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Cheap meats with savory sides can be blockbusters

Pork short ribs.


Pork short ribs.

Optimists will tell you that out of every bad moment comes something good. They may be right. Think of all those cooks driven by the recession to choose cheaper cuts of meat at the supermarket. Those cuts may need an awful lot of TLC in order to become tender, appealing meals, but when they get it, almost nothing is as inviting or delicious.

The economy may be in recovery, but cheap cuts like short ribs and pork shoulder won’t be coming off the favorites list anytime soon. We’ve learned you can spend a lot on a beautiful beef tenderloin and serve it in rosy slices garnished with bright vegetables, but it won’t have half the flavor of a bony hunk of fork-tender meat served with a ladle of intensely concentrated cooking juices.

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There are many cheap choices. We like to cook beef chuck roast in a stew, and roast a big pan of root vegetables beside it. Or brown lamb shoulder chops in a skillet while a savory mixture of chickpeas, butternut squash, and potatoes simmers on another burner. Those short ribs turn succulent with Provencal seasonings like herbes de Provence, finished with the classic Italian gremolata garnish (here, orange rind, parsley, and garlic). Part of your job is to boost the flavor profile of the meat so it doesn’t seem quite so heavy. The rich pork shoulder, braised in white wine and rosemary, is garnished with cauliflower mashed potatoes (this light puree can accompany any of the meats).

Because the cuts tend to be fatty, plan to cook them one day and serve them the next, so you can discard the fat on the liquid. Allow several hours for them to turn tender in a slow oven, while it warms the kitchen and everyone within a block of your house can smell what you’re up to. Freeze scraps of meat and some cooking juices and use them to flavor lentil or white-bean soup on another night. Frugal cooks are self-righteous cooks. You earned it.

Sheryl Julian can be reached at
Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.
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