Tag Archives: Mortadella

Stuffed veal breast

5 Jan

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I won’t lie to you. This takes a bit of doing.

Just getting your hands on a proper veal breast requires planning—better still, close proximity to a good butcher. I needed to order this one through friends who own a restaurant here in Maine; they had to get it from a supplier that’s two hours away, in Boston.

So, you’ve been warned.

If you live in a place like New York or Philadelphia or Boston there’s likely a butcher nearby who can set you up quick, fast, and in a hurry. Otherwise you’ll need to strategize a bit, that’s all.

You won’t be sorry, though. Few things are as satisying as a well-prepared stuffed veal breast. Before we became legally conjoined My Associate, a finer cook than I’ll ever be, prepared for me some very fine ones, and in a kitchen no bigger than a broom closet. I would be remiss to not mention her able assistance in this, my first attempt at stuffing the breast.

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Saute a couple of onions and as many celery stalks in olive oil until softened, then set aside and allow to cool thoroughly. (You may be interested in this two-part video from a Julia Child show; what I’ve done here is follow much of the technique and some of the recipe, altering things as I saw fit.)

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For the stuffing I went with a mixture of ground veal and pork (1 lb. of the veal, about 1 1/2 lbs. of the pork), then added 1/2 lb. of diced mortadella and 1/2 cup of raw pistachios.

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Then went in 3/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/2 cup grated Pecorino, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, a healthy dose of chopped thyme, marjoram and sage, salt and pepper to taste, a few dashes of nutmeg, plus the sauteed onion and celery. Mix it all up and—this is very important—fry up a little bit and taste the mixture to make sure it’s to your liking. Now would be the time to adjust the seasonings before moving forward.

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Layer the bottom of a large roasting pan with carrots, the cloves of an entire head of garlic, some shallots (or onions), leeks and plenty of fresh herbs.

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Lay your veal breast over the roasting pan so that you can determine how much of it will fit into the pan. The veal breast that I scored from my friends was nearly 20 pounds and so I had to cut several ribs off and save them for another day. (Tip: When ordering a veal breast make sure to tell the butcher what you’re planning on doing with it. You don’t want a breast that’s been trimmed too close to the ribs because that will make it difficult to pull this off; it’s important to have a good layer of meat on the bone.)

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Using a sharp knife carefully cut along the ribs to create a pocket for the stuffing. Make sure to cut along the entire length and depth of the breast so that the stuffing can fill as much of the inner surface area as possible. Stop cutting around half an inch from the edges so that the stuffing won’t escape from the pocket while the breast is cooking.

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Liberally salt both the inside and outside of the breast, then fill the pocket with the stuffing.

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Tie the breast with butcher’s twine, place in the roasting pan and put it in an oven that’s preheated to 400 degrees F, uncovered, for 30 minutes. This will allow the breast to brown just a bit.

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Remove the breast from the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees F. Add a bottle of white wine (I used an inexpensive Trebbiano) and around four cups of stock (I used chicken stock).

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Cover tightly with foil and return to the oven. After four hours check to see that the meat is super tender. It should be. At this point remove the foil, raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F, and return the breast to the oven, uncovered, for another 30 minutes. This will allow the crust to brown a bit more.

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This is pretty much what you’ll be looking at when you’re finished. Plenty of liquid will remain, which can be strained, de-fatted and ladled over the meat before serving.

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Speaking of serving, you can either slice off individual ribs and serve with the bone and all. Or, just pull the ribs away from the meat and stuffing and slice portions of whatever thickness you like.

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It all worked out pretty well.

For a first timer.

Veal & mortadella agnolotti

24 Apr

Most of the homemade mortadella we made around the holidays got sliced up (nice and thin!) and eaten as-is. But not all of it.

The stuff makes a fine ingredient for a pasta filling, you know. And this filling is the best to come out of our recent batch of mortadella.

Of course, you don’t have to make your own mortadella to put these agnolotti together. Just go out and buy some of the stuff and get to work.

Now.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in around a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add 1 pound ground veal.

Once the veal has browned a bit add 1/3 cup or so of either white wine or vermouth and turn up the heat.

Allow the wine to evaporate, then turn off the heat and let the veal cool a bit.

Dice 1/4 pound of mortadella (makes no difference if you use a hunk or slices).

In a food processor add the veal, mortadella, 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and one egg, then process until completely blended.

Taste and adjust seasoning as you like. (You could add more cheese, or a little salt, perhaps a dash of nutmeg.)

Instead of using a pastry bag I always put my pasta fillings in a strong plastic bag that can be thrown away after I’m finished. (Of course, you’ll need to cut the tip off in order to allow the filling to be squeezed out.)

Roll out your pasta dough on the thin side and around 3 or 4 inches wides.

If your dough is very moist you can skip this step; otherwise brush a little egg wash along the far edge before rolling the dough around the filling.

Use your finger to press down and form the individual agnolotti (I made these on the longish side, but smaller works great too).

This is basically what it will look like once you’ve worked your way along the entire roll.

All that’s left to do now is cut the individual agnolotti.

I boiled and served these in freshly made chicken broth (or brodo) and topped the agnolotti with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly ground black pepper. The reason I chose to go with a classic and simple brodo is so that the veal and mortadella filling can really stand out.

And it did.

Which is a very good thing.

How to make mortadella

3 Jan

I’ve waited a long time for this.

Every year that the entire crew gathers together at my house, for a weeklong visit between Christmas and New Year’s, I say the same thing.

“How about we make us some mortadella this year?”

And, well… You are familiar with the expression “crickets,” yes?

Tom always finds this an ideal time to shut his eyes and pretend to be asleep (even when standing upright and carrying a drink in his hand). Beth Queen of Bakers often rushes to check what’s cooking in the oven, despite the oven’s not even being in use. Scott and Giovani’s iPhones suddenly turn silent and out of text range. My (long-suffering) Associate, ever the practical member of the group, simply ignores me altogether.

Not this time.

Weeks before our annual gathering this year I circulated the following missive:

Per my repeated (and, to date, scorned) appeals to enlist your assistance in the manufacture and distribution of an authentic Mortadella di Bologna, you are hereby informed that:

Your aid in this project is considered mandatory and non-negotiable.  

In other words, this is no longer a democracy. 

Deal with it.

Ever the consensus builder I provided my friends an authentic recipe with which to familiarize themselves, as well as a video based on that recipe.

The ingredients were awaiting their arrival. I allowed them a good night’s sleep, but in the morning it was time to go to work.

Mortadella is, to put it simply, a giant cured pork sausage. Its main ingredients are lean pork (here we have two boneless pork loin roasts weighing in at a little over 3 1/2 pounds combined); 1 pound of pork belly; and 1/2 pound of pork back fat. (The complete list of ingredients is printed at the end.)

Grinding meat is always easier when it’s ice cold, or even frozen. Cut all the meat into slices and place in the freezer for a good couple hours. At the same time start getting your grinding equipment as cold as possible. (I put the whole grinding attachment to our KitchenAid mixer in the freezer.)

Mix together 1/2 cup of red wine and 1/2 cup of water and place in the freezer as well.

When the lean pork and pork belly are nearly frozen remove them from the freezer, cut them into cubes and mix together. DO NOT add the back fat at this time; it will be cut into cubes later on but it will not ever be ground.

While the meat is still ice cold run it through a large grinding plate for a coursely ground mixture and return the ground meat to the freezer. Put the grinding attachment back in the freezer too, as well as the smallest size grinding plate you’ve got, as you’ll be needing it soon.

While the meat and grinder are chilling you can put together your spice mix. You’ll need 3 tablespoons salt; 1 teaspoon Insta Cure No. 1 (pink curing salt); 2 teaspoons white pepper; 1/2 teaspoon coriander; 1 teaspoon garlic powder; 1 teaspoon anise; 1 teaspoon mace; and 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway. Make the spice mix as fine as possible. I ground everything together into a fine powder, using a spice grinder.

When the meat is nice and cold add the salt and spice mix and thorougly incorporate. (This being our first time making mortadella we fried up a tiny bit to taste and make sure that the seasoning was okay. It was perfect.)

Grind the meat again, using your smallest grinding plate this time.

At this point you’ll need a food processor. Place the ground meat in the processor and add the semi-frozen wine/water mixture. Process the mixture until smooth. (You may need to do this in a couple batches; that’s what we did.)

Here’s where the half pound of back fat that’s been chilling in the freezer comes into play. Cube it up like so.

Then quickly blanch it by pouring a little boiling water over it.

Also run boiling water over 1/2 cup pistachios and 3 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns.

Add the blanched fat cubes, pistachios and peppercorns to the meat.

And thoroughly mix with your hands.

Get yourself an 8″ x 11″ plastic bag that’s suitable for boiling and tie the sealed end with a cable tie; this will allow for a rounded shape to form.

Then stuff the bag with the meat mixture. (I did this by hand because the extruder attachment on the KitchenAid wasn’t up to the task.)

Close the bag’s open end with cable ties as well, then wrap the bag in buther’s twine (this helps keep the shape intact while cooking). Put the whole thing in the fridge and let it rest for several hours or even overnight, as we did.

The traditional way to cook mortadella is slowly and in a water bath, with the oven set at around 170 degrees F. This is the method most people continue to use today. It will take around 7 or 8 hours before the mortadella reaches an internal temperature of 158 degrees F, the point at which it is fully cooked.

Due to the quick thinking of My Associate, we decided to take another path. A sous vide cooker resides in our kitchen, you see, and we couldn’t think of a reason why we shouldn’t use it. Set at 170 degrees F it took less than 5 hours to cook the mortadella this way.

No matter which cooking method you use, once the internal temperature reaches around 158 degrees F, remove the mortadella from the heat source and plunge it into ice-cold water to quickly cool it down.

Then comes the really hard part: Toss the still-wrapped mortadella in the fridge and forget about it for a couple days. I know how hard that’ll be, but the flavors will develop over that time.

Since this was our first attempt we cut into the mortadella right away in order to test it, but then it went into the fridge for two days before we tasted it again. The difference was clearly noticeable.

Here’s an outside view.

And the inside.

The flavor was spot on; everybody in the house was in agreement on this.

More important, the next time I suggest making mortadella to the crew, I won’t be hearing any of those crickets again.

Of that I am pretty sure.

What you’ll need
A meat grinder
A food processor
An 8″ x 11″ plastic bag suitable for boiling
Butcher’s twine

The ingredients
3 1/2 pounds lean pork
1 pound pork belly
1/2 pound pork back fat

3 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon Insta Cure No. 1 (pink curing salt)
2 teaspoons white pepper
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon anise
1 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway

1/2 cup chilled red wine
1/2 cup ice water

3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup whole pistachios (unsalted)

How to make tortellini

27 Nov
Standing in my kitchen making fresh pasta is to me what curling up near a fireplace with a good book is to a lot of other people.
Nothing is quite so satisfying.
And so when a cold rain settled in for the weekend recently it didn’t take long for me to decide what to do with myself. On Saturday morning I went and got fresh eggs from a nearby farm, because fresh eggs make better pasta than store bought. After lunch I prepared the pasta dough, wrapped it in plastic and set it in the fridge overnight to rest. By Sunday afternoon,when an even heavier storm was moving through, I was ready to get to work.
For the filling I decided to go traditional. Right here we have a raw chicken breast, an egg, a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, breadcrumbs, fresh nutmeg, and a piece of mortadella.
The first thing to do is cut up the chicken and the mortadella (I had that hunk on hand but four slices from the deli counter should do), then run them through a food processor by themselves.
Then add about 3/4 cup of the grated cheese, maybe 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, the egg and a little ground nutmeg, plus salt and pepper.
After running all the ingredients through the food processor pinch the mixture with your fingers. It should be firm but not stiff. If it’s stiff add a little milk or cream and process until fully melded.
Since there’s raw poultry in the mix it’s not cool to taste it to check that it’s properly seasoned. So scoop out a little with a spoon and boil it in water a couple minutes. Then adjust seasonings as you like and taste test until you’re happy with it.
For tortellini I roll out the pasta sheets with a machine, not by hand; on my machine I find the No. 2 setting to be the right thickness. Here I stuffed the filling into a sturdy plastic bag, cut a small hole in one corner, and am squeezing the filling onto the pasta sheets.
After doling out the filling you need to make the cuts in the pasta sheets; the individual pieces should be pretty much square.
Shaping the tortellini is basically a two-step deal. Here’s the square that you start with.
All you do is fold one corner onto another. (If the dough is moist enough then the pasta ends should close up just by lightly pressing down along the edges. Otherwise use an egg wash along the edges before making the fold.)
Hold the filled pasta shell with both hands and then simply bring the two top corners together and pinch them closed.
And that is pretty much all there is to it.
Nine times out of ten I serve these the traditional way, en brodo, meaning simply in broth. Usually that means a chicken broth, and you can boil the pasta right in it rather than first boiling it in salted water.
This particular time a rather forceful companion expressed a clear desire for something a bit more colorful, and so I went with a simple fresh tomato sauce.
At times it is in one’s best interest to be accommodating.

How to make sausage

17 Jan
There was a Mutiny on the Meatball a couple weeks back, and it was all because of a sausage. Not the sausage you’re looking at, another one. Guess I’d better explain.
See, every New Year’s, Tom and Beth hop a bus from New York (they don’t care much for flying) and spend about a week or so at the house. It’s pretty much nonstop eating and drinking, with at least one or two big projects on tap to keep everybody sharp. Since no particulars were discussed ahead of time (unusual for this crowd) I had decided on my own that one of this year’s group undertakings might be to produce a mortadella, a first for any of us, to be sure.
Mortadella, if you are not aware, is a sausage. My friend Joe (aka Mister Bigshot World Traveler and uomo about Rome) callously refers to this glorious Italian salumi as boloney or cold cuts or, worst of all, lunch meat. He does this, I am pretty certain, to hurt me, as he knows how much I love the fatty stuff. But this is not the place to get into all of that. (Note to Joe, though: I was out of town. It was 25 years ago. Get over it!)
To be truthful, I could not recall either Tom’s or Beth’s position on the sausage. However, before their arrival, I went ahead and secured the ingredients required to make it nonetheless.
Big mistake. For, as it happens, my normally fit and ready crew, comprised of individuals whom I have relied upon in many a difficult culinary challenge, shattered a deep trust by staging a quiet yet powerful coup that proved far too great for me to overcome. (You don’t see a freaking mortadella here do you?)
I could list the many objections put forth — neophytes ought not mess with PhD-level sausage-making projects; strict temperature requirements were far too demanding given our facility; you (that would be me) are not the most reliable follower of recipes, and in this case following directions is crucial — but I won’t. Suffice to say I was aghast. And wondered if I might learn to trust these people ever again.
Please. I need a moment.
Okay, so we polished off a couple bottles of vino and decided to make a batch of sweet Italian sausage instead. Way simpler. And, most importantly, my mutinous, scurvy kitchen crew seemed entirely willing to lend a hand.
Whaddaya gonna do?
The pork butt that was at the center of it all (yes, you use it to make mortadella). It’s about four pounds, and gets cut up into one-inch cubes.
The back fat also gets cubed; there’s about a pound of it here. (The full recipe follows, by the way, in case you were taking notes.)
The spice mixture: Kosher salt, sugar, minced garlic, toasted fennel seeds, ground black pepper and paprika. (There’s also vinegar, but that goes in later on.)
The cubed butt, back fat and spices are mixed together, then put into the fridge before grinding. (Note to novice sausage makers: It’s important that everything be cold when you’re grinding. We even put the grinding attachment and the die in the freezer before using it.)
We used the KitchenAid grinder attachment, the small one, to grind the mixture. The platter that the ground sausage mix falls into must be cold; this blue one is resting in a pan filled with ice and water.
All ground up and ready to go (after you add the vinegar and some water). This is also the time to pinch off a small bit of the mixture and fry it. That way you can taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary, before committing yourself.
The casings (which I got from Pat’s, a local butcher shop that makes good sausage) need to soak in water for about half an hour.
Then you need to clean them clear through by flushing them with water. The simplest way is to attach one end to the faucet and run the cold water for a couple minutes.
Like so.
Get your mind out of the gutter. This is the sausage stuffing attachment, and we’re sliding about ten feet of casings onto it. The idea is to move all the casings up onto the attachment, so that when the meat starts coming out, the casings unfurl along with it.
Sausage mix goes in the top, slides out the side.
And into the casing it goes.
And goes.
Until you’ve gone through the whole batch of stuffing mix.
Twist into five- or six-inch sausage links and they’re ready to cook, freeze or refrigerate.
We were hungry, and so we went the cooking route.
And, yes, they were so good that I almost forgot about the mortadella. And the mutiny.
Sweet Italian Sausage
Recipe from “Charcuterie,” by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt, diced into 1-inch pieces
1 pound pork back fat, diced into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Spanish paprika
3/4 cup ice water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
10 feet hog casings, soaked in tepid water for at least 30 minutes and rinsed
Combine all ingredients except the water and vinegar, then chill until ready to grind.
Grind the meat through a small die into a bowl set in ice.
Add the water and vinegar to the meat mixture and mix until incorporated.
Saute a small piece to taste it; adjust seasoning if necessary.
Stuff the sausage into the hog casings, and twist into 6-inch links. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.

You call that cacio e pepe?

2 Aug

Never underestimate the power of a good wine buzz. It can lead you to interesting places.


Take the fava bean-inspired concoction you are about to witness. Never woulda happened had the vino not first been swigged.

But swigged it was and so here we be.

See, I’d been planning to make a nice bowl of cacio e pepe the other evening (a simple Roman pasta dish made with cheese and ground pepper). But I got a phone call early in the prep stage, during which a very respectable bottle of Nero d’Avola managed to become uncorked.
Next thing you know I’m shelling the favas that I’d fetched from the garden that afternoon. And by the time I was off the phone there were a bunch ready for eating, but no plan on what to do with them.

So I did what seemed reasonable. I poured another glass of the Nero, stepped outside on the back porch with the dog and pondered the strategic blunder I’d made by getting involved with those damned (er, lovely) favas in the first place.

Soon enough, as happens often and without warning to me (regular readers know this) my mind traveled to (where else?) the chunk of mortadella in the fridge.
And so I chopped me up some of that.

And commenced to making the cacio e pepe — only with two pretty major additions that I do not think the Romans (that means you, Massimo!) would approve of.
You got your freshly grated Pecorino Romano.
And ground black peppercorns.
A pack of spaghetti alla chitarra.
And there you go.

Here’s a recipe for cacio e pepe from Saveur (they use two different cheeses, but using the pecorino alone is fine). As for the favas and mortadella, I tossed them in at the last minute.

Just as I was polishing off the first bottle of wine.

Every picture tells a story

17 Jun

If you read “Queen of the Sausages” then you know just where I stand on the topic of mortadella (firmly at its side), and so what better subject to kick off a new feature on the blog?

“Photo: Mister M” is an outlet for the vast number of JPEGs resting quietly, and largely unappreciated, on my desktops. Its frequency will be random; so will its subject matter.
Scroll the column on the right and you’ll find Campo de’ Fiori (for the next few days anyway; after that there will be a new pic). Like the (sepia-tinted) mortadella above, I came upon the outdoor market while in Rome where, thanks to my very wise friend Joe Brancatelli, I ate for ten days straight without having a single meal I wouldn’t gladly eat again, and then again. (One day I should get Joe to write a guest column on eating your way through Roma without breaking the banca. Yeah, I outta get on that. Wonder where he stands on mortadella.)
Anyway, enough with the sausage. Enjoy the pics.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Queen of the Sausages

13 Apr

No, it’s not a type of baloney.

Yes, the white stuff is fat.
No, it doesn’t make me wanna gag.
And yes, I’d take it over a butter-soaked lobster or a blue rare Peter Luger porterhouse any day — and I really likey the lobster and the porterhouse a whole lot.
Behold… La mortadella.
Queen (note the feminine) of the Sausages.
Yes, it’s a sausage. The world’s biggest, even when not produced in the style of shock, awe and comic overabundance (see monstrosity below).

Una mortadella gigante!
No, it is not some mass-produced tube of lunch meat with nary a hint of real food or artistry inside the casing. Mortadella’s heritage is steeped in perhaps the world’s finest culinary center, Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, which is home to the likes of Parma (Proscuitto di Parma) and Reggio Emilia (Parmigiano-Reggiano) to name but, well, two.
Mortadella di Bologna has PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status under European law: http://bit.ly/KleEJ. It must be made within a small geographic area and by using traditional methods http://bit.ly/cSxMrw. And here’s what’s inside, basically: finely ground pork, seasonings like peppercorns and anise, wine, oftentimes pistachio nuts, and of course those tasty chunks of pure, luscious fat.
This ain’t no Oscar Mayer tubesteak, friend.
Italy’s former prime minister Romano Prodi was known as la mortadella because he was from Bologna, Emilia-Romagna’s capital and ground zero for mortadella making, and because he had a physique some said resembled a thick sausage. Prodi was also saddled with the name because his demeanor was somewhat bland — a characteristic also attributed to the famous salume. On this point I will have to disagree strenuously.
Mortadella is many things; bland it is not.
And no, we will not argue this point. We will move on. Except to note that paper-thin slices have for decades now been my personal preference, not the thick chunks enjoyed by many. (I would also challenge anybody to name a more satisfying sandwich than mortadella and fresh mozzarella on a baguette; save your energy, it’s not gonna happen.)
I can’t possibly be alone in this crazy cooked up sausage love affair of mine. Mortadella lovers, reveal yourselves! That’s why God (and Blogger) gave us the “Comments” link, you know.
Back in 1971, the Italian moviemaker Carlo Ponti — husband to one major bella donna, Sophia Loren — released the swell-sounding film, “La Mortadella.” Ring Lardner, Jr. wrote the screenplay; William Devane, Danny DeVito and Susan Sarandon co-starred. The movie’s star was Ponti’s moglie (that’s his wife, Sophia).

Loren plays an Italian girl who travels to New York in order to visit her fiance. Her gift to the lucky Michele? One huge, honkin’ mortadella, of course; for she is, alas, herself a Neopolitan sausage maker. Thing is, the U.S. Customs agents will have none of it. They detain poor Maddalena (and the well-travelled mortadella) and inform her that such foodstuffs, possible carriers of swine flu, are maiale non grata in America and must therefore be confiscated immediatamente.
Farce and general mayhem ensue, of course. And a year later the movie is released in the U.S. under another title, “Lady Liberty.” The tagline: “Can a girl from a little sausage factory in Italy find romance and happiness in a pizzeria in New York?”
That’s what I call making sausage.