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Prime at a premium

Filet mignon is my favorite cut of beef. It must be prime-quality and seared nice and rare. Filet mignon is expensive yet suitable for festive occasions. There are cuts of beef more practical for to everyday dinners.

Now that autumn has arrived, and with it cooler weather, it’s time to think about hearty stick-to-your-ribs fare. We are beef eaters in our family and I cook some kind of meat at least three times a week.

Last winter, my husband Edward and I were shopping in the Reading Terminal Market, standing in front of Martin’s butcher stall. I always buy my sausages from Martin’s and have a fun time making my selections because there are about 20 varieties from which to choose.

"You have never made short ribs," said Edward as he eyed up the display case. "Why don’t we buy some for dinner tonight?"

With my long history of cooking, it’s true I had never prepared short ribs. These are pieces of beef and bone, about 2 or 3 inches long, cut from the chuck with some rib meat. They are rather tough when compared with filet mignon, are usually first braised and must cook a long time. Short ribs are inexpensive and quite tasty. I made them on that winter evening and they came out perfect.

For the past year or so, classic Bolognese sauce has been popping up on Italian restaurant menus. I have sampled pasta with Bolognese sauce at any number of restaurants and, with a few exceptions, was disappointed. The sauce was little more than bits of overcooked ground beef in tomato sauce. I follow Marcella Hazan’s recipe because it always turns out first-rate. Hazan said the sauce must be a bit creamy and it must cling to the pasta. Like short ribs, the beef for Bolognese fits into everyone’s meal budget.

Rack of lamb is expensive. But if you like lamb, shoulder chops can be made in any number of ways. My mom pot-roasts shoulder lamb chops with carrots, potatoes and onions on top of the stove. I like to coat them in a mixture of Parmesan cheese and minced fresh basil and saut� them in olive oil.

Here are recipes for inexpensive cuts of beef and lamb.

Roasted Short Ribs with Glazed Garlic, Fennel and Carrots
From Roasting: A Simple Art by Barbara Kafka

Ingredients:

About 5-1/2 pounds short ribs, cut into six or seven pieces
1/4 cup stock, water or wine for deglazing
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped in 1/4-inch dice
40 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed, stalks removed, cut lengthwise into eight to nine wedges
8 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 to 6 boiled potatoes to serve on the side

Directions:

Place oven rack on center level. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Arrange ribs in a 14-by-12-by-2-inch roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn ribs over and roast 25 minutes more. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ribs to a large platter. Pour or spoon off excess fat. Put pan on top of the stove, add the stock or other liquid and bring contents to a boil while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add caraway seeds to liquid. Reserve.

Arrange half the onion, garlic, fennel and carrots in a 5-quart casserole. Add half the salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the ribs in a single layer in the casserole. Layer the remaining onion, garlic, fennel and carrots over and around the ribs. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper, to taste. Pour deglazing liquid all over. Cover tightly with foil and a lid. Cook for three hours.

About 35 minutes before you are ready to eat, boil a pot of water and cook the potatoes for about 25 minutes.

Serves four to six.

Meat Sauce Bolognese-Style
From The Classic Italian Cook Book by Marcella Hazan

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef
Salt
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups canned Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped, with their juice

Directions:

Put the onion, olive oil and butter in a 4-quart earthenware pot and saut� briefly over medium heat until the onion is just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for two minutes.

Add the ground beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork. Add 1 teaspoon salt, stir and cook until the meat has lost its raw red color. Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the milk and the nutmeg and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir frequently.

When the milk has evaporated, add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down until the sauce cooks at the laziest simmer, just an occasional bubble. Cook, uncovered, for a minimum of three-and-a-half to four hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and correct for salt.

Serve the sauce over tagliatelle, tortellini, rigatoni, ziti, conchiglie or rotelle.

Serves six.

Note from Phyllis: This recipe makes about 2-1/2 cups of Bolognese. The recipe is for a pasta course, not as an entr�e. Recipe can be easily doubled.

Shoulder Lamb Chops with Parmesan Cheese and Basil

Ingredients:

4 shoulder lamb chops
2 eggs, beaten
Parmesan cheese for coating the chops, spread onto a plate
Handful fresh basil leaves, snipped with scissors
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

Dip each lamb chop into the beaten egg, shaking off excess. Mix the basil with the Parmesan cheese (you can use your fingers to do this). Dip each lamb chop into the Parmesan cheese-basil mixture. Top each lamb chop with freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the lamb chops and saut� each chop for a few minutes on each side. I like my lamb rare to medium rare. If you prefer your lamb a bit more well done, saut� the chops, on both sides, a few more minutes.

Serves four.

Note from Phyllis: The Parmesan cheese forms a delicious coating on the lamb chops. Fried Parmesan cheese is used to make a "frico," a delicious snack. You can add a smattering of panko breadcrumbs and a few cloves of minced garlic to the Parmesan cheese if you wish.

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