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Olympic Gold: Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos

20 Feb

AFP 520158322 S SPO SPO RUS -I hope you have been enjoying watching the Olympics as much as I have. I’ve found myself wanting to indulge in a few hearty Russian classics, but how about a new-fashioned Veal Steaks “Stroganoff?” Priyatnogo appetita!

Veal Steaks “Stroganoff” with Shiitakes & Portobellos
(Radically Simple, Rodale, 2010)

Flavors of fino sherry, espresso, and lemon “lift” an old-fashioned dish, generally made with beef, to something lighter and special.

4 thick veal steaks, about 9 ounces each
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons fino sherry
8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon thyme
¼ teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives

Preheat the broiler. Rub the veal with the olive oil. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper and arrange on a broiler pan. Heat the cream in a large skillet until bubbly. Add 3 tablespoons of the sherry and all the mushrooms. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the mushrooms soften, 4 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sherry, thyme, espresso powder, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms exude their liquid and then absorb much of the sauce, 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, broil the veal six inches from the heat for 3 to four minutes on each side, until just cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes; thickly slice on the bias. Top with the mushroom sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serves 4

Day 8: A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas

23 Dec

12-23-2013 07;29;06AM2Okay, this is my holiday gift to you. From the 325 recipes included in Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease, this succulent pork dish has become the most famous. I know people who now make it once a week. It would be great on your holiday table whether you are creating a buffet (in which I would slice the pork very thin for easy serving) or whether you are plating the food in the kitchen. It sports the bright red and green colors of the holiday with a celebratory air. The dish is a riff on an Italian classic dish in which pork is cooked in milk flavored with juniper. My version is much simpler but equally divine. You can augment the sauce by adding some dry white wine in addition to the gin. It’s lovely with a platter of sautéed broccoli rabe and a mound of buttery cauliflower & potato puree. I prepare the dish in a paella pan but you can use a very large ovenproof skillet. It’s so easy to prepare that you can make two pork loins at the same time and serve 12! Happy Holidays!

Pork Loin in Cream with Tomatoes, Sage & Gin
12 large fresh sage leaves
4 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
2-1/2 pound center-cut pork loin, tied and lightly scored
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup gin, or more to taste

Process 6 sage leaves, the garlic, oil, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mini processor to a fine paste. Rub all over the pork. Cover; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 4 hours. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat a very large ovenproof skillet until very hot. Brown the pork on all sides, 5 minutes. Scatter the tomatoes around the pork; cook 1 minute. Pour 1/4 cup cream over the pork. Roast 40 minutes. Add the 6 remaining sage leaves, the remaining 1/4 cup cream, and the gin. Roast 15 to 20 minutes longer, until tender.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board. Place the pan on the stovetop and boil the sauce, adding more gin (some dry white wine), salt and pepper, until slightly reduced, 1 minute. Slice the pork and serve with the sauce.  Serves 6

Day 5: Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas

20 Dec

12-20-2013 02;50;42PMThis is one of the simplest, most festive dishes I know. It can be prepped and cooked in less than one hour yet looks like you’ve been fussing all day. This turkey roast is nothing more than a boned breast half, flattened slightly, so that it can be filled, rolled and tied. Prosciutto, fresh sage, and prunes perfume the dish and feel like Christmas to me. Be sure to serve it with a bowl of my (now famous) sweet potato puree whirled with fresh ginger and orange. A grand cru Beaujolais would be just the thing to drink.

Rolled-and-Tied Turkey Roast with Prosciutto, Prunes & Sage
2-1/2 pound turkey roast (boned half-breast, skin on)
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
10 large pitted prunes
1/4 cup pine nuts
12 large fresh sage leaves
12 medium-large shallots, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a mallet, flatten the turkey (skin side down) to 1-inch thickness. Cover evenly with overlapping slices of prosciutto. Arrange the prunes in a tight row down the center. Top with pine nuts and make a row of 6 sage leaves on top. Roll up tightly. Season with salt and pepper. Tie with string at 1-inch intervals and tuck 6 sage leaves under the string. Place the turkey and shallots in a small roasting pan. Drizzle with the oil. Roast 45 minutes until cooked through but still moist. Transfer the turkey and shallots to a board and tent with foil. Pour the broth and wine into the pan. Place on the stovetop and boil, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 3 minutes. Strain into a saucepan. Whisk in the butter and cook 1 minute.  Remove string from the turkey, thickly slice. Serve with the shallots and pan sauce. Serves 6

Sweet Potato Puree with Fresh Ginger & Orange
This is fat-free but tastes very rich all the same. For a bit more intrigue, spice it up with a pinch of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cardamom — or all three.

4 large sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds
2 juice oranges
3-inch piece fresh ginger

Scrub the potatoes but do not peel. Place in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook 50 minutes or until very soft. Meanwhile, grate the zest of the oranges to get 1 teaspoon. Squeeze the orange to get 2/3 cup juice. Drain the potatoes and peel when cool enough to handle. Cut into large chunks and place in bowl of food processor.  Mince the ginger to get 1/4 cup. Add to the processor with the orange zest and juice. Process until very smooth. Transfer to a saucepan and reheat, stirring. Season with salt and pepper.  Serves 6

A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas: Day 4

19 Dec

prime-rib-roast-beefHere’s a wonderful, upscale recipe that is lovely for Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. The editors at Gourmet magazine once said this simple roast was one of the best they had ever tasted. It is “cured” in the same way that fresh salmon is for gravlax, literally buried in a mixture of coarse salt, sugar, fresh dill and cracked black pepper.  It is radically simple to prepare and radically delicious served with a silky potato puree and roasted winter vegetables. Open a bottle of full-bodied red burgundy or syrah.  The next day: Serve the world’s best roast beef sandwiches topped with a horseradish sauce made from crème fraîche, white horseradish, and a splash of sherry.

1/4 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper
3-1/2-pound boneless rib roast, rolled and tied
1 cup finely chopped fresh dill

Stir together the salt, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl; rub all over the beef. Put the dill over the salt mixture. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Make a small hole in the bottom of the plastic so that any accumulated liquid can drain. Place in a small roasting pan and weigh down with a baking sheet topped with a few large heavy cans.  Refrigerate 24 hours, pouring off liquid from time to time. Unwrap the beef; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrape the coating off the beef and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a roasting pan. Roast in the middle of the oven 1-1/4 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 130 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil; let rest 15 minutes. Carve as desired. Serves 8

The New Brisketeers

8 Mar

Photo Credit: The Experimental Gourmand. Grape jelly and rosemary braised brisket on polenta by Chef Thomas Perone.

When I grew up in Queens, New York, a housewife’s fail-safe recipe consisted of baking a brisket with Heinz’s chili sauce and Lipton’s onion soup mix. This usually was done in a throwaway aluminum pan covered with a thick layer of foil. I was reminded of this last week when I was judging a brisket cooking contest in Manhattan, sponsored by Jimmy Carbone, food impresario of Food Karma Projects who is also the owner of the affable Jimmy’s No. 43. Proceeds of the boisterous evening went to support a local charity.

In a frenzy to be named the Brisket King of NYC, an honorific similar to Iron Chef in some circles, a dozen die-hard guys and gals (mostly guys), competed for top honors with new styles that could rival the house of Chanel. It’s funny to think of brisket being coiffed and demure and in some cases that evening it was: delicate portions of brisket Shabu-Shabu, wine-soaked brisket on a raft of melted fontina, and brisket croquettes served with mustard aioli. But mostly the stuff belonged in a Benetton catalogue, uniting the flavors of the world, from Red mole brisket with avocado cream and pickled onions, to a red wine, grape jelly and rosemary braised brisket on polenta, to oak-smoked brisket with a green papaya salad, to burnt ends with foie gras, truffle juice and tangy slaw, from worcestershire-braised brisket with horseradish, to beer-braised brisket with roasted grape chimichurri. Clearly, not your mother’s brisket.

Beef brisket comes from the lower chest of an animal and its muscular function is to support most of the weight of cattle, since they have no collarbones. Brisket gets lots of exercise and therefore is one tough piece of meat. That’s why it needs long, slow cooking to the point where it is well beyond well-done.

And why do we love it so? After the collagen, developed by all that muscular stress, is dissolved during cooking, you get an extremely juicy, extremely flavorful piece of beef.

Slow cooking is achieved in a variety of ways, depending on where you come from. Out west, smoking from indirect heat over hardwood coals — in other words, barbecuing — works wonders. If you’re Irish, you immediately think of corned beef. If you’re Jewish and your parents came from Eastern Europe, well then, you’d use brisket for pot roast. They’re hot on brisket in Hong Kong, too, with restaurants that specialize in nothing else. In Thailand, you’d cook it gently in yellow curry paste and coconut milk.

Of course, it’s not that simple. An entire brisket consists of two overlapping muscles whose fibers run more-or-less 90 degrees from each other. Supermarkets often sell these cuts separately: what’s called “first cut” or “flat cut” is thinner and leaner (and therefore a bit drier); the “second cut” or “point end” or “deckle” is thicker, juicier, and much preferred in our household — because what’s the point of brisket if it isn’t lip-sticking succulent? Both cuts have a fair amount of fat on or in them and you want to leave that fat on during cooking to keep the moisture in.

Because people are fat-o-phobic, many food markets only sell the first cut. But If you’re cooking an entire brisket, which I like to do, then you need a quick carving lesson since the fibers of each cut aren’t aligned. Much is made of this minor complexity but all you need do is carve the thin cut against its grain, then turn the meat (or flip it over) and carve the thicker cut below against its grain.

On this particular evening, what we ate was mostly the juicy voluptuous stuff: Mr. Bobo, the national Jack Daniels Master “brisketeer,” even had a mixture of briskets, including Wagyu, in his delicious sliders. Those who didn’t win any distinction that night were the cooks whose offerings were dry or thick or poorly cut. Top honors that night went to first-place John Zervoulakas of John Brown’s Smokehouse (burnt ends with foie & truffle juice); #2 place to Ducks Eatery (Bubby’s oak-smoked brisket with papaya salad), and 3rd place to Robbie Richter (for his suave Shabu-Shabu.)

And there’s a new brisketeer in America: Stephanie Pierson. She is the author of The Brisket Book: A Love Story with Recipes (recently published by Andrews McMeel). It is a delightful read.

While I can’t supply you with any of the winning recipes, I can give you one of my own that I created for Bon Appetit (below) or check out my “Tamarind Brisket” on my blog.

My Sweet-and-Sour Brisket with Shallots & New Potatoes

1-1/2 cups orange juice
5 large soft Medjool dates, pitted
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
16 large shallots, peeled
2-1/2 cups beef broth
5-pound brisket (first or second cut, trimmed, leaving 1/4-inch layer of fat)
1-1/2 cups tomato puree
16 very small potatoes, about 1 to 1-1/2 inches, scrubbed

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Process orange juice, dates, garlic and cloves in a blender until smooth. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large wide ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and whole shallots. Cook until onions are deep golden and shallots begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer shallots to small bowl; reserve. Add broth to onions and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Pour onion mixture into large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the same pot. Season brisket with salt and pepper. Add to pot and brown well on all sides. Turn brisket, fat side up. Return onion mixture to pot. Add tomato puree and orange juice mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring to blend sauce. Cover pot and bake 2 hours. Add shallots and potatoes. Cover and bake 1 hour. Uncover and bake until brisket is tender, occasionally spooning sauce over, about 2 hours longer. Let rest 30 minutes. (This can be made 2 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate.) Scrape sauce off brisket. Thinly slice brisket across the grain and return brisket to pot. Add the potatoes and shallots and heat until hot. Serves 8 or more.

Ham from Jabugo: $150/lb.

8 Dec

Francisco (Paco) Carrasco, Master Cortador of 5J cinco jotas.

No, that’s not a typo and not meant to be $1.50/lb. It is $150 a pound and that’s for the shoulder of a very special pig. Its back legs are more: $180 a pound, and they will be available in select areas in the U.S. on Monday. Mustard would be a sacrilege. After all, this is “5J Cinco Jotas” Ibérico ham from Spain.

The back story: More than 20 years ago, I had one of those taste epiphanies, the Proustian kind, where, embedded in your brain is a memory, an aroma, a texture and a story. One that is released upon even a near encounter with that said memory. I was in Barcelona, sitting with my husband and business partner, at a dank wine bar, slipping short, translucent, wafers of cured pork into our mouths and letting them gently rest upon our tongues until they melted away — not unlike the experience of transcendental sashimi. “What is this?,” we asked in our best Catalan, and the answer was simply “Jabugo.” Not like anything else we’ve had, but reminiscent of the experience of sampling a superlative prosciutto or culatello, I always thought Jabugo was the word for ham. That is, until last night.

Jabugo, in fact, is a place — a town in the southwest of Spain, near Portugal, where the world’s most prized 100% pure-bred pigs are raised. These pigs eat acorns, not the shells mind you, but only the “fruit” within, occasionally munch on some verdant grass, and have 5 acres each upon which to saunter and socialize. They know that they are special because their parents were pure bred and so are they. These pigs remain slender and strong, and their ankles look a lot like my mother’s, who wore a quad-A shoe with a quintuple heel. Imagine. Thin indeed, and one of the many sublime qualities that define their uniqueness. Twenty years ago I sampled the prized pork when we were working on developing a hotel in Barcelona, called Hotel Arts, that was meant to open in time for the Olympics in 1992. Along with über-designer Adam Tihany we created a tapas bar and other dining facilities. Along with the taste of Jabugo on that trip we sampled green olives the size of golf balls and drank orange juice in wine glasses, served with a spoon, for dessert.

Twenty years later, I found myself remembering that mesmerizing taste, porky perfume, and texture of Jabugo at a small tasting last night at Despaña.  (Despaña is a fabulous food store in Soho specializing in the best products of Spain.) The secret of this particular ham is in the fat, which is alluring sweet and ethereal.  The fat of the pure breed Ibérico de Bellota pig gets infiltrated between its muscles. The flesh is dark red and unlike its porcine cousins, it is cut by a professional cortadores into short, thin, translucent slices:  Another unique quality of the product. Last night we had our very own master cortador whose name is Paco, who cut  translucent slices, discerning the correct ratio of fat and meat, from different areas of the leg, each with its own perfume and texture. Recently Paco spent time with Ferran Adrià who is considered one of the world’s best chefs. Adrià hails from San Sebastián, Spain where in his revered (and now sadly closed) El Bulli he melted, or rendered, the prized fat of the Iberian pig to use it as “olive oil.” (I have some of this fat in my fridge and am considering scrambling some eggs in it in any moment.) These amazing hams, made with only three ingredients — the shoulder or legs of the Ibérico pig, salt, and the climate of the region, take two to three years to cure. Under the supervision of a “maestro jamonero” (master ham craftsmen), the “air” is manipulated simply by the opening or closing of glass panes.

The pig is bred for one purpose only: To be served at room temperature (so that the fat glistens) before a meal, like caviar or pâté de foie gras, accompanied only by dry sherry (a fino or amontillado) or a Spanish red wine, and perhaps a crust of bread. Why mess with perfection?

For more information on 5J 100% Pure Breed Iberico de Bellota visit http://www.osborne.es/
Where you can find it: 5J at Despana, Dean & Deluca in NYC, Epicure and Delicias de Espana in Florida.

La Tienda and Ham Lovers carry it online:
http://www.tienda.com/jamon/jamon_iberico_cincojotas.html
http://hamlovers.com/product/121/947/Cinco_Jotas_paleta_iberica_de_bellota

Super Tender Lamb R-r-r-riblets

30 Jun

Photo Credit: Jonathan

Last weekend in the New York Times Sunday magazine (June 26, 2011), was a nice food story, written by Sam Sifton, featuring glazed lamb ribs. Quite accurately, Sam observes that, heretofore, lamb ribs were rarely offered on restaurant menus and hardly ever in the supermarket. Yet, now, in 2011, restaurants such as DBGB, Casa Mono and Recette are serving them — slow-cooked, grilled, deep-fried, confit, strewn with exotic spices, Moroccan lemon pickles, glazed, or cooled with a variety of yogurt sauces (including an intriguing sounding one — smoked yogurt — from Recette).

Enter Little Meals:  A Great New Way to Eat & Cook, published in 1993, where one of the first recipes for lamb ribs was ever published.  I always loved them and made arrangements with butchers, when possible, to prepare them for me.  Lamb ribs come from the breast plate of the animal and can be simply separated rib by rib.  They are very fatty, but at the same time, they are moist and succulent and very forgiving if you overcook them or even undercook them! They are everything one loves about ribs to begin with, only with a bit of funk and mystery.

My “slow-barbecued” riblets have a pungent sweet-and-sour glaze that turns an inexpensive cut of meat into the ultimate finger food.  Serve with tiny baked sweet potatoes for a very interesting combination and garnish with some mustard cress.

Orange-Ginger Lamb Ribs
(adapted from Little Meals)
Have your butcher cut between the bones of the ribs to make individual ribs.  Dated 1993.  In 2011, I add a splash of Sriracha sauce to the marinade.

1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
3 pounds lamb ribs

Combine orange juice, hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, mustard, garlic and ginger and stir well.  Pour over the ribs. Cover and marinate several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Remove ribs from the marinade and transfer marinade to a saucepan.  Place ribs on a broiler pan fitted with a rack. Cover tightly with foil and bake 45 minutes.   Bring marinade to a boil and cook 10 minutes until syrupy.  Remove foil and bake 45 minutes longer, basting the ribs frequently with the marinade (using a pastry brush.)  Serve garnished with cress, wedges of oranges, and remaining marinade.  Serves 4

Drink your favorite beer or a big, fruity tempranillo or syrah. Que syrah, syrah, as they say. Enjoy!

Award-Winning Veal Chops

4 May

This Friday night marks the much-anticipated James Beard Awards for television, media, and books!  Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease is nominated for best cookbook in the general cooking category.  I am honored and delighted and look forward to sharing the evening with many friends in the food world (a world that may also reach 1 billion people in the next few years — thanks to the Internet!)  The philosophy of the book, in case you didn’t know, is to bring simply elegant “restaurant food” to the home cook in 140 words or less.  Each recipe reflects a balance of time, ease of preparation, and number of ingredients.  As with all my books (this is the 12th), superlative ingredients are the hallmark of each dish, and simplicity is key.  As a professional chef for more than 30 years (yikes!), I bring a bit of “chef thinking” to each dish and help you discreetly combine interesting new flavors and techniques.

In today’s food section of the New York Times is a dish that prompted me to share one of my radically simple dishes with you.  As a fan of Melissa Clark, who writes the column “A Good Appetite,” I was attracted to a recipe for lamb chops with capers, anchovies and sage.  It’s stunning simplicity — with its whole leaf of fresh sage encrusted on top — had me immediately turn to my own “Veal Chops with Sage Butter, Sunflower Seeds & Beet Drizzle.”   Although I don’t make veal very often at home (there are four veal recipes in the book), I do on occasion, splurge and enjoy.  This is one recipe I know you will, too.  Served with a side dish of sauteed peppers with golden raisins and arugula, it is a study in nature’s own color palate.

Veal chops, below.  For the side dish, you might want to buy the book!  (smile).   Big thick veal chops became the sine qua non of chic in the early 1980’s on the upper east side and in some of the city’s more swank Italian restaurants.  For those of you who remember Hoexter’s Market, it was their 2-inch thick juicy grilled veal chop that was all-the-rage (ditto their garlic bread covered with gorgonzola sauce.)  It makes me hunger for the good old days — when James Beard could still be found eating in some of the city’s best.

Veal Chops with Sage Butter, Sunflower Seeds & Beet Drizzle

3/4 cup chopped canned beets
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 thick loin veal chops, about 9 ounces each
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 large fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds

Place the beets, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and 1/4 cup water in a food processor.  Process until very smooth.  Set aside.  Season the chops with salt and pepper.  Heat the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet large enough to hold the chops in one layer.  Sear the chops over high heat until browned on one side, about 4 minutes.  Place 3 sage leaves on the uncooked side of each chop and turn over.  Cook over high heat until browned on the second side, 3 to 4 minutes longer.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar to the pan and cook 15 seconds.  Transfer the chops and pan juices to plates.  Serve chops, sage-side up, sprinkled with sunflower seeds and drizzled with beet dressing.   Serves 4

A Farmer’s Market Meal

6 Apr

Photo Credit: Tom Eckerle

You can pretty much get everything on this plate at your local farmer’s market.  After all, there are only 9 ingredients that make up this eternally spring meal. Although it’s a bit gray and rainy today, I am off to the Union Square Market, the heart and soul of the city, to get the ingredients for tonight’s dinner.  This image, from one of my earlier books, Recipes 1-2-3 Menu Cookbook (published in 1998), is attention-getting as it is stunning in its simplicity and restraint.  The three simple recipes include tender lamb chops under a “crust” of goat cheese and rosemary; a slow-cooked tomato layered with red onion “napoleon-style,” and stir-fried watercress with garlic chips.  Only today, 14 years later when pea shoots are now the veg du jour, I may substitute them for the watercress in this recipe.  I may also, instead of the rosemary, use fresh lavender — just a bit — as my husband really likes it.  It is an unforgiving herb, however, as a little too much is…a little too much.  Goat cheese and lavender have great affinity and my husband often stuffs it under the skin of a large chicken and roasts it to perfection.  This menu brings great rewards for modest amounts of effort. Open an unexpected bottle of Domaine Clavel’s Les Garrigues, a blend of syrah and grenache noir from the Languedoc, or choose a flowery Beaujolais like Chiroubles. Check in later for dessert.  I will see what’s new and exciting at the market this morning!  One of life’s simple pleasures is checking out what’s on nature’s agenda each week. Enjoy!

Lamb Chops with Goat Cheese & Rosemary
8 thick rib lamb chops
6 ounces fresh goat cheese
3 tablespoons finely snipped fresh rosemary or lavender

“French” the chops, cutting all meat from the bones to the “eye” of the chops; or leave them as they are.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix goat cheese with 2 tablespoons rosemary or lavender.  Season chops with salt and pepper and steak in a large nonstick skillet until browned, about 2 minutes on each side.  Pack approximately 1-1/2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on one side of each chop to cover completely.  Place chops in oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until desired doneness, but still rare in the center.  You may brown the cheese for 30 seconds under the broiler.  Scatter remaining herbs on top.  Serves 4

“Short-Stack” Tomatoes and Onions

These can be made ahead of time and reheated for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

4 medium-large ripe tomatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds
2 large red onions
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Slice 1/4-inch from top and bottom of each tomato.  Cut each tomato into 3 thick slices.  Re-assemble each to look like whole tomato. Peel onions and slice 1/4-inch thick.  Layer thicker onions between tomato slices, ending on top with a thin slice of onion.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over each and season with salt and pepper.  Place a short skewer in center of each stack to help hold together.  Place in shallow baking pan and bake 1-1/4 hours.  Baste with pan juice twice.  Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes.  Carefully transfer to plates and spoon pan juices on top.  Drizzle with more oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Serves 4

Watercress (or Pea Shoots) Saute with Garlic Chips

3 large bunches watercress or 12 ounces pea shoots
4 large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil

Remove woody stems from watercress.  Peel garlic and slice paper thin, lengthwise.  Heat oil in a large skillet until hot.  Add garlic, cook 15 seconds until crisp, then immediately remove.  Add watercress or pea shoots.  Cook over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until just wilted.  Stir in garlic chips and salt to taste.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4

Sherry, Anyone?

28 Mar

A little more than six months ago, Alessandro Piliego opened a sleek, inviting tapas bar, and decked the walls with Botero paintings and high shelves teeming with sherry bottles. The hanging rustic chandeliers cast a warm glow along the bar and caress the tall tables and high-back stools where one sips and sups small plates of Spanish food.  Located on the burgeoning end of Court Street in Brooklyn, near the now-famous Prime Meats and Buttermilk Channel, Alessandro named his place Palo Cortado, and I asked him what it meant.  Something new to me, although I am an avid fan of fino sherry, palo cortado is a style of sherry, slightly richer than oloroso.  To that end, he could have similarly named his tapas bar, Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Moscatel, or Pedro Ximenez, as each is a different type of sherry along the spectrum of very dry to very sweet. I was delighted to learn about this and even more delighted to drink it.  These fortified wines deserve more respect.  The varying descriptors of their flavor profile are rich and include, unlike wine, words like salty and nutty.  They are great companions to authentic, and not-so-authentic, tapas — at once both piquant and lusty.

It was fun to share the night with the food maven, Arthur Schwartz, whose birthday we were celebrating, and Bob Harned, who had not been to Palo Cortado since it opened.  They did, however, know Alessandro and had been to a tasting in the summer.   If I could order 5 servings of the patatas bravas for myself, I would have.  At $4 a plate, that would be bargain. They were exceptional: small cubes of perfectly fried potatoes laced with aioli and Rioja sauces.  We had delicious octopus (pulpo a la gallega) served with small potato discs and a pimenton vinaigrette.  Next came spiced lamb meatballs with mint-cucumber yogurt and preserved lemon, and piquillo rellenos — small roasted peppers stuffed with chicken and cheese, served with a white bean puree and pepitas.  We enjoyed fabulous mixed olives and briny caperberries and acidic boquerones, which are marinated white anchovies with capers, garlic and parsley.  These two palate openers went especially well with the super-dry, and slightly salty, mineral-y, manzanilla that we had.  We moved on to a delicious full-bodied Rioja.  Instead of birthday cake, Alessandro brought something brilliant to try:  Medjool dates marinated in sherry with vanilla yogurt mousse and roasted almonds.  Happy Birthday Arthur, and muchos gracias to Alessandro.

I offer you one of my most radically simple and delicious tapas to serve at home.  Fatty and rich, these chorizos will taste wonderful with a glass of cellar-temperature Amontillado, or…Palo Cortado!  (located at 520 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY.  tel: (718) 407-0047).

Grilled Chorizos in Red Wine

In a shallow ovenproof dish (a small paella pan is great), slice 8 ounces chorizo or pepperoni 1/4-inch thick.  Place flat-side down, 1/4-inch apart.  Pour 1/2 cup red wine to come halfway up the sides of chorizo.  Preheat broiler.  Broil 6 to 8 minutes until crispy.  Spoon pan juices on top.  Sprinkle with finely slivered cilantro.  Serves 4

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