Category Archives: meat

Sausage Kale Mushroom (Pasta)

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Hey, y’all. Been a while, again.

This is one of those throw-together-and-eat-it kind of meals, which I love for weeknight dinners. Find the right combination of foods, and throw it over some pasta. Or, throw it on something else. One of the beauties of cooking is finding ways to make something you love new again.

Sausage, kale, and mushrooms are a good hearty combination that (with some onions too, in most cases, and perhaps a few other additions as noted) play well in many formats. I also added beans, because I had them and why not; and, it means I need a little less meat to make a full meal—which is always a goal of mine (without sacrificing flavor, of course).

Might I suggest:
-Pizza (put on a little white sauce, or just some olive oil first)
-Tart or galette (add an egg if you need a little more of a filling for a tart)
-Tacos or tostados (add a little hot sauce or salsa and maybe a sprinkle of cheese and you’re all set)
-Over pasta, or in lasagna, ravioli, or tortellini (for filled pastas you may have to mash it up a little more and add an egg to make a real filling)
-Over other starches, like rice or potatoes (or stuffed into squash, as noted here)
-In a sandwich (probably more like a hoagie roll) with onions too. And mustard!
-As a crepe filling (add an egg or some cheese)
-Mixed into risotto (again with the cheese)
-In soup
-In an omelette
-On top of salad (I would suggest not cooking the kale for this one, but massaging it and topping with mushrooms and sausage… and probably some cheese and a nice mustard dressing)

Drumroll: all these base suggestions are viable options for a variety of other combinations too! Once you find some ingredients you like together, you’ve got a bunch of possibilities to spin them into a meal.

You already know some good combos—tomato/basil/mozzarella is probably the most classic. My job here is to try to point you to a few more, or come up with unexpected ones.  If you get bored, try these parternerships, scientifically proven to be… interesting, at least (carrot and violet? Not sure I’ve even eaten violets…).

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I had a couple different people send me an article about how Instagramming your food makes it tastes better (the short of it: because it ups the anticipation), which I can appreciate—although even as one who does fanatically take pictures of food, I’m not sure I totally buy in. I take pictures mostly to share my food remotely with other people (which upon reflection is perhaps not very nice, if it makes you drool). But I do get pretty excited about it.

There are other ways to use Instagram to document food trends too—like looking at the geographic representation of #kale posts, and lining that up with food deserts.

I am lucky enough to not live in a food desert, and to have the means to go outside of it even if I did. Not everyone has that opportunity, although it’d be great if they did.

#kale

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Sausage, kale, and mushroom pasta
Andouille sausage, or another kind if you don't like the heat
Kale
Mushrooms, your favorite kind
A few spices: a little chipotle, cumin, some paprika, salt
Pasta

Boil water for pasta. Make sure to add salt.

Cook the sausage first, either grilled, in a hot oven (rimmed pan), or on the stove (I usually do this because it’s the fastest: start with a hot pan, and add a little water at first, covering the pan to help the inside of the sausage cook. After a few minutes, remove the lid and let the water boil off. The sausage should release some juices and you can sear it in the pan).

When water boils for pasta, add the noodles and cook according to directions (al dente). Get a strainer ready in the sink for when the pasta is ready.

While the sausage is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. De-stem the kale (by sliding your first finger and thumb from the base of the stem up), and chop the stems into tiny pieces. Roughly chop the rest of the kale, and chop up the mushrooms (I like longer pieces, not squares). Remove sausage from pan when cooked and add the mushrooms and kale stem pieces (hopefully there is still sausage juice; if not, add a little oil). Sauté for a few minutes until slightly softened, then add the rest of the kale and stir fry for another few minutes. Kale should be tender and mushrooms cooked, not rubbery. Stir in spices, taste, and adjust seasonings.

When pasta is cooked, mix everything together and serve. Would be good with a sprinkling of parmesan, too.

 

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Slow Roasted Meat, and French Onion Soup

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Two dishes, minimal effort and, more importantly, little active time.

I’m just planning your week for you, aren’t I? You’ll even have enough food to bring soup to a potluck AND eat it for lunch for a couple days, and share some meat with your friend who comes over to help paint the house.

Speaking of a new house, how neat would it be to grow your furniture in the shape you want? It’s my dream.

Food can change someone’s life, as exemplified in DC kitchens.

The key to both of these dishes is Time. Lots of time in the oven makes the meat tender and flaky and flavors the juice, and time on the stove caramelizes the onions so they have a depth of flavor it’s hard to believe comes from the sharp white vegetable.

Cooking methods like this are helpful for a variety of cuts of meat. If you buy half a cow or pig (which is often cheaper, and better for the farmer: if you want to eat more ecologically sensibly, this is the way to do it, because it forces you to use all parts of an animal—much like a vegetable CSA), or hunt and get a whole animal, you will end up with large chunks of meat that take a little more work to tenderize. This process—what my dad aptly terms “low ‘n’ slow”—is perfect for those cuts. I actually used a top round steak here, which could be cooked in other ways, but this is what I wanted and goodness, it’s delicious. Also, it was water buffalo from the ME Water Buffalo Co., I think extra flavorful.

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It also makes for a great no-recipe recipe. French onion soup is a little more of a process, but still fairly straightforward.

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Slow Roasted Meat
Meat (anywhere from 1-5lbs, or larger if you have a large vessel; can be beef, pork, lamb, goat, water buffalo, elk, what have you. Bone or not)
Onions
Garlic
Carrots +/ other veggies
A bit of oil
1 cup or more wine (I like red but white would work too)
Other liquid (stock, or! Whey!*)
Salt and pepper
Herbs (thyme!)
Time

Turn on the oven to 200ºF or so. Chop up the onions and garlic (garlic you can also leave in whole cloves). Rub the meat with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, if you have one (or an oven-proof pan of some kind), heat up the oil and sweat the onions and other veggies (sauté until soft and fragrant). Move to the side of the pan and add the meat. Sear/brown the meat on both sides, just to get some color. Stir in the herbs. Add the wine and deglaze the pan—scrape up all the brown bits from searing the meat and any onion that may have caramelized. Add the rest of the liquid until the meat is covered (or at least mostly covered—I kind of topped it with veggies to keep it moist). Cover and put it in the oven and let cook for 4 hours or longer (I actually left and let it cook. Make sure your fire alarms are set though).

After a long time, remove from the oven. The meat should fall apart and there will be a lot of juice/wine sauce.

If you like, you can top pasta (or croutons, as below) with this ragu (although that might not be quite the right definition. A traditional ragu may be made on a stove?) and a little parmesan, and leave it at that.

Alternatively, use the juice to make French onion soup, and then make the meat into sandwiches (now or later), eat it on polenta, or put it (san jus) on pasta later!

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That way, you can also make soup.

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French onion soup
4-6 yellow onions (depending on size)
2-3 tablespoons butter
Garlic, minced
2ish tablespoons flour
5-6 cups beef stock, or 2ish cups meat juice and other liquid (more whey!)
1 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
Thyme

Cheesy croutons
Bread
Olive oil
Cheese

Begin with the onions. Chop, against the grain, very thinly. Melt butter in a large pan over medium high heat and add the onions. Let sit until beginning to brown, then stir. Let brown for a few more minutes, then stir again. Keep stirring—they will brown more quickly as they heat up, so watch that they don’t burn and turn the heat down if necessary. You aren’t trying to burn them, but get a nice caramel color and let them sink into themselves. This takes, you guessed it, time. Add the garlic and salt near the end of the process.

Once the onions are caramelized, add a little flour and mix it in, cooking just for a minute or so to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add extra butter if needed. Then add the rest of the ingredients, scraping up the bits of onion stuck to the pan (if you can warm up the stock beforehand, this is better). Simmer for as long as you have—again, more time=more flavor, but since you’ve roasted the meat in wine juice, there’s already lots of flavor so you don’t need to let it go all day here. It should be a beautiful deep brown color.

If you’d like to make cheesy croutons (highly recommended), chop up some bread (I like the hardier, seedy ones for this but your preference) into small cubes, put on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and toast in the oven for 15 minutes or so (temperature around 350ºF, or whatever if you’re cooking something else too). Once starting to get crispy, top with cheese of your choice, or a mix of cheeses (recommended). I did it this way so I could transport them both, but if you are serving it right away, put the soup in bowls, top with croutons and cheese, and place in the oven to melt the cheese, ending with the broiler to make it nice and crispy. Mmm, soup.

Before you leave, dancing cows!!

*The whey I used was acid whey (as opposed to sweet whey), from when I made ricotta. I hate wasting things, and I do think it added a certain solidity to the juice and a little extra oomph.

Shepard’s Pie

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Although it now be spring, according to Google, there still aren’t too many greens available (they are starting!). So, time to use up some pantry staples.

I still have approximately a zillion potatoes, that I really need to use because they are starting to sprout. We’ll get there (hopefully).

I don’t remember if I’ve shared this yet or not, but particularly in regards to sourcing quality meat, apparently my generation is leading the charge at pushing for change.

I had meant to post about this last week, because Saturday was Pi Day (!) but I didn’t get around to it. I hope you celebrated appropriately! I got so excited at 9:26am, it was almost absurd. But hey, the world needs more enthusiasm.

Shepard’s pie is easygoing. A throw-everything-you-happen-to-have in kinda meal that (with a few key ingredients) ends up fantastic. It’s a good way to use random root vegetables that are staring to look a little questionable, and though it’s a meat-and-potatoes dish, I was surprised by the high ratio of vegetables I managed to stuff in, to have it end up tasting super meaty and hearty.

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This also freezes excellently. I made two (one in an 8×8 pan (which admittedly worked better) and another in a pie dish), and froze the second (let cool, then cover tightly with aluminum foil). Then when you have a potluck and don’t have time to prep a bunch of things, plop it in a cold oven and turn up to 400 or so, leaving it until it’s heated through. Yum yum yum.

My secret ingredient in this particular pie was heavily reduced lamb stock. Shepard’s pie can be made with beef or lamb (lamb is a little more traditional), but I didn’t have lamb and anyway beef is a little cheaper. I did, however, have some lamb bones from a roast a little bit ago, so I boiled those for a long, long while, at first with quite a bit of water and then I let it reduce to perhaps 1/4 of the volume. Ended up with a thick rich lamb juice that paired splendidly with the ground beef. However, if you don’t have that you can use chicken stock, and it will still be tasty.

I will also note that I screwed up the potatoes a bit, and was glad not to be serving them plain. I don’t have a potato masher, and had the bright (heh) idea of using my immersion blender (at first just as a blunt tool, and then I decided to turn it on). Turns out too much beating blows up the swollen starch cells in the potatoes and make them gluey and weird. Fortunately, if you put them on top of something (aka ground meat mixture) and bake it, they still taste pretty good. Other suggestions for rescuing potatoes here.

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Shepard's pie
Potatoes:
Starchy potatoes
Milk
Butter
Salt and pepper
Egg yolk (optional)

Meat: 
Oil
1-2 onions
2-3 carrots
Other veggies (turnips, celeriac)
3 cloves garlic
1 lb ground beef or lamb (you can also use small chunks, if you prefer)
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup or so of lamb stock (reduced) or other stock
A spoonful of tomato paste
Rosemary and thyme
A dash of Worchestershire sauce (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)

Scrub the potatoes, and set them to boiling: cover with cold water, salt, then bring to a boil and simmer until soft (warning: if you overcook them, they are more likely to become gummy).

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Chop up whatever veggies you are using. Sauté veggies with oil, starting with the onions (everything but the garlic), until mostly soft, then add the garlic. Add the ground meat, salt, and pepper, and cook until meat is browned, stirring. Toss with a little flour, then add your lamb reduction, or other stock (it helps if this is already heated). Add tomato paste/sauce if you have it, other sauces as you see fit (Worchestershire sauce?), and herbs. If it starts getting dry, add more stock. Mix in frozen peas if you like.

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By now the potatoes should be done; drain and mash (with skins!) with butter, milk, and and egg yolk if you are feeling particularly luxurious (hopefully with a potato masher. I’m not sure what I’ll use next time as a substitute). Season to taste.

Put the meat, which should have a thick sauce, in a baking dish (I recommend 2 8×8 pans, so you can freeze one, but you could do one large one, or pie dishes if you don’t have other vessels). Spread mashed potatoes on top, and put it in the oven until the juices are bubbly and potatoes are golden on top, 25 minutes or so. Let cool slightly before serving.

Leftovers heat up well in the microwave, although better (of course) in the oven. And like I said, it freezes well.

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Steak II

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Hello again! I hope you all passed a pleasant sojourn during the holiday season. I shall now be back in action, with lots to report! I admittedly did not cook as much recently as I do when living by myself, but there remain many items to share.

When in Montana (where my parents live, in case you aren’t following me intensely), eat as Montanans. Which apparently means lots of meat. We had emu meatballs, steak, pâté, goose, roast venison… much less vegetable-based than my ordinary diet, but delicious.

I’ve talked about steak before, so I don’t need to get into it too much, and besides my father actually cooked this anyway. He used the grill, and I believe just rubbed it with a little salt, pepper, and garlic. Delicious, as you can probably imagine. Just make sure not to overcook it—time it carefully, and you can always cut a piece down the middle to see and then grill it more if it isn’t done.

The reason that I am here this time, then, is not to give you a recipe, but to talk about meat. This meat is special, because it is from a Montana whitetail that my father shot.

Many of you probably have read Michael Pollan’s famed account of the wonders of hunting in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I too was swayed by the descriptions of the primitive thrill and connection to nature that you achieve with the experience. I still have not been hunting, but I have the good fortune to do it vicariously through dear ole Dad. I feel like hunting and foraging (/gathering) are becoming hipster-cool in a back-to-the-earth kind of way, and mostly I think that’s a good thing—connects you to nature and all that. There is a fair point, though, as dictated in a recent Modern Farmer article, that you have to be careful how you do it—foraging can be dangerous and damaging to the ecosystem. This is also the reason we have fish and wildlife departments to manage the capture of wild beasts (I know less about hunting in Maine, and activities like trapping, which we all gained some knowledge of in last election’s referendum).

This particular deer did not have a sensational story attached. My dad went out with our neighbor to a spot they had found a little while ago, hiking through the woods, scouting out, circling around. Finding a meadow, they spotted two deer, making sure they had antlers because they only had male deer tags, and took a shot. The deer fell down then hopped up again, but it had turned around so its rear was facing them, preventing another shot (that would ruin the meat). When it turned again my dad hit it in the head. They took the meat off the bones right there (much easier than carrying out a whole carcass), and packed it out of the woods (a good 70 pound backpack) and home to be processed, vacuum sealed, and frozen to be enjoyed at will.

We had two different cuts of meat: the backsteak, and the tenderloin, which are the most tender cuts, although a very small portion of the meat. My dad likes to process his own meat, because he then knows exactly what he’s getting, and can do it very precisely, removing sinews and packaging it up. We’ve got a meat grinder KitchenAid attachment, and a Food Saver to freeze it. We have a giant chest freezer (as well as an extra stand-up freezer and a second fridge) to keep all the bulk as we gradually use it up (and give it away) throughout the year.

Pull out at will, thaw in the fridge the night before and during the day, then heat up the grill, or the broiler, or a pan and cook until just done, leaving the center beautiful and juicy. Make sure to thank the animal for its life before devouring.

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As a side note, when you shoot a deer you have the whole animal to deal with. My dad has made leather from deer hide, and we made two full loaves of pâté with the liver.

Steak

oliviacow

I meant to post this when it actually happened. Oh well. As it is, I would like to proudly announce that I ate Olivia a few weeks ago (I originally had a random picture of a cow in this post, but this cow is, in fact, Olivia).

I’ll make this quick since I don’t have any pictures, I was too distracted by Eating. Olivia was my old roommate’s dairy cow who was no longer producing much milk (she wasn’t getting bred anymore) and became steak. I didn’t watch that process or anything, although at some point I would like to; she just appeared in my freezer. So my roommate and I decided to cook her as one of our last meals together, along with some parsnips and a salad. I don’t eat a lot of meat, as you have probably noticed, but when you know someone who knows the cow… acceptable, to say the least. And delicious.

Steak is very easy. I feel like I say that about most things on this blog so far, but it’s true. I am certainly not a professional, and I definitely believe that anyone can, and should, cook. The hardest part about steak might be dealing with raw meat. I hate raw meat. Although beef is not nearly as bad as chicken. I’m getting used to it, but I still generally want to pour vinegar over everything once I’m finished to sanitize (did you know that vinegar is a fantastic sanitizer? I’ve heard that it’s all you need to sanitize even a poultry processing center. Free of weird chemicals!).

Steak
Meat
Salt
Pepper
Garlic/shallots/whatever

Defrost the steak (this might take all day, or you can put it in the fridge the night before). Remove the package and pat it with salt, pepper, and garlic (we didn’t have any garlic, so we used shallots instead). Then put it under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your steak and your rarity preferences. Use a meat thermometer if you are worried, or just cut into it when you think it might be done.

The parsnips (which look like white carrots with extra skinny tips) we peeled and chopped up with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil in a pan, first over high heat then pretty low to soften for a little while. Kind of like home fries except sweeter. All together with a big fresh salad, the only pieces of our meal that weren’t super local were the salt, pepper, and olive oil.

We spent a good amount of time (after getting full) gnawing on the bones and enjoying all the fat from the steak. I didn’t used to eat all the fat from meat but somehow I couldn’t resist this. Fat is delicious, and is healthy in a balanced diet – the American problem is that fat is in too many processed foods these days, and that most people don’t get enough other nutrients to balance it out.

This is fantastic. I call myself a part-time vegetarian. Meat like this is why it is not full-time.