Monday, December 31, 2012

Italian American Meatloaf (Polpettone)

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Christmas lunch was a success, thanks to all new recipes that I thought I will give a try. I just wanted something different for a change from the usual Filipino food that everybody prepares for the holiday season. I of course turned to Lidia for some inspiration. Her recipes always come out a success no matter how bad you are in the cooking department. A not so new thing for me, I decided to try and make her meatloaf recipe. I used to follow a friend's recipe for meatloaf but I tired of it and it was only now that I thought I'd give the meatloaf another go but with an Italian flair this time.

While making the meat mixture, I totally forgot that the meat here is sold in kilograms while in the US, the pound unit is still in use. I then ended up with two times the amount of meat that I initially needed but after a few minor changes, things worked out quite well. The meatloaf is delicious and very moist and worked quite well paired with either rice pilaf or a French bread. You can definitely cut this recipe in half if two loaves of meatloaf is just a bit too much for you.

Italian American Meatloaf - Adapted*

3 lbs ground pork
3 lbs ground beef
1 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1 cup onions, diced finely
4 tbsp garlic cloves, minced
1 cup celery stalks, diced finely
2 cup diced tomatoes, canned
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/3 cup green onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tsp salt
4-5 tbsp olive oil
4 cups country bread, diced
1 1/2 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten

1.  In a small bowl, combine the sliced country bread with the milk. Allow the 
     milk to soak into the bread. Mash with your hands until a fine mixture is 
     obtained. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Line a large baking pan (10x10 inch) and grease with the olive oil. You can 
    partition the pan into two to obtain two meatloaves. 

3. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Add the bread
    mixture and work into the meat mixture with your hands. Do not overmix.

4. Transfer meat mixture into the prepared pan and smoothen the top and 
    edges to form a uniform loaf.

5. Bake in the oven for about an hour or until the internal temperature 
    registers at 160°F. Let cool for about 15 minutes.

6. Transfer onto a large serving plate and slice. Drizzle the gravy from the 
    baking pan all over and serve some on the side as well. 

* Lidia's Italy: Italian American Meatloaf (Polpettone).

Duck Cassoulet

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I never really thought that this will be something I'll be able to tackle if it were not for my friend, Agent Macy, who demystified the myth about duck being very difficult to cook. I guess it was fate that brought this event to pass since I also saw the movie Julie and Julia on tv a few weeks back and to quote Julie when she was cooking stuffed duck: "No fear!" It was definitely no time to be fearful although the pressure was on since the main dish upon my suggestion for the dinner event was Cassoulet. To be exact, Duck Cassoulet.

I heard of Cassoulet from my French friend Cedric especially after he went to France for a conference although he is from France so to him, it was just a trip home. They may have partaken of this dish since it was brought up in conversation when they came back. I looked the dish up at that time but having no experience with cooking a duck, it was an alien concept to me. As of late though, my friends have been craving for a duck stew courtesy again of my friend Agent Macy and this gave me the courage to tackle something I've never cooked before. Thus, I'm presenting my rustic and simple version of Duck Cassoulet. With no duck confit available and after totally forgetting that it can be actually prepared ahead of time, I figured using a whole duck will be good enough for this dish. I synthesized my own version from two recipes of this dish: one is from Julia Child and the other is from Mark Bittman of the New York times. Bon Apetit! 

Duck Cassoulet

5-6 lbs whole duck, cut into smaller pieces*
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme, dried
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 cups white wine
5 tbsp tomato paste
5-6 cups beef broth
5 lbs Cervelat sausages, halved
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 14-oz cans white beans, drained
2 cups bread crumbs + tsp of Herbes de Provence
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, brown the duck skin side down in 
    2 tablespoons olive oil. Fry in batches and make sure that the skin is crisp 
    and golden brown. Flip until all sides have been browned. Set aside both 
    the browned duck and the frying pan with the rendered fat. 

2. In a deep pot over medium high heat, saute the onions and garlic in the 
    remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened. 
    Add the bay leaves and the dried herbs and saute for another minute. 

3. Add the wine and the broth and bring to a gentle boil. Return the duck 
    pieces and cook at a boil for about 5 minutes. Lower heat and bring to a 
    simmer and cover. Cook for about 2 hours or until the duck is tender. 

4. While the duck is cooking, melt the butter into the duck fat in the frying 
    pan used to brown the duck. Add the sausages and brown on all sides. Set 

5. Add the tomato paste and check for flavor. Make sure you have enough 
    broth covering the duck meat. Add water if necessary. Add the drained 
    canned beans and the sausages with the fat and cook for another 5 
    minutes. Check for flavor and remove from heat. 

6. To assemble the cassoulet, arrange a layer of the beans in a 9x13 baking 
    dish and top with the duck meat and sausages. Cover with the rest of the 
    beans and the sauce. 

7. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and top with a teaspoon of Herbes de Provence.
    Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 30 minutes. Halfway through,
    poke the toasted breadcrumbs into the cassoulet with a large spoon. If a 
    bit dry, add a little bit of water to prevent it from burning.

8. Serve with a good loaf of French bread.

* The duck was cut into smaller pieces as you would a chicken. It is a bit tougher so be ready to sweat just a tiny bit. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Beef Braised in Beer (Brasato alla Birra)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Another holiday recipe I decided to try out is Lidia's Braised Beef in Beer. The recipe is basically a three step process so it was a good choice for this holiday season where the degree of cooking is in the stratospheric level for most families. As I was the sole cook, I had to come up with recipes that were both simple and yet, delicious. The recipe actually reminds me of Beef Goulash in a way. The main difference lies in what was used to flavor this dish. My choice of beer is the local dark ale, San Miguel Cerveza Negra. 2 bottles were enough to flavor the meat during the braising process. I actually did the braising part in a pressure cooker so the cooking time was reduced to just under an hour as opposed to 3 hours. I used large chunks of beef and sliced them thinly prior to serving. It was delicious. 

Beef Braised in Beer - Adapted*

4-5 lbs beef chuck
4 oz bacon, diced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
2 large onions, diced finely
2 bottles of dark ale
flour for dredging
salt and pepper
6 cups beef broth
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp thyme, dried
4 tbsp olive oil

1. Coat the beef pieces with the flour. Meanwhile, in a large pot over 
    medium high heat, brown the bacon until it has rendered its fat and is 
    crisp. Spoon out the bacon and set aside. 

2. Tap off the excess flour and brown the beef in batches on all sides on 
    the bacon fat. Set aside. 

3. Add the olive oil and saute the garlic and onions. Season with salt and 
    pepper. Continue to cook until softened. Return the bacon pieces and the 
    thyme. Cook for another minute. 

4. Add the broth and bring it to a boil. Drop the browned meat carefully into 
    the broth and add the beer. Bring to a rolling boil and cover. Lower the 
    heat to low and continue to simmer for about 2-3 hours or until the meat 
    is tender. 

5. Once the meat is tender, add the mustard and check for flavor. Adjust 
    accordingly. Simmer for another 10 minutes. 

6. To serve, slice the meat pieces into thin slices. Fan out the meat pieces on
    a large tray and drizzle the sauce over it. Serve the remaining sauce on 
    the side. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.

* Lidia's Italy: Beef Braised in Beer (Brasato alla Bira). 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Arroz ala Cubana

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
One of the few things I loved eating as a college student was this Cuban-inspired dish. The flavors have been adapted and Filipinized but the fact that it is easy to make and quite tasty makes it a favorite of hungry young students like I was once a very long time ago. It might seem very basic considering that it is traditionally served with steamed white rice together with fried eggs and Saba bananas (or plantains) but that is part of its appeal. Put together, the flavors just makes sense. You might mistake it for a breakfast meal but it actually makes a wonderful meal any time of the day. When you are hungry and on a budget, this is definitely the meal for you. 

Arroz ala Cubana

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 dried bay leaves
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup raisins
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp ground annatto seeds (or smoked paprika)
5 tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp chopped parsley

3-4 Saba or 2 large ripe plantains

1. In a small pan, heat 3 tbsp oil over low heat and add the annatto seeds. 
    Heat until the oil turns orange red. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium high heat. Add 
    the garlic and onions and season with salt and pepper and saute until 
    softened. Add the bay leaves and cook until aromatic.

3. Add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned. 
    Add the annatto oil and mix well. 

4. Add the potatoes and carrots and the beef broth. Bring to a boil and cover 
    until the vegetables are tender but firm. Lower the heat to medium.

5. Add the tomato paste and raisins and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add 
    the peas and cook until bright green. Check for flavor and adjust 
    accordingly. Garnish with the copped parsley.

6. Serve the dish with steamed rice and fried bananas and eggs.