Monthly Archives: September 2009

Veal Marengo

Veal Marengo, from the oven

Veal Marengo, from the oven

As the days are now getting shorter and cooler, thick delicious stews are more to my taste than lighter fare. I decided to give Julia Child’s Veal Marengo a try. I didn’t have mushrooms and I was a bit to lazy to go out after them. But I did have veal, onions, carrots, celery, dry vermouth and, now my favorite, albeit hefty cooking implement, the Cuisinart enameled casserole. Oh yes, I forgot, the canned tomatoes. When Julia was writing “Mastering The Art,…” canned tomatoes, not paste or sauce, usually came two ways, whole or stewed. Then diced tomatoes were introduced, then diced tomatoes with seasoning. I try to keep all varieties on hand, but occasionally I find I only have one or the other on hand. Tonight, I had a choice, basil and garlic or green chilies. I opted for the basil and garlic. Yes, she does list fresh tomatoes as a first choice and, yes, I had a some fresh tomatoes, did I mention about the lazy? But, I really wanted to find out how this dish fares, should I be stuck indoors with only canned goods, long keeping veggies, the carrot and the onion, and frozen meat and wanted an option that didn’t involve the words “beanie-spammie”. Did they really eat that?
One more bit of laziness, I skipped the brown the veal part, sort of. I decided to saute the onions first, toss the veal and flour in a plastic bag, then brown them with the onions. The only problem was the lack of space, so I had to take a few pieces of veal to another pan and brown them there. I used the vermouth to deglaze that pan, pouring the whole lot into the 97 pound enameled cast iron pot. Well, it doesn’t really weigh quite that much, just almost.
I popped the whole lot into the oven at 325 for 1 hour and half-ish. I ran a little late on starting the gemelli pasta over which to serve it. No troubles, that pot keeps anything hot. So it sat, happily on the stove, while the pasta cooked. You may wish to serve this with boiled potatoes, which is traditional, but it is exceptionally good over pasta.

Here are the stats:
2 T Olive oil (+2 T Olive oil if veal browned in a separate pan)
1 medium onion, small dice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp tarragon
2 packages of veal, 1 of stew meat, one of bones for stewing, about 3.5 or so pounds
1 lb firm red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
= or =
1 can diced tomatoes, may use basil and garlic seasoned
2 cloves mashed garlic ( omit if using garlic seasoned tomatoes)
Orange Zest or 3 inch strip of orange peel with no! pith!
2 cups vermouth
2 T flour, I’m pretty generous here, I’m sure they were heaping and I didn’t use a measuring spoon, but a serving spoon.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust or remove racks as necessary.

Heat olive oil in casserole, on medium high. If you cook veal separately from the onions, you will need the extra olive oil for that pan.
Julia says to dry then brown the veal, then remove the veal, then cook the onions, add back the veal, toss with flour. This is great, provided you have the patience and energy to do it this way. I got lazy again, so I started the onions in the casserole, floured the veal in a big ziplock bag, browned some of the floured veal in the extra pan and some in the casserole. Since I emptied the bag of floured veal into the casserole I was assured of some thickening flour being in the bottom of the pan.

Once the veal and the flour are lightly browned add the wine, tomatoes, tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper, and orange zest. Pop on the lid, place in the bottom third of preheated 325 degree oven to simmer for the aforementioned 1 hour and a quarter or half-ish.

Even with all the short cuts that I made, this was an exceptional dish. My only wish is that we’d had some crusty french bread on hand to accompany it.

Bon Appetit!

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Tools – Part 1 – Knives

A motley crew

A motley crew

How does one pick a quality knife that will last? What kinds of knives are most useful? How many knives do you need?  How do you care for knives? What is the best way to store knives? How do you maintain a sharp edge?

I have to admit to owning what seems to be a drawerful of knives. I have them for three reasons, one is that knife sets were a popular gift when Mr. Lane and I were married, so we received a couple of them. The other is laziness, I despise needing a knife when all variations are in the sink, with raw chicken on them, when I need to cut the next thing. I know, mis-en-place, start with vegetables, etc. first, but I rarely do. The third thing is a bit of OCD, pack-ratism. My parents were depression era, never wanting to be faced with having to do without, they hung on to things when a replacement was bought. When I went on the prowl for the knives I have, not all of those knives are in one drawer, I found something of a surprise. I had removed 3 older knives to a drawer in the pantry, thinking to send them off to charity if found that I genuinely did not need them. Truly, I don’t 5 chef’s knives, this is not the surprise. First let’s start with what makes a good, no a great knife.

High-carbon no-stain vs. Stainless Steel
Knives are made of steel. Carbon steel is easy to sharpen, but, corrodes and stains and pits. Agents are added to prevent corrosion, thus creating an alloy. To make  stainless steel, chromium must be added. Other metals may be added, most commonly nickel. Because of the addition of chromium, stainless steel knives are difficult to sharpen. To avoid corrosion and for ease of sharpening, good quality knives are usually made of high-carbon no-stain steel. 
Forging vs. Stamping
The blade of a knife may be either forged or stamped. Forging is done either by hand or by machine, using an air hammer. Forging work-hardens the steel, making it tougher and less brittle. Blades that are stamped are just that, there is no hardening, the blade is just cut out with a stamp. Stamped knives are thin and don’t hold sharpening for long.
Balance
Knives should be balanced and neither blade nor handle heavy. That is, if you place your finger at the hilt, the knife should just sit on your finger, tipping neither toward the blade nor toward the handle. Forged knives are balanced, stamped knives are usually not.
Tang
The tang is the part of the knife that you grip. It is enclosed in the handle. A full tang is as long as the handle, which is held on by three rivets. If you see the metal stopping before the end of the handle, that is a partial tang, which is more likely to break.

That, in a nutshell, is what makes a high quality knife: hand or machine forged high-carbon no-stain steel and a knife constructed so that it is balanced with a handle that won’t break apart while being used and an edge that doesn’t need constant sharpening.

Now, for the surprise. In amongst my knives was an old steak knife my mother gave me when I had my first apartment; it was made in Sheffield, England. Another surprise is that one of the knives set aside to go to charity apparently is collectible, having been made by the Russell knife company. Lastly, one of the “charity” knives will go there. It is stainless steel and will be difficult to sharpen. The vote is still out on the final potential charity knife, which is apparently also fast on it’s way to becoming vintage. As for all those recent purchases, well they may move to the top of the replacement list. I am going to consider buying this sharpener. Though my V sharpener is quite fine, especially for the sharpening challenged.

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In search of Veal

A massive cattle hunt occurred last evening, but alas, there seems to be no Veal available, yet. So, last night’s dinner was eaten at a restaurant. However, this afforded Mr. Lane and I time to peruse the stores. Again, he turned me loose in TJMaxx while he went to Home Depot. Last time, I scored a le Creuset oval baking dish. This time, there was no such cookware to be found. However, in place of the non-brand-name enameled dutch oven that I found last week, was Cuisinart enameled cookware. I picked up a 5 qt dutch oven for less than the price of a Lodge.
Mr. Lane is concerned that we don’t have room for the pot. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I passed on buying the oval dutch oven, too. However, once the pot begins to produce wonderful meals, or rather Mrs. Lane produces wonderful meals in it, he will come around and be convinced that we need to find a place for it.

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