Q: What are your top 5 dishes for eating kosher meat on a budget? P.S. plain hotdogs don't count. Victor Shikhan
A: Victor, that's a great question, because many people do not associate kosher meat as being budget friendly. But the key is to select the right cut for the right preparation. In The Kosher Carnivore, I explored every cut of kosher meat and found that for some dishes, it doesn't need to be the star, but a great supporting player. That's a terrific way to incorporate protein into a dish without breaking the bank. And, while I stuck to beef in this column, kosher meat, of course, includes veal and lamb. In most cases, cuts of beef will be more cost efficient over lamb and veal as the cow is a larger animal and yields many more usable cuts, but don't limit yourself. You can and should ask your butcher what he has on sale, what cuts he recommends for a slow braise where you can bring lots of vegetables and legumes into the dish thus cutting back on the amount of meat needed. If you have a yen for veal but not the wallet to purchase a first cut chop, try the breast of veal, which is succulent and delicious. Here are 5 of my favorite beef recipes (and for me, there are days that nothing beats a good Kosher hotdog, so I couldn't resist including them in one dish.)
1. Meet Chuck: He's a good friend of stew and a great way to stretch your meat dollar. Whether you have your butcher grind the chuck to prepare a savory meatloaf or go for the best winter one pot wonder−beef stew−you can tame that inexpensive cut and make a wonderful dinner that will be hearty, nourishing and well priced. This is a great place to substitute lamb shoulder or veal stew meat. The slow braise brings out the natural meaty flavor and tenderizes the meat to buttery goodness.
Recipe: Beef Stew Provencal
2. You can take a ribbing when you choose the best cuts of kosher ribs. Everyone is familiar with the short rib and its twin flanken, but some people overlook those gargantuan beasty bites that come from the rib section. Ribs can be very wallet friendly as you need really only 1-2 per person and the whole gnawing, chewing, salivating process makes them a fun alternative. I even love the little lamb riblets that are cut from the tips of the rib chops. They make great little bites and cost next to nothing. I think that back beef ribs are the most luscious part of the animal; that's where we find the glorious standing rib roast. The back ribs from that section can be slow roasted or tossed on your outdoor grill to create a meaty sensation. The layer of fat that encases them helps lubricate them during the cooking process. These do not become fall off the bone ribs that we slow braise, rather we want a good char and a deep meaty flavor. Start the ribs at 450 degrees and after 20 minutes reduce the heat to 375 and roast until they are medium rare. If grilling, get your grill nice and hot and roast the ribs for about 7 minutes per side, then a final 7 minutes turning often to insure they have cooked to medium rare. They'll test your bicuspids, but they are worth the effort.
3. You had me at pickling spice. That's the intoxicating aroma that gets me drooling every time I walk into my local deli. Vats of corned beef, tongue and pastrami enjoying a Jewish steam bath fills the restaurant with warmth and homey goodness. But that deli sandwich can run you upwards of $15, making it a rare and sometimes unaffordable treat. That's why I prefer to prepare my own corned beef at home and enjoy it for dinner one night, corned beef hash the next day, and then sandwiches all weekend long. If you cut that corned beef thin and trim the fat from the top layer, you will be rewarded with a delightfully cost efficient cut of beef that can keep you happy for days.
To cook the corned beef, simply rinse it in cold water (you can let it soak for up to 1 day, changing the water every several hours), but if you are in a rush, just give it a good cold water bath and place it in a deep braising pot, cover with fresh cold water, a generous tablespoon of pickling spices; which might include Cinnamon, Coriander, Mustard Seed, Allspice, Bay Leaves, Ginger, Dill Seed, Cloves, Chilies, Black Pepper, Mace, Cardamom. I toss in a couple of carrots, an onion and some celery. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover and cook several hours or until fork tender. Slice against the grain and serve or chop for hash.
Recipe: Corned Beef Hash
4. Ground beef is almost always going to be your most cost efficient cut, as it can be combined with so many other ingredients to stretch it to the limits. I like using a blend of chuck/neck/shoulder and even a little ground brisket thrown in for added flavor. Look for an 80/20 ratio of lean to fat for most preps, but a lower fat content when the ground beef cannot be drained after searing. Fat does equal flavor, so don't rob your dish of this moisture- boosting, flavor enhancing component. You can always substitute ground white meat turkey if you want a leaner alternative, or ground lamb for a gamier taste. A nice treatment is to blend a little lean veal with your ground beef, it adds a delicate flavor and a nice texture. You might think the veal would be more expensive, but generally all ground meats come pretty close to the same price.
Ground beef is perfect for chili, meatloaf or this authentic Bolognese sauce. To make your meat dollar go even further, pile on the pasta, pair this with a big salad and a crusty loaf of bread and enjoy this spaghetti dish at your next Sunday supper.
Recipe: Spaghetti Bolognese
5. So, Victor, I am faced with your hotdog exclusion, and have to overrule you and include one sausage recipe. That's right, hotdogs are sausages, which by definition are meats that are ground, spiced and encased. One of my favorite ways to use hotdogs or sausage is to boost a bowl of soup with their presence. Whether it's my grandmother's traditional Russian cabbage soup where the thick rounds of hotdogs add body and substance, or this delicious and very inexpensive to prepare, lentil soup where the hotdogs or sausage float happily turning a bowl of soup into a meal.
Recipe: Lentil Soup