Tag Archives: stew

Muscle Memory

23 Aug

Have you ever been cooking something and your muscles, whether arms/fingers/brain, do all the work?  Sometimes I find myself chasing memories of recipes.  One in particular is a veal dish my dad used to make, he called it veal mezzanotte because he had made it in graduate school at midnight.  Here’s what I remember from shopping at Nino Salvaggio’s and then cooking at home with Poppie, since he never wrote down the recipe.

Vitello Mezzanotte:

1 lb. maybe 1.5 lbs. of veal cubes

2 garlic cloves

1 white onion

10 mushroom tops sliced in various thicknesses (too thin they turn to mush)

Spices — enough dried herbs and spices to cover the top of the stew, layer after layer (oregano, tarragon, basil, 1/2 tsp. coriander)

Bottle of Beaujolais-Villages – Louis Jadot

Basically what happens:  you toss in the diced garlic and onion with the mushrooms and some olive oil in a large deep skillet ’til it cooks down and browns up.  Over top, add the veal cubes, once they start to turn a little opaque add half a bottle of the beaujolais.  Then start layering the herbs so they cover the surface of the meat and wine, one after the other.  The coriander is added last.  Cover and let simmer for 2 hours, uncover and let some of the water/wine cook off for about 20 minutes.  Poppie always served it with mashed redskin potatoes and green beans.  I think I would also serve it with an Abbey Dubbel like St. Bernardus Prior 8 — it has a serious alcohol aroma that can stand up to the amount of beaujolais in the stew while complementing the earthy notes of the herbs with its own dark fruit, ripe raisin aroma and flavor.  The flavors don’t overwhelm each other but serve to improve the body of the beer.  RIP Papa.

The Beauty of Marrow

2 Aug

This is a Milanese dish my mother has been preparing in the winter my whole life and is the most decadent, body warming, comfort food on the planet.  Mac ‘n’ cheese be gone, this stuff is life saving.  Bone marrow is one of those foods to which many people have an adverse reaction.  It is in fact incredibly rich and full of protein.  It’s a consistency some have trouble negotiating — more a gelatinous gravy that is beautiful spread across a piece of bread or scooped out with a spoon.  The meat surrounding the bone is the veal shank and we all know the cuter the animal the better tasting the dish.  This is no exception.  When properly cooked, osso buco falls off the bone without the aid of a knife.  This particular recipe is borrowed from Marcella Hazan, author of 6 cookbooks on Italian cooking.

Osso buco alla milanese: enough for 6

1 big can of whole peeled tomatoes

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

2/3 cup finely chopped carrot

2/3 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

2 strips lemon peel

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 shanks of veal (you can find these precut in most grocery stores, get one cut for each person)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour, spread on a plate or on waxed paper

1 cup dry white wine

1.5 cups homemade meat broth or canned beef broth

1.5 cups canned italian tomatoes coarsely chopped w/their juice

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

4 leaves fresh basil (optional)

2 bay leaves

2 or 3 sprigs parsley

Freshly ground pepper

Salt to taste

The Business:

Heat in skillet olive oil and garlic over medium heat.

The veal shanks should be washed and patted dry, then lightly roll them in flour.  Place in skillet to brown on all sides.  Set aside when finished.

In large stock pot heat over medium olive oil, butter and garlic.  Throw in onions, carrot, celery to cook down — this is known in italian as a soffritto.  Next the veal shanks, tomatoes and their juice, beef broth, lemon peel.  Add the rest of the spices and let simmer covered for two hours.  Stir every 10 minutes or so.  This is a dish best the day after, let cool on stove stop then cover with tin foil and place in fridge.  Next day heat up at low simmer then serve in pasta dish, fettunta is a great side.

Pseudo feijoada

22 Jul

As a way of saving money and still eating well in Milan on a student budget, I began to create one-pot stews enough to last me a week.  I am a slim woman but with daily stops at the local gelateria, pasta out the ears and panini for lunch I managed to put on 10 lbs.  So not only was this a economical choice but also a healthier choice.  My first try at a stew was feijoada — my absolute favorite Brazilian dish — which taught me the basics of making a bean and meat stew while allowing me to adapt and experiment with the recipe.  My second foray into the stew world was a twist on traditional feijoada using lentils instead of black beans.  Lentils are one of those superfoods with which you just can’t go wrong and such a stew as this is comfort food to the max.


(Shopping List)

1 bag green lentils (at home, rinse and drain, pick out bad beans)

1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes

2-4 bay leaves

Srichacha chili sauce

Ground cumin or cumin seeds

Chorizo or spicy italian sausage

Andouille Sausage

2 cloves of garlic

1 large red onion

2 shallots

The Business:

Dice shallots, garlic and onion.

Warm large stock pot on stove at medium heat with a enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Toss in shallots, garlic and onion and saute until golden brown.

Next  throw in the bag of lentils, minus the plastic of course! and the can of tomatoes with their sauce.  Stir and keep an eye on the water level: the lentils will soak up the water from the tomatoes and soften and the rest will cook off.

While all that’s going on, in a skillet brown up the Andouille sausage (you can either cut them into 1/4 inch circles before or after you cook them).  If you want, you can take the chorizo or spicy italian sausage and slip it out of its casing and brown in the pan as you would ground beef for tacos or slice it with the casing on the same as the andouille.  The idea behind just browning the meat is that you don’t want to cook it completely because after it’s been browned you will throw it into the stew pot and let the heat of the water/stew cook the meat the rest of the way while it soaks up all the flavors.  Once the meat is in the stock pot, toss in your bay leaves and cumin, as much Srichacha (or Defcon for that heat) as you can handle, lots of ground pepper.  This is mostly a waiting game once you’ve got it all together, usually an hour, so don’t be in a rush.  This is one of those dishes that is always better the next day.

End goal:  lentils that are al dente and not crunchy, a stew that is thick and not watery or soupy.  Eat hearty and drink up.  I would recommend a really tart gueuze or a saison with this to take some of that heat off the tongue and clear your palate for another helping, such as Cantillon Gueuze or Saison Dupont (incredibly versatile beer with food).

*Browning meat is like giving it a sun tan – the skin touching the pan heat will turn a different color than the insides but you don’t want the whole piece to be that color. So when one side gets a touch of that sun tan, flip it and let the other side have a chance.  This is a very quick process, we’re not talking minutes in the pan.*

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