I used to think the only kind of meat dishes that were possible for a busy day were quickly grilled chops or stir-fries.
But elegant roasts such as a rib eye or tenderloin of beef, shoulder or leg of lamb, and pork loins and hams (both fresh and cured) are much easier to cook than a steak if you also need to prepare vegetables and get everything to come out at the same time.
Certain cuts of meat lend themselves to long, slow cooking, whether as roasts or as stews. These are usually the most flavorful and less tender cuts such as chuck, brisket and eye of round beef.
Ground meat can also take a long cooking, either in a Bolognese meat sauce (which cooks unattended all day) or a savory meat loaf, which is cooked, like a roast, according to weight.
And another advantage of cooking a large piece of meat or batch of stew is the bonus of reheatable leftovers - the biggest boon of all to busy cooks.
Alma’s Brisket and Limas One-Pot Meal
My friend Alma regularly prepares this brisket for her family and varies it each time, sometimes adding potatoes, carrots or peas along with, or instead of, the lima beans. Not only is it better the next day and easier to slice, it also keeps nicely for several days.
1-1/2 cups dried lima beans
1 (2- to 2-1/2-pound) brisket
3 large onions, chopped
4 cups red or rose wine, beef stock or water
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup brandy or dry sherry
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 cups peeled and chunked vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, beans, peas or the like, optional
Combine beans with water to cover by 1 inch or so in large bowl and soak 4 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.
Heat large Dutch oven and add brisket. Brown meat on one side, then turn and brown other side. Add lima beans, onions, wine, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and rosemary. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 2 hours or bake at 300 degrees 2 hours. (Brisket can be refrigerated at this point 1 to 2 days. Bring to boil on top of stove before continuing.)
Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add brandy, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire and vegetables. Cover and simmer on low heat or bake in oven at 300 degrees until vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Remove bay leaves.
Yield: 4 servings.
Cajun Country Meat Loaf
This meat loaf combines what Paul Prudhomme calls the “trinity” of Cajun cooking - onions, garlic and peppers. The horseradish gives it an extra zing, and you can vary the spiciness with more Tabasco.
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 pound hot sausage
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Dash Tabasco sauce
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 strips bacon
1/2 cup ketchup combined with 1/4 cup beef stock
Combine beef, pork, sausage, onions, garlic, carrot, sweet red pepper, rice, eggs, ketchup, mustard, horseradish, bread crumbs, chili powder, paprika, mustard seeds, cumin, fennel, cayenne, Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste in large bowl. Shape mixture into loaf and place in greased 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan. Top with bacon strips.
Bake at 375 degrees 30 minutes. Pour ketchup and stock mixture over meat. Continue baking 30 to 40 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing and slicing. (Meat loaf can be cooled, wrapped and frozen up to 3 months.)
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Bolognese Meat Sauce
This pale pink sauce cooks with little attention for a minimum of three hours; it likes even more time and needs a large, heavy pot. By the end, the liquid is almost completely gone, with the meat and fat coating the pasta as a butter sauce would.
3 tablespoons oil
5 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1-1/2 pounds ground chuck
1-1/2 cups milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups dry white wine
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
3 pounds pasta such as tortellini, rigatoni, conchiglie, fusilli (1 pound for 4 people)
Freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
Heat oil and 3 tablespoons butter in large pan. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, celery and carrots and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Crumble beef into pan and cook, stirring, until beef starts to turn white, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add milk. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until milk has evaporated. Add pepper to taste and nutmeg.
Add wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it is evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook over very low heat, uncovered, until liquid is evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir in 1 cup water and let simmer until evaporated. Repeat this process until mixture has cooked 3 to 4 hours. Fat will rise to surface and separate - this is necessary to coat pasta. Taste and add sugar and salt and pepper as needed. (Sauce will keep, refrigerated, 2 to 3 days, or it can be frozen up to 3 months.)
When ready to serve, toss hot sauce with cooked, drained pasta, remaining 2 tablespoons butter and Parmesan cheese to taste.
Yield: 2 batches of 4 to 6 servings each (use one now and freeze the other).
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