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

Comments:

  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.

French Pork Stew

November 16, 2013

Today, I am posting my 400th recipe. At times, my life as I live it today bears almost no resemblance to my life when I posted my first recipe; this Creole Fried Chicken on New Year’s day 2010. That was a lifetime ago; so much has happened, so many recipes cooked, and so many lessons learned. Just as Chris Kimball has forever transformed my daily cuisine, this blog has taught me patience at a time when patience is what I most needed.

Well-Balanced, good, but a bit mild disappointment.

Well-Balanced, good, but a bit mild disappointment.

When this recipe was first published a few months ago, I was very excited to make it during peak “stew season”; that time of year when chilly outdoor temperatures make my warm, aroma-filled kitchen feel like the most inviting place on earth. In that sense, this recipe was a complete success. But while the hours of wonderful smells evoked the expected Pavlovian response, the actual stew was a bit of a disappointment. The stew was very well balance, but I had expected it to be more flavorful. After going to the trouble (and expense) of finding 3 kinds of pork I was not excepting it to be so mild. The hints of smokiness were barely discernible (using ham hocks). Overall, the stew makes a nice meal, but I cannot help but feel a bit disappointed in the outcome. Beef stew is still your best bet. 3-1/2 stars.

Comments:

  1. While the recipe calls for either 1-1/4 lbs of meaty smoked ham shank or 2 to 3 smoked ham hocks, I would recommend against the ham hocks. I used 3 ham hocks, but it yielded so little edible meat that I question if it’s worth the effort. I wish I could have found a smoked ham shank (whatever that is).
  2. Chris Kimball says that this recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance. In fact, the recipe gets better the second day.

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:

Herb Bundle:
10″ square of triple-thickness cheesecloth
6 parsley sprigs fresh parsley
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 whole cloves

Stew Ingredients:
4-lbs boneless pork butt roast
2 onions
5 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
1 meaty smoked ham shank (1-1/4 lbs) or 3 smoked ham hocks (2-lbs)
4 carrots
1-lb Yukon Gold potatoes
12 ounces kielbasa sausage, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded (8 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

  1. Cut a square 10″ piece of cheesecloth (triple-thickness, as customarily packaged). Add parsley springs, thyme sprigs, unpeeled garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns and whole cloves. Fold or break parsley and thyme so that it fits, then tie the herb bundle using kitchen twine.
  2. Prepare pork butt by pulling apart at its seems. Trim away and discard any hard or excess fat, and cut into 1″-to-1-1/2″ chunks.  Cut the onions in half, and cut away the non-root end, but leave the root-end attached.
  3. Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 325-degrees and set an oven rack to the middle of the oven, making sure there is enough room for the covered Dutch oven.
  4. In a large Dutch oven, add 5 cups water, 4 cups chicken broth, ham chunks and whole smoked ham (or ham hocks). Place over medium-high burner until it comes up to a simmer. Use a spoon to skim off any of the scum that rises to the top.
  5. Bake for 1-1/2 hours at 325-degrees, until the pork is tender.
  6. Meanwhile, peel carrots and cut off the narrow end, and cut the thick end in half lengthwise. This will leave you with three equally thick pieces per carrot, which you can then cut into 1/2″ pieces. Scrub your potatoes and cut into 3/4″ pieces.
  7. Use a slotted spoon to fish out and discard the onion and herb bundle. Remove the ham (or ham hocks) to a plate. Add carrots and potatoes to pot, cover and continue to bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, once cooled, use two forks to shred the ham into bite-size pieces. Throw away the bones, skin and any large chunks of fat (esp from ham hocks). Cut the kielbasa in half lengthwise (it will probably break into two or three pieces), and cut into 1/2″-thick slices. Shred the cabbage which should yield about 8 cups (even though that seems like a lot), and chop 1/4-cup of fresh parsley.
  9. After vegetables have cooked for 20 minutes, add shredded ham, kielbasa and shredded cabbage to pot. Stir briefly, cover pot, and return to oven for a final 20-minutes.
  10. Season with salt and pepper, and add chopped parsley. Serve.

Grilled Turkey Breast with Mango and Pepper Salsa

October 9, 2013

I’ve made this turkey before, but my Kingsford coals would petered, and I’ve always had to finish cooking it in the oven. Today, the charcoal didn’t die and the turkey turned out fantastic. The rich smokiness and odd shape convinced everybody that I was serving pork, but the lean turkey and flavorful, sweet topping made for an extremely healthy meal. Proof that healthy food can be delicious; if you have 3-1/2 hours. 4-1/4 stars with minimal mess.

So delicious you'll forget its healthy

So delicious you’ll forget its healthy

Comments:

  1. When I was looking back at my past blog to make the recipe, the recipe seemed hard to follow. So today I wanted to make the recipe clear and simple. I’ve also made this recipe as deli meat for my kid’s school lunches. Last year I even tried making an herb butter for the turkey (which was a mistake).
  2. I’m not completely sure why my charcoals were successful today, when they have failed in the past. My theories are: (1) the unseasonably warm temperatures helped keep the grill hotter, (2) I emptied the coals in step 6 before they were completely covered in grey ash; i.e. after 20 minutes instead of 30 minutes. That might have helped stretch out the coals burning time. (3) Or it’s possible the Kingsford may have tweaked their formula, based upon past issues.
  3. Chris Kimball tries to explain how to tie a butcher’s knot. But watching this season’s ATK gave better advice; use a double starting knot so that you can tighten your knot without slipping as you make the second knot.
  4. The recipe for this Salsa isn’t listed under the “related recipe” of the turkey, and the exact measurements weren’t given on the ATK episode. But I finally found the recipe for Mango and Pepper Salsa here.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $13.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 2:30 PM.  Ready:  6 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1 bone-in, skin-on turkey breast
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2-cup wood chips
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Ground black pepper

Mango and Pepper Salsa Ingredients:
1 large, ripe mango
1/2 large red bell pepper
1 small shallot
3 tablespoons lime juice , from 1 to 2 limes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Table salt
Cayenne pepper
1/4 cup unsalted pepitas

  1. Use your fingers to separate skin from meat, then use a knife to cut the whole skin from the breast, being careful that the skin stays in one piece. Set the skin aside for the time being. Use a boning knife to completely remove each breast half, cutting down along the rib cage and following the curve until the breasts are free. Discard the bones or save them for making turkey stock. (I ended up with 4 pounds of meat/bones for stock)
  2. Cut one 36″ length of kitchen twine and seven or eight 16″ lengths of kitchen twine.
  3. Evenly sprinkle both sides of each breast with a total of 4 teaspoons kosher salt (2 teaspoons per breast). Lay one breast on the cutting board with the cut-side facing up, then place the second breast with the cut-side facing down. Arrange so that the thick end of one breast is over the tapered end of the other breast, which will eventually result in a cylinder of turkey with a roughly equal diameter. Lay the turkey skin over the breast, tuck the ends underneath the turkey.
  4. First, loosely tie the 36″ length of twine lengthwise around the turkey. If you try to over tighten the turkey halves will fall apart, and you’ll have to start over. Then very firmly tie a 16″ length of twine cross-wise at the center of the roast (see note above about tying a double starter knot). The tighter you tie the center string the more evenly your roast will cook. Next firmly tie a 16″ length of twine cross-wise at both ends. Finally continue tying up the roast with kitchen twine until it is bound at 1″ intervals.
  5. Once the knots are tied, stretch the skin (which is already tied underneath) so that it covers as much of the roast as possible. Put the roast on a wire rack, set over a rimmed sheet pan. Place it uncovered in refrigerator for 1 hour. Meanwhile soak 1/2 cup of wood chips in water, so that they’ll smoke rather than burn.
  6. With about 20 minutes to go, ignite a full chimney started filled with charcoal. It should take about 20 minutes until the coals become fully ignited. Empty the coals on half the grill, leaving the other half without any coals. Drain the wood chips and sprinkle evenly over the coals. Allowing the grill to preheat for 5 minutes will make it easier to clean.
  7. Rub 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over the roast and sprinkle with pepper (it already has plenty of salt).
  8. Place the roast near the coals, but not directly over them. Cover and close the bottom vents half-way, then set the top vents 2/3rd-of-way closed. After 30 minutes rotate the roast 180-degrees. After another 40 minutes the internal temperature of the roast should reach 150-degrees.  If your internal temperature is not 150-degrees, begin to preheat your oven to 375-degrees because your charcoal won’t be enough.
  9. While the turkey is on the grill, make the salsa. Toast the pepitas in a small skillet for 4 to 5 minutes, and mix into salsa just before serving. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the mango. Cut the fruit away from the pit, and then cut into 1/4″ dice (Chris Kimball gives advice on dicing Mangoes). Remove pepper’s white core and seeds, and cut into 1/4″ dice. Mince the shallot and cilantro. Add all the ingredients except the toasted pepitas to a medium bowl (or serving bowl).
  10. Move roast to the hot-side and cook, covered, for 10 to 20 minutes, rotating every few minutes so that the skin browns evenly until the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees. Tent loosely with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  11. Cut away twine and slice into 1/2″-thick slices. Add the toasted pepitas to the mango salsa, and serve.

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


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.

Comments:

  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.

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.

Comments:

  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.

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

Comments:

  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.

Thai Grilled Chicken with Spicy Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

December 7, 2012

When growing up, my meals were always very straight-forward. Often just some type of protein cooked in a skillet without any seasoning (except maybe salt); simple and bland. So nowadays I tend to over-compensate; I’m always looking for interesting recipes. And while the long title of this recipe gives the appearance of being exotic, it is still kid-friendly enough where my picky-eating son can just skip the dipping sauce. The herb-rub gives a nice depth of flavor to chicken breasts. As a bonus, I loved this recipe because it allowed me to take advantage of a mild evening for grilling. Anytime you can be outside on a December evening is always a treat. I wish the great flavor of the spice rub penetrated a little deeper, but at least the sauce was there to save the day. 4-stars

Flavorful chicken that's definitely worth making

Flavorful chicken that’s definitely worth making

Chris Kimball offers the following advice if you want to prepare it in your oven. Pre-heat your oven to 450-degrees with an oven rack in the lower-middle of your oven. Put the chicken on a wire rack set over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Cook the chicken for about 30 minutes, rotating half way through baking time. When the chicken reaches 160-degrees, broil the chicken about 6″ or 7″ from the broiler element for 3 minutes until the skin becomes crispy.

Comments:

  1. The list of ingredients is somewhat long, but fish sauce is really the only thing you aren’t likely to have in your pantry. Well, of course you’ll have to make a separate trip to the supermarket for the ginger, garlic, limes and cilantro.
  2. With split chicken breasts on sale for $1/lb, this recipe was exceptionally inexpensive. Usually this recipe will cost more than $10 to prepare.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $7.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Dinner time: 6:30 PM.

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

Chicken and Brine Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
4 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 small cloves garlic
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Rub Ingredients:
12 medium cloves garlic
2″ piece fresh ginger
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. In a large bowl, add 2 quarts of water and stir in 1/3 cup sugar until dissolved. Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise. Allow to brine for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile prepare sauce by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl. The pressed garlic should yield about 1-1/2 teaspoons. Allow the sauce to sit at room temperature until dinner (at least 1 hour).
  3. Rinse chicken under running water and use paper towels to pat the chicken dry. Use your fingers to slide between the skin and the meat, being careful that the skin stays attached.
  4. The pressed garlic should yield 1/4 cup, and the minced ginger should be about 2 tablespoons. Use your hands to thoroughly combine all the rub ingredients into another small/medium bowl. Rub about 2 tablespoons of mixture under the skin of each piece of chicken. Then rub a little more mixture over all sides of the chicken. Repeat with all chicken pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing the grill.
  5. Light a full chimney start of charcoal, and allow to ignite for about 20 minutes. Evenly empty the coals over half the grill, leaving the other half empty. Pre-heat the grill grate for 5 minutes to clean more effectively, and season the grill with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
  6. Grill chicken with the skin-side down over the hot part of the grill for about 4 to 5 minutes until browned. Flip the chicken and brown the second side for another 4 to 5 minutes. After browned, move chicken to the cooler side of the grill and cover with a disposable aluminum tray. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes more until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160-degrees.
  7. When cooked, loosely tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest on serving platter for 10 minutes.

Coq au Vin

November 19, 2012

Immediately after my first trip to France in 1992, I made 10 batches of Coq au Vin in the months subsequent to my trip trying to replicate my delicious Parisian meal. Unfortunately, my efforts came up short and I abandon my attempts. Over the years I would occasionally make a mediocre Coq au Vin. My only modest success was a “Modern Coq au Vin” that I cooked for my parents, brother and sister in 2007; which was this recipe from Chris Kimball (different version than I cooked today). Today, I finally discovered where I had gone wrong all these years. I hadn’t been reducing the sauce far enough, so the flavors were not sufficiently concentrated.  My 2007 attempt reduced a bottle of wine down to 3 cups. Today I reduced the sauce down further than I ever have (down to 2 cups), create an extremely rich and velvety consistency. The sauce was the best 5-star sauce imaginable. Unfortunately, I still believe that chicken does not have the inherent richness to match this amazing sauce; certainly not super-market chicken breasts. Next time I’ll try thighs which can be cooked longer and are more flavorful. Still, I give today’s recipe 4-1/2 stars; better than any restaurant chicken in Paris.

After 20 years of trying, a home-run Coq au Vin

Comments:

  1. Coq au Vin is usually translated as chicken with wine, but I know enough French to know that chicken is Poulet. This translation is just being polite, because coq obviously translates into cock (or rooster). Most old-time recipes called for old barnyard fowl because they required a long braising to make them tender. Today’s supermarket chicken needs to be handled more gently, so do not cook past 160-degrees for white meat and 175-degrees for dark meat.
  2. Chris Kimball says to use 24 frozen pearl onions, and to thaw, drained, and pat them dry with a paper towel. In the past I have been unable to find frozen pearl onion, except sold in a disgusting pre-made cream sauce. I did try the cream sauced variety (from Birds-Eye) once, but will never use them again. Today, I did see that Birds-Eye also sells a larger bag of un-sauced, frozen pearl onions. But I already had 8 ounces of boiler onions in my kitchen from another French stew I made last month. So I used my fresh boiler onions and saved the $4. I’m still not sure if there is difference between boiler onions and pearl onions.
  3. I used 2 cups of small, fresh boiler onions, and tried a new technique which was a good alternative to the 40-minute braise that Julia Child recommends. First, roll the boiler onions between your two hands to remove as much of the papery exterior as possible. Next, slice of the stem and root end. It’s a lot of slicing because I had 30 small boiler onions. Boil them in water for 1 minute, drain them in a strainer and shock them in an ice water batch. That let me peel away any remaining exterior.
  4. Chris Kimball says to chop the bacon medium in step 1, but I cooked the bacon whole and crumbled it into small pieces after cooking. There doesn’t seem to be any real difference between the two techniques.
  5. While I do own a splatter screen, I didn’t use it today. After seeing the mess that the bacon and chicken made on my stove-top, I’d certainly remind you that this will be a good time to use it.
  6. Finally, I’d also like to mention that Julia Child adds 1/4 cup cognac. She does that to a lot of her stews, but I don’t have cognac. I didn’t add it, but it sounds like it could add some great complexity. Chris Kimball recipe doesn’t call for any cognac either.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $23.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4:30 PM. Dinner time: 7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s version of this recipe was in his 10th Anniversary America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

6-oz Thick-cut bacon
4-lbs Bone-in chicken pieces
8-oz Pearl Onions (Labelled boiler onions in my supermarket)
10-oz white mushrooms
2 medium cloves of carlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bottle medium-bodied red wine
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaf
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons minced parsley
10-0z wide egg noodles or 2 pounds russet potatoes.

  1. Cook the bacon in a dutch oven for 10 minutes over medium heat until crispy, using a spatter screen if you have one (which you will also use for the chicken). When crispy, remove bacon to paper towels and pat to remove any excess grease. Crumble bacon as set aside until ready to serve. Remove pot from heat.
  2. Meanwhile while the bacon is cooking, prepare your chicken by trimming away any excess fat. If you are using chicken breasts, remove the ribs and cut each breast in half. Dry the chicken using paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. If you have less than 2 tablespoons of bacon fat, add vegetable oil.Put the Dutch oven with the bacon fat over medium-high heat until begins to shimmer. Cook the chicken in two batches, cooking for 8 minutes per side (a total of 32 minutes). After each batch is complete remove to a plate and set aside. Again, use a splatter screen if you have one.
  4. While the chicken cooks prepare pearl onions and quarter mushrooms. If using fresh pearl onions, roll the onions between your hands to remove as much of the papery exterior as possible, then slice off stem and root ends. Add the onions to boiling water for 1 minute, empty to a strainer then shock in an ice water bath. This will help you remove any remaining outer skin.
  5. Remove all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan, and cook the quartered mushrooms and pearl onions over medium burner for 10 minutes
  6. Press garlic cloves directly into pot and add 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Cook for 30 seconds, then add flour and cook for 1 additional minute.
  7. Add wine, chicken broth and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Add thyme, bay leaves add 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  8. Return the chicken to the pot, nestling them so that they are all submerged. Cover pot and cook chicken over medium-low burner until chicken reaches correct internal temperature; 160 for white meat (20 minutes) and 175 for dark meat (40 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken when done, placing in a large bowl and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  9. While the chicken cooks, put a large pot of salted water on the stove-top and begin heating for your eggs noodles (or mashed potatoes).
  10. Reduce sauce, uncovered, for 20 minutes until the sauce has reduce to about 2 cups and is thick. If you only cooked white meat then that may take 35 minutes. Replace the chicken in the pot for last 5 minutes to reheat.
  11. Remove pot from heat and put chicken on serving platter. Fish out the 2 bay leaves, whisk in the butter and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Pour sauce over chicken and spring with bacon and parsley.

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