Monday, March 26, 2012

Beyond the four seasons, part the third

Today's lesson is about pork and beef.  Do I cook veal?  Yes, but not often enough to make a list of seasonings, since it's usually ground up with other things (like meatballs--a favorite entree in my house), or it's a delectable plate of osso bucco, which takes several hours to prepare, but smells absolutely heavenly while it's cooking.  Again, a separate post for another day.

And as for lamb, I love it.  Every Easter that we spent with my maternal grandparents, we ate a very succulent roasted leg of lamb, stuffed with garlic cloves, rubbed with oregano, EVOO, kosher salt and cracked pepper.  My grandfather was particular about the source of his lamb: a butcher he had been friends with for years.  But it was what my grandmother did with the lamb that made it so memorable: she served a delicious apricot sauce that was laced with brandy alongside the roast lamb, which is not your typical mint jelly, all unnaturally green and overly sweet.  In fact, I don't prefer mint jelly at all with lamb, but last year, I had a mint gastrique that won my heart, served alongside some beautifully seared lamb chops at Hasler Bros. Steakhouse.  But many people don't like lamb, or don't serve it on a regular basis, so I'll discuss lamb and all of its delectable qualities at a later date.

Basil--before grasshoppers

For the most part, we've been focusing on cooking proteins a la minute with some dishes requiring a little advance prep work.  Generally, my goal has been to provide some guidance as far as flavor profiles for various proteins and suggestions for how to cook them to show off their best features.

I've neglected to mention in the two previous posts that you should not overlook good-quality spice mixtures from establishments such as Penzey's, The Spice House and Pollen Ranch.  There are countless other good-quality spice mixtures available, but these three companies are my favorite sources.  Now that you'll have some skill and knowledge under your culinary belt, you'll be able to choose mixtures (or even make mixtures and rubs) on your own and match them successfully with the protein of your choice.  Typically, a commercial spice mixture will suggest on the label what goes best with that particular blend, so part of your homework is done for you.

There are a multitude of cooking methods and ingredients to be used with pork and beef.  This little missive will only scratch the surface; for instance, we're not discussing any braising techniques here.  But once you get a few new ideas in your head, you can run with it and make a few fabulous dinners of your own.

Pork, or why I simply cannot become a vegetarian:

~ Make a marinade of equal parts soy sauce, peanut oil, and dry red or white wine; add a little sugar, some curry powder and some crushed red pepper.  Marinate cubes of boneless pork for at least 2 hours; skewer and grill.  Excellent with jasmine rice, mango salsa and fresh lime for squeezing over the pork.
~ Brine extra thick pork chops for up to 3 days in a mixture of salt, sugar, fennel seed, coriander seed, crushed red pepper flakes, bay leaves and smashed garlic cloves.  When ready to grill or pan fry, pat chops dry and roll fat around edge of chops in fennel pollen.  Cook medium to medium-well (this is an Anne Burrell recipe).  Serve with polenta or pasta dressed with butter, garlic and parsley.
~ Make this Garlic Peppercorn Pork Brisket, easily adaptable to a pork loin roast, or even a pork tenderloin.  It takes time, but it's OUTSTANDING!
~ Grill seasoned pork chops simply, then serve on a bed of thinly sliced apple, fennel and celery which have been tossed with fresh lemon juice, EVOO and a little Dijon mustard.
~ Season pork chops with kosher salt and Penzey's French Four Spice (or make your own: 1 Tbs. white pepper, rounded 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. ground ginger and 1 tsp. grated nutmeg).  Pan fry in a little EVOO until nicely browned; remove to a platter to keep warm.  Deglaze the pan with brandy or Calvados; add a little butter and caramelize some minced shallots and sliced apple, adding a pinch sugar to create a slightly syrupy sauce.  Season to taste with S & P, then use as a sauce for the pork chops.
~ Chop a combination of fresh herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, flat leaf parsley) and mix into a paste with EVOO, kosher salt, minced garlic, a little dry mustard and some freshly ground black pepper; use for pork loin or chops to roast, grill or broil.
~ Combine coriander seed, white peppercorns and fennel seed; crush with a mortar and pestle or smash with a mallet between double layers of plastic wrap.  Mix crushed spices with EVOO, minced garlic and kosher salt to make a paste.  Use to roast, grill or broil pork loin or chops.
~ Combine ground cumin, dried thyme, dried sage, ground cinnamon, garlic powder and kosher salt.  Coat a pork loin with orange marmalade and then roll pork in spices.  Roast in oven until desired doneness.
~ Combine zest of one lemon, chopped fresh thyme, minced garlic, EVOO and S & P to make a paste for pork loin or pork chops.  Roast, grill or broil.
Don't forget Jim Tabb's BBQ Rub Recipe for pork chops, country spareribs, baby back ribs and the like.  Simply the best dry rub I have ever tried and makes a great hostess gift!

Graduate from Lipton Onion Soup Mix--what to do with beef:

~ Combine panko, freshly grated Romano cheese, granulated garlic, lemon zest and S & P in a pie plate; beat an egg and add a little water in a second pie plate.  Dip thinly sliced, pounded steaks into egg mixture, then coat with seasoned panko mixture.  Fry in a little EVOO until browned and crispy; serve topped with good-quality marinara sauce and more cheese; also serve spaghetti simply seasoned with garlic, EVOO, S & P and parsley on the side with a green salad.
~ Ever had classic Steak Diane?  If you had you wouldn't have forgotten.  Fry a tender steak that has been generously seasoned with S & P in EVOO and butter in a hot pan for about 2 minutes per side.  Remove steak from pan and keep warm.  Add some minced shallot to the pan, sauteing briefly, then add a little Worcestershire sauce and the juice of one lemon.  Simmer for about 1 minute, then pour sauce over steak and serve, garnished with chopped fresh flat leaf parsley.
~ Marinate flank steak or London Broil in bourbon, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and S & P at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.  Grill to desired doneness.
~ Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, minced garlic and chopped green onion and marinate thin slices of sirloin for at least 1 hour.  Thread on skewers and grill until slightly crispy on the edges.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with steamed rice.

~ Season tender steaks well with granulated garlic and S & P, or with a good-quality steak rub.  Pan-sear in a little EVOO to desired doneness, making sure pan is hot enough to caramelize beef well.  Set steaks aside; add a little butter and some minced shallot and capers to pan, saute until shallots are golden, then deglaze with brandy.  Use sauce as a gravy for the steaks.  YUM!
~ Finish grilled, broiled or pan-seared steaks with any compound butter; i.e., chili powder, lime zest and tequila butter; Meyer lemon zest and thyme butter; tarragon-garlic butter; rosemary-garlic butter; orange zest and black pepper butter; Gorgonzola and garlic butter...get creative!
~ Mix together some softened butter, minced garlic, horseradish, thyme, rosemary, sage, S & P.  Smear seasoned butter on beef tenderloin or steaks to roast, grill or broil.
~ One of my readers gave me this recipe for marinade: 1/3 c. soy sauce, 1/3 c. fresh lemon juice, 1/2 c. EVOO, 1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce, 1 1/2 Tbs. garlic powder, 3 Tbs. dried basil, 1 1/2 Tbs. dried parsley, 1 tsp. ground white pepper, 1 Tbs. minced garlic, 1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce.  Put all in a small blender to emulsify and use to marinate steaks for at least 8 hours.  Fabulous when cooked on the grill!
~ Use any good-quality steak seasoning to liberally season tender steaks, then pan-sear until desired doneness.  Before you cook the steaks, however, you will have a large baking pan of oven fries (slices or wedges of potatoes tossed with EVOO, salt and pepper) that are crisping in a hot oven (or you can use commercially prepared French fries).  The kicker?  You're going to mince up a couple of cloves of garlic and scatter them over the hot oven fries and serve them with the steak.  Boy oh boy...
~ Don't forget to try Nick's Blue Cheese and Jalapeno Burgers, a recipe passed on to me by one of my wine guys.  And be sure to ask him what wine goes best with these burgers, or any other ideas I've passed along to you.

OK, so we've talked about some seasoning and cooking ideas for pork and beef.  I hope you have fun with some of these ideas and I hope they inspire your inner chef.   Happy eating, happy sipping, happy tastebuds!  

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