Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ossobuco Style Beef Shanks

Ossobuco Style Beef Shanks
I scored some beef shanks at Zion market for a super great price at the same time that I was shopping for beef marrow bones for stock.  Beef shanks are lean and tough, but also extremely flavorful.  Meat like this is perfect for braising.
Why would I want to cook a dish that will heat up my tiny apartment in this heat wave?  Because I really like bone marrow and fall-off-the-bone-tender beef.  Especially when it comes with a luscious sauce like this one.  The braising liquid is thickened by the collagen that is naturally abundant in this cut of beef.  It will coat the back of a spoon without the addition of thickeners or roux.  

Fall off the bone tender
And because I am going to cut down the cooking time with my pressure cooker.  Next to my grill, it is my second most used cooking appliance in the summer. It is a crazy, irrational home cook's best friend. It cuts down on cooking time for recipes that call for a slow braise, which breaks down the collagen in the meat, which in turn makes the meat tough and the braising liquid thicker.  That is one mouthwatering domino effect, isn't it?
Ossobuco traditionally uses veal and white wine.  However, I think red wine stands up to the more robust flavor of beef much better.  The acidity from the red wine and tomatoes helps tenderize the meat as well as infuse intensely complimentary flavors.  
By the way, only use wine that you like to drink.  It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be good.  And good means that you like the way it tastes.  Not sweet though.  The reason to cook with wine is to impart its flavor onto the dish.  If you don't like the wine in a glass, you won't like it in a dish.
Enough talking, start cooking.

Ossobuco Style Beef Shanks
1 lb beef shanks, butcher cut 1-inch thick
2 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock (can sub with chicken stock), unsalted
salt & pepper
1 tsp beef tallow or cooking oil

Coat the beef shanks with salt and pepper.  Heat the beef tallow or cooking oil in the pressure cooker.  Sear the beef shanks on all sides.  Set beef shanks aside.
Cook the onions over medium heat in the pressure cooker until translucent, scraping at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Stir in garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. 
Add beef shanks, diced tomatoes, red wine and beef stock to pressure cooker.  Arrange the beef shanks so that it is covered by all the other ingredients.
Lock the lid on pressure cooker according to instruction manual.   Bring heat up to high to build up to high pressure.
Reduce heat to medium-low for 30 minutes.  
Turn off heat and let pressure reduce on its own for another 30 minutes.
Carefully remove lid.  Serve braising liquid over rice, risotto, mash potatoes or pasta.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Goat Milk-Braised Pork Loin

Goat Milk-Braised Pork Loin
This recipe traditionally uses regular cow milk.  However, I had goat milk in the fridge.  Goat milk is thicker and has a tangy flavor.  It is also easier on the stomach for those who have lactose sensitivities.  The gravy from the braising liquid is delicious over rice or mashed potatoes.  You can either leave the milk curds as is or blend it up into a smoother sauce.  Tasty either way.  The acid from the milk and slow braising makes the pork loin fork tender.

Goat Milk-Braised Pork Loin
1 lb pork loin
1 1/2 cup goat milk
1 tbsp avocado oil (or any cooking oil)
salt & pepper
small pot with lid, wide enough to fit pork loin

Lightly season the pork loin with salt and pepper.  Coat bottom of pot with oil.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Sear the pork loin on all sides until light golden brown.  
Add goat milk.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a gentle simmer and cover.  Allow to simmer for  2 hours.  Turning the pork loin every 30 minutes.

The braising liquid should have a golden brown tint.  Milk curds would have formed.
Carefully transfer the pork loin onto a serving platter and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Optional step: Allow the braising liquid to cool enough to blend.  Unless you are using a handheld blender, hot liquid will expand in your blender and you'll have a gravy explosion coming out of your blender.  Pulse 4-5 times in a blender or until smooth.

Pour the gravy into a gravy boat or small bowl with a spoon.

Slice the pork loin against the grain into 1 inch thick slices.  Serve with the gravy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fresh Lychee

One of the joys in life that makes the end of summer a little more bearable is fresh lychees.  This tropical fruit reminds me that I love fresh fruit.  
I saw some on sale for $0.99/lb and grabbed up a bundle for myself.  I'm sure that there are a myriad of fresh lychee recipes out there, but I love just peeling and eating.  There's never any leftover after one sitting.
They have a thin, leathery, pink skin that's fairly easy to peel off.  There's usually a little stub of a stem left.  Pull that off and some of the skin should come off with it.  Or just pierce the skin with your nails.  There is a brown seed in the center that is usually about a quarter the size of the whole fruit.  Peel off the rest and enjoy the slightly translucent white flesh. 
It taste like skinless grape.  Only sweeter.  It tastes like summer.
Peeled lychee

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna Rollatini

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna Rollatini baked after frozen

I love dishes with white sauce and lots of ricotta.  I will opt for the often vegetarian white pizzas or lasagna dishes, ignoring my carnivorous bloodlust for animal protein in exchange for the delectable combination of  ricotta, cream and mushrooms.  Sometimes these dishes include chicken.  I do not find that it does anything to enhance the overall flavor or texture of the dish.  In fact, I prefer not having the addition of the usually dried out chicken pieces.  I'll order a side of wings or something to satisfy my need for meat.  Or preferably add a fried egg to whatever white pizza or pasta dish (I call that reason for leftovers).
Rollatini requires a bit more effort, but I find that it is much easier to serve.  My lasagna slices always fall apart when I scoop them onto a plate.  Can't have sloppily plated food, now can we?
However, if you are not in the habit of photographing your food, you can just use this recipe to build a regular lasagna.
This recipe can be divided into smaller portion sizes and freezes beautifully.

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna Rollatini
9 oz dried lasagna noodles
2 lbs spinach leaves, lightly chopped
2 lbs white button or crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp butter
Avocado oil (or any cooking oil)
2 cups heavy cream
1 lb mozzarella
1 16 oz tub ricotta
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp dried tarragon (double if fresh)

Cook the lasagna noodles in boiling salted water for time specified on package.  Strain and lay flat to cool once cooked.
While lasagna noodles are cooking, shred the mozzarella with a grater.  Divide into 2 Set aside.
Lightly blanch the spinach leaves by dunking them in boiling water for a minute and then quickly straining.  Set aside to cool.
Add just enough oil to a large and heavy sauce pan to cover the bottom.  Heat over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add sliced mushrooms and spread evenly.  Do not disturb the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated and browned on one side.  Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.  Place mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.  Do not clean the pan.
In the same pan that you cooked the mushrooms, add butter and onions.  Cook over medium heat until translucent, stirring occasionally.  Add heavy cream to the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the cream coats the back of a metal spoon.  Add 2 tbsp of the browned mushroom to the cream sauce.
Mix ricotta, tarragon (rub the tarragon between your palms to release the aroma) and beaten egg together until well combined.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a 9x13 inch baking dish, spread a thin layer of the mushroom cream sauce evenly on the bottom.
On a flat surface, lay out one sheet of lasagna noodle.  Spread an even layer (doesn't have to be too thick) of each in the following order:
  • ricotta mixture 
  • shredded mozzarella (from first half of mozzarella)
  • browned mushrooms
  • blanched spinach
Carefully roll up the noodle and place in the baking dish.
Repeat with rest of lasagna noodles.  Evenly sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over the top of the stuffed noodles.  Spoon the rest of the cream sauce over the top of the dish.*  Cover loosely with foil.  Bake for about 40 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is browned at the edges.

*At this point, you can wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap and again with a layer of foil to freeze for up to 3 months.  To bake from frozen, remove the plastic wrap and loosely cover top of dish with foil.  Bake in a preheated to 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.