Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And Now, For Something Completely Different

Welcome back everyone! Tonight was Maggie's night in the kitchen, and she was determined to do something different. Last week, while searching for recipes, Maggie muttered to herself "I want to do something I haven't done before" While she was greatly satisfied with her cooking experiences so far - she feared she was falling into the same dishes. Chicken, pasta, chicken. pasta. It was time for a change. So - she set to work scouring cookbooks and finally came up with something original - something new and most importantly - something completely unlike what she has made before. I have to say - she did just that. Sadly, we couldn't make it as unique as we wanted to (due to supply issues - surprising supply issues at that) and she learned a few things along the way as well (some better than others). However, I'll let Maggie share all of that with you:

The Recipe: Veal Involtini with Pancetta on Bed of Spinach
Original Recipe Found In: Classic 30-Minute Meals: The All-Occasion Cookbook

What You'll Need:

1 Lb. Veal Scaloppini*
1 Lb Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
1 Red Pepper
1/3 Lb. Pancetta**
10 Oz. Baby Spinach***

* Substituted with two cuts of New York strip steaks. This was done because we couldn't find veal anywhere in the Des Moines metro area. Seriously. No one had ANY - we didn't realize that baby cow had a season...

** Substituted with bacon. Pancetta and bacon are nearly identical and bacon is a more cost effective ingredient.

*** Omitted from the recipe because...well, because we don't like it!

Hello food fanatics and blog readers alike!  Glad you made it back for another week of my shenanigans cooking.  Like Tyler mentioned, I really wanted to do something different this week.  I have an old standby of pasta and/or chicken.  I felt as an emerging chef, I couldn't be limited to those two kinds of dishes.  So, I turned to Rachael Ray to help me this week, and as it turned out, to be a good idea.

Before I began this week's recipe, I called two of our local grocery stores to see if they would have veal. One place said they could order it, but it wouldn't be in until Tuesday or Thursday.  The other place said they did not have it in stock and could not order it for me.  I was slightly bummed at the fact that I couldn't get veal, because it is quite the spectacular meat.  With the help of Tyler, we chose a thin versions of New York Strip Steaks, hoping this would help with what I would have to do for the recipe.

Sliced up New York Strip - a good substitute for veal 

I began by cutting the large steaks into smaller pieces and sprinkled pepper, salt, and parsley onto the strips. I then sliced up the red bell pepper (using the same technique as last night). Next, I transferred the steak pieces onto a sheet of parchment paper for easier mobility and to prevent sticking.  I placed a slice of cheese and a strip of red pepper on each slice of meat. Next, I wrapped the meat/cheese/pepper combination into a small roll. After said items were rolled up, I wrapped them with a slice of bacon and secured the whole thing with a toothpick slid through the center of the wrap. 

First the cheese... 
Then the pepper 
Topped with bacon 
And - ta da - one veal steak roll 

After all the food was prepped and ready to roll, I heated a pan up to medium heat (I can hear the gasps now - "Maggie, you don't cook meat at medium heat"....more on that later,) and drizzled the pan with EVOO (yes, since this is a Rachael Ray recipe, I will use her terminology.) (Tyler's Note: Extra Virgin Olive Oil for those who don't know) I sat four little guys in the pan at a time and cooked them each for 6 minutes on each side, just like the recipe tells me to. (We really need to get ahold of a large frying pan - I could have finished in half the time had I not been limited to such a small pan - I had to do three cycles to cook up all twelve wraps I had made).  After each wrap had finished cooking - it was time to chow down. 

Fryin' up 

Now, returning to my earlier point about a pan on medium heat. As some of you may know, cooking meat is an absolute no-no at medium heat. (Especially if you like your meat well-done, which I do).  But, since I couldn't tell what was going on inside the meat rollups, I followed the recipe exactly.  Bad idea.  High heat would have made my meat more cooked and probably more edible. Live and learn. 

The End Result:

(Tyler's note: for those wondering, we use our desk to take the photos due to the black surface (works better for pictures) that's why scotch tape keeps showing up in the background.)

After cooking the meat once more through the microwave, the bacon, New York Steak Strip, mozzarella cheese, and parsley came together in a very harmonious blend.  It was quite delicious.  The red pepper...I don't know if it was the microwaving we did to the pepper, but it didn't really work with this recipe.  Although I would have liked my meat to be a bit more cooked, I definitely broke out of my norm and did something completely different, and I am proud of myself for that.

Thank you Maggie. Tonight was a certain learning experience. As I cut into the first wrap on my plate - I was certain I heard it go 'Moo'. Yup, the meat was a 'little' (read: MOOING) undercooked. As Maggie mentioned, we had to turn to the microwave to save the dish - something that any cook absolutely HATES to do. Microwaves may be convenient but they absolutely kill the flavor and juices of a dish. In this case, the microwave cooked the juice right out of the steak, made the cheese extra runny and completely ruined the red pepper by giving it the consistency of a tire.

During our post meal "go over" (where Maggie and I chat about what we liked, what we didn't and what we would change) Maggie admitted to me that she placed the meat at "medium heat". I instantly cringed.  Medium heat...

"And how long did you cook it?"

"Six minutes."

Well that explains a lot. You have to laugh looking back at it now. The cookbook says 'six minutes' so Maggie cooked it at six minutes. What it doesn't say is "high heat" which I'm assuming Mrs. Ray THOUGHT was implied - but clearly isn't as obvious as she had hoped. All in all, Maggie now knows my saying in regards to this matter. Frying pan + meat = high heat. (Rhyming helps you remember things after all).

That being said the (salvaged) dish was still very enjoyable. The flavors all complimented each other well, and everything still tasted great (albeit a little tougher to cut after the microwave treatment). Considering all that popped up in her way - the fact that Maggie managed to make something good out of this dish says a lot. Kudos to her tonight folks, it's not as easy as it looks all the time - tonight was proof of that.

That's all we have for you tonight. I'm back tomorrow with a 100% original recipe. No borrowings - no influences (no safety net). Tune in this time tomorrow to see what we've cooked up. Until then,


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