Nori-Crusted Sirloin with Shiitake Mushrooms

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I first made this dish several years ago, adapted from a recipe in the now defunct Gourmet Magazine. Since then, it’s become my most-requested meat entree, and even though it takes a some work to pull off, it’s worth it. Make sure to serve this with plenty of steamed rice to soak up the sauce.

Nori-crusted steak with shiitake mushrooms

Ingredients:

2 bunches green onions
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded
salt and pepper
1 pound sirloin steak
2 square sheets of nori seaweed, torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small saucepan of boiling water, blanch the green onions for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set a rack on a baking sheet and arrange the shiitake mushroom caps on the rack, gill sides down. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

2. Season the steak with salt. In a food processor or spice grinder, coarsely grind the nori with the sesame seeds, red pepper and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Spread the nori mixture on a plate and dredge the steak in it.

3. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the steak and cook over high heat until the nori is toasted, about 4 minutes per side. Place the steak over the mushrooms and roast for about 15 minutes, until the meat is medium rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, quarter the mushroom caps. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce with the mirin, lemon juice and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.

5. Slice the steak 1/4 inch thick and arrange it on plates with the shiitake mushrooms and scallions. Drizzle the soy mixture over the steak and serve.

Kotlet (Iranian Cutlet)

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Kotlet, or Persian minced meat and potato croquettes, are an ubiquitous picnic meal in Iranian households. Growing up, I’d look forward to these in warm lavash sandwiches for lunch and now that I’m older, I prepare them as an appetizer or light meal. Kotlet are easy to make and can be frozen for reheating later on.

Serve these with pickled vegetables and sliced tomatoes, or simply on their own. Lightly spiced and crispy on the outside, it’s nearly impossible to eat just one kotlet.

Kotlet

Ingredients:

2 potatoes, cooked, peeled, and grated
1 pound ground lamb, veal, or beef
1 onion, peeled and grated
2 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced, for garnish
4 Persian pickled cucumbers, sliced, for garnish
Lavash bread

1. In a bowl, combine meat, onion, eggs, potato, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, saffron water, and turmeric. Knead for 5 minutes to form a smooth mixture.

2. Using damp hands, shape the meat mixture into lumps the size of eggs. Flatten them into oval patties. Brown the patties on both side in hot oil over medium heat until browned on each side and cooked through. Add more oil if necessary.

3. Arrange the patties on a serving platter. Serve with tomatoes, pickles, and lavash bread.

Murtabak

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The origins of murtabak are unclear. My weathered cookbook tells me its a Singaporean and Malaysian street food, brought to Southeast Asia by the Indian community. Wikipedia, on the other hand, says its a Yemeni and Saudi dish, but that it arrived in the Persian Gulf by way of Kerala. Can anyone shed light? Drop me a line.

This recipe for murtabak is adapted from an old Sanjeev Kapoor recipe and a Martin Yan one, and since I’ve never eaten murtabak from a hawker, I can’t attest to its authenticity. It’s a bit time-consuming to prepare, but its well worth the effort. These dough-encased pockets of oniony, spicy meat are a treat, albeit a rich one at that.

Murtabak

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups warm milk
7 tablespoons cooking oil
6 cloves garlic
4 slices ginger
1 onion, sliced
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
3/4 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. To make dough, place flour and salt in a bowl. With your hands, rub butter into flour until particles are about the size of peas. Gradually add milk and 3 tablespoons cooking oil, mixing well. Knead until a smooth dough forms, about 10 minutes. Divide dough into 10 pieces. Roll each piece onto a ball, cover and let rest for 1 hour.

2. Place garlic, ginger, onion, water, and chili garlic sauce in a blender and process until smooth.

3. Place a wok over medium-low heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Add spice paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Raise heat to medium-high. Add meat, curry powder, sugar, and soy sauce; cook until meat is browned and crumbly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in egg.

5. To make each piece of bread, roll a ball of dough into a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter. Spread 2 tablespoons filling in center of circle, leaving 2 inches of dough around edge. Fold top and bottom edges over filling, overlapping in center b 1/2 inch; repeat with left and right edges. Brush top with melted butter.

4. Place a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, swirling to coat sides. Pan-fry bread, a few pieces at a time, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Repeat for remaining pieces.

Classic Lasagna

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I don’t know how else to put it: this lasagna is epic. There are a million iterations of lasagna: mushroom, bechamel, spinach, pesto – I could go on forever. This lasagna recipe is more traditional but be forewarned: it’s really hearty. It contains beef and sausage; ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, for starters. It may be time-consuming to make, but it’s worth it. Plus, it makes enough servings to just about feed an army. (Well, a small army at least.)

Lasagna

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 28-ounce cans Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 pounds ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound packaged mozzarella, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 package dried lasagna noodles

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the beef and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into large chunks, until no pink remains. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the meat is coated. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato puree along with the chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 7 cups, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet. Add the sausage meat in large pieces and cook over moderately high heat until browned and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Crumble into 1/2-inch pieces with back of wooden cooking spoon as sausage is cooking. Drain the sausage and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the parsley, basil and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Add two-thirds of the shredded mozzarella and season with salt and pepper. Beat in the egg.

4. Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Line the dish with 4 overlapping noodles. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then top with one-third of the sausage, 1 cup of the sauce and another 4 noodles. Repeat the layering two more times with the remaining ricotta, sausage and another 2 cups of sauce. Top with 4 noodles and cover with remaining sauce. Toss the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan and sprinkle over the lasagna.

6. Bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp around the edges and the filling is bubbling. Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Veal Marsala

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One of these days I’d like to eat my way through Italy. That hasn’t happened yet, but thankfully there are tons of Italian classics I can recreate in my kitchen. Veal marsala is one of the most common, and I make this with variations all the time. Sometimes I use chicken, sometimes I use cremini mushrooms instead of button – you get the idea. You can eat this with mashed potatoes but I prefer to serve the veal over buttered egg noodles.

Veal marsala with mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter
1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 pound veal cutlets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 cup beef broth
10 ounces egg fettuccine, cooked al dente and tossed with one tablespoon butter

1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat until foam subsides, then saute mushrooms, stirring frequently, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and parsley and saute, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and wipe skillet clean.

2. Pat veal dry, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil with 1 teaspoon butter in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While fat is heating, dredge 2 or 3 pieces of veal in flour, shaking off excess, then saute until just cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter with tongs and keep warm, loosely covered. Saute remaining veal in 2 more batches using remaining oil and butter.

3. Add Marsala to skillet and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Stir in broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture and any veal juices accumulated on platter, then season with salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer 2 minutes more and spoon over veal.