Rachael Ray proves that ground meat can do so much more than burgers. This weeks episode was called “Back to the Grind” I love watching this show every week because she shows you how to make your whole weeks worth of meals, make them day by day like I can or if your a busy momma and you have a couple of hours on Sunday, make it all ahead of time and wala! Dinner is ready each night! This week she cooked up: Veal Dumplings with Escarole in Broth; Sloppy Joe ‘n Macaroni Casserole; Pilgrim Meatloaf with Cider Gravy; Pork Chili With Polenta and Moussaka. Now don’t be intimidated, the recipes look long and hard but they aren’t you have to actually see the show because it’s so much easier to put these dishes together than you think!!

First up! Veal Dumplings with Escarole in Broth

Ingredients

  • 2 slices good-quality white bread
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground veal
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • About 1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola dolce
  • About 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 10 to 12 medium fresh sage leaves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or made into a paste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • EVOO, for drizzling
  • 1 head escarole
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 bag extra-wide egg noodles
  • Lemon zest, for serving

Directions

Soak the bread in the milk in a small bowl to soften.

Put the ground veal in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a few grates of nutmeg. Add the gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano, sage, garlic and egg. Squeeze the liquid from the bread and crumble it into fine crumbs between your fingertips as you add it to the veal mixture. Drizzle in a little EVOO and gently mix until combined.

Keep a bowl of warm water on hand for rolling the meatballs or use a 2-ounce scoop. Roll or scoop the meat mixture into balls, moistening your hands if not using a scoop, and place on a baking sheet or large plate.

Coarsely chop the escarole into 2-inch pieces.

Bring the stock and 2 to 3 cups water to a low boil in a wide pot. Add the meatballs and simmer until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the escarole during the last minute or 2 of cooking and stir until wilted.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a few grates of lemon zest.

Cook’s Note: The soup, without the noodles, can be covered and refrigerated for a make-ahead meal. Add the noodles before serving.

 Next up is Sloppy Joe and Macaronni Casserole

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (80-to-85-percent lean)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni with ridges
  • 2 cups shredded yellow Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup chopped crisp deli-style dill pickles

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce in a small bowl. Heat the EVOO in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until well browned. Season with salt and lots of pepper. Add the garlic, bell peppers and onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Pour the tomato mixture over the beef, add the beef broth and stir until well combined. Simmer until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water until not quite tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and add to the sauce. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and top with the cheese.

Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the top is browned. Top with the pickles and serve from the dish.

Cook’s Note: The unbaked casserole can be covered and refrigerated for a make-ahead meal. Bring to room temperature and bake as directed before serving.

 

Third up is Rachael’s Pilgrim Meatloaf (sauce included!)

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 to 3 small stalks celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
  • 1 small Honeycrisp or McIntosh apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed seasoned cornbread or traditional stuffing cubes
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • 2 pounds ground turkey (mix of white and dark meat)
  • 1 cup shredded or crumbled extra-sharp white Cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • Cider Gravy, optional, recipe follows
  • Whole berry cranberry sauce (homemade or store-bought), for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the butter and EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the thyme, celery, apples, onions, and salt and pepper to taste and cook until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool.

Pulse the stuffing cubes in a food processor until crumbs form, then transfer to a bowl and moisten with the chicken stock to soften.

Cover the cranberries with hot water in a bowl and let soften, then drain.

Put the turkey in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the stuffing crumbs, apple mixture, cranberries, cheese, poultry seasoning and egg and mix gently to combine.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, form the turkey mixture into a loaf that is 10 inches long and 4 inches high. Drizzle with EVOO and bake until golden and cooked through, 50 to 60 minutes.

Slice the meatloaf and serve with Cider Gravy and cranberry sauce.

Cook’s notes: Steamed green beans and mashed sweet potatoes are great alongside this meatloaf. For the sweet potatoes, boil 1 peeled and cubed potato per person until tender, then mash with chicken stock, salt, pepper, nutmeg and maple syrup to taste.

The meatloaf can be covered and refrigerated for a make-ahead meal. Reheat in a moderate oven or slice and heat in a pan with chicken stock. The gravy, without the egg yolk, can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Reheat over medium heat and add the egg yolk as directed.

Cider Gravy:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 rounded tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 1/2 cup cloudy apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg yolk, optional
  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, optional, for garnish

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the stock, cider and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and lots of pepper. Simmer until the gravy is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Lightly beat the egg yolk, if using, in a medium bowl. Slowly pour in some of the gravy, whisking constantly to temper the yolk. Whisk in the remaining gravy. Transfer to a gravy boat or serving dish and garnish with parsley, if desired.

 

Next up is Italian Pork Chilli w/Polenta

Ingredients

  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 8 ounces bulk hot Italian sausage or 5 ounces coarsely grated Calabrese salami
  • 4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 mild or 2 hot fresh red chile peppers, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 4 to 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup grated pecorino, plus more for serving
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Directions

Roast the bell pepper over a gas flame, turning with tongs, or broil until the skin is blackened. Transfer to a bowl, cover and let cool. Peel, seed and chop the pepper.

Heat the EVOO in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and pancetta and cook until well browned. Add the ground pork, thyme, fennel seeds, garlic, chile peppers, onions, oregano and roasted red peppers and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze with the wine, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add 2 to 3 cups chicken stock and simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to combine.

Bring 2 cups chicken stock and the milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk in the polenta and cook, whisking, until thick but pourable, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the butter and then the cheese, stirring until melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the polenta into shallow bowls and hollow out the center. Fill with the chili and top with more cheese. Garnish with parsley.

Cook’s Note: The chili can be covered and refrigerated for a make-ahead meal. Reheat over medium heat, and prepare the polenta before serving.

 

Last but not least!! Moussaka

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small fresh red chile pepper, such as Fresno, seeded and very finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • A few wide strips lemon zest
  • 1 large fresh bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • One 28-to-32-ounce can diced tomatoes or whole San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 medium to large eggplants (they should be very firm and heavy)
  • 4 large or jumbo organic eggs, separated
  • 3 cups panko
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Kefalotyri cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, very finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated onion
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 rounded tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups milk
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons EVOO in a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground lamb and cook until well browned. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the garlic, chile pepper, onions and oregano and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze with the wine, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the stock, lemon zest, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and tomatoes and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cut a thin slice from two opposite sides of each eggplant, removing some of the skin. Turn the eggplant cut-side up, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick planks. Sprinkle with salt and drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Pat dry.

Beat the egg whites with a splash of water in a shallow dish. Mix the panko with the remaining 4 tablespoons EVOO in another dish until well coated. Add half the cheese, the parsley, granulated garlic and granulated onion to the panko and mix well.

Set a wire rack over each of 2 baking sheets. Dip each eggplant slice in the egg whites, then coat with the panko mixture, pressing to help it adhere. Arrange on the wire racks. Bake until crisp and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and season with salt, pepper and a few grates of nutmeg. Simmer at a low bubble until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly pour in some of the sauce, whisking constantly to temper the yolks. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and remove from the heat.

Make two layers of eggplant and lamb mixture in a medium casserole dish. Pour the sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until browned and bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes.

Cook’s Note: The casserole can be covered and refrigerated for a make-ahead meal. Reheat, covered, until heated through, then sprinkle with more cheese and bake, uncovered, to crisp the top.