Archive for the 'beef & bison' Category


Lasagna 1

Apologies for the uninspired portrait of this lasagna; it was taken in haste as it came out of the oven and sat for a few minutes while we gathered plates and forks and tore off paper towels in lieu of napkins for everyone around the table who had come to celebrate Mike’s birthday.

Lasagna 3

W chose lasagna for dinner, and the next day my friend Emily Richards’ beautiful new cookbook arrived in the mail – a book of recipes from the kitchens of her extended Italian family. When I make a lasagna – not that I have for ages – I generally make a big pot of meaty tomato sauce, grate piles of mozzarella and then wing it, starting with tomato sauce spooned over the bottom of the pan, then noodles, more sauce, spoonfuls of ricotta, grated cheese, and so on. I used fresh lasagna sheets this time, which are as inexpensive as dried noodles if not as convenient to keep stashed in your cupboard, but are a dream to work with – there’s no boiling and handling slippery noodles, or crunchy edge from the no-boil kind that didn’t manage to get adequately covered with sauce.

Lasagna 2

Emily is a fantastic cook and a solid recipe writer, and excels in the realm of Italian home cooking; when she came to visit this summer, she brought me a gnocchi board handmade by her dad, and deftly mixed and shaped a batch for dinner one night as we hung out in the kitchen. If I went out looking for a lasagna recipe, there’s no one I’d trust more.

Fortuitously, I had just simmered a big batch of fresh tomato sauce in the slow cooker, and cooked up a bunch of ground beef and Italian sausage that needed cooking. I followed her direction fairly loosely (I think I added more ricotta), but in the end was layers of meaty sauce, ricotta, grated cheese and fresh pasta sheets, baked as per her instructions, and it came together like a dream.

Emily’s Meat Lasagna

Adapted only slightly from Per La Famiglia, by Emily Richards

extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 lb. lean ground beef (or turkey or veal – I used some crumbled Italian sausage too)
salt and pepper, to taste
6 cups homemade tomato sauce (bottled is fine too, just make sure it’s the good stuff)
1 pkg (about 350 g) fresh pasta sheets
1 container ricotta
1 ball mozzarella, grated (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or extra old Gouda

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for another minute, then add the beef and cook, breaking the meat up with a spoon, until it’s browned and no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch or lasagna pan. Top with a layer of lasagna sheets, another cup of sauce, some of the ricotta cheese and some of the mozzarella. Repeat with pasta sheets (I cut mine to fit), sauce and cheeses. I put all the ricotta in between the first two layers, then top the last pasta sheet with sauce and mozzarella, and then the Parmesan.

Cover with foil. (Emily recommends putting your lasagna on a baking sheet, but I like to live dangerously.) Bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden.

Serves 8-10 very happy people.

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October 27 2015 | beef & bison and one dish and pasta | 3 Comments »

Beef Carbonnade Flamande

beef carbonnade

We have the very first gathering of our cookbook club tonight – a real-life club in which we collectively choose a cookbook to cook out of, or a theme to stick to, and everyone makes something and brings it and we eat and laugh and cheers our good fortune that we all get to enjoy each others’ company on an otherwise regular Tuesday night.

Our first theme is family recipes, to celebrate our diverse pasts and presents, to recall where our parents and grandparents were born and raised and what they ate and how they got to be here, and how our families’ daily meals have evolved or stayed the same. (In fact, we started compiling our collective recipes into small eBooks, to raise funds for the UN Refugee Agency.)

Beef Carbonnade

I made my grandma’s Belgian beef carbonnade – a Belgian stew in which not-so-tender cuts of beef are braised slowly in stock and beer, creating an intensely flavorful sauce – and the only recipe I remember this particular grandma making. It’s very beefy, devoid of veggies save for onions and garlic, and is traditionally served over buttered egg noodles, although mashed potatoes are delicious too – you just need something to catch all that gravy. Her recipe is written over three (four?) pages in fancy longhand, but it’s really not that complicated – totally worth spending ten minutes browning meat at the stove. After that, the oven does the work.

(This would be divine with a slab of brisket too – just sayin’.)

Beef Carbonnade Flamande

canola or olive oil, for cooking
3-4 slices bacon, chopped
2-3 lb. (1.25 kg) stewing beef, chuck or blade, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped or thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup (ish) beef stock
1 can or bottle heavy ale or dark stout (I used Big Rock Scottish Heavy Ale)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
egg noodles or mashed potatoes, for serving
butter, for serving

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Set a wide pot or braising dish over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and cook the bacon until crisp; transfer to a shallow bowl, leaving the drippings.

Brown the beef in the drippings on all sides, working in batches, sprinkling with salt and pepper in the pan and setting it aside on a plate as it gets browned and crusty on the edges. Add the onion to the pot and cook until golden; add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the beef stock to the pan, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Return the beef to the pot, pour over the beer, stir in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and add the sprigs of thyme. Cover and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender. Remove the lid, and if the gravy is too thin, set the pan on the stovetop and simmer uncovered until it thickens.

Serves 6-10.

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September 29 2015 | beef & bison | 3 Comments »

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