Category Archives: meat

Fegatelli, ancora for a snowy day

It’s snowing. We are at a halt in the countryside, other than the slow proceeding to town to vote by all my neighbors. They’ve been so dispirited about this election that I’m grateful that they gathered the nerve to go. I have very good neighbors.

Anyway, I have been challenged to make a dish that is something filled or stuffed. I’m still on a reduced carbohydrate diet, so many dishes were tempting but not sensible. After all, with the roads as slick as a con-man’s spiel, who would eat them before I lost my self-control? And so I am making fegatelli. Almost no one makes this dish nowadays and it’s a crying shame, because it is one of the most distinctively Italian dishes, really unlike anybody else’s food, in my opinion. I haven’t made it since 2005.

This is what I will fill
This is what I will fill

This la rete, or the net. It is sometimes called net fat in English. It’s a natural part of the pig, thin and light and stretchy, and is the web by which my recipe hangs. I’m not sure it will be accepted as a filled dish. I’m pretty sure no one will make this top on their list of things to try. That’s a shame, too. It’s just delicious. In other countries than Italy you need a butcher to ask for it and for pork liver in a piece, rather than slices. You also need fresh bay leaves, and you may for the first time discover what bay leaf actually tastes like, because here it’s a distinguishable note, not just a simmered-in part of a herbal symphony.

Assuming your liver has come from a proper vendor and arrives already cleaned of veins and membranes, start here.  If it has those things you will need to prepare it yourself before beginning.

Cut the liver into chunks and the rete into pieces just big enough to fasten around them. You lay a chunk of liver on the net, then add a bay leaf and then make a gift package of it, fastening with a toothpick. Do them all.

Heat a capacious frying pan to moderate heat, and add a thin coating of olive oil. Place the fegatelli into it, then lower the heat to low. I usually put a couple of scraps of the net fat into the oil so that when they simmer I can see the pan is ready. All you need now is patience, because the fegatelli cook slowly, always slowly, and you have to turn them as the bottoms brown, using tongs. I find that they need turning when the bottom browns enough to be free of the pan, since they stick at first. It takes a bit of attention to get all six sides browned, since some want to topple. When they are nearly done, lightly salt them. It takes less salt than meat usually does, and I don’t know why.

When you surmise they might be done, after perhaps 30 minutes of slow cooking, take one out and cut it in two. It should be distinctly pink inside, but not the maroon of raw liver.

Cooking the fegatelli
Cooking the fegatelli

As you can see, some have just been turned and the rest are just as they were when put in the pan.

Ready to serve
Ready to serve

So this is what you have when you’ve finished. The rete has disappeared, melted into the olive oil and providing a delicate flavor you can get no other way. I serve them just like this, warning diners to remove the bay leaf as they cut them. While not as dangerous as dried bay leaf, these are definitely chewy and not terribly pleasant.

I would deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine, drizzle the resultant sauce sparingly over the fegatelli and serve with roasted or fried potatoes. A crunchy contract will be nice with the meaty chunks. Heck, if you’re going to eat liver cooked in pig fat why not fried potatoes, too? You can always have a nice salad afterward.

Rest the meat for 10 minutes and the red will disappear
Rest the meat for 10 minutes and the red will disappear

If you don’t eat them more often than every five years, I think you will come to no harm.

Coscia di tacchino porchettata: turkey thigh porchetta style

I was wondering yesterday if I knew anyone who doesn’t like porchetta, that ubiquitous Italian marketplace treat.  I think I don’t.  Hardly anyone is in a position to make it at home, however, because the first ingredient is a whole pig of about 100 pounds and where are you going to cook that?

Your piece of coscia

We do, however, cook other things in that style, which is boned , filled with delicious spices and rolled up in skin before roasting.  Duck porchettata is a dish you sometimes see on menus.  I’ve done smaller pork pieces like that, although you have to buy at a butcher to get the all-important skin for crackling.  It wouldn’t be porchetta without crackling.

This version uses the economical turkey leg and thigh, which happened to be on sale here this week.  Admittedly, I was very hungry while it was cooking, but the perfume of this roast almost drove me crazy.  I can’t think when I have ever cooked anything that smelled so good.  I ended up eating cold asparagus in vinaigrette to hold out until it was done.  And then, oh my goodness!  Delicious almost seems like not enough of a word and I search for another one and can’t find it.  This is good food, special food and worthy of any company.  The slice you see is a bit thick because the roast is still blazing hot and dripping with juices, but as it cooled it became possible to cut thinner and more elegant pieces.

If you are an experienced cook you can skip a lot of the directions and photos, but I think anyone could make this if they pay close attention to it all. Continue reading Coscia di tacchino porchettata: turkey thigh porchetta style

Duck delicious, and low carb too

Duck with cabbage and olives

I didn’t set out to have this for Thanksgiving, in fact I didn’t know it was Thanksgiving until mid-morning. Wednesday was hanging in my mind that morning. But in fact I had thawed duck breasts because having found a place where I could buy other than a whole duck, albeit frozen, I was eager to see if it was really good. Serendipity.

But I am well into THE DIET and most of my many ways with duck won’t go there, no matter how hard I press and not even with a hammer. For about a month it’s been protein and non-starchy vegetables and that looks to be the prevision until well into summer of 2011. I am learning to subsist mostly on the cabbage family.

Delicious duck with cabbage and olives
for 2 people

2 duck breasts, scored on the skin side
about 1/2 teaspoon of seasoned salt — mine is homemade and includes rosemary and pepper
1 medium onion, sliced into spikes
thinly sliced cabbage, the amount you want to eat
2 heaping tablespoons of battuta di olive as made here
Steam the cabbage with a bit of salt until it is par-cooked. Drain and leave in the pan.

Rub the salt/seasoning mix onto the duck breasts, distributing it well, and bring them to room temperature.

Put a heavy frying pan on medium heat and immediately lay the duck breasts in it, skin side down. This is one of those few times you start with a cold pan, like with bacon. The skin will start to exude a bit of fat, which is what you want to see. The breasts I used were not really fatty, as are the ones I usually bone out of a whole, fresh duck. They were smaller, too, which is a good thing, I think. When there is a fairly generous amount of fat in the pan, add the onion slivers. Continue to cook, stirring about sometimes, until the skin is nicely golden brown and has lost most of its fat. Turn the breasts. Continue to cook until the internal temperature of the breasts is about 125°F, then turn them one more time and let the skin re-crisp. It won’t be very very crispy, but pleasantly so. Remove the breasts to a cutting board to rest 10 minutes or so.

Immediately toss the cabbage into the pan with the onions, stirring about. It will pick up the fond, or brown bits, in the pan. Add the battuta of olives and stir about. When everything is well-heated, check for seasoning and correct.

Use a sharp knife to carve the duck breasts into thinnish medallions. It should be pink-rare all the way through, no cool blueish center as with beef, but just rosy all the way. Arrange the duck and half the cabbage on each plate and enjoy every bite. I certainly did!

Lamb in chermoula … Italian version

Roast lamb

Over a year ago I discovered chermoula when I prepared a Moroccan supper for friends. That was the best lamb I had ever made and I swore I’d always make it that way. But when Easter came this year I wanted the meal to be more Italian rather than Moroccan, so I undertook to make the chermoula taste like Italy. There’s something about holidays that makes me want to be traditional. Is it traditional to eat lamb in Italy? Decidedly, yes, it is. There are lots of recipes, mostly very cooked, some even simmered rather than roasted, and I am willing to try out all of them. For Easter I wanted a pair of roasted legs, however and I wanted them succulent, a bit rare and subtly perfumed with the herbs and spices of Italy. Here’s what I came up with.

Italian Chermoula
This is a single recipe and will marinate 1 kilo or 2.2 pounds of meat.

2 medium onions grated or very finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, minced
4 tablespoons oregano minced or 2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin, crushed
1/2 teaspoon saffron, soaked in a spoonful of warm water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
juice of half a lemon

Mix those all together. I used the food processor to smush up all of it. In a glass or ceramic dish or a large Ziplock bag, put the lamb and then the marinade. Use your hands to distribute the paste all over the meat. Seal and marinate the meat for at least a day and two days is even better.

Take the meat out an hour before you plan to cook it and let it come to room temperature. Remove most of the marinade with your hands. Put the meat in a shallow dish and roast to the doneness you like or barbecue it if that’s possible. You may simmer the marinade in a little pan and serve it as a sauce with the meat at table. Nothing I can say to you will help you with how long it will take to cook this meat. Our legs of lamb are so tiny you could mistake them for a turkey thigh. Yours will be much bigger unless you too live in Italy.

I really liked this, but I like the North African version even better. On the other hand, all od these ingredients are readily available and the ingredients for traditional chermoula are not.

CSA: Steak with Scallions

EG came up with this recipe, which is as simple as most good things are, and shared it with us. She thinks that if she’d had a grill pan and grilled the scallions first it would have been even better. Probably the final cooking could be done that way, too.

Lunch is ready!
Lunch is ready!

It seems the most important thing is not overcooking these very thin, very lean steaks. That means pre-cooking the scallions a bit, then cooking the rolled up steaks very quickly on high heat.

Steak and Scallion Rollups

Per person:
2 pieces of thin but tender steak
2 whole scallions, cleaned and trimmed
salt and pepper
olive oil

Oil and salt the scallions and cook them briefly over moderate heat to soften them. Roll them in the steaks and cook over high heat just to brown. Salt and pepper to taste. If you feel Italian, drizzle them with a tiny thread of olive oil and serve them with a wedge of lemon.

Eg’s photos are always affected by the light bouncing off her chartreuse kitchen walls, and I have not yet convinced her that she should take her food onto the balcony for photography.

CSA box: zucchine and lettuce

It’s hardly even summer yet and I am already having a hard time coming up with recipes for eg’s CSA box!  I didn’t want to start on zucchine yet, because I know the day is coming when people will be desperate for what to do with zucchine.  But this is the third week she’s had summer squashes, so here we go.

Most of this was in the box
Most of this was in the box

The CSA box had lettuce, scallions and zucchine and other summer squashes.  I added 1/3 of a pork chop, sliced thin and marinated, garlic and the marinade ingredients.  I also added just under 2 ounces of rice stick noodles, cooked and drained.  This took about fifteen minutes to make.

Pork and vegetable stir fry

Marinade:  (or chowing sauce if you read a lot of Chinese cookbooks.)

  • 2 soup spoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 soup spoon of soy sauce
  • 2 soup spoons of sherry or Marsala
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • pinch of chile pepper flakes

Mix in a small bowl and toss the thinly sliced pork in it to get all the meat seasoned.  Leave while you prepare the rest of the stir fry.

Cook about 2 ounces of noodles in boiling salted water until just done, drain and hold.

Clean and cut:

  • 1 small zucchina or other summer squash
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 scallion
  • 4-5 leaves of lettuce

Heat a wok or very large frying pan with some vegetable oil.  Remove the meat from the marinade.  When it is very hot, toss in the meat and garlic and stir fry until the meat loses its red color.  Add the squash and continue to cook until they start to look translucent.  Add the onion/scallion slivers and toss briefly, then the lettuce which you should toss until it is coated with the moisture of the pan.  Add the noodles, then the marinade, tossing really well.  Remove to a serving bowl and optionally throw some minced peanuts on top, like I did because, after all, they are here since we cooked the Viet noodle dishes last week.  Serendipity, that.  So here is what you get sans peanuts.

and very good it was, I swear
and very good it was, I swear

Roast stinco of pork with roasted potatoes

It would be worth asking your meat department to order fresh pork hocks for you just so that you can say you are having stinco for dinner.  Even better is if you can ask someone over to eat stinco.  It’s a name that doesn’t translate so well, but it’s really, really good to eat!

Stinco di Maiale

This was a restaurant meal, but it’s super easy to make at home.  I only make it if several are eating though, to conserve fuel.  It takes as long to cook one as it does to cook six.  This was so much meat I only ate about 15% of it, and the rest went to the kitties.  They were some kind of happy!

Although you may see smoked ham hocks most often, you should be able to get them uncured, too.  And they should be relatively cheap.  All you do is rub them with a little oil, then salt and rosemary, then cook them in a slow oven for a couple of hours until very tender.  The temperature can vary, but should never be really hot because that will toughen the meat.  I would cook it somewhere between 225°F and 300°F (110°C to 150°C)

If you want the potatoes as well (Am I insane?  Of course you want the potatoes!)  Peel them and cut them in chunks, then oil them, salt and rosemary them with the meat and put them into the same baking dish as the pork.  The long, slow cooking will make them creamy inside with slightly crisp corners and a salty surface.

I ate this dish at l’Osteria in Città di Castello.  With wine and service it cost euro 12.  A good buy.

Make this on a cold and rainy day when you are very busy.  Once you put it into the oven, you can go off for at least two hours and nevert give them a thought.