Friday, October 14, 2011


In the space of less than six weeks, no more than four books on meat have arrived on my doorstep.  The usual theme of books published in the fall runs to lots of dessert cookbooks (and this year is no exception) or lavish cookbooks by today’s superstars in the culinary world. But meat is a big trend right now. Maybe it's because we’re in the fall season, but these new cookbooks have enormous appeal to the carnivore to me.  I’ve decided to talk about them as a group.  All four will become part of my permanent collection. All of them should be considered as Christmas gifts this season.

Let me start with I LOVE MEATBALLS! (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC; $19.95).  Who doesn’t love meatballs?  And who better to explore this single subject than Rick Rodgers, one of the best cooks, cookbook writers and teachers in the country.  Though I’ve never worked one of his many books, Rick is a friend and someone I enjoy talking shop with.  His culinary knowledge is encyclopedic and his personality shines in every book he writes. Long the master of the single-subject cookbook, I LOVE MEATBALLS! explores this wonderfully delicious and economic category. For a cocktail party, you could wow your guests with Fried Olive Meatballs, a divine combination of ground round and pork surrounding a fat, pimento stuffed olive. It is then coated with a crunchy breaded exterior.  Knowing me, I would embarrass myself by eating too many. Chafing Dish Meatballs magically evoke the retro glamor of my parents entertaining (now if only I can find my mother’s chafing dish). A soup course might include a Vietnamese Pho with Beef Meatballs.  I loved Vietnamese Banh Mi with Quick Pickled Vegetables, Asian flavored pork meatballs, in French baguette-style rolls, stuffed with pickled carrots and daikon with cilantro and cucumber for more vibrant flavor.  For dinner try the Moroccan Meatball Tagine on Couscous or the Beef Meatball Bourguignon.  Both dishes are ideal for entertaining.  Rodgers has plenty of meatball recipes using lamb (Lamb Meatballs in Green Curry Sauce), seafood (Grilled Salmon Meatballs with Iceberg Wedges and Green Goddess Sauce), and chicken (Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs).  His skill elevates the humble but seriously flavored Checkered Tablecloth Spaghetti and Meatballs.  I’m pretty sure his version is as good as any Sicilian grandmas!

Rick Rodgers (photo credit Brian Dobson)

I LOVE MEATBALLS! celebrates the art of ground meats shaped into those delightfully addictive rounds from every part of the globe. This delightfully slim volume would be a welcome hostess gift instead of wine or flowers the next time you’re invited to a friend’s home for dinner.

Fried Olive Meatballs
makes 6 to 8 servings

My first experience with fried meat-stuffed olives was in Tuscany, where they were served with pre-dinner glasses of Chianti. My first attempt at stuffing olives proved to be more frustrating than threading a needle without glasses. However, the reverse—stuffing meatballs with olives—was much easier, and just as tasty. These burst with flavor, so serve them with something equally hearty, such as . . . well, Chianti.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄3 cup minced yellow onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
4 ounces ground pork
4 ounces ground round (85 percent lean)
2 tablespoons dried plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg yolk
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
24 pimento-stuffed olives
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup dried plain bread crumbs
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
Wooden toothpicks, for serving

To make the meatballs, line a baking sheet with wax paper. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool.

Add the ground pork, ground round, bread crumbs, Parmesan, egg yolk, oregano, salt, and pepper to the onion and mix well. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the meat mixture into 24 equal small balls. One at a time, flatten a ball slightly in your palms and completely wrap an olive with the meat mixture. Transfer to the wax paper–lined baking sheet.

To fry the meatballs, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200°F. Place a second baking sheet lined with a brown paper bag near the stove. Pour enough oil into a large saucepan to come halfway up the sides. Heat to 350°F on a deepfrying thermometer.

Spread the flour in a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg, salt, and pepper in another bowl. Combine the bread crumbs and oregano in a third shallow bowl. Roll each meatball in the flour, then dip in the egg, and then coat with the bread crumbs. Return to the wax paper–lined baking sheet.

In batches, deep-fry the meatballs in the hot oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a wire spider or slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to the paper-lined baking sheet. Keep the meatballs warm in the oven while frying the remaining balls. Reheat the oil to 350°F between batches.

Transfer the meatballs to a platter and serve warm, with toothpicks for spearing. 

—From I Love Meatballs! by Rick Rodgers / Andrews McMeel Publishing

In FROM THE GROUND UP:  Hundreds of Amazing Recipes form Around the World for Ground Meats, Including Beef, Chicken, Pork, Seafood, and More (Wiley; $22.95t) the great James Villas explores the wide spectrum of ground, chopped, minced and pulled meat and seafood.  Villas’ is a worldview (with his beloved native American South a particularly potent inspiration) on the subject.  As he did in Pig and The Bacon Cookbook, Villas, who spent more than twenty-five years as Food and Wine Editor of Town & Country magazine, organizes his recipe by category from appetizers, canapés and dips, through soups, salads, sandwiches, and turnovers, patties, balls, and dumplings, to main course loaves, croquettes, cakes, pies, quiches, soufflés, casseroles, pastas, hashes, chilies and stuffed dishes.  There are chapters on sausages and sauces with detailed instructions on fundamental equipment for home grinding.

The thing I always enjoy about Villas’ work is his ability to combine highbrow and luxurious (French Duck Liver Terrine with Pistachios, California Lobster and Avocado Salad in Radicchio Cups) with modest and suburban (Coffee Shop Corned Beef Hash and especially Retro Tuna and Rice Casserole).  Of this dish, Villas unapologetically presents his agenda about this much-maligned dish.  “Over the years, the variations have been endless, some delicious, others pretty wretched.  My version features flavorful brown rice, green peas, pimentos, canned mushroom soup, and a sensuous cheese topping, and I stand solidly behind its integrity.”  I find his convictions to be endearing and his authority as admirable as it is unquestionable.

So jump right in here and start cooking.  I have always loved French Rillettes of Pork. This is classic and economical spread for a party and this version is well within the abilities of any home cook. Smoked Salmon Stuffed Eggs or Charleston Shrimp Paste will also get any party started.  Sticking the South, Villas presents Congealed Ham and Beet Salad. The word congealed has never been appetizing to me. “The American South has always been known for the great array of congealed salads that appear on birthday, wedding, graduation and bereavement buffets,” says Villas. “I’ve always perceived this shredded ham and beet example to be one of the most elegant, colorful and unusual.”  I agree. A recipe for Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes immediately follows Steak Tartare Sandwiches. There are hamburgers from the USA, Sweden, France and Turkey.  Variety informs the meatball section from Portuguese Gingered Codfish Balls and Jewish Gefilte Fish, to Greek Minted Meatballs.  Croquettes, which, are enjoying a revival of culinary interest and I can’t wait to make Curried Chicken Croquettes. Villas prefers a free form meatloaf so that as much of the surface is crusty.  American Meat Loaf Deluxe is a prime example with its tasty combination of ground round, pork and ground veal and bulk pork sausage.  Sherried Turkey Hash Cakes could be the solution to this Thanksgiving’s leftovers.  I remember Mexican Tamale Pie in my California youth, and how great to see some of these iconic recipes re-thought and updated for today’s young cooks. 

I can go on and on about the many really swell recipes here.  I sat down and read this book from cover to cover (excellent head notes for every recipe), and some lucky diners will be treated to any number of Villas’ excellent efforts at my table this fall and winter.

(Makes 8-10 servings)

French pork rillettes are one of the most glorious appetizers ever conceived, and I’ve never served a crock or ramekin that wasn’t wiped clean by guests.  Traditionally, rillettes are made by shredding the cooked, tender, unctuous meats, with two forks, but so long as you don’t’ over-grind, they can be prepared quickly in a food processor. Packed into small ramekins, the rillettes could be served as individual appetizers, but I prefer to simply to place a large crock with a big basket of toasted French bread rounds in the middle of the table and let guests help themselves. Do try to make the rillettes a day in advance and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld.

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
¾ pound fresh pork fat
1 medium onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Herb bouquet (1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 2 bay leaves, 3 whole cloves and 2 parsley springs tied in cheesecloth)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine

Trim off any skin on the pork shoulder and cut the meat and fat into 2-inch chunks.  Place the meat, fat, onion, garlic, herb bouquet, and salt and pepper in a casserole or large saucepan. Add the broth, wine, and enough water to cover by 1-inch, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer till the meat is very tender, about 3 hours, skimming from time to time. Uncover the casserole and continue simmering till the liquid has evaporated and the meat is cooking in the fat, about 1 hour.

Transfer the meat to a heavy bowl and let the fat cool to room temperature in the casserole.  Shred the meat with two heavy forks (or grind coarsely in a food processor), add the cooled fat, and continue working with the fork till the mixture is smooth and silky—almost a heavy paste. Taste for salt and pepper, pack the rillettes in small ramekins or a large crock, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Serve with small rounds of toasted French bread. 

From:  From the Ground Up/Wiley

THE WHOLE HOG COOKBOOK: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All That Good Stuff (Rizzoli; $30.00) is such an appealing cookbook.  Libbie Summers, who is the culinary producer for Paula Dean’s network TV shows as well as senior food editor for Paul Dean Enterprises, has produced a very special cookbook devoted to everything pig. Having learned how to butcher hogs as a young girl visiting her grandfather’s hog farm, Libbie knows her way around every part of a pig.  That’s important because the handsome design and arrangement of this marvelous book makes the most logical case for understanding the various sections and cuts available.  Each chapter is arranged by each part of the hog and within the category, she breaks down the various cuts available.  Let’s start with the priciest part of the hog--he loin.  Blade chop, butterfly chop, loin chop, rib chop, country style ribs, sirloin. Back ribs, top loin roast, tenderloin, blade loin, center loin sirloin cutlet and porterhouse are all cut from here.  Libbie’s precise instructions are a joy to follow. 

The first thing I made was so easy, yet to impressive:  Grilled Tenderloin and Fingerling Potato Salad tastes great in the summer, but would also work during a busy weeknight in the winter when you want something delicious that is not heavy or too filling.  Boil the potatoes while you grill (indoors or out) a simply seasoned tenderloin.  Make your vinaigrette (in this case, honey and rice vinegar are added to olive oil and mustard).  Slice the tenderloin when rested a few minutes and toss into a large bowl with the potatoes, watercress and capers.  Add the vinaigrette.  It’s that simple and it tastes superb. I’ve made it twice now. A photo of Goat Stuffed Pig had me salivating.  It’s actually a butterflied tenderloin stuffed with goat cheese, toasted pecans, pears, pear brandy, apple cider, thyme, heavy cream and butter.  Impressive but also easy to prepare. The Boston Shoulder has four cuts, including a superb Cuban Pork Roast and Pulled Pork Spring Rolls.  Bacon provides the means for Pork Belly Gyros and Bacon and Cheese Puffers, are a delicious variation on the classic French Gougeres, and Pan-Fried Brussels Sprout Leaves are given a flavor boost with pancetta, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes and freshly grated Parmesan.  That dish is going on my Thanksgiving table. Mustard Barbecue Sauce poured over South Cakalacky Spare Ribs, sounds like pure pig heaven to me.  Pork Osso Buco will make you forget you ever spent a month’s mortgage payment on veal shanks.  Spicy Meatballs and Simple Sunday Red Sauce is bound to start a new family tradition.  Those meatballs are a heady combination of ground veal, ground chuck and hot Italians sausage.

I found the chapter on hog offal comprising jowl, head, feet, ears, fatback, clear plate, tail organ meats (intestines, stomach, skin and liver) fascinating.  Guanciale, the dried spice-rubbed jowls of the pig, is an essential ingredient in Spaghetti Carbonara, the classic Roman pasta dish.  Old #7 Pate  is a spread made from pork liver. And collagen-rich Pickled Pigs Feet, could help you age more gracefully.  As Libbie says, “I’m counting on my love of pig’s feet to help forty be the new thirty.” 

THE WHOLE HOG COOKBOOK provides clear instructions for making sausage, trimming and assembling a Crown Roast of Pork (which will save money), how-to photos clarify the best way to carve a ham, split pigs feet for pickling, how to render leaf lard for making pie dough.  There’s even a photo tutorial on how to make and decorate Marzipan Three Little Pigs.  Reading this charming book made me smile.  Cooking form it made me swoon. 

(Serves four)

1 pound pork tenderloin
7 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 cups watercress or arugula, stemmed

Rub the tenderloin with 1 tablespoon of the oil and liberally season it with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, put the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to high. Grill the seasoned tenderloin for 8 minutes per side, turning only once. Remove the tenderloin from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice the meat and place the slices in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, garlic, and honey. While whisking, gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a slow, steady stream, until the vinaigrette sauce begins to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste.

Halve the potatoes and add them to the pork tenderloin slices. Pour the vinaigrette over, add the capers and watercress, toss to coat, and serve immediately.

From The Whole Hog Cookbook/Rizzoli

My friend Jon serves his brisket with pride every Rosh Shoshanna, and it’s always delicious.  He’s given tons of thought to this dish, something I gather from THE BRISKET BOOK:  A Love Story with Recipes by Stephanie Pierson, others have pondered as well. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a bad brisket. This new book is all about brisket passion and is surely the first tribute cookbook to the joys and pleasures of this flavorful cut of beef. Brisket is “so simple and forgiving that even the worst cook can make a good one,” quips Ms. Pierson in the Introduction to THE BRISKET BOOK.  “Every country, every community, every culture, every family seems to have a brisket recipe,” she continues.  “But while there are millions of brisket recipes and thousands of reasons they came to be, there are essentially only three cooking techniques.  You can braise a brisket, barbecue it, or brine it so it becomes corned beef.  It’s that simple.”  You will find in this lavishly illustrated and profusely anecdotal tribute, a poem to brisket, “50 Things About Brisket That People Can Disagree About” (I’m not kidding), a brisket joke, sixteen ways to order brisket in a foreign language (in Italian it is punta de petto di bovino), a Brisket Etymology, a butcher’s perspective, a basic training chapter on making brisket, a Haiku for Braising Brisket, a barbecue Q&A on brisket, and then brisket nirvana—recipes from pros such as Nach Waxman, the legendary owner of the definitive culinary bookstore in New York City, Kitchen Arts & Letters; Joan Nathan, cookbook author and doyenne of Jewish cooking; New Orleans-based super chef, John Besh, Simon Hopkinson--English chef and author of Simon Hopkinson’s Second Helpings of Roast Chicken, Cook’s Illusrtated’s Onion-Braised Beef Brisket, and much more. There are suggestions for side dishes to accompany brisket, suggestions for Brisket leftovers (Brisket Tamales, anyone?), “What to Drink with Brisket.”  Well—you get the point.  The only disappointment was not having the recipe for Fatty Cue’s award-winning brisket sandwich.  It is cruelly photographed in all its mouth-watering glory on page 58. I deeply regret leaving New York without tucking into that insanely overstuffed creation. 

Nach Waxman's beef brisket

Stephanie Pierson has created the ultimate single-subject cookbook, and if you’re a brisket lover, you’re sure to want to make room in your collection for this delightful volume. 

I’ve chosen the recipe for Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket by Tom Perini because it is insanely easy, contains lots of spices and flavorings that I love, and is roasted then braised in the same pan for hours—during which time you can do other things instead of hovering over your brisket. 

Adapted from a recipe by Tom Perini, Perini Ranch, Buffalo Gap, Texas
(Serves 8)

With a lightly spiced browned crust and mega Texas-size smokehouse flavor, cowboy/cook Tom Perini comes up with a knockout recipe that lets you oven roast your way to brisket bliss. Just rub, roast, braise—done. Paula Den loves Perini’s cooking, too: check out The Food Network to see a video of Perini showing Paula his skills.

2    tablespoons chili powder
2    tablespoons salt
1    tablespoon garlic powder
1    tablespoon onion powder
1    tablespoon ground black pepper
1    tablespoon sugar
2    teaspoons dry mustard
1    bay leaf, crushed
1    (4-pound) beef brisket, trimmed
1½  cups beef stock

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, make a dry rub by combining the chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf. Season the brisket all over with the rub. Place the brisket in a roasting pan and roast in the oven, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add the beef stock and enough water to yield about ½ inch of liquid in the roasting pan, then tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F and continue cooking until the brisket is fork-tender, about 3 hours.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board, trim any excess fat, and thinly slice the meat against the grain. Serve with the pan juices.

—From The Brisket Book/ Andrews McMeel Publishing

1 comment:

  1. How come I always find myself under Rick Rodgers in the morning?
    Thank you for loving The Whole Hog's special.