Cleanin’ Out My Cabinets: Beef Fry Marsala

Ah, yes, balls have returned to The Pete Is On, didn’t you miss them??  I wish I didn’t have to post about this again so soon but I did an awful job of cooking interesting stuff these past two weeks.  Some ribs, some chili and soups, but nothing even mildly creative that would merit a post.  Oh well, I’ll make something foul this weekend hopefully.

Anyhoo, A few weeks ago after cooking the Rocky Mountain Oysters, I had a a little extra ball meat left over the next day.  That expressions is like the awful gift that keeps giving.

If I hadn’t already dropped thousands of hints and explicit statements I could have told you that these were scallops.   Probably would help the nausea cause if I gave the cutting board a wipedown before taking this picture

Given my hatred of deep frying things in my own home, I elected to take a different approach to cooking the beef scallops.  Based on my recent discovery that the flavor is similar to chicken livers and the consistency is a little soft, I figured I could eat them on some crunchy bread with a sturdy sauce.  Pretty sure Ma Ryan didn’t expect to ever see this use for her Marsala recipe when she gave it to me.

As with the veal and chicken cutlets Ma Ryan intended her recipe for, it all starts with a heavy dusting of flour, salt and black pepper.

Little more than a dusting, but any extra flour avoids the need to add some later to thicken the sauce.  I should probably make this with chicken sometime soon and post it so that I honor the wonderful simplicity of this recipe

While coating those, I heated a few tablespoons of butter over medium heat on the stovetop.  Once the butter was fully melted and bubbling I added the floured beef scallops to the pan.

While I was cooking it I was thinking the same thing I am thinking now, “I hope that little naturally formed shotglass of liquid drains off when I flip them”.  Also, how we all liking “beef scallops”?  I’m sticking with it, much less painful to type repeatedly

Although the sauce would eventually eliminate any crispiness from the butter frying, I was still hoping to get some nice golden color on the outside.  Easier said than done since these things were pushing out a lot of liquid.  Eventually I got somewhere, I guess.

Tasty golden fried balls.  They seem to be nearly impossible to overcook which is definitely in their favor since nobody wants an undercooked ball

After another 5-10 minutes of pan frying the coating had crisped a bit and I removed the beef scallops to a pile of paper towels to drain.  The heat on the pan went down to low-medium heat and I whisked the flour from the bottom of the pan into the remaining butter and a little extra olive oil.

Little bit of brownin’ flour isn’t a bad start for a sauce.  Well, except when it was previously coating balls

At one point in time I remember frantically reading the recipe word doc my mother gave me, and measuring out the portions of Marsala wine and whole milk to get the sauce right.  I’m past that.  Who knows if the sauce is worse because of it, but I enjoy not having to look stuff up.  For the sauce, I like a ratio of about half Marsala, half milk, alternating between the two as you whisk it into the roux-like substance in the pan.  Post whisking, plus a little simmer time, I had a decent sauce for the beef scallops.

The overzealous flour coating made this sauce a little chunky and unwieldly, but it still tasted and smelled perfect for a Marsala

with the sauce thickened, the scallops went back in to simmer for a bit, just as I would with veal or chicken cutlets.  Not sure how much it does for the flavor, but it definitely gets everything well sauced.  I like to add sauteed mushrooms at this point too but didn’t have any to use.

Not sure why, but I think  anyone with even a moderate knowledge of food would look at this picture and say it was suspect.  Just looks a little off

After a few minutes of simmering, I piled the meat onto a few slices of toasted baguette with multiple spoonfuls of sauce to smother and make solidly messy plate of grub.  I made it messier with a handful of grated parm over the top.  My only regret is the stupidity of how I sliced and toasted the bread which made it impossible to eat by hand.  For some reason I cut wedges instead of flat rounds, so stupid.

‘Lil sprinkle is rarely an accurate assessment of what I engage in with cheese.  All pastas, red sauces, pizzas, and anything broadly referenced as Itallian food gets a heafty pile of cheese in the Ryan household

Marsala plus cheese is rarely a miss from a flavor perspective.  I say that recognizing that I was consuming bull testicles, but really they were quite tasty and far less terrifying than you would think.

Again, white meat.  Like a Marsala chicken tender, except made from sexin organs.  Yuck

Marsala is a perfect compliment to the flavor of the beef scallops; it hides some of the more unpleasant offal flavors but matches well with the poultry-ish flavors.  What was left was a tasty combination of beef and chicken flavors with Marsala sauce. The crusty bread was nice just because the soft meat definitely needs some contrasting crunch so you aren’t eating just a pile of somewhat mushy food.  Overall, a pretty decent meal that I enjoyed eating, though I am good with taking some time off before I purchase my next set ‘o balls.

Here this weekend, will be cooking I promise.

Weird Crap I Cook: Rocky Mountain Oysters

Really, really wanted to name this one “Pete’s Balls”.  That decision is not indicative of the maturity I approached the whole post with, but it was a dece start.

As many of you already know, “Rocky Mountain Oysters” is the deceptive nickname for bull or calf testicles.  Huevos, Criadillas, Bull Fries… doesn’t really matter what you call them, they are still cooked bull’s balls.  Now that we’ve made that clear I’ll give a photo of something else and a brief aside to give anyone not interested in seeing this whole thing go down a chance to leave.

One of these mason jars is from our wedding, no idea which one.  Eventually it will totally get lost in our huge collection of mason jars and end up being used to pickle pigeon eggs or some crap.  You had a good run, wedding mason jar

Big week for the Ryan’s, one I’ve been waiting for patiently for 4 years; Switchback is now available in bottles!  Kristi and I have both loved Switchback since we first tasted it and chose to serve it at our wedding in mason jars.  Up until this week, it was only available in kegs, but our long national (national for my universe) nightmare is over.  Congrats to Gretchen and the rest of the crew at Switchback, pencil me in for a 12 pack every time I visit VT.

Anyhoo, back to them sex organs.  I’ve wanted to try Rocky Mountain Oysters for a long time but I’ve honestly never come across them in all of my travels or market shopping.  Kinda gross that testicles were on my food bucket list, but I’ve never claimed to be normal.  In late August, while exiting the St. Anthony festival in Boston’s North End I ducked into a halal butcher shop and spotted my culinary holy grail.

Terrifying, absolutely terrifying.  It was much easier to assume I would order them one day than actually purchasing them and knowing A) I would have to eat them because I hate wasting food and B) I’d have to prepare them

Sunday is never a good day for produce buying, and generally the halal butcher shops by the Haymarket smell a little funky, which all added up to this package smelling a little ripe.  From my Philly Italian Market experience I knew that half the battle would be getting them out of the packaging and rinsed, so that’s what I did.

So, uh, you guys wanna talk about something else?  Goddamn those veins are awful

Since it was a Sunday night, I was stuffed on arancini, and generally exhausted, I decided to vacuum seal the bag and freeze them for use at a later date.

Phew that’s a little better.  Let’s just say that I didn’t feel the need to use the labeling area on the outside of the package; these would be pretty easy to recognize

And into the chest freezer they went for a couple months.  I was a little scared of them, due to the ripeness mentioned previously, but knew that my curiosity would get the best of me at some point.  That point was this week when Kristi headed to Vermont for a couple nights and I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with horrified looks from her during the prep process.

After thawing, I rinsed thoroughly, and moved to a plastic cutting board to peel them, a process I had done absolutely no research on..

This wasn’t the first one I peeled.  That one was the ugliest looking of the batch from the outside and I couldn’t bring myself to post it.  Restraint!  Restraint is a new thing on this blog

I had my knives good and sharp for this process since the first cut is surface level and basically opens the ball (god I wish I could come up with a better term).  Then you remove the contents from the outer layer.  The inside is a yellowish/tan color and in no way resembles the outside.

Back to that first one.  For once my fingers aren’t the most unattractive thing in a picture

I will call it like it is here: I exercised awful instincts and did a terrible job on the first peeling.  I treated it like deboning a chicken or something and made tons of tiny cuts to separate it from the skin.  Ended up losing a fair amount of (questionably) edible material and generally it looked like sh*t at the end.

Looks kinda like chicken but that ain’t chicken.  Really awful job by me on this one

After standing there for a few minutes confounded by how this could be so difficult, I eventually decided to give this another shot by essentially trying to turn the next ball inside out.  Welp, turns out it was as easy as that, no knife required after the first cut.

Like it’s peeking around a corner to say hi to you.  Oh heeeyyyyy there little teste.  I should just accept that I am not going to be able to make this adorable

And with that realization, I was able to get through the remaining three in just a few minutes.  After removing from the skin, I sliced each ball into four 1/2 inch rounds that looked extremely similar to sea scallops before placing them into an iced saltwater bath.

That water clouded up quick.  In general, with any kind of organ meat or offal, I like it when the pre-cooking bath gets a little cloudy or changes color because it means I won’t be ingesting whatever caused it to do so

I let those pieces soak for about an hour to draw out as much funkiness as possible.

My plan was to go traditional with the prep and use about half of the ball meat.  Good god that sounds awful.  The other half would be used another night and help fill my bare cupboards of reserve post cupboards.  So, I started heating a few inches of vegetable oil on the stove top in ‘Lil Blue and set up a breading station.

Again, the scallop analogy works very well here, or at least compared to all the other subpar analogies I make on this blog

The breading mixture was half flour/half corn meal, with lots of salt, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder mixed in for flavor.  The beef scallops (ooh, that works) went from the bath, to the egg mixture, then into the breading and onto the wax paper to wait for the oil to come up to heat.

I despise frying stuff due to the smell and general fear of getting burned.  Every door in the apartment was closed and the windows were all open to deal with the smell, but the fear of the hot oil was more difficult.  I ended up choosing to fry between 325 and 350 instead of the usual 375 for vegetable oil since I had no interest in the bubbling splatters.

I mean, still plenty terrifying.  That item in my left hand is a bacon screen which I used to further reduce the splatter risk along with oven mitts on both hands.  Not shown is my Kevlar suit and football helmet.  Hot oil gives me nightmares, yo

After 8-10 minutes in the oil, the “oysters” had taken on a nice golden brown color and you could tell the coating would have a good crunch.  I removed them from the oil one by one and transferred to a pile of paper towels to drain.

Breading and frying makes pretty much anything look completely innocuous.  I might try this with my face during Movember to compensate for my sure-to-be-awful mustache

I spent a few minutes staring at them, letting them cool and seriously contemplating whether I should make a sauce (a caper-y aioli sounded good).  Since the smell and look of the Rocky Mountain Oysters was pretty appealing, there wasn’t nearly as much anxious fear as I expected at that moment.  Eventually, I just put a couple drops of cholula on one of them and took a bite.

I love Chicken McNuggets, but it’s gotta say something negative about a food when it closely resembles a fried bull testicle

Gotta say, Rocky Mountain Oysters are pretty dece.  The flavor is waayyyy less fierce than you would expect, like a very mild fried chicken liver but with the occasional hint of kidney flavor that reminds you that you are eating offal.  The texture is also most similar to a soft chicken liver.  Not at all the unpleasant eating experience that the rotten gym-towel-bin aroma from the original packaging led me to expect.  I ended up eating most of these and then cooking the remaining ball meat (that has become no less awful) the following night, but that will be documented another time.  All in all, a good meal and very glad I finally got to cook and sample bull testicles.

Thanks to Brendan for the new, hopefully less offensive blog header.  That one is here to stay I think.  Got a solid idea for next week’s post, which I plan to get out before Friday for once.

Weird Crap I Cook: Oxtail Stew

On the camping trip that featured the hogs head barbacoa, my friend Conor brought along a couple pounds of oxtail from our JP supermarket.  We browned them in a pot with some spices and a quartered onion, covered with water, and set the pot on the edge of the fire to simmer.  A few minutes later our friend Marshall got back to the campsite, dumped out the water, stuck the oxtails in a pan on the center of the fire, and covered them with a pound of sliced bacon (unseparated) and a block of ice.  I’d describe the experience as similar to watching someone make food while they are sleepwalking, but with more violent rage and foul language from me.  Anyway, the oxtails burned, we shifted our attention to the hogs head, and Conor and I agreed to make another attempt at oxtail soup sometime soon.

Two weeks ago we held our annual fantasy football draft and for the first time in the eight year history of our league, the draft was not held in a hotel room at a casino.  The downside was that only 5 members of the league convened in Boston with the rest online elsewhere.  The upside was that there was a kitchen to make food instead of having to eat crappy central connecticut pizza.  Sounded like a perfect chance to take another crack at oxtail stew.

I have lost 30+ minutes, multiple times, looking at and poking products in the meat section at Hi Lo Foods

Oxtail is just the tail of a cow, skinned and chopped into sections.  Hard cartilage/bone runs down the center of the tail with muscle, segmented by cartilage and surrounded by a thin membrane, running up the sides.  Its an extremely popular food item in the Caribbean, mainly in stew form.  Most recently it got a little media coverage when Elvis Dumervil of the Denver Broncos claimed he lost 15 pounds in the offseason just by no longer eating oxtail. Back to the cooking.

I started off the stew, in a homage to my oldest friend (and enemy) Marshall, with a half slab of chopped bacon that I browned in the stew pot.

I was cooking this in Buschy's apartment which meant I needed to start with some comforting smells to up the chances he might actually try a few bites of the finished product

While the bacon cooked I trimmed excess fat and cartilage off the oxtail pieces.

It was tough to tell how far to go with the trimming, so I left on anything that didn't appear to be fat

Once the bacon was cooked I removed it from the pot and reserved it.  I then browned the oxtail pieces in the remaining bacon grease.

Seasoned with salt and pepper and quickly browned on both sides. Had to cook them in three waves due to space

Super Zooommm!!!!!!

While the meat browned, I got to work on prepping the base of every stew: carrots, onions, and celery.   When I asked my wife to grab me a couple “good sized” carrots at Hi Lo, here is what she got for me.

"YOU MEAN THERES CAR'TS OUT THERE THIS BIIG?" Little Anaconda/Ice Cube reference. What?

With a bit more effort than usual, I got through the process of chopping the carrots and then the celery and onion.

That pile represents one half of one of the carrots. Reeeeeeediculous

The last batch of the browned oxtail was removed from the pot and put to the side until the base of the stew was ready for them.

Its tough to reject the idea of eating oxtail once you've seen and smelled this plate

Once the onions were translucent I added a few big pinches of fresh thyme.

This picture could be from many different past and future posts

At this point in went a few smashed garlic cloves, a couple bay leaves, chicken stock, and red wine.  Once I was sure everything had deglazed off the bottom of the pot, I let the liquid simmer for a few minutes, added the oxtail, covered and cooked for four hours.

Once again, I make a hearty stew on an 85 degree night. Still, looks delicious

During the four hours of stewing I cut the remainder of the carrots into sticks and roasted them.  I also engaged in some fantasy football panic, an online mock draft, and 1,500 calories of Shuman’s buffalo chicken dip. When I checked the stew, the meat was fork tender which was what I was looking for according to the oxtail research I’d done online.  There was also a little time pressure with the draft starting in thirty minutes.

I removed the fully cooked oxtails and set them to the side.

Thanks to Buschy for taking pictures in between swallowing back vomit. He is about as adventurous with food as a breast feeding infant

Because the mirepoix had basically cooked down to mush, I poured the remaining liquid through a strainer and pressed the solids down to make sure I got all of the juice back.  Once the liquid settled I skimmed off excess fat and returned the liquid to the stove.

The remaining liquid. At this point Tim would have walked in and insulted the stew, then me, then the clothes that I was wearing, and then punched me. I was glad he was probably 6 hours into his ride home from Little Compton

Bacon and roasted carrots went in first…

Both had a few burned pieces, but I guiltily really like that flavor

…then chopped scallion and boiled red potatoes…

I hate wasting food, and those red potatoes are admittedly leftovers. But I would have just cut and boiled fresh potatoes then added them, so I don't think it changed the stew much

…plus the oxtail to make this completely awful looking pot of food:

I let this simmer together for fifteen minutes or so

And then… I turned the heat off because the draft was starting.  Probably for the best; in my experience soups and chilis are always better after they have rested for a bit.  After two sweaty and technology error-laden hours of auction drafting, I decided to turn the heat back on the stew.  My first bowl:

Once I had the bowl sitting next to my computer, I fully understood how effing stupid I was to make a stew for an online auction draft. I blame it for any stupid picks I made in the draft. And any typos in this post

The flavor of the stew was awesome; we went through a loaf of painfully hard bread just dipping it in the liquid. The problem was that the  Caribbean recipes I saw made a clear point not to cook past fork tender since the meat will fall off the bone.  So I did that without questioning it.  But it really sucked pausing while eating spoonfuls of stew to gnaw the meat off of the oxtail.  If I had taken the time to think about it, I would have just cooked it an extra hour or two to make the meat fall off the bones.  Oh well, looks like there will be a third round.

And Con, you still owe me for the oxtails based on our bowling bet.

Next week, the only time I have ever cooked something out of anger towards the animal.