Meat

Bison Stuffed Italian Shells

I was craving meat recently (it doesn’t happen often) and so this recipe happened. This is a Kelly Taylor original, so be ready for approximate measurements.

To begin, heat olive oil, over medium-high heat, in a heavy bottomed pan (such as a dutch oven). Add:

1 1/2 pounds of ground bison

Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until it it has absorbed all of the fat and has browned. Then add:

1/2 a small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced

Allow to cook for a few minutes, then add:

2 large tablespoons of tomato paste
3/4 cup of white wine

Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the meat to simmer.

In the meantime, either heat up or cook your favorite marinara sauce. Also, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook a package of jumbo shells for 4 minutes. Do not cook the shells all of the way, otherwise they will overcook in the oven.

Add a couple ladles of marinara sauce to the bison meat. This helps to add more flavor and make it extra moist. Also add:

2 large handfuls of chopped parsley

Stir it all together. It should look like this:

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Next pour some marinara sauce onto the bottom of a large 13×9 baking dish (just enough to cover the bottom). Then carefully spoon meat into each shell and line the shells up into the prepared baking dish.

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Once each shell is full, top the shells with marinara sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, covered, and an additional 5-10 minutes uncovered.

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When done, sprinkle the top with fresh parsley and enjoy!

My basic marinara sauce: 

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of white wine
2 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes, pureed, or frozen tomatoes, also pureed
salt and pepper

Sauté the red pepper flakes and onions until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and let cook for one minute. Add the tomato paste and wine and let cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and season again with salt and pepper. Let simmer for at least an hour. Do ahead and refrigerate or freeze.

During the summer months, I also add fresh herbs, such as basil. Dried herbs are fine, as well.

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Turkey Bolognese

Fall is here and with it comes cooler temperatures and something that may surprise some of you: I start craving meat. Unlike many people who live for grilled meat during the summer, I could easily live, and be very satisfied, feasting on every fruit and vegetable I can possibly afford to buy at the farmers market. That’s not to say that I turn vegan during the summer, but I certainly can go days without meat and be content (with the exception of seafood when I’m at the Cape). When fall comes, however, I start craving those slow cooked and hearty meals and, though I love vegetables more than most people, I’ll be the first to say that many of my favorite traditional meat dishes cannot be replaced with vegetables. With that said, since I don’t eat beef and rarely eat red meat in general, I find some meats to be too rich and fatty for my taste, these days. Therefore you’ll find that I sometimes replace a traditional beef dish with a leaner meat, such as turkey. My bolognese is the perfect example.

I learned how to make bolognese at a cooking class at Sur la Table. There the instructor used a pound of beef and a pound of pork. Though it is traditional, that combination is far too rich for my taste. I, instead, have found that dark meat turkey works very well. But just because I’m using turkey, don’t think that I skimp on the other traditional fatty parts of this dish. To me, when you make something such as bolognese, you have to either go all the way or not make it at all. This is not a dish that, in my opinion, can be made with low fat milk and white meat turkey. It’s just not the same. Therefore, it is important to use ground turkey thigh and whole milk.

And one note about the turkey. I, unfortunately, can’t easily find ground turkey that’s raised locally. I bought mine at Whole Foods, and I must admit that it was the first time I bought meat from a grocery store in at least a year. But I know that if I can’t find the meat I need locally, Whole Foods is the next best choice (at least in this area).

With that said, this recipe is all about a few ingredients cooked slowly. Each step builds the complexity and richness of the dish. Do not rush this dish! 

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You begin by chopping the following:

1 large yellow onion
1 large carrot

1 stalk of celery

You want to chop them as finely as possible. I have found that the best way to do it is to give them a rough chop with my chef’s knife and then dump them in a food processor and let the blade chop them the rest of the way for me. The proccessor can get them much finer than I can. Just don’t let them turn to mush.

In the meantime, heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven. Saute the above vegetables until soft and lightly browned, about ten minutes. Season with salt. Then turn up the heat and add:

2 pounds of ground turkey thigh

I have considered trying 1 pound of turkey and 1 pound of ground pork, but the turkey is so wonderful on its own that I have yet to do it. And as I stated above, it is very important to use dark meat. The white meat just doesn’t have enough flavor. Also, you may want to add a little more olive oil with the turkey, if the pan looks dry.

Cook the meat on medium-high heat until it is nicely browned and it has absorbed all of the fat. That’s an important step that you don’t want to skip. Once the fat has been absorbed, add:

2 cups of red wine

This is an Italian recipe, after all. Of course there’s red wine. I often use chianti, but I honestly know very little about wine to know if it’s the best choice or not.

Once again, you must let the meat cook until all of the wine has been absorbed. Also be sure to scrap up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Once the wine has cooked down and the pan is dry again, turn the heat down to medium low and add:

12 ounces (two small cans) of tomato paste
whole milk

Stir the tomato paste into the meat while you add the milk. Add enough milk to completely cover the meat. And now you wait and let the meat absorb the milk. This step will take around 60-90 minutes. Stir every so often and season with salt and pepper towards the end. Be sure to taste. Actually, in my opinion, it is impossible not to. It smells so amazing that I actually have a hard time stopping myself from tasting too much. I’ve been known to eat quite a bit of it right out of the pan. When it’s almost done, it will look like this:

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As for the pasta, I often serve it with rigatoni. The ridges on the rigatoni hold the bolognese well, plus it’s a sturdy pasta. This time around, however, I served it with my current obsession: bucatoni. I must say that it was a delicious choice. Whichever pasta you choose, make sure it can handle a heavy sauce.

Serve with a touch of parmesan or pecorino cheese on top.

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Homemade Chicken Broth

I managed to make it from last autumn all the way to late August without a single sign of sickness and then boom! Days after realizing how much unused sick time I had at work, I came down with one nasty little cold. Though I count myself lucky that I made it almost an entire year without any sort of ailments, I still couldn’t help but be annoyed by the sudden appearance of a minor virus. But as luck would have it, I had just made a large pot of chicken broth when this cold appeared, and thank goodness, because no matter how good western medicine is, there’s nothing more comforting than a big bowl of soup.

And while I was enjoying my soup, it came to me that I’m constantly saying on this blog to use homemade broth, yet I have yet to post a single recipe on how to make any sort of broth. So here’s my first: homemade chicken broth. It really is a miracle concoction and so simple to put together. There are so many ways to make it, so I will show many variations as I go.

First, a quick word on the difference between broth and stock. It is my understanding that stock is primarily made with bones, vegetables, and aromatics. It is generally used as a base for a recipe. Broth, on the other hand, is made with meat, as well as bones. It makes a richer product and can stand alone. For this reason, I prefer using meat, as well as bones.

You must start with the right kind of chicken. I only use local chicken, when possible, to make broth. Sometimes I use a whole chicken, if I want a bunch of leftover chicken to add to soups, stews, salads, etc. Or, if I don’t want a lot of chicken leftover, I just use chicken thighs. Chicken wings are another good choice or anything with dark meat. That’s where the rich flavor comes from. Just make sure to select cuts that still have the bones.

Along with the chicken, I also always add the following ingredients:

  • 2-4 carrots
  • 2 celery ribs (plus leaves)
  • 1 whole onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • kosher salt (this is not a time to skimp on salt!) and pepper (either whole peppercorns or freshly ground)
  • various fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves (I use whatever I have on hand.)

That will give you a basic broth. You can also add any of the following. Each item will change the flavor.

  • mushrooms (dried or fresh)
  • leeks

I love adding leeks to broth but seldom have them on hand.

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Now you simply have to fill the pot with water. I place all the ingredients in first and then add the water. I fill it until it almost reaches the top, but leave room for the water to boil without boiling over. Once the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that it continues to simmer. You don’t want it to be at a rapid boil, but you also don’t want it to fall flat. Just a simmer is perfect. I partially cover the pot, so that steam can still escape. (If using a slow cooker, completely cover the pot.) It it starts to cook down too much, you can always add more water. And the longer it cooks, the better it’ll taste. How do you know when it’s done? If you can snap the chicken bones in half, it’s done. I cook mine until the vegetables are mush and the chicken is quite literally falling off the bone.

But of course, usually I’m in and out of my apartment all day, so unless I’m enjoying a lazy day at home, I don’t want to leave a pot on the stove all day. That’s where a slow cooker comes in handy. My slow cooker is small, so it doesn’t make as much broth as my large stock pot, but there’s really nothing better than coming home from work to the smell of chicken broth that’s been simmering all day.

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When the broth is done, I pour it through a strainer to remove all of the chicken pieces and vegetables. Often I use the broth as a base to soup, add it to sauces and stews or drink it straight out of a mug. My favorite way to enjoy chicken broth is by making my great-grandmother’s pastina soup, which will be my next post.

Made more broth than you can use in one recipe? It’ll last in the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze it. Just be sure to leave extra space in the jar/bowl for it to expand in the freezer. And try freezing it in different size containers (even ice cube trays), that way if you ever need just a small amount of broth for a recipe, you don’t have to defrost an entire jar.

Be creative. Don’t think of this as a bread recipe, in which forgetting a single ingredient will ruin the entire thing. Try different vegetables, cuts of meat, and aromatics until you get the broth you want. Or, if you’re like me, just use what you have on hand, and you’ll get a slightly different broth every time.

 

 

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Homemade Asian Pork Dumplings

Finally, nearly a week later and after working several days, I have time to post about my first adventure making homemade dumplings.

Though I’ve been making Asian dumplings for several years now, I had always just used packaged wonton wrappers. They were thin but otherwise fine. This time, however, I decided to take the next step and make my own dough. I can’t believe I waited so long to do it, for it was surprisingly easy and the dumplings tasted so much better. Unlike the thin store bought wrappers, this dough made a slightly chewy and light dumpling. The only downside is that it takes time. One batch of dough made about 15-17 dumplings. To feed my family, I had to make 3 batches. Of course, I made two kinds of dumplings. Pork (which I will share here) and vegetarian and served both as the main, and only, course. If you were serving them as an appetizer or side, one batch, I suppose could be enough (though I challenge anyone to make these and not eat more than just a few dumplings. It’s not possible).

A fair warning before I begin: I have not yet perfected the art of making dumplings. I needed a lot of help from other blogs and cookbooks. I will describe what I did and include the blog and cookbook that helped me the most. It is my goal to perfect the art of Asian dumplings, so expect more blog posts throughout the year.

The Pork Filling

I first learned how to make dumplings, several years ago, from following Tyler Florence’s method in his cookbook Real Kitchen. I have since then adapted his recipe and developed my own method, which I’ve done with both ground pork and ground chicken. I still often refer back to his original recipe, though, for inspiration.

Begin by placing the following ingredients in a food processor:

1/4 pound of shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped and stems removed

5 green onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 tablespoon of ginger, grated with a microplane (eyeball it)

a large handful of fresh cilantro

Process all of the above ingredients until they are finely chopped.

Pork-1

In a large bowl, place:

1 pound of ground pork (I used pork from Oink Moo Cluck.)

Add the above ingredients, along with:

1 egg white

2 teaspoons of cornstarch

1 tablespoon of tamari or other good quality soy sauce

2 teaspoons of dry sherry

a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper

Using your hands, work all of the ingredients into the pork. Don’t over work the pork. Mix just enough for all of the ingredients to be incorporated. Set aside

The Dough

The instructions below are for one batch of dough. The pork recipe above would require two batches. I recommend making each batch one at a time, for a double batch would be hard to work with.

Begin by putting 2 cups of flour in a food processor. While you pulse the flour, add 1/2 – 3/4 cup of boiling water. (The original recipe I used called for 1/2 cup, but I found that I needed more water). Keep pulsing until the water is incorporated. The flour should be moist enough to form a ball when you press it together. If it is too dry, add more boiling water. Once the flour is moist enough, dump the flour onto the counter, knead it for a couple minutes, and form it into a ball. Keep it under a damp cloth until ready to use.

To Form the Dumplings

This next part I still need to perfect. It’s difficult to describe, and I recommend checking out this blog to see step by step photos on how to cut and fold the dumplings: http://userealbutter.com/2007/10/04/chinese-dumplings-and-potstickers-recipe/ 

Here is my attempt to describe the process. Perhaps in future posts, once I master the art, I will provide step by step photos as well.

Sprinkle flour on the counter. Cut the dough into four slices. Roll each slice into a cylinder and then cut the cylinder into discs about 1 inch thick. The size of each disc determines how large the dumpling will be. My boyfriend and I had to try several different sizes until we got it right. Flatten each disc with your fingers and palm of your hand or a rolling pin to form the dumpling skin. Fill each skin with some of the pork mixture. Allow 1/2 inch margin around the pork. To fold, bring two opposing ends of the dough together (like a taco). Fold one side of the dough towards the center and then pinch it with the other side of dough to form a pleat. Repeat this folding and pinching motion until one half of the dumpling is sealed and has pleats. Repeat with the other side of the dumpling.

Make sense? No, probably not, but I will explain more in future posts. For now, some photos:

(Don’t make the mistake I made in the below photo! Flour the counter before you put the dough down.)

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My boyfriend was particularly proud of the pleats on this one. I was impressed:

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How to Cook the Dumplings

My boyfriend and I tried two methods. Some we pan fried and some we steamed. Though the steamed dumplings were good, we both loved the texture and crunch of the seared dumplings. I will explain both methods.

To Steam:

Place the dumplings in a bamboo steamer lined with cabbage leaves. Fill a large pot or wok with just enough water to cover the bottom inch of the steamer. Bring the water to a boil and place the steamer in the water. Let the dumplings steam for about 6-7 minutes.

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To Pan Fry:

Place a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or safflower oil in a large flat bottomed pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add the dumplings. Sear until the bottoms began to turn brown. Then add 1/2 cup of water. Brace yourself and have a lid ready. The oil will splatter, so be sure to quickly place the lid on the pan as soon as you add the water. Let the dumplings steam until all of the water has cooked down. To serve, place the dumplings on a plate and then place another plate, upside down, on top of the dumplings. Flip the plates so that the dumplings are seared side up. Enjoy. Savor and serve with your favorite Asian dipping sauces (and try not to eat them all at once!).

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Pulled Pork Shepherd’s Pie

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My version of meat and potatoes. For those of you who think that I don’t eat meat, here ya go. When I do eat meat, I go all the way.

The inspiration for this dish came from one of those shows on the Cooking Channel that features dishes from various restaurants across the nation. I have no idea which restaurant it was that gave me this idea, but I simply had to try it myself. Pulled pork and mashed potatoes are two of my favorite things.

The pork came from Cedar Cress Farm at the Worthington Farmers’ Market. I used pork shoulder (about 3 lbs). I prepared mine in a crock pot because I was going to be in and out of the house during the day. If you can cook it in the oven all day, that’s the best way to do it, but a crock pot works as well.

Once again, this really isn’t an exact recipe but, if you’ve read my previous posts, I suppose you’re used to that by now.

Start by heating olive oil in a saute pan at medium-medium high heat. Smother the pork in salt and pepper and sear it until each side is brown. (Note that if you’re cooking it in the oven, you should sear it in the same pan you’re going to use to roast the pork so that all the flavors can remain in the same pot). Once the pork is seared, move it to the crock pot (if using one). Then pour a few splashes of red wine into the saute pan in order to get all of those good, flavorful brown bits off the bottom of the pan. After cooking for a minute, pour that wine over the pork in the crock pot. Add some water (a couple cups) and then let the pork cook all day. (I started my crock pot on high just to get the heat up and then, after about an hour, turned it down to low.) When it’s done, it’ll be falling apart. Once it’s cool enough to touch, shred it using two forks.

While the pork cools, heat a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Once melted, add a tablespoon of flour and whisk it together. Now add a few splashes of red wine and about a 1/2 cup of the water/wine mixture that cooked with the pork (this is optional. It’s fatty from cooking with the pork but has wonderful flavor. If you don’t want it, just use all chicken stock). I also added a few ladles of homemade chicken stock (eyeball how much you need, based on how much pork you made). Once the mixture thickens, season it with a little more salt and pepper (taste it first!).  If it doesn’t appear thick enough, whisk in about a teaspoon of arrowroot flour to thicken it even more (this step may not be necessary depending on how much liquid you added in the beginning. Just be sure to use a flour, such as arrowroot, that can easily be whisked into the liquid. It helps to lower the heat and mix the arrowroot flour with a touch of water first before adding it into the hot liquid). Add the shredded pork and stir until well combined. Add more chicken stock if you think it needs more liquid.

(Note that if you cooked the pork in the oven all day, you should do the above step in the same pan you cooked the pork in so that you can get all that good flavor from the bottom of the pan.)

Now the fun part: assembling the pie. Simply pour the pork mixture into a heavy pot or dutch oven and top it with homemade mashed potatoes. Dot the top of the potatoes with tiny cubes of butter and bake it in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Once it is bubbly hot, stick it under the broiler to get the top nice and brown. Then enjoy the best meat and potato dish you’ll ever eat.

 

 

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