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Oct 1, 2008 06:53 AM

October 2008 COTM Batali: Meats

October 2008 Cookbooks of the Month:

Mario Batali’s Babbo, Molto Italiano, and Simple Italian Cooking.

Please post your full-length reviews of main course meat recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating!

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  1. I confess, I jumped the gun and have been cooking from Molto Italiano for a couple of weeks already.

    Meatballs with Ricotta in Milk. Molto Italiano, page 398. See thread on this recipe here:
    Bottom line, these were delicious and I will make them again and again.

    Lamb Shanks with Oranges and Black Olives. Molto Italiano, page 382. You sauté red onions, lots of whole cloves of garlic and naval orange wedges, then add equal parts white wine, chicken broth and his Basic Tomato Sauce (p. 71), chopped fresh rosemary and black olives and finally add the previously-seared lamb shanks. It all comes together pretty fast then goes into the oven for 90 minutes or so to braise. Sprinkle with orange zest before serving. This was wonderful, the orange brightened up the dish so much and cut through the richness of the lamb beautifully. My DCs, for whom I have made several lamb shanks recipes before, voted this to the top of the list. Two notes: Mario called for 2 full tablespoons of rosemary and I worried it would overwhelm the dish so I used only 1 tablespoon and thought it was perfect. Also I made the Basic Tomato Sauce the day before and used it but if I didn’t have any around I would just throw in the same amount of chopped up canned tomatoes without much juice and a couple sprigs of thyme and I’m not sure it would make much difference.

    5 Replies
    1. re: GretchenS

      GretchenS: I dunno about subbing regular canned tomatoes in the Lamb Shank recipe. Actually, it would probably make hardly any difference, but I've posted several times about the simple tomato sauce and believe it really adds a certain zing to dishes that wouldn't be there without it. It's so simple to make that it's not a big chore to prep.

      Will have to try those meatballs!

      1. re: GretchenS

        I bought (or stole, as you might say), some lamb chops yesterday. Three mis-marked packages or about four pounds was six cents...
        I wanted to do Osso Bucco but they were out of veal shanks. I've done it before with lamb.
        Seeing the recipe for Lamb shanks with Oranges and black olives made me want to ask which one would you do with the chops?
        Would anyone suggest I do any other recipe?

        1. re: GretchenS

          Here's my review of my bastardized version, using my infamous six cent lamb chops!

          I really went on the cheap for this one. I could not find the veal I wanted and there were these cheap (perhaps I should say "free"), lamb chops laying there. I had some opened high-pulp orange juice and lots of my homemade tomato sauce. Rosemary came fresh from the yard. I had a few of the little Gaeta olives but I used some unpitted calamatas to make up the difference.
          I used Vidalias instead of red onions. How much difference do you think that made?
          We were pleased with the results but SO whined about how I overcooked the chops and that they were not "rare".
          I thought I added a little too much orange juice. I reworked it later by adding more tomato sauce, thyme and smoky paprika and cooking it down more. It was better.
          We particularly liked the way the olives plumped up and were a burst of flavor, much like what happens with grapes. I'd make this dish again. Perhaps it would be better with just the orange and zest he specifies and a red onion.

          1. re: Scargod

            Yes - I can see red onions being a little less sweet, and I do think that fresh juice/zest gives a special zing that regular juice would not.

          2. re: GretchenS

            Not that I think anyone else would be crazy enough to try this, but just in case you're considering, let my attempt be a warning to you. I found this recipe (the lamb shanks with oranges, black olives, etc.) a few years ago and thought it sounded interesting, but wanted to try it with chicken thighs. NOT good. It just didn't work at all.

          3. also jumped the gun:)

            Pork Chops with Peppers and Capers, MOLTO ITALIANO p. 375

            Followed the ingredients almost exactly, though bought the wrong pork chops. In the book he just lists "pork rib chops" and in the picture, they look relatively thick. In the link I pasted above, he denotes "pounded thin," wish I read that. Mine were like an inch thick and I ended up undercooking them first, then inadvertently overcooking them to compensate, but that's on me. Used regular onion instead of bulb, and then garnished with scallions instead of the tops. In the spirit of using the best ingredients, I sprung for good oil cured black olives, not the canned ones, and I'm glad, their flavor was so much better.

            Have never heard of brining pork before...I thought pork was plenty fatty enough and I usually associate brining with turkey and other easily dried out meats. I would want to prepare this without the brining and see if it makes a difference. Anyway, the peppers, capers, olives, and onions made a delicious sauce with the wine and pork juices. It was perfectly just spicy enough from the pepper flakes and would've been one of my fave pork chop dinners ever if I had cooked the meat properly. Used the extra veg/sauce to make a sandwich the next day, with melted mozz on ciabatta, it was delicious.

            Sorry for the lousy picture, I don't know how you guys manage to shoot such pretty food porn and get dinner on the table at the same time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: yamalam

              That looks delicious. Re: the photos - my husband now knows that we don't eat until photos are taken! No need for a dinner bell in our house - the flash going off is the signal that dinner is ready. I've figured out that under the lamp on the sideboard works pretty well for photos, and I take them both with and w/o the flash, and then decide which photos are most accurate.

            2. Grilled Pork Chops with Peaches and Balsamic Vinegar (Babbo, page 254)

              You brine double-cut pork chops 12 hours or overnight (I had them in the fridge for about 24 hours), brush chops and peach halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and grill or broil. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and serve on a bed of Broccoli Rabe with Garlic (page 204).

              These didn’t do it for me, for many reasons. First of all, how thick is a double-cut pork chop supposed to be? I’ve seen just about everything from 1¼ to 2 inches. I had the butcher cut mine 1½. The brine is salt, sugar, and water. And although the chops were wonderfully juicy, they were a bit more salty than I would have liked. I prefer the pork chop brine in The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook, which has half the salt and a lot more aromatics. Batali says you can grill or broil them, and since grilling is not an option in a Manhattan apartment, I broiled them in my gas oven.(I wouldn’t be at all surprised if grilled produced a distinctly superior result.) It took a lot longer than the 5 minutes on each side he said it would. I cooked mine 10 minutes on the first side and 8 on the second and they were still (acceptably) pink on the inside but only minimally charred on the out. Perhaps it’s just that I have my braising of pork chops down to a science, but I much prefer that method of cooking them. I still get very juicy chops, but with a good deal more caramelization on the outside, which I think adds to their flavor. I’d given up broiling chops ages ago, and now I’m reminded why. And unfortunately, my peaches just weren’t all that good, as so many seem not have been this season. Edible, but not a recipe I’ll revisit.

              I’ll report on the broccoli rabe in the veggies thread (but, sneak preview, I wasn’t overly thrilled with that, either).

              10 Replies
              1. re: JoanN

                JoanN: I fell for peaches at the market a couple of weeks ago and had the same problem. They were not good and were also pithy inside. I always forget that peaches are NOT in season late in the summer. I feel like Homer Simpson every time I forget that and buy them. D'OH!

                I'm reporting on the Stuffed Meat Loaf from Molto Italiano, p. 397, since my Boar and Venison hadn't yet arrived. NOTTTT!

                I've made this a few times and have impressed guests. It's pretty flashy to cut the slices and reveal the filling.

                This is really good, but be sure not to overcook.

                It's beef and pork mixed together with pecorino romano and bread crumbs and s&p. It's then patted out on a board dusted with flour and bread crumbs. Spinach, lengthwise sliced carrots, prosciutto, slices of caciocavallo (or other semi-soft cheese) are layered over it. It's rolled up and baked on a rack over a broiler pan (I just used a big sheet pan) into which is poured some water and 2 sprigs of rosemary. Olive oil is drizzled over the meat.

                I think it's easier to put down a cloth or some plastic wrap to aid in the rolling up process. It works without it, especially since the loaf can be re-patted and smoothed out if you goof.

                After it's cooked, you boil the pan juices, s&p and then drizzle over the meatloaf.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  This is on my to-try list for sure, thanks for the tip on the plastic wrap. Question: Have you ever subbed fresh mozzarella as the semi-soft cheese, or another cheese, with good results? Not sure if mozz has a strong enough flavor for this. Haven't found caciocavallo in my usual markets and I spent all my online food money on boar and venison (also NOTTT).

                  1. re: yamalam

                    I could not get caciocavallo as called for in this recipe so I used Italian Fontina. It came out very well - this is a great recipe.

                2. re: JoanN

                  JoanN: Could you just cook them in a skillet on top of the stove? The pork chops I mean. I have NEVER had a broiler that really worked well. Maybe one has to shell out thousands for a fancy stove, something I will never be doing in this lifetime.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    I guess so, but if I'm going to do that, I might as well braise them, which I know exactly how to do so they're just as I want them. I actually use my broiler quite a bit.--for lamb chops, flank steak (although not a strip or sirloin), fish, and even some chicken and shrimp dishes. So the broiler isn't the problem for me. I think mine really does work quite well. Just don't like pork chops cooked that way.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      Not a great oven for broiling at my house either - I grill thick pork chops on the stove top (I'm crazed for a version of the Zuni pork brine, with star anise, chiles, bay) on a weird arcane creuset bacon grill (initially nabed for it's turquoise loveliness) - it has enameled cast iron ridges, but a slant for grease to slide downhill. Delicious grill marks! Anyway, a cast iron grill pan should do the job for you.

                      I've trained myself to (what used to feel recklessly) not overcook them - they really do keep cooking when you take them off...all of which I imagine you already know how to do, oakjoan master cook!

                      1. re: oakjoan

                        OK, I have to ask because I've always wondered about this. What is broiling, exactly? Is it another word for grilling but in the oven rather than on a BBQ?

                          1. re: JoanN

                            And, usually, I think, using the broiler in the oven. My oven is gas and the broiler is on the bottom, which can be a bit of a pain, for steaks etc., I use my grill pan instead.

                          2. re: greedygirl

                            yeah, the heating element is usually above the item to be cooked, and the food is cooked close to the heat. Electric ovens here have a Broil setting that turns on the top heating coil only. My old gas stove has a narrow compartment on the bottom, below the gas flame that heats the oven, and comes with a broiler pan that puts the food 3 or 4" away from the heat. I don't particularly like to clean my oven - fat spattered from broiling chops - so stove top grill pans are my preference.

                      2. T-bone Fiorentina p.400 Molto Italiano
                        beautiful perfect delicious
                        I almost never cook a steak, so I appreciated some basic instructions and a great fresh herb mix. I did *not* use a 3" thick steak because that was not what I had. I did have a great grass-fed steak half that thickness, so cooking time adjusted downward significantly.
                        (I made it awhile ago, so I don't remember that detail. But I still remember the delicious. Really, I didn't think I liked beef that much...great stuff.)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: pitu

                          This is one of my favorites. It comes out perfect every time

                          1. re: pitu

                            T-Bone Fiorentina p..208 Simple Italian Food:

                            I assume this is the same recipe as the one in Molto Mario. In SIF, he mentions that this recipe was one of the more popular dishes on his show.

                            We've now made this several times, and it has been very popular every time we've made it. The first time, we used the 3 inch steak, and it was burnt on the outside, and completely raw on the inside. We now use a 2 inch steak, and we prefer the results, less burning. We use a charcoal grill to cook the steak.

                            We have also adjusted the instructions a little bit. He tells you to combine the herbs with the kosher salt, cover steak with herb mix, then brush with the olive oil. We mix all the herbs, salt and some of the chopped garlic with the olive oil, then apply the whole mix to the steak. We did this because we found it hard to brush olive oil after applying the herbs. It seems to work fine.

                            It is such a simple recipe, but it really makes a great impact! My friends really love this meal. I really like the great charred flavour from the charcoal grill.

                            1. re: pitu

                              This was a real winner last night. A 29 YO guest said it was one of the two best steaks he had ever had.
                              I had "only" a measly, 1-1/4 inch thick porterhouse steak, but it was a tender piece of Black Angus.
                              I applied the fresh herbs and drizzled the olive oil over it using my finger to gently push it around, as required.
                              We did not have spinach. I paired it with the grilled asparagus "al Forno". That and some fettuccine and modified tomato sauce left over from the infamous "stolen" lamb chop dish.

                            2. Braised pork in the "black rooster," or brasato di maiale nero, "Molto Italiano" p. 377.
                              This was the main course of a Mario-centric menu. I apologize for not having photos of any of it. I can barely operate a camera so I had asked a guest to be the official photographer. But she didn't bring her camera. This wasn't the most photogenic dish anyway. But it was good.
                              You take a 4-pound boneless pork shoulder roast and braise it in lots of good stuff _ pancetta, garlic, parsley, red wine, basic tomato sauce. Mario doesn't say anything about skimming the fat off but I did try to remove some of it. Pork shoulder is fatty! There was a lot of fat!
                              I served it with roast potatoes from p. 440 and crusty bread to mop up the sauce (the Bitman no-knead bread, not a Batali recipe.) It was rib-sticking food. I have a hunk of meat and a lot of sauce left over. I think I'll shred the meat and serve it with the sauce over pasta.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: NYCkaren

                                Glad to read your report as this is on my to-make list. Was reading the recipe just last night and thinking about the 3+lb. pork shoulder sitting in the freezer as I type. I made those potatoes last week and loved them, but I'm thinking a roasted squash might go well with this.

                                1. re: NYCkaren

                                  In an effort to of use up some things I had on hand (pork shoulder, pancetta, open bottle of red wine), I made this a couple of nights ago. I got a pretty late start on it, so we ended up letting it "rest" overnight. This delay turned out to be a boon, because it made skimming the fat off a snap.

                                  I certainly violated the letter (but perhaps not the spirit) of the recipe by using a non-Chianti Classico wine and a ~4.5 lb bone-in piece of shoulder (trimmed almost all of the external fat). Even with these substitutions, the dish turned out quite well. The sauce has a great richness along with a slightly bracing acidity and garlicky bite.

                                  A cook's note: After "melting" the pancetta/garlic/parsley paste into the oil, move it aside or remove it to a plate so that the pork can be in direct contact with the bottom of the pot during the browning step.

                                  I too served it with roasted potatoes that I cooked based partly on my memory of the recipe you followed and partly on whim and intuition. I think I'll serve it tonight with some polenta topped with sauteed leeks.

                                  This recipe is definitely a keeper that I would recommend to all braising fanatics. :-)