Tag Archives: Meat

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Ostrich Summer Sausage

While most of my father’s ancestors emigrated from Poland many decades before he was born, he still embraced some of the dietary customs his relatives had brought with them from their homeland.  Among them was a deep love of sausage, both hot and cold.  As a result, I grew up eating various types of fresh and smoked kielbasa, duck’s blood sausage, and — my favorite — a delicious pork summer sausage made in a Polish butcher shop near the Chicago neighborhood where my grandmother lived all of her life. 

Throughout my own adulthood, sausage has played only a minor role in my diet.  Nonetheless, when I recently spotted a rancher at my farmers market selling ostrich summer sausage, I couldn’t resist buying it.  I brought it home, sliced off a respectable chunk, and popped it in my mouth.  The memories of the countless, delicious summer sausages of my childhood came flooding back to me, and I wondered whether my Polish ancestors had ever had the opportunity to eat an ostrich.

Ostrich Summer Sausage

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Veal Tongue

One of the unfortunate consequences of growing up in a wealthy country is that most Americans children don’t learn to value the offal and other under-appreciated — though wonderful — parts of an animal.  Even as an adult, I find that most of my friends wince when I mention dishes such as braised sweetbreads and tripe tacos.  I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to have grown up with a father who loved calf’s liver, a mother who ate chicken hearts, a grandmother who cooked veal kidneys, and a neighborhood Chinese restaurateur who routinely used chicken feet in his meal preparation.

So, when our favorite New York dairy farmers, Tim and Mary Tonjes of Tonjes Farm Dairy, mentioned last week that they had veal tongue for sale, I bought one and brought it home.  Having not cooked one for about 15 years, I found an easy recipe on the internet, and threw it in a pot of celery, onions, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and gently boiling water for about an hour and a half.  Then I turned the burner off and let the meat sit in the cooking juices for another hour.  When I finally removed it from the liquid, I peeled the off the outer layer, discarded it, and sliced the tender meat.  The aroma and flavor are delicate and meaty, and the texture is somewhere between corned beef, though not stringy, and stew meat, though far more tender.

I served the meat on a crunchy baguette with horseradish and lettuce.  It was simple.  And simply delicious.

Veal Tongue

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Roast Lamb

For the past couple of years, we have shared half a lamb with a friend through a local CSA.  We never know exactly what cuts we’re going to get and, frankly, we don’t really care.  It’s all delicious.  And part of the fun for me is thinking up new ways to prepare it.

One of the cuts in this year’s share was a small roast on the bone — not more than 3 pounds in all.  I made a gremolata and spread it across the top of the meat, put the roast in the pan in which I intended to cook it, then let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours so that the meat would absorb the lemon, garlic, and parsley goodness in which it was dressed.  I preheated the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and, after letting the roast come to room temperature for about a half hour, I threw the whole pan right into the hot oven with a bit of mire poix and red wine.  After about 15 minutes, I turned the oven down to 350 degrees, and continued cooking the roast until it registered just under 140 degrees on my instant-read thermometer — the high end of medium rare, especially after accounting for carry-over cooking

You can see the results for yourself here . . . but you won’t be able to taste them unless you try it yourself at home.  

Roast Lamb

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Braised Short Ribs with Raisin Vinegar Sauce

Yesterday, February 23rd, marked the sixth anniversary of the day that Kay and I first met each other in person.  Our unexpected and wonderful relationship resulted in many changes in our lives, including the end of Kay’s 23-year history of vegetarianism, which I brought to a sudden halt by feeding her scarlet runner beans with braised short ribs.  

This year, to celebrate both that day and Kay’s 50th birthday (which fell on February 22nd), I prepared shortribs again.  This time they were bison rather than beef, and they were accompanied by beets rather than beans, but they elicited the same satisfying response of love and appreciation.

I didn’t know six years ago that I would be cooking shortibs for Kay six years later, but I know today that I’ll be cooking them for her for the rest of our lives.

Braised Short Ribs

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Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs

When my Aunt Eleanor was diagnosed with cancer, I left the Michelin-rated-restaurant world in search of a cooking position that would afford me more time to spend with her in her final months.  I landed a job as the executive sous chef in a retirement community, and was quickly introduced to the world of institutional cooking.  The culture there — as in so many institutional kitchens — had been “heat and serve,” and I was hired to teach my crew how to cook real food from scratch.

I soon learned that my staff members already knew how to cook; all I really needed to do was allow them to do it.  I also had the good fortune of having a team that had immigrated from all over the world.  Among them was a young woman from the Middle East who, when not being ignored entirely, was teased and ridiculed by her male colleagues for being — in their opinion — unattractive.  When I asked her about her homeland and what she had most loved about cooking there, she immediately described a dish of succulent lamb meatballs made with nuts and sweet spices.  She begged me to get her the ingredients so that she could make them for me and the community residents.

Ground lamb proved to be outside of the budget, but she made due with ground turkey and proudly presented the meatballs to me.  While not quite as good as the lamb version (which she later made at home and brought me as a gift), they were so delicious that the nasty remarks and pranks of her colleagues immediately became words of praise and pats on the back.  After that day, I watched as her confidence and pride in her work blossomed.

When I made the meatballs in this photo last week­, I couldn’t help but remember that experience . . . and be reminded of how vitally important it is to one’s self-respect to be allowed to live up to one’s potential. 

Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs

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Roast Venison

One Saturday, we asked our dairy farmers if they had any veal for sale.  “No, I’m afraid not,” was the reply, “It’ll be a month or so before we have veal again.  But our son got a deer this week, and we have more venison than we can eat.”  A few weeks later, we were presented with a small venison roast.  The young hunter, who was there that weekend, proudly displayed a photo of his kill on his smart phone.  His father worried that the photo might be off-putting, but I reassured him that it’s always a good thing to be reminded about where our food comes from.   

The venison roast was absolutely delicious, better than any roast beef I can recall eating.  A single, clean rifle shot and proper field dressing resulted in a sweet, tender piece of meat, and we relished every bite.  As we always do, we acknowledged both the deer and the hunter as we enjoyed our meal, and we wished aloud that everyone had the opportunity to fully understand — and appreciate — the sacrifice and skill that goes into their food long before it ever reaches a fork.

Roast Venison

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Osso Buco

Tim and Mary Tonjes, the hard-working and talented farmers who own Tonjes Farm in the Hudson Valley, produce and sell indescribably delicious milk, yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, ricotta, fromage blanc, mozzarella and other cheeses.  They also produce sustainably-raised veal products, including these succulent cross-cut shanks.  For those of you who have stopped eating osso buco and other veal cuts because of unconscionable industrial production practices, stop by any of the Tonjes Farm stands and learn more about their responsible farming methods.  Then take home a few dairy and veal products and learn firsthand why we never let a week go by without bringing home a big bag filled with their delectable goods.

Osso Buco

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Fettuccine with Merguez

Our friends, Jody and Luisa Somers of Dancing Ewe Farm in New York, raise sheep.  They use the sheep’s milk to make the most incredible ricotta and pecorino cheeses.  They use the meat to make a spicy merguez sausage that seems to beg me to buy it every Friday at the Union Square Greenmarket.  Both the pecorino and the merguez made it into this homemade fettuccine dish.  Having friends is a gift.  Having friends who are farmers is an endowment.

Fettuccine with Merguez and Chard

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Plum Barbecue Chicken Sandwich

When I was in culinary school — almost two decades ago — I learned to make a delicious plum barbecue sauce.  Sweet, juicy, fresh plums replace the more predictable tomato product, and a little cayenne gives it a nice kick.  I’ve made the sauce countless times over the years, both at home and in professional kitchens, and it’s always great.  But I honestly don’t think I perfected it until I found the sublime plums, chicken, and brioche rolls at my farmers’ market.  It’s a good reminder that great can always be better.

Plum Barbecue Chicken Sandwich

Braised Lamb Shanks

When I was a child, lamb was too expensive to have more than once or twice a year. When I grew up, I discovered lamb shanks ― a more affordable cut that is every bit as delicious as the more costly chops.  I like to sear lamb shanks to a crispy brown before braising them for hours in red wine and a classic mire poix of onions, carrots, and celery, until the meat nearly falls from the bone. Fennel, coriander, and mustard seed also make great additions, and add to the anticipation as the spicy aroma fills the air.  If you’re dining in polite company, I suggest eating lamb shanks with a fork.  But if you’re eating alone, no one will be the wiser if you pick one up with your hands and have at it like a dog with a bone.  I suspect doing so may even make you feel like wagging your tail.

Braised Lamb Shanks

Gnochetti Bolognese

Kay begged for a pasta machine for a couple years, but I steadfastly resisted for a long time.  Why buy a machine to make when we could easily buy pasta already made?  Then I decided to be clever and surprise her with a shiny, hand-cranked counter model one Christmas.  She excitedly used it . . . once.  I, however, continue to use it once or twice a week to make various shapes and sizes of fresh pasta that tastes infinitely better than store-bought.  Kay, of course, happily devours all the results.  Maybe she’s the clever one.

Gnochetti Bolognese

Pork Chops and Applesauce

In the very early ‘70s, there was a Brady Bunch episode in which the middle son, Peter, repeatedly praised “pork chops and applesauce” in his best Humphrey Bogart imitation. Though I was only about 10 years old at the time, not once since then have I ever eaten pork chops or apple sauce without fondly recalling that episode . . . and wondering why.

Pork Chops and Applesauce

Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is one of those classic dishes that seems as if it should be easy to prepare.  After all, if our great grandmothers could roast chicken in temperamental wood-burning ovens on the prairies and in coal-burning ovens in crowded tenement housing, shouldn’t we be able to roast chicken effortlessly in modern kitchens?  Still, I think I made 6 or 8 failed attempts before learning how to get it just right.  I’m glad I didn’t stop trying . . . and I hope you don’t, either.

Roast Belle Rouge Chicken

Blackened Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Oil

Blackening spices were once so trendy that some restaurants seemed to be blackening everything from the bread to the ice cream. In quiet protest, I stopped blackening anything. A recent trip to New Orleans, however, taught me that giving up something I love just because everyone else loves it too can only be described as self-destructive. I don’t even have to promise myself that it won’t happen again. I know it won’t.

Blackened Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Oil