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Meat Dishes

Prolonged Cooking at Low Heat

Meat may be cooked in water in a number of ways without being allowed to reach the boiling point. With the ordinary kitchen range this is accomplished by cooking on the cooler part of the stove rather than on the hottest part, directly over the fire. Experience with a gas stove, particularly if it has a small burner known as a "simmerer," usually enables the cook to maintain temperatures which are high enough to sterilize the meat if it has become accidentally contaminated in any way and to make it tender without hardening the fibers. The double boiler would seem to be a neglected utensil for this purpose. Its contents can easily be kept up to a temperature of 200 degrees F., and nothing will burn. Another method is by means of the fireless cooker. In this a high temperature can be maintained for a long time without the application of fresh heat. Still another method is by means of a closely covered baking dish. Earthenware dishes of this kind suitable for serving foods as well as for cooking are known as casseroles. For cooking purposes a baking dish covered with a plate or a bean jar covered with a saucer may be substituted. The Aladdin oven has long been popular for the purpose of preserving temperatures which are near the boiling point and yet do not reach it. It is a thoroughly insulated oven which may be heated either by a kerosene lamp or a gas jet.

Developing Flavor of Meat

The typical meat flavors are very palatable to most persons, even when they are constantly tasted, and consequently the better cuts of meat in which they are well developed can be cooked and served without attention being paid especially to flavor. Careful cooking aids in developing the natural flavor of some of the cheaper cuts, and such a result is to be sought wherever it is possible. Browning also brings out flavors agreeable to most palates. Aside from these two ways of increasing the flavor of the meat itself there are countless ways of adding flavor to otherwise rather tasteless meats. The flavors may be added in preparing the meat for cooking, as in various seasoned dishes already described, or they may be supplied to cook meat in the form of sauces.

Retaining Natural Flavor

As has already been pointed out, it is extremely difficult to retain the flavor-giving extractives in a piece of meat so tough as to require prolonged cooking. It is sometimes partially accomplished by first searing the exterior of the meat and thus preventing the escape of the juices. Another device, illustrated by the following recipe, is to let them escape into the gravy which is served with the meat itself. A similar principle is applied when roasts are basted with their own juice.

Flavor of Browned Meat or Fat

Next to the unchanged flavor of the meat itself comes the flavor which is secured by browning the meat with fat. The outside slices of roast meat have this browned flavor in marked degree. Except in the case of roasts, browning for flavor is usually accomplished by heating the meat in a frying pan in fat which has been tried out of pork or in suet or butter. Care should be taken that the fat is not scorched. The chief reason for the bad opinion in which fried food is held by many is that it almost always means eating burned fat. When fat is heated too high it splits up into fatty acids and glycerin, and from the glycerin is formed a substance (acrolein) which has a very irritating effect upon the mucous membrane. All will recall that the fumes of scorched fat make the eyes water. It is not surprising that such a substance, if taken into the stomach, should cause digestive disturbance. Fat in itself is a very valuable food, and the objection to fried foods because they may be fat seems illogical. If they supply burned fat there is a good reason for suspicion. Many housekeepers cook bacon in the oven on a wire broiler over a pan and believe it more wholesome than fried bacon. The reason, of course, is that thus cooked in the oven there is less chance for the bacon becoming impregnated with burned fat. Where fried salt pork is much used good cooks know that it must not be cooked over a very hot fire, even if they have never heard of the chemistry of burned fat. The recipe for bean-pot roast and other similar recipes may be varied by browning the meat or part of it before covering with water. This results in keeping some of the natural flavoring within the meat itself and allowing less to go into the gravy. The flavor of veal can be very greatly improved in this way.


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