Archive for the ‘Beef’ category


November 24, 2018

Almost every culture has its own version of a savory filling cooked inside dough – ravioli, pierogies, pasties, pot stickers, etc. Empanadas are South America’s best known contribution to the mix. There are probably as many empanada recipes as there are cooks, and there are plenty of creative ways to vary the recipe such as cooking small potato cubes with the beef or placing a slice of hardboiled egg on top of the filling. They can be finger food or made larger for eating with a knife and fork. They can be frozen after assembly then thawed and baked at a later date. 

I present two options for the dough. The first is traditional and uses only lard, flour, water, and salt. It gives a sturdy, flavorful result. The second uses store-bought puff pastry and, as you would expect, results in a tender, flaky crust. The photo above shows the puff pastry version.

The dough (traditional)

5-6 c all purpose flour
2 c water
2 tsp salt
1/2 c lard (preferred) or butter, plus a little extra

Bring the water, salt, and lard to a simmer and stir to melt the lard. Let come to room temperature. Add the flour a cup at a time, mixing to get a firm dough. You may not use all the flour. Knead for a minute or two until smooth, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Puff pastry

If it is frozen, let the puff pastry thaw in the fridge overnight.

The filling

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 c pimento-stuffed green olives, cut in thirds
1/3 c dried currants or raisins
2 tsp dried oregano
A few grindings of black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB tomato paste

Sauté the ground beef in a little oil until just browned. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1/2 c broth or water and add to the pan along with the olives, currants, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Simmer slowly for a few minutes. Taste and correct salt if needed. If necessary, add a bit more water or broth to get a moist but not soupy mixture. Or if too soupy let simmer for a while to reduce. Set aside to cool (may be refrigerated overnight at this time or frozen for future use).

The assembly (traditional dough)

Bring the filling to room temperature if needed. Break off chunks of the still-cold dough and form into balls about golf ball size or a little larger. Roll into 4-5 inch circles on a floured surface and place 3-4 TB of filling in the center. Moisten the edge with water and fold over, sealing by pressing with a fork. The goal is to trap as little air as possible inside. If the sealed edge is wider than you want you can trim a bit off with a sharp knife. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Oven at 375.

The assembly (puff pastry)

Roll the pastry out onto a cutting board. Cut into desired size pieces. Because the pastry comes in rectangular sheets, it’s most efficient to use square or rectangular pieces for assembly. Put some filling on each piece, brush the edges with water, and fold over, sealing with your fingers or a fork. If you are using square pieces you an make triangles.

Final prep and baking

Use a pointy knife to cut a small slit in the top of each. For traditional dough, melt a bit of lard or butter and brush over the surface. For puff pastry, use milk. Bake for 15-20 min until nicely browned. Serve warm.

Home-cured corned beef

January 8, 2017

Corned beef is both delicious and versatile and it is so easy to make from scratch yourself. Compared with buying an already corned brisket to cook, you control the whole process, can make a point of getting a high quality cut to use, plus the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

Corned beef is, in essence, just salted beef. It’s name comes from the fact that in the old days, the salt that was used to cure the beef was in large crystals that looked a bit like corn kernels. Today we typically add some sugar and spices to the brine.

A whole brisket is quite large and it is usually cut in half for sale. The so-called first cut is rectangular in shape and a bit leaner, while the second cut is sort of triangular and has a bit more fat. Both are fine for corned beef, although the first cut makes for neater and larger slices. You want a nice cap of fat on the top.

To Pickle the Beef

One 4-5 lb brisket

Put the meat in a pot or bowl just large enough to hold it and add room-temperature tap water, measuring as you go, to cover by half an inch or so. Remove the meat and for each quart of water add:

1/2 c kosher salt
2 TB sugar
1 tsp pink salt (see note below)

Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Return the meat to the pot and toss in

4 minced garlic cloves
2 TB pickling spice

Put a plate or other clean object on top to ensure the meat stays submerged, then put in the fridge for 5-6 days.

To Cook the Beef

Remove the meat and discard the brine and spices. Rinse the meat under cold water. Return to the pot and cover with fresh water. Add 2 TB fresh pickling spice. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until fork-tender, about 3 hours. Replensish the water if needed to keep the meat covered,

About Pink Salt

Pink salt contains 93.75% regular table salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite. This is NOT the same as pink Himalayan salt. It is sometimes called Insta Cure #1 or Prague Powder #1. And yes it is really pink, it is dyed pink to make sure it is not accidentally mistaken for regular salt. It is used in very small quantities when making cured meats, sausage, etc. It has three benefits: inhibiting the growth of bacteria, improving taste, and giving the meat a better color. There are no demonstrated health dangers, you can read more here. You can omit it from this recipe but your result won’t be as tasty or attractive.

Red chili beef

December 18, 2015


This is a very versatile dish, and it features the taste of chili, which I love, and can be made as spicy as you like. It goes well served over rice, wrapped in tortillas for tacos, or on its own with cornbread and salad. Sliced radishes, chopped red onion, and cilantro are great toppings. The dish freezes well, too. Replace some of the beef with pork for a tasty variation. The dried peppers are widely available, if not in the local supermarket then at any tienda. They keep forever, so buy extra. These peppers are not spicy, but you can add heat to the dish with cayenne if you wish.

3 lbs beef chuck or 1-1/2 lbs each beef chuck and pork shoulder
2 baseball-size onions, peeled and cut in quarters
8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 dried guajillo chiles
dried ancho chiles
6 dried whole bay leaves
4 tsp ground cumin (see note below)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 bottle of flavorful beer (optional)
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Note: If at all possible, you should roast and grind your own cumin – the flavor is much improved. Put whole cumin seeds in a small, dry fry pan and cook over medium heat, shaking often, until fragrant and just beginning to brown. When cool, grind in a spice mill.

Trim the meat of excess fat and membranes and cut into 1-2 inch chunks. Remove the stems and seeds from the chilis and cut each into a few large pieces. Put the meat, chilis, and all other ingredients (except the cayenne) in a heavy-bottomed stew pot. Add water to just cover (less water, obviously, if you used beer). Bring to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The meat will become very tender.

After the dish cools a bit, remove just the meat to a large bowl. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the remaining solids – peppers, onions, etc – along with a bit of the cooking liquid to a blender or food processor. Zap to an almost-smooth puree, adding more cooking liquid as needed. Taste and add some cayenne if desired.

Use two forks to shred the meat into coarse shreds. Add the sauce to the meat and combine. Check for salt. Eat.



Burgers another way

September 8, 2015

These burgers combine unusual seasoning with a new take on toppings. Slightly adapted from a NY Times recipe, they work best with ground lamb but are also excellent with beef.

1 lb ground lamb or beef
1 c thinly sliced red onion
1 large Japapeño pepper seeded and thinly sliced
1 TB canola or other neutral oil
1 TB ground cumin
1 tsp ground roasted Szechuan peppercorns
Fresh cilantro sprigs (lots!)

You need a large heavy metal skillet that can hold 4 burgers, or else 2 smaller skillets.

Mix well the meat, cumin, Szechuan peppercorns, and salt. Form into 4 equal size balls.

Heat the skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Add the onion and pepper and saute until partly tender and just starting to brown. Divide the vegetables into 4 equal piles spaced evenly around the pan. Put a ball of meat on each vegetable pile and flatten with a spatula to the desired thickness. Cook for a few minutes then flip and complete cooking. Serve immediately on toasted buns with a big helping of cilantro on each.

Pasta alla Genovese

February 28, 2015

While the name suggests this dish originated in Genoa, it is actually a specialty of Naples and the origin of the name remains a bit of a mystery. There are many variations, with the common theme being beef and onions–lots of onions! This recipe cuts up the beef and leaves it as an integral part of the sauce, while other recipes have you cooking the beef as a single roast which is then removed from the sauce and served separately.  It’s a very rich dish and goes well with one of the larger tubular pastas such as rigatoni, ziti, or penne. This is modified from a NY Times recipe.

4-1/2 lb red onions
2 lb boneless chuck roast
1/4 lb pancetta or not-too-smoky bacon
2 carrots and 1 celery rib, diced
1/2 c dry white wine such as pinot grigio
1/2 c olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb pasta of your choice (see above)

Peel the onions and cook in a large pot of simmering water for 12-15 minutes. Drain, cool, and slice thinly. Discard the water.

Cut the meat into approximately 2-inch pieces. Pat dry with paper towels and brown in a heavy bottomed Dutch over medium high heat using 2 TB of the oil. Do this in 2 batches if necessary. Remove meat and set aside. Reduce heat to medium, add the pancetta and stir for a moment. then add the carrots and celery and stir or a few more minutes. Return the meat to the pan, cover with the onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle the wine and remaining oil over all. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook slowly for about 2 hours. Remove the lid, there will be a good deal of liquid that was released by the onions. Raise the heat and continue cooking, stirring as needed to prevent sticking. The goal is to cook off most of the liquid; the meat will be falling apart and the onions will reduce to an almost creamy consistency. Check for seasoning. Cook the pasta, drain, and toss with the sauce. Serve with grated Parmesan.


September 28, 2014

One variation or another of this ground beef stew can be found all over Central and South America. Where it originated, no one knows – or cares! It can be served over rice, as here, or baked in pastry to create empañadas, put on hamburger buns for high-class sloppy joes, it is very versatile. Some versions are all beef, some include pork or chorizo, I have even seen a ground turkey variation! My takes uses beef and pork It can be made ahead and reheated, also it freezes well.

1-1/2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
2 baseball-size onions, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3- 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes, drained with the juice reserved. Or use the equivalent of fresh tomatoes
olive oil
3 TB red wine vinegar
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 TB ground cumin
large pinch ground cloves
large pinch ground nutmeg
4 bay leaves
salt and pepper
1 c pimento-stuffed green olives, halved
1 c raisins or currants

In a large sauté pan, heat 3 TB of olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until softened and perhaps just starting to brown, about 10 min. Add the meat and stir until all the raw color is gone. Add S&P to taste and add everything else except the olives and raisins. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 40 min, stirring now and then and adding some of the reserved tomato juice if needed to keep the mixture a little soupy. Add the olives and raisins and simmer for another 10-15 min. Taste and decide if it needs a bit more salt or vinegar (but don’t overdo it).

Steak salad with walnut vinaigrette

June 11, 2014

This is a lovely summer dish that fits in well with a goal of eating more vegetables and less meat. Serves 4.

The vinaigrette:

1/2 c shelled walnuts
1 peeled clove garlic put thru a press
3 TB red wine or sherry vinegar
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Toast the walnuts by shaking over medium heat in a small, dry skillet until fragrant. Remove to a cutting board and chop finely – pieces the size of raw rice grains, more or less. Put in a small jar with the remaining ingredients and shake well.

The steak:

Ribeye or NY strip steak about an inch thick or a little thicker. You want 3-4 oz of meat per person, which means either one large steak or two smaller ones. Rub with black pepper, pat dry, and let come to room temperature. Grill over very hot coals until medium rare. Remove to cutting board and set aside. You will be serving it at room temperature.

The salad:

2-3 medium boiling potatoes
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and dried
1 small or 1/2 large fennel bulb
1/4 of a large sweet or red onion
About 20 cherry or grape tomatoes

Peel the potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces, and simmer until tender. Drain and while still warm toss with 1/4 c of the vinaigrette. Set aside to cool.

Shred the lettuce. Cut the fennel into fine julienne and the onion into thin slices. Halve the tomatoes. Toss these 4 ingredients in a large bowl with vinaigrette to taste (you probably will not use all the dressing).


You can do this on a single large serving platter or individual plates. Mound the salad and top with the potatoes. Cut the steak into 1/4 inch thick strips and arrange on top. Pass additional dressing for people to add if desired.

Steak on the stovetop

May 22, 2014

Grilling steak over charcoal can give great results, but it takes a lot of work, experience, and the right weather. You can do a great steak on your stove with a lot less fuss and work. It doesn’t have the flavor of burnt fat that a charcoal grilled steak does, but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Some means of venting your kitchen is not a bad idea.

The meat: Of course, the quality of the meat plays a huge role. My favorite is rib eye, with NY strip a close second. Tenderloin (filet mignon) is boring –  tender but relatively flavorless, despite its undeserved reputation as the “best” steak. I buy my rib eyes from Costco, a whole rib eye at a time. A whole rib eye is expensive, but the per-pound cost is a lot lower than buying individual steaks at the market. Cut it up and freeze the steaks and you’ll be all set for a long time. The individual steaks should be an inch thick, or perhaps a little bit more. Thicker steaks may look impressive, but they don’t cook well.

So, take your (thawed, obviously) 1 inch thick steak(s) and trim any excess fat from the exterior. Coat generously with freshly ground pepper, and press the pepper into meat with your fingers. Let sit for half an hour or so – you want the meat at room temperature.

The pan: Cast iron is best for this, but steel, copper, stainess steel, or even aluminum will do. NO NON-STICK!

The cooking: Put the pan over high heat and turn on your vent fan. Pat the meat dry with paper towels and rub with a thin layer of a neutral oil, such as avocado, grape seed, or canola. The oil you use isn’t really all that important (don’t use olive oil). When the pan is scorching hot, put the steak(s) in. Here comes the smoke! Let sit undisturbed for at least a minute then lift the edge and see how the crust is developing. When the crust is to your liking, flip over (tongs are great for this sort of thing). Watch carefully and cook until the slightest traces of rosy-colored juices start to appear on the top surface. Remove immediately to a cutting board.

Final prep: Sprinkle some salt on the steak and cover with foil. Let sit for 5 minutes, then serve.

Accompaniments: When you have cooked a really great steak, putting things like A-1 or ketchup or BBQ sauce on the steak is just a travesty. Those are cover-ups for low quality steaks. Instead, consider either balsamic vinegar or lemon juice – they complement rather than hide the flavor of the steak.

Beef and barley soup

March 22, 2013

Yeah, you can get this in a can, blech! When made right, it is a truly excellent and satisfying meal. First, cook the meat and make the stock.

3 lb beef shortribs
1 c carrots in large chunks
1 c celery in large chunks
3 shallots, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 c red wine
few sprigs fresh parsley, stems removed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 c water + additional if needed
1 tsp salt
10 whole black peppercorns

Heat a TB of oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel and add to the pan (you may need to do this in 2 batches to avoid crowding the ribs). Brown slowly over medium heat, turning, until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer to large stock pot. Repeat with the second batch of ribs, if needed. Don’t worry about any fat that accumulates, it will be removed later.

In the same pan, saute the carrots, shallots, and celery over medium-high heat, stirring now and then, until starting to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another couple of minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the pan to dislodge any “brown bits” from the bottom. Boil until reduced in volume by about half. Add to the stock pot along with the parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and water. If needed, add more water to cover the ribs by about an inch.

Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to get the most gentle of simmers. Cover and cook for about 3 hours. Remove the ribs, take the meat off the bone, and shred into the size you want for the soup; set aside. Discard bones and trimmings. Strain the stock thru a cheesecloth-lined colander and discard the solids. If necessary, skim off any excess fat from the surface. You should have about 5 cups. Can be done ahead.

Now, make the soup.

The beef stock and meat
2-3 large onions peeled and cut into thin half-rings (about 1 quart)
1/2 c pearled barley
2 tsp pomegranate molasses (see note)
1 c frozen pearl onions
3 TB unsalted butter
2 c chicken stock

In a large skillet, melt the butter and cook the sliced onions slowly, with a big pinch of salt, stirring once in a while, until browned and soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Add the chicken stock and pomegranate molasses and stir to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Add to the beef stock along with the barley and bring to a gentle simmer. After 15 minutes add the pearl onions and continue simmering until the barley and pearl onions are done. Add reserved meat, correct seasoning.

This soup can be served with country bread or cornbread. It can be made a day ahead and reheated.

Note: Pomegranate molasses is a great addition to your pantry. It’s a thick syrup that combines tartness with sweetness, and small amounts add a hard-to-describe flavor undertone to many dishes. I even like to mix it with seltzer for a refreshing drink. Available at middle eastern markets.

Really good beef stock

January 29, 2013

Good beef stock, or broth as some people call it, is a real treat. It is essential for good French onion soup and has a host of other uses. The canned stuff is OK for some uses, but does not stack up against homemade. It’s a bit of work, but it can be frozen almost indefinitely. In addition to the usual beef bones, this recipe uses ground beef to add more flavor and an interesting technique with egg whites to clarify the stock.

First steps:

10 lbs beef bones, ask your butcher to cut them into 2-3 inch lengths
3 medium or 2 large onions, halved and peeled
2-3 large carrots cut in thirds, no need to peel
3 stalks celery cut in thirds
about a dozen whole black peppercorns
2 tsp salt

Put the above ingredients, except salt and pepper, in a single layer in a shallow baking pan and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer solids to your stockpot. Place the baking pan on a burner and add a couple of cups of water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up all the brown bits that are stuck to the pan. Add to stockpot. Don’t worry about the fat, you’ll get rid of it later. Add water to cover by an inch or two and the salt and pepper. Cover, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 4 hours, stirring once in a while. You want a really gentle simmer, with just a few bubbles rising to the surface every second. Do not let the stock come to a full boil or it will become cloudy.

At the end of the 4 hours use tongs to remove and discard the bones. Strain the stock through a coarse strainer (such as a pasta strainer) into a 2nd pot or large bowl and reserve the cooked vegetables. Rinse out the stockpot and strain the stock again, this time through a finer strainer, back into the original pot. Discard any bits that the strainer collects. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Final steps

1 lb ground beef
the reserved vegetables, chopped
8 egg whites

Remove the stock from the fridge. The fat will have congealed into a layer on the top; remove this and either discard or save for another purpose. Mix the ground beef, vegetables, and egg whites in a bowl and then stir into the stock. Bring to a slow simmer, stirring now and then. As it nears the simmer, stop stirring. After a little while of simmering, a foamy “raft” will form on the surface – this is the ground beef and chopped vegetables bound together by the egg whites, and this is what will trap all the small particles in the stock. Once it reaches the simmer, cook for an hour without stirring. Check after a few minutes – the raft may have developed an opening in the middle. If not, use a knife to cut a slit – this helps the stock to circulate.

After the hour of simmering, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Gently push the raft to one side and ladle the clarified stock through a cheesecloth-lined stainer (to catch any stray bits of the raft) into a large bowl. That’s it! You can correct for salt now but I prefer to wait and adjust the salt for each individual recipe. Discard the raft, or your dog or cat might really like it!

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