Avgolemeno Soup with Mini-Meatballs


After a few weeks of holiday food, I feel ready for a detox. I want light food, but since the weather remains kind of chilly, I want that “something light” to still be warm and nourishing.

This avgolemeno soup with mini-meatballs fits the bill perfectly. The broth is bright and punchy from the lemon. The texture is silky smooth from the egg yolks and the blended rice. The toothsome meatballs are delightfully dill-scented. And the soup is also a cinch to make — which feels refreshing after all those complex holiday recipes.

This recipe is adapted from one by Grace Parisi that appeared in Food and Wine.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of long grain white rice

3 cups of water

Salt

1 pound of very lean ground beef

Freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup of white onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of fresh dill, finely chopped

All-purpose flour

5 cups of chicken broth

2 large egg yolks

1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice

Special equipment:

A hand-held immersion blender

How to prepare:

1. In a large Dutch oven, cover the rice with 3 cups of water. Season with salt. Bring everything up to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the rice until it is tender — about 15 minutes.

2. In the meanwhile, use your hands to combine the ground beef with the onion, the parsley, and the dill. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs.

3. When the rice is done, drain the grains in a colander. Return the Dutch oven to the stove top. Heat the chicken broth in it over medium-high heat. When the broth starts to simmer, lower the heat to medium-low. Add the lemon juice to the chicken broth.

4. In a separate bowl, temper the egg yolks by whisking them together with a ladleful of hot broth. Whisk the tempered yolks into the rest of the chicken broth. Using a hand-held immersion blender, blend about half of the drained rice into the broth until the soup is smooth and frothy. Adjust the seasoning.

5. Raise the heat so that the soup comes back up to a simmer. Carefully skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

6. Dust the meatballs with flour. Knock off any excess flour before adding them to the soup. Simmer the meatballs until they are cooked through, about 8 minutes or so. You may need to continue to skim the surface while the meatballs cook. When the meatballs are done, add the remaining rice to the soup. Adjust the seasoning again.

Serve with sprigs of dill.

Keema Beef Curry


It is officially cold.

Really cold today. Not as cold as yesterday night (which was the coldest day of the season so far), but still very nose-nippy outside.

It is also officially dark at 4:30pm.

When the weather takes a sharp turn like this, I often start to crave something spicy and bright. This recipe is from the current issue of Food and Wine, and suits my tastes and my mood perfectly. The spices are so warming; they make me dream of locales where the sun shines all the time. The coconut milk makes the curry smooth and creamy, and the spritz of lemon juice makes the whole dish sparkle.

Another great thing about this recipe? It’s something new and delicious to make with ground beef that isn’t hamburger, meatloaf, or meatballs!

Adapted by Grace Parisi from the amazing Julie Sahni, this recipe strangely seems to have not been uploaded to the magazine’s website yet. I have basically kept the recipe as published. However, I have reduced the amount a liquid a bit so it isn’t so watery (you might choose to reduce it even more). Even though Parisi’s recipe doesn’t call for lemons, a hit of acid just seems like such a natural addition to make the flavors pop.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of canola oil

1 pound of lean ground beef

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of ginger, finely grated

2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 1/2 tablespoons of Madras curry powder

Salt and pepper

1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 cup of chicken stock

1 14-ounce can of unsweetened coconut milk

1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups of frozen baby peas

Fresh cilantro

Lemon wedges

How to prepare:

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the ground beef. As it cooks, use the edge of your wooden spoon to break up any lumps. Continue to brown the meat until there is no longer any pink, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the onion, the ginger, the garlic, and the curry powder. Season everything with salt and pepper. Continue to cook the meat mixture until the onions begin to soften and become translucent, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the potato, the stock, the coconut milk, and the diced tomatoes and their juices. Stir everything to combine. Bring the everything to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook the curry until the sauce has thickened, and the potatoes are tender.

4. Using the back of your wooden spoon, lightly crush some of the potatoes against the side of the casserole. Adjust the seasoning. Add the peas, and continue to simmer the curry until they are heated through. Adjust the seasoning for a final time.

Top the beef keema with cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve with either basmati rice or naan.

Mini All-Beef Corn Dogs

Ever since we got all-beef hot dogs in our CSA shares, I have been wanting to make corn dogs. Maybe it was all this talk in late August and the beginning of September of state fairs. As we all know, “state fair” is a euphemism for “fried food on a stick” — just about the best two things ever combined.

If I had any reason to go to Iowa, it would be for the Iowa State Fair. The Iowa State Fair (tagline, “Nothing Compares”) website features a ticking count-down to the next fair (August 9-19, 2012). Whoa! More importantly, the fair historically features over 200 food vendors, most of which are selling something fatty and super-calorific. And if the food alone doesn’t induce visions of cardiac arrest, there is always, of course, the famous butter cow sculpture — which I imagine is awe-inspiring. The viewing experience is likely enhanced by checking out the sculpture while consuming fried butter on a stick. In all honesty, I couldn’t dream of anything better to eat when taking in a life-sized representation of of cow rendered in its own product (this all seems very un-kosher . . .).

The best part about the Iowa State Fair website is the food page, which features an entire directory devoted to foods on a stick, most of which are fried.

So in honor and appreciation of all things State Fair, I give you DIY mini-corn dogs, CSA-style. Probably the best corn dogs out there for you. No, seriously! These hot dogs are made from grass-fed beef and are packed with omega-3’s!

Ingredients:

1 cup of yellow corn meal

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 of baking soda

1/2 of cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

1 1/2 cups of milk (has anyone every tried beer?)

1 pack of all-beef hot dogs (we get 8 in a pack from the CSA)

8 six-inch wooden skewers

1 liter of any kind of oil that you can use for deep-fat frying (peanut, canola, etc.)

Good coarse-grain mustard

How to prepare:

1. In a large bowl, deep enough to dip the skewered dogs in easily, combine the cornmeal, the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the cayenne pepper. You can tinker with the spices if you like, substituting maybe paprika for cayenne, or maybe adding some Old Bay. Because I just kind of want the ultimate plain corn dog experience, I keep the flavorings to a minimal. Why distract yourself from the pure, unadulterated taste of fried?

2. Add the milk and stir it in gently with a fork. The batter should be thick and lumpy —like pancake batter. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes while you prep the hot dogs.

3. Cut each hot dog and each skewer in half. For the skewers, I tried breaking them in half, but then I didn’t like the look of the ragged ends that my sorry stick-snapping skills left. So I used a pair of wire cutters. I know. So food-safe! But they did the job!

Insert a skewer about a third to halfway through the end of each hot dog-half.

4. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. It might take a while for the oil to get up to the right temperature. You don’t want the oil to smoke, but you want it to be nice and hot. You can check the oil temperature with a thermometer (it should register between 350-375°), or you can just do what I did and drop a little bit of the batter into the oil to check. If it starts frying up beautifully, your oil is at the right temperature. Just be careful to not let your oil burn. If you are lucky enough to own a deep fat fryer, this is even easier.

5. Holding the stick, dip each skewered dog into the batter. The batter should be thick enough to coat each dog evenly, but not so thick as to be stodgy. If it seems too thick, you can thin it out with just a little more milk. Carefully drop the corn dogs — sticks and all — into the boiling oil. Be careful not to overcrowd them or the oil’s temperature will drop, and your corn dogs will come out greasy instead of crispy. I fried no more than four or five at a time.

6. Line a colander with paper towels. Let the corn dogs fry until they are nice and golden. Using a pair of tongs, remove each dog by the stick when it is done. Let them drain upright in the colander.

7. Serve them with some good mustard, or anything else you like with your corn dogs like ketchup, relish, Cheez-Whiz . . .

Note:

Now that you are done frying, what the heck do you do with all this oil? Well, according to Cook’s Illustrated, you can reuse it without it tasting stale or rancid as long as you freeze it. Let the oil cool down completely. Carefully strain it into a clean, dry bottle (I use an empty plastic bottle, or a wine bottle). To strain, I pour the oil through a coffee filter. Freeze. Before reusing, be sure to smell or taste it. If it smells “fishy,” or tastes off, toss it. When in doubt, throw it out!

Meat Week NYC Starts Today!

Organized by our friends over at Jimmy’s 43, Meat Week NYC kicks off today with a Meat and Cocktails party at City Winery. General tickets are $45, but include lots of goodies like duck liver-beef brisket boudin balls and beer, and crispy pan seared polenta crostini topped with braised buffalo short ribs and Cabernet Franc. A complete list of nibblies and drinks can be had here.

There are also tons of other great events going on throughout the week, should tonight not work out for you.

Go to Meat Week NYC’s official site for more information.

I’ll be at the event tonight, as well as at the Sustainable Meat Panel and the Film Screening at Jimmy’s to represent High Point Farms!

So that means you should definitely come out 🙂

Sign-up for High Point Farms Winter CSA!

High Point Farms still has space for more members! Sign up today for their Winter CSA, beginning December 14 and running until February 22.

This is a fantastic opportunity to plan ahead for delicious dishes for the holidays, Valentine’s Day (nothing says lovin’ like red meat), and the Superbowl (mini-meatballs? nachos? chili?).

Plus, you get that warm, wonderful feeling knowing that you are supporting sustainable local farming and Earth-friendly agricultural practices!

This season there are three pick-up locations:

In the East Village:

Jimmy’s 43 (43 E. 7th Street between Second and Third Avenues)

In Williamsburg: 

CrossFit Virtuosity Williamsburg (221 North 8th St, between Driggs and Roebling)

In Fort Greene:

Five Spot Soul Food (459 Myrtle Ave)

The pick-up dates for this distribution cycle are:

• December 14
• December 28
• January 11
• January 25
• February 8
• February 22

Pick-up time:

4:30PM to 7:00 PM, every other Wednesday

Two share options are available:

• Beef, chicken, and pork
• Beef and chicken

There are also absolutely amazing eggs and cheese too!

Sign up and come meet your meat! Also, download our flier and help us spread the word about the farm! Click, print, and get the word out!

Grilled Delmonico with Mashed Potatoes and Sautéed Spinach


After about 3 weeks of kitchen hiatus, it feels so good to be back to cooking again.

I busted out my grill pan — which had been languishing in the back of my cabinets for years. Really years.

Why haven’t I used it? I don’t know. It was kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of thing. Pretty ironic, actually, given all the meat in my freezer.

But now that it is out, I am putting it to good use!

Delmonico steaks are also known as boneless rib-eye steaks. The cut famously refers to Delmonico’s Restaurant in NYC, where the cut originated around 1830 as the house steak. In terms of tenderness, it is like a filet mignon, however a proper Delmonico is more marbled, and juicier as a result.

My grill pan has allowed me to get back in touch with grill marks, or cross-hatching.

Cross-hatching, also fancily know as quadrillage, is created by positioning your steak on the grill at roughly the 10 o’clock position, and then rotating it to the 2 o’clock position after about one or two minutes, depending on the thickness of your steak.

To help visualize this, here is the fabulous David Leite from Leite’s Culinaria. Click here for the video.

Some great tips for successful steak + how to use a stove top grill pan:

1. Take your meat out of the fridge about half an hour before you want to cook it. You want the steak to come up to room temperature before grilling so that it cooks evenly. This doesn’t mean that your steak should be warm; it should be cool to touch, but not fridge temperature.

2. Season your steaks well. Salt makes flavor pop.

3. Get the grill hot, man. Once the meat is on the grill, you can turn down the heat if it seems like it is cooking too fast.

Perhaps one reason why I stopped using my grill pan was that every time that I cooked on it, my fire alarm went off and the apartment was filled with smoke. Recently, I realized that I just never learned how to use it properly. Now, it hardly makes any mess and a bare minimum of smoke, even when brushed with olive oil. And it still tastes like grilled food. Not outdoor grilled food, but I accept the limitations of a grill pan.

The keys to not simulating a house fire? Make sure your meat is not fridge temperature when you put it on the grill. Brush your cast-iron pan (they shouldn’t even sell non-stick grill pans; once cast-iron is properly seasoned, it is effectively non-stick) lightly with oil. Too much oil = too much burning oil. Heat your pan until it is hot. Once the pan starts to smoke, put your meat on. I never leave the temperature as high as it was to heat the pan in the first place. I generally lower the heat to medium, particularly for thicker cuts because I want the interior to cook before the outside burns. That was the biggest lesson that I learned about using a stove-top grill pan: it shouldn’t be smokin’ hot for the entire duration of cooking. For more tips, click here.

4. Resist the urge to mess with the steak once it’s on the grill before it is ready to turn. You can monitor the doneness by touching the top of the steak with your finger or a pair of tongs. You don’t actually need a thermometer to do this. Make a really tight fist. Now with your other hand poke the fleshy part of your fist between your index finger and your thumb. That bouncy hard resistance that you feel is what a super well-done steak would feel like if you poked it. Open your hand and make a super loose fist. Touch the same part. That’s what really, really rare feels like. Now, aim for somewhere in-between.

5. Let it rest a little bit before serving.

Ricotta-Topped Rigatoni with Tomato, Sausage, and Kale Sauce


I have a new love: Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes.

I can eat them straight out of the can. Seriously. They just taste so rich and, well, tomatoey.

All of the tomatoes come from just 6 cooperative farms in New Jersey. Once picked, they are canned within 24 hours with no added water or preservatives, only a little salt. The crushed tomatoes are thick, but not too thick. They are perfect. Just perfect. You almost don’t need any seasoning at all. You practically don’t even need to cook them.

But if you do cook with them, whoa golly, are you in for a treat. These tomatoes make the best pizza sauce. The best anything, really.

Using some mild beef sausage from my CSA, I made a quick sauce with just garlic, olive oil, and some extra kale I had in the fridge. After rolling some al dente rigatoni in it for a couple of minutes, I topped everything with a sloppy spoonful of creamy, locally-made ricotta. A little drizzle of olive oil to add an extra bit of luster.

And I tell you, it was delicious.

Ingredients:

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 pound mild Italian beef sausage, casings removed

Red pepper flakes to taste

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (preferably Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes)

2 cups of kale, chopped with the ribs removed

Salt and pepper

1 pound of rigatoni

Whole milk ricotta cheese

More olive oil for drizzling

How to prepare:

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large casserole, or Dutch oven. When the oil begins to shimmer, sauté the garlic in it until it is fragrant. The garlic should just begin to have a little bit of color, but not too much. Crumble the sausage into the oil, and cook it until it is evenly browned (be sure to break up larger pieces of sausage with the edge of your spoon as you cook). Add as many red pepper flakes as you like. Toss the red pepper flakes with the browned sausage for about a minute before adding the tomatoes.

2. Carefully pour in the crushed tomatoes. If the sauce seems too thick to you, you can add some water to thin it out a little bit. Stir everything together. Lower the heat, and let the sauce simmer for about 15-20 minutes before adding the kale.

3. In the meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When the water begins boiling, add the pasta and cook it until it is al dente.

4. Let the kale wilt in the sauce while the pasta cooks. Adjust the seasoning.

5. When the pasta is done, drain it well. You will add about a ladleful of sauce per 1/4 pound of pasta. Toss everything together, and then divide the pasta into warmed bowls.

6. Top each serving of pasta with a nice, fat dollop of ricotta cheese. Drizzle some olive oil on top of everything. Before eating, be sure to mix the ricotta into the pasta with your fork!

Pan-Seared New York Strip Steak with Butter and Soy Sauce


Is there Tom Colicchio backlash? The Top Chef judge is everywhere these days, opening and closing Crafts across the country, and thoroughly saturating the New York market with ‘wichcraft sandwiches.

You kind of want to hate him, or in the very least wonder sneeringly if he is actually ever in a kitchen these days. In any case, Sifty, in his recent re-review for the New York Times, did re-bestow 3 stars on Craft . . . so does that mean it never lost them after over a decade of dining?

Possible backlash aside, I have to admit that I love Colicchio’s book Craft of Cooking: Notes and Recipes from a Restaurant Kitchen. The book is not for the faint of heart. He does not give you “easy” recipes. They are dead simple, but they are very precise and suffer a little bit from Thomas Keller Syndrome, meaning that to execute some of them you feel the pressure to raise and snuggle a piglet from birth, feeding it only milk proteins and ambrosia until it reaches market weight.

Many times, I go over the recipes and think about how I can do it faster.

Not better, but lazier.

I inevitably find, though, that Colicchio’s way is the best way.

One of my favorite ways to prepare steak is how they did it at Craftsteak: in a hot pan continually bathed in butter to finish.

I also love my friend Tomoko’s suggestion to add a hefty splash of soy sauce to the end. The soy and butter marry beautifully together, giving a lusciously heady hit of umami to an already rich grass-fed steak.

Colicchio gave away his steak technique in an Esquire magazine article a while back, so this is just to summarize:

You will need:

A cast-iron skillet

Steak, a nice thick cut

Salt and pepper

About a tablespoon of canola oil

About 3 tablespoons of butter

Good soy sauce

How to prepare: 

1. For all successful steaks, make sure your meat is about room temperature before cooking. Take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to eat it.

2. Season the steak heavily with salt and pepper on both sides.

3. Heat the canola oil in the cast-iron skillet over high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, sear the meat on both sides until it is brown and crusty. Please note that the steak will be seared, but it will NOT be done.

This is important because . . .

4 . . . after you have seared both sides, reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the pan cool a bit before adding the butter (you don’t want the butter to sizzle and burn on contact). Using a spoon, continually baste the steak with butter, flipping it halfway through to ensure even cooking.

5. Continue basting until it is not quite at the level of doneness that you desire. Right before that point, add a good, hefty splash of soy sauce to the pan. Keep basting the steak in the butter and soy until it is done. Alternatively, I guess you could add the butter and soy at the same time.

Ideally, a medium-rare steak will have a internal temperature of about 135°, but you can also gauge the doneness by touching its surface.

You don’t actually need a thermometer to do this. Make a really tight fist. Now with your other hand poke the fleshy part of your fist between your index finger and your thumb. That bouncy hard resistance that you feel is what a super well-done steak would feel like if you poked it. Open your hand and make a super loose fist. Touch the same part. That’s what really, really rare feels like. Now, aim for somewhere in-between.

6. Let the steak rest for a few minutes before serving.

High Point Farms: Fall CSA Membership Drive is on!


CSA sign-ups for the fall have begun!

The upcoming distribution cycle will run every other Thursday from September to November.

Pick-up dates are as follows:

• September 8
• September 22
• October 6
• October 20
• November 3
• November 17

Pick-up will run from 4:30 to 7:00PM.

There will be two pick-up sites this round:

Manhattan (with yours truly):

Jimmy’s 43 (43 East 7th Street, between First and Second Avenues)

Brooklyn (with awesome Sam):

CrossFit Virtuosity Williamsburg (221 North 8th St, between Driggs and Roebling)

Sign up to meet your meat here.