Posts tagged beef

strawberry-lemonade short ribs

When I was a kid, before my younger brother was born, I remember going to a Chinese restaurant in my hometown.  I actually live within walking distance of this restaurant now, but to my great sadness, it has since closed.  I loved it as an adult because it had cheap lunch specials that were filling and delicious.  I loved it as a kid because of the won-ton soup and the appetizer platter.  I don’t remember everything on the platter, but I remember the crab rangoon, and I remember the skewers of beef that were set on a sizzling iron grate up on top.  Moist, chewy, and very beefy tasting.

I wasn’t expecting these short ribs to taste just like that beef, but it was a very pleasant surprise.  Actually, I decided to make this dish because I had never before seen Korean-cut short ribs at our market, and I really wanted to use them.  New cuts of meat always excite me.  I learned that traditionally, Korean-style short ribs are marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, Asian pear, onion, and a carbonated sweet beverage such as 7-Up.  Apparently I had forgotten to get the pear and soda when I returned to the market, but scrounging around in my kitchen noticed I had an overripe peach and some strawberry lemonade leftover from a party.  Figuring I would be losing an essentially traditional nuance but that a fruit and a sweet drink would more or less do the trick, I did the swap and was very pleased with the results.

Strawberry-Lemonade Short Ribs (2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb. korean-style short ribs
  • 1 ripe peach
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/3 c. soy sauce
  • 1 c. strawberry lemonade, or sweet liquid of your choice – traditionally, 7-Up is used
  • 1 tbsp. chili garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger or 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger

Directions:

  • Place short ribs in a glass baking dish.  Grate the onion and the peach over the top, and then add the remaining ingredients.  Give the mixture a little stir on top of the ribs to make sure the ingredients are fairly evenly distributed.  Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight – flip short ribs once if you remember.
  • Preheat your grill to high heat.  Remove each short rib from the marinade, allowing excess to drip off, and then set on the grill.  Cook 3-4 minutes on each side.

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crispy honey beef

I first made this recipe over five years ago, and knew it was a keeper from the first bite, all the way through to the rice drenched in sauce that I licked up off the plate.  Literally, I believe I licked the plate the first time I made this.

I’m what you might call “fry-shy.”  In the past when I have fried things, they don’t really come out quite right because my oil is either too hot or too cool.  I also didn’t have a fry thermometer until recently.  I didn’t use it while making these, because I only shallow fried my beef, but for the first time, my pieces actually did come out crispy!  The sauce is easy to toss together while frying the beef, and then the veggies.

You may have sauce left over, and I made a tasty sort of fried rice dish with it, so I’d recommend saving it!

Crispy Honey Beef (serves 2)

I know this is a LOT of sweetener, but the sauce tastes more balanced than you might think.  Try to use a mild honey, otherwise it can overpower the other ingredients.  Or, you can substitute part or all of the honey with white or brown sugar, or agave nectar.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 12 oz. sirloin or flank steak, sliced thinly
  • oil for frying (about 1 c. for shallow frying, 4 c. for deep frying)
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. rice wine
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 tbsp. chili-garlic paste
  • 1-2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small bell pepper, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium saute pan.  Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and salt in a small bowl.  Coat steak slices in cornstarch mixture and fry 5-7 minutes, or until deep golden.  Set aside.
  2. Pour out all but a thin film of oil on the bottom of the pan and add onion and bell pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  When the onion and bell pepper are fairly soft, add the sauce and heat until it bubbles.  Add the steak and stir until coated with the sauce.  If the sauce is too thin, adding a cornstarch slurry will thicken it up (stir 1 tsp. cornstarch into 1 tbsp. cold water and add to the mixture; cook 30 seconds and repeat if necessary).
  4. Serve over rice or on a bed of broccoli and green beans, like we did.

 

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tangy onion brisket for slow cooker

Tangy Onion Brisket (makes 6-8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb. brisket (if frozen, no need to thaw)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. apricot jam
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. powdered garlic
  • 1 tbsp. powdered onion
  • 1 tsp. powdered mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 c. beef broth

Directions:

  1. Place brisket in the slow cooker, and spread onions and garlic over the top.  Mix remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and then pour over brisket.  Cook on High for 4 hours, then see if you can shred the brisket, or at least separate into smaller chunks.  Cook on Low for 2-4 hours more.

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Best Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

Where we live, there is a local Italian-American restaurant chain that serves truly excellent food.  True, you can pretty much tell from ingesting it that it isn’t a paragon of health food, but it’s far from other national chains I could mention, but won’t.  This particular local joint serves up tasty pizzas, salads (the caesar salad alone is incredible), and a variety of pasta dishes, many of which come with this savory, unctuous meaty sauce.  This is by far the most delicious pasta sauce I’ve ever had, seriously.

On your plate, this sauce settles between your noodles with a minimum of orangey grease like you see in some places, but a few shiny puddles here and there tell you that there’s definitely some fat, and you can taste it – in a good way.  Everything is minced up so finely that you’re never really sure what’s in it, whether there’s actually a carrot stashed away in there, or if it’s just the onions you are pretty sure are there.  This, oh parents, is a place where you could very easily chop up some extra veggies finely and stuff it in the sauce, as long as you are able to mince finely.

All of my homemade sauces pretty much paled in comparison, so I wanted to try a little harder to figure out exactly what makes their sauce so delicious, and replicate it.  The recipe is relatively simple, and I relied on these three principles:

  1. Fat is flavor: I’ve read several places recently about an almost ethereal marinara sauce made with an entire stick of butter.  I’ve never tried it, partly because I just can’t countenance using that much butter in something that isn’t even supposed to taste like butter.  I compromised by using slightly less than that amount, and using half butter, half olive oil.
  2. If the best mix of meats for meatballs is pork, veal, and beef, then why not also in a spaghetti sauce?  The local Whole Foods has started to stock veal products (humanely raised – this was really important to me, and I made sure to ask them in detail to be sure), and so I was actually able to get all three meats.
  3. When I’d gotten a fairly decent sauce, it still felt like it was missing something, some depth of flavor.  On a whim, I dropped in some homemade beef stock reduction (homemade beef stock that you reduce until it is somewhat syrupy and then store in the fridge – note that if you do this, the reduction turns into a rather hard and bouncy gelatin and is a bit difficult to get out of the jars).  That was the magic key for me.

So, I still don’t know how this particular restaurant makes their sauce, but I know how I’m making mine from now on.  Sure, it’s a little exacting, and it takes a while, but it’s definitely the best meat sauce I’ve ever made.

Best Meaty Spaghetti Sauce (makes one big pot, or about 12 cups)

We made this sauce and then froze it in 2-cup portions, perfect for two to defrost and enjoy any weeknight.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. ground veal
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 2 28-oz. cans low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 1 c. concentrated beef broth (low-sodium), or 1 c. water and low-sodium beef base/bouillon

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in olive oil, in a large pot over medium-low heat.  Add minced onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, becoming translucent.  Add minced garlic, and cook another minute or two, until very fragrant.
  2. Add beef, veal, and pork to the pot, and cook them, breaking up the meat into very small pieces, essentially making crumbs out of it, so that there are no chunks.  This ensures that the meat and tomato will mingle as much as possible, and that the different meats are evenly distributed.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes, stir until thoroughly combined, and simmer.  This step can take as little as 20 minutes, or for maximum depth of flavor, four hours, or more.  What you really want to see is the sauce getting to the texture you like for your spaghetti sauce.  In this case, I wanted something very loose and fluid that would coat each spaghetti noodle without clumping up, as meat sauces often do.  I believe I simmered for two or three hours with the lid on, and then another hour with it off, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the beef broth/bouillon/whatever-you’re-using, and again, simmer until your sauce reaches the desired consistency, probably about another hour or so, if you leave the lid off.  Taste for seasoning, and if the sauce tastes unbalanced, try simmering a little longer.

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White Wine Braised Short Ribs

Well, I’ve certainly been a neglectful blogger lately, haven’t I?  It all came from a camping trip to Yosemite (bears, woo hoo!), several bouts of unusual heat (we’re talking over 107 here), and social obligations that have deprived me of the joy of cooking much during the last few weeks.  I made these short ribs over a week ago actually, when the temperature dropped to about 65 by afternoon, and I could stand to turn on the oven.

Essentially I was looking for a way to use both a bottle of white wine, and a package of short ribs I’d had in the oven that I bought on sale right before the weather turned us away from braising season.  I still have most of the white wine, but using this (an unoaked Chardonnay) rather than the more standard red wine brought a lighter flavor to these braised short ribs.

White Wine Braised Short Ribs (serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

  • 4 full-size short ribs (or 2 lbs. or so chopped)
  • 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 1-2 tbsp. bacon fat (or, render several slices of bacon)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 c. white wine
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 4-8 oz. baby spinach
  • 1 thyme sprig

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Generously salt and pepper short ribs, then toss lightly in flour, shaking off excess.
  3. Melt bacon fat in olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown ribs on all sides, then remove.  Lower heat to medium.
  4. Add a little more olive oil if needed, and then add vegetables.  Cook several minutes, or until beginning to soften.  Deglaze the pan with white wine, cooking several more minutes.
  5. Add chicken broth, and taste for seasoning.  It shouldn’t be too salty, because the liquid will reduce.  Add ribs.  The liquid should come at least halfway up the sides of the ribs; add more if necessary.  Add thyme.
  6. Cover pot with a lid, and place in the oven.  Cook 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until short ribs are very tender.  Let set for 20 minutes, and then skim off fat (or refrigerate until fat solidifies to remove easily).  Stir spinach into warm gravy until it wilts.
  7. Serve over polenta, buttered egg noodles, or mashed potatoes, or, with roasted baby potatoes.

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A New Direction: Korean Grilled Beef (Bulgogi) and Jap Chae

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I guess would be called “nutri-diversity,” sort of like biodiversity.  The concept of biodiversity tells us that the more different species there are, the healthier an ecosystem will be.  Similarly, the more diversity there is within one given species, the healthier, stronger, and more likely to survive that species is.

It seems to me the same is true with the way we feed ourselves.  It’s relatively common knowledge that a variety of fruits and vegetables gives us the greatest variety of nutrients.  From there, I’ve been thinking about the other types of foods we eat and how incredibly limited so many of us are.  Maybe it’s not that big of a deal since, of course, each ancient people had its primary grain and is primary sweetener, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to branch out, right?

That’s why, as of this week, I’ve decided that I’m going to try and introduce more variety into our diets.  Perhaps we eat too much cane sugar and wheat flour.  I’m starting with sugars, exploring: date sugar, agave nectar, honey, brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup.  Then I’ll move on to flours: spelt, teff, possibly others like chickpea, potato, rice, etc.  Finally, we already have a more diverse dairy diet, eating cheeses made of goat’s and sheep’s milks, but we may also try alternative yogurts and, as a byproduct, frozen yogurts.

But we’re starting out slowly.  Tonight I replaced cane sugar in both components of our meal, bulgogi (a Korean marinated grilled beef) and jap chae (Korean-style noodle dish).  They may not be strictly authentic recipes, but they are tasty, though very mildly flavored.  I prefer a stronger, saltier, more garlicky flavor, so next time I make this I may play around a little with the recipe, or just fry up some minced garlic and sprinkle it over the dish.

Bulgogi (Korean Grilled Beef) (2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. apple cider
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 c. agave nectar
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb. steak (cut is up to you but sirloin would work well)

Directions:

  1. In an 8-inch square baking dish, whisk together all ingredients except steak.  Place steak in the marinade, and turn over.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours, turning every half hour or so to marinate evenly.
  3. On a hot grill, place meat and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side for medium rare, depending on thickness of steak.
  4. Let rest ten minutes, then slice thinly against the grain.

Jap Chae (Korean-Style Noodles) (2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Asian-rice noodles (the kind you soak and then fry)
  • half head of Savoy or Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 6 oz. Shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Place rice noodles in a small baking dish.  Boil water and pour over the noodles to cover, reserving some of the water.  Let noodles soak for 10 minutes, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, wilt cabbage in several tablespoons of lightly salted water.  Set aside in a bowl.
  3. Heat a little vegetable oil in the same pan.  Saute sliced mushrooms for a few moments, and then remove to the same bowl as the cabbage.
  4. Mix soy sauce and 1/4 c. of the boiling water with the maple syrup in a small bowl.
  5. Heat several tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add noodles and sauce mixture, and fry several minutes or until some of the water has evaporated.  Add cabbage and mushrooms, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and everything is heated through.

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Chili con Carne + Gluten-Free Cornbread

Okay, yes, there are no pictures.  But really, that just speaks to the deliciousness of the recipes in today’s post.  This stuff was so good that it was completely gone before I even remembered the camera.  Yeahhh… we were hungry.

I have made chili before.  Many times.  Many times.  With all kinds of ingredients.  Maple syrup, honey, coffee, cocoa, beer, you name it.  Ground beef mostly, but also ground turkey and cubed chicken.  Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans.  Red chili, green chili, white chili.  Seriously, I love the stuff.  Hefty protein from beans and meat, mildly spiced or so hot your nose runs, it’s just good.  Mmm and cumin.  Still, this was a first for me, as I’ve never made chili without beans, or with chuck roast meat at all.  The chili base was really simple, no funky ingredients, but tasted complex and had a mild spice, I would say.

Chili con Carne (2 servings as written – there is enough sauce that, if you added a can of beans, you could probably serve 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. chili powder (ground chiles with seasonings, not plain ground chiles)
  • 1 tsp. chile powder (plain ground chiles)
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 8 oz. chuck roast, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 oz. can ground or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • garnishes: cheddar cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, chopped onion, whatever you like on your chili

Directions:

  1. Combine spices in a bowl, and add water, stirring until smooth.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add chuck roast cubes, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Brown on all sides, and then remove to another bowl.
  3. Add onions to pan and cook until they begin to soften.  Add garlic, and cook another few minutes, until fragrant.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for about an hour, or until chuck roast cubes are tender.
  5. Remove lid and continue to simmer until chili reaches desired thickness.  I think ours took about another 20-30 minutes.
  6. Check for seasonings and adjust if necessary – by this I mean check for salt level, spice level, and acidity.  If too acidic, add a little sugar to balance it out.  This is also the time when you would add beans if you so desire, and then heat the chili through before serving.

Cornbread is probably our favorite accompaniment to chili around these parts.  I can’t tell you exactly why, but we never seem to eat anything else with it!  I’ve been trying to move away from using the only two grains most Americans eat (wheat and corn, although I suppose you could add oats and rice as sort of tied for third).  Reason is just that dietary variety is healthy, and just like eating different kinds of vegetables, I’d like to add different kinds of grains to the diet.

This night, I opted to try making flour from quinoa, as we have a surplus of that grain (or seed, really) at the moment, and use it instead of the wheat flour.  I ended up actually using about 80% quinoa to 20% wheat flour, but I am confident you could swap it all.

By the way, I recently read that not all cornmeal is 100% gluten-free, because some is produced in the same facility as glutenous products.  Therefore, if gluten is a serious dietary issue for you, of course, try to find some that is guaranteed gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Cornbread (1 9×9-inch pan)

This is a crumbly, sweet cornbread.  I didn’t have any eggs on hand, so I used the ground flax/water substitute, and as a result am not sure whether the crumbliness is from that, or the quinoa.  There is a ton of room for experimentation here, from using cooked quinoa to beating a separated egg to increased volume before adding, and I will probably continue experimenting.  I happen to prefer a less crumbly cornbread – next time I will probably try it with buttermilk instead of regular nonfat milk to increase the richness, and that may solve the problem.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. quinoa flour (this is probably about 3/4 c. quinoa, ground – I ground 1/2 c. in our coffee grinder and ended up with a little under a cup), or wheat flour
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 2/3 c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease or spray a 9×9-inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  3. Pour into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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