Meat Sharon Lurie, The Butcher's Wife

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Meat Sharon Lurie, The Butcher's Wife

Libby Barnea

Kosher entertaining not surprisingly changes in style and flair depending on the city, country—and continent. For a glimpse into the kosher world in South Africa, pick up the two cookbooks of Sharon Lurie, aka The Butcher’s Wife: her original, Cooking with the Kosher Butcher's Wife, and her just released Celebrating with the Kosher Butcher's Wife (both Random House Struik).

Lurie, of course, is married to a butcher, and her first collection is a thorough and thoroughly mouthwatering guide for foodie carnivores. She delights with recipes for multiple roasts, briskets, corned beef preparations, steaks, kebabs and with her forays into Chinese, Indian and even traditional English cooking (Mini Beef Wellingtons, Old-Fashioned Steak Pie with Minted Peas). And that is before you get to her sections on lamb, poultry, deli and surprisingly intriguing non-meat side dishes: Butternut Blintzes, asparagus spears topped with crunchy couscous.

And Lurie clearly has fun in the kitchen. Several of her recipes feature creative, whimsical titles—Boozy Beef and the Sunday Papers, ‘Rub Me the Right Way’ Roast. The takeaway impression is of a colorful, warm Jewish community—and one that appreciates good food.

While her first book features chapters according to food type, Celebrating with the Kosher Butcher's Wife follows the Jewish year, from Shabbat and Rosh Hashana through Shavuot. If anything, Lurie is even more playful in this book, with more zany titles—Matz Ado About Something pudding for Pesach, Save-My-Life Black Forest Pie for Shabbat. The photography for both books is wonderful, but this second work is richer, the visuals more saturated and featuring spreads of elaborate table settings. This is The Butcher’s Wife looking to impress, but never in a stuffy, overly serious fashion.

Again, the hungry reader gets a sense of sincere welcome, this time around the Shabbat and holiday table, as Lurie shares her own original creations plus those from family, for instance “Dale, her Machutenista.” And the chef’s vivid recipe intros bring you close to Lurie’s life in South Africa: We learn about her parents’ farm, her brother’s orchard of fruit trees, her Russian family’s emigration to Spain and South Africa, heaps of references to nephews’ bar mitzvas, brothers’ who can’t abide vegetables, you get the picture. We are truly guests at Lurie’s table and in her kitchen.

Here are samplings from each of Lurie’s collections.

Rolls Royce Rib Roast
From Cooking with the Kosher Butcher's Wife
Serves 10-12

Scotch fillet (rib eye) is a very elegant cut of beef. It makes a statement in a simple, yet effective way and that’s exactly how it should be cooked. It really is a case of less is best with this roast.

6-7 pound rib eye roast

For the Herbed Oil:
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 sage leaves
6 sprigs rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 tablespoon mustard seeds or 1 teaspoon brown grainy mustard

1. Herbed Oil: Place all the ingredients in a bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid and give it a good shake up. This should keep for at least three weeks.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the roast in a roasting pan. Paint the entire roast with the herbed oil, then place in the oven, covered, for 1 hour. Reduce the heat to 350, and roast, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Oven temperatures vary, so undercook rather than overcook the meat.

Asparagus Sticks and Couscous Crunch
From Cooking with the Kosher Butcher's Wife
Serves 4-6

The couscous crunch is a wonderful, crunchy topping for so many dishes. Its neutral taste allows you to do so much with it. I sprinkle it on lamb, asparagus, green beans, pumpkins and whatever I think needs crunching up.

1 bunch of asparagus
1 cup couscous (not Israeli couscous)
Garlic-flavored olive oil spray
1 teaspoon finely crushed garlic or 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the couscous on a baking sheet and spray liberally with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Watch it, as it browns quickly.
2. Place a large pot on the stove and half fill with salted water. Bring to the boil and drop the asparagus in boiling water.
3. Place the lid on the pot to cover the asparagus and boil for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain.
4. To make the garlic butter, melt together the crushed garlic or garlic salt and the butter or margarine. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with garlic butter and bake in a 375-degreee oven for 8-10 minutes.
5. Remove, sprinkle with couscous crunch and serve immediately. If you don’t use all the couscous crunch, put whatever is left into an airtight bag.

Potato Kugel
From Celebrating with the Kosher Butcher's Wife
Serves 12-14

Every time I think of making potato kugel, my mind goes through the following: I love it. Do we need it? If it’s there, I’m going to eat it. If it’s not there, everyone’s going to miss it. I convince myself that I use less oil in the kugel than I use in roast potatoes. Then I start craving it, needing it and, before I know it, the grater’s in my hand and the kugel’s in the oven!

6 large potatoes, peeled
2 large onions, peeled
4 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons cake or potato flour or matza meal
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chicken stock powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup oil or melted schmaltz

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grate the potatoes and onions either by hand or in a food processor. Alternate between grating the two, as the onions help prevent the potatoes from going brown.
2. Mix well and pour into a sieve, pressing down on the potatoes and onions to get rid of any excess liquid.
3. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes and onions with the eggs and mix well.
4. Add a tablespoon at a time of the flour or matza meal and stir thoroughly.
5. Add the salt, pepper, chicken stock powder and baking powder and mix well.
6. Pour the batter into a lightly oiled roasting pan, drizzle the oil and schmaltz over the top and bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, until golden brown.

Chicken with Pine Nuts and Basil-Scented Tomatoes
From Celebrating with the Kosher Butcher's Wife
Serves 5-6

If I could give you one tip with this recipe, it would be to get everything ready in advance, just as they do on the cooking programs. The success of this dish lies in the speed at which it’s cooked and the speed at which you can get everybody to the table. If your family’s like mine, the latter may be more difficult!

5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 thick boneless chicken breasts, each cut into 3
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/4 ounces basil leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine or chicken stock
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat.
2. Sprinkle lemon juice over chicken, mix well and then season with the black pepper.
3. Fry the chicken for 2-3 minutes per side until browned.
4. Lower the heat and allow the chicken to cook through. You can cook it in batches.
5. As you fry them, transfer chicken pieces to a large dish and cover with foil to keep warm.
6. To the same pan in which you fried the chicken, add 1 tablespoon oil and fry the onions until soft. Add the garlic, basil and rosemary and cook about 3 minutes.
7. Add the sugar, wine or chicken stock and bring to the boil. Scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan before pouring the whole lot over the chicken. Re-cover with foil to retain the heat.
8. Add a drop more oil to the pan, add the pine nuts and cook for 1-2 minutes until they start to turn brown.
9. Finally, add the tomatoes and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. You don’t want the tomatoes to be too soft; that’s why we add them at the end.
10. Return the chicken and juices to the pan just to heat through, and serve immediately on a bed of rice.

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