Eating Stumptown

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Tag "Meat"

You know when you believe something about yourself? For example, I kick ass at tennis (well, not me personally, but someone out there surely feels this way…) and then you play someone who is actually good and realize that you are okay at best?  Yeah, so that has been my week.

My wonderful, lovey boyfriend got me a three day class at Sur La Table: Everyday Kitchen Essentials. Some have accused him of getting me a self-serving present, but I couldn’t be more thrilled. I have ALWAYS wanted take a cooking class.

I went into the class thinking, “Sure I’ll learn things, but I am pretty sure they are going to be amazed with my cooking skills.”  Not so much.  They have taught me to do things I have never even attempted. For example, have you ever cut up a raw chicken into pieces?  Seriously gross, right?  Especially breaking the joints.  Gag.

But, I am glad I know how to do it now.  I have a chicken in my freezer just begging to be butchered.

Then, the next day we learned to make our own sausages.

Not only is making sausages fun, it is a little obscene – sheep intestines commonly used as casings were once the condom of choice.  It takes zero imagination to see the similarities here.  And the whole pumping the raw sausage into these condom-like casings?  Um, yeah… dirty.

Taking away the giggling at phallic resemblances, making your own sausage is awesome and actually pretty easy.

(Look at the Bratwurst I made!  I know, they are perfect, no need to gush…)

And it really was easy, that is, if you have a meat grinder.  I guess there are some that attach to the Kitchen Aid Mixers (which I also don’t own) but, someday my dreams of owning a meat grinder will come true.

With you as my witness, IT WILL HAPPEN.

In the meantime, I will continue to make my own sausages that don’t require a meat grinder:  breakfast sausages.

These mix the sausage seasonings with ground pork you can get at the store (or from farmers in dark parking lots).  Personally, I like sausages with less caraway seed/fennel taste and more heat.  This is the benefit of mixing the sausage at home and not buying pre-made stuff.  Plus, if you were feeling like your pants were too tight, you could probably add some ground turkey to lighten up the meal.  So many possibilities!

If only I could get my hands on a meat grinder…

Here is a Mary Sue modified recipe based on the one from Sur La Table:
Breakfast Sausage

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Of all the people I know, my boyfriend Erik is the most affected by me trying to eat locally.  He has to listen to me talk about what vegetables are in season, wait for me while I pick up frozen meat in dark parking lots, and, most importantly, eat my cooking.  I love cooking so much that I tend to be the chef for the majority of meals, but lucky for me, he is a darn good cook himself.

Erik’s parents were born in Austria and Germany and his favorite foods are influenced by things he grew up eating – pork products of all sorts, potato dumplings, and anything made with vinegar.

I love being introduced to new food, so when Erik asked if I wanted him to make Sauerbraten with the chuck roast we received from my parking lot farmer, I was down.  We invited a couple friends over, went to the German market to pick up the extra ingredients we needed and had a German-inspired meal based around the Sauerbraten. (Not the most local of meals, but we did use Oregon-grown meat!)

He browned the meat and continued the braising in a vinegar-based broth.

Then cut up a beautiful red cabbage.

He prefers to cook it until it has been cooked down and loses its fresh cabbage taste, but not so long that it is entirely soggy.

Next, and my personal favorite part, he made potato dumplings unlike any dumplings I have ever had before.

He starts by toasting a breadcrumb in butter (a good way to begin anything, right?)

Then rolls the dumpling around the breadcrumb before cooking in boiling water.

At this point every corner of the house smells of slow-roasted meat and our guests arrive hungry.

I would never have thought of making dumplings with a fried breadcrumb in the center or making pot roast with a vinegar-based broth, but it was delicious.

And I didn’t do a single thing.

Even the cook enjoyed it.

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I consider a great dinner party meal to be one that requires prep before the guests arrive, seems more complicated than it really is, and, of course, has your guests salivating from the minute they walk in the door until they put that first bite of food in their mouths.

Beef short ribs fit each and every criteria I have for dinner party food.

(By the way, spell check wants me to use criterion instead of criteria – the singular version. Do people still use that word or has it gone the way of agendum?)

(Aside complete, continue…)

Plus, remember when I met the farmer in a dark parking lot and filled my freezer with meat?

freezer

Can you see the short ribs in there?

Lately, I have made them quite a few different ways – in a ragu and served over noodles, baked in the oven, cooked on the stove, even finished under a hot broiler to crisp up the outside once they were done stewing – but, my favorite is one of the simpler methods. (Thank goodness, I need a little simplicity.)

raw short ribs

Cooking the short ribs for a long time and using the broth as gravy. It keeps the flavors together and allows for a variety of ways to serve the dish.

short ribs

This dish takes a while to cook – about 4 hours including prep time – but it only requires a half an hour of hands-on time. Plus, it can be cooked the day before and just heated up when your guests arrive.

Warning.

If you were, as an entirely hypothetical situation, to prepare this the day before a big dinner party your boyfriend can’t attend because he has to work… And you made the house smell outrageously delicious… He may grumble about how “unfair” you are for the entire three hours the dish is cooking. (But, it also might inspire him to take you out to an amazing dinner, because now all he wants is something outstanding to eat. Hmmm. I may want to replace the “Warning” with “Added Benefit.”)

Recipe
Beef Short Ribs

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In my meat-buying post I mentioned that I am obsessed with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, the god of beyond organic farmers everywhere. He has been featured in a few of Michael Pollan’s projects, including Food Inc., an eye-opening documentary on how far removed we have come from our food source, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, one of my recent favorite books.

Joel’s philosophy about raising animals for meat is that he is not a beef, a hog, or a poultry farmer, but a grass farmer. He believes in using the land properly: by rotating animals from field to field, composting and using earthworms to ensure his grass is in fine shape, and maintaining a significant amount of forest on his land to maintain a close-to-natural ecosystem.

Joel4
Hi Joel! (It is weird I think he is cute, right?)

His system allows animals to eat what they would naturally eat in the wild – not corn products (there is a reason cows have the stomachs they do, because they are supposed to eat grass!) or other animals (as encouraged by the USDA before that whole mad cow thing happened). The salad-bar raised cows give us meat that is lower in fat overall, but higher in the good omega-3 fat, lacking antibiotics and hormones you find in commercial beef, and higher in a number of vitamins. See…better!

When I read about Joel and his farming techniques (more here and here), it just made sense. Being sustainable isn’t about being a yuppie, tree-hugging Oregonian, it is about using our human brilliance to mimic nature, encourage the land to give back to us, and still getting what we want.

Hamburgers.

http://www.slowbar.net/

http://www.slowbar.net/

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I am going to admit something right here.  Pork chops make me nervous.  I see them wrapped in brown paper in my fridge and immediately start worrying about cooking.

What if they turn out dry?

What if they are undercooked and I give someone (ahem, me) parasites?

What if I am a terrible cook and that is why I can’t figure out how to make a decent pork chop? (Ignore that last one, we probably don’t have time to get into my cooking insecurities quite yet.)

With all my anxiety, I am constantly looking for ways to dress them up.  I have tried breading them in breadcrumbs and Panko, marinating, pounding them down and frying, and the old-fashioned baking-them-in-the-oven-method.  When I saw a recipe for giving them a hazelnut crust (with Oregon hazelnuts, obviously) I thought I might have found a winner.

Some people disagree.

Those people were not me – I thought this method was near perfect!

First, I pounded those suckers down to 1/3 an inch, dipped in a beaten egg, and then in the roasted, pulverized hazelnuts.

Before we talk about the cooking, I want to discuss roasting hazelnuts.  I have toasted hazelnuts for a number of meals and I always chop and brown them in a pan.

NO MORE!

From now on, I am going to leave them whole in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  They came out golden brown and so, so tasty (I may have eaten a couple (dozen) straight from the oven), and once they are cooled, you can roll them in your hands to remove the skins.

hazelnuts

This method toasts the nut entirely, not just the outsides the way I did before by using the pan, and increases the intensity of the flavor deliciously.

After breading and throwing in a pan to brown the outsides, I popped the pork chops in an oven for a few minutes.

I served this dinner with roasted beets…

beets

…and sautéed mushrooms (with my utter obsession these days with mushrooms, I will be sure to add a perfected recipe soon) and happily ate.

pork-chop-dinner

Oh, by the way, the pork came from New Seasons Pacific Village and was delish.

Here is the recipe for the chops – enjoy!

Hazelnut Pork Chops (adapted from Food and Wine)

1 cup hazelnut

½ cup flour

1 tsp salt

2 large eggs

4 six ounce pork chops (pounded 1/3 inch thick)

salt and pepper

¼ cup olive oil

Cooking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, or until richly browned. Transfer to a cutting board or kitchen towel and cool until able to handle.  Rub nuts with your hand or the towel to remove the skins. Chop roughly.  Place in a food processor and grind until a course powder.

Spread the flour into a shallow bowl.  Place the hazelnuts, mixed with one tsp of salt, in another shallow bowl.  Beat the two eggs in a third.

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Coat pork chops first in flour (shaking off excess) then dip in egg.  Finally, coat in hazelnuts and set aside for cooking.

In a large skillet (with a splatter screen closely by) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Without crowding the pan, cook the pork chops until brown, about three minutes per side. Next, transfer the chops the oven and bake for 4 minutes, until they are barely pink in the center.

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