Saturday, 30 October 2010

James Peterson's Meat: A Kitchen Education

A Kitchen Education
James Peterson
Hardcover, 336 pages

I actually find meat to be one of the trickiest things to cook in the kitchen. Cook it wrong and it will punish you by being tough and difficult to chew. Carrots are rarely so punitive, although they have been known to totally give up under pressure and become limp.

James Peterson, winner of 6 James Beard awards and teacher for more than 20 years at The Institute of Culinary Education, is willing to help us out with meat - to teach us how to get the best out of every cut and every cooking style - with his new book Meat: A Kitchen Education.

Now we can know what the pros know, without the costly culinary education, with step-by-step colour photographs and comprehensive instructions. With 175 recipes, you'll find lots of new favourites for Sunday dinner, and the confidence to cook meat to tender perfection.
The Chapters Incude:

1          Introduction
5          Basic Cooking Techniques
25        Improvising International Flavors

31         Chicken and Turkey
69         Fowl, Rabbit and Hare, and Venison
103       Pork
143       Beef
219       Veal
259       Lamb and Goat
293       Sausages
303       Pâtés, Terrines, and Foie Gras
314       Broths and Consommés
We tried out three of his recipes in the Kitchen Puppy test kitchen - Pot Roast with Carrots and Pearl Onions, Chicken Potpies, and Croque-Madames with country ham.
The pot roast came out to glorious tenderness, a man-pleasing dish to be sure. The meat is fall-apart delicious cooked on high, then braised on low, then higher again with a reduced-sauce glaze. Definitely worth it!
The chicken potpies were very different than I am used to - I am in total agreement about dispensing with the bottom crust,  and I loved the fact that the ingredients were just layered into the ramekins, topped and then baked. But I think I still like the thickened version better - I might make a roux with this one next time. Otherwise the flavours were fantastic - love that tarragon!
And the croque-madames were such a treat! I have always wanted to make them. Basically a kicked-up gourmet grilled cheese with ham in a bechamel sauce with a fried egg on top. I used home-baked country bread too, so they were a real weekend treat.
Recipes below

Pot Roast with Carrots and Pearl Onions
From Meat:A Kitchen Eduction by James Peterson

The best cut for a pot roast is a chuck blade roast, sometimes called a flat-iron roast. When you buy the roast, you might as well buy the whole thing (rather than a piece), which weighs about 5 pounds and will serve about six (the meat shrinks considerably as it cooks). Ideally, the meat should be larded to give it extra moistness, though larding is not essential because a blade roast contains plenty of internal fat. The usual braising methods should be used—an initial roasting with aromatic vegetables, followed by long, slow simmering, followed by degreasing of the braising liquid and a final glazing.

Makes 6 main-course servings

1 chuck blade roast, about 5 pounds
1 piece fatback with rind, about 2 pounds, optional
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped, if larding roast
4 cloves garlic, minced and then crushed to a paste, if larding roast
1 large onion, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
Bouquet garni
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth (page 316), reduced to 2 cups
3 slender carrots, peeled and sliced
One 10-ounce package pearl onions, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, drained, rinsed under cold water, and peeled

Trim away the silver skin and excess fat from the roast. Season all over with salt and pepper and set aside. Cut away the rind from the fatback and reserve the rind. Cut the fatback into sheets about 1/4 inch thick, then cut the sheets lengthwise into strips, or lardons, about 1/4 inch on each side. In a bowl, mix together the lardons, parsley, and minced garlic; cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Place the roast in a shallow bowl and add the sliced onion, sliced large carrot, bouquet garni, crushed garlic, and wine. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the meat and vegetables from the marinade; reserve the wine and bouquet garni. Using a hinged larding needle, lard the roast with the lardons as shown on page 15.

Select a heavy ovenproof pot just large enough to hold the meat and line the bottom with the fatback rind, skin side up. Place the vegetables from the marinade on top of the rind, and put the roast on top of the vegetables. Place the pot in the oven and roast, uncovered, for about 11/2 hours, or until the meat releases juices that caramelize (but don’t burn) on the bottom of the pot.

Remove the pot from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275°F. Remove any fat from the pot with a bulb baster or large spoon, and then add the broth and the wine and bouquet garni from the marinade. Bring to a gentle simmer on the stove top. Cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil, pressing it down slightly in the middle so that moisture will condense on its underside and drip down onto the exposed parts of the meat, and then with a lid.

Return the pot to the oven and braise the roast for 11/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure the liquid is not boiling, and if it is, turn down the heat. Turn the roast over gently, so the meat that was above the liquid is now submerged, re-cover the pot with the foil and the lid, and continue to braise for about 1 hour longer, or until the roast is easily penetrated with a knife.

Transfer the roast to a smaller ovenproof pot, moving it gently so it doesn’t fall apart. Strain the braising liquid into a glass pitcher and skim off the fat with a ladle. Or, ideally, refrigerate the braising liquid at this point and then lift off the congealed fat in a single layer. Pour the degreased liquid into a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer, skimming off any fat or froth that rises to the surface, for about 30 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Meanwhile, raise the oven temperature to 450°F.
Pour the reduced liquid over the meat, and add the sliced slender carrots and pearl onions. Slide the pot, uncovered, into the oven and cook the roast, basting it every 10 minutes with the liquid, for about 30 minutes, or until the roast is covered with a shiny glaze and the carrot slices and pearl onions are tender.

Remove the roast from the oven. Using two spoons, serve in warmed soup plates surrounded with the braising liquid and topped with the carrot slices and pearl onions.

Variations: You can vary this recipe by using additional or different aromatic vegetables, such
as onions or turnips; using cider, beer, or broth in place of the wine for the braising liquid; trading
out the thyme for marjoram in the bouquet garni; or garnishing with mushrooms, haricots verts,
leeks, or other vegetables in place of the carrot slices and pearl onions.

Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Chicken Potpies
From Meat:A Kitchen Eduction by James Peterson

Most potpies suffer from a soggy bottom crust. To avoid this, I make them in large
ramekins and put the pastry only on the top. I have used puff pastry here, but regular pie pastry will
also work. Tarragon is delicious with chicken, but feel free to substitute other herbs, such as marjoram, chives, parsley, or oregano. If you don’t have shiitake mushrooms, use white or cremini mushrooms. For a splurge, add as many sliced black truffles as you can afford to each ramekin. The pastry traps the aroma of the truffle, which is released at the moment the diner cuts into the pie.

Makes 6 main-course servings

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
3 thin carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Leaves from 1 bunch tarragon
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
Two 1-pound packages all-butter puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator if frozen
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon salt

Divide the chicken evenly among six 1-cup ramekins. Sprinkle the mushrooms evenly over the chicken, dividing them evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the carrots over the top and finally the tarragon. Press down on the filling in each ramekin so none of the ingredients rise above the rim. (If the ingredients touch the pastry, the pastry will tear.) Pour 1/3 cup of the broth and 21/2 tablespoons of the cream evenly over each filled ramekin. Season again with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 6 rounds about 2 inches larger in diameter than the rim of the ramekins. Using a sharp paring knife, and working from the center to the edge, make a series of arcs, like spokes, on the surface of each round, being careful not to cut through the dough. Flip each round, brush with the beaten egg, then invert a round over each ramekin (the scored side will be facing up). Press the dough firmly against the sides with your palms until it adheres securely. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Place the pies on a sheet pan.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake the pies for about 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and has puffed. Serve at once.

Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc

Croque-Monsieur with Country Ham
From Meat:A Kitchen Eduction by James Peterson

A croque-monsieur is a griddled ham and cheese sandwich that has been dipped in béchamel sauce and cooked in butter. A croque-madame is a croque-monsieur with a fried egg on top.

Makes 4 sandwiches

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
8 slices firm-crust, dense-crumb white bread
1/2 pound American country ham, very thinly sliced if raw, thinly sliced if cooked
1/2 pound Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced into strips

In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the milk and then bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Whisk for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and thickened. Season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour into a square baking dish large enough to hold the sandwiches in a single layer.

Lay 4 bread slices on a work surface. Top with the ham and then the cheese, dividing them evenly. Put the remaining bread slices on top. Place the sandwiches in the béchamel, turning to coat both sides.

In a sauté pan large enough to hold the sandwiches in a single layer, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When the butter froths, add the coated sandwiches and cook, turning once, for about 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Cut each sandwich in half and serve hot.

Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.