Archive for the ‘Meat and Poultry’ Category

Lightening Up (Y’All)

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
My nephew Michael's burger, complete with cheese and a bun.

My nephew Michael’s burger, complete with cheese and a bun.

January is in full swing. After a couple of weeks of holiday overindulgence, I have been back on my nutritional cleansing program for a while now. I don’t know whether I’ve been brainwashed by the program (my coach is a very convincing woman!) or I just like being a little lighter, but I’m actually enjoying dieting.

Like many Americans, I have spent much of my life on diets. Experience tells me that the greatest pitfall for the dieter is a feeling of deprivation. Virginia Willis understands that problem and addresses it brilliantly in her recent book Lighten Up Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome (Ten Speed Press, 232 pages, $24.99).

Virginia is a French-trained chef who specializes in quality Southern cuisine. She lives in Georgia but spends a lot of time near my own corner of western Massachusetts. I have been following her writings for several years; she is an expert in one of my favorite styles of cuisine: elegant but simple comfort food.

Virginia confesses early in the book that she has always had a weight problem and was recently counseled by her doctors to “lighten up.” She set out to develop a series of recipes that would lose calories and gain nutrition but not sacrifice taste.

The book includes healthier versions of such perennial favorites as macaroni and cheese, fried chicken (made in sticks on the oven), biscuits, seven-layer dip, and shrimp étoufée. Virginia even offers desserts: strawberry shortcake, cream-cheese brownies, and carrot cake, among other sweets.

I have tried only one recipe from the book so far—Virginia’s chicken, apple, and cheddar burgers. My current regimen doesn’t allow me to eat any cheese, not even the small amount called for in this recipe, so I had to change the flavor profile slightly by serving the burgers without the cheese. (I did serve them with organic mustard.)

The burgers were a delight. Ground chicken has less fat than ground beef and can tend to dry out. Virginia’s recipe cleverly incorporates both grated apple and grated sweet onion into the chicken to add moisture and flavor. My family eats the recipe WITH the cheese and loves it.

I plan to make several more dishes from Lighten Up, Y’all in the near future. Virginia Willis has clearly worked hard to find formulas that retain the flavor in foods while making them healthier.

Best of all, I envision using some of Virginia’s lightening-up techniques in dishes of my own. I trust her as a chef, a writer, and a dieter. And I look forward to the debut of her forthcoming PBS TV series.

lighten up web

Virginia Willis’s Chicken Burgers

Courtesy of Virginia Willis and Ten Speed Press. Used with permission.

Note: You may prepare these on the stove in a frying pan as well as in the oven, but they stay together better for me (and presumably for Virginia since she suggests doing them this way) in the oven. The ones in the pictures above and below were actually fried by my sister-in-law!

Ingredients:

1 medium sweet-tart apple (such as Gala, Granny Smith, Cortland, or Fuji), cored and quartered
1/4 sweet onion
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1/2 jalapeño chile, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
2 ounces (1/2 cup) sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (optional for me but yummy)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Grate the apple on the large side of a box grater. (If you grate the apple skin-side out, you can grate it without having to peel it; a bit of peel is okay.)

Next, grate the onion and the cheese. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, apple, onion, garlic, chile, cheese, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mixture into 4 equal-size balls; each will weigh about 7 ounces. Shape each into a patty about 4 inches in diameter. Place the patties directly on the prepared baking sheet.

Transfer the sheet to the oven and roast the burgers until they are lightly browned, flipping once during cooking, and the temperature measures 165 degrees when measured with an instant-read thermometer, about 18 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

My own burger, sans cheese but with mustard (and lots of flavor!)

My own burger, sans cheese but with mustard (and lots of flavor!)

Meredith’s Easy Moo Shu Pork

Monday, March 2nd, 2015
Michaelweb

My nephew Michael at a recent hockey game. Teenagers get cold and HUNGRY.

My family and I were going through some of my mother’s old files this past weekend, and my brother David chuckled as he ran across one of my report cards from Sixth Grade. He reported that the teachers seemed to like me but that I had apparently needed improvement in posture (I still need it!) and punctuality.

With this history of tardiness perhaps it’s no surprise that I fed David and Company their Chinese New Year feast a bit belatedly, just a few days ago in fact.

The formula for our meal came courtesy of Meredith Deeds. Meredith is a chef and cookbook author who recently published a recipe for Moo Shu Pork in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, encouraging readers to experiment with different international cuisines.

My nephew Michael happens to love LOVE Moo Shu Pork. (Well, who doesn’t?) I don’t usually repost other writers’ recipes, but Meredith’s was such a hit with my family that I asked her whether I could use this one. She graciously gave her permission.

Unfortunately, Michael refuses to believe that Moo Shu can be served without pancakes so I used tortillas instead of the lighter lettuce leaves Meredith prefers. Maybe over time I’ll convert him to the lettuce leaves. More likely, I’ll end up going to a specialty market and purchasing Chinese pancakes.

Everything else in the recipe was available at the mid-sized supermarket I visited.

mise en placeweb

If you’re a Moo Shu fan, do try Meredith’s recipe. It’s easy, and it’s fresh (all those vegetables!). And you’ll feed the whole family for little more than you’d pay for one serving of this dish in a restaurant. Note: the pork is easier to slice if you pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so before you deal with it.

moo shu in bowlweb

The Moo Shu

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 (3/4-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
2 eggs
1 pinch of salt
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thinly (I had some button mushrooms in my fridge so I ended up using those and augmenting them with shiitakes.)
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 (10-ounce) bag finely cut coleslaw (without dressing). You may of course shred your own cabbage in season, but it’s awfully easy to purchase it shredded!
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
16 Bibb lettuce leaves or small flour tortillas as needed

Instructions:

Whisk the hoisin sauce and vinegar together in a medium bowl. Add the pork and marinate for at least 10 minutes. (I got distracted and ended up marinating it for more than an hour. It was still terrific.)

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the eggs and the salt in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture to the hot wok and stir until the eggs are just set. Transfer the eggs to a plate, and cut them into thin strips. Wipe out the pan.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the same wok or skillet over high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade; allow the excess marinade to drip off (reserving the remaining marinade). Stir-fry the pork until it browns, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pork and any liquid in the wok or skillet to a plate or bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet; when it is hot, add the mushrooms and stir-fry until slightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and the coleslaw and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the pork, the reserved marinade, and the green onions; stir-fry 2 more minutes. Toss the pieces of egg into the mixture at the last minute.

Serve the stir-fry in the lettuce leaves or the tortillas, with more hoisin sauce OF COURSE.

Meredith says that this dish serves 6. When one of those 6 is a hungry teenager who loves Moo Shu and stuffs his pancake VERY full, it may serve only 5!

No, it isn't the pork I'm sniffing in this photo--but I couldn't find my hat so I used an older photo. I DID want you to see me in my faux Chinese regalia.

No, it isn’t the pork I’m sniffing in this photo–but I couldn’t find my hat so I used an older image. I DID want you to see me in my faux Chinese regalia.

The Last Bastion of Sexism

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
My neighbors' pig doing its thing.

My neighbors’ pig doing its thing.

As July 4 approaches I know I should write about grilling. Here’s the problem: I’m not a griller. Grilling is one of the few areas of life in which I am sexist. (The others all involve home repair.) Somehow I always wait until men arrive to haul out the charcoal and the grill.

I apologize to the men in my life—and to the goddesses of feminism. One of these days I’ll work on my grilling skills. Not before this Friday, however.

So here’s my compromise: a sauce that can accompany grilled meats, poultry, or vegetables.

My neighbors the Gillans recently held a pig roast. The whole thing was incredibly impressive, and the meat was delicious. At the end of the weekend, even after giving away lots of meat to their houseguests, they had quite a bit of pork on bones remaining.

I hate to see good meat and bones get thrown out so I volunteered to take the leftovers home. (Did I mention that the Gillans are REALLY GREAT neighbors? They gladly gave me the pork.) I boiled the whole thing for a while with onions and spices so that it was easy to get the meat off the bones. I used quite a bit of the meat in a tasty bean dish.

There was still leftover meat.

So … I threw together some barbecue sauce. I know I cheated a bit with this sauce by using a ketchup base. Our tomatoes aren’t in season yet, however, so the ketchup was expedient. The resulting sauce turned out just the way I like it, with lots of sweet and lots of tart.

I wish my readers a glorious fourth! May all of you, female and male, grill up a storm.

barbecue porkweb

Kansas City-ish Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients:

extra-virgin olive oil as needed for sautéing
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup catsup (use all-natural and/or organic ketchup)
1/3 cup molasses (or molasses mixed with maple syrup)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
a few shakes of hot sauce
2 tablespoons water

Instructions:

Warm the oil in a skillet. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and toss it around in the pan for 30 seconds. Stir in the chili powder, salt, and pepper, and stir to release their oils. When the spices start drying out in the pan, stir in the remaining ingredients.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Let the sauce cool briefly; then put it in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the blended sauce into a clean glass jar, bring it to room temperature, and then refrigerate it. This sauce is best made the day before you want to use it. It should last for at least 2 weeks.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

girlcrackerweb

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Sue’s Meatloaf (and an Announcement!)

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Sue Haas

Sue Haas

Longtime blog reader Sue Haas of Seattle wrote several months ago to share her meatloaf recipe—but somehow or other I didn’t manage to make her loaf until a few nights ago. A friend who was coming to dinner requested something in the nature of comfort food to dispel the gloom of the weather (lots and lots of rain!). So I pulled out Sue’s recipe.

My local general store doesn’t sell veal so I used 1 pound of lean ground beef and 1/2 pound of pork. The only other changes I made (and they were minor, including the use of fresh instead of dried oregano) are noted in the recipe.

This meatloaf is tender and very flavorful. I particularly enjoyed the fresh herbs; I might throw in even more of them another time and leave the spices on the rack until winter.

By the way, in case I haven’t already bombarded you with this information, I do want to mention that my book Pulling Taffy will officially come out this Sunday and may be ordered right now from its website. (The website will also help you find the eBook and audiobook!)

In addition to talking about my final year with my mother and sharing family stories and thoughts, the book features a number of recipes—many of them from this very blog! Please consider supporting me by purchasing the book.

My mother would be celebrating this week!

My mother would be celebrating this week!

And now, on to Sue’s recipe……

Sue’s Meatloaf

Ingredients:

1-1/2 pounds meatloaf mixture (1/3 lean ground beef, 1/3 ground veal, 1/3 ground pork)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used my maple oatmeal bread, which makes great crumbs)
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
1 small onion, finely chopped (or half of a large onion)
1 to 2 garlic cloves (according to your taste), minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I used 2 teaspoons fresh since that’s what I had)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon (sweet smoked) paprika (or regular)
1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the meat mixture in a food processor and pulse a bit for a finer grind. Transfer it to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix with hands.

Put the mixture into a 9-x-5 inch loaf pan and pat into loaf shape. (I used a regular baking pan and shaped a free-form loaf.)

Bake for about 1 hour, or until the center of the meat reaches 170 degrees on a meat thermometer. (I covered the loaf for the first half hour and then uncovered it to finish cooking.)

Serve with ketchup, if desired. Serves 6.

loaftryweb

Friday Nights at Elmer’s

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Elmer’s Store on Main Street in Ashfield, Massachusetts, is a bright, friendly place. Owner Nan Parati and her staff smile as they sell food and gifts. The walls are painted vibrant colors mixed by Nan herself; she is an artist and set designer as well as a storekeeper. And on Friday afternoons and evenings irresistible smells emanate from the small, well lit kitchen.

On a recent Friday afternoon when I stopped in, kitchen manager Jane Goodale, assistant chef Michael Hulbert, and chef Son Tremé were chopping, washing, and peeling local vegetables and meat for Elmer’s weekly Friday dinner. They joked and chatted as they worked, clearly at ease in the kitchen and with each other.

The Gang at Elmer’s, from left to right: Michael, Nan, Son, and Jane

Son Tremé is an assured 28 year old with a warm smile. Nan Parati told me that she has known him since he was six. “I met him when I lived in New Orleans, in the Tremé section of the city,” she explained. “He and his little brother came over and just kind of wouldn’t go away.”

I asked Nan about Son’s name. “’Son’ was his nickname growing up,” she informed me, “but he made it his legal name.” He apparently added “Tremé” to his legal name as well. Who am I to cavil at a name? I assure you that “Tinky” doesn’t appear on my birth certificate. Son’s name suits him.

Nan added that she became a godmother of sorts to Tremé, so much so that when her own mother died recently “the grandchildren decided that Son should represent them at the service.”

Son began working in the restaurant business in New Orleans, he said, although he didn’t plan at first to cook as a career. He enjoyed the rich food of his native city, but it wasn’t until he moved north and started cooking more healthily that he knew for sure he was going to be a chef.

He worked at a number of restaurants in Massachusetts, ending up as a breakfast chef at Elmer’s before taking time off to work on a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University. He has finished his coursework and is scheduled to graduate in 2013. “As you can imagine, I am extremely proud of him!” beamed Nan Parati.

Son Tremé explained that he combines all of his food background in his work at Elmer’s. “My home training is all pot stuff. I do it the way I want to,” he said. He added that his schooling taught him to be more precise in his cooking. His practical experience has made him even more responsible.

“In school you have five people on one soup,” he said. “In the industry it’s YOUR soup. And it’s your butt if it’s good or bad.”

Son does his best to respond to the desires and needs of his patrons and to the agricultural abundance in our area. He sees the relationship among farmers, restaurateurs, diners, and home cooks as a “circle of support.”

His home circle is also important to him. He is planning to create special food soon for the little baby girl to whom his partner gave birth in early October. “She’s my inspiration these days,” he said of little Belle-Soleil Tremé.

Nan and Son hope to expand the culinary offerings at Elmer’s, which currently serves breakfast and lunch every day (with special brunches on the weekend) and dinner on Friday evenings only. Soon another Louisiana chef, Charles Neville, will cook on the first Saturday evening of each month.

Meanwhile, Son Tremé plans future menus and enjoys the spirit in the kitchen. “My style is basically international fusion, which is Creole, my native culture,” he said. “All those indigenous cultures merged together in New Orleans. It says a lot about me. We cook. We sit down and eat—and we talk.”

I’d cook, talk, and eat with Son any day of the week. (He is the only chef who has ever kissed my hand at the end of an interview.) I was particularly taken with the seasonal, slightly sweet pork dish he served that evening at Elmer’s.

Son served his pork with potatoes au gratin, fresh broccoli, and sautéed apple slices.

Son Tremé’s Apple-Cider Braised Pork Roast

When I made this for my family, I cut the recipe for the marinade in half and used 2 pounds of pork tenderloin. We had enough for eight people. Obviously, Son is a generous chef! (I didn’t have to cook the smaller amount of meat quite so long.)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound shallots (about 3 to 4 shallots, plus a few more if you love shallots), peeled and chopped
1/2 cup minced garlic
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bunch fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 quart apple cider
5 pounds picnic pork shoulder
1/4 cup canola oil

Instructions:

Gather all your ingredients and equipment.

In a blender mix the shallots, garlic, vinegar, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the cider to this combination. Place the pork in a pan, and marinate it in the liquids (refrigerated) for 24 hours.

The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove the pork from the marinade, saving the marinade.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, and sear the pork to brown it.

In a saucepan bring the marinade to a boil. Pour it over the pork, cover the Dutch oven, and place it in the oven. Bake the pork until it is fork tender, 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer the pork, moistened with a little of the liquid and tightly covered, to a cooler oven (250 degrees) or to the oven you have just been using turned off. Strain the cooking liquid. Discard the solids that come out in the straining (the garlic, etc.).

Skim the sauce, and bring it to a simmer. Let it simmer and reduce until it is slightly thickened and glossy. (Start checking for this after about 15 minutes.)

Slice the pork, and serve it with some of the sauce and thinly sliced, sautéed apples.

Serves 10.

Nan and Son