Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ropa Vieja with Capers



This classic Cuban beef stew is called ropa vieja—"old clothes"—because the juicy beef is shredded like rags. The version here is the ideal recipe for a lazy Sunday afternoon: It is long-simmered and makes enough for two meals. On Sunday night, serve the meat with rice and beans. Later in the week, reheat it gently in a large pot, covered, for 15 minutes, then wrap it in warm tortillas with avocado slices, chopped red onion, hot sauce and cilantro and add a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

To drink, try a Barbera from the Piedmont region of Italy. Its wonderful acidity will blend with the stew's acidic tomatoes, so the wine will end up tasting smoother, rounder and richer. A graceful, high-acid version, such as the 2001 Prunotto Fiulot Barbera d'Asti, is a good bet here.

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds flank steak, cut with the grain into 6 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 medium red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 medium green bell peppers, thinly sliced
14 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1/3 cup)
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
One 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes in puree, drained and coarsely chopped (4 cups)
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed

1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until shimmering. Blot the flank steak dry with paper towels and season it generously with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, brown the meat over high heat, about 10 minutes. Transfer the browned steak to a plate and repeat with the remaining meat. Return all of the meat to the casserole. Add the water and 1 bay leaf; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the meat is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2. Transfer the stewed meat to a large bowl and cover with aluminum foil; reserve 3 cups of the cooking liquid. Discard the bay leaf.

3. In the same casserole, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the onions and red and green bell peppers to the casserole and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

4. Lay the cloves, cinnamon and the remaining bay leaf on a square of cheesecloth. Gather the edges and tie them with kitchen string; add the spice bag to the casserole. Stir in the tomatoes, capers and the reserved 3 cups of cooking liquid; bring to a boil, then simmer over moderately low heat until the sauce thickens, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard the spice bag.

5. Meanwhile, using 2 forks, pull the meat into long shreds. Add the meat to the sauce and simmer over low heat until warmed through, then serve.

MAKE AHEAD The beef stew can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

SERVE WITH Steamed white rice and black or pinto beans.

--David Rosengarten

This recipe originally appeared in October 2003.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pasta Sauce I

New Italian Recipes Presents:
Homemade Italian Tomato Sauce

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed with flat of knife and sliced thinly
1/2 to 1 cup diced, fresh basil. (It's your call. We usually use close to a cup)
1/2 cup red wine. (Good enough quality to drink)
1 T turbinado (raw) sugar (or Splenda)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 28 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes.
1 t lemon juice (optional)
3 T brandy (optional)

If you have good fresh tomatoes, blanch them in boiling water until the skins are loose and wrinkled. Cool in cold water and remove skins before dicing. If you squeeze through strainer with mesh small enough to catch the seeds, the removal of the seeds will make the sauce a little less bitter. We usually don't remove the seeds. We can't tell that it makes enough difference to go to the trouble)

Sauté onions in olive oil over low heat, covered, for 10-12 minutes.

Add garlic and basil, re-cover, for another 5 minutes or so.

Uncover and add wine. Reduce by about half.

Add tomatoes and S & P and simmer for 15 minutes. You can reduce the sauce further and intensify the flavor. We like to add the brandy and lemon juice about 3-4 minutes before finishing.

If you want to turn this sauce into Neapolitan Sauce, add 10-12 sliced ripe olives, and 1 1/2 T capers just before finishing.

Fresh Italian Parsley can be added at the end if you like it.

For a nice twist, add 3-5 crushed and chopped anchovies. You talk about kicking something up a notch! Especially good in fish stew (Cioppino). Yum!!!

Write it down and star it, pupils: This tangy tomato sauce can be used virtually anytime when you would like a juiced-up alternative to a can of tomatoes called for in a recipe. It's worth the effort!

Note: You can double this easily, but adding 3-5 more cloves of garlic is not necessary unless you are a garlic hound like us. (If you can believe it, we've actually heard there are some people who do not like garlic! Hard to believe, but I guess it's true. Pity for them!) Obviously, these people are "not" Italian, even at heart!

So, make a large batch of sauce and use what you need for the recipe you are preparing, then freeze the rest in batches for future recipes. You can thaw it out in the microwave or in warm water in no time. Restaurant chefs do it all the time, DOD can vouch for that. Why not you?

Meatball Recipe

3 lbs hamburger (90% -92% Ground Sirloin is best)
1 cup chopped onion – Sauté with garlic and Olive Oil before adding to meat
3 – 4 Cloves Garlic - Sauté with onion and Olive Oil before adding to meat
1 Cup Bread Crumbs
Parmesan Cheese – mix in with bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk – mix into bread crumbs evenly. Than mix into hamburger
¼ cup Red Wine
Italian Seasonings
Basil & rosemary (optional to mood and taste)
2 – 3 eggs – mix into meatballs
Salt & Pepper

Make meatballs 1 – 1 ½ “ and place in glass cooking pan

350 (375) degrees 25 minutes, than boil in sauce 15-20 minutes

porcini mushrooms and NY Strip Steak

This makes plenty of sauce for a 1 1/2 pound hanger steak for two—and it doesn’t have to be hanger (onglet) steak at all; I’m just being de rigeur.

1/3 cup of dried porcini mushrooms,
rinsed and broken into fairly uniform pieces
1/2 cup Madeira wine
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 large shallots, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream (or creme fraiche, if you’ve got it lying around)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or less)
salt and pepper to taste

In a glass measuring cup, pour Madeira wine over dried mushrooms just to cover. Microwave on high for a minute or just until boiling. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then stir in sherry and lemon juice. Let soak for a half-hour, then remove the mushroom pieces and strain the liquid through a fine sieve to remove any grit.

After a high-heat saute of steaks in a large cast-iron pan, remove steaks and, if necessary, drain all but about 2 tablespoons of fat. Keep the steaks warm with an aluminum foil tent.

Over medium heat, carefully add the mushrooms and their marinade into the hot pan and stir vigorously for 2 minutes.

Add shallots, and stir just until they begin to color.

Off heat, stir in cream and balsamic. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Pour over steaks. Yum.

Yield: Plenty for two portions; easy to double