Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bean Pot Country Ribs

























If you remember my Black-Eyed Pea post from January, you may remember that I got a new bean pot for Christmas.  I'd been wanting one ever since I saw Gabriele Corcos cooking with one in Tuscany on the Cooking Channel.

My new Bean Pot

Bean Pots are an ancient, old school style of cooking vessel--they've been around since at least Colonial times and maybe even longer.  While their main claim to fame is cooking beans, they are very much like a Dutch oven and can be used on other slow cooking occasions.  This dish is something similar to what I saw Gabriele cooking on the Extra Virgin show, but I couldn't find his recipe so I sort of made up my own.  

Oh, and the country ribs in this recipe aren't really ribs at all--they're just strips of chuck roast cut to resemble ribs.



But they are perfect for this technique, as the bean pot will transform them from toughness to tenderness over a nice slow roasting.



Bean Pot Country Ribs

1.5 pounds country ribs (chuck)
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cups veal stock
12 oz consommé
1 cup red wine
12 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 325˚F

Heat olive oil in skillet. Brown the 'ribs' in the olive oil.



Reserve the ribs.  Saute onion in olive oil.



When they start to turn golden, add the garlic and cook another two minutes.

Place beef and onions in the bean pot or a Dutch oven if that's what you're using.



Add celery, carrots, and onion/garlic mixture.  Add the wine.



Add the tomatoes, thyme and veal stock.



If you've never used veal stock before, you're in for a treat.  It's much richer and complex than beef stock, yet at the same time delicate and subtle.  I'd use it all the time in place of beef if it weren't so expensive and hard to find.  You can usually find it at places like Central Market.  Or, you can make your own.  I've yet to do that, but I plan to try it.

Add the consommé.



This is another sort of secret ingredient.  Consommé is a rich broth popularized by the French and it is usually eaten like a simple soup, but I find it makes a nice addition as an ingredient in dishes like this.



Cover pot and cook in oven at 350˚F until beef is tender.  Check it every thirty minutes or so to make sure liquid hasn't cooked down too much.  If it does, add a little more stock.  After two hours, check to see if beef is tender.  If it is, great, if not, let it go another thirty minutes to an hour.  When it is done, the dish will have a stew-like consistency.



It can be held warm until dinner time.  Taste and adjust with salt and pepper to your liking.

Serve with some crusty bread or toast points.



Enjoy!

Until next time,

Chris.










Thursday, March 31, 2016

Perfect Roast Beef




















Tender, juicy, rare roast beef--is there anything better or more comforting on a cold winter's day?  I guess you could say I was raised on roast beef.  For pretty much my entire childhood and teen years, Mom made a roast every Sunday like clockwork.  It was good, hearty fare, but like most of the meats we ate back then, Mom made her roasts pretty close to well done.  I cringe a little bit at that now, but we didn't know any better then.

However, when we would go out to a little British themed place called the Piccadilly Café, the roast beef they carved up there was pink--maybe even red in the center.  They served it up dripping with natural gravy and--don't tell Mom--but I liked it better.  It was so much more flavorful, succulent and savory.  I'd had my first encounter with rare beef--what beef is supposed to taste like.

Years later, as an adult, I tried to replicate this rare beef, but at first I didn't have much success.  Sure, I used a meat thermometer, and cooked my roast to a rare temp, but it was only rare in the center, and pretty much well done the rest of the way through.  What I wanted was that nice, pink rareness throughout the roast.  To achieve this, I took a lesson from my brisket smoking technique and tried doing things low and slow--low temperature cooking for a longer time.

This proved to be the key.  Roasting it lower means the roast will cook much more even, and be rare almost to the edge.  Keeping the meat at this lower range of temperatures for a longer time also allows the meat's natural enzymes to break down things a bit, further tenderizing the roast.

So, let's get started.  First, select your meat.  I've found the traditional beef chuck cut to be a little too fatty for my tastes--I go for the round or rump cuts.  Beef round is composed of three different muscles, which--when cut into roasts are referred to as Top Round, Bottom Round and Eye of Round.  I've tried each of these, and all do nicely with this technique, with perhaps the eye being the best.  All three have a rich beef flavor and, while a little tough, they tenderize up nicely with this slow cooking technique.



Ingredients

4 lbs Round Roast (Top, Bottom or Eye of)
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Carrots, Chopped
2 Potatoes, Cubed



Any of the Round Roasts work great.  Here I'm using Top Round.  


Preheat Oven to 225˚F

Heat Olive Oil in a skillet.  We're gonna first brown the outside of the roast.  This will develop some of the flavors we want in the roast.

Salt and Pepper the Roast

If it's got a fat layer on it, you can either remove it or keep it, cutting some slits into it to keep it from warping duing cooking.

Sear the roast in the olive oil on all sides.



Place on wire rack over roasting pan.  If you cut fat from the roast, don't discard it--place these pieces on the rack with the roast.



They will render additional drippings in which you can roast veggies.

Roast for an hour at 225˚F.  Then toss the  veggies in olive oil and place in pan under roast.



There should be some nice drippings in there now that will cook and flavor the veggies.

Roast until internal temperature of meat reaches 115F. About two hours total time.

Turn off oven and let roast continue to cook in cooling oven until internal temp reaches 125F

Slice the roast against the grain in thin slices



Note how there is pink almost to the edge of the roast--thanks to the low and slow cooking technique.
The veggies should look like this now:



If they don't--return them to the oven for a few minutes at 450˚F to brown them a bit while you carve your roast.

Serve with the veggies. And maybe some Yorkshire Puddings, if you like.





.


Until Next Time,

Eat ya some beef!

Chris




Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Yorkshire Pudding



















On the very first day of my very first visit to Europe, I was walking around bleary-eyed and jet-lagged in London.  My flight had arrived at 7 a.m., and as it was too early to check into my hotel, I stowed my bags and just wandered around gazing at the sights.  Finally, 11 a.m. arrived, and that meant the pubs were opening.  It was time for my first beer in the U. K.

I found a little pub near Saint James Square called The Red Lion.  It was tucked away in a little alley, and was quite tiny itself.  I believe I was the first customer of the day.  Well, I'd planned on having just one beer and heading to the hotel, but you know how it is, one beer led to another, and soon I was chatting away with some of the Londoners having their lunch.



The Red Lion Pub, with its proprietor (left) and a patron (June 1994)

As I chatted with one businessman bloke who was downing the beers on company time faster than me, I saw a waiter walk by with what looked like some sort of a steaming bowl of stew, and the bowl was made out of some bread-like substance.  I asked the local man what it was.  "Yorkshire pudding," he said.  I ordered one--it was divine.  I can still taste that beefy, bready "pudding," which the pub had filled with roast beef, veggies and gravy.

Now, here in The States, pudding is a sort of sweet, creamy paste-like substance that we eat for dessert.  But in the U.K., its more of a savory puff pastry made from flour.  A traditional accompaniment to roast beef.  I think I like theirs better.

I started making my own little Yorkshires a few years ago, and the wife and I always enjoy them with our roast beef.  They are simple to make, I discovered, and always come out delicious.



Yorkshire Pudding

1.5 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rendered beef fat or lard

Note this baby calls for rendered beef fat.  Not really something you have lying around, I know.  If you don't, you can substitute lard, but the Yorkshire Puddings will come out a bit different.  (more on that soon)  For me, when I smoke a brisket, I always save the beef fat that renders out for other uses.  After the brisket is done, I chill it in the fridge, and the fat rises to the surface of the surrounding area and solidifies.  I then break it off in chunks and freeze it til I need it.


Smoked Brisket--note the fat that has rendered and solidified around the meat when it cooled.  I used to throw this out.  Not anymore.  Now I break it up in chunks and freeze it for future use.



I can tell you it makes some flavorful Yorkshire puddings.  (also great for frying or roasting potatoes)

Anyhoo, to start, mix the flour and salt, then add milk and mix.  Beat eggs in separate bowl then whisk into flour mixture.  Mix in water.  Let this sit for over an hour.



When ready to cook, place about a teaspoon of the beef fat (or lard) in each cup of a muffin tin.



Place this in a 500 degree oven for a few minutes to heat the pan and drippings.  Then open the oven and carefully ladle the pudding mixture into each cup.  Fill each cup about halfway full.  (these babies will expand!)



Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes, until puddings are literally popping out of their cups.



Earlier, I mentioned that using beef fat vs lard will produce different results.  Well, that happened for me, anyway.  With the lard I got a lighter, fluffier pudding that tasted fine but was maybe just a little more bland than with the beef fat.   These are pictured in the photo above and also below:



With the beef fat I got a denser pudding that didn't puff quite as much, but it had a great beefy flavor that was accentuated by a hint of smoke (this was smoked brisket fat, after all)  These are pictured below:



Either way you make them, be sure to serve them with a nice beefy main course like Roast Beef.



I haven't tried it yet, but I plan to make some larger puddings in pie tins and serve the roast beef inside them, just like I had in London all those years ago.  I'll report back when I do.

Until next time,


Cheers!


Chris

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Corned Beef and Cabbage




Sláinte--and Happy St Paddy's Day.  I've always enjoyed this holiday, perhaps for no other reason than its association with drinking and good times, perhaps even more so than New Year's Eve.  (Sorry, NYE--the Irish got ya beat)

Well, I've been enjoying a drink on St Pats since I've been old enough too, which is quite a while, but believe it or not, I've never gotten around to trying the traditional dish of St Pats, here in America at least--Corned Beef and Cabbage.  

If this dish sounds a little swarthy to you, well--I can assure you after trying it that it is better than it sounds  (the aroma may not be, however, but you can get past that, I know you can)

Anyhoo, I researched this one, and found a variety of ways to cook this dish, but boiling seemed to be the way to go.  

Now, normally, the thought of boiling meat, unless I'm making soup, makes me cringe.  This is a sure fire way to leach flavor out of your meat.  However, in the case of corned beef, you actually want to do a little leaching, due to the fact that corned beef has been preserved in a brine of salt and sodium nitrite.  This was an old school preservation method that survives because its traditional and people like the flavor.  But if you were to just cook the corned meat like a roast it would be tough and incredibly salty.  The boiling does two things, it tenderizes the meat, and pulls out that salt.

Of course, if you keep boiling in the same water, a lot of the salt will get into your veggies, oversalting thing.  That's why we're gonna boil for a bit, dump the water, then add fresh and continue to boil.  This will get rid of a lot of the salt, but there will still be enough around to flavor your taters, carrots and cabbage.  So, without further ado, let's do this thing:

Ingredients

3 Pound Uncooked Corned Beef Brisket
3 Russet Potatoes
12 Oz Carrots
1 Cabbage
Spice Packet (optional)

Place the corned beef in a large pot.  

Cover with water to 1 inch over beef

Boil corned beef for 30 minutes.  At this time you will notice white foam forming on top of the water.

This is salt and sodium nitrite leaching out of the beef.   Carefully lift the beef out of the water and set aside on a platter or cutting board.  

Dump the water you just used (be careful--it's hot.  I usually add some cold water to it to cool it down before I pour it down the sink, so as not to shock my old cast iron pipes)

Add fresh water.  Note, the beef may be covered in leached salt, as seen here:

so if you want, rinse it off before returning it to the fresh water.  Bring meat to a boil again.  

Boil for an additional 2 hours

Meanwhile peel your potatoes and cut them in half lengthwise.  Cut these halves into little half-inch thick crescents.  

Cut up your carrots into two inch pieces, or just use precut carrots.  

After the two hour boil, add potatoes and carrots, boil for 30 more minutes

Cut your cabbage in half.  Cut these halves into thirds.  


Add the cabbage wedges, gently, to the pot, on top of the beef and veggies.  Boil for 20 more minutes.  

Remove everything and plate it up and serve.  


Slice the corned beef against the grain, or just pull it apart in chunks and serve, it should be tender.  

Until next time, 


Chris


Monday, February 29, 2016

Hungarian Goulash



























I made a swing through Eastern and Central Europe in 1996, mainly the Czech Republic, but I also touched on Austria and Hungary, and I have to say I loved them all, but particularly the latter.  Hungary was fascinating.  I spent a few days in Budapest, a beautiful, exotic city with wonderful people and some amazing food.  It was here that I discovered the spice that I've had an affinity for ever since---Paprika.

Yes, paprika--it seems it is the national spice of Hungary.  Most restaurants had a paprika shaker on the table, in addition to salt and pepper, and I found I liked its slightly sweet, slightly piquant flavor (although there are some intensely hot varieties as well) and the way it brightened up a dish with its intense red color.

So, if you want to try a dish in which paprika really sings as the key ingredient, you could do no better than whipping up the national dish of Hungary:  Goulash.  It's basically a beef and vegetable stew, although I have been served some pretty soupy versions here in The States.  However, what I got in Budapest was thick, almost more like beef chunks with a rich sauce than a soup or stew, and I've decided this is how I like it.  My recipe will pursue this version, with a little bit of retro flair as I sourced some of it from one of my retro cook books, pictured below.



I also discovered that you can get paprika in lots of different forms in Hungary, so we will layer and texture the flavor of our Goulash with different types of paprika.  More on that to come.



Hungarian Goulash.  

2 Lbs Stewing Beef, Cubed
3 Tablespoons Cooking Oil
1 Large Onion, Diced
1/4 Cup Flour, Sifted
3/4 Cup White Wine
1/4 Cup Sweet Paprika
4 Cups Beef Broth
1/4 Cup Smoked Paprika
1 Tablespoons Univer Goulash Cream, Hot
1 Tablespoon Sweet Anne Paprika Paste
1 Teaspoon Strong Steven Paprika Paste
1 Teaspoon Red Gold Paprika Cream, Hot (Optional, for hotter Goulash)
2 Potatoes, Peeled and Cubed
3-4 Carrots, Sliced
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Egg Noodles


Cube your beef.



Here I'm using eye of round, but bottom round or even chuck will work fine.  Tougher cuts that stand up to long stewing times are what you want here.

Heat the cooking oil in a large stew pot or Dutch oven, then add the beef when the oil is hot:



Brown the beef and then reserve.



Dice your onion and add it to the oil and beef drippings.  Sauté the onion until it begins to turn clear and brown slightly.



Sift the flour over the onion



and cook for a minute or two.  Add the white wine



and simmer until reduced by half   Add the sweet paprika:



And then let everything simmer for a minute or two.  Admire the beautiful color of this most Hungarian of spices:



Add the beef broth.



Bring to a boil, then add the beef cubes back to the mix.



Reduce to a simmer and then add the smoked paprika.



Adding this and the other paprikas after the broth addition will help to preserve some of their more delicate flavors, particularly the smoked paprika that will make your flavor reminiscent of Goulash cooked in a bogrács, or traditional cooking cauldron, over an open fire.


A bogrács full of Goulash

Speaking of our other paprikas:  Did I say I'm a fan?  When I was in Budapest, I was doing a bit of souvenir shopping and I came across a jar that looked like this:



When I asked the proprietor what it was, he said in broken English, 'to put in soup.'  Well, that didn't really tell me what it was, but it was good enough for me.  I bought some and brought it home.  It was a like a nice, wonderful, creamy hot paste



that did indeed go well in soups, but also lots of other things.  When I finally ran out, I took to the internet (still in its infancy back then) and found Otto's Hungarian Deli, where I found I could order this stuff and lots of other goodies.  They're still around, and I don't think they've updated the website since the 90s, but its a great place to get some of the pastes and creams in this recipe.

Well, as you can see by the photo below, I keep quite a bit of paprika pastes and creams in stock in my larder.



Yes, I know it seems redundant, but each of these has a slightly different flavor and level or heat, and using a little bit of each of them give this goulash multiple layers of flavor.  If you really want to make some goulash with a wow factor, try to get your hands on at least some of this stuff.  If not Ottos, then I've also seen some of the Univer products at Central Market.

Add your hot and sweet pastes



And then the Goulash Cream.



This stuff in particular has a nice, unique blend of flavors that really make the goulash.

Let this simmer for an hour or so, then add the potatoes



And the carrots



Then Cover:



And let that go another hour

At this point the meat should be nice and tender, and the goulash should have thickened up nicely.  If it's still too liquid-y, mid a little cornstarch with warm water and add it to the goulash.  It will then thicken up nicely.

Here we've served the goulash over some basic egg noodles.



You sometimes see it with elbow macaroni mixed in instead, but that just looks a little too 'Hamburger Helper-ish' to me.


Until next time,


Egészségére (I believe that's Hungarian for "Cheers")


Chris