I never would have thought that a meat tenderizer would become so dear to me. Yes, you heard (read) me correctly. A metal object used to pound meat (a phrase I still can't say without cracking a smile) is one of my most prized cooking tools because of functional and emotional reasons. Now before you contact someone to take me to the loony bin for being emotionally attached to my meat tenderizer, let me explain.
When I was a mere 20 years old, I was a college student who had a love for food with the budget of... well a college student. It was Christmas time and I was sitting in my dinky bedroom in a college house that I shared with 9 other people. I had been dating this guy for a few of months. We were about to exchange Christmas gifts which were the first gifts we had ever purchased for each other. Yep, I was nervous.
I handed over my gift to him first which was cold to the touch. It only sounds intriguing, I promise. I took the easy way out and combined two of his favorite foods; raspberries and cheesecake... BOOM! Guaranteed successful gift. He was like a kid in a candy store (and a tummy ache a couple hours later).
Next, it was my turn to open up my Christmas gift. I reached into the gift bag and pulled out a beautiful book that I had been wanting for some time. I hugged the book and frantically began flipping through the pages. I looked up as a small and mischievous smile crept across this guy's face. I reached back into the gift bag and pulled out a very heavy object. I pulled away the tissue paper to reveal the mysterious gift. To my complete and utter surprise I realized it was a meat mallet. I couldn't hide the bemusement that blatantly spread across my face which was followed by audible laughter.
He quickly explained that it was the practical part of his gift because I was always pounding out chicken breasts with the underside of a pot or a pan. This explanation made me melt. He really knew the way to a food lover's heart! This man is now my husband, Tom, and I still have the meat tenderizer. Every time I use it, it makes me smile because I think about how the first gift my beloved husband ever gave me was a meat mallet. :)
All memory lane stories aside, I love this thing. To tenderize a piece of tough beef, all you need to do is take a few swings at it with the textured side of this bad boy and voila! You have a delicious, tender piece of meat that doesn't give you lockjaw from all the chewing. The spiky surface of the mallet breaks down the muscle fibers and connective tissue that can make meat tough. You can use powder meat tenderizers, salt, or acidic marinades to also help tenderize meat. I am getting ahead of myself though!
I also use the smooth side of the mallet to pound out chicken to make stuffed or rolled chicken breasts. I've used it to crush candy canes into pieces for peppermint chocolate bark. Heck, I've even used it to chisel food containers out of the freezer. I love my meat mallet/tenderizer. You should get one. They are awesome.
Until next time my dearest friends!