Prime Rib Roast Beef with Jus

January 16, 2015

I made this recipe for a very special prime rib dinner with my two sons. This is only the second time I’ve every made Prime Rib; the first time was two years ago and only 3-stars, based upon flaws in the recipe. Today’s recipe made a delicious jus, which added great flavor to every bite of this incredible tender roast. Next time I might incorporate a bit of the herb crust from the first recipe; but the jus is an absolute necessity. The results were excellent; 4-1/2 stars. An incredibly special meal.

Perfect medium (My family won't eat medium-rare)

Perfect medium (My family won’t eat medium-rare)

DRY-AGING BEEF AT HOME:
While a was able to buy my smallish, first-cut rib roast on sale for just $40, a roast that size typically sells for double that price. And to make matters even more expensive, I love dry-aged beef for its concentrated flavor and extra tenderness. But dry-aged beef is only available from the butcher (and would have cost over $100). So for a few years, I’ve been “dry-aging” my  beef at home; only on expensive cuts of beef, and only when the recipe’s tenderness requires leaving the beef pink. I explain the steps below in the instructions, but more or less you wrap it in cheese cloth and leave it to dry on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator for a week. I’m not sure why, but Chris Kimball has taken down this dry-aging technique from his website.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball says that dry-aging adds $3/lb, but the reality is that dry-aged beef is only available from butcher (who generally sells meat more expensively than my supermarket). For thicker roasts, there is a difference between the 21-day dry-aging that a butcher does, and the 7-day aging that we are capable of with our residential refrigerators. But still, it is worth the minimal amount of effort.
  2. As I mentioned above, the roast was delicious, but I think if I applied a bit of the herb mixture the roast would have been 5-stars. But, there is no need to apply herb-mixture to the fat cap.
  3. Plan on removing the roast from the refrigerator about 5-1/2 hours before dinner.
  4. Typically a first-cut beef rib roast (ribs 9 through 12) will weigh about 8-pounds. I was able to buy a smaller roast of 5-pounds, because we were only three people eating dinner. While I generally love eating leftovers, reheating prime rib loses a lot for the perfect tenderness.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $45.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start 5-1/2 hours before dinner.

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

1 first-cut beef rib roast
1-1/2 pounds oxtails
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 medium onions, cut into eighths
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt (preferably) or table salt
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, medium-bodied, such as Côtes du Rhône
1-3/4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1-3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Dry-Age Beef a week before dinner:

  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.

Day of Dinner:

  1. 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.
  2. After 1 hour, set a rack to the lowest position in your oven and pre-heat to 400-degrees. Rub the oxtails with tomato paste and add to roasting pan. Cut your onions into eighths and toss in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to cover your onions. Roast ox tails/onions for 45 minutes until the are browned; flipping oxtails half-way through cooking. Remove pan and set aside.
  3.  Reduce over temperature to just 250-degrees.
  4. After roast has stood for 2 hours, pre-heat a 12″-skillet for 4 minutes over medium burner. While the skillet pre-heats, rub the ends and fat-side of the roast with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of ground pepper.
  5. Put roast in skillet with the fat-cap down for 12 to 15 minutes; until the roast is well browned. Use tongs to stand the roast on each cut-side; browning each side for 4 minutes. (Do not brown the rib-side). Remove to a cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Use 3 or 4 lengths of kitchen twine to tie the roast back to the ribs.
  7. Push the oxtails and onions to the sides of the roasting pan, and set roast with the bone-side down. Roast for 1 hour; check the internal temperature to ensure that it is 70-degrees (adjust the oven temperature up or down depending upon the internal temperate of the roast).
  8. Continue roasting for another 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours. The roast will be rare when the center of meat registers about 122 degrees; 130 degrees for medium-rare. I cooked my roast to a kid-friendly 135-degrees.  Remove the roast and set on a cutting board; tent loosely with aluminum foil.
  9. While the roast rests, spoon off fat from roasting pan. Set roasting pan over 2 burners on your stovetop. Add wine to pan and use the liquid to de-glaze the pan; reduce by half for 3 minutes. Add beef broth, chicken broth, and thyme. Cut twine on the beef; remove ribs, and re-tend roast. Add the ribs with the meaty-side down to the roasting pan. Continue to cook for 16 to 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to 2 cups.
  10. Add any accumulated juices from the cutting board back into the pan; heat for 1 more minute. Use tongs to discard the oxtails and ribs; then strain the jus into a gravy-boat; pressing down on the onions to yield as much jus as possible.
  11. With the browned-side up, cut into 3/8″-thick slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and serve immediately, passing the jus separately.

Boeuf à la mode

December 27, 2014

Seldom does a big dinner work out so perfectly as did my luxurious Christmas diner (see the full menu here). Everything came together within 15 minutes of the estimated 5pm dinner time; a bit of a Christmas miracle given that there were 5 new recipes that I had never prepared before. The absolute star of the show was this french-style pot roast; Boeuf à la mode. It was just as delicious as a traditional French stew, but has the physical slices that I feel are an important element for a Christmas dinner; especially given that the menu already included onion soup. The flavors were deep and rich; but it was missing a slight something to brighten up the dish. 4-1/2 stars. A wonderfully unique Christmas dinner. A home run.

Beautifully beef roast with delicious sauce and vegetables

Beautifully beef roast with delicious sauce and vegetables

According to Chris Kimball, this recipe traditionally requires a 48-hour marinade, and boils pig and calf hooves to thicken the consistency of the sauce. This recipe breaks the chuck roast into two smaller roasts, so that some of the extra fat can be cut away. The two smaller roasts are then tied up to prevent them from disintegrating. And instead of hooves; unflavored powdered gelatin is an easy substitution.

Comments:

  1. My roast had to come apart into 3 pieces; because of the natural fat lines. I folded and tied the roasts together to form two uniform roasts.
  2. The only frozen pearl onions I have found are made by Birds-eye; a 14.4 ounce bag. Do not confuse them for the smaller box, which includes a “cream sauce”.
  3. If you want to prepare the dish in advance, follow the recipe through step 14, skipping the step of softening and adding the gelatin. Place the meat back into the reduced sauce, allow it to cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To serve, slice the beef and arrange in a 13″x 9″ Pyrex baking dish. Bring the sauce up to a simmer and stir in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Pour the warm sauce over the meat, covering it with foil. Bake at 350-degree for 30 minutes until it’s warned through.
  4. Chris Kimball recommend serving with boiled potatoes, buttered noodles, or steamed rice. I served it with Pommes Anna.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $40.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1 boneless beef chuck (4-to-5 lbs)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bottle red wine (Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir)
10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 ounces thick cut bacon.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups frozen pearl onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water, plus 1/4 cup cold water to bloom gelatin
10 ounces white mushrooms
Table salt
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (powdered)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Pull apart the roast into 2 pieces and trim away fat. Season meat with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Set on wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, and allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. With 15 minutes to go, set a large sauce pan over medium-high burner and simmer the bottle of wine until it has reduced to 2 cups. Also tie your parsley sprigs and thyme sprigs together into a bundle using kitchen twine.
  3. Use paper towels to dry the beef and generously sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper. Use 3 to 4 pieces of kitchen twine around each roast to prevent it from falling apart during the long cooking time.
  4. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees.
  5. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4″-wide match-sticks. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner and cook bacon for 7 to 8 minutes until crispy. Remove bacon to a plate lines with paper-towels and reserve until Step 7.
  6. Empty and discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat; and return pot to medium-high burner. When the fat begins to smoke, brown the roasts on all four sides for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. While the beef browns, finely chop your onion. Remove beef to large plate and set aside.
  7. Turn down burner to medium, add chopped onions to pot and allow to soften for 2 to 4 minutes; using the moisture the onions give off to begin to de-glaze the pot. Add mined garlic, flour, and crispy bacon from Step 5. After 30 seconds add the reduced wine, 2 cups beef broth, the herb bundle and bay leaves. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add browned roasts (and any accumulated juices) back to the pot. Bring up to a simmer over high burner, then put a large piece of aluminum foil over the pot and cover with lid.
  9. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until a fork easily slips into the meat. Use tongs to turn beef every hour, and add carrots to the pot after 2 hours.
  10. About the time you add the carrots, Put a large skillet over medium-high burner. Add pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup water, Bring up to a boil, then cover and reduce burner to medium. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the onions are tender, then uncover and increase burner to medium-high and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the liquid completely evaporates.
  11. While the pearl onions cook, wipe your mushrooms clean, trim away and discard the stems. Cut small mushrooms in half, and large mushrooms into quarters. After liquid evaporates and mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Continue cooking for 8 to 12 minutes until everything becomes browned and glazed. As the beef is ready to come out of the pot (in step 13) use a little of the braising liquid to de-glaze the skillet.
  12. Separately, place 1/4 cup cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top to allow it to soften.
  13. Remove beef to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil. Allow braising liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then skim and fat off the surface. Fish out and discard herb bundle and bay leaves.
  14. Add in onion-mushroom and bring up to a simmer over medium-high burner. Reduce for 20 to 30 minutes until it measures 3-1/4 cups. Taste sauce and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Stir in softened gelatin.
  15. Remove and discard kitchen twice. Carve into 1/2″-thick slices, serve slices with vegetables along side, sprinkled with minced parsley and sauce poured on-top of meat.

Mexican Feast featuring Carne Asada

September 30, 2014

Just about everybody who has watched America’s Test Kitchen knows that Chris Kimball has a heat-avoiding Yankee palate. He complains about the heat levels in some of the most mild recipes. So, I was a bit surprised that the current issue featured more than 10 Mexican recipes. This weekend I made 4 of his Mexican recipes for a big Sunday dinner; Carne Asada, Red Chili Sauce, Simple Refried Beans, and Folded Enchiladas. Overall, the meal was fantastic. It all came together quickly without a big mess. I will write separate posts for the other recipes; today I will just review the main course; Carne Asada (Grilled Meat).

Wonderful meal with not-to-much work

Wonderful meal with not-to-much work

Many of Chris Kimball’s recipes are cost-conscious (for example, this $10 Vaca Frita ingeniously substituted a Chuck Roast for Skirt Steak), but the current issue (September / October 2014) contains the two most expensive recipes I’ve made ($41 fish tacos and today’s $37 Carne Asada).  It’s a bit of a splurge; not cutting any corners; using 2-1/2 lbs of beautiful Skirt Steak. By only lightly seasoning the steak with salt and a dash of cumin, the natural flavors were free to shine through. To attain the high heat necessary to char the beef without overcooking, Chris Kimball instructs us to cut the bottom out of a disposable aluminum pan (ensuring maximum airflow). This “trick” concentrates the intensity of the 6-quarts of charcoal; providing a perfectly even layer of charcoal. A typical mound of charcoal taper near the edges leaving the middle exponentially hotter. The steak was easy to evenly cook, only requiring minimal rearranging during flipping. The Carne Asada was fantastic; beefy flavor, and only lightly seasoned with lime and cumin. It was so delicious that I didn’t use a lot of my Red Chili Sauce. 4-1/2 stars, but mostly from the strength of the amazing cut of beef.

Comments:

  1. I made dinner for 6 people, so bought 2-1/2 pounds of skirt steak, and cut the meat into 6 pieces. I adjusted the spice mixture accordingly, but maintained the same spice-to-beef ratio.
  2. Because Skirt Steak has wider muscle fibers than other cuts of beef, it needs to be cooked to medium (130-degrees) to become tender. If you cook beyond 140-degrees it will become tough and dry.
  3. Chris Kimball also has a variation of this recipe to make this one a gas grill. Instead of using the aluminum pan method, simply turn all your burners to high, and pre-heat for 15 minutes. Leave all your burners on high during the entire cooking process.
  4. I opted out of making dessert; but Cook’s Illustrated also published four Flan recipes this month.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $37.  (Just for the Carne Asada)
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 3:30 PM. Dinner time 5:00 PM.

Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows (while I did cook 2-1/2 pounds of Skirt Steak, I’ve listed the original 2-pound ingredients):

2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2-pounds skirt steak
13″x9″ disposable aluminum roasting pan
1 garlic clove
Lime wedges

  1. Trim your steak of any excess fat (mine didn’t have any). Use a meat pounder to pound until it reaches a uniform 1/4″-thickness, and cut into 4 equal steaks.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon cumin. Evenly sprinkle over both sides of the steak. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for a minimum of 45 minutes (or up to 24 hours).
  3. Meanwhile use kitchen shears to cut out the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan. You will only use the collar, discard (or recycle) the bottom.
  4. When ready to cook, completely open the bottom vents of your grill. Ignite a chimney starter filled with 6-quarts of briquettes. Allowing to light for about 20 minutes until the top coals become partially covered with fine grey ash. Put the disposable collar in the center of the grill, and empty the lit charcoal into an even layer inside the collar. Replace the grill grate and pre-heat grill for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grill grate (using tongs and oil-soaked paper towels).
  5. Position the steaks directly over the coals and cook (without covering) for 3 to 4 minutes, until the beef becomes well browned. Use tongs to flip (and rearrange as necessary), cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes. It is ready when the meat reaches 130-degrees (medium).
  6. Remove beef to carving board and tent with aluminum foil as it rests for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and smash your garlic and cut your lime into wedges.
  7. Bub the steak with the smashed garlic, and cut against the grain into 1/4″-thick slices. Serve with lime.

Modern Beef Burgundy

September 27, 2014

One of my favorite dishes to make during the cold months between October and March is Beef Burgundy (This has been a cool September here in the Northeast). The long cooking time warms my house for most of the day, and the building aromas eventually become overwhelmingly delicious. A Pavlovian response is guaranteed. Lately, Chris Kimball has been adapting recipes to avoid the traditional stove-top searing of meat; the technique has been relatively successful with heavily-spiced, Latin-themed recipes (see here and here). However, I don’t think the short-cut works in more delicately flavored French stews. I can taste the difference of beef caramelized in the oven and on the stove-top. In the future I will save this recipe for large gatherings when I cannot afford the traditional, labor-intensive technique in Julia Child’s 6-hour recipe. Even still, I prefer Chris Kimball’s 3-hour recipe over today’s recipe. Still a delicious 4-stars.

One of my favorite meals

One of my favorite meals

Chris Kimball’s oven-carmelization has a more muted, dulled flavor. Beef browned on the stove-top is brighter, more flavorful, and taste exactly as you think browned beef should taste. Plus this short-cut recipe only saves about 30-minutes; I recommend against it in favor of the full 6 hour Julia Child’s recipe.

Comment:

  1. The above photo is actually of a different Beef Burgundy recipe, but I was too busy to take a picture the day of the meal. I had intended to take a picture of the leftovers, but leftover Beef Burgundy doesn’t last long in my house.
  2. BTW, this is recipe number 450 that I’ve posted on this blog. Wow, that’s a lot of cooking. lol

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $27.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 12:30 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

4-lb boneless beef chuck-eye roast
Salt and pepper
6 ounces salt pork
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms
1-1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth (32-oz)
1 bottle red Burgundy (Pinot Noir, 750-ml)
5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 onions, chopped coarse
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 garlic head, cloves separated, unpeeled, and crushed
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
10 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 3 tablespoons minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme

  1. Thaw your frozen pearl onions. Trim your roast and cut into 1-1/2″ to 2″ pieces, adding to a medium bowl. Reserve the scraps into a large roasting pan for Step 4. Sprinkle beef cubes with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt. Toss to mix and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Cut 6-oz of salt pork into 1/4″ pieces, and place into a large roasting pan. Cut the large mushrooms into quarters, and medium mushrooms in half; placing on a rimmed baking sheet. Coarsely chop your onions, and peel carrots and cut them into 2″-lengths.
  3. Set up your oven by putting one rack in lower-middle of your oven and a second rack in the lowest positions of your oven. Pre-heat to 500-degrees.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the large roasting pan with salt pork and beef scraps. Roast on lower-middle rack until well browned for 15-to-20 minutes until the fat has rendered.
  5. Add pearl onions, 1 tablespoon butter, and sugar together with the mushrooms on rimmed baking sheet. Toss to combine and roast on lowest oven rack for 15-to-20 minutes. After the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated and vegetables are lightly glazed, empty into large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
  6. After removing the roasting pan from the oven, reduce temperature to 325-degrees. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over rendered fat and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in 4 cups beef broth, 2 cups wine, 5 teaspoons gelatin, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and 1 teaspoon anchovy paste. Add onions, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, porcini mushrooms, parsley sprigs, and thyme to pan. Arrange beef into a single layer on top of vegetables. Add water (perhaps 2 cups) as needed to come three-quarters up side of beef. Beef should not be submerged.
  7. Bake for 3 to 3-1/2 hours at 325-degrees until the meat becomes tender, stirring after 90 minutes and adding water to keep the meat at least half-submerged.
  8. Remove beef with a slotted spoon, adding to the bowl with cremini mushrooms and pearl onions; cover and set aside on the counter-top.
  9. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium/large bowl, and strain braising liquid, pressing on solids to yield as much liquid as possible. Discard the spent solids. Stir in the remaining wine and allow cooking liquid settle for 10 minutes. Using a wide shallow spoon to skim fat off surface and discard.
  10. Add strained liquid to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high burner. Reduce burner to maintain a brisk simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it thickens to the consistency of heavy cream
  11. Reduce burner to medium-low, and stir in beef and mushroom-onion garnish. Cover pot, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until just heated through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste. Stir in minced parsley and serve.

Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

June 13, 2014

While I never consider meatloaf the height of culinary perfection, it is still an easy to make kid-friendly staple. In the past, I have only made glazed meatloaf (see here and here), but the mushroom gravy in this recipe is delicious. A nice alternative to a ketchup-based glaze. Thankfully, the recipe is very conscientious about the mess, reusing the same non-stick skillet a three times. No better nor worse than a standard, glazed meatloaf; but definitely different. 4-stars.

Gravy made for s fresh take on an old staple

Gravy made for s fresh take on an old staple

I brought the leftovers to work twice for lunch. It re-heated nicely and the sauce kept the re-heated meat from being too dry. It worked out better than I thought it would.

Comments:

  1. While Chris Kimball says that you can supplement your burger drippings with melted butter or vegetable oil, I ended up with way more than the 2 tablespoons called for in Step 9.
  2. I didn’t have a coffee-filter to line my mesh strainer, so just used a paper towel in Step 2.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 4:30. Dinner time: 6:30

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

1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup water
16 saltines crackers (or 18 round saltines)
10 ounces white mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves
1-lb ground pork
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1-lb 85% lean ground beef
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 375-degrees.
  2. Rinse the dried porcini mushrooms, and microwave for 1 minute in a small bowl with 1 cup of water and covered with plastic wrap, until water begins to steam. Allow to soften for 5 minutes. Remove porcini and mince, and strain the water through a coffee-filter-lined fine mesh strainer, reserving 3/4 of a cup.
  3. Process your crackers in a food processor for 30 seconds until they are finely ground, then empty into a large bowl.
  4. Add half your white mushrooms to food processor and pulse 8 to 10 times until finely ground.
  5. Mince your onions, and peel your 4 garlic cloves (mince them if you don’t have a garlic press).
  6. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a 12″ non-stick skillet, place over medium-high burner and pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Saute the minced onions for 6 to 8 minutes until browned. Add the mushrooms from the food processor (reserving the remaining mushrooms for gravy in step 9) and add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue cooking for 5 more minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to brown. Press the garlic directly into the skillet and cook for just 30 seconds. Empty into bowl with the saltines and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  7. Add ground pork, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 cup of the reserved porcini liquid to the bowl with the cooled onions/saltines. Gently knead until mostly combined. Add beef and knead until thoroughly combined.
  8. Empty meat into the same skillet and form into a 10″x6″ loaf. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160-degrees. Use a spatula to move to a cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil while you make the gravy.
  9. While the loaf bakes, thinly slice the remaining white mushrooms. Remove any solids from the skillet, leaving only 2 tablespoons for fat in the skillet (you can supplement with melted butter or vegetable oil if you are short). Pre-heat over medium-high burner until the fat begins to shimmer.  Saute the white mushrooms and minced porcini mushrooms for 6 to 8 minutes, until they become deep golden brown. Meanwhile mince thyme.
  10. Add minced thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup flour and cook for 2 minutes; stirring frequently.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and 1/2 cup reserved porcini liquid, and 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of the skillet, bring up to a boil then reduce burner to medium and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened; occasionally whisking. Taste gravy and adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste.
  11. Slice meatloaf and serve with gravy.

Chinese Braised Beef

May 4, 2014

I was really in the mood for some great Chinese food, and was excited to try cooking with a new cut of meat; beef shanks. The beef shanks take between 4 to 5 hours to become tender, but have great flavor and texture. If you’d rather use other cuts of beef, Chris Kimball describes how to preparing the recipe boneless ribs, and even a chuck roast (see comments below). One advantage of using the beef shanks is that you don’t need as much gelatin to obtain the correct consistency for the sauce. Overall, the beef tasted good, and the texture was amazingly tender. But the end results lacked a strong Chinese flavor; more hints of Chinese spices. 4-stars.

Tender meat, but lacks Chinese flavor

Tender meat, but lacks Chinese flavor

Because I ran out of heavy-duty aluminum foil in Step 3, I substituted regular aluminum foil. Unfortunately, the regular foil made a big difference in the evaporation (perhaps wouldn’t have been an issue with the 4 hours ribs/chuck). Because I was left with just about 1 cup of broth after defatting, I did not have to reduce for 20 minutes in Step 4. I did run a little low on sauce so leftovers were a little dry.

The recipe allows for variations using many types of beef, but require a few changes in the amount of gelatin used, and cooking time.

  1. I used cross-cut beef shanks, which have less connective tissue than long-cut beef shanks. Use 2-1/4 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin in Step 1. They cook in 4 hours.
  2. If you can find whole beef shanks, omit the gelatin altogether and allow them to cook for 5 hours.
  3. The base recipe calls for 3-lbs of boneless beef short ribs. Which you should trim and cut into 4″ lengths. Ribs require using 1-1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  4. You can also use a 4-lb chuck roast. Trim away any fat and sinew, then cut across the grain into 1″-thick slabs. Finally cut slabs into final 4″x2″ pieces.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $17.
How much work? Medium
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 1:00pm. Dinner time 6:00pm.

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

1-1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
3 scallions
2″ piece ginger
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 pounds beef short ribs
1 teaspoon cornstarch

  1. Add 2-1/2 cups water to Dutch oven. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow gelatin to soften for 5 minutes. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat oven to 300-degrees. Prepare the scallions by separating the white and green parts. Slice the green parts thinly on a bias, and smash the white part. Peeled the ginger, cut in half lengthwise, and crushed. Peel the garlic and smash.
  2. Set Dutch oven over medium-high burner and heat for 2 to 3 minutes until the gelatin has melted. Add sherry, soy sauce, hoisin, molasses, scallion whites, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, and pepper flakes. Then add beef, stir, and bring up to simmer.
  3. Remove Dutch oven from heat. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil, then top with the lid. Put in pre-heated oven and cook until beef becomes tender; between 2 and 5 hours (see note depending upon cut of beef). Stir halfway through cooking time.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove beef to a cutting board. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Use paper towels to wipe out Dutch oven. Allow liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted juices to now-empty pot. Reduce liquid over medium-high burner, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup; 20 to 25 minutes; stirring constantly.
  5. Meanwhile while the sauce reduces, break beef into 1 1/2-inch pieces using two forks. In a small bowl, add cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water and whisk until combined.
  6. Turn down burner to medium-low, re-whisk cornstarch, add into pot and cook for 1 minutes. Add beef back to pot, stir to cover beef. Cover and allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is hot. Serve sprinkled with scallion greens.

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.

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