Archive for the 'Beef' Category

Beef with Cumin

Beef with Cumin

My mother-in-law was getting concerned that we weren’t eating because there was a gap in my posting here.  But we’ve mainly been eating either things that were already posted (roast chicken , smoked chicken, pork chops, or corn pasta) or we’ve been eating things that it seems a bit silly to post (steak frites, quick pastas). But every once in-a-while I make something that is both good and
worth posting.

We’ve been enjoying the bounty of the local farmer’s markets too much over the past summer and early fall.  The quality of the ingredients is so high that it seems like sacrilege to do anything more than just prepare the ingredients, whether meat or vegetable, as simply as possible.  However, there are only so many roast chickens and steaks one can eat before they feel they need a little elaboration on the topic.

Which brings me to Beef with Cumin.  I had seen reference to it online and, the pictures combined with the recipe intrigued me. In fact, it made me purchase flank steak especially to make it. However, flank steak is attractive enough to me that the first half of it went towards the aforementioned steak frites.

I was, however, determined to actually make the Beef with Cumin.  And make it I did.  Too many Sin0-American recipes are focused on hiding the flavor of the underlying ingredient, where meat, in particular, is interchangeable based on the dietary preferences of the diner  (Sweet-and-Sour Chicken is a prime example).  This is not one of those recipes.  Beef is the predominant flavor.  The cumin, the ginger, and the garlic all seek to complement the flavor of the beef.  It is beef with cumin, not cumin with beef.

Ingredients for Beef with Cumin

Beef with Cumin
Adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province

12 oz. flank steak
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 fresh red chilies, seeds removed and diced
2-4 tsp dried red chili pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
salt
2 spring onions, green part only, sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup peanut oil

Marinade:
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water

  1. Slice the beef across the grain into thin, bite-sized strips.  Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.  Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the peanut oil in a wok to 275°F.
  3. Fry the beef in the peanut oil, stirring regularly, for one minute.  Remove the beef from the oil and drain well.
  4. Pour off all but 3 tbsp of oil from the wok.
  5. Over high heat, stir fry the ginger, garlic, fresh chilies, dried red chili pepper, and cumin for 1 minute.  Return the beef to the wok, reheat the beef, and then remove from the heat.
  6. Drain off any excess oil from the beef.
  7. Stir in the spring onions and sesame oil.
  8. Serve with steamed rice.

Serves 2-3.

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Italian Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine

Italian Beef Braised in Red Wine

Making a house into a home is difficult.  It helps that we’re mostly unpacked.  It helps that our cats are here.  But there’s a certain comfort level of a home that hasn’t quite developed yet.

I firmly believe that food and cooking can be a vital part of making a home a home.  To share a meal with family is an important component of this.  And while we’ve had family over for dinner (including just before Christmas when we realized that more people were coming than we owned chairs), the most basic, and most frequent, family dinner we can have consists of solely Angela and me.

There’s something to be said that the food served at a family dinner can be an important component of homeyness.  Despite never eating it growing up, pot roast strikes me as one of the most homey meals possible.  A slowly braised piece of meat conjures up images of a Sunday dinner in the wintertime shared with family.  But, when you really come down to it, it also conjures up images of good food.

If you’ve ever read this blog in the past, you may easily realize that my cooking tends toward Italian. And that holds true even for something that can seem as Italian as pot roast.

This is a simple preparation of beef braised in red wine and beef stock.  A few aromatic vegetables are used in a sofrito first.  Some tomato paste is added mainly for color.  There are a few herbs in the sauce.  It’s very simple but very satisfying.

This is really a variation on Beef with Barolo.  My wallet doesn’t allow me to buy Barolo, let alone cook with it.  Instead, I used a 2006 Mandolina Nebbiolo Barbera as well as the remainder with dinner.  It worked well in both cases.

Beef Chuck

Italian Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

2 lbs. beef chuck roast
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp onion, finely diced
3 tbsp carrot, finely diced
2 tbsp celery, finely diced
3/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh marjoram

  1. Dry the chuck roast well on all sides.  Tie the roast to keep it together.  Season well with salt and pepper on all sides.
  2. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a heavy dutch oven over high heat.  Brown the chuck thoroughly on all sides in the hot oil.  Set the beef aside and discard the hot oil.
  3. In the dutch oven, add 1 tbsp oil, the butter, the onion, and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium heat until the onion becomes lightly gold.  Add the carrots and celery and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the dutch oven with the red wine, scraping all fond.  Add the stock and the tomato paste and stir well to incorporate.
  5. Add the thyme and marjoram and return the beef to the dutch oven.  Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 3 hours, turning the meat every 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the beef from the dutch oven, place on a cutting board, and cover with a towel.  Remove the springs of thyme and marjoram from the sauce and discard.  Reduce the sauce in the dutch oven over high heat until it starts to become syrupy.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Slice the beef against the grain and serve with the sauce on top.

Serves 4.

Spicy Beef with Vegetables

Spicy Beef with Vegetables Cooking

Just in time for the Beijing Olympics (I’m actually watching the women’s gymnastics competition while writing this), here is a Chinese beef recipe.  Of course, I made this with no regards to the Olympics whatsoever last week.  I did, however, wonder how many people ordered Chinese takeout to watch the opening ceremonies on Friday.

Part of the reason I decided to make this recipe was that I had finally tracked down mo-er mushrooms at 99 Ranch Market the last time I was there. I wasn’t entirely sure I had purchased the correct thing until I compared the glossary in the cookbook to the mushroom packaging and could match up two of the three Chinese characters (there were two listed in the cookbook, there were three on the packaging). I took a picture of them to help you find them.

Mo-er Mushrooms

This is prepared in a very similar fashion to Chili-Pepper Beef but the flavor is quite a bit different. The Spicy Beef, oddly enough, isn’t as spicy as the Chili-Pepper Beef. However, the vegetables work much better in the Spicy Beef. In some ways, I prefer the Chili-Pepper Beef but this is also good, in a different way.

Spicy Beef with Vegetables

Spicy Beef with Vegetables
Adapted from The Key to Chinese Cooking

1/2 lbs. flank steak, shredded
1 tbsp dried mo-er mushrooms
1 1/2 cups shredded celery
1 cup shredded carrots
1 garlic clove, minced
2 quarter-sized slices peeled ginger, minced
1/2 tsp salt

Marinade:
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water
1 tsp oil

Sauce:
1 tbsp black bean paste
1 tsp chili sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 1/2 tsp Chenkong vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
2 tsp seasame oil

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients and toss with the steak.  Allow the meat to sit, refrigerated, for 30 minutes or more.
  2. Soak the mo-er mushrooms for 30 minutes in warm water.  Rinse and discard the hard “eyes.”  Then, shred them.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat until very hot.  Add 1 cup of oil.  When the oil is 375ºF, add the beef and toss rapidly for 10 seconds.  Remove from the heat and pour the meat and oil into a strainer over a bowl.  Allow the oil to drain off the meat.
  4. Return 3 tbsp oil to the pan and heat over high heat until hot.  Add the garlic and ginger, stir a few times, then immediately add the celery, carrots, and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are softened, several minutes.
  5. Add the beef and cook for 1 minute more, stirring regularly.
  6. Add the sauce, stirring to combine, and cook for 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Serve immediately with white rice.

Serves 2.

Chili-Pepper Beef

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It’s unusual for me to cook Asian cuisines. It’s not a lack of respect or interest in them. In fact, it’s more the opposite: it’s not part of my culinary culture and I don’t feel I have a good grounding in the techniques.

I’ve been pretty happy with take-out Chinese and it’s Americanized tastes. I actually enjoy most Sweet-and-Sour Chickens with their overly thick, overly sweet sauce (not to say there aren’t bad versions out there). I knew there was more to Chinese food than that but it’s hard for a westerner to know what is “authentic” and what isn’t. Or would I even want to eat something that is authentic?

I decided that it was about time that I actually learn about Chinese cuisine. I’ve made stir fry’s in the past but I was either improvising which yielded mediocre results or I was simply following a recipe without really understanding the underlying techniques.

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The techniques seem to be a bit different but also the same to what I’m used to. Marinating is common in western cuisine as are the making of sauces; however, the ingredients are quite different. The cooking steps are a bit different in Chinese cooking but not radically so. Even in western cooking, multiple cooking steps are common. Most meat is browned and then cooked fully to develop flavor. The same is true in Chinese cooking.

This recipe was, for me, a good place to start, not least for the fact that I had flank steak that I needed to use. It’s also a pretty simple recipe to make. The first cooking of the beef is referred to as “slippery-coating” in the cookbook. Obviously that’s a translation from the Chinese but I’m not entirely sure what it means. The meat does obtain a somewhat liquid texture after the first cooking but I’m still not entirely clear on what this does to the meat.

I did substitute in sugar snap peas because I had them and like them. The original recipe called for bamboo shoots. I’m not sure I’d recommend the sugar snap peas as they didn’t cook completely. They weren’t bad but perhaps not the best choice in this recipe. You may want to revert it back to the original.

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Chili-Pepper Beef
Adapted from The Key to Chinese Cooking

1/2 lbs. flank steak
4 dried red chili peppers
2 quarter-sized slices of peeled ginger, shredded
1 garlic clove, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups shredded celery, in 1 1/2″ long pieces
1/2 cup sugar snap peas

Marinade:
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
1 1/2 tsp oil

Sauce:
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
2 tsp sesame oil

  1. Cut the steak along the grain into 2″ strips. Cut against the grain into 1/8″ slices. Combine the beef with the marinade ingredients and mix well. Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients together.
  3. Heat 1 cup of oil in a wok over high heat until it reaches about 350°F. Add the meat and stir it 5 to 6 times in a circle. Immediately remove from the heat and drain the meat from the oil.
  4. Return 2 tbsp oil to the wok and heat over low heat. Add the chili peppers and cook them until they are black, about 3 minutes.
  5. Increase the heat to medium and add the ginger and garlic to the wok. Stir fry until it begins to brown.
  6. Increase the heat to high and add the sugar snap peas and celery. Stir fry for 1 1/2 minutes to allow the vegetables to soften.
  7. Add the beef and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Pour the sauce ingredients into the wok and simmer until the sauce has thickened.
  9. Serve with white rice.

Serves 2.

Cooking Lesson 1: Burgers

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So, what to pick for my first recipe. I don’t want to choose something too easy (lasagna) or boring (breaded chicken breast). I thought of what I ate growing up: hamburgers. Every single time I went out for dinner at a new restaurant, I’d get a cheeseburger. I still love ’em to this day. Perfect first dish.

Consulted my books. Betty Crocker told me I could grill, broil, or pan fry my burgers. No place for a grill in our balcony-lacking 2nd floor apartment. Pan frying – eh. Broiling them would make me face my fear of the oven (once got burned pretty bad taking a cake out of the oven – been scared since). Julia and Alton didn’t present any other methods, just elaborated on them a bit.

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Betty thinks burgers should be broiled 6″ away from the element for 6 minutes per side. Julia, on the other hand, thinks broiling should only be chosen when it’s possible to cook the burgers one inch away from the element for a minute and a half per side. After a little measuring of our broiler’s three levels (3 1/4″, 4 3/4″, and 5 1/4″ from the element) I decided to trust Julia and her 1″ 1.5 minute combination.

If making my first non-boxed, non-canned, non-frozen, non-delivered meal in my life wasn’t hard enough…Matt had me grind the burger myself. It’s not all that hard but part of me really wanted to just grab a pound of ground chuck at the local butcher shop. But, I’ll admit, he was right. The burgers turned out really juicy though I think I’d prefer them to be a little more cooked through and browned.

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Juicy Broiled Burgers

Ingredients:
10 oz chuck roast
Salt and pepper

Equipment:
Meat grinder
Spatula
Broiler pan/tray

1. Place broiler pan/tray on top rack of broiler. Turn broiler on.

2. Cut meat into 3″ x 1″ by 1/2″ strips (small enough to fit into meat grinder).

3. Grind meat, alternating between fattier and leaner strips.

4. Salt and pepper ground meat as needed. “As needed” means more than you think if you have no sense for these things and less than you think if you do.

5. Form patties 3/4″ thick and approx 4″ in diameter. Make small indention in center to assure flat patties post-cooking.

6. Place patties on broiler pan/tray and cook 2 minutes per side. If adding cheese, add one minute before burgers are done.

Boeuf Bourguignon

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It’s finally getting cold in our area (cold is a relative concept here but bear with me). I had to light the pilot light in our heater last weekend (no surprise that it was Angela who was cold). With the weather turning, there was an opportunity to make all those dishes that it was too hot to make during the summer.

Specifically, I’m referring to braised dishes. There’s something magical about taking a cheap (relatively) piece of meat and turning it into a great meal. It seems closer to real cooking.

And when it comes to things like braises, I think the rustic style classics are the best. Things like Coq au Vin (which was my original choice for this meal but we decided on beef instead). Or, in this case, Boeuf Bourguignon. And, while it was codified by Escoffier, I still think it’s rustic at heart. And that appeals to me. Particularly on a cold day.

However, I’d not recommend doing what I did: starting cooking at 4:30 PM thinking that it would only take two hours to braise. The recipe specifies from 3 to 4 hours but, luckily, mine was fork tender after two and a half hours so we were able to eat right around 8:00 PM (the prep work and browning takes time). Good things are worth waiting for.

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Bouef Bourguignon
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

3 oz. bacon, cut into lardons
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 lbs. lean stewing beef (such as chuck pot roast or top round), cut into 2-inch cubes
salt and pepper
1 small sliced carrot
1 small sliced onion
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 to 3 cups beef stock
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
a bouquet garni consisting of 1 clove of garlic, 1/2 bay leaf, and 4 sprigs of thyme
9 to 12 brown braised white onions
1/2 lbs. sautéed mushrooms

  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  2. Blanch the bacon in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and dry.
  3. In a large dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the vegetable oil is hot, cook the bacon in it until the bacon is browned. Remove the bacon from the dutch oven and reserve the bacon.
  4. Dry the beef in paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Brown the beef in the dutch oven on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove the beef and place it with the bacon.
  5. Brown the sliced carrots and onions in the dutch oven. Pour out the fat.
  6. Return the beef and bacon to the dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the flour and stir. Put the dutch oven in the oven for 4 minutes. Stir the contents and return to the oven for 4 more minutes. Remove from the oven and change the temperature to 325ºF.
  7. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add enough beef stock until the beef is barely covered. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Add the bouquet garni and bring to a simmer on the stove top. Cover the dutch oven and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender.
  8. While the beef is cooking prepare the onions and mushrooms. They will be reheated in the boeuf bourguignon before serving.
  9. When the meat has finished cooking, remove the dutch oven from the oven. Taste the sauce for seasoning. Simmer the sauce over medium-high heat if it’s not thick enough. If it’s too thick, add more beef stock. Add the mushrooms and onions and simmer for several minutes, until the contents are equally warm.
  10. Serve with boiled potatoes or egg noodles.

Serves 3 to 4.

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Brown-braised Onions

9 to 12 pearl onions
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup beef stock
salt and pepper
a bouquet garni consisting of 2 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 2 sprigs of thyme

  1. Peel the onions and cut off the root and stem ends. On the root end, cut an x into the base.
  2. In a sauce pan, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and brown for 10 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring regularly.
  3. Add the beef stock and bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes.


Sautéed Mushrooms

1/2 lbs. button mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil

  1. Scrub the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Cut off the bottom of the stem and cut the mushrooms into halves if small or quarters if large.
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the mushrooms and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.