Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto) (p. 477)

This is not a roast. It is in a pot, but it is not roasted, it's braised. So I actually find the name fairly annoying.

I also want to introduce my beautiful Cuisinart Stock Pot/Dutch Oven that my godmother, Judy, bought me. It is an awesome piece of equipment and this was it's virgin use! I'm kind of turning away from teflon and nonstick coatings. I hate the constant worry about scratching them and I want the ability to stick them in the dishwasher if I want to. I got mostly kitchen equipment for Christmas, as I hoped for--thank you Mom, Dad and Vickie, Judy, and Charlotte!!!

My beautiful new pot...notice my cute blue salt pig behind it...

This recipe pretty much boils down to this--prepare the meat, make a mirepoix, mix wine and tomato paste, reduce, mix wine and beef broth, reduce, and then mix wine, broth, and tomatoes. Cook it forever. This recipe honestly took me 4 hours. It was a strange choice on a Monday night.

First, you make a herb mixture. I doubled the garlic. Half of this gets stuffed into the meat:

Stuff it into the meat (in this case, a blade roast):

Brown the meat. This was a challenge. The meat did NOT want to cooperate and it kept collapsing and splashing me with boiling oil. It was not pleasant. I thought that browning it for twenty minutes was a really bad idea. I've always heard that the idea that browning meat keeps the juices in was an urban legend--plus this is getting braised--there would be no way for it to be dry. So if it's just for aesthetic value, I don't want to brown it too much. Even with this concern, I think the pan was too hot and that I browned it to much.

I'm sure you are pondering our ugly plates at this point in the blog. I really need to buy a plate to photograph on. The clear plates were Josh's...I'm not sure why ANYONE would want to see their lap while they were eating but maybe that's just me.

So then you take the meat out of the pot, add the mirepoix, mushrooms, a bay leaf, the rest of the herb mixture, and eventually some wine and tomato paste. It's then cooked down until almost dry. This takes forever. Each reduction step is time consuming. I'm beginning to think this is a weekend roast I'm working on.

After a bunch of reductions, the browned meat is added and cooked for about 2.5 hours. And it smells wonderful. So you will start to get starving hungry with no food in sight.

The finished meat product, sliced. Admire the tasty pockets of herb mixture:

Finished product with sauce. I reduced the sauce (without the meat) at a boil for about fifteen minutes.

This is one of those recipes that has a lot of leftovers. So far, Josh ate it for about four more meals and said it was great for every one of them.

TJOC said that the sauce can be used on pasta, so I tried it. Wow....it was really good. Tomato-y, beefy, wine-y...really good. And it makes A LOT of extra sauce, so you have to use it for something. I mix a little minced garlic in with it, but it's really good. The sauce has (so far) yielded two additional meals, and will probably yield two more.

So, all in all, this recipe has served us 8 meals (2 orginal meals, 4 leftover meals for Josh, 2 pasta meals for me) and probably has around 3 more meals to go. That is a lot of value out of an $8 piece of meat.

Josh declared this his favorite recipe that TJOC has produced thus far. Better than crepes, better than curry mayo, better than all of things that we make often...I can't recommend this recipe enough. I'm SURE that we will make it again.

In other cooking news, when I was in Des Moines, I stopped at Penzey's (http://www.penzeys.com/), which is a spice store. I LOVE this store. It's a dangerous place for me to enter because I drop a ton of cash every time I go there. I got in an very interesting discussion with the manager about ricers (I think I sold him on one! I should get a kickback!). I lusted after high end curry and bought about fifteen spices, along with their DELICIOUS minced garlic that Josh and I use in large quantities, and three differant types of salt. I also bought juniper berries. I have no idea what to do with these. When Josh asked what they are used for, I told him gin production. Since he knows full well I'm not going to make gin, he asked what else they were used for. I told him they are common in Albanian cuisine (I seem to remember that from the placard in front of the spice). He was also aware that I don't even know what Albanian cuisine consists of. So do you know what to use them for?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Split Pea Soup (p. 134) and Ham Salad (p. 164)

I really like most of the recipes in Joy (of course) but some of the foods are foods that I really don't like. This is a problem. The whole point of this project is to make ALL of the recipes and I don't want to start down the slope of not making recipes for any reason. On the bright side, some of the stuff that disgusts both Josh and I the most are dishes that my mother really likes. So I've decided to make some of the foods that I do not want to eat every time I visit her. This has the additional positive of giving my mom food to eat when I'm gone--she's still tired from chemo and is usually unmotivated to cook, even though she is getting way too thin.

The first recipe I made her was Split Pea Soup (p. 134). Did you know there were two types of split peas (yellow and green)? There is just something about pea soup that turns my stomach. Maybe it's The Exorcist. Maybe it's the hidious color. But I can never motivate myself to eat it, much less make it. Even so, it's a hot, filling soup. Perfect for mom!

The ham hocks called for in the recipe were not easy to find in the white-bread mega-grocery I went to. I knew that I wanted them, though, because ham (like bacon) is one of the signs that a higher power exists and loves us.

A ham hock, water, and peas:

The recipe was easy but WAY too thick. It was more of a porridge than a soup. I recommend using more water or broth or something...I ate a bowl and it was extremely filling. It would be good with a good crusty bread.

Why would anyone eat something that looks like this?? And sadly, I think that's how it's supposed to look!

I also made Ham Salad (p. 164). I HATE ham salad. There is just something gross about the pink sludge. Yuck. But for some godforsaken reason, my mom loves it. She buys it at the grocery store disturbingly often. And, of course, there is a recipe for it in TJOC.

So I bought a slice of ham and made ham salad. I almost forgot to include the mayo which would have made for a real strange, dry salad. It's really pretty easy to make--other than the ham, she had everything in the refrigerator. This itself was bizarre, considering that my mom idolizes Old Mother Hubburd and likes her cabinets bare. The ham salad looked as good as was possible but was too chunky for mom, so we pushed it through a food processor at the end...just like the grocery store. Yuck!

Pre-food processor. Hard boiled eggs, ham, pickles, mayo, spices:

I stand by it...why would anyone eat these items???
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