Sunday, December 30, 2007


We had our first steaks last night -- NY strip, 1" thick. They were fairly large (well not by American standards, but more meat than you really need in one sitting). I decided to keep it simple, to see what the meat taste like. (Also, I was lazy and didn't get around to marinating them.)

I simply salted & peppered the steaks and let them sit for a while, as Alton Brown recommends in his book Food+Heat=Cooking. I choose to pan fry them, though I thought about broiling them. Seared them in my cast iron pan for about 3 min per side. The instant read thermometer read about 133F. Placed them on a plate, added a pat of butter, and tented with foil.

While the meat was resting, I sauteed up a half an onion, some sliced mushrooms, and a bit of garlic in the pan juices with a bit of butter. I had originally planned on making Balsamic Vinegar Brussel Sprouts, but that idea got nixed when I decided to pan fry the steak, since I only have one cast iron pan. Instead, I microwaved some frozen green beans. I also reheated some couscous left over from making Chicken Korma. (I know rice is traditional, but couscous is quicker. The korma turned out well, but I've determined I need a Sumeet spice multi-grinder.)

Right before serving, I dusted the steak with some Fleur de Sel. The steak was very good, although it was more medium than medium rare (which is how I perfer it).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mahogany Stew -- Chuck Roast

I've been remiss in blogging about this, but a week or two ago I made Mahogany Stew recipe from Epicurious. I had defrosted a chuck roast and was looking for something interesting to make with it. I didn't want to do the standard crockpot and carrot roast. Googling turned up this stew -- it's similar to Beef Bourguingnon, but has hoisin sauce in it. I basically followed the stew recipe, though I did substitute beef broth for half of the wine.

It turned out quite tasty, although it was initially a bit too sweet. The reviews mentioned this problem, blaming it on the sugar in the hoisin sauce. However, to me, the extra sweetness really tasted of carrots. I simply added some soy sauce and salt to balance it out, and all was well.

While I did use a Chuck Roast for this recipe, it sort of seemed like a waste of a roast when I had already cut stew meat on hand. But the roast was defrosted and the stew meat was not, so that's what got used. It turned out very flavorful, kept well, and was enjoyed by the hubby.

In all, a success.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Beef Stroganoff

Stew meat #2 up. One of my favorite dishes is Beef Stroganoff. I used eat it a fair amount growing up and loved it. I keep tweaking how I make it trying to get the flavors of my childhood without the can of cream of mushroom soup. I based this version off a recipe from Cooking for Engineers.

I cut the meat into smaller pieces and salted it. Then, in batches, I browned it in butter. After removing the meat, I sauteed a chopped onion for a few minutes before added a package of sliced baby bella mushrooms and a bit more butter. Cooked down the mushrooms for about 10 minutes. Then I deglazed the pan with some beef broth. Added back in the meat and about 2 or 3 cups of broth as well as a few handfuls of dried chinese mushrooms and a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire sauce. I let it all simmer for 1 to 2 hours for the sauce to reduce. Then I added in some sour cream (1/2 carton) and a few spoonfuls of greek yogurt (since I didn't have any more sour cream). I seasoned it with black pepper and some mushroom flavored dark soy sauce. After tasting I wanted it a bit tarter, so I added a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard.

Served the stroganoff over couscous with a side of microwaved sugar snap peas, steamed carrots with dill, and a sliced pear. I greatly enjoyed the stroganoff and will probably stick with this version.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nachos (Ground Beef #3)

There was a half pound of ground beef left over from making pizza. We used it to make nachos, even though it's not really nacho season.

Brown the ground beef. Add a half an onion, finely chopped and a few cloves of garlic minced. Season as you would for tacos. I used Chile Pepper, Ancho Chili Pepper, and Chipotle. Since I used Chile Pepper not Chili Powder, I also added a bunch of cumin and some oregano. As always, I added a touch of cinnamon and cocoa powder for a bit of depth. Salt to taste.

Arrange some corn chips on a plate. Top with as much grated cheddar cheese as you like. Microwave to melt the cheese, then top with the ground beef. Add whatever fixings you enjoy. This time we used:

  • Habanero and Lime Salsa
  • Diced tomato
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Green Onion (thinly sliced)
  • Black olives
  • Sour Cream
In the past we've also added:
  • Guacamole
  • Parsley (finely chopped)
  • Squeeze of fresh lime
  • Cactus (from a bottle, chopped)
  • Refried beans (instead of ground beef)
  • Cucumber (finely chopped)
Served it with a glass of orange juice. It was tasty. A half a pound was the right amount of meat for the two of us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Beef Paprika (Stew Meat #1)

Used the first package of stew meat last night. Had to cut down the pieces, but that's not a problem. I adapted this recipe from a chicken dish I usually make.

Brown 1lb stew meat.
Add 1.5 onions, thinly sliced
Add 3 cloves minced garlic
Add 2TB Paprika (I used Hungarian)
Cook until onions are tender.
Deglaze the pan with 1 cup chick broth
Add 28oz (1 can) tomatoes, chopped.
Simmer for a while. (I did 1.5 hours)
Stir in 1/3 c cream (or sour cream)
Season to taste with salt, thyme (1 tsp), pepper, Spanish paprika.

I served it over fusilli. The sauce was kind of thin for pasta. If I do it over pasta again, I'd reduce the broth and thicken the sauce. I had leftovers in a mug -- it worked well as a stew. Next time I might add more tomatoes and broth and serve it as a stew with dumplings. Over all, tasty.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ground Beef and Garlic Pizza

It feels like we've been eating a ton of beef lately, but when I look at how much is remaining I have no idea how we will get through it all in a year.

Last night we made pizza with ground beef and garlic. Used Trader Joe's pizza dough and sauce. Cooked up a half a pound of beef with a half a head of garlic to put on the pizza. Then topped it of with grated mozzarella and garlic slices from the rest of the head. Baked and served with some tangerines so als not be completely unhealthy.

It turned out okay; didn't really care for the whole wheat pizza dough. I definitely like our ham & pineapple pizza or shrimp with pesto and greek olives pizza better.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sichuan Dry-fried Beef with Green Beans

Next up: Top Round

I wanted to use the piece of top round in a stir-fry. Tigers & Strawberries recently posted a recipe for Sichuan Dry-fried Beef that looked really tasty, so I gave it a try.

My dry-frying skills need work, since I didn't manage the lovely textures she describes.
It was a bit spicier than I expected, but tasty. Served it on top of some brown basmati rice with some sliced Bartlet pears on the side. Wasn't quite worth the work, but I'm glad I tried it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Liver Attempt #1: Liver with Bacon and Onions

Well I defrosted a package of liver to motivate me to use it. My past experiences with liver have been mixed. I have very dim childhood memories of my mother making liver with bacon and onions. My father still raves about it, but I remember only liking the bacon. In gradschool I had a craving for liver and got it at a restaurant. I really enjoyed it. Then I tried it again at another restaurant and didn't care for it.

Tonight was my first attempt at making liver. I had my concerns. Everything I read about cooking liver said to use calf's liver and not beef liver, which is not an option here. The other key point seemed to be not to over cook it, but no temperature readings were ever given.

I made this recipe from Epicurious. I tweaked it by added a bit of paprika, as suggested by Elise, from Simply Recipes. I was out of smoked Spanish paprika, which would have accompanied the bacon nicely, so I just used Hungarian paprika.
My liver was already sliced. Unfortunately the slices were a bit thicker than what the recipe called for, so the timing on the cooking was a trick. When I was done, they were still faintly pink inside, but no longer bloody. I'm wondering if I cooked them too long. Anybody have a suggested thermometer reading for liver?

I paired it with a mashed sweet potatato that I microwaved and some edamame I pulled from the freezer. The result?

Well I thought it was edible, but not stellar. Anything with a half a slab of bacon in it should taste better than this. The hubby almost gagged on his first bite and refused to have anymore.

I'll be looking for new liver recipes in the future. The distant future.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ground Beef #2: Pasta with Meat Sauce

We got back from a friend's birthday party starving. Unfortunately, the usual quick stand by of grilled ham & cheese with a side of veggies was not an option since we were out of cheese. While I had liver defrosted (as an encouragement to use it), I didn't want to try something new while very hungry.

The cupboard did hold the always easy meal of pasta and tomato sauce. So I threw a pot of water on the stove and decided to try the auto-defrost on the microwave. Seven minutes later the ground beef was ready to cook. I browned it up with two cloves of garlic and then added a jar of basil marinara sauce. While I normally jazz it up with my own seasonings, tonight it was left as is. Cooked some capellini and microwaved some frozen peas. Finished things off with some freshly grated parmasan and the last of our mandarin oranges. Not a spectacular meal, but quick and easy.

Grocery shopping tomorrow, most likely.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shepherd's Pie -- Ground Beef # 1

We picked up the beef the Monday after Thanksgiving. Given the tons of ground beef we have to eat through, I started with a 1lb package of ground beef. It leaked all over my fridge when defrosting. First lesson learned: defrost in a plastic bag or on a plate.

The beef looked like a coarser grind than I was used to, but it cooked up nicely. I could see little white specks of fat throughout the meat, larger than I generally see when I get it from the supermarket. However, it cooked up with a lot less grease than I see when I get the 80% ground at the store.

Since I had a huge bowlful of mashed potatoes left from Thanksgiving, not to mention some celery left from making the stuff and a few carrots and parsnips remaining from the farmer's market Shepherd's Pie seemed like a good idea. (I know that many people say Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb and Cottage Pie is made with beef. However, its all Shepherd's Pie to me, so deal.)

I'm a very intuitive cook. I love looking though cookbooks and reading recipes, but in the end I just through together whatever I have on hand. Measuring tends to be optional (unless I'm baking) and I can't seem to follow a recipe without tweaking it.

Shepherd's Pie is one of my thow everything together meals. I haven't found a recipe I really like, so I just toss in whatever suits my fancy that evening. Tonight the recipe when something like this:

  • 1lb gound beef
  • 1 onion chipped
  • 3-4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • some frozen corn (1/4 c?)
I browned the beef and then added the vegetables as I finished chopping them. Then I did some seasoning. Just dumped stuff in, but if I had to guess I'd say:
  • Worcestershire Sauce (maybe 2Tbs? I just pour a bunch in)
  • a couple cranks of black pepper
  • a lot of dried oregano. (1-2TBs? I take of the shaker and pour)
  • a dash of dried basil (changed my mind and decided against it)
  • a fair amount of chipotle pepper (2-3 tsp?)
  • a dash of cinnamon, since my favorite food blog recommends it with beef
Mixed it all in and cook until the carrots are almost tender. Dumped in a greased pan. Topped with (in order):
  • Some grated cheddar cheese
  • Leftover mashed potatoes. Thinned with milk and spread as thin as needed to cover the entire pan. Made designs in them using my fork.
  • Dotted with a small amount of butter
  • Dusted with Hungarian paprika
I baked it at 350F for about 30 min. It really just needs the top browned and the potatoes warmed. I should have had it on a higher rack or a higher temperature to get good browning. I forgot that I sometime just put it under the broiler. But I ran out of time and it was tasty even if it wasn't nicely browned.

Beef: It's What's for Dinner.

I just bought half a side of beef. Adulthood has definitely set in.

I mentioned in passing to my Brother-in-law (BIL), that I've always toyed with the idea of ordering part of a cow so that I'd have meat on hand in my freezer. He loved the idea and suggested we could split a side of beef. To get us started, he suggested I research the beef -- finding local, pasture-raised cows and checking the cost -- while he'd look into getting a larger freezer.

Surfing the web, I found many warning articles about just what we were getting ourselves into. Finding actual farms that specificly listed the prices on sides of beef was trick. Eventually we decided on Vermont Natural Beef. Unfortunately we were a little late getting our act in gear and their sides were sold out. So we went with Austin Farms, the meat purveyor at the local farmer's market.

What we got
Beef is sold by the hanging weight, that is the weight of the cow carcass after it's been slaughtered, but not aged or butchered. Beef will lose about 20% of its hanging weight in the butchering process.

Our hanging weight was 381 lbs for a side of beef. We got it at $3.00/lb for a total of $1143. That included cutting and delivery to the farmer's market. That works out to about $3.75/lb for 304lbs of beef, 150lbs being my share.

I talked through the cutting over the phone, so I don't have a cutsheet handy. Basically we went for steaks and roasts when possible, followed by stew meat, and as little of ground beef as we could (which is still many, many pounds). Steaks an inch thick, roasts about 3 lb, other things in 1lb packages. Yes to all the extra options.

The beef came frozed, wrapped in plastic. This surprised me as I was expecting paper wrap. Everything frozen solid was a benefit, since I'm not sure how long it would have taken the freeze to do it.

BIL and I simple divided it up, 1 package ground beef for me, 1 package for you, thoughout the contents. The soup bones I was expecting, the suet I was not. There's a lot more liver than I thought a cow needed.

We also got the heart and tongue. I opted for the heart since I have fond childhood memories of eating heart. BIL got the tongue. Unfortunately his wife does not have fond childhood memories of eating tongue, but that's his problem not mine.

Most of the beef is stored in his new deep freezer. Every few weeks I plan on visiting and taking a bit more of my share back home. Hopefully the hubby and I can eat our way though it all sometime this year.

The plan is to blog the things I cook with this beef and perhaps get some recipes or ideas for things to make. Especially for the liver and ground beef.

150lb of beef. What was I thinking?