Archive for the ‘Meat_Poultry_Fish’ Category

Pounding meats in a contained, mess-free way

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

This technique is such a life saver.  Have you ever come across a recipe that asks you to pound out a chicken breast or another cut of meat?  It is an important step and is done to either help tenderize a piece of meat or done to even out pieces that might be thicker at one end, which would be the case for chicken breasts.  Pounding with a mallet takes whatever piece of meat and sort of levels it throughout.


Pounding itself is not hard to do but it’s one of tasks that sends you to shower immediately afterwards because it is a bit messy and unsanitary.  As you pound, little bits of meat go flying in all directions and occassionally you will feel little bits hit your face and body.  Yuck!  A lot of cooks with cover the meat with plastic film and then pound but I have found that the film is not heavy enough to withstand the pounding and it gets torn to shreds which can sometimes get worked into the meat.


So what works really well are heavy duty ziploc bags.  Just slip the piece of meat that you are wanting to pound inside the bag and and you benefit in three ways; 1) You keep all the juice and bits that have a tendency to scatter, inside the bag  2) the heavy plastic can take quite a beating and will not tear during the pounding and 3) if the bag is of a high enough quality you can throw all your pieces of meat inside and then cover them with a marinade and use the bag as the marinading container.  It’s awesome!

Individual meat loaves

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Making meatloaf might seem like an underachievement for some cooks.  If you feel that way consider that many upscale restaurants have very creative variations on the dish.  Changing the ground meats that are used and altering seasonings can turn a predictable food into something quite interesting.  Another way of giving it a special touch is to bake the meat mixture in individual servings. 


One way of doing that is by pressing the meat into muffin tins.  No need to grease the tins.  The larger tins for a full portion and the mini tins for lighter portions, even appetizers.  If you are baking in the tins you will want to remove the portions and set on a serving platter and take to the table.


If you happen to have individual ramekins those can be served and eaten from the container itself.


The individual portions bake rather quickly, sometimes as little as 20 or 30 minutes.  The ones pictured baked for about 20 minutes. 


After 20 minutes I added a sweet glaze and then they were returned to the oven for another 10 minutes to sort of set the glaze. 

If you do not have muffin tins or ramekins then simply take a handful of the meat mixture and work it into a  football shape or oblong. 


Whether you are shaping by hand or pressing meat into a mold, always try and make them uniform as possible so they cook at the same rate.

These individual size portions freeze beautifully.  Simply bake, cool and then place into airtight containers or heavy duty freezer bags.  They will last for about three months.

Making quick work of browning meat and onions

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

How often has a recipe asked you to brown hamburger and onions?  It happens every time you make spaghetti sauce and any number of casseroles.  So you take out your frying pan, add your ground meat and onion, grab the spatula and start the arduous process of breaking the meat into small bits.  It’s not a pleasant task.   But there is a tool that will make such quick work of that job.

Do you recognize the tool in the picture?  It is actually a potato masher.  The metal face is designed in sort of a rounded zig zag pattern and it truly is the perfect configuration for breaking all ground meats into small even pieces.  You can break down beef, sausage, lamb, chicken, pork…The meat pictured in this post is ground turkey (that’s why it’s so light in color).

I might just mention another quick thing.  If you forgot to thaw your meat prior to cooking and are starting with ground meat that is partially frozen or completely frozen take your slab of meat, put it in the frying pan you intend to use, cover it, set it over low heat and allow it to steam for several minutes.  During that time the meat will thaw and when it’s half way there take your potato masher and start breaking it up.  The pieces will be larger at first but as they continue to thaw under cover they will break down nicely.

Casserole favorite – lamb pastitsio

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010


I rarely advocate a particular recipe but for this post I’m making an exception.   This is a recipe that I would periodically use at the restaurant and that I serve every once in a while to the family.  Everyone eats it, even my grandchildren.  It’s made with ground lamb which nobody seems to mind but you could certainly substitute ground beef and probably even ground pork, turkey or chicken.  This is a Greek dish, reminiscent of lasagne, made with four primary components: penne pasta, a meat sauce, a white sauce and lots of cheese.  It’s the perfect casserole to make ahead, freeze uncooked and then pull when a hearty dinner is needed.  Here’s it is:


For the meat sauce:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 pound ground lamb (or another ground meat, but the lamb is awesome!)

16 ounces chopped canned tomatoes, plus half a can of water

1/2 cup red wine or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more)

Saute onions and garlic in butter and then add ground meat and break down into small pieces.  Add tomatoes – pepper and allow to simmer until quite thick. 


For pasta:

1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente

4 whole eggs, beaten to blend with a fork

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Cook pasta in one gallon of salted water till barely tender.  It will cook further in the oven so be careful not to overcook it now.  When pasta is done, drain and add eggs and melted butter.  Stir well and set aside. 


For the white sauce (pictured in the forefront):

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

4 cups milk (not skim)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Melt butter is medium saucepan and add flour whisking until smooth.  Add milk, salt and nutmeg and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.  Allow to simmer for one or two minutes, remove from heat and add parmesan.


For the cheese:

20 ounces fontina cheese, grated (can use part swiss, jack, mozarella or combination but the fontina is the best!)


To assemble:

Grease a 9×13 pan.  Spread with 1/2 of the pasta mixture. 


Cover evenly with the thickened meat sauce. 


Sprinkle with half of the grated cheese,


the remaining pasta…


and then pour the white sauce evenly over all.  Use all the white sauce.  The pan will be full. 


Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Set pan on a larger baking sheet (to catch any spills)…


 and take to a preheated 350 oven until top is golden and edges are bubbling.  Serve with green Greek salad, hummus and pita and you’ll have a delightful meal and unique flavors that will appeal to every palate.  Great for unexpected company and great to make ahead and freeze (baked or unbaked).  Serves 10-12.

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