Archive for the ‘Beef’ category

Meatballs (for “Spaghetti and …”)

April 30, 2011

Meatballs are one of my favorite “comfort foods.” At least good meatballs are! It is so easy to make good ones, and here’s my favorite recipe, modified from Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking.

1 lb ground chuck
2 slices homestyle white bread, crusts removed
1/2 c milk
1/4 c minced onion
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
1/2 tsp salt (approximately)
3 TB grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
fine dry breadcrumbs (optional)

Tear the bread into pieces. Bring the milk to a boil and pour over the bread, stirring so the bread absorbs the milk. Let cool then add to a large bowl with all other ingredients except the bread crumbs. Mix gently but thoroughly using your fingers. A prime cause of rubbery meatballs is too much handling, so take it easy and never use a mixer! The goal is not a completely uniform paste but a mixture where some pieces of bread are still distinct. Pinch off a tablespoon of the mixture and cook in in a small frypan. Taste and add more salt to the mixture if needed. Form into balls 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, again being as gentle as possible. At this point in the recipe, opinions diverge as regards cooking the meatballs. There are three schools of thought:

1. Drop the meatballs directly into your simmering tomato sauce. Cover and cook for at least an hour. Do not stir until they have cooked for at least 20 minutes – this lets the eggs set and makes the meatballs more resistant to breaking up. You may need to skim accumulated fat off the sauce before serving. This cooking method lets the flavors of the sauce and meatballs meld.

2. Roll the meatballs in the breadcrumbs and sauté slowly in olive oil, turning regularly, until browned and cooked through, about half an hour. Serve separately from the sauce. This method keeps the meatball and sauce flavors separate.

3. Follow method 2 but sauté the meatball just until browned, then add to the sauce. The middle road approach.

Mushroom-Madeira sauce for steak

April 30, 2011

This is a lovely sauce for pan-fried steaks. This recipe makes enough for 4 steaks. You can substitute Marsala for the Madeira for a slightly different taste.

1 c good beef stock
1/4 c finely minced shallots
1/4 c finely minced mushrooms
2 TB butter
1/3 c Madeira

After pan-frying the steaks, remove them from the pan and keep them warm. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter. When it has melted, add the shallots and mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and stir, scraping any browned goodies from the bottom of the pan, until the wine has reduced by about 80%. Add the stock and raise the heat. Reduce to about half. Correct seasoning, pour over steaks, and serve.

Steak with green peppercorns

April 25, 2011

This is a recipe that I cannot reproduce precisely because I “play it by ear” every time I make it. I give approximate amounts, but do not treat these as gospel. It is exceptionally good.

Four 8-10 ounce (or so) high quality steaks (shell, porterhouse, rib eye, etc.), preferably dry aged.
1/2 c green peppercorns (usually found packed in vinegar or brine)
2 TB butter
2 TB finely minced shallots
2/3 c heavy cream
1/2c  Calvados (apple brandy)*

Mash the peppercorns to a coarse paste. Rub on all sides of the steaks. Put the steaks one atop another and cover with a cutting board weighted with some canned goods. Let sit for at least an hour, at room temperature. Scrape most of the pepper off the steaks, leaving more or less pepper according to taste. Discard excess pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet until very hot. Test by dipping your finger into water and flicking a few droplets into the pan. If it is hot enough they will form little round balls that skitter around the pan for a few seconds before they evaporate. Dry the steaks with paper towels. Place in the hot skillet and cook without moving for 2-3 minutes, until a nice crust forms on the bottom. Turn, reducing the heat slightly, and cook until small droplets of bloody liquid start to form on the top surface, signifying medium rare. Immediately remove the steaks to heated plates and reduce the heat under the skillet to medium low. Add the butter and, when it is melted, the shallots. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, scraping up any residue that was left in the pan by the steaks. Add the Calvados and a minute later the cream. Simmer briefly, correct salt, and pour over steaks.

* Lacking Calvados, an acceptable substitute is equal parts of Cognac and apple concentrate. Make apple concentrate by boiling apple juice or cider until reduced to half its volume. The result is slightly sweeter, but still delicious. Lacking Cognac, make another recipe.

Chile con carne

April 25, 2011

My take on this wonderful dish, inspired by a visit to New Mexico. The chile powder makes all the difference, make sure you get a high quality product that contains just ground chilies. Some “supermarket” chili powders also contain cumin and other spices, but I’d rather add those myself. No, that’s not a spelling error, it is common (although not universal) for pure ground chile peppers to be called “chile” powder and the spice mix to be called “chili” powder.

If someone tells you that “real” chile con carne does not have beans or tomato in it, smile kindly and pat them on the head.

2 TB vegetable oil or bacon fat
1-1/2 lbs boneless chuck
1 c diced onion
1 c diced red and/or green bell peppers
4 cloves garlic minced
5-6 TB chili powder
2 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2-16 oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 oz baking chocolate, chopped.
2 tsp sugar
2-16 oz cans pinto beans
1-16 oz can red kidney beans.

Trim the beef of fat and gristle and cut into 1 inch cubes. In 2 batches, zap in a food processor until minced but not ground. You might want to stop 5-10 seconds before you would if you were making hamburger.

Heat the oil over high heat in a heavy Dutch oven until smoking. Add the beef and stir until it loses its pink color. Don’t worry if the meat gives off some liquid. Add the chopped vegetables and reduce heat to medium high, Cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add the spices and stir for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, chocolate, and sugar and stir. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, adding water as necessary to maintain a medium-thick consistency. Add the drained beans and simmer for 1/2 hour. Correct salt and serve.

Catalan style beef stew

April 25, 2011

A marvelous, rich dish that is even better if you cook it a day ahead and then reheat.

2 lbs beef stewing meat, preferably chuck, cut into large cubes
4 TB olive oil
3 large carrots peeled and cut into 1″ sections
12 shallots, peeled and left whole
1-1/4 c pitted prunes
2 c hearty red wine such as a Rioja
1/2 c toasted pine nuts*

Season the beef with S&P. Pat dry then brown on all sides in the olive oil in a heavy casserole. Reduce heat and add all remaining ingredients except the pine nuts. Cover and simmer slowly for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until the meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. During the last hour, check the liquid level. If too low, add some water. If too high, increase heat slightly and leave the cover ajar. Serve sprinkled with the pine nuts.

* To toast, put the pine nuts in a dry 6 inch skillet over medium heat. Stir or toss frequently until they are golden brown color. You need to watch this closely because the pine nuts can go from underdone to burnt very quickly.

Classic pot roast

April 22, 2011

Nothing fancy here, just a delicious classic. I like cooking finely chopped vegetables for the full time with the meat – they essentially dissolve and add flavor to the sauce. Then I add bigger chunks of vegetables near the end of cooking to eat with the meat. In my opinion, a chuck roast is much better than round.

One boneless chuck roast, about 3 lbs
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp powdered bay leaf
1/2 c each finely chopped onion, carrot, and celery
1 c sturdy red wine
Beef stock, canned is fine (low salt)
1 TB tomato paste
1 c carrots in 1 inch chunks
1c  celery in 1 inch chunks
1/2 c turnip in 1/2 inch chunks
2 TB flour
1 TB butter, soft

Peel the garlic and cut into slivers. Pierce the roast all over with a thin paring knife and insert the garlic into the slits. Pat dry with paper towels and rub with the salt, pepper, and bay.

The ideal pan for this is an oval enameled casserole such as le Creuset. The shape will fit the meat evenly all around allowing a 1-2″ gap. This lets you cook the meat without adding too much liquid.

Heat 1 TB oil in the pan over medium high heat until smoking. Add the meat and brown for about 10 minutes on each side. Regulate the heat so the meat is browning without the oil burning. Remove the meat to a plate. Reduce heat to medium and add the finely chopped veg to the pan and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the wine is mostly gone. Add the tomato paste and return the meat to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated. Add beef stock until it comes about 1/2 way up the sides of the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover, and put in a 325 degree oven. Check once in a while and regulate the oven heat to maintain a gentle simmer. If necessary add more beef stock. After 1-1/2 hours add the remaining veg and distribute them in the liquid around the roast. After 1/2 hour add the butter and flour, kneaded together to a paste, mixing it into the sauce. Cook for another 1/2 hr. If desired skim off excess fat, then serve.

Cathy’s London broil

April 21, 2011

From my good friend Cathy, a terrific cook. When I make this it is never quite as excellent as hers, but still good.

1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c red wine or sherry vinegar
1/2 c vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1/2 TB freshly ground black pepper
One 3 lb (about) top round roast

Mix first 5 ingredients. Put in a heavy ziploc bag with the roast. Marinate in the fridge for at least 12 hours, turning once in a while.

Remove the meat from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it. Drain and reserve the marinade. Grill the meat over a medium hot charoal fire for about 8 minutes per side, basting regularly with the reserved marinade. Cook to your liking, the time depends on the thickness of the meat and the heat of the fire. Medium or medium-rare is best. Remove to a cutting board, sprinkle with salt if desired, and cover with foil, let rest for about 5 min. Slice thinly on the diagonal and serve.


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