Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Heritage Meals

Taste of Australia: Roasted Kangaroo Tail
Kangaroo is a traditional aboriginal favorite in Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea. The meat was a prized protein source during Australia’s colonial period. With a similar flavor and texture to venison, kangaroo tail is usually roasted or steamed and the meat is often used to make soup.
8 ears unshucked sweet corn

2 zucchini squash
2 yellow squash
2 small eggplant
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. grapefruit juice
2 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh-ground black pepper
1 tsp. red sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 whole kangaroo tail, unskinned
Foil

Soak the unshucked corn in salted water for 30 minutes. Cut 1-inch slices of squash and eggplant and lay them in a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Mix the oil, juice, sugar and spices together and pour it over the vegetable slices. Toss the vegetables to ensure that all the slices are coated in juice and oil. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.

Rinse the kangaroo tail and wrap it in foil. Lay the wrapped tail and the soaked corn on the cob in the coals in the grill, once the coals have turned white. Turn the tail once after 15 to 20 minutes and allow it to roast for another 15 minutes. Remove the kangaroo tail and the corn from coals and allow them to stand while you grill the vegetables.

Shuck the corn. Unwrap the foil from the kangaroo tail and peel away the skin to expose the meat. Cut the tail into 1-inch thick pieces and serve with roasted corn and grilled vegetables.

Tip: Substitute top sirloin roast or venison tenderloin for the kangaroo tail if desired.

References
Brett Harris; cook; Perth, Western Australia
"The Oxford Companion to Food"; Alan Davidson; 2006; p. 429

Taste of Italy: Abruzzo
There is not just one Italian-style cuisine, there are many. Each represents one of the 21 distinct regions of Italy, with its own preferences in techniques and ingredients. Maccheroni alla chitarra is a fresh pasta dish made with boiled noodles, roasted lamb or pork and a slow-simmered red sauce. Italian cuisine uses fresh garden ingredients still warm from the sun, bursting with flavor. Seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and breads all play a part in Italian cooking.

Showcase Abruzzi cuisine by making a batch of maccheroni alla chitarra. A chitarra has one or two layers of closely spaced wires, making it look like the neck of a guitar.

Chitarra
Rolling pin
Large stock pot
12-inch skillet
Pastry mat or cutting board
Spray bottle of water
Pastry/basting brush
3 C flour
4 eggs
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 C olive oil
1 whole onion, sliced
1 lb. quartered Roma tomatoes
1 lb. lamb or pork chunks
1 C broda (broth) (recipe below)
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/4 lb. grated pecorino cheese

 For the broda:
6 C water
1 lb. each beef, pork, and lamb bones
1 whole onion, diced
3 carrots, finely diced
2 or 3 ribs diced celery
2 generous pinches of sea salt
1 Tbsp. white pepper
Cheesecloth

Chitarra by Jack V. Sage, June 21, 2009
Pour 3 cups of flour in a mound on your cutting board. Poke a hole in the mound; add 4 eggs and a pinch of sea salt. Work the eggs into the flour until you have sticky dough.

Sprinkle more flour on the board and roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness, the width of your chitarra. Cut the thin dough by laying it on your chitarra, using your rolling pin to force it through the wires. Allow your maccheroni to dry slightly before tossing it into boiling water to cook.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Sweat the sliced onions in the olive oil until they become clear and barely start to brown. Toss the fresh quartered tomatoes in the pan and stir. Add one cup of broda, which is a broth made from beef, lamb and pork bones.

To make broda, simmer beef bones, pork bones, and lamb bones in 6 cups of water until any meat that may still be on them falls off. Add the diced onion, carrots, celery and a generous double pinch of sea salt. Sprinkle in the white pepper and bring to a full, rolling boil for 10 minutes. Strain the broda through a piece of cheesecloth and store in your freezer until needed.

To make vegetarian broda, eliminate the meat bones, triple the vegetables and add 2 pounds mashed pinto bean paste or 2 pounds mashed tofu to the mixture. Use a food processor, blender or food mill to puree all the solids and don't strain the broda this time.

In a separate pan, brown the lamb or pork chunks in olive oil, then place them in a deep baking dish to roast at 300 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn the meat chunks every ten minutes and baste them with olive oil. Spritz them with water with water before each turn, to prevent drying out the meat.

Add the roast lamb or pork chunks to your sauce after it has simmered for at least 20 minutes on low heat. If using the vegetarian version of this dish, substitute extra firm tofu cut in 1-inch chunks. Brown the tofu chunks in olive oil with a splash of soy sauce and several sprigs of rosemary.

Serve a large handful of maccheroni alla chitarra twisted into a bird's nest shape. Cover the pasta with a large dipper of sauce and roast lamb or pork chunks. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary. Sprinkle the entire dish with grated pecorino cheese. Serve hot.

Tastes of Italy: Regional Favorites
Each of the 21 distinct regions of Italy has its own preferences in cooking techniques and ingredients. Italian cuisine consists of far more than spaghetti with ground beef sauce, square ravioli filled with beef and covered with a thin, nearly flavorless red broth, and pizza made with a thick layer of canned spaghetti sauce, topped with pepperoni and grated mozzarella. None of these dishes appear on a typical Italian table.

Italian cuisine uses fresh garden ingredients still warm from the sun, bursting with flavor. Seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and breads all play a part in Italian cooking. It is easy to prepare Abruzzo, Tuscan, Lombard, Calabrian and Sardinian specialties once you master the necessary tips and techniques.

Use meat from free-roaming hogs, mountain goats, sheep and fish in your Abruzzi recipes. Abruzzo is a region in east central Italy that borders the Adriatic Sea to the east. Flavor Abruzzi dishes with wine, garlic, olive oil, saffron and rosemary. Cheeses made from sheep's milk, such as pecorino, are a mainstay of the Abruzzo table, according to Micol Negrin and Dino De Angelis at Rustico Cooking. Maccherone alla chitarra, a local specialty, is made with fresh egg pasta cut thin with a rolling pin over two layers of wires, then covered with a generous dip of red sauce and roast lamb chunks.

Marinate your steak in olive oil from the local press, and add fresh minced garlic to make the signature dish of the Tuscans. Bistecca Fiorenta is a 3-inch thick charcoal-grilled Porterhouse steak served with arugula and other grilled vegetables. Tuscany, with Italy's Tyrhennian seacoast off to the west, produces award-winning grapes and olives. It is also a source of white truffles, one of the most expensive ingredients in the world.

Other Tuscan specialty ingredients include wild asparagus, wild hare, artichokes, cauliflower and mushrooms. All are used to make fritto misto, which are mixed fried foods. Cut your vegetables, chicken and wild hare into chunks, dredge them in flour and fry everything just enough to turn golden brown.

When in Lombardy, grate fontina Val d’Aosta into a cold rice salad made with artichoke hearts, eggplant, mushrooms and fresh albacore tuna flakes. Lombardy is on Italy’s north central border, opposite Switzerland. Lombards favor risottos, made from rice, and polenta, made from cornmeal. Flavor your Lombard dishes with plenty of basil, sage, celery and onion.

Mix candied fruit and raisins into a light, buttery sweet bread to make Lombardy's holiday specialty, Panettone, a possible forebear of Christmas fruitcake. Serve your panettone sliced with a glass of sweet Moscato d’Asti wine.

Cook with chili peppers, lemon, chives and honey in Calabria, on Italy’s southwest coast, in the “toe” of the Italian peninsula. Serve littleneck clams poached in white wine and flavored with with garlic and parsley. Make focaccia, which is thick, flat yeast bread. Top it with anchovy fillets, sliced tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. Dip roasted figs in melted chocolate for a rich Calabrian dessert.

Lamb, wild fennel, and pecorino sardo make frequent appearances on Sardinian dinner tables. Sardinia is in the Mediterranean Sea off the Tyrhennian coast, just west of Tuscany. Mix pecorino -- a cheese made with sheep’s milk -- with ricotta, black pepper and sausage and serve it over malloredus, which as a mini gnocchi pasta. Quarter a rabbit and cover it with fennel chunks, whole garlic cloves and black olives. Sprinkle with chili pepper flakes, crushed fennel seeds and salt. Poach everything in white wine and olive oil in a covered dish.

References
Anna Maria Volpi: What Is Italian Cooking?
Rustico Cooking
Tuscan Cuisine

Resources

Not-So-Evil Stepmother’s Macaroni Bake, Venison Ribs and Harvard Beets
When my father remarried, I opted to spend that day at a flea market with a friend, selling junk, rather than attend his wedding. I was angry that the wedding was announced a mere 30 days after he and Mom divorced. In my then-13-year-old mind, he had betrayed all of us. So I did what any rational teenager would do: I blamed my step-mother.


But it wasn't that simple. My stepmother, Dorothy, had a lot of skills and talents, not the least of which were doll-making, macrame and old-fashioned cooking. She used old Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks, plus word-of-mouth recipes from her own mother, Twila Houghton. 

Twila never failed to treat my siblings and I as lovingly as if we were her own grandchildren. Twila served us Diet 7-Up and homemade snickerdoodle cookies every time we visited her home in Canton, Ohio's southwest end, just a stone's throw from the Trinity Gospel Temple Food Store and Fisher's grocery, whose empty parking lot was often our playground. 

Dorothy's father -- whose first name I am ashamed to say I had trouble remembering just now -- used to make lamps from inch-thick sections of maple wood and old coffee cans, and had a collection of decorative Toby Jugs and Jim Beam bottles that he loved to show me. Hugh was a gentle, quiet man who spent most of his time in a brown tweed-covered easy chair with an old-fashioned curved post-lamp with a Tiffany shade over it for reading. Hugh showed me how to wire a clay pot to make the start of a hanging lamp. Dorothy taught me how to macrame it.

Twila had every single school paper and art project Dorothy had ever made and every piece of outgrown clothing she had ever worn packed neatly away in the attic, like time capsules. Dorothy took me to the attic and pulled out boxes full of clothes she had made and nearly-new shoes and just gave them to me outright. Something like 30 pairs of Earth Shoes and Bass, Grasshoppers, Keds and Buster Browns, with nary a mark or a torn strap among them. We dug through box after box of hook rug kits, plaster and candy molds and other craft supplies, a treasure trove that took me years to explore and even longer to fully appreciate.

But it was things like making oven-baked deer ribs, Harvard beets and baked macaroni that I have to thank Dorothy for the most. Dad insisted on using every part of the deer, even though deer ribs are incredibly fatty unless you grill them or cook them on a rack. We made a double slab that covered both oven racks. Along with them came the Harvard beets and the macaroni bake. I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did back then,  and I hope that, now that Dad has passed on, Dorothy finds this article and realizes that she is not forgotten. This meal serves 10 to 15 people.

Venison Ribs:
2 full slabs of venison ribs
2 lbs. maple-cured slab-bacon slices
Broiler pan
Foil
Tongs
Paper towels
Black pepper
Whole nutmeg
Nutmeg grater
1 tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsp. coffee crystals
2 C chicken stock


Harvard Beets:
3 cans whole beets, 15-oz. each
4-qt. saucepan with lid
Small mixing bowl
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. white sugar
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Covered glass or ceramic serving bowl
Wooden spoon

Baked Macaroni:
2 lbs. cooked macaroni
8-oz. block of cream cheese
1 lb. longhorn cheese
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1 can evaporated milk
1 crushed chicken bouillon cube
Large stockpot
9- by 12-inch glass baking dish
Fresh grated Parmesan
2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
30-oz. can crushed tomatoes

Venison Rib Bake
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the bottom half of the broiler pan with foil. Place the venison ribs on the top part of the rack and season them generously with black pepper.

Grate 1 tsp. of nutmeg into a small mixing bowl and add the Chinese five-spice powder and coffee crystals. Rub the resulting spice blend onto the venison rib slabs.

Cover the venison slabs with bacon slices across the short side without overlapping them. Broil the venison ribs for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. Turn them over and broil again for another 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake the venison ribs for 30 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer stuck in the meat without touching any bone registers 160 degrees.

Rinse the ribs under hot running water to remove excess grease, pat them dry with paper towels and put them back in the oven at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Eat the deer ribs immediately. If you wait, the fat congeals, leaving a greasy coating in your mouth. Pour a little chicken stock over the deer ribs and reheat them as needed if you find the greasiness offensive.

Harvard Beets
Pour three 15-ounce cans of whole beets, with their liquid,  into a 4-qt. saucepan. Stir the cornstarch, white sugar and apple cider vinegar together in a small mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the liquid from the beets and stir again until evenly blended.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the beets in the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until evenly blended. Bring the beets to a rolling boil for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer the beets for 20 minutes, stirring often to ensure that the sauce does not scorch. Remove from heat and pour the beets into a covered glass or ceramic serving bowl.

Macaroni Bake
Mix the block of cream cheese, the grated longhorn cheese and the cubed Velveeta cheese in a large stockpot over low heat. 

Pour the evaporated milk into the melted cheese and sprinkle a crushed chicken bouillon cube over everything. Stir gently until all ingredients become a thick cheese sauce. Add the macaroni and stir until well-blended. Pour everything into a 9- by 12-inch glass baking dish and top with grated Parmesan cheese and crushed Ritz crackers.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the top layer of macaroni is golden-brown. Serve hot, topped with a ladle-full of crushed tomatoes.

Succulent Venison Sausage
Venison has very little fat and can be made into delicious sausage. Venison sausage, combined with jerk mix, berries, and a little additional fat, can be made into jerky strips, and will keep for up to six months. Venison sausage can be made into patties, stuffed into casings to make links, or molded into mini meat loaves. Serve venison sausage with quail eggs on a bed of fresh-picked spring greens, with honey-drizzled, home made biscuits and venison gravy.

30 lbs. venison
1 C Morton Tender Quick
½ C rubbed sage
½ C black pepper
4 C soy sauce
2 C vinegar
2 C Louisiana hot sauce
½ C garlic powder
½ C onion powder
1/8 C ground red pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
Meat grinder
Sausage casings
Stuffing machine
Large, metal mixing bowl

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the spices, vinegar and hot sauce together. Pour equal amounts of sauce into four separate large bowls.

Grind the venison. Divide the ground venison into four equal amounts. Place one fourth of the ground venison in the large mixing bowl. Add one of the small bowls of spice sauce. Mix the spiced sauce thoroughly into the venison. Continue mixing meat until all four piles of venison have been spiced.

Thread the sausage casings onto your stuffing machine. Thrust venison sausage mix into the machine using a thrusting block. Do not use your hands, especially if you are wearing rubber gloves. Stuff the casings until all the venison has been used. Every six inches, give the casing two or three tight twists. Keep them refrigerated, dry them, or smoke them.

Hang lengths of venison sausage links by wrapping them around a broomstick placed inside a smokehouse. Use hickory, mesquite or apple wood to smoke your sausages at 150 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours. Raise the temperature to 160 degrees and smoke your sausages for another four hours. Raise the temperature to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, and continue smoking until the internal temperature of the sausage reaches 165F. Continue smoking the sausages for another 48 hours. Wrap your sausages in waxed paper, twisted at the ends.

Venison Meat Loaf
Ground, pan-broiled venison provides 22.48 grams of protein, almost 8 mg of niacin and 83 mg of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. Venison meat loaf has excellent flavor and texture. This dish travels well to potlucks. Serve slices of this delicious venison meat loaf on toasted ciabatta bread or baguettes, with a side salad of mixed spring greens, sliced strawberries and pecan halves.

8-quart mixing bowl
2 lbs. ground venison
1 egg
1 C bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. red sea salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
6-quart mixing bowl
1 lb, cooked, drained chickpeas
1 oz. olive oil
2 oz. jalapeno or banana peppers
Slow cooker
1 C sliced Bermuda onion
28 oz. can tomato puree
1 C sliced red, yellow and green bell peppers

Combine the ground venison, egg, bread crumbs, chopped onion, sea salt and red pepper flakes in an 8-quart mixing bowl. Mix together until all ingredients are incorporated. In a separate 6-quart mixing bowl, combine the chickpeas, olive oil, and the jalapeno or banana peppers. Allow this mixture to sit for an hour so the flavors mingle.

Mix the seasoned, mashed chickpeas into the ground venison until well-blended. Toss the Bermuda onion slices into the slow cooker in a single layer. Form the venison mixture into a large, round loaf in the bottom of your slow cooker. Pour tomato puree over the venison meat loaf. Cook on low heat for 3 hours, then switch to high for 1 more hour. Top your venison meat loaf with red, yellow and green bell pepper slices.

Ratatouille with Squash and Zucchini
Whether you call them aubergines and courgettes or eggplants and summer squash, these vegetables form the foundation of a comforting peasant dish from Provence, France. Whether you prefer them sliced, layered and baked or cut into chunks and simmered, ratatouille recipes include tomato paste, onions, garlic, herbes de Provence and slices or chunks of colorful bell pepper. Leave out the anchovies for a vegan, low-sodium version or add chunks of chicken, pork or beef for potlucks.

A mandoline makes it easier to cut even-thickness slices for a layered, baked ratatouille. The guard prevents you from cutting your fingers when you remember to keep your fingers flat, not curled under, according to chef Eve Felder from the Culinary Institute of America. If you use the ruffled blade and rotate the vegetables a quarter-turn each time you run them across the mandolin, you get a waffle effect known as "gaufrette." This slicing method creates the familiar waffle fries seen at festivals and fairs.

If you slice the courgettes and aubergines in half lengthwise, toss them in fresh herbs and oil and grill them, it decreases the moisture content and caramelizes the surface, allowing you to omit salt. Grilled vegetables cut into cubes or chunks hold their shapes longer than raw ones, in simmered ratatouille.

The saute pan should already be hot when you add the sesame or olive oil. Peeled, smashed garlic cloves should saute until their scent permeates the room, followed by any herbs or spices in the recipe. This pulls the essence of each spice to the surface and magnifies their effects on the flavor of the dish. Once you stir a can of tomato paste into the spices, you can add the white wine and chicken stock to make a thin red sauce.

The layered casserole version of ratatouille has more eye appeal if you alternate the yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and bell pepper slices. The most eye-appealing ratatouille begins at the center of the casserole dish and works outward in a spiral, with the vegetables overlapped and tilted in a single layer.

As long as the casserole does not contain any meat, you do not have to cook it any longer once the sauce begins to bubble. Cook ratatouille that contains poultry to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Strips or cubes of pork or beef need to cook to 145 degrees, while ratatouille containing wild game should cook to 160 degrees.

References
Kitchen Daily; How to Use a Mandoline; Eve Felder, Culinary Institute of America; 2011

In the Hands of a Chef: The Professional Chef's Guide to Essential Tools

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service; Is It Done Yet?

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service; Roasting "Other" Holiday Meats

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