General directions for cooking meat

(Recipe #1, pages 72 – 74)

1. The Proper Time to Cook Meat. In summer beef (and mutton) to be roasted must hang for a few days in a cool, airy place; when the weather is not damp, in the winter it can age for up to 4 days, which makes it milder. Veal is ready sooner. Meat for soups, dumplings, and forcemeats is better without aging. Fresh meat should be washed only enough make sure it is clean; it should not be left standing in water, because that robs it of much of its strength.

2. Pounding. When preparing beef, especially roast beef, as well as tongue, beefsteak, roast veal, and roast mutton, pounding will improve the meat, especially if it is not very high quality; it should be done immediately before cooking. Lay the piece of meat on a cutting board, optionally wrapped in a towel, and pound it thoroughly with a mallet, but only against the grain of the meat, i.e. along the two opposite sides, to help it retain its juices. Then rinse and dry the meat with a kitchen towel and proceed as directed.

3. Scalding. All meat, including salted and smoked meat, should be set on the stove in boiling water, to help preserve its juices and also to help it become tender sooner. For the treatment of fresh meat in making soup, see no. 1 in the section on soup.

4. Cooking Time. How long it takes for a piece of meat to become tender depends on its age and the size of the piece, but the following can be taken as a rough guideline: fresh beef up to 3 hours, smoked beef or a whole smoked ham 3½–4 hours, corned beef, if it is a large piece, also 3–3½ hours, veal 1½–2 hours, mutton 2–2½ hours, poultry 3 hours, chicken 1–1¼ hours, pigeons the same, pig’s or calf’s head 2–2½ hours, boar’s head often 5–6 hours, other game of various sorts 1, 2–2½ hours.

5. Seasonings. Meat dishes call for the usual seasoningss, but it is usually best to use as little as possible; be especially careful of spices like pepper, nutmeg, and mace, since frequent use of these spices is said to be harmful to one’s health.

6. Earthenware Roasting Pans, Frequent Basting, Avoid Roasting Too Long. The preparation of roasts is specified with each recipe, but here are a few general remarks.

Rabbit and fowl in particular are much tastier if prepared in an earthenware pan. Meat that is roasted too gently lacks juice; if roasted too long, it becomes dry, unpalatable, and certainly also harder to digest. A major requirement for preparing a good roast is to sear the meat quickly at a high temperature from all sides from the very beginning, so that the juices remain inside the roast. Once this point has been reached, the oven temperature must be reduced until the roast is done. If the heat from above is too great, it is good to put a sheet of buttered white paper on top of the roast and baste it later with the drippings from the roast.

7. Iron Roasting Pans. Iron pans are more durable than earthenware and therefore cheaper. If an iron pan is used, it is necessary to scour it thoroughly after each use, dry it thoroughly, and store it in a dry place. Before use place it on the stove with cold water and wash and dry it thoroughly, to assure that the gravy will not take on an unpleasant greasy taste, as often happens if the pan is dirty.

8. Gravy. When roasting meat, always make plenty of good, rich gravy; it gives meat dishes their best flavor. For roasts of all kinds, there is nothing better than crème fraîche; it makes the roast milder and the gravy tastier. Since cream is in great demand and is unavailable in many places, the cook must often make do by setting milk out to sour betimes.

In unforeseen cases, a very little sweet milk can be poured under the roast—but not too early and not when the oven is very hot. It is better to add a little bit at a time, so that the gravy retains its color and does not suddenly become too light.

In making gravy, remove most of the fat; if no flour was used in browning the meat, sprinkle some flour in the roasting pan (for a 6–7 pound roast to serve 6 people, a scant tablespoon will do) and let it brown, stirring constantly. Then stir in the necessary quantity of water and the coagulated juices in the pan, to blend them into the gravy. This is best done with a stiff brush reserved for the purpose.

If gravy accidentally becomes too salty or dark, this can be remedied by adding milk, which is desirable in any case if cream is unavailable. A good gravy for roasts must have a pure, full flavor and not be too salty; it should be light brown and somewhat thick. Scorched or watery gravy will spoil the best meat dishes.

9. Heating the Serving Dish. All meat dishes, especially roasts, must be served in dishes that have been heated.

10. Meat Safes. As soon as a meat dish is removed from the table, it should be placed immediately in the pantry or cellar to protect it from blowflies. Screened meat safes are very convenient and almost indispensable; they provide ventilation while protecting the meat from flies. A standing meat safe is preferable to a suspended one.

Translated by David Green.


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