This week’s show is about meat entrees. Tender cuts of meat are perfect for weeknight meals because they cook up quickly and adapt easily to all kinds of preparations. I know there is nothing unique about heading for the meat department when you’re trying to get dinner on the table quickly and healthfully, but though they’re made with standard fare, each of these recipes offers a delicious new twist or two. I’ve used different cuts of pork, beef, and lamb, different preparation methods, and have also spiced up everything with ingredients from around the world.
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Tips. When cooking meat, remove it to the serving platter when it is 5 degrees below the temperature you want it to reach. Cover it loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil and let it stand for 5 minutes. The temperature will rise 5 degrees and the juices will redistribute throughout the meat so they won’t be lost when you carve it.
Tenderloins often still have a bit of the tough silver skin covering them when you purchase them. Use a sharp knife and trim that off before cooking them.
To section citrus fruit, trim off all skin and the white membrane just beneath the skin. The best way to do this is to cut off the top and the bottom of the fruit with a serrated knife so it lies flat on the counter and then cut off the rind working from the top to the bottom. Working over a bowl to catch any juice, with a sharp knife cut between membrane and fruit on each side of a citrus section and remove the section.
When making a sauce that is finished with butter, it is a good idea not to blast it with heat or the butter will separate from the rest of the sauce.
To make mincing garlic even easier, use a Microplane.
The term, Shish Kabob, comes from Turkish words meaning “skewer” and “roast meat.” Kabob cooking has a lot going for it. Kabobs can be assembled ahead so they can be ready to throw on the grill or under the broiler at the last minute. They make it possible to cook small pieces of meat and vegetables on a grill. They are a colorful way to present foods, and are easy to serve.
Metal skewers can be reused and help to conduct the heat to the inside of the items that they hold. Bamboo skewers are disposable but should be soaked in water for 15 to 30 minutes before use to make them less flammable. See Episode 102 for information on my favorite double skewers.
It is important to pair items on each skewer that will cook in the same amount of time. If you want to use vegetables that take a while to cook, either precook them before assembling the kabob or put them on a separate skewer from the quick cooking items and put them on the grill or under the broiler first.
For a head start, you can make the marinade for the Grilled Lamb and Onion Kabobs in advance and keep it in the fridge so it’s ready to use when you need it.
Always wash your hands after touching raw protein foods such as meat, poultry, and seafood. And, always keep plates and tools used for raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from those used for the cooked finished food.
Tools. Another tool that I get many questions about is my Pepper Grinder. I highly recommend freshly grinding pepper as you are cooking and there are many good pepper grinders out there. I am lucky to have one that was hand made and given to me by Pinky Martin. The grinder caused such a stir when it first appeared on my show that Pinky, an octogenarian, got so many orders he is still working on his list. No, you probably can’t get on the list, but do take a look at pepper grinders at craft shows and gift shops that sell hand-crafted products. I also enjoy using my CIA pepper grinder. It is not artisanal (it’s made out of metal), but it really works well. You can find it in the Culinary Institute of America Masters Collection at ciacook.com.
Ingredients. Pork loin roast comes from between the shoulder and the beginning of the leg, is sold either bone-in or deboned, and is a large cut of pork weighing between two and four pounds. Most pork has been bred to be very lean and pork loin is one of the leanest cuts. It’s tricky to cook it so that it comes out moist and tender. Don’t cook it well done or it will come out tough and dry.
Pork Tenderloin comes from the full pork loin which runs from the pig’s hip to shoulder, and is one of the most tender cuts of pork. It can be roasted, grilled, or, when sliced crosswise into medallions, sauteed. The tenderloin has a mild flavor and can handle a robust sauce. I prefer tenderloin to loin. It is much more tender (again be careful about overcooking it).
A Tournedo is a beautiful medallion cut from the center of the tenderloin of beef, pork, or lamb. It cooks very quickly and is perfect for a special weeknight meal.
Skirt Steak is the diaphragm of the animal. It is coarse textured and well marbled with fat. It cooks quickly and will be tender as long as you don’t overcook it and you slice it across the grain before serving. It is my family’s favorite steak.
Capers are the preserved flower buds of a prickly shrub of the Capparidaceae family. Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, they range in size from the tiny nonpareils of France to plump capers larger than 1/4 inch. You can purchase capers either pickled in a vinegar brine or salted. Salted capers need to be rinsed to reduce the saltiness. Capers of all kinds add a delicious crunch and saltiness to any dish like tiny little pickles. Some people prefer the small French capers, but I like them all.