Recipes for Big Things
May 24, 2018
It was meant to be a joke: to celebrate my friend Peter’s birthday I braised him a tongue. He and I both love this deliciously soft and seductive meat, but it makes everyone else we know remarkably squeamish. Which, I will admit, kind of delights me.
I went to a local farm and purchased the tongue, thinking I would serve it in all its gruesome glory.
To begin, I braised it, cooking the whole tongue slowly in water, herbs, and onions for a long time (about 6 hours). When it was entirely soft, I pulled it from its bath and peeled off the outer membrane. Even as a child I found this extremely satisfying; it shrugs so easily out of its coat Then I put the peeled tongue back into the pot and let it cool a bit, pulling it out just as the guests arrived. I set it on a platter and watched the reaction: most people went visibly pale. A cooked tongue retains all its essential tongueness.
Peter, however, was happy. I sliced the tongue and served it with a rich and pungent sauce gribiche. The meat was soft, tender, completely beefy. Sadly, few friends were game enough to take a taste.
Their loss. Tongue keeps well. I wrapped it in plastic and left it to brood among the onions and the eggs in the refrigerator for a few days.
Then, when nobody was looking, I chopped it up, slicked a pan with a bit of oil, and crisped the cubes of tongue. I set them on warm corn tortillas, covered them with a chunky spicy homemade salsa, added a few strips of avocado, a squirt of lime, a sprinkling of cilantro and served them all around.
“What are these delicious tacos?” everyone cried. “What kind of beef is this? These are the tastiest tacos we’ve ever eaten.”
“Oh,” I replied casually, “they’re a classic Mexican dish. Tacos de lengua. So glad you like them!”
Tongue Two Ways.
Braised Tongue with Sauce Gribiche
1 cow’s tongue, 2 to 3 pounds
1 onion, cut in half
1 carrot peeled
1 stalk celery
Few stems of parsley
1 bay leaf
Put all the ingredients in a large pot, cover completely with water, and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper just large enough to cover the entire surface of the pot.
When the water arrives at a boil, turn it down to a simmer, cover with the parchment and cook for 4 to 6 hours, until the tongue has gone completely soft and tender. Add more water as needed.
Life the tongue from the pot and set it on a cutting board. This is the fun part; with your fingers, pull the top membrane off the tongue until it is completely naked. Put the tongue back into the liquid until you’re ready to serve it. (It’s good hot or at room temperature. You can also, once it has cooled, wrap it in a zip lock bag and keep it for a few days in the refrigerator.)
Strain the liquid and save it for stock.
Slice the tongue and top it with sauce gribiche.
2 tablespoona Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons capers
4 cornichons, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Mix the first six ingredients. Add salt and pepper, and taste for seasoning. Just before serving, mix in the parsley.
1 cooked tongue
Rougly chop the cooked tongue into half inch or so cubes.
Slick a skillet with a bit of neutral oil (you don’t need much; there’s a lot of fat in a tongue), allow it get hot and cook the tongue until the pieces are browned and crisp. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve on tortillas with accompaniments.
December 25, 2017
No muss, no fuss. But few recipes give you the timing for a roast weighing 15 or 16 pounds. And if you’ve invested in a roast this large, you don’t want to take any chances.
Remove the roast from the refrigerator two hours before serving, shower it with salt and allow it to come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
Ovens vary. So does meat. So start checking the temperature of the meat after about two and a quarter hours. At this point the middle of the roast should measure about 115. Keep checking until the roast reaches 120 degrees. This will give you rare meat in the middle, medium at the ends. (I like really rare meat; if you don’t, allow the roast to reach 125.) Despite what you’ll read elsewhere, and despite the enormous size of this roast, it should not take more than 3 hours to get your meat to the perfect point.
Allow the roast to rest, out of the oven, half an hour before carving.
Easy horseradish sauce.
Mix half a bottle of prepared horseradish into a cup of sour cream. Add a splash of fresh lemon juice, taste, add more if you like, along with salt and pepper.
November 20, 2016
I’m looking out the window, and this is what I see: an entirely white world. The power’s out all over Columbia County, but we’ve got a back up generator and a fire burning in the grate. The scent of the stock I’m making for Thanksgiving gravy fills the house, making everything seem cozy.
And I’m hungry.
Happily, we had some warning. I knew we’d want some red meat on this winter day, so I marinated skirt steak. Lunch is almost ready.
Shopping list: 1 pound skirt steak, 1 loaf bread.
Staples: salt, vegetable oil, condiments.
If you love steak sandwiches, you need to make friends with skirt steak. It’s a fantastically flavorful cut that doesn’t cost much. It does, however, demand a bit of coddling.
The skirt is a bundle of abdominal muscles that have worked very hard, lending them great flavor and a tendency to be tough. Long and thin (a friend calls it “steak by the yard”), skirt steak has many aliases. In Texas it’s called “beef for fajitas,” and in the Jewish restaurants of New York’s Lower East Side it goes by “Romanian tenderloin.” But in my house it’s sandwich steak because the skinny slices can stand up to salsa, chimichurri, pesto – or simply mustard and a bit of butter.
If you buy your meat from an artisanal butcher, ask for the “outside” skirt, which is fatter and juicier than the inside cut. (If you’re buying meat from industrially-raised animals this is a pointless exercise; the Japanese import 90% of American outside skirt steak.)
Rub the meat all over with salt – 3/4 of a teaspoon per pound of meat and let it sit in this dry brine for 4 or 5 hours before cooking. This will draw out the liquid and concentrate the flavor. Just before cooking blot the meat very well with paper towels to remove all the surface moisture, and brush it with a bit of vegetable oil. (I prefer a neutral oil like grapeseed, but it’s your call.)
Skirt steaks prefer high heat (cooked low and slow the meat turns chewy), so get a grill or grill pan very hot. The steak will cook quickly; two minutes a side should give you beautifully rare meat.
Rest the meat for ten minutes. Now comes the most important part: the slicing. If you cut with the grain each slice will be a single tough muscle. If you cut against the grain, into very thin slices, you’ll end up with tender meat. (This means that when you’re cutting you want the grain to run up and down in vertical stripes, not horizontal ones.)
Now cut a crusty roll in half, butter one side, spread mustard on the other, and heap it with thinly sliced steak. You can add any condiments you like, but this meat is so tasty it really deserves the spotlight to itself.
October 10, 2016
The Basic Chili Recipe
Shopping List: 1 pound ground bison, 1 large can chopped tomatoes, small can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 1 bottle dark beer, 1 can black beans.
Staples: olive oil, 3 onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, chicken stock.
Optional: cream sherry, balsamic vinegar, 1 ounce chocolate, soy sauce, sour cream, grated cheddar.
Dice three medium onions and saute them in olive oil until they’re soft. Add 6 cloves of garlic, smashed, and let them soften too. Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano, some salt and pepper, a bit of cumin and two teaspoons of your homemade chili powder – more if you like really hot food.
Add a pound of ground bison, and cook, stirring, until it loses its redness. Puree 3 or 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (from a can) and stir that in along with a large can of tomatoes, chopped up, and another teaspoon of your chili powder. Add a cup of homemade chicken stock, and a cup of a robust dark beer and let it all simmer at a slow burble for a couple of hours.
Before serving stir in a cup or so of black beans. Now you get to play with the flavors. Is it hot enough? Do you want more chili powder? Sometimes I’ll melt an ounce or so of really good chocolate and stir that in to give it depth. Other times I’ll add a spoonful of fish sauce, or a splash of excellent balsamic vinegar. Sometimes soy sauce to spark it up, other times cream sherry to mellow it down. It all depends on my mood. The point is, when you’ve made your own chili powder, everything else is just window dressing.
Homemade Chili Powder
Shopping list: Dried Ancho, New Mexico and Habanero Chiles.
I like to use anchos for their winey richness, habaneros for their fruity heat and New Mexicos for their earthy sturdiness.
Wearing rubber or latex gloves to protect your hands, sponge off 2 Anchos, 3 New Mexico and 3 Habanero chiles (they’re almost always dusty). Cut them in half and remove the tips where the majority of seeds congregate. Discard the seeds.
Put the chiles into a heavy bottomed pan (I use cast iron), and toast them over medium high heat for about 4 minutes, turning from time to time with tongs, until they have darkened slightly. Allow them to cool and then grind the chiles to a powder in a spice grinder or coffee mill. Stir in a teaspoon of toasted and ground cumin.
You can serve this chili with cilantro, sour cream and grated cheddar. Or not. It’s that good.
October 3, 2016
This is, essentially, a Belgian beef carbonnade, made with brisket instead of stewing meat. But the principle is the same: you’re braising beef in a slew of onions, using beer as the liquid. What makes this so satisfying is that you cook it ahead of time, cool it, refrigerate it overnight and then remove all the fat. What you end up with is very tender meat in a deeply aromatic sauce.
Begin with a 4-5 pound brisket, dry it well and shower it with salt and pepper. Slick a large pan with neutral oil, get it hot, and sear the meat on both sides. Remove it to platter.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Slice 4 to 6 onions (you cannot have too many) by cutting them in half lengthwise and then cutting them into long ribbons, and cook them in the fat remaining in the pan until they’ve become golden and extremely aromatic.
Put half of the onions into a large casserole with a cover, add the brisket and top with the remaining onions. Toss in a bay leaf, a bottle of beer, and a splash of balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Cover and put into the oven. (If you have a bouillon cube of some kind, you might want to throw that in as well.) Now relax for three and a half hours, enjoying the wonderful aroma that begins to creep into every corner of your house.
Remove from the oven, uncover, and allow to cool completely. Then put into the refrigerator overnight (or up to a couple of days).
Remove all the congealed fat from the top of the pot.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Remove the brisket and slice it, against the grain. Put half of the onion sauce into an 8 by 13 inch pan (really, any flat pan will do), top with the sliced brisket and the remaining sauce, cover very well with foil and reheat in the oven for about an hour and a quarter.
Taste, season with salt, pepper and perhaps another splash of balsamic vinegar and serve to 8 to 10 very happy people.