When my grandmother’s family arrived in New York in the early 1900s, some of them couldn’t get used city living like she did.They were southern Italian farmers and felt more comfortable living in “upstate” rural areas. They farmed and often hunted. When visiting my grandparents they’d bring Concord grapes, apples and sometimes venison. My grandmother came up with this recipe. It originally contained deer heart but I substitute chicken hearts. (A heart isn’t like other organs. It’s a muscle just like a steak or chop.)
Sear strips of seasoned venison in a very hot pan (no oil) and remove.
Do the same with the chicken hearts
Cut unpeeled fingerling or Yukon Gold potatoes in ½ in. slices. Add oil and lightly brown enough slices in same pan to cover the bottom of the pan, S&P and remove.
Fry the green pepper until soft and lightly browned in a deep pot
Add 1 small roughly chopped onion to the pepper and sauté in the same pot
Clear a hot spot and add 1/2 small can (3 ozs.) of tomato paste and caramelize then mix with peppers & onions.
Use some stock to deglaze the pan and pour liquid into the pot. Add about 1/2 of the remaining beef stock to the pot and add the bay leaves. You won’t need all of the stock.
Add meat and potatoes to the pot, stir and simmer on low, covered for 10 minutes.
Add more stock if necessary to get a stew like constancy.
I know some people don’t get Italians referring to tomato sauce as Sunday gravy. In this case it’s justified because there’s so much beef flavor in it.
The key to this one is using the right cuts of beef. It has to have lots of collagen, that is, connective tissue which is water soluble and breaks down in slow, moist cooking. I’m using short ribs and ox tail – collagen, bones and marrow. With that as the flavor base you can add, sausage, meatballs, etc.
Some tomato sauces can be a simple as the 4 ingredient marinara sauce included in my Eggplant Parmagiana post. This one is more complex.
Season the room temperature meat with salt and pepper and brown on all sides in a pot with olive oil. Remove meat and sauté the onion. Deglaze the pot with the liquid released by the onion.
Add the tomato paste and mix with the onion. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, beef stock and stir. Add the sachet and return the browned meat with its juices. Simmer on medium heat, partially covered for one hour.
This is enough sauce for one pound of pasta. Since this is meat sauce and not seafood, serve with grated cheese.
An easy and tasty meal and I got it all from a butcher shop. Schaller and Weberis on 2nd Avenue near 86th Street. They have fresh and smoked meats, goose and venison and all kinds of German wursts. The also make their own salads and other prepared food as well as carrying European imports like preservers, pickles, spätzle, coffee and candy.
I had lunch at the Heidelberg yesterday. I sat at the bar and ordered a Bitburger and steak tartar – light on the onions and heavy on the Tabasco. The barmaid served my beer and then walked out of the front door. She returned a few minutes later and waved a small package wrapped in butcher paper at me.
“Here’s your lunch,” she said as she brought it to the kitchen.
It was the freshly double ground sirloin from Schaller and Weber for my steak tartar. The Heidelberg only serves it during the hours that Schaller and Weber is open and can supply the fresh meat.
After lunch I went next door and did a little shopping. I got bauernwurst, bratwurst and knockwurst as well a few sides – red cabbage, sauerkraut, German potato salad, cucumber salad and mustard. The only thing that needed to be cooked was the wursts – simple..
More serious cucina povera. This isn’t for everyone. When my daughter Kristina was about 10 years old, I gave her $5.00 to try it. She took one bite, took the money and never touched brains again. But some people love them. The worst part is the preparation. My wife leaves the kitchen until I’m finished (she won’t eat them either). Another hard part if finding calf brains in a market. I live in New York City and any butcher on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx carries them. If you want to try this, ask your butcher to make a special order.
Clean the brains – Remove any of the really ugly parts, i.e. brain stem, membrane, etc. Rinse them in cold water for 10 minutes. Bring some water to a boil and put the brains in it for 5 minutes. Change the water and do it again. Now they’re ready to prepare for cooking.
Pat them dry and season with salt & pepper. Coat them with oil and roll them in plain breadcrumbs. Pack them snuggly in an oiled baking pan or cast iron frying pan. Cover the top of them with the following mix: breadcrumbs mixed with finely chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Drizzle, or better yet, spray oil over the top until the breadcrumbs are well saturated then sprinkle the capers over it. Bake them at 350o until the breadcrumbs brown. Serve with lemon, Italian bread and salad.
Where ever you go you’ll get an argument about how chili should be made – with beans/without beans, ground meat/cubes, etc. Here are 2 recipes from both ends of the chili spectrum. Both good but different. Try each and then improvise.
The idea of this one is that a cowboy always had access to some beef that he could fry in its own fat and he could easily carry a few dried peppers in his saddle bag. And maybe he could find a wild onion out on the range.
Boil to rehydrate 6 or 7 anchos in 1 ½ cups water. Strain, saving liquid. Remove stems and chop roughly.
Cut 1 lb. sirloin (cowboys has access to good cuts of beef) into cubes and brown lightly over high heat (add some oil if you need it) with salt and pepper and remove. Lightly brown small chopped onion (optional) and add the chopped peppers. Return meat and juices and simmer 5 minutes on low heat. Add ancho liquid and stir, scraping up brown bits from pan. Simmer another 5 minutes and it’s ready.
North East Chili
I got this recipe from a friend from Massachusetts. Then I made it for someone from Colorado and asked her what she thought of it. She said, “Not bad – tastes like North East chili.”
This recipe can serve a large group – cut it in half if you want. It’s good left over.
In batches, brown 2 lbs chopped beef and 1 lb. of cubed chuck (seasoned) in oil and remove. Brown 1 large chopped onion, 2 cloves chopped garlic and salt and pepper.
Add 1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes and 1 sm. can chili powder. Return meat and juices.
Simmer 2 hours and then add 3 cans of beans (1 each pinto, kidney and black). Simmer another 20 minutes. It’s better made a day in advance and then re-heated and served.
My mother used to make this and her original recipe also called for beef lung – no longer permitted by Dept. of Agriculture. I added the cubed beef to make up the difference. I never saw this on a restaurant menu.
Preparation: Season liver, brown in oil and set aside. Season heart/beef , brown in batches and set aside. Remove any liquid so meat browns and doesn’t steam. Don’t overcook.
In the same pot, add more oil, sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add tomato paste and caramelize. Add stock, deglaze and stir well and add bay leaf. Return meat, mix with onion and add oregano. Simmer covered for 1/2 hour, adding more liquid if needed. Taste for seasoning. Add the browned calf liver at the end.
Porterhouse, the king of steaks, has a strip steak on one side of the bone and a tenderloin on the other.
Sprinkle with lots of salt and let it (1 ½ to 2 inches thick) sit at room temp. Heat skillet very hot with a little oil. 3 minutes on one side and remove to board, crust side up.
Cut the loin and sirloin in thick slices straight down and perpendicular to the bone but leave ends attached to the bone.
Dot with lots of butter and put it back together in the pan curst and butter side up.
Place under a preheated broiler for 3 minutes. Spoon melted butter over it and remove from pan or it will continue to cook.
Roasted Tomahawk Steak
1 -2 ½ to 3 inch thick tomahawk steak *
Salt and black pepper
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Blot room temperature tomahawk dry with paper towels and season with pepper and lots of salt; let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°. Dot roasting pan with 3 tbsp. butter.
Put1 tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot add steak to skillet. Cook until seared on all sides (including edges), 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer to the roasting pan. Roast in the oven, turning halfway through cooking and basting with the melted butter, Cook for 10 minutes for rare.
Place in a serving platter and pour the melted butter fron the pan over it. Cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serves two.
* A tomahawk steak is a rib steak with the entire rib bone intact.
My great aunt Caroline could cook weeds and make them taste good. She had a dish her guests would often hope for at lunch. She’d sauté chicken hearts and mushrooms in olive oil with crumpled dried pepperoncini – simple ingredients which came together as something very special. The mushrooms were gathered by my Uncle Tony in his forays into the wilds of Staten Island to places only he knew.
When he went to pick wild mushrooms he’d be gone all day and Aunt Caroline would say, “He thinks I don’t know, but after he gets the mushrooms, he plays poker with his friends. As long as he brings me the mushrooms, I don’t say anything.”
The first time I can remember her serving the chicken hearts, she looked at me and without asking if I’d prefer it, cut a couple of slices of crunchy Italian bread and spread it with cream cheese and Welch’s grape jelly.
“Robbie’s ‘Merican,” she said to my mother, “so I made him a sandwich I saw on television.” I was glad to get the cream cheese and jelly but eventually acquired a taste for her chicken hearts.
1 lb chicken hearts
1 lb sliced mushrooms (your choice)
¼ cup olive oil
Dried peperoncini to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
Wash, dry and season the chicken hearts with salt and black pepper. Sear them in oil in a very hot pan and remove. Sauté sliced mushrooms in the remaining fat & oil. When done return the chicken hearts. Break up 3 or 4 dried peperoncini into the pan stir and serve when the peppers soften.
Roasted Beefsteak Sirloin with Blood and Butter Sauce
Adapted from Chef Waldy Malouf’s beefsteak recipe at the (now closed) Beacon Restaurant.
Throwing a “Beefsteak” is an old New York City tradition. It was a night of beef, beer and cigars with no vegetables or silverware.
For more on the beefsteak tradition see: ALL YOU CAN HOLD FOR FIVE BUCKS, written by Joseph Mitchell and originally printed in The New Yorker Magazine, 1939
1 whole boneless sirloin, approximately 8 pounds; ask your butcher for a No. 180 strip loin (pretty expensive)
2 onions, chopped
2 cups beef broth
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
Sliced white bread
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season sirloin heavily with S&P. Place in a roasting pan, fat side down and roast for 30 minutes. Turn meat over, fat side up, and add onions to pan beside meat. Roast another 30 minutes.
Remove roasting pan from oven. Turn oven off and leave door ajar to cool slightly. Transfer beef to a rimmed platter, leaving onions in pan. Loosely cover beef with foil and return to oven to keep warm. Carefully spoon off about two-thirds of the clear fat in roasting pan (leaving any dark juices beneath) and add beef broth. Place over high heat and boil until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add butter, Worcestershire sauce, and any juices that have collected in platter of beef. Return to medium-low heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. Strain sauce into a warmed pitcher or serving bowl.
To serve, slice sirloin into 1 1/2-inch-thick steaks and then cut each steak crosswise into strips 3 to 4 inches long that you will be able to pick up with your hands. Serve sauce very hot. Dip meat into sauce as you eat. You can also serve meat with a stack of white bread.
Capozzelli di Angnelli Yes, it’s a lamb’s head. The padrone would get the loin, legs and chops and the peasants had to make what was left taste good.
1 lamb head, split in half
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp oregano
½ lemon plus more for serving
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
Place room temperature halves on a platter and liberally season with salt and black pepper. Mix ½ tspn each, salt and black pepper with oregano, lemon juice, garlic and oil (save some oil to grease baking pan). Rub halves with marinade and allow to sit at room temperature for one hour.
Roast for 90 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 325o. Starting with cut side up, turn and baste with drippings every ½ hour. At the end of 90 minutes remove it from the oven and turn on the broiler.
Baste and place in broiler, eye side up, about 6 inches from flame for 2 minutes until lightly browned. When done, let it rest for about 5 minutes and serve with lemon wedges.