Falling Off the Bone
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Irresistible braises, roasts, soups, and stews so tender the meat falls off the bone. From legendary cookbook author and food writer Jean Anderson comes Falling Off the Bone, a collection of luscious recipes for simple, delicious meat dishes just like grandma used to make, but updated for contemporary kitchens and tastes. With beautiful color photographs throughout, this cookbook shows just how mouthwateringly delicious simple home cooking can be.
Falling Off the Bone presents quintessential comfort food recipes that are ideal for virtually any cut of beef, pork, lamb, or veal. Anderson shows you how to use slow cooking methods like braising or roasting to coax amazing flavors out of even the most common and affordable cuts. More...
People laugh when I tell them I took a meat-cutting course in college and in truth, I thought it a lark until I showed up for class. No crip course this but an intensive, hands-on, semester-long series of lessons that taught me more than I ever expected to know about beef, veal, lamb, and pork.
The practical exam at the end of the course was a doozy, in fact my good buddy, former Gourmet executive chef Sara Moulton, was so impressed when I described it to her she still talks about it.
There, on butcher-paper-covered tables laid end-lo-end in a room the size of a small gymnasium were more than a hundred anonymous cuts of meat. My challenge: ID them one by one noting type of meat (beef, veal, lamb, pork), animal part (shoulder, rib, loin, and so forth), retail cut (not only name--flank, butt, boned and rolled rump--but also whether Chicago cut, Kansas City, or New York), grade (Prime, Choice, Good, etc.), and finally, best ways to cook (broil, braise, stew, etc.) plus the reasons why.
I no longer make fun of that meat-cutting class, indeed it was one of the most valuable courses I took in my years at Cornell. Soon after settling in New York, I told my West Village butcher that I could bone and roll a rump roast. He laughed, then put me to the test. Once again I passed.
I'd never go boning-knife-to-boning-knife with a butcher today, but the basics of those long-ago meat-cutting lessons have served me well. I can recognize a pork arm roast at twenty paces, spot baby beef passed off as veal, and know at a glance whether lamb shoulder chops are freshly sliced.
More important, I know that tough cuts of meat come from well exercised parts of the animal (neck, shoulder, shank, tail, etc.), that cooking can tenderize them, and that they're endlessly versatile. Not so pricey steaks, chops, and roasts cut from the gold-plated rib and loin. "Such cuts," I remember my professor saying, "will never be more tender than they are raw."
So why is the reverse true of the bony, sinewy, cheaper cuts of meat? What sort of magic takes place in the stew pot and Dutch oven? The muscles in these economical cuts are shot through or sheathed with connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, gristle)--shoe-leather-tough when raw. But when slowly cooked in liquid--even the smallest amount of it--that sinew, or to be more precise, the collagen it contains, turns to gelatin. And all the more so if that liquid contains something acidic like tomatoes, vinegar, wine, or lemon juice.
Struggling to make ends meet on a meager college professor's salary, my mother was forever turning tough budget cuts into pot roasts and stews while my wealthier school chums dined on pork chops and prime ribs. To be honest, I preferred stew then and do to this day...
...In our rush to put dinner on the table in thirty minutes or less, we've forsaken the soups, stews, and pot roasts that laze away, largely unattended, gaining tenderness and flavor every step of the way. And we're losing the comfort foods that fill the house with tantalizing aromas no jiffy recipe can match. Ever. Isn't it time to rediscover the versatility, the value of the so-called lesser cuts of meat not to mention the pure pleasure of anticipation?
In the pages that follow you will find exactly that--scores of recipes for bony and/or sinewy cuts of beef, veal, lamb, and pork--old favorites that recapture the joy of hours spent in our grandmothers' kitchens plus plenty of unknowns and a few exotics. It's a round-the-world collection of the recipes I've enjoyed at home and abroad, recipes that concentrate on the most widely available tough cuts of beef, veal, lamb, and pork.
Try substituting them for pricey steaks and chops. They'll not only add welcome variety to your meals, they'll also stretch your food dollar. Easily. Impressively. Deliciously.
--Jean Anderson, Chapel Hill, NC
Hungarian Goulash with Sauerkraut
With three kinds of stew meat--beef chuck, veal and pork shoulder--Hungarian goulash differs from the Viennese version my mother used to make for special occasions. There's a hearty helping of sauerkraut in Hungarian-Goulash, too (but no mushrooms), and as with my mother's goulash, more than a blush of paprika plus sour cream to bond and mellow the flavors. Note: Use fresh sauerkraut, if possible, because it’s less salty than the canned and has superior flavor. Still, it should be rinsed well and squeezed dry before it goes into the pot.
MAKES 6 SERVINGS
1. Melt butter in a large heavy nonreactive Dutch oven over moderately high heat and as soon as it froths and subsides, add onion and saute, stirring often, until limp and golden--6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift to a large bowl and reserve.
2. Brown meat in Dutch oven in three batches in order listed, allowing about 10 minutes per batch and lifting each to bowl as it browns.
3. Return onion and meats to pot along with accumulated juices, paprika mixture, and water, and bring to a boil. Adjust heat so mixture barely ripples, cover, and simmer very slowly until meats are tender--about 2 hours. Note: Check pot occasionally and if mixture threatens to scorch, add a little more water, turn heat to lowest point, and slide a diffuser underneath pot.
4. Mix in sauerkraut, cover, and simmer 10 minutes, then smooth in sour cream and bring just to serving temperature--3 to 5 minutes. Do not boil or sour cream may curdle. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.
5. Serve hot with buttered poppy-seed noodles or boiled and peeled redskin, fingerling, or Yukon gold potatoes.
Copyright © 2010 by Jean Anderson. Photographs © Jason Wyche. Illustrations © Ben Downard. Reprinted from Falling Off the Bone with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Jean Anderson, the author of more than 20 cookbooks, has written articles
for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Gourmet, More, and other national magazines.
A six-time best cookbook award winner (James Beard, IACP, and Tastemaker),
she is a member of the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame and a founding
member of both Les Dames d'Escoffier and the New York Women's
Author photograph © Rudy Miller.
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Other cookbooks by Jean Anderson: