riesling. The boar, with fresh egg noodles and roasted green beans, with a 2006 La Millière Châteauneuf du Pape. A cheese platter, with a 2004 Château Léoville Poyferré Saint-Julien. And for dessert (without wine), a silky panna cotta with a compote of fresh peaches.
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That was a dinner to remember! It’s too bad we have no more of that gorgeous old Riesling to serve as an excuse for another such indulgence.

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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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