Shredded Beef Tacos (Carne Deshebrada)

February 7, 2014

For years I’ve been complaining about Chris Kimball’s lack of steak tacos. Instead, he mostly has recipes for chicken tacos (see here and here). So I was pleased to see that the new March/April includes Shredded Beef Tacos, as I have been making my own simple steak tacos. Overall, Chris Kimball’s tacos are delicious, and he uses a few great techniques. He uses a bottle of bear and cider vinegar as the braising liquid. He uses whole chilis instead of lackluster chili powder. Chris Kimball also skips the traditional browning of the beef on the stovetop in favor browning in the oven (at end of step 2). Unfortunately, the recipe costs and astonishing $34, and the cabbage/carrot slaw is a lot of extra complexity for just a little payoff. Most of the extra cost was from using $8/lb boneless ribs instead of $3-to$4/lb chuck. Also, I found the clove/cinnamon too strong, though not so much so that it ruined the dish. Overall, I doubt that I will make these tacos again exactly as given, but there are a lot of improvements here that I will adopt. 4-stars.

Final tacos are delicious

Final tacos are delicious

Comments / Issues:

  1. While I paid $24 for 3-lbs of boneless beef, I could have paid just $12 for chuck. And truthfully, looking at the beef I think that my butcher was using  meat from the first few ribs (i.e. the chuck section). Chris Kimball wants to use rib meat to boost the beefiness, but if $34 seems to much to spend, then you can easily substitute a nice chuck roast. Especially if you use the cloves/cinnamon then I doubt you will notice the difference.
  2. The recipe calls for queso fresco (fresh cheese), which is traditional for Mexican tacos. My supermarket doesn’t carry queso fresco, so I had to import my queso from the Bronx. Chris Kimball says to substitute feta, but I think I would prefer to substitute a non-traditional Monterrey Jack and/or sour cream.
  3. Chris Kimball says to use a fine mesh strainer and a 2-cup measuring cup in step 6. I used a fat separator, which was much more efficient than skimming the fat from the measuring cup using a spoon.
  4. Leftover beef can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, and you should gently reheat before serving, being careful not to dry out the meat.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $34.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:30 PM. Game time 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Beef Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups beer
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 ounces (4 to 6) dried ancho chiles
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large onion
3-lbs boneless beef short ribs
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (1 cup)
Lime wedges

  1. Lightly crush your 6 garlic cloves and peel. Remove and discard the stem and seeds from your dried ancho chiles and tear into 1″ pieces. Slice your onion into 1/2″-thick rounds. Trim away any excess fat from your beef and cut into 2″ cubes.
  2. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. In a Dutch oven, add bottle of beer, 1/2-cup vinegar, ancho peppers, tomato paste, crushed garlic, 3 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. Set out onion rounds into a single layer on bottom of pot, which will keep the meat elevated. Arrange the beef on top of onion in single layer.
  3. Cover your Dutch Oven and bake at 325-degrees for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
  4. While the meat is cooking, prepare the cabbage-carrot slaw; see recipe below.
  5. When the meat is browned and tender, remove the beef using a slotted spoon and set in a large bowl. Loosely tend with aluminum foil.
  6. Empty pot through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Do not wash pot. Fish out and discard the bay leaves and onions. Put the remaining solids into a blender. Allow liquid to settle for 5-minutes so that the far rises to the surface. Add de-fatted liquid to blender, supplementing with water so that you are adding a full 1 cup.  Blend for 2 minutes until smooth. Add sauce back to the empty pot.
  7. Use two forks to shred the beef into bite-sized pieces. Once the beef is cool enough to handle you can shred with your hands.
  8. Bring the sauce up to a simmer over a medium burner, add shredded beef and mix to ensure evenly coated. Adjust salt according to your taste.
  9. Finish making the cabbage/carrot cole slaw, see step 3 below. Warm your tortillas in the microwave. Crumble the queso fresco onto a serving small platter, and slice a lime into wedges.
  10. Spoon beef mixture onto tortillas, topping as desired with cabbage slaw, queso fresco and lime juice.

Cabbage/Carrot Slaw Ingredients:
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 head thinly slice green cabbage (6 cups)
1 onion
1 large carrot
1 jalapeño chile
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. While the beef cooks, prepare the cole slaw. In a large bowl, add 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Whisk until dissolved.
  2. Prepare your vegetables adding to the vinegar mixture as you go. Slice the cabbage in half, remove the core, and slice thinly. Peel the onion and slice thinly. Peel the carrot and shred. Remove the stem and seeds from the jalapeno, and mince. Toss to cover everything in vinegar, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour (but up to 24 hours).
  3. Drain cole slaw and mix in chopped cilantro just before serving.

Simple Steak Tacos

January 13, 2014

I have been making simple steak tacos for a few years, and wanted to update you with the progress I’ve made on my recipe over the past few months. Chris Kimball doesn’t have much in the way of similar recipes. While they only take about 20 minutes of effort, they do take just over 2 hours to make. So far, it’s 4-star, but this particular batch came out closer to 4-1/2 stars, because of the refried beans and extra-slow cooking of the steak (This batch took an extra 30 minutes for the chicken broth to evaporate).

Easy and delicious
Easy and delicious


  1. I love shredded steak tacos, but they take longer and it’s impossible to make them on a weekday. This recipe will yield tender, but not necessarily shred-able.
  2. My kids love ground beef tacos, a la Taco bell, and I do make homemade ground beef tacos occasionally for a quick weekday meal. But on days that I also eat dinner (I usually don’t eat dinner during on weekday), these make a much better alternative but will take at least an hour longer to make.
  3. If you have a little refried beans then apply a thin layer to tortilla before assembling your tacos.
  4. Of course we all know Mexican food is not one of Chris Kimball’s strengths. His only recipe is for medium-rare flank steak instead of slow-cooked chuck.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $9
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium. (if you have a splatter screen for browning the beef)
Start time: 4:00. Dinner time: 6:15

Chris Kimball doesn’t have a steak taco recipe. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

1-1/2 to 2 pounds Chuck steak, about 3/4″ thick.
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion
Total of 1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3 cups chicken broth (22 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Corn or flour tortillas
Garnish with your choice of: chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, grated Monterrey jack cheese, salsa, sour cream, diced avocado (or guacamole) and lime wedge.

  1. Separate steak along its natural fat lines, then cut up into 3/4″ cubes. Pat the cubes dry and season with 1/2 teaspoon table salt.
  2. Pre-heat 2 teaspoon vegetable oil in a Dutch oven until just smoking, then brown beef on all sides in two batches; about 8 minutes per batch. Set cooked beef aside on a large plate. Repeat this step with the second batch of beef using 1 additional teaspoon of oil.
  3. Meanwhile dice onion and peel garlic cloves. Also begin to pre-heat the oven to 350-degree.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to the now empty Dutch Oven and saute diced onion together with 1/2 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes, using the moisture of the onion to scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pan.
  5. After the onion has softened add the cumin, coriander, cayenne and chili powder and saute for 1 minutes.
  6. Press garlic directly into Dutch oven and saute for 30 seconds.
  7. Add the chicken broth and cider vinegar, and use the moisture to deglaze the pan. Add the meat back to Dutch oven, and bring up to a simmer. Transfer to your 350-degree oven for 1-1/2 hours. Cook, uncovered, until meat is very tender, stirring beef half way through.
  8. Mix in chopped cilantro after your beef is done cooking.
  9. Prepare your corn tortillas my placing directly over the flame of a medium burner (without any pan), until warmed and very slightly charred.
  10. Serving with your choice of toppings.

Guinness Beef Stew

November 9, 2013

Cook’s Country is currently airing an episode featuring Guinness Beef Stew. Unlike most stews, this recipe skips the searing of the meat on the stove-top, because it takes too long and causes a lot of splattered grease everywhere. Instead, this stew is cooked uncovered in the oven; the open pot allows the meat on top to brown, and the evaporating liquid helps concentrate the flavors. Chris Kimball says that the stew will be ready after just 2-1/2 hours in the oven. I at mine after 3 hours (due to scheduling conflict), but 3-1/2 hours would have been much better. As eaten, it was only 3-1/2 stars. The flavors were nicely balanced, but were a little too subdued. More browning in the oven would have added more flavor. If I had a little more time (or started a little earlier), I’m sure it would have been 4-to-4-1/2 stars.

French Stews still Reign Supreme

French Stews still Reign Supreme


  1. The recipe calls for Guinness Draught, but I could only find the ubiquitous Guinness Extra Stout. While Chris Kimball says that Extra Stout is too bitter, he said it could be used in a pinch. So in lieu of “We prefer the flavor of Guinness Draught in this stew (with Guinness Extra Stout a close second), but you can substitute another brand of stout or a dark ale, such as Rogue Chocolate Stout or Newcastle Brown Ale.”
  2. Cooking times were understated. I adjusted the cooking times upward from 2-1/2 hours to 3 hours below, but consider cooking for 3-1/2 hours.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 2:00 PM. Finish time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

4-lb boneless beef chuck roast
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1-1/4 cups Guinness Draught
1-1/2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 pound carrots
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

  1. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 325-degrees. Pull roast apart at seams, trim away any excess or hard fat, and cut into 1-1/2″ pieces. Sprinkle beef cubes with salt and pepper.
  2. finely chop onions. Add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in Dutch oven placed over medium-high burner. Saute onions for 10 minutes until well-browned.
  3. Add tomato paste and use a garlic press to press the garlic directly into pan. Cook for 2 minutes until the mixture turns rust-colored. Add 1/4 cup flour and continue to cook for 1 minute.
  4. Use a whisk to incorporate chicken broth, 3/4-cup (1/2 bottle or 6 ounces) Guinness, brown sugar, and minced thyme, then use the liquid to de-glaze the fond. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, then simmer for 3 minutes. Add beef cubes and bring back up to a simmer.
  5. Leaving simmering Dutch oven uncovered, put into the pre-heated oven and cook for 2 hours at 325-degrees, stirring after 45 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile wash and peel carrots, and cut into 1″ segments. Wash the potatoes, but leave the potatoes unpeeled; cut them into 1″ pieces.
  7. After the 2 hours has elapsed, mix in potatoes and carrots. Continue to cook for 1 more hour, until the beef and vegetables become tender; stirring after 30 minutes.
  8. Add remaining 1/2-cup Guinness and minced parsley. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste, and serve.
I was only able to find "extra stout"

I was only able to find “extra stout”

Cuban Shredded Beef (Vaca Frita)

September 21, 2013

Having just returned from Mexico my Latin taste buds are their peak, so I was excited to try this Cuban recipe. While I’ve never heard of Vaca Frita (Fried Cow) before, it seemed similar to cuban Ropa Vieja (which means “Old Clothes”).  However, after tasting I see that the recipes are very different, the Vaca Frita is browned, and is not shredded. Traditionally, this recipe is made with expensive Skirt Steak, but Chris Kimball substitutes inexpensive Chuck Roast.  I was very skeptical that $3/lb chuck could be even remotely compare to $10/lb skirt steak. But the smashing technique called for in step 8 of this recipe is brilliant, fooling my eyes into thinking I was really eating beef costing over three times the price.

Great technique made for an amazing dinner

Great technique made for an amazing dinner

Comments and Issues:

  1. I used the full onion called for in the recipe, but I think that 1 regular sized onion was too much. It may not have helped that I overcooked the onion a bit, turning it sweet.
  2. I didn’t have orange juice, so I squeezed squeezed half an orange.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Dinner time 6:30 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today is as follows:

2 Lbs boneless beef chuck-eye roast
Kosher salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 limes: 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon juice, plus lime wedges for serving
1 onion
2 tablespoons dry sherry

  1. When selecting the beef, choose a well-marbled roast.
  2. Pull the roast apart at the fat seams. Trim away any large knobs of fat, but don’t remove all visible fat. You will use some of the rendered fat in stead of vegetable oil. Cut the beef into 1-1/2″ cubes.
  3. Place 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-high burner, add beef cubes, 2 cups of water and 1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (or 5/8 teaspoons table salt).  Bring up to a boil.
  4. Reduce burner to low, cover the skillet, and allow beef to gently simmer for 1h45m, until the beef becomes very tender. Chris Kimball suggest that you check the beef every 30 minutes, adding water so that the lower 1/3 of beef remains submerged. However, I saw very little evaporation during the simmering, and did not have to add any water.
  5. Meanwhile, press 3 garlic cloves directly into a small bowl, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin. In a second small bowl, add orange juice, lime zest and lime juice. Set aside both bowls until Step 12.  Cut onion in half and thinly slice.
  6. After 1h45m, increase burner to medium and remove the lid from skillet to allow the water to evaporate. Allow to simmer for 3 to 8 minutes, or until all water evaporates and the beef begins to sizzle.
  7. Using slotted spoon, move the cooked beef to a rimmed baking sheet, then pour fat from skillet into a small bowl.
  8. Place sheet of aluminum foil over beef and, flatten the beef with a meat pounder or a heavy sauté pan until it is 1/8″ pieces. Pick through to remove any large pieces of fat or connective tissue. Some of the beef will become shreds, but most will resemble skirt steak in texture. If some pieces are too large you can just tear them in half.
  9. Rinse out the skillet and dry it using paper towels to dry; put over high burner. Add back 1-1/2 teaspoons reserved fat to skillet (supplement with vegetable oil if you don’t have enough). Pre-heat until the fat begins to sizzle, then saute onion and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions become golden brown and some spots become charred.
  10. Add sherry and another 1/4 cup water. Cook for 2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Empty onion to bowl (you can use your serving bowl to minimize clean-up).
  11. Put now empty skillet back over high burner, adding 1-1/2 teaspoons reserved fat (supplement with vegetable oil if you don’t have enough). Again, pre-heat until the fat begins to sizzle. Add beef and cook for between 2 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until beef becomes crusty and dark golden brown.
  12. Decrease burner to low heat, and move beef to sides of skillet. Saute garlic mixture in the center of the skillet for 30 seconds, then remove skillet from burner. Add orange juice mixture and sauteed onion, and stir until combined.
  13. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately with wedges of lime.
A meat pounder made it look like skirt steak

A meat pounder made it look like skirt steak

Grilled Beef Kofte

July 7, 2013

I was speaking with a Turkish friend last week and they mention Kofte, which happened to be one of the main recipes from the current issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Chris Kimball promises that they are only a little more work than hamburgers, but offer much richer flavor and texture. While they are not a lot of actual work, they do require a couple of additional hours of planning, and make a noticeably bigger mess in the kitchen. However, don’t let the long list of ingredients deter you, most of the spices you will likely already have in your pantry. My shopping list consisted merely of 4 items: fresh mint, ground beef, pita bread, and sunflower seeds (to make homemade tahini). The bottom-line is that the kebobs are good, and an interesting alternative to grilled hamburgers. I liked the coolness of the yogurt sauce. But they are only 3-1/2 stars, and worthy only of making occasionally, not a complete abandonment of the time-tested hamburgers.

Served as sandwiches or on a skewer.

Served as sandwiches or on a skewer.


  1. I did not want to spend $6 for tahini, because I only needed 2 tablespoons and have never used it before. As I was looking for substitutes (the best online suggestion seemed to be peanut butter), it became clear that tahini was just ground sesame seeds. So I just made it myself using 50-cents of raw sunflower seeds. I’ll post how I did it later in the week.
  2. I accidentally minced my onion rather than grating it. I’m not sure if it made a big difference.
  3. A lot of times when Chris Kimball uses a disposable aluminum roasting pan inside a charcoal grill it is to put the coals around the pan, leaving a cool zone directly above the pan. But for this recipe, he puts the coals directly into the disposable pan to concentrate the heat. The high heat offers a great opportunity to really do a good job cleaning (scraping and wiping with news paper) and seasoning the grill (rubbing paper towel dipped in vegetable oil).
  4. If you are using a gas grill, then you should turn all burners on high and preheat for 15 minutes. Plus cook covered instead of uncovered in step 6.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15. Including pita, but substituting 50-cents in sunflower seeds for $6 of tahini.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time: 4:30. Dinner time: 6:30

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here and he has a lamb variation here. The descriptions of how I prepared everything today are given below:

Yogurt-Garlic Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt

Kofte Ingredients:
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts (2-1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 lbs 80% lean ground beef
1/2 cup grated onion
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/3 cup minced fresh mint
1-1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 large disposable aluminum roasting pan
8 metal or bamboo skewers
8 pieces of Pita bread (if making a sandwiches)

  1. To prepare the sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl (I used a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup) using a garlic press on the garlic. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator.
  2. Peel the garlic clove and add to the bowl of a food processor. Add pine nuts, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the food processor. Puree for 35 to 35 seconds until it forms a course paste, then empty into a large bowl.
  3. Grate an onion on the large wholes of a box grater, draining away the juices, so that you have 1/2-cup of onion pulp. Mince parsley and mint leaves.
  4. Add ground beef, grated onion, minced parsley and mint, plus 2 teaspoons gelatin to the large bowl with the spice paste. Use your hands to combine thoroughly; kneading for about 2 minutes.  Divide into 8 equal balls, and then roll each ball into a sausage-shaped cylinder about 5″-long and 1″-thick. Insert a skewer down the center of each cylinder and place on a baking sheet that is lightly sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, but you can do this the night before (up to 24-hours).
  5. To prepare the charcoal grill, ignite a chimney starter 2/3-filled with charcoal (about 4 quarts), and allow about 15 minutes to fully ignite until partially covered with white ash. Open bottom and top vents completely. Use a skewer or paring knife to poke 12 holes in the bottom of your disposable, aluminum pan and set in the center of the grill. Once ignited, empty the lite coals INTO the aluminum pan. Cover with lid to preheat the grill for 5 minutes before cleaning (scraping and oiling the grill grate).
  6. Put skewers directly over the coals at a 45-degree angle to the grill grate. Cook uncovered without moving them for 6 minutes, until nicely browned. The meat should easily release from grill when ready. Flip over and cook for another 6 minutes. The meat will be done when the internal temperate reaches 160-degrees. Place on serving platter or wrap in yogurt-sauce covered pita.

Cuban Picadillo

April 20, 2013

While Chris Kimball tries to translate Cuban-Style Picadillo into a simple weeknight recipe, his recipe fails badly. I know Chris Kimball’s Yankee palate usually under-spices his Latin-themed recipes, but his problem in this case is that he seems more interested in attaining tender ground beef than developing the flavors by browning the meat. His trade-off left the recipe with bland, but tender, ground beef/pork. I recommend that you do not make this recipe. You will be disappointed. It is my lowest rated recipe in the past year. The leftovers sat in the refrigerator, until I got tired of looking at them and threw them away. A 2-1/2 star disappointment.

Disappointing; but easy to make.

Disappointing; but easy to make.


  1. While Chris Kimball recommends serving Picadillo with rice and black beans, and optionally topped with chopped parsley, toasted almonds, or chopped hard-boiled egg, I didn’t include any of that as the supposition was that this was going to be an easy weeknight meal.
  2. There is also a variation with fried potatoes. I guess the fried, diced potatoes might have helped the flavor.

Rating: 2-1/2 stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 5:00 PM. Dinner time: 6:10 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

1 lb ground beef (85% lean)
1 lb ground pork
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Salt and pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 garlic cloves, minced
14-1/2 ounce can whole tomatoes
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup raisins
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  1. In a medium bowl, combine beef, pork, water, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon table salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Allow to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stem and seed you bell pepper and cut into 2″ pieces. Cut the onion in half and then into 2″ pieces. Process the bell pepper and onions separately if you have a small food processor. Pulse about 12 times until the pieces are chopped to about 1/4″.
  3. Place a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and preheat until the oil begins to shimmer. Saute chopped vegetables, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt for 6 to 8 minutes. While the vegetables cook, drain your tomatoes and chop them coarsely, and peel your garlic cloves. When the vegetables have begun to brown, press your 6 garlic cloves and saute them for 30 seconds, then add tomatoes and 3/4 cup wine, using the liquid to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until it becomes almost dry.
  4. Add 1/2 cup beef broth, 1/2 cup raisins and 3 bay leaves bring up to a simmer, then reduce burner to medium-low. Add meat to the pot in 2″ chunks. Return to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and eventually using 2 forks to break the meat into 1/4-to-1/2″ chunks. Meanwhile coarsely chop your olives, and rinse your capers.
  5. Remove and bay leaves, and add chopped olives and capers. Increase burner to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes. The sauce should become thick and should coat the meat. Add vinegar and adjust seasoning (salt, pepper and vinegar) according to your taste. Serve.

Taco Bake

March 16, 2013

Young teenagers can be finicky eaters, so for a recent gathering of my kids’ friends I make Chris Kimball’s Taco Bake.  It’s a hybrid between ground beef tacos and nachos, but I think taste better than either one individually. Of course, steak tacos beat out this recipe in terms of taste. If this recipe in the analogy section of the SAT, it would read “Guacamole is to Seven-Layer Dip, what Nachos are to Taco Bake”. But It was a big hit with the 13-and-14 year old boys, and I thought the recipe was delicious and easy to make. A nice weekday for the kids. 4-stars.

A step up from plain nachos

A step up from plain nachos


  1. If you can’t find Ro-Tel tomatoes, you can substitute a 14-1/2-oz can of regular diced tomatoes and a 4-oz can of chopped green chiles. Of that use 6 tablespoons of tomato juice and 2 tablespoons of chile juice.
  2. Alternatively, you can use 4 ounces of Colby and 4 ounces of Monterrey Jack cheese in lieu of 8 ounces of Colby Jack cheese.
  3. If you would like to make it ahead-of-time, prepare the ground beef filling through step 6 and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover the baking dish using plastic wrap to cover, which will allow you to and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Remove the plastic wrap and resume the menu on Step 7, but increasing the cooking time to 20 minutes.

Rating: 4 stars
Cost: $13
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 5:00 PM.  Ready:  6:00 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

16-oz can refried beans
2 (10-oz) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
8-oz Colby Jack cheese
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion
Salt and ground black pepper
4 medium garlic cloves
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 lbs 90% lean ground beef
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
12 taco shells
2 scallions

  1. Drained Ro-Tel tomatoes and set aside 1/2 cup of juices. Peel garlic cloves. Mince onion. Mince cilantro leaves.
  2. Set an oven rack to the upper-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 475 degrees.
  3. Line a 13″x9″ baking dish with aluminum foil. Add the refried beans, half the drained tomatoes, minced cilantro, and hot sauce into baking dish and mix until combined, then smooth into an event thickness. Evenly sprinkle half the cheese (1 cup) over the bean mixture.
  4. Preheat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil a 12″ skillet over medium burner until the oil begins to shimmer Add minced onion and 1/2 teaspoon table salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion softens, then press garlic directly into skillet, and add chili powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano. Saute for 1 minute.
  5. Add ground beef and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until it is no longer pink, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Add the remaining tomatoes, the 1/2 cup reserved tomato juice, cider vinegar, and brown sugar.
  6. Bring up to a simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes until the mixture is nearly dry. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste.
  7. While the meat cooks, shred cheese and break the taco shells into 1″ pieces. Also slice scallions thinly.
  8. Evenly distribute the beef in the baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup more cheese over beef. Scatter the taco shell pieces over the top, then finally sprinkle with the final 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
  9. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the filling begins to bubble and the top becomes spotted brown. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the sliced scallions before serving.

Classic Pot Roast

February 2, 2013

When speaking of food, “old-fashioned” usually implies something tried-and-true, delicious, and taking more time or effort than today’s culture is willing to invest. I think of Pot Roast as old-fashioned; requiring more time than effort. So why haven’t I ever in my life made a Pot Roast? Because If I’m going to spend 6 hours making dinner, then I want it to be spectacular, and my impression of Pot Roast has always been that it is merely average. Today’s recipe was a success with both boys (the picky eater and the Junior Chef) both eating several helpings.  I did learn a few things: (1) a 3-1/2 pound roast is too small to divide into two parts while still remaining slice-able. Use a 4-1/2 pounder, or don’t separate into two mini-roasts is Step 1. (2) Check the roast after 3 hours in the oven. Overcooking will result in a dry roast. (3) Start the roast by Noon for a 6PM dinner so that you can keep the oven temperature to 300-degrees.  There were a few other minor issues (see comments below), but it turned out delicious; 4-stars.

I had to slice thick than 1/2"; too tender.

I had to slice thick than 1/2″; too tender.


  1. My Pot Roast was a little dry, which I think was a result of overcooking. Because I started the roast late (at 1PM), I increase the temperature to 315-degrees to ensure dinner wasn’t pushed past 7PM. A little more planning on my part will mean ensure that I can keep the oven temperature to 300-degrees.
  2. The Roast size (3-1/2 to 4 pounds) was perfect for a hungry family of four (including mashed potatoes). So Chris Kimball claims that this will serves 6 to 8 people seems too optimistic. I think 4-1/2 pounds is a better size, both in terms of serving more people (and having some leftovers), but also because splitting a 3-1/2 pound roast into two mini-roasts meant that the roasts were too tender, too easily shed-able, so that I had to cut into 1″-slices rather than 1/2″-slices.
  3. This recipe makes way too much gravy; 3 cups when I needed less than 1 cup. I would cut the gravy ingredients in half for those given below. The extra gravy wasn’t worth the 2 extra cups of broth I added in Step 10.
  4. Chris Kimball says that chilling the whole cooked roast overnight will improve the flavor. Also that it will be more moist.
  5. The recipe calls for three pieces of twine per min-roast. If you plan for four pieces of twine, then you should be good. But by starting with three, I ended up use five pieces to fix it.
  6. While 1 carrot did indeed yield 1 cup of chopped carrots, I needed 2 celery stalks to get the 3/4 of a cup.

Rating: 4-stars
Cost: $16
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Started: 1:00 PM.  Ready:  7:00 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

3-1/2 to 4-pound boneless beef chuck-eye roast
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions
1 large carrot, medium chop (1 cup)
1 to 2 celery rib, medium chop (3/4 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves
Total of 2 to 3 cup beef broth
Total of 3/4 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves (added before the 4 hour’s cooking)
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (added at the end)
Ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  1. If you have a chuck-eye roast, then you will see that it has a natural seam. Pull it into two smaller roasts and trim away any large chunks of fat. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1-1/2 teaspoons of table salt), and put on a wire rack and allow to sit at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. After 30 minutes, cut 2 medium onions in half and slice them thinly (sliced regularly; not pole-to-pole), which should yield about 2 cups. Place a Dutch oven over medium burner and add 2 tablespoons butter. Once the foaming subsides, add sliced onions and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until they are beginning to brown; stir occasionally.
  3. While onions cook, adjust a rack to lower-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 300 degrees. Chop your carrots and celery into medium chunks. Peel 2 medium garlic cloves. Also cut eight 12″ lengths of kitchen twine.
  4. Add chopped carrot and celery to Dutch oven, and continue to cook for 5 more minutes; again stir occasionally. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  5. Add in 1 cup beef broth, 1/2 cup red wine, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 bay leaf, and 1 thyme sprig. Bring up to simmer.
  6. Meanwhile, use paper towels to pat the beef dry. Season liberally with freshly ground pepper. Tie up each piece of meat separately into loaf shape using 4 to 5 pieces of kitchen twine, which will ensure even cooking.
  7. Place meat on top of vegetables. Cover Dutch oven with large piece of Aluminum foil then cover with the lid, which will trap all of the moister inside the pot. Bake at 300-degrees for 3-1/2 to 4 hours, rotating pot halfway through cooking time.
  8. Check the roast after 3 hours for doneness to ensure that your don’t overcook. When done, a sharp knife will easily slip in-and-out of the meat.
  9. Allow the roast to rest on a cutting board loosely tented with aluminum foil while making the gravy.
  10. Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a 4-cup measuring cup (I only ended up with 1 cup of liquid). Let to sit for 5 minutes and skim any fat from the surface. Add enough broth so that you have 3 cups of liquid.
  11. Fish the bay leaf and spring of thyme from the vegetables and put in blender. Add the 3-cups liquid to the blender. Blend for 2 minutes until it becomes smooth.
  12. Add gravy to a saucepan placed over medium burner to heat. Meanwhile, remove the twine and slice the roast into 1/2″-thick pieces. Arranging on a serving plate.
  13. Finish the gravy by adding chopped thyme, another 1/4-cup red wine and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Pour part of the gravy directly over the meat on the serving platter, and pass additional gravy in a gravy boat.

Crispy Orange Beef

January 12, 2013

Crispy Orange Beef is a typical Szechuan. Officially it’s supposed to be made using dried-tangerine peels, but Chris Kimball recommends using a vegetable peeler to remove peel and some pith from navel oranges. The beef is deep fried in 3 cups of oil, but it cut into thin strips so that it cooks quickly. The beef is rich and delicious, but was a little too heavy. Not because of the oil, but the flavors were not quite balance. A little brightness would have made for a better meal. Still, it was a delicious and interesting, and not too much work. 4-stars.

Rich and delicious Szechuan Beef

Rich and delicious Szechuan Beef


  1. Chris Kimball says to use flap meat, which I wasn’t able to find in my regular 3 supermarkets, so I used skirt steak which had a similar open grain.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $17.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

Rice Ingredients:
1 cups long grain white rice
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter or vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Beef Ingredients:
1-1/2 pounds beef flap meat
1+2 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons cornstarch
10 x 3″ strips orange peel
1/4 cup juice (2 oranges)
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 cups vegetable oil
1 jalapeño chile
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 scallions

  1. Slice beef with the grain into approximately 2-1/2″ to 3″ wide strips, then slice against the grain into 1/2″ wide slices. If the slices are much more than 1/2″ thick, then slice them in half so that they aren’t quite so thick and will cook more quickly.
  2. In a medium bowl, add beef and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Toss together with 6 tablespoons of cornstarch until they are evenly coated. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and arrange beef strips into a single layer. Freeze for 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, Line a second rimmed baking sheet with 3 layers of paper towels. Use a vegetable peeler to remove oranges peel into 3″ strips, ensuring you peel deep enough to include some pith. Set aside for now. In a small bowl, juice the oranges and remove any seeds, then combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, molasses, sherry, vinegar, and sesame oil.
  4. Put rice into a strainer and rinse under running water until the water runs clear; this will remove the excess starch from the rice. Pre-heat the oil/butter in a saucepan over a medium burner. Increase burner to high. Add the rinsed rice and salt and bring to a boil. Stir (or swirl pan) to combine, then reduce the burner to low, cover and allow to simmer for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove rice from heat, remove lid and place a clean kitchen towel. Allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes, then use a fork to fluff just before serving.
  5. Set a Dutch oven over a medium burner and heat 3 cups vegetable oil to 375-degrees. In 3 batches, add 1/3 of beef and fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown; stirring occasionally. Remove beef and place on paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Make sure oil returns to 375-degrees before frying the remaining batches.
  6. While the beef cooks remove stem and seeds of jalapeno, then slice lengthwise into thin strips. Also slice the orange peels lengthwise into strips, which should yield about 1/4-cup. Slice your scallions on a bias. Peel your garlic and grate your ginger.
  7. Place a 12″ skillet over medium-high burner and use 2 tablespoons of the frying oil. Pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add orange peel and jalapeño strips and saute for 2 minutes. Press garlic directly into skillet, add grated ginger, and ­pepper flakes. Saute briefly, only 45 seconds, before using the soy sauce mixture to de-glaze the pan. After 45 seconds, add the beef and scallions and toss. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.

Herb-Roasted Prime Rib and Potatoes

December 29, 2012

I’ve never made prime rib before. Partially because standing rib roasts are so expensive (usually cost at least $80), but also because Prime Rib always seemed bland; tender but bland. So I made this herb-roaster prime rib for Christmas dinner, because it seemed to offer more interesting flavor. In addition, I used Chris Kimball’s home, dry-aging technique. After 5 days in the back of my refrigerator wrapped in cheesecloth, the roast resembled something costing twice as much. In the end, I was happy with the dry-aging technique, which improves the beef’s texture and concentrates it’s flavor. But I very disappointed with the recipe, because the herb-flavor did not penetrate the beef. Worse yet, Most of the herbs were trimmed away with the fat cap. 3-stars. Next time I will stick to a more traditional jus, so that the added flavor of the the jus can be enjoyed in every bite.

It looks delicious, but only 3-star

It looks delicious, but only 3-star


  1. This recipe does not seem to be as thoroughly tested as most of Chris Kimball’s recipes. In fact, it is not from Cook’s Illustrated, but rather from The Best One-Dish Suppers. An example of the issue, while Chris Kimball mentions adding oil in step 5, he fails to add it to the ingredient list or say how much oil to add or what type to use. I used two tablespoons of olive oil, which seemed okay
  2. Chris Kimball over-rests the roast for 30 minutes. True, the internal temperature of the beef doesn’t fall much in those 30 minutes, but the outside portions of the beef were noticeably cool. I’d recommend that you start to carve no later than after 20 minutes, and keep the cut beef tented with aluminum for until dinner.
  3. I was worried because Chris Kimball usually under-estimates cooking time for potatoes, so I par-cooked the potatoes for 8 minutes in microwave. I tossed them with 1 tablespoon olive oil and covered with plastic wrap, and shook them half way through microwaving.
  4. I bought a 3-rib roast weighing about 7-1/2 pounds. But I cut my roast into two smaller roasts (one roast had 2 ribs and the other had 1 rib). My kids prefer the end-cuts, and are happier if the beef isn’t too red.

Cost: $35
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 1:00 pm. Dinner Time:  6:00.

Chris Kimball’s original version of this recipe is here. His dry aging technique is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it this week are given below:

7-lb beef standing rib roast (3 or 4 ribs)
Salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3 pounds small red potatoes

  1. About a week before dinner, remove the roast from packaging, rinse well, and pat completely dry with paper towels.  Wrap the meat with three layers of cheesecloth, Place on wire rack with the fat side up; set over a sheet pan and place in the back of refrigerator (the coldest part). After 24 hours, remove, unwrap, discard cheesecloth and wrap with a fresh piece. Place back in refrigerator for up to 6 days undisturbed.
  2. Plan on removing the roast from the refrigerator about 5 1/2 hours before serving. Remove cheesecloth, cut away the fat and trim the ends and any discolored parts of roast.  Allow roast to sit a room temperature for 2 hours for more even cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, set an oven rack to the bottom position in your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees for 20 minutes. Prepare your V-rack (set inside a roasting pan) by coating it with vegetable oil spray.
  4. Pat the roast dry using paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Put roast on your V-rack, and roast at 450-degrees for 1 hour until becomes well browned.
  5. Meanwhile, add the minced thyme and rosemary, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1 teaspoon sugar to a small bowl, and stir to combine.
  6. Remove the roast from the oven and reduce to 250-degrees. Take the herb-mixture and evenly spread over the roast. Bake for between 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the internal temperature of the beef registers 130-degrees for medium-rare; 140-degrees for medium and 155-degrees for medium-well.
  7. While the roast cooks scrub your potatoes and cut them in half.
  8. Put roast of a cutting board and allow to rest for 20 minutes, and turn up your oven to 450-degrees. Remove the v-rack from the pan and discard all but 3 tablespoon of the rendered fat from the bottom of the pan. Add cut potatoes to pan, season with salt and pepper and toss until evenly coated. Arrange them so that the cut side faces down in the pan. Roast until the potatoes are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  9. Just before the potatoes are ready, carve the roast. Hold the roast steady with a carving knife, and cut along the bone to remove. Set the roast cit-side down and slice across the grain into 1/2″-thick slabs. Keep the cut beef tented with aluminum foil until ready to eat.


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