Flank Steak Stuffed with Feta, Sundried Tomatoes, and Olives
I'm a fan of old cookbooks that are usually found in garage sales throughout Ontario, usually in dusty old "$1" boxes. You know these books. They were usually published by church groups, or community business associations, and had titles like "Getting the Most Out of Ground Beef", or "Dairy Mothers of Paisley Journal Best Recipes".
One of the defining trends in these books (really, they are usually barely more than leaflets) are recipes that can stretch your dollar on the kitchen. And one way that happens is by taking a cut of meat, and stuffing it with cheaper ingredients to make a meal that will feed more for less. I love stuffing a cut of meat with other aromatic ingredients, as it can completely change your expectations of what that cut is intended to be.
A great example of this is flank steak. Flank can be stuffed, rolled, or sliced for a variety of recipes that change how you look at the otherwise tasty, but one dimensional, steak.
In the following recipe (adapted from my book “Cooking Meat”, I have used flavours of the Mediterranean to stuff a flank. This flavour combo is a cherished one of mine (I use feta and olives a lot), and the flank takes well to the briny-ness of the stuffing. This dish goes well with a light pasta salad.
1 (about 2½ pounds) whole flank steak, trimmed of any silverskin
2 Tbsp olive oil + more for rubbing the steaks
1 cup minced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
½ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper
- Cut the flank into 6 thin, evenly sized steaks. To do this, place the steak on a work surface with the long side parallel to you. Cut the flank in half through the muscle grains. Then, cut each half into thirds, along the muscle grain.
- Cut a pocket into each flank steak. To do this, use a thin boning knife. Holding the parallel to your work surface and starting at the thickest end of the steak, plunge the knife blade into the meat, being careful not to cut all the way through. Wiggle the knife a little to create a pocket. Think of the steak like a pillowcase—you’re creating the opening in which to put the pillow. In this case, the pillow (stuffing) is delicious. Once you have cut the pocket in each steak, remove the knife, set the meat on a plate, and refrigerate, uncovered, while you make the stuffing.
- To make the stuffing, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sweat until slightly caramelized. Add the olives and sundried tomatoes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley, and green onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the bread crumbs are slightly toasted. Remove from the heat and stir in the feta cheese. Mix thoroughly to combine and set aside to cool.
- Arrange the steaks on a cutting board. Using a tablespoon, stuff the olive mixture into the pocket of each steak. Seal the end of each steak with a couple of toothpicks. Rub each steak with some oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and as long as overnight.
- To cook the flank, you can either grill or pan-fry it. Either preheat your barbecue to hot on one side and warm on the other or preheat the oven to 400°F.
- To grill the steaks, place them on the hot side of the barbecue and sear, until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the steaks to the warm side of the grill. The steaks are done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 140°F. To pan-fry the steaks, heat two ovenproof frying pans over medium-high heat. When hot, add the steaks and brown on one side. Turn the steaks over and place the pans in the oven until the steaks are cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove the steaks from the heat, discard the toothpicks, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- To serve, slice the steaks into ½-inch rounds, and serve either on a platter or on individual plates.
Simple Poached Chicken
One of my favourite things to do when the weather is grey and gloomy is cook something, preferably something that bubbles away on the stovetop while you do other rainy day activities like build a puzzle or read a book. Here is an abridged recipe from my cookbook "Cooking Meat" for a Poached Chicken. It is a simple recipe, and definitely one that can be modified to suit your palate (and use up whatever is in your vegetable drawers).
1 (3½ pounds) whole chicken
2 onions, cut in large dice
2 carrots, cut in large dice
2 turnips, cut in large dice
1 celery stalk, cut in large dice
1 leek, washed thoroughly and cut in large dice
5 garlic cloves, halved
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
1 herb bundle
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup shredded cabbage (Savoy or green)
12 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp finely chopped thyme
Salt and pepper
2 cups roughly torn stale French bread
1. Place the chicken, onions, carrots, turnips, celery, leeks, garlic, salt, peppercorns, and herb bundle in a deep pot and just cover with cold water. Bring the water to a low simmer over medium-low heat and poach the chicken, uncovered, for 1½ hours, skimming and discarding any fat and impurities that rise to the surface.
2. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. It should read 180˚F. (If not, cook the chicken for 5 to 10 minutes more and check again.) The meat will be pulling away from the bone, especially around the leg knuckle. Turn off the heat and allow the chicken to cool in its own liquid.
3. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a cutting board, reserving the poaching liquid in the pot. Using a sharp knife, cut the breasts and legs away from the carcass. Using your thumb, strip off any meat clinging to the carcass and put it back into the pot with the vegetables. Discard the skin from the breasts and slice the meat before adding it to the pot. Discard the skin from the legs and strip the meat away from the bones. Place the leg meat back in the pot and discard the bones. Discard the herb bundle, then bring the broth to a simmer over medium-low heat.
4. To finish the chicken, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cabbage and mushrooms, stir well, and cover. Steam the vegetables until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Season with the thyme and salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm.
5. To serve, place a few pieces of torn-up bread at the bottom of each bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cabbage and mushroom mixture, then ladle a good amount of the chicken and vegetable mixture with some broth over everything and serve.
Roasted Leg of Lamb
A perfect joint to eat on a warm spring day
Over the years I have come across many recipes for a roasted leg of lamb. This is one I came up with after getting my first charcoal kettle grill. It isn’t a necessity, but having the lamb slowly cook over charcoal infuses the meat with just the right amount of smoke, and the results are simply the best I’ve had.
This recipe is abridged from my book Cooking Meat.
Serves 8 to 10
1 (6–7 pounds) bone-in lamb leg
1 cup Middle Eastern Marinade (recipe follows)
- Rub the lamb leg all over with the marinade, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Better yet, preheat a charcoal grill, adjusting the airflow to achieve 300°F. Have a roasting pan with an elevated roasting rack ready.
- Place the marinated lamb leg on the roasting rack and place the roasting pan in the center of the oven. If you’re using a charcoal grill, place the lamb slightly beside the charcoal, to avoid flare-ups. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 135° (for medium), about 2½ hours.
- Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, tent it with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
- To serve, slice the lamb and arrange on a serving platter. Salsa Verde is a perfect sauce with this roast.
I call this my Middle Eastern marinade because it contains the warm spices of coriander, cumin, and fennel, all popular in the cuisine of the Cradle of Civilization, and works especially well with lamb.
Makes 2 cups
½ cup finely sliced green onions
½ cup chopped garlic
3 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp chopped thyme
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground fennel seeds
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp pepper
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- In a food processor, purée the green onions, garlic, lemon zest, thyme, oil, and lemon juice until the mixture has the consistency of pesto. Add the salt, coriander, fennel seeds, cumin, pepper, and cinnamon, and blend until emulsified. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.
March Break Idea: Cooking with Kids!
Easy Pasta and Meat Sauce
It can certainly be a challenge to come up with ideas for activities with your kids. Try cooking with the little ones with this easy-peasy spaghetti with meat sauce recipe. Made with only a few ingredients, your kids and you will be happy cooking and eating this dish together! We carry the fennel pollen at our Kensington shop, but it is optional here, as is the bufala mozzarella.
Note: I realize this is a stove-top dish, and not all kids (or parents) are comfortable with that yet. In my experience if you warn the kids of the danger of heat, they will be careful. There are no knives in this recipe, so at least you can avoid cuts 😉!
Serves four to six
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling on mozzarella (if using)
1 lb ground beef
2 mild Italian sausages, casings removed
1 pinch fennel pollen (optional)
1 jar Sanagan’s Classic Tomato Sauce
salt and pepper to taste
400 gr pasta of your choice (I like spaghetti with this)
4 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Optional: ½ ball of bufala mozzarella per person – this is pure indulgence and worth it
Fill a large pot with water, place on a high heat and bring to a boil. Salt the water to make it taste salty (about 1 handful of salt for a large (6-8 L) pot). Kids can throw the salt in here.
Place a medium sized sauce pot on a medium heat, and add 1 tbsp of olive oil (kid friendly move). Now add the ground beef and sausage meat, and stir with a wooden spoon (also kid friendly – just make sure you’re teaching them to avoid the element).
Once the meat is browned, add the fennel pollen (if using) and pour the tomato sauce in the pot (big time kid friendly move). Stir everything together and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
Cook your pasta in the boiling water as per the package directions. Drain, and quickly put back into the empty pasta cooking pot. There should be a bit of water in the pot from the pasta not being totally drained. You want this as it helps round out the sauce.
Taste the meat sauce for seasonings, and adjust to taste. Then pour the sauce over the pasta, and stir well to combine (kid move – but it is a bit hot so be careful).
Divide the pasta and sauce into bowls. If using, place a half ball of bufala mozzarella on top and drizzle with olive oil. If not using, grate some Parmigiano Reggiano on top and serve.
Get ready for St Patrick’s Day!
It’s time to start corning your beef!
I read somewhere that Corned Beef was adopted by Irish immigrants who landed in New York and couldn’t find the cured pork bacon they remembered from back home, so they cured beef instead. That theory is kind of ridiculous, given that cured and smoked pork was prevalent amongst the new Americans of European descent, particularly from Poland or Hungary. On top of that, Ireland has a rich history of corning beef, going back to the 1600s. Surely there were pigs available in the 19th century in New York, but for whatever reason cured Irish bacon (cut from the loin) never gained popularity. Corned beef, on the other hand, was hugely popular, and to this day is thought of the national food of Ireland. Declaring that to an Irish person will probably earn you a swift kick in the bollocks, but hey, we’re from the land of cultural appropriation and what we say goes! Also, corned beef is delicious, especially when prepared in the following manner, surrounded by good friends and family, pints upon pints, and a tin whistle or two.
Start this recipe a week before you plan to serve it.
4 L water
4 whole garlic cloves
1 ¼ cup g salt
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp curing salt
3 Tbsp pickling spice (divided, see note)
1 (4–5 pounds) beef brisket, flat cut end
1 medium onion, cut in medium dice
1 large carrot, cut in medium dice
1 celery stalk, cut in medium dice
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 cup milk
¼ onion, thinly sliced
3 whole cloves
2 dried bay leaves
1 Tbsp butter, cold
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup hot braising liquid from the corned beef
1 cup finely chopped curly parsley
2 tsp English mustard powder
- In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the garlic, salt, sugar, curing salt, and 2 Tbsp of the pickling spice, whisking to dissolve the salts and sugar. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Place the brisket in a nonreactive container and cover with the brine. Set a small plate on the brisket to weigh it down and keep it submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 7 days, checking periodically to make sure it’s still submerged. If needed, place another plate on top to weigh it down further.
- After a week, discard the brine and soak the brisket in cold water for about 2 hours, changing the water every 20 minutes to rinse off the excess salt.
- Place the brined beef in a pot large enough to hold it without crowding, cover with cold water, and add the remaining 1 Tbsp pickling salt, the onions, carrot, celery, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Do not add salt. Bring the brine to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, cover, and allow to gently simmer until the meat yields when pricked with a fork, about 4 hours. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
- While the beef is simmering, prepare the parsley sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk with the onions, cloves, and bay leaves. When the milk begins to simmer, remove it from the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes to infuse.
- Melt the butter in a separate pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir vigorously to blend. Allow this roux to cook just until golden, about 5 minutes. Strain the milk through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then very slowly and gradually whisk it into the roux, until the sauce is emulsified.
- When all the milk has been added, whisk in the hot braising liquid. Add the parsley and mustard powder, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and purée in a blender (or use an immersion blender). Pour the lovely green sauce into a gravy boat.
- To serve, slice the corned beef and arrange on a serving platter. Serve hot with the parsley sauce alongside.
To make your own pickling spice at home, combine 2 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds , 1 Tbsp whole allspice, 2 tsp coriander seeds, 2 whole cloves, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp chili flakes, 2 bay leaves, and 1 cinnamon stick.
Pork and Walnut Stew
On these cold winter nights, nothing quite warms you up like a bit of slow cooked meat. I came up with this recipe a few years ago when my son was around nine months old. He was just starting to eat whatever his parents ate, and he loved soft stewed meat. In fact, if he approved of a dish, he could eat more of it than either Alia or I could manage. And this one he definitely approved of! Serve this with crusty country bread.
2 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
3½ pounds pork shoulder, cut in 1½-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
¾ cup medium-diced onions
¾ cup medium-diced carrots
½ cup medium-diced celery
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups walnuts, shelled
2 cups white wine
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 herb bundle (8 thyme sprigs, 4 parsley sprigs, 3 bay leaves)
1 cup diced butternut squash
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Place the pork in a large bowl and season liberally with salt and pepper, tossing it well. Working in batches, add the pork to the hot oil, stirring often to brown the meat all over. Using a slotted spoon, return the meat to the bowl.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low, stir the vegetables, and cover the pot. Sweat the vegetables, stirring them every few minutes, until soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, arrange the walnuts in a single layer on the baking tray. Roast in the oven until golden, about 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan. Leave the oven on.
- When the vegetables are cooked, remove the lid and add the pork. Turn the heat back up to medium. Add the wine and simmer until it is reduced by half. Add the stock and herb bundle, bring to a simmer, and cover. Place the pot in the oven and braise for 1 hour. Add the squash, stirring gently, cover again, and return the stew to the oven until the meat is soft, 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the herb bundle.
- Set a large fine-mesh sieve over a clean pot. Strain the stew through the sieve to collect the braising liquid. Place the sieve full of pork and vegetables over a bowl and set aside.
- Place the pot of braising liquid over low heat and add three-quarters of the roasted walnuts. Using an immersion blender, purée the walnuts in the pot. (Or purée them with the braising liquid in batches in a blender. You want to thicken the braising liquid with the walnuts to create a smooth, emulsified sauce.)
- Add the pork, vegetables, and the remaining walnuts to the puréed walnuts in the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer and season to taste.
- To serve, ladle the pork stew into individual bowls.
Family Day Pot Roast
By: Peter Sanagan
If I had to choose one dish that reminded me of family meals of my childhood, it could very well be a pot roast. Think of it: a reasonably priced hunk of tough meat that is rendered tender and succulent after a few hours bathing in stock in a hot oven. The house smells lovely and is warm; a sharp contrast to the cracks of branches outside in the February grey sky.
Sometimes, in the dead of winter, nothing warms your bones like a slow-cooked piece of beef. A pot roast is a braise, and it works well with any tough cut of beef. The braising liquid in this recipe can double as a delicious sauce for pasta! In fact, I like to serve this dish with plain buttered noodles. This recipe is taken from Cooking Meat, my cookbook all about…well…you know.
4 lbs blade roast, trimmed of silverskin and excess fat, tied
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 slices bacon, diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 cup rutabaga, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
4 rosemary sprigs
4 thyme sprigs
3 bay leaves
3 cups Beef (or Chicken) Stock
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Have your roasting pan ready. [I like to use a pan with an elevated roasting rack, which allows hot air to circulate around the meat and cook it more evenly.] Cut a length of kitchen twine.
- Season the beef well with salt and pepper, then rub it with the olive oil. Place the beef on a roasting rack, set the roasting pan in the oven, and roast for 30 minutes, until the beef is golden brown all over.
- While the beef is browning, place the onions and bacon in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat, stir well, then cover the pot for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and rutabaga, stir, and cover again, sweating all of the vegetables until fragrant and softened—about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir well, then deglaze the pot with the red wine.
- Tie the herbs together with the twine, then drop them in the pot. Season the contents of the pot with salt and pepper. Add the browned beef to the pot and turn down the oven to 300°F.
- Add the stock to the pot and bring it to a simmer over medium heat, ladling off and discarding any scum as it rises to the surface of the stock. When it is simmering, cover the pot and place in the oven for 1 hour.
- Lift the lid, turn the beef over in the pot, and return to the oven for another 1½ hours, or until fork-tender. Carefully transfer the meat to cutting board and tent it loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm. Discard the bundle of herbs.
- Bring the braising liquid back to a simmer over medium heat. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to purée the contents of the saucepan (if you don’t have an immersion blender, use a countertop blender, working in batches, strain the contents of the pot through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing the solids through with the back of a ladle). Return the sauce to medium heat and simmer until reduced to a sauce consistency.
- To serve, slice the beef and arrange it on a serving platter. Drizzle with some of the sauce and pour the rest into a sauceboat to serve alongside.
Ian's Grilled Focaccia
Recipe and photos by Ian Huffam
Now that summer’s finally arrived, who wants to stay inside to cook? This grilled focaccia recipe is an ideal accompaniment to a summer antipasti platter, and it won’t heat up your kitchen! Salamoia Bolognese, a new addition to our shelves, is an all-in-one Italian seasoning salt with garlic, rosemary, sage, and black pepper. It’s excellent on all Italian dishes, but it takes even more work out of what is already a fairly easy bread recipe. Brodflour, based out of Stonewall, Manitoba, mills a Prairie Hard Red flour that delivers rich sweet ‘n spicy notes to any bread recipe. Fear not if grilling isn’t an option, apartment/condo dwellers, we also have directions for a conventional oven.
Makes 12 Servings
1 cup warm water (about 100-110F)
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 ½ cups Brodflour Stone Milled Prairie Hard Red flour
2 tbsp Barbera Tipo Famiglia Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for dough)
1 ¼ tsp Salamoia Bolognese (for dough)
2 tbsp Barbera Tipo Famiglia Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for topping, plus an extra 2 tbsp for greasing pan)
1 tbsp Salamoia Bolognese (for topping)
2 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, grated
- In a large bowl, combine warm water and honey. Sprinkle in yeast, let bloom for about 10 minutes until yeast is dissolved and frothy.
- Stir in Brodflour, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1 ¼ tsp Salamoia, forming a dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn dough out of bowl onto a lightly floured work surface, knead 8-10 minutes. Dough should be soft and slightly sticky.
- Place dough in a lightly-greased bowl, turning to ensure dough is greased all over. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel, and let rise 1-2 hours in a warm spot until doubled in size.
- To prepare pan: grease a rimmed baking sheet with 2-3 tbsp olive oil, making sure to grease all over (a little pooling is all right; this will help to ensure a good crust). Optionally, you may then sprinkle the sheet with 1-2 tsp cornmeal or semolina (cream of wheat).
- Once dough is risen, punch down and stretch into a 12x18 rectangle, which should be about ½ inch thick. Place rectangle on greased baking sheet, cover again, and rest 10-20 minutes.
- For topping: with a spoon (or your thumb), press dimples into the dough, making sure they are nice and deep. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil, then sprinkle remaining Salamoia and cheese all over.
- Cover dough one last time and let rise 20 minutes.
- Preheat your barbecue to medium heat (375-400F). Place baking sheet with dough on grill, put the top of the barbecue down, and reduce heat to medium-low (alternatively, you can turn your burners down as low as they go). Bake 10-15 minutes (after 10 minutes, gently lift one corner of bread to check it s progress. Bottom should have a golden-brown crust).
- Remove sheet from barbecue. Flip bread over onto grill, upside-down (this takes confidence!). Cover again and bake another 3-4 minutes, until top is golden and has satisfying grill marks (you may wish to turn your burners a little higher for this part). Remove from heat, flip right-side-up onto a cutting board or clean sheet tray. Let cool for a few minutes, and serve.
- For conventional oven: Place pizza stone (or an upside-down baking sheet) on lowest rack of oven, preheat to 375F. Bake 15-20 minutes, until top is golden and bottom crust is brown.
Crispy Devilled Chicken
What makes a chicken devilled? Its horns, obviously.
For whatever reason, when a quantity of mustard is added to a dish, it is often referred to as being “devilled”. I assume that there were not a lot of hot peppers in classic French cuisine, so mustard was the hot spice of choice. While we have moved on to spicier ingredients, I still love the flavour mustard brings to a dish, and this recipe is no exception. Great for a quick and easy weeknight meal, try it with some steamed green beans and plenty of lemon wedges for juicing.
8 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
to taste salt and pepper
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten
8 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups breadcrumbs
6 tbsp vegetable oil (or another neutral frying oil)
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Beat the egg and the mustard together and season with salt and pepper.
- Set up a dredging station (one dish has flour, one dish for the egg/mustard mixture, one dish for the breadcrumbs).
- Coat each chicken thigh in flour, then transfer to the egg/mustard mixture to coat well. Finally, transfer to the breadcrumbs, pressing the chicken thigh firmly into the breadcrumbs to coat well. Transfer the breaded chicken thigh to a tray to await frying.
- Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium high heat. When hot, place two chicken thighs in the pan, cooking until golden brown on one side before carefully turning over. Finish cooking each thigh until an internal thermometer reads 160°F, approximately five minutes. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel, then repeat with the rest of the chicken thighs.