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?