Tag Archives: meat

Spinach & Sausage Burgers

mean & green

green scene

Holy moly were these good! And isn’t this a sly way to sneak some serious greens into your eating scene?  Use a mix of sausage and ground beef if you like.

Ingredients for 6 small burgers

1 cup (about 200 grams) fresh spinach, blanched
9 ounces/little over ½ pound (250 grams) mild sausage
½ cup (75 grams) bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg
1 teaspoon each salt & pepper
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

Start with a large bunch of fresh spinach. Blanch the spinach (leaves only) in low-boiling water for about 1 minute. Strain and press out all the water. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, use your hands to thoroughly squeeze out all the water. You should have about 1 cup of cooked spinach. Put the spinach in a food processor with the sausage and the garlic and pulse on high for 10 seconds or so. Add the bread crumbs, egg, salt and pepper and pulse until you have a meat-loaf-like mixture. Form 6 balls and press them into burger shapes. Heat the olive oil in a pan and when hot add the burgers. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side. These could go on a grill, too. Serve on a simple spinach salad (optional).

Fricandò all’Ivrea: Ugly Never Tasted So Good

ugly but good

well hello, gorgeous!

Stews are not, as a rule, photogenic. This recipe from Carol Field’s Celebrating Italy* for fricandò all’Ivrea, however, is too good to hide away in a corner. So look away if you must, but believe me this ‘meat stew in the style of Ivrea,’ a town in Piedmont close to the border with Valle d’Aosta, will win you over by the bite.

There’s a neat back-story to fricandò. Field reminds us of the French-Italian interplay coloring so many things piemontese, referencing two legends on the dish’s origins. According to the first, fricandò was introduced to the French by Caterina de’ Medici. Personally, I find Cate Medici’s purported influence on French culinary concerns to be a touch exaggerated, yet I will concede it is certainly possible. A competing theory has Napoleon’s cook bringing the recipe from France to his post-wars restaurant in Milan—a tale that intrigues to be sure but seems just as difficult to corroborate (Google was no help at all). Whomever we credit, the linguistic likeness of the Italian fricandò and the French fricandeau (veal larded in prosciutto or other pork fat then roasted and glazed in its juices) would suggest we’re dealing with a braise-and-stew cooking method that has long possessed broad appeal to Northern Italians and French alike.

Field’s recipe is reprinted here almost word for word. I reduced the overall portions by about a third, but did not alter the called-for amounts of the cooking fats, vinegar, and tomato paste, as I was striving for a smaller overall portion of stew without changing too much the characteristics of the sauce. This was a bit of a risk, I admit, but it worked out well. If you are cooking for 3 to 4 people rather than 6, follow my parenthetical notes on amounts. Do keep in mind though that Field’s comment ‘this dish tastes even better the next day’ is absolutely true.  If you end up with leftovers you won’t regret it, so if you want to make a really big pot of stew, follow Field’s indications for 6 people.

Ingredients for 6 people

2 ½ Tbls (about 40 grams) butter
3 carrots, finely chopped (I used 2)
2 onions, finely chopped (I used 1)
2 celery stalks, finely chopped (I used 1)
4 Tbls olive oil
3 mild Italian sausages (I used 2)
3 pounds (a little less than 1 ½  kilograms) baby-back ribs, cut into 2-rib sections (I used about 2 pounds of ribs)
6 cloves (I used 4)
2 bay leaves
2 ½  Tbls red wine vinegar
2 Tbls tomato paste
water
salt & pepper
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (I used 3)

Instructions

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot and add the chopped carrot, onion and celery. Sauté until soft and transfer to a plate or bowl. Line the bottom of the pot with the olive oil and add the ribs and the sausages (prick them a few times first) and brown on all sides. Here Fields says to now drain off the fat, an indication I chose to ignore and would encourage you to do likewise. Add the cloves, bay leaves, and vinegar and turn the heat up high and let the liquid bubble until it evaporates. In the meantime dissolve the tomato paste in 1 ¾ cups water (I used 1 ¼) and add to the pot when the vinegar has mostly evaporated. Return the vegetables to the pot, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over medium-low flame for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Turn the meat occasionally. If it gets dry add a bit of water. Add the potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes, turning them frequently so they absorb flavor.

For my version the total cooking time was 2 hours: 1 ½ hours for the meat then an additional 30 minutes after adding the potato.

culture bites

Fricassee, a similar dish typically made with chicken and a white sauce, and fricandò/fricandeau have a common word root in the French frire, to fry. Fricassee comes from frire + casser, to break or cut up (in pieces); while fricandeau derives from the formation frire + casserande/viande (meat) + the suffix eau. The English/French word fracas and the Italian fracasso, synonymous with skirmish/skuffle/uproar/crash, derive half their root from their respective language’s same-meaning verb—again casser in French, and fracassare in Italian, from the Latin quasser. Fricasso ‘the little skirmisher’ is one of many aliases of the ‘Capitano’ stock character in commedia dell’arte.

If Ivrea sounds familiar it’s probably because you’ve seen footage or heard mention of the yearly Battle of the Oranges, a bizarre and savage old festival the town puts on every Carnevale season.

*The complete title of Field’s book is Celebrating Italy: The Tastes and Traditions of Italy as Revealed Through its Feasts, Festivals, and Sumptuous Foods 

Rosemary Skewers

skewer fun!

skewer fun!

If you’ve got a backyard rosemary plant, try these pretty, aromatic rosemary skewers in place of those run-of-the-mill steel or wooden varieties. Cut several long, sturdy stems and strip them of their green parts starting at the cut end, leaving a couple inches of green at the tip. Check for dust or little creatures, but do not wash them with water. Using a paring knife, carefully trim the woody end into a sharp point. Now start skewering chunks of sausage, chicken, peppers, onion, garlic, zucchini. One caveat: pay extra attention to these guys on the grill. Turn them carefully and keep the green tips away from flames.

Chicken Saltimbocca

'jump in the mouth!'

‘jump in the mouth!’

The Roman classic with veal is delicious and deserving of its quirky name, yet I suspect that for most of us chicken is a more common meat choice than veal. If that’s true for you, try this easy chicken version. I won’t say it exceeds saltimbocca alla romana, but it sure gives it a run for its money.

Ingredients

1 to 2 chicken breast fillets per person, tenderized
1/2  to 1 full slice of prosciutto crudo per chicken fillet
1 large fresh sage leaf per chicken fillet
flour
olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

Rinse (or not) your chicken pieces, tenderize them with a cleaver (moderately, just a once-over). Flour both sides of each piece of chicken, then place a slice of prosciutto on each fillet followed by a sage leaf on top of that. Secure to the chicken with a tooth pick. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is super hot, place the chicken pieces in the pan with the sage leaf side facing up. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on this side. Then gently flip the pieces over. Add the white wine now and let this side cook for about 3 minutes or until the prosciutto and sage start get a crunchy but the chicken is not overdone. Transfer them to plates, drizzle with some of the pan juice, and dust with a bit of fresh ground pepper. Salt to taste, keeping in mind the prosciutto could be rather salty already.

Sausage-Stuffed Peppers: Messy & Marvelous

lookin' good on the plate

lookin’ good on the plate

I hadn’t planned to blog about these stuffed peppers. The recipe was too improvised, born more of necessity than imagination, given the scarcity of ingredients in my fridge that day: a few sausage links, some peppers, eggs, the ever-present selection of cheeses, and a bag of wilting greens  destined for the compost bucket. In the middle of chopping, right as I began to suspect the peppers would turn out really good, I thought, Why hadn’t I documented better?  Maintained some order in my surroundings? Every surface of my kitchen was entirely un-photogenic. What’s more, the indoor light wasn’t great, and just that morning I’d waged the first of many battles to come with my unrelenting springtime mini-enemy, The Ant. Several tiny corpses were no doubt still strewn about the corner-realms. Not exactly an enticing portrait of food preparation. But what the heck. Cooking is messy, everyone knows. And a mess shouldn’t stop one from sharing—if I say so myself—a tasty recipe like this one!

Ingredients

4 medium bell peppers, mixed colors if you like
3 or 4 sausage links
1 white onion
½ cup bread crumbs
1 egg
olive oil
garlic powder
salt & pepper
mozzarella or parmigiano cheese

Instructions

Heat the oven to 180° C / 350° F

Slice the peppers in thirds so you have two cup-like ends to stuff that will, ideally, remain upright in the baking pan. Remove the seeds and pith, set the cups aside. Chop up the middle parts of the pepper and put in a food processor. Peel and roughly chop the onion and add that to the processor. Add a pinch of salt and pulse for a about 30 seconds. You want a chunky mixture, not a sauce, but don’t worry if there’s some liquid.

Remove the sausages from their skins and break the meat into chunks into the pepper and onion mixture in the processor. Now add the egg, bread crumbs, another pinch of salt, pepper, and about 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Blend well until you have meat-loaf-like mixture.

Drizzle olive oil over the bottom of your baking dish. Use a large spoon to stuff the pepper cups with the meat mixture and place each one in the baking dish. Slice (if mozzarella) or grate (if parmesan) your cheese and sprinkle / cover each stuffed pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Roasted Guinea Fowl with Black Truffle & Orange Zest

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just out of the oven

This recipe comes courtesy of Giorgio Barchiesi, known to Italian foodies as Giorgione, whose Gambero Rosso-produced cooking program Giorgione, Orto e Cucina (‘garden and kitchen’) has garnered a large and loyal following here. Beloved by his fans for his simple, fresh dishes—mostly pasta, with sauces made from vegetables just-picked from his home garden in Umbria—Giorgione embodies the antithesis of those uber-elegant, professionally-trained chefs who, with their spotless aprons and bleached-sterile counter tops, make such a fuss over presentation. Don’t get me wrong: the artistry of cooking is relevant, to be sure. But there’s nothing more irksome than waiting for a celebrity chef to finish carving dainty lemon cups, or take ten minutes to arrange two chive sprigs, or go all O.C.D.-like while drizzling some reduction or other on a white plate.

Giorgione’s having none of it. His recipes are easy to follow, practical, and realistically presented; his ingredients are few, fresh, harmonized; and his personal style is disarmingly laid-back. Watching him lug his painstakingly cared-for veggies into his country kitchen, or drip sauce on the counter, or burn his tongue in his impatience to sample his creation, wins me over again and again. Really, who can resist a man who forages for mushrooms and sings to his chickens?

I love that Giorgione markets his persona on his own terms—he is a farmer, after all; why shouldn’t a farmer wear denim overalls on television?—yet undoubtedly he and his producers are aware of how very astutely they have tapped into the Italian fascination with anything old-worldly or peasant-like. The more modern Italy becomes, the more it seems Italians crave and cling to anything that smacks of the traditional, homespun, old-fashioned—how nonna did things, in short. The Gambero Rosso channel’s promo for ‘Orto e Cucina‘, in fact, plays on this pull between rustic and refined. Barchiesi himself brings a winning touch of self-effacement to the spot. You’ve got to watch it!

This recipe of Giorgione’s for roasted guinea fowl (faraona in Italian) got my attention immediately with its curious blend of aromas: orange zest, black truffle, some pork fat, sage and rosemary.

Ingredients

1 guinea fowl, preferably young (12 weeks and up), approximately 1-1.25 kilos (2¼ to 3 pounds)
6 or 7 black truffle slices*
A few slices of lardo di Colonnata, if you can get it (see Emiko Davies’s gorgeous post for more on Tuscan lardo). Thinly sliced pancetta will also work.
orange zest
1 orange slice
1 sage leaf
1 rosemary sprig
coarse salt
ground black pepper

Instructions

Giorgione says to clean and eviscerate the guinea fowl, leaving it whole (obviously we mere mortals will have our butcher do this).

Heat the oven to 190° C (375° F). Line a roasting pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil, enough for the sides to meet and close over the entire fowl. Place the fowl inside.

In a bowl combine the salt, pepper and orange zest (‘not too much’ zest, says Giorgione; I used about half of a large orange’s zest). Beat one slice of lardo or pancetta until it starts to break apart. Using your fingers, work the fat into the salt, pepper and zest until you have a chunky paste. With this, rub the inside of the bird’s body cavity, and leave what remains inside. Add one orange slice to the inside of the bird.

Now rub down the outside of the fowl with salt and pepper. If your truffles are whole, thinly slice one (you should have 5-7 slices, depending on the size of the truffle). Put half inside the bird. Add one sprig of rosemary and one sage leaf (Giorgione is very clear about this—only one of each). Thinly slice the rest of the lardo, and cover the outside of the fowl with these and the remaining truffle slices. Drizzle the entire bird with a bit of olive oil. Now seal up the foil and roast for about 45 minutes.

*Truffles are obviously not commonly found in the average pantry. They are an investment, a treat for special occasions, although admittedly here in Tuscany the business of truffle hunting and selling gives us an immediate advantage (for Giorgione even more so in Umbria) when it comes to cost and availability. For this recipe, I purchased a 30-gram jar of Savini brand black summer truffle slices for 17 euros. I’ve seen the same or similar jars going for 40 to 60 dollars in the U.S. While an Italian would scoff, and a Frenchman probably keel over outright, I see no reason not to try, at least once, the much less expensive Chinese varieties available in stores. Just make sure they are packed in nothing other than salt and water or oil. Avoid truffle products whose label includes ‘essence of’ or ‘natural flavoring.’

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orange zest & lardo

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sliced black truffles

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ready for the oven