Swiss Steak

September 7, 2017 – We had Swiss steak often when I was a boy.  I loved it. I assumed it was like Swiss cheese, a gift from Switzerland.

Eventually I became an adult and discovered I was wrong.  It isn’t Swiss steak.  It’s swiss steak.  The name comes from swissing, a process of tenderizing cheap, tough cuts of meat by pounding them.  Done with enough energy, swissing turns a tough cut of meat fork tender.  It’s a word not much in use these days. It’s a good word.  I’m going to start using it.

Swiss steak is another of those wonderful comfort foods that bring up warm memories.  It’s also called smothered steak.  Call it what you will, it’s slow-cooked beef in tomato gravy.  We also served it over rice.  I still do.

You don’t hear about swiss steak much these days.  I can’t remember the last time I had it.  It’s been that long.  It was time.

I tried something a little different.  In addition to the standard sweet peppers, onions, and mushrooms, I added sausage.  Andouille sausage to be specific.  My favorite.  Other sausages will work as long as they’re uncooked.  The sausage added a tremendous depth to an already flavorful dish.

Use a heavy pan with a tight cover.  A braising pan is perfect.

Here’s my take on a grand old comfort food.

Swiss Steak

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds round steak

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 links andouille sausage, cut into bite size pieces

1 roasted red pepper, finely chopped

1 medium onion, sliced

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

Salt & freshly ground pepper

2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes

Cooked rice.

Place the meat on a piece of parchment paper.  Sprinkle both sides with flour.  Cover with another piece of parchment paper.  With a meat hammer, or something equally heavy, swiss it.  Pound it.  Hard.

Cut the meat into serving size pieces.

Heat the oil over moderately high heat.  Put the steak in the pan and brown it well on both sides.  Put the sausage in the pan at the same time and let it brown as well.

 Add the roasted red peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  Let the vegetables cook down until they begin to soften.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cover the meat and vegetables with the diced tomatoes.

Cover tightly and cook over moderately low heat for two hours.  Check it occasionally and add water if more liquid is needed.

Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Serve over rice.

Bon temps!

Turkey & Rice Casserole

August 31, 2017 – Casseroles can be wonderful!  It’s not difficult to make one.  They have the added benefit of providing more than one meal.  It’s a way to eat well without having to create a new meal every day.  And often the leftovers can be refashioned into something new.  In today’s busy world, a casserole can be a blessing.

My decision to prepare a casserole with ground meat and rice required a negotiation.  When it comes to ground meat, I like beef.  My wife likes turkey.  We compromised and used turkey.  If you have to compromise on the side of turkey also, be sure to add a little oil to the skillet before you put the meat in to brown.  Ground turkey has no fat of its own.

As you might imagine, there are scores of recipes available for a ground meat and rice casserole.  They’re all pretty much the same.  Most call for cream of mushroom soup.  Some also include chicken noodle soup.  Most suggest mixing in raw rice to cook with everything else.

Using cream of mushroom soup can be a time saver and I wouldn’t criticize anyone for doing so.  However, it’s main purpose in a recipe is as a substitute for a béchamel sauce.  It’s not that hard to make a béchamel sauce.  You make a blonde roux with flour and oil, add milk, and there you go.  It’s especially easy since for this recipe you need only about a cup of béchamel.

I really couldn’t figure out all the recipes that included chicken noodle soup.  The only reason that comes to mind is to provide chicken stock to cook the rice in.  If that’s the case, why not just use chicken stock?  I don’t think the noodles in a canned soup add much.

Finally, I’ve never found raw rice cooked with all the other ingredients in a casserole to result in perfectly cooked rice.  It works much better, in my view, to cook the rice separately and fold it into the remaining ingredients.  Since the meat is going to be browned and the vegetables sautéed to soften them, mixing in the cooked rice means the casserole needs only a few minutes in the oven to heat through.

To cook the rice, your favorite method is fine.  Many people use rice cookers these days.  I still prefer the old-fashioned method I learned from my mother.  Produces perfect rice every time.

In this recipe you’ll notice that I suggest seasoning with each step.  Layering the seasoning provides depth.  Just use a light touch and taste as you go.  I believe that you can always add seasonings but it’s really hard to take them out.

The recipe below turned out to be a delicious bit of comfort food.  And a few drops of Tabasco made it perfect!

Turkey & Rice Casserole

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground turkey

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 roasted red pepper, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, finely chopped

1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

For the béchamel:

     2 tablespoons olive oil

     2 tablespoons all purpose flour

     1 cup milk

For the rice:

     2 cups chicken broth or stock

     1 cup raw rice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire

Pepper sauce (optional)

Place half a tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet and warm it over moderate heat.  Add the turkey.  Let it cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s no longer pink.  It’s not going to brown like beef.    Season lightly and to taste with salt, pepper, and, if you wish, cayenne.  Remove it from the skillet and place in a bowl.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet,  When it is hot but not smoking, toss in the onion, roasted red pepper, celery, fennel, and mushrooms.  Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring often.  Add the garlic toward the end of the process as it burns easily.  Season lightly again to taste.  Stir the vegetables into the ground turkey and mix well.

For the béchamel, heat two tablespoons of olive oil  over moderately high heat.  Add the flour and stir until the flour has absorbed the oil.  Don’t let it brown.  Pour in the milk and continue stirring until the mixture thickens.  Again, season lightly to taste.  Scrape the béchamel into the ground turkey and vegetable mixture.  Combine well.

To cook the rice my way, bring the chicken broth or stock to a boil in a sauce pan.  Add the rice.  Cover tightly and reduce the heat to low.  Leave it alone for exactly 20 minutes.

When the rice is done, mix it into the ground turkey and vegetables.  Add the Worcestershire.  Stir to mix everything together.  Taste for seasonings and make any adjustments with salt, pepper, and cayenne as desired.

You can make the casserole to this point in advance.  Covering it and keeping it refrigerated will improve the dish by giving the flavors more time to get acquainted.  Take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to put it in the oven so it can come to room temperature.

Turn the entire mixture into an oven proof dish and cover it.  If your dish doesn’t have a fitted cover, aluminum foil will work.  Heat for 15 – 20 minutes in an 350 oven until it’s warmed through.

When plated, add a few drops of your favorite pepper sauce if desired.

Bon temps!