The Veal Shank Redemption

Okay, I know the title is a bit lame, but the photo of the food is even lamer. I forgot to check the batteries on my camera and when I tried to take the photo, the batteries were dead. I had to take a picture with my phone camera instead. Oh well.

Beef and veal have been very expensive here the last several months and we decided that it just wasn’t worth spending our hard earned money on expensive meat. However, the supermarket up the road from our house had veal shanks on sale and I couldn’t resist. They were 50NIS (14USD or 9.80Euro) per kilo. So, I bought two meaty ones.

I found an interesting North African style recipe for osso bucco.  This  recipe would normally be made with lamb. It was very easy to make and absolutely delicious. It was fall-off-the-bone tender and it has a very distinct spicy kick from the chili paste, which we both like. Next time I will add a little more of the spices because they got a bit lost. I only detected a slight taste of cinnamon and nutmeg. I served it with lemon orzo and green peas.

This is a recipe you could easily make the day before.

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Moroccan-Style Veal Shanks
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 meaty veal shanks about 1/2 kilo or 1 1/4 pounds each
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper no salt if you are using kosher meat
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 carrots finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon harissa or other chili paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • One large can crushed tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170F (325F). In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Add them to the casserole, 2 at a time, and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the casserole.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the casserole. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and cook, stirring until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and harissa and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced to a thick syrup, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and the chicken stock to the casserole. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Put the veal shanks in the liquid. Cover tightly and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, basting occasionally, until the meat is almost falling off the bone.

"Often Imitated, but Never Duplicated"

This was my Uncle Alfred’s slogan for his restaurant, The Annistonian. My 96-year-old beloved great-uncle died two weeks ago, two days after his birthday. Uncle Alfred was born in Berlin, Germany to a family of butchers. Instead of becoming a professional boxer (he was a junior champion semi-professional boxer in Berlin), he decided to follow in the family footsteps and became a Metzgermeister (master butcher) in 1928.

In June of 1938, Uncle Alfred volunteered to report to the local police station, where he and other men were taken to Sachsenhausen. His family was worried when he did not come back that evening after reporting to the police station and his mother went to the police station to find out what happened to him. She saw a school friend of Alfred’s, who worked at the police station and he promised to find out where he had been taken. Six weeks later, and thanks to his school friend, he was released from Sachsenhausen. When he returned home, his mother told him to leave the country right away. He listened to her and a few days later, through the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Europe (HICEM), he went to Belgium, stayed two weeks, and then made his way to Paris. He eventually went to Marseilles, and started looking for a country that would give him citizenship. He found out that Colombia was accepting immigrants and he obtained passage to Colombia in the fall of 1938.

He worked in gold mines in Colombia for one year and became very sick and almost died. He decided dying of malaria was not going to be his fate and he moved to Bogota, where he worked in various restaurants and then eventually opened a restaurant and butcher shop. After the war was over, he found out that his parents, two brothers and one sister died in Auschwitz. One sister came to Bogota and raised a family and another sister immigrated to the US.

He went to New York in 1951, met my great-aunt Helen at Grossinger’s and in 1953 came to my hometown where he opened a fine-dining restaurant called the Annistonian in 1958. From 1958 – 1976, people came from near and far for his hand-cut steaks, seafood, fish and his pièce de résistance… Wiener Schnitzel.

I wish I had taken the time to learn more about cooking from him. I really regret this now. One of his most amazing feats in the kitchen was that he could carve a turkey and put it back together and you wouldn’t realize it had been carved until you got up close to it. He also made very good strudel and Black Forest cherry cake. When I tried making both of these desserts, he gave me his good housekeeping seal of approval. I was honored.

When I decided to move to Israel, Uncle Alfred called me “his hero”, but he was my hero. He survived the Nazis, moved to a strange country where he had to learn how to work in the gold mines for survival, survived the loss of most of his family, triumphed in Bogota and made a family and a career in the US. To honor his memory, I made a meal.

Uncle Alfred, I will always treasure your great humor, your amazing charm, your delicious food and your great dancing.

The menu was as follows:

Appetizer

Tapenade

Main Course

Wiener Schnitzel

Bratkartoffeln (Home fries)

Spinach

Wine: Wuerttemberg Edition Gourmet Kerner 2004

Dessert

Fig Galette

We began the evening with my husband’s tapenade. He adds just the right amount of garlic to give it that kick. In addition to the usual ingredients he added a little fresh rosemary and oregano. It was delicious.

I have a confession to make, and please do not send me any cards or letters in protest, but my husband hand-cut and pounded a whole turkey breast instead of veal. The veal was 15EUR/20USD per kilo and is just over our budget right now. If you do happen to make this with turkey, do not marinate it in lemon juice.

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Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

The trick to making good home fries is to use waxy, firm potatoes. Do not use baking potatoes. Peel them and parboil them either the day before or earlier in the day.

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Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

Fresh from Oven

The fig galette was easy to prepare, but make sure that you place the tart on a rimmed cookie sheet, otherwise you will have a mess in your oven.

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Bratkartoffeln
Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg 4-5 lb. potatoes, waxy potatoes
  • 250 ml 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley optional
Instructions
  1. Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.
  2. Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

Spanish and Italian-Inspired Shabbat Dinner

Since I was too ill to cook the last night of Pesach, I made the meal for Shabbat. Luckily, I still had some matza for my dessert.

Dinner this evening was:

Carn Estofada amb Prunes i Patates (Catalan-Style Veal Stew with Prunes and Potatoes)

I used osso bucco instead of the recommended veal shoulder. As the dish was simmering away, my husband sneaked a taste of the sauce and moaned blissfully, “this dish should be in a museum.” Need I say more? This dish is outstanding. The flavors of chocolate, prunes, chili, cinnamon and orange zest marry into an amazingly complex sauce that just bursts on the palate. The crispy potatoes add the perfect texture to the dish. This is a very rich dish that should be served with a dry and assertive red wine, such as the one we had. In the absence of the Rioja, we drank, a good Cabernet Franc or Shiraz would do pretty well.

For dessert, I made a family recipe that I have never made for my husband. They are matza fritters and they are made in several different countries. The Dutch call them Gremshelish, the Italians call them Pizzarelle Con Giulebbe. My recipe is combination of the Italian version and the version my grandmother used to make from leftover Matza Shalet batter. She served it with a lemon custard. This custard is dairy, so if you keep more than one hour between eating meat and dairy, you can serve this with a non-dairy lemon sauce of your choice.

This was a big hit with my husband. The custard is very light and creamy and the fritters are also light, but should not be served with a rich meal like we had for Shabbat dinner. You should make a double or triple recipe of the custard for all of the fritters.

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Pizzarelle Con Crema di Limone
(Matzah Fritters with Lemon Custard)
Ingredients
For the fritters:
  • 5 matzahs broken into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts
  • 3 egg yolks lightly beaten
  • 2 egg whites
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
For the lemon cream:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup single cream half and half
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
For the batter:
  1. Wet Matza
  2. Place the matza pieces in a bowl of cold water and soak until soft but not falling apart, one to two minutes. Drain in a colander and squeeze out any excess water.
  3. Mix all Ingredients
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the matza pieces, sugar, cinnamon, lemon rind, vanilla, salt, raisins, pine nuts and egg yolks.
  5. Add Egg Whites
  6. Ready to Fry
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the matza mixture.
  8. Frying Fritters
  9. In a large, heavy pot, on medium-high, heat at least 2 inches of oil. Drop heaping tablespoons of the matza as necessary, until they are a deep brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  10. Matza Fritters
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied by the lemon custard.
For the lemon cream:
  1. Whisk sugar and egg yolks in medium bowl to blend. Bring cream and lemon peel to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the yolk mixture. Return to saucepan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into bowl; discard solids. Whisk lemon juice and vanilla into custard. Chill until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)
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