Preparing for the Yom Kippur Fast

September 19th, 2012

This Tuesday at sundown, we begin the traditional Yom Kippur Fast. This fast has a major significance fou, freeing ourselves from all physical concerns and concentrating on our spiritual well being and the value of life.

However, the severe side effects of fasting can detract from the spiritual experience if they are too severe (or in the worst case scenario threaten our health). There are several ways to prepare you physically for a healthy fast.

  • Make sure you begin the meal well in advance of sundown to avoid eating in a rush.
  • Avoid all salty foods as they can lead to thirst and dehydration.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid coffee, soda, and alcohol as they will exacerbate dehydration.
  • Focus more on complex carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice fruits, vegetables & beans and concentrate less on fatty foods and sweets.
  • Don’t over eat, as your body will overwork trying to absorb all those nutrients which will lead to hunger pains soon after the meal.
  • Have a final glass of juice or water and brush your teeth to eliminate any stale mouth side effects.

 

Once again , our staff at Park East Kosher has put together a wide array of healthy, filling foods that will compliment your pre-fast meal. You are welcome to call one of out customer service representatives who can guide you in making your fast an easy one. We can also gladly assist you with suggestions for you “Break the Fast” meal.

On behalf of Michael, Murry and the entire staff at Park East Kosher, we wish all our valued customers and friends an easy fast and a G’mar Chatima Tova! May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year.

Smoked salmon platter

Shavuot Meals to Remember

May 23rd, 2012

This coming Friday night is no ordinary Shabbat on the calendar. This Friday night will be erev chag, the eve of the momentous holiday of Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. Come Saturday night, many will celebrate with the traditional custom of learning Torah all through the night. And many will be happy to enjoy (and indulge!) in dairy holiday meals – a custom based on the historical necessity of the time. Having just received the Torah at Mount Sinai, a completely new set of laws to live by, we were not yet equipped for accomplishing ritually kosher slaughter, nor had we kosher vessels to cook in…and thus the first Jewish dairy holiday was born.

It is no secret that I relish the opportunity to put out my finest dairy meals, designing creative dairy menus and pulling out all of the involved (and yes, highly caloric) buttery recipes that rarely have a chance to grace my table the rest of the year. On Shavuot, I feel like a painter with an empty canvas just looking forward to making broad strokes. Fish dishes take center stage (instead of meats) and get the spotlight they deserve; salads get a creamier (or cheesier) treatment; and desserts….well, all I can say is: CREAM!!!

While teaching a recent pre-Shavuot cooking class and fielding a barrage of questions, I realized just how many people feel challenged by preparing fish. It’s easy to cook fish, but very easy to ruin it as well. When people claim that they don’t “like” fish, what they are really objecting to are all of the tell-tale signs of ill-prepared fish:

“It smells fishy.”

“It’s too dry”

“It’s rubbery”

“It’s mushy”

If you’ve ever felt this way about a piece of fish, it was most likely over-cooked or just wasn’t fresh enough by the time it was made. How do I know this? Because good, fresh fish that has been prepared well is moist, tender and flavorful (and no, not fishy). With that said, just a couple of quick reminders to boost your fish cooking attempts before the holiday (and the rest of the year too):

  • A quick cook: Fish are delicate creatures to cook – their flesh cooks quickly, much faster than most people realize. Do not cook your fillets too long or the fish will be tough, rubbery or smelly.
  • Flake it, Baby! Cook the fish only until it flakes easily at the touch of a fork or reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F° at the center of the thickest part (particularly helpful when cooking a whole fish).
  • TIME IT! Fillets should get the “10-minute” rule – a maximum total of 10 minutes of cook time per inch of thickness (measured at the thickest part). *While this is generally true, some fish, such as tuna, is best served rare, so it should be undercooked.
  • Go Fresh! Make sure the fish you use is as fresh as possible. Look for: glistening flesh, un-cloudy eyes, and a mostly odorless smell.
  • Store it well. If you’re not cooking up your fresh fish that day, take it out of its packaging, rinse and pat it dry, then wrap it in wax/parchment paper and plastic wrap. It can then be refrigerated or frozen until usage. Removing the excess moisture and air will keep it fresher longer and prevent freezer burn.

Even if you are armed with these helpful basics, there are some recipes which can be made ahead and reheat well and some which…well, you’d better just eat it right out of the pan. Choose carefully as far as holiday planning and entertaining is concerned. The following fish recipe can be made ahead and then reheated gently with fairly good results; alternatively, it can also be assembled ahead and then baked immediately prior to serving time.

Whichever fish dish or cheesecake you choose, make it something that your family will enjoy. More than anything, I’m happy to celebrate the holiday with joyous foods, ones that enhance and uplift the day and remind us of the tremendous gift that Shavuot marks.

Mushroom-Stuffed Fillet of SoleShavuot Recipes

Serves 8.

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tbsp. butter, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
10 oz. Cremini mushrooms, sliced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups (about 5 slices) toasted, cubed bread (crusts removed)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
8 Sole fillets, cut in half lengthwise
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Paprika
Garnishes: Fresh chopped parsley, lemon slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13” casserole dish; set aside.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When butter is melted and begins to foam, add onion and shallots. Sauté for about 5-6 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent. Add mushrooms; season liberally with salt, pepper and thyme. Stir to blend; sauté for another 2-3 minutes or until mushrooms are wilted. Remove from heat. Gently fold in bread cubes, turning to coat well with butter. Add parmesan; mix to blend and distribute. Set aside and cool slightly.

Rinse fillets and pat dry with paper towels. Season fillet pieces with salt and pepper. Place a heaping mound of stuffing mixture (approximately 3-4 tablespoons) in the center of the fillet. Using your hands, wrap the fish around the stuffing, and carefully place the stuffed roll (seam-side down) in the prepared casserole dish. Repeat with remaining fillets. Dot each roll with small pieces of the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Combine sour cream, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended. Spoon sauce over each fillet roll; sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes – sauce should appear bubbly. Serve stuffed rolls garnished with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and lemon slices.

 

Best Wishes for a Chag Sameach,
Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

Just Hangar-ing Around!

May 8th, 2012

One cow. So many cuts. We’ve discussed several cuts in this forum, but never have we explored the elusive hangar steak. And what a great choice it is now that spring is in full bloom! When you are enjoying a lovely day out, the search begins for a lightning fast, throw-it-on-the table supper. And whether on the grill or in the broiler, a thin hangar steak will take less than 10 minutes to cook…can’t get much quicker than that.

First off, a bit of background: hangar steak gets its curious name because it “hangs” from the diaphragm attached to the last rib and the spine near the kidneys. The hangar is a small, V-shaped pair of muscles with a long, inedible membrane down the middle (butchers usually remove the membrane and you end up with 2 pieces). Much like its neighbor, the skirt steak (the outer part of the diaphragm), it has an incredibly beefy, rich flavor with a slightly grainy, thread-like texture and is best served rare or medium-rare; past medium, it will start to get tough. Realizing its delectable juiciness, the hangar steak was often referred to as the “butcher’s steak,” as butchers used to save this small cut for themselves. That said, exercise care with this cut. Keep watching the clock!

Hangar steaks love a good marinade, but much like their salt-retaining neighbor (sorry skirt steak, but I tell it how it is), go easy on the sodium. Despite that disclaimer, the hangar can stand up to wonderfully bold flavors and also benefits from a marinade’s tenderizing effect. The classic French way is to prepare the hangar steak with a red wine and shallot sauce….truly divine. But the marinade – oh, the joys of a marinade – are the rewards of putting in a minimal amount of work earlier in the day when time allows, only to walk in the door at the end of the day and do virtually nothing but a quick grill or broil to yield extraordinary delights. Now here’s where last week’s post on “building block” recipes really comes in handy: with your steak in hand (actually in the fridge, please), here’s your no-time-like-the-present opportunity to whip up a batch of your own homemade teriyaki or chimichurri for a marinade, whose leftovers will hopefully double as a special dip or condiment for that or another dish. Pretty smart, huh?

Hangar Steak with Chimichurri

Argentina’s answer to ketchup, the vinegary herb mélange known as Chimichurri is a must for grilled meats. But it’s also a fantastic marinade – after a few hours marinating in Chimichurri, hangar steak is moist and flavorful, especially on the grill. Serve steak alongside a refreshing Herbed Tomato Salad (recipe below) plus extra Chimichurri for dipping.

Yield: 4 servings

2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 1 large bunch)
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
Pinch of kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp. hot red pepper sauce (or 1 seeded jalapeno pepper if you like it spicy)
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 Hangar steaks, about ½” thick

Place parsley, oregano, salt, garlic, hot pepper sauce, vinegar and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade (“s” blade). Pulse until pulverized. While motor is running, slowly add olive oil until mixture is uniform and well blended. Season to taste with salt or pepper.

Transfer mixture to a large container or baking dish, reserving ½ cup Chimichurri for serving time. Place steaks in dish, turning to coat with Chimichurri. Cover and marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Preheat broiler or grill. Remove steaks from marinate (and discard marinade). Broil (place 5 inches below heat source) or grill steaks on high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, turning once during cooking. Allow steaks to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with reserved Chimichurri for dipping and Herbed Tomato Salad (recipe below).

Herbed Tomato Salad

3 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
½ red onion, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp. minced parsley
1 tbsp. minced fresh oregano
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing to blend. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt or pepper to taste.
 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

Developing Your Inner Chef!

May 1st, 2012

Ever stand in your kitchen when you think no one is looking and try to flip an omelet in the air or perhaps a real sauté (without the use of a spatula!)? “Look ma, no hands!” you think. “I’m just like the chefs on TV,” you think… until, of course, the omelet lands on the floor. In the real world of cooking, many factors separate you, the home cook, from the expert restaurant chef: a culinary education, hours and hours of commercial kitchen experience and a seasoned palate. Notwithstanding these differences, there are several lessons you can learn from a trained chef’s approach to cooking that can be utilized in the home kitchen.

When a plate reaches your table in a restaurant, part of the beauty of the experience (and the reason you’re willing to pay top dollar!) is that you didn’t have to prepare it yourself or even think of all the work it took to create such a dish. But if a patron ever caught a glimpse into the inner workings of a restaurant kitchen, one thing that would become evident is the large scale use of what I like to call “building block” recipes. Used to create scrumptious, memorable dishes, “building block” recipes are those things that aren’t eaten by themselves, but rather are the components used to prepare other dishes. Flavorful chicken stocks provide the basis for exceptional sauces; flavor-infused oils add a burst of spice. Homemade salsas, condiments and purees are used to build different dimensions of flavors in a dish, layer upon layer.

I don’t know about you, but last I checked, I didn’t have a staff in my home kitchen to prepare homemade BBQ sauce and the like just to have at my ready….the average home cook simply doesn’t have time to prepare a constant supply of these secondary recipes to the same degree as in a professional kitchen. Here and there though, building block recipes can be prepared on a smaller scale at home, many of which have a good shelf life or will last for quite a while in the refrigerator. Original spice mixes will last for months in the cupboard; stocks can be frozen in small portions and defrosted quickly for a special sauce. A homemade pesto will last for several weeks in the fridge and is a handy “secret weapon” to spruce up any sandwich or wrap, toss with pastas, or to flavor salad dressings (you can even freeze them in ice cube portions). With most building block recipes, a little goes a long way and will yield greater returns than just for one meal. Pick and choose which items are your own personal homemade favorites to have on hand, substituting others with store-bought versions. Consider that extra time spent a small, yet worthwhile investment toward raising the bar for the distinct quality of food that comes out of your very own kitchen.

This week’s recipe incorporates one of my favorite building block recipes to have on hand – a wickedly good roasted garlic dip, perfect for spreading on crusty bread or as a flavor booster like in the recipe below.

Roasted Garlic Zaatar ChickenRoasted Garlic Zaatar Chicken

A wicked, roasted garlic spread smeared under the skin is the secret to creating this moist, flavorful entrée. The spread can be prepared ahead. Use any leftover spread independently as a terrific accoutrement on breads or toasts.

Yield: 4-6 servings

6 heads garlic
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1½ tsp. Zaatar spice, plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
8 chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Working with each garlic head, peel away the excess “paper,” being careful to keep the garlic heads intact. You should now have very lean looking garlic heads. Cut approximately 1/8”-1/4” off the top of each individual clove on the garlic head. Place the garlic heads on a large piece of tin foil or in a garlic roaster. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil liberally over top of the cut garlic heads. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon kosher salt over the heads. Wrap with foil to cover (or cover garlic roaster). Bake for 1 hour or until garlic is soft when pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Working over a bowl, carefully squeeze each garlic clove out of its peel into the bowl – gloves are a plus for this messy job! Transfer squeezed garlic to the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and Zaatar spice. Process until mixture is smooth, adding more oil to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper, or more Zaatar if desired. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Gently run your fingers underneath the skin, creating a pocket of space. Spoon 1-2 teaspoons garlic spread under the skin and distribute with a knife (alternatively, press skin down over spread and smooth out to distribute with fingers). Repeat with remaining chicken thighs and transfer them to a roasting pan.

Rub the outside of the skin of the chicken with a drizzle of olive oil. Generously sprinkle thighs with Zaatar spice, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of kosher salt. Roast uncovered for 1 hour, until skin is nicely browned and crisp.

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

New Year News

January 3rd, 2012

Did you ever have an epiphany in the kitchen? A sudden moment of questioning everything you always thought you knew about how to prepare a certain dish or ingredient? The proverbial light bulb went off in my head this past week and of course, I welcome you to come along for the ride!

A few weeks back I blogged about the difficulty in understanding certain kosher cuts and where they come from – in that case, specifically, the deckle (click here to read post). Deckle is only one of a bunch of “cheap cuts” that most people group together and relegate to “pot roasting”. Another such cut is the somewhat mysterious kolichel. Go ask around – ask your mother, your grandmother. They’ll tell you kolichel is for pot roasting, for cholent, for any dish that will cook a tough cut long enough until it’s good and tender. Even I’ve written that….until now.

The kolichel is from the clavicle-shoulder area of animal…a highly exercised piece of flesh. Unlike a rib eye or chuck roast, it contains little to no marbling of fat and no sinews or connective tissue within the cut (as you would find in a minute roast)…in other words, an incredibly lean piece of meat. So there I was at my counter, cutting up a kolichel for what I believed would be a long, tenderizing cook. All of a sudden, I got to thinking: if the process of braising breaks down fat and connective tissue in a fatty tough cut, then what’s going to happen if there is isn’t any to break down? Is this actually the right cooking method for a lean cut, albeit a tough one? I started hearing a voice in my head saying “This is wrong. This is all wrong.” Sure enough, eating my stew that night was like chewing leather. There was no fat to keep the meat moist. That was my proof. It was time to go in a different direction, parting ways with generations of bubbies.

As if I were a student in one of my own classes, I heard my own voice questioning: How do we keep a lean cut tender? How do we treat other lean meats? Then the idea came to me: go thin and go fast (a throwback to our discussion on Scallopine from a few months ago). Thinly slicing and pounding to tenderize, followed by a lightning fast cook could yield the same tender results, couldn’t it? In fact, YES! The results were a tender, flavorful, and economical use of this much misunderstood cut…and a good lesson to be bold and try new things in the coming year!

As a side note, this blog has been nominated for “Best Kosher Food Blog” on joyofkosher.com. If you like what you read here, please show your support and go vote. Thanks!

Tender Beef Marsala

Thin slices are crucial for this dish’s best results. See “Cook’s Tip” below for no-fail slicing techniques.

Serves 4-6

1 kolichel (about 1½ lbs.), thinly sliced crosswise no more than ¼-inch-thick
Kosher Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
¼ cup flour
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup Marsala wine
1/3 cup beef or chicken stock
½ tsp. oregano
1½ tsp. whole grain mustard
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook’s Tip: For easy, thin slicing, freeze meat for 1-2 hours prior to slicing (meat will be half-frozen). Use a very sharp carving knife to slice crosswise.

Lay slices of meat out in a single layer on a large cutting board in between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using a mallet or rolling pin, pound slices to an even 1/8-inch thickness. Season slices with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge each slice in flour, shaking off excess, and place in pan. Brown on each side, turning once, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat in batches with remaining meat, adding additional olive oil to the pan if needed.

Reduce to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, and add garlic. Sauté until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add Marsala, stock and oregano, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until mixture is reduced by a third, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in mustard, stirring until well blended. Return beef to the pan, turning to coat with the sauce. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until beef is just heated through. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Another Year, Another Latke

December 14th, 2011

I’m not sure how it came to be that latkes became the most ubiquitous Chanukah food in America (in Israel, sufganiot are just as popular). Somehow, traditions form an integral part of the experience of celebration; reliving the miracle through edible customs strengthens the associations we have with a given mitzvah. Biting into a crispy latke, our fingertips glistening from oil, for example, reminds us of the menorah, lit in all its glory. We find comfort in returning to those “old school” traditional foods, but it’s also ok to change it up a little bit every now and then to keep things interesting. There are eight nights after all.

People like just about anything fried in oil, as long as it has that crispy-crunchy-salty quality to which we have become entirely addicted. Someone along the way discovered that latkes and sour cream go well together. But if you keep kosher and serve a meat meal, then sour cream is out. Aren’t there any other options? How do we gussie up our little latke with flavor and textural contrasts, especially at party time?

The Greeks managed to defile not only our precious oils during the time of Chanukah, but the entirety of the Temple in Jerusalem, the heart of our holiness and culture. The victory of the Maccabees symbolizes the freedom to return to our traditional observances, to illuminate a dark time. Such were my thoughts when thinking about pairing a liver pâté with my latkes this year. Follow me here: raw livers need to be handled with care as they are not purchased already koshered. Raw livers are not kashered through a salting process, but rather need to be broiled in order to remove the blood. I thought it both meaningful and tasty to pair one food commemorating our rededication of the Temple (Chanukah literally means “dedication”) with another that requires our current dedication to the observance the Torah’s commandments. And since it goes against my grain to leave well enough alone, this pâté has been updated a bit to complement the latkes’ tart apple flavor. But even if you are a traditionalist (“you’re gonna put what on my latke?”), feel free to serve the pâté as a spread with crackers or crusty bread on your holiday table.

Granny Apple-Potato Latkes with Drunken Cherry Liver Pâté

Granny Smith apples have a crisp, tart flavor that gets mellowed and sweetened when cooked…or fried up as your next latke!

Yield: 22 latkes

2 russet potatoes, peeled
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 eggs
1/3 cup flour
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

Grate potatoes, apples and onions together (can be done in a food processor or by hand). Squeeze and drain out as much liquid as possible. Quickly transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and add salt, pepper, eggs and flour; mix to blend.

Pour enough oil into a large, heavy skillet so that there is approximately ¼ -inch layer covering the bottom. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, carefully drop large spoonfuls (about 2 tablespoons worth) into the pan, flattening each into a disc with the back of a spoon (or you can use your hands to form and drop). Fry for about 3-4 minutes per side, flipping when edges are golden brown. Do not move latkes around before they are ready to be turned, as they can stick and tear. Latkes should be a deep brown color on both sides. Immediately transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter Serve topped with a small spoonful of Drunken Cherry Liver Pâté (recipe below).

*Cook’s note: If making ahead, refresh uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes prior to serving.

Drunken Cherry Liver Pâté

Try to find livers that are more pale tan than dark reddish-brown in color. They are more mild tasting and less pungent. Raw livers must be kashered through broiling to remove the blood. See below for directions.

1 lb. chicken livers, trimmed
4 tbsp. olive oil (or chicken fat), divided
2/3 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
1/2 tsp. crumbled rosemary
3 Tbsp. cognac (or brandy)
1 tbsp. white wine or sherry vinegar

To kasher livers according to Jewish law, click here for step-by-step instructions. Don’t get scared. It’s not that difficult.

Once kashered, transfer to a mixing bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Chop or mash the livers with a fork or knife. The consistency should be slightly chunky. Set aside.

Heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and season with salt and pepper; sauté for about 3-4 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden in color. Add cherries and rosemary and sauté for another minute. Add cognac and stir to blend. Continue to cook until most of the cognac is absorbed, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cherry mixture to the livers. Mix to blend. Add vinegar and season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve room temperature over Granny Apple-Potato Latkes (recipe above) or with crackers or toasts.

Wishing you a joyous and illuminating Chanukah,
Naomi Ross and the Park East Kosher Family

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

What Your Grandmother Always Knew…

December 6th, 2011

Wandering through the meat department of a local kosher grocery, I stand back and watch for a while. A woman leans over, peering over the many plastic-wrapped packages of red meat, each neatly stacked and labeled, one not too dissimilar from the next… a sea of confusion for the average cook. She stands there for a while. Picks up one package, and then puts it down. Picks up another, then returns it to its place. She just doesn’t know what to buy. Lots of different names and cuts abound, some with duplicate names. Distinguishing the cuts and how to prepare them is hard enough, but at least sometimes there are clues to guide us…words like rib, chuck, neck…hints as to which part of the animal the meat came from. That’s not always the case though, especially with certain cuts that have become common in American kosher butchery and referred to by a unique nomenclature. Being a bit farther removed from the slaughtering and butchering than in our grandmothers’ day, we have to put in the effort to ask questions and become educated consumers…we should at least know what it is that we’ve chosen to purchase and prepare!

What in fact is a “deckle” or rather, where does it come from? That’s one I always wondered about. “Deckle” is actually a Yiddish word for “covering”. The deckle is the fatty covering over the side of the rib. It is a tough, cheap cut, perfect for pot roasting. Similar to a brisket, the deckle is a long, flat piece of meat; however, its irregular shape (it has a small section with the grain running in the opposite direction from the rest of the cut) and extra connective tissue make it less select than the coveted brisket. Less select, but not less flavorful. When treated right and given a good slow cook (and lots of love!), the deckle can make a tasty beef supper, especially when on a budget. Be sure when slicing to watch for the change of grain – and always slice against the grain!

Besides the slow cook, acidity also helps to break down the connective tissue and tenderize the meat. That’s why wine or tomatoes are so commonly used in pot roasting. In the following recipe, I use tomatoes and beer. Be sure to serve with mashed potatoes for a very satisfying meal. That’s what I advised the harried woman in the market, anyway…it’s always good to lend a hand!

Beer-Braised Deckle

A modern pot roast redux, this recipe can also be made with top of the rib, brisket, etc.

Serves 6

Spice Mix

½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried mustard
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. cornstarch or flour

Deckle

1 (3-lb.) Deckle
3 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (12-oz.) bottle beer
5 tbsp. mild molasses

Combine all spice mix ingredients together in a shallow dish, whisking to blend. Dredge deckle in spice mixture, rubbing spices to evenly coat on both sides (you may have to cut the deckle in half if very long). Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over high heat. Place deckle in pan and brown, turning once, about 2 minutes per side (repeat if necessary with other half of deckle). Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-high and add the remaining tablespoon oil to the pan. Add onions, celery and garlic, stirring to blend. Season liberally with kosher salt. Sauté for about 4-5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, beer and molasses, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil and return deckle to the pot. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2½-3 hours or until tender (meat is done when fork pierces and releases easily). Remove from heat and cool slightly.

To serve: transfer deckle to a cutting board and slice meat against the grain with a sharp carving knife. Transfer slices to a platter. Skim any excess fat from the surface of the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon sauce over meat and serve.

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

A Smaller Thanksgiving…

November 16th, 2011

I am a kitchen dweller. Of all the rooms of the house, the kitchen feels most like home to me and I’m quite content to spend copious amounts of time there. There are, however, exceptions…by this I mean those “special” jobs worthy of bribing your mother-in-law to do them. And though I’m a sucker for a real Thanksgiving dinner – essentially a comfy eat-fest with all the yummy trimmings – I’d be lying if I claimed that cleaning the bird did not rank high on that list of things I’d rather not have to do (root canal, anyone?). Surely, there must be a way out…a way to have my turkey and eat it too?

For those of you out there overwhelmed at the prospect of cleaning and handling such a large bird (“you want me to put my hand where?!”), it may be worthwhile to review the pros and cons of roasting a whole bird and what your other options may be. Besides the obvious tradition and nostalgia associated with presenting a lovely decorated bird to your guests (assuming you will be carving tableside while wearing a flannel shirt), the main benefit of roasting a large turkey is that it really feeds a crowd…with leftovers! But what if you are having a smaller crowd? Roasting a whole turkey not only takes a lot of prep time to properly clean and prepare (and lots of lead time if you are defrosting a frozen bird), but also hogs up your oven space for several hours before entertaining. If you are bent on roasting the whole bird, see last year’s Thanksgiving guide on the blog for tips. If you are looking for alternative ideas, read on!

One of the biggest obstacles in roasting a whole turkey is the challenge of maintaining the moistness of both the dark and white meat. All too often, by the time the turkey is done, the dark meat may be juicy while the white meat is dried out. Choosing to cook one cut of turkey eliminates this issue completely. Preparing just the breast meat or just the dark meat is an easy way of ensuring the appropriate cooking time to yield juicy results without the fuss. And if your family happens to like drumsticks or wings, the same rule applies…and you can then offer more than just two for Uncle Joey and Grandma Estelle to fight over! Think of it as turkey-a-la-carte…a perfect solution for a smaller crowd (and without the time spent cleaning!)

I’m a big stuffing fan, so I decided to incorporate a stuffing into the following recipe which features a butterflied boneless turkey roast (breast meat). Butterflying the meat opens up the breast via a center incision, cutting almost but not completely through. The two halves are then opened flat to resemble a butterfly shape (Park East Kosher is happy to do this upon request). This allows for ample room to stuff and roll, and a thinner, more palatable thickness. Turkey. Stuffing. Gravy. Done. And I didn’t have to clean a thing!

Pastrami-Wrapped Turkey Roulade with Apple-Chestnut Stuffing

A turkey roast usually retains its moisture from its skin during cooking. Here, pastrami takes the place of skin and adds a crispy, smoky element.

Serves 8.

1 (4-4¼ lbs.) turkey roast, butterflied and skin removed
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups peeled, chopped Fuji apples (1 very large or 2 small)
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (5.2 oz.) pkg. whole peeled and roasted chestnuts, chopped
3 tbsp. apple liquor
4 slices day-old bread (crusts removed), cubed (2½ cups)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves
8 oz. thinly sliced pastrami
1 cup apple cider
½ cup low-sodium chicken or turkey stock

Cider-Sage Gravy (recipe below):
Special equipment:    6 pieces kitchen twine, roasting rack and pan

Lay turkey out on a flat surface or cutting board. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Add apples and season with 1 tsp. salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Sauté until apples begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add chestnuts and sauté another 2 minutes. Add apple liquor and stir to blend until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 1 minute. Turn heat off. Add bread and sage, tossing until bread is moistened.

Spread bread mixture over turkey and carefully roll breast up, tucking ends in if necessary. Place a single layer of overlapping slices of pastrami crosswise over the roast. Using pre-cut pieces of kitchen twine, carefully slide each piece under the wrapped roast, tying each string to secure the roast at 2-inch intervals. Carefully place tied roast on a rack in a medium roasting pan. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Cook for about 1½ hours or until inserted meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees internally, uncovering during the last 15 minutes to crisp the pastrami. Remove from oven; transfer turkey to a cutting board (reserving pan juices) and allow turkey to rest for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the Cider-Sage Gravy (recipe below). Using a sharp carving knife, remove twine and carefully slice roulade crosswise. Arrange slices on a platter and serve with gravy.

Cider-Sage Gravy

1½ tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1½ tbsp. flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken or turkey stock
¼ cup apple cider
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1-2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ tsp. chopped fresh sage leaves

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Sprinkle flour over shallots and quickly stir to blend, cooking for another minute. Add pan juices, stock, cider, mustard, and vinegar. Whisk to blend. Bring to a boil and then lower to medium heat, simmering gravy until mixture becomes thickened (should be able to coat the back of a spoon), about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper and add salt if necessary. Remove from heat. Stir in sage. Serve hot with turkey.

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

One-Bowl-Wonders!

November 8th, 2011

The click-click-click of my radiator plays its little tune and I hear the sweet, raspy sound of heat coming up on a cool autumn night. The days are getting shorter, and as the leaves slowly descend, so does the realization that whether I like it or not, the cold is coming. And so I go through the list in my head: Winter coats: check. Snow boots: check. Rock salt: check. Really yummy weeknight suppers that will warm and nourish my family: come again?

Now is the time to start thinking and planning for the many cool nights ahead. And why not outfit yourself with a new recipe “wardrobe” for the coming season?! Winter soups and stews are a great place to start. Think “heartiness factor” – by this I mean identifying those essential ingredients which are helpful in making a dish “hearty.” Legumes such as chick peas, beans or lentils add protein and substance to any soup or stew and are a great pantry item to keep on hand. Grains and pastas are filling and add tremendous body either in your soup or as bed upon which to put your stew. I like to keep my pantry stocked with these items the whole year, but especially when the weather gets colder. Meats, whether chunks of beef stew meat or even a turkey wing, are definitely hearty, and although I prefer to purchase meat fresh, it’s never a bad idea to keep a package or two in your freezer for a bad weather day.

I’m a big fan of soups – especially ones that can be a meal unto themselves. This year, I started my own search in my recipe box. Much like shopping in your own closet, I’m often pleasantly surprised at what I might find: in this case, an old tattered paper, folded in four, with the scribbling of my husband’s old roommate. I am suddenly transported back to their apartment years before, and to the day he showed us how to make his mother’s Niku Udon, Japanese Beef Noodle soup, the way he ate it growing up in Japan. BINGO. Thick Japanese Udon noodles, meaty strips of beef and a flavorful broth make this an especially earthy and satisfying soup… a recipe to kick off the cool weather season.

Here is an adapted version of that recipe. You can use any fatty, marbled cut of meat (like rib); however, I prefer skirt steak. Skirt steak is from the diaphragm. It has excellent flavor and texture, but can be salty. For this reason, it is recommended to either rinse or soak the meat prior to use, then pat it dry.

Easy Beef Udon Noodle Soup

Udon noodles are thick Japanese wheat noodles that can be found fresh in the produce section (Nasoya brand) or in the Asian section of the supermarket (such as Eden brand).

Serves 4.

1 (8.8 oz.) package Udon noodles
3 cups water
1½ cups Sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
3 cups thinly sliced onion (2 medium onions)
1 lb. skirt steak, very thinly sliced crosswise into 2” long strips
4-5 scallions, cut into spears
3-4 tbsp. soy sauce (Kikkoman or Yamasa)
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare Udon noodles according to package instructions. Rinse, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine water, sake, sugar and salt together in a medium pot (4-quart). Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add onions and simmer together until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add meat and scallions and simmer until just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes (do not overcook meat or it will become tough). Add 3 tablespoons soy sauce; stir to blend. Season to taste with more soy sauce, if needed, and black pepper.

Place Udon noodles in each individual serving bowl and generously ladle hot soup over noodles to cover. Serve and enjoy!

 

By Naomi Ross

 

 

 

 

 

The Skinny on Scallopine

November 1st, 2011

“A little goes a long way”…or so the old adage goes. I think of perfume, cayenne pepper and certainly a kind word. In cooking, this notion can often make or break a recipe. A few drops of vanilla extract make the entire difference between an aromatic, flavorful cake and a bland bunch of crumbs. But the same concept holds true with choices that impact the texture and mouth-feel of a dish. A little too much thickener and your gravy is a gloppy pudding (…yuck!).

No better example illustrates this than scallopine. Also referred to as “scallopini,” this Italian dish consists of thinly sliced or thinly pounded meat that is dredged in flour, given a quick pan-fry, then heated and served with an accompanying pan sauce (often a tomato or wine sauce; or piccata, a lemon-caper sauce). The thickness of the meat is integral to the integrity of the dish; with a maximum ¼-inch thickness, the texture is deliciously tender, allowing one to savor many dimensions of flavor in a delicate way, flavors often overlooked when eating a thick cut of meat.

Dredging the meat in flour prior to pan-frying also greatly affects the consistency of the sauce. That little bit of flour adds thickness and richness to the sauce, giving it an almost silky feel. Additionally, flouring makes deglazing the pan (scraping up the browned bits) a bit easier when the wine is added. Again, the difference between a smooth, creamy dressing and a runny, lumpy goo.

Scallopine is most often prepared with veal, but can also be made with turkey or chicken, trimmed of all fat and sliced or pounded thin. For this reason, scallopine is a great choice as a lean, low-fat meat entrée. And because of the thinness of the slices, it requires a very short cooking time…great for a weeknight supper (I love win-win recipes!).

Try the following version, in the Northern Italian style, served over sautéed spinach (or chard) or over pasta. Use a mallet to pound the veal thin or try Park East Kosher’s extra thin veal cutlets – ready to use!

Veal Scallopine with Cremini and Tomatoes

Serves 2-4

4 thin veal cutlets (“Italian style”), pounded thin (¼” thickness)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup flour
¼ cup olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
¼ cup low-sodium chicken stock
8 oz. Cremini mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Lay cutlets out on a flat surface and season with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish and dredge cutlets in flour. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat. Place cutlets in the pan and brown on each side until light golden-brown in color, about 1 minute per side (you may need to do this in batches). Transfer cutlets to a plate and set aside.

Add shallots and garlic to the pan and sauté until shallots are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add wine, stock, mushrooms, oregano, and more salt and pepper to taste. Stir mixture, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for another 3 minutes, until mushrooms begin to wilt and mixture is slightly reduced. Add cherry tomatoes and continue to simmer for another 2-3 minutes, until tomatoes begin to soften. Return veal to pan, spooning pan sauce over the cutlets. Bring back to a boil and simmer for about 4-5 minutes or until sauce is thickened, adjusting heat if necessary. Remove from heat. Plate each serving of veal scallopine over sautéed spinach or your choice of pasta. Spoon sauce over the top and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

 

By Naomi Ross