Tacos de Cabra

Tacos de Cabra

With Cinco de Mayo coming up, I felt inspired to create a recipe appropriate for this holiday.  What could be more classically Mexican than tacos?  I’m sure Pinterest and the rest of the internet are being flooded with recipes of your typical chicken or beef tacos, so I wanted to try something a little different.  Instead of the usual meat fillings, these tacos are made with underrated-but-oh-so-tasty goat!  I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of you are maybe not entirely on board with this idea, so if you’re not yet sold, I recommend you check out this 2009 article from the New York Times.   A few interesting highlights:  While it may not yet be very popular in the US, goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world – a staple of Mexican cuisine (of course) but also Indian, Greek and southern Italian.    And from a health and nutrition standpoint, I was surprised to learn that the meat is lower in fat than chicken but higher in protein than beef.  I’d also agree with the author’s description of the meat tasting like a cross between beef and lamb.  I encourage you to give it a try!  The flavorful marinade in this recipe will easily mask the ever-so-slight “gamey” taste the meat may have.  

You may now be thinking “Where on earth can I buy goat meat?”  Given the theme of this blog, the obvious answer would be “The Strip District!” but to be more specific, you can find it at Strip District Meats, or at Salem’s Market.  For this recipe, I purchased the meat from Salem’s, which is at the far end of the Strip between 29th and 30th Streets – you cannot miss their building completely covered in vibrant murals. At the back of the “market half” of the building (the other half is a delicious and wildly affordable grill/buffet), they have a fantastic butcher counter that sells halal meats, cut to order.  The butcher suggested the front leg of the goat because it would be more tender than the rear leg, and I had him cut it up into 6 pieces so it would fit in my dutch oven for roasting.

If you’re not interested in trying the goat meat, you could substitute beef chuck, or a leg of lamb with very similar results.  The meat in this recipe is marinated overnight before being slow roasted.  This being a Mexican recipe, you can probably guess that I picked up my spices, chiles, tortillas, and taco garnishes at Reyna Foods.  I’m no chile expert, but the massive variety of dried chiles in the back of their store makes me want to explore the many varieties.  The anchos and guajillos in this recipe are more mild, so don’t worry about this recipe being too spicy.  I served the tacos with mango and tomato salsas, cilantro, avocado, radishes, and queso fresco.  You could substitute or add other garnishes as well:  scallions, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, shredded carrots, roasted corn or sour cream might be fun to try.

The amount below makes approximately 16 tacos for about 8 people.

For the meat
1 leg of goat (about 6-7 pounds)
2 cups chicken stock (approximately)
1 dried guajillo chile*
4 dried ancho chiles*
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
5 whole allspice berries
5 whole cloves
5 sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed
1 Spanish onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper

*If you’d like a little more heat, you could use more guajillo chiles, and fewer ancho chiles because – as this chart indicates – the guajillos are slightly more spicy.

Tacos de Cabra

Extras
Corn (or flour) tortillas
Queso fresco
Radishes, thinly sliced
Avocado, sliced
Lime wedges
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Mango and peach salsa
‘Table’ salsa

Tacos de Cabra

1.  Toast the dried chiles in a dry skillet until fragrant.  Then place them into boiling water, remove from the heat, and set aside for 20 minutes.

Tacos de Cabra

2.  Grind the whole cloves and allspice berries with a mortar and pestle, or spice/coffee grinder.

Tacos de Cabra

3.  Drain the soaked chiles – remove the stems and seeds.  Add the chiles, ground spices, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, onion, vinegar and tomato paste in a blender or food processor and puree.

Tacos de Cabra

4.  Season the goat leg pieces generously with salt and pepper.  Rub the pureed paste all over the meat.  Cover and refrigerate to marinate overnight.

5.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

6.  Drizzle some olive oil into a dutch oven or roasting pan, add the marinated meat and pour in the chicken stock.  You can decide how much stock you might like to add.  Some of the recipes I read called for no liquid, but because the meat is so lean, I chose to add some to keep it from getting to dry.  Place in the oven to roast for about 4 hours.  Check on the meat every hour or so to make sure it doesn’t get to dry (in which case, simply add more stock or water), or overcook.

Tacos de Cabra

7.  Once the meat is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly.  Remove the meat from the bone, and pull it apart into small pieces using a fork and tongs.

Tacos de Cabra

8.  Warm the tortillas in an oven or skillet, place the shredded meat in a serving bowl, arrange the cheese, vegetables, herbs and salsa in small serving bowls.

9.  Serve family-style so that each person can assemble their own taco with whichever extras and garnishes they choose.

Tacos de Cabra

Tacos de Cabra

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.

Spanish-Style Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce

These baked eggs – also known as Huevos a la Flamenca – are a traditional Spanish dish, with many versions, depending on the region. This recipe uses chorizo from Parma Sausage, homemade tomato sauce, Spanish smoked paprika, and young Manchego cheese from PennMac.  I used my most-favorite-ever fresh eggs from The Farmer’s Wife – you can find her at the Farmers@Firehouse beginning Saturday May 11th.  Get there early to buy them – they’re so amazing that they sell out fast most mornings!  I brought my Spanish paprika with me from New Jersey, but you could definitely find some at Penzey’s – it’s also sometimes called pimentón.  This dish is traditionally made and served in individual clay pots called cazuelas, but you could also prepare them in little casserole dishes or ramekins.

This dish makes an amazing weekend brunch, but it’s satisfying enough that it could also be enjoyed for lunch or dinner as well.  I like baked eggs served with fresh Mancini’s bread.

The recipe below serves two.

Spanish-Style Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients
1/2 cup Spanish chorizo, diced
1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
2 cups homemade tomato sauce
4 eggs
1/4 cup young Manchego cheese, grated

Diced Chorizo

Mancini Bread

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the chorizo and paprika, cook until brown.

3.  Add the tomato sauce.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Spanish-Style Baked Eggs: Tomato Sauce

4.  Coat the cazuelas with a bit of olive oil.  Fill each dish about halfway with the tomato sauce.  Place two eggs into each dish, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and top with the grated cheese.  (Tip: I pre-crack my eggs into small bowls to make sure not to get any small pieces of shell into my final dish.)

Four Eggs

Spanish-Style Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce (Prep)

5.  Place the cazuelas into the oven and bake until the whites are firm and the yolks are still soft and runny, about 10 minutes.  The cooking time may vary depending on your oven, so check them at around 8 minutes.  If they’re not done at 10 minutes, leave them in a little longer, but check frequently to make sure they don’t overcook!

6.  Carefully remove the cazuelas from the oven.  Sprinkle with some freshly chopped parsley or chives if you like.  Place onto cool plates or placemats to avoid damaging your table.  Serve with fresh bread.

Spanish-Style Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Spanish-Style Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Spanish-Style Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.

Beer Braised Short Ribs over Celery Root Purée

Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale


Whenever faced with a chilly, grey weekend like the one we just had in Pittsburgh, I like to cook something warm and hearty. These short ribs, braised low and slow with aromatic vegetables and porter ale, were just the ticket. This week’s short ribs are from Rose Ridge Farm via the Laptop Butchershop. If you’re not familiar, it’s an interesting concept. You sign up to be on an email-list, then four times a year you receive an email announcing the pick-up date, location and the participating vendor product/price lists. You send your order(s) to each vendor, and then pay whenever you pick up. Pick up is on Saturdays at the Farmers@Firehouse (next to Bar Marco). Because it only happens four times a year, I use it as an opportunity to stock my freezer with carefully-raised and delicious local meats. The vegetables for this recipe – onion, carrot, celery root, horseradish and herbs – were all purchased at Stan’s Produce Market. And the beer I chose for this recipe was Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from my favorite neighborhood bar, The Beerhive. I like porter ale in this recipe, but you can try a different dark and flavorful beer of your choice. I also took a slight shortcut and used frozen beef stock from Marty’s Market instead of making my own.

Celery root is a bit of a bizarre-looking vegetable.  I like to puree it as a substitute to mashed potatoes.  It has a mild celery-flavor that adds a little bit more interest that regular potatoes, but feel free to substitute mashed potatoes if you like.  There is a pretty handy video on how to trim and peel a celery root here.

Strip District Shopping

I adapted this recipe slightly from Molly Stevens’ recipe in All About Braising.

The recipe below serves two.

For the braise:
2 bone-in short ribs (“English” or “Franken” style so long as they’re cut thick)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 cups porter ale, or more if needed
3/4 cup low-sodium stock (beef, veal, chicken or vegetable)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 large or 2 small bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the glaze:
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon freshly grated horseradish

For the celery root purée:
1 large celery root, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ cubes
1 small potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Celery Root Puree

1. If necessary, trim any large pieces of excess fat from the short ribs, but don’t remove any of the tough-looking pieces that hold the meat together.

2. If you’ve planned ahead and have the time, do this step 24 hours before you plan to cook the ribs. Sprinkle the short ribs all over with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. If you don’t have the time, just be sure to season them before you place them in the pan to brown.

3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Pat the ribs dry using a paper towel, being careful not to remove the seasoning.

4. Pour the olive oil into a Dutch oven or other heavy pot. If you’re doing a larger batch, add only as many ribs as will fit without touching, and brown them on all sides until dark brown. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot. Transfer the browned ribs to a platter, and continue for the rest of your batch.

Brown Ribs

5. Remove all but about a tablespoon of fat from the pot. Remove any charred black bits from the bottom of the pot, being careful not to remove the flavorful caramelized drippings. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper, stirring a few times, until the vegetables start to brown and soften, about 5 minutes.

Vegetable Chop

6. Add the beer and bring to a full boil. Boil for about 2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to help deglaze. Pour in the stock, bring this to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Return the ribs to the pot, along with any juices they released. Tuck the rosemary sprig and bay leaves in between the ribs. The ribs should be partially submerged in the liquid. If necessary, add a bit more beer, stock or water.

7. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to braise. Check under the lid after the first 10 minutes to see that the liquid isn’t simmering too aggressively; if it is, lower the oven temperature 10 or 15 degrees. Gently turn the short ribs every 40 minutes or so. The short ribs will need to braise for a total of two hours. If you are doing a larger batch, you may need to extend the cooking time for an additional half hour. You will know they are done when the meat is falling off the bone.

Braise

8. While the ribs are braising, combine the maple syrup with the rosemary sprigs in a small saucepan. Heat to a gentle boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside to infuse for 1 hour. (The glaze can be made up to a few days ahead and refrigerated.)

Maple Syrup

9. While the ribs are braising and the glaze is infusing, you can make the celery root purée. Boil the celery root and potato until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and place into a blender with the milk and butter. Blend until smooth. Place in a saucepan or bowl and keep warm until ready to serve.

Celery Root Peel

Celery Root Chop

10. When the ribs are tender and the meat is pulling away from the bones, use tongs or a slotted spoon to carefully transfer them to a shallow baking dish that is large enough to accommodate them in a single layer. You can try to keep the ribs on the bones and intact, but don’t worry if some bones slip out.

11. Using a large spoon, skim the excess fat off of the top of the braising liquid. Pluck out the remains of the rosemary stem and the bay leaf(s). Pour the remaining liquid, along with the vegetables, into a blender or food processor. Blend to a smooth, even consistency. Return the blended mixture to the dutch oven and reduce to a nice thick sauce. Keep this warm while you finish glazing the short ribs.

12. Heat the broiler on high. If the glaze has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature beforehand so it can be brushed onto the ribs. Stir the finely grated horseradish into the glaze. Brush this onto the short ribs. Place the ribs under the broiler and broil until they’re caramelized and sizzling – keep an eye on them, but this should take about 3-4 minutes.

Glaze

13. Now, put it all together. Drop a large dollop of celery root purée into each serving bowl. Place the glazed short rib over the puree (the number per serving will depend on the size of the ribs). Spoon the braising liquid around the ribs and serve immediately. I like to garnish almost everything with fresh herbs, so I sprinkled some chopped parsley on as well.

Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale

  • The short ribs can also be prepared in a slow cooker. I’ve done this on weekdays for a speedy and satisfying dinner. Follow steps 1-5. Combine everything in the slow cooker. Refer to this handy guide to adjust the cooking time, but 8 hours on a low setting or 4 hours on a high setting will work well. Skim the fat, blend and reduce the sauce as before. Follow the remaining steps to glaze and serve.
  • You can also braise the short ribs up to two days ahead of time, and just finish with the glaze and broil when you’re ready to serve.

Bucatini alla Carbonara

Bucatini alla Carbonara

 

I first came across a recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara in Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano cookbook.  It’s a recipe with a very short list of ingredients, but when Batali described it as “slightly tricky in its execution,” I became intimidated.  There is a photo of it in the book – it looked absolutely delicious, so I had to attempt it.  It was not a success on the first try, but after much trial and error, along with some tweaking of the original Batali recipe, I’m now proud of how well it turns out every time.  I thought it would be a great first recipe to share with you here – I’ll share a few tips I’ve learned that make this recipe a bit less tricky to execute.  I also like this recipe because it can be scaled easily for however many people you plan to serve – you can adjust it to make for one person, or four.

I’m sure many of you, like myself, have ordered carbonara in a restaurant and received a pasta tossed in a rich cream sauce with bacon.  That is not this recipe, although this version is indeed rich and delicious.  True Roman carbonara contains no cream, and instead relies on eggs, cheese and pasta water to create its smooth and creamy consistency.  Because there are so few ingredients in this dish, I encourage you to find the best pasta, cheese, eggs, and cured pork you can find.  For this dish, I used bucatini pasta and pecorino romano from “Penn Mac” (as everyone in Pittsburgh refers to it), fresh eggs and guanciale from Crested Duck Charcuterie (at the Pittsburgh Public Market).  For those of you wondering what guanciale is – as I did when I first read about it in Batali’s recipe – it is an unsmoked Italian “bacon” made with pork cheek.  I prefer its flavor in this dish over pancetta or bacon – it seems less salty and more nutty.  I’ve been experimenting with different peppercorn mixes from Penzey’s Spices – for this recipe I’m using a mix of white and black peppercorns, but feel free to experiment with different varieties if you like.  I also garnished the pasta with some fresh parsley from Marty’s Market.  The most authentic carbonara’s typically don’t use a parsley garnish, but because this carbonara is so creamy, I like a bit of fresh green on top to lighten it up a bit.

The recipe below serves two.

Ingredients:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound guanciale cut into 1/2″ cubes (you can substitute good pancetta or bacon)
1/2 pound bucatini (you can also use spaghetti)
3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
2 very fresh large eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Bucatini alla Carbonara Ingredients        Pasta and Cheese

Chopped Parsley

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  I add about 2 tablespoons of salt to my 8-quart pot.

2.  Heat the oven to between 180 to 200 degrees.  Place the bowls you’ll serve the pasta in into the oven.  I’ve found that warming the bowls makes for a better sauce at the end.

2.  While the water is coming to a boil, heat a bit of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Once the pan is warm, drop in the guanciale and cook until it’s rendered to a crispy golden brown.  Remove the pan from the heat – place the guanciale on a paper towel to cool.  Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.  Set aside.

Guanciale        Guanciale

3.  Cook the bucatini in the boiling water until al dente.  Refer to the pasta package, but this should take about 10 minutes.

4.  While the pasta is cooking, combine the egg whites and half of the grated pecorino.  Sprinkle in a healthy amount of ground black pepper.  Whisk this together.  Save the egg yolks for later.

Egg Whites and Cheese        Carbonara Whisk

5.  This is an important step.  Once the pasta has cooked about halfway, scoop out about 1/4 cup of hot pasta water.  Slowly add the hot water to the egg-cheese mixture while stirring quickly and continuously.  This tempering of the eggs will help keep the sauce from getting lumpy when you add it to the hot pasta later.  Set this aside.

Carbonara Tempering

6.  A couple minutes before the pasta is finished, return the remaining guanciale fat to a burner over low heat.  Once the pasta is done, toss it in the pan with the warm rendered fat.  Stir it around to make sure all of the pasta is thinly coated.  Then stir in the tempered egg-cheese mixture while shaking the pan.  Stir like crazy!  This will help create a nice smooth and creamy sauce with evenly melted cheese that’s not too lumpy.  Add the crispy guanciale.

Carbonara Progress

Bucatini alla Carbonara

7.  Divide the pasta among the warmed serving bowls – be careful when removing them from the oven.  Use a spoon to make a little “nest” in the center of the pasta, and gently place one yolk into each next.  Garnish the pasta with more black pepper, pecorino cheese, and chopped fresh parsley.

8.  Once the pasta is served, each person should stir the yolk into the pasta.  The warm pasta and sauce, along with the warm bowl, will help cook the yolk while creating an even richer, creamier sauce.

Bucatini alla Carbonara

Bucatini alla Carbonara

Bucatini alla Carbonara

What tricks have you learned to perfect a favorite dish you enjoy cooking?

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.