Slow-Cooker Meat Cuts
It’s winter and there’s nothing quite like coming home to a hot meal. You count on your slow-cooker for delicious, almost no effort dinners and it can be tempting to throw just about any ingredients into these amazing appliances. BUT for the tastiest results, you need to know which meats do best in it. Delivering low, even heat over a long period of time, slow-cookers break down the connective tissue in typically tough cuts of meat, making them extremely tender. Here is a quick guide to great cuts of meat for your slow-cooker. The good news is that these cuts are often less expensive which, along with saving you time and energy, will also save you money.
Beef: Slowly cooked brisket becomes incredibly tender. Look for marbling. The white steaks of fat are what adds flavor. Beef chuck is another favorite for long braises.
Chicken: Go with dark meat. Thighs and drumsticks are cheaper and richer in flavor than white meat and stand out in soups and stews. Brown or remove the skin before cooking for the best results.
Lamb: Cooked low and slow, lamb shanks become rich and complex flavors. Have your butcher slice them crosswise to fit into your slow-cooker. Lamb shoulder is also a great choice for slow-cooking.
Pork: Always a classic, pork shoulder is a tough cut that becomes silky and flavorful after hours spent simmering in its own juices.
For most of us, it’s cold outside so bring out your slow-cooker and let it work its magic while you’re busy doing other things.
"Work With What You Got!"
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen
Roasted Leg of Lamb Roman Style
This is such an easy Sunday meal. For this traditional Roman dinner, purchase 1/4 of a nice fat “abbacchio”. In Rome “abbacchio” is a very young lamb, which has been fed only with milk. I usually purchase my “abbacchio” from a nice butcher in the Arthur Avenue area of the Bronx. If you don’t want to buy 1/4 of a young lamb then just get a decent sized leg of lamb that will accommodate the size of your family (make sure it’s not been previously frozen). Insert cloves of garlic, both lean and fatty ham, chopped stalks of rosemary, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and brush all over with olive oil. Salt again and roast in a medium hot oven (350 degrees) for 1 hour together with lots of raw potatoes either whole (small potatoes) or cut into pieces (larger potatoes). After about half an hour, add 1 glass of dry white wine and turn the lamb over and cook the other side for another half an hour. When the lamb is done roasting, cut into pieces and serve with the potatoes, steamed asparagus and a nice chicory salad.
Note: By the way, if you’ve never been to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx then you’re really missing quite an experience. Forget Little Italy downtown because Arthur Avenue is the real deal although tourists have discovered it as well. A great time to go is during the Christmas season. Often times they have Frank Sinatra piped Christmas songs blaring from loud speakers posted high up on the lampposts. My Arthur Avenue butcher is a total crackup. He’s in a great mood during the Christmas season because according to him it’s the one time of the year that his wife is “nice” to him if you know what I mean and he’s not shy to chirp about it either. My husband is Italian and looks it so much that they say the map of southern Italy is stamped on his face. One time I needed to pick up a few things on a Saturday during the holidays and it was so busy that there was no parking to be found. My husband found a spot, but the meter was broken. There was a “group” of Italian men donned in the “I can’t fit in my clothes” velour track suits (adorned with gold chains carrying either St. Christopher or the Virgin Mary herself) hanging around by the broken metered parking spot. My husband was inspecting the broken meter worrying about a parking ticket when the guys pipe up, “Heeeey don’t worry bout it. We’ll watch to make sure you don’t get a ticket. We’ll take care of it.” Sure enough we get back to the car after about an hour and no ticket even though we could see the NYC parking police patrolling the streets. My husband said a sincere, “thank you” to which he received a sincere “don’t mention it” and we were on our way.
Forget that horrible box stuff and make your own delicious Mac & Cheese. Here is a different spin on the usual cheddar cheese macaroni & cheese dish. Using the brie, cream cheese and mascarpone makes it nice and creamy. I used macaroni pasta here, but you can use pasta shells or farfalle pasta.
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
12 Ounces of Farfelle or Macaroni Pasta or Shells
7 Ounces Brie (Rind Removed) Cut Into Chunks
5 Ounces Cream Cheese Softened & Cubed
3 Large Eggs Lightly Beaten
1 Cup Mascarpone Cheese
1 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
3/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Finely Grated Nutmeg
Heat your oven to 375º F. Butter a 2 quart gratin dish. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente and then drain well. DO NOT rinse the pasta. Transfer the hot pasta to a large bowl and toss immediately with Brie and cream cheese until melted and smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, mascarpone and Parmigiano. Stir the egg mixture into pasta. Season with the kosher salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Serves 6
I hate to throw food away. I really do. Here are some ideas that will transform one night’s extras into a fresh meal.
Toss up a salad. Add leftover roasted meat or fish to fresh lettuces and vegetables. Sprinkle an assortment of cheeses and add your favorite dressing.
Stir up a soup. Cook leftover meats and vegetables in a chicken or vegetable broth. Add fresh or frozen vegetables and cook through. Season as you like. If you have leftover cooked pasta you may want to add as well. Let's not forget tofu.
If you cooked too much pasta don’t worry about it. You can add sausage and spinach to the next night’s leftover pasta. Add a little olive oil and grated cheese and you’re set.
Make some French bread sandwiches. Slice the French bread lengthwise. The long loaves are great for piling with leftover meat and topped with cheeses. Place under the broiler for tasty open-faced sandwiches.
Be creative. I have come up with some good recipes out of a fridge full of leftovers.