Barbecued Burnt Ends

May 21, 2016

I have been so sick for the past month that my body would not even tolerate Chicken Soup, nearly an entire month eating nothing but plain vegetables. However, my two sons still have wanted to eat regular food. I made them this Burnt Ends recipe for an episode of Cook’s Country a few weekends ago. While the recipe takes 8 hours, it required very little effort and gave them a few day’s worth of meals. The sauce is light; no molasses or anything special (like root beer or coffee); which allowed the smoked beef flavor to come through. Using boneless beef means the meal is more straight-forward to eat using a knife and fork, but the bone would have added flavor and texture during the slow cooking time. Also the uniform thickness of the brisket was more like eating cubes of beef instead of burnt ends. Both my sons loved the recipe and they gave it 4 stars. I tasted the beef, but my compromised taste buds did not like it at all. Instead I ate boiled potatoes and broccoli for 3 weeks, which made my girlfriend happy because I lost more than 10 pounds.

Not as delicious as ribs

Not as delicious as ribs

  1. Chris Kimball says to for a brisket with a significant fat cap; but supermarkets always package brisket with fat cap down.
  2. If your schedule doesn’t allow for 8 consecutive hours, you can brined the beef ahead-of-time, and refrigerated for up to a day in a Zip-log bag.
  3. If you don’t have 1/2 cup of juices from the rested brisket, you can make up for the deficit using beef broth.
  4. If you are using a gas grill you will need 2 disposable aluminum pans. Also you should add 1/2-cup of ice cubes to 1 wood chip packet. When you prepare your gas grill you should remove the cooking grate and put both wood chip packets directly on primary burner; and both disposable pans each filled with 2 cups water directly on secondary burner. Replace the cooking grate, turn all burners on high, cover, and pre-heat grill until for 15 minutes until hot and wood chips are smoking. Leave the primary burner set to high and turn off other burners. During cooking, adjust the primary burner as necessary to maintain grill temperature between 275 to 300 degrees.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $20.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time 10:00 AM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

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

Brisket Ingredients:
5-to-6 pound beef brisket, untrimmed flat cut
1 cups plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons pepper
4 cups wood chips
13″x 9″ disposable aluminum roasting pan

Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  1. Add 2 quarts of cold water to a large container, stir in 1 cup kosher salt (5 ounces) and 1/4 cup granulated sugar until dissolved.
  2. Slice brisket with the grain into long 1-1/2 inch wide strips. Add to brine, cover the container, and refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove from brine and refrigerate for 2 hours, and use paper towels to pat the beef dry.
  3. Combine 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Season beef all over with rub.
  4. Just prior to grilling, soak 2 cups of wood chips in tap water for 15 minutes. Drain and divide equally into the center of 2 large pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Wrap wood chips up in 2 foil packets. Cut 3 to 4 vent holes in the tops.
  5. Open the bottom vent of your charcoal grill halfway (see comment #4 if using gas grill). Put disposable pan filled with 2 quarts water on 1 side of grill, with the long side of pan facing center of grill. Lay 3 quarts of unlit charcoal briquettes on opposite side of grill and put 1 of the wood packet on top of the until coals. Ignite a large chimney starter filled halfway with 3 quarts of charcoal. After 15 minutes when the top-most coals become partially covered with white ash, evenly pour the lit coals on top of unlit coals. Top with the second wood packet ontop of the lit coals.
  6. Replace the cooking grate, cover, and open the lid vents halfway. Pre-heat grill for 5 minutes until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 5 minutes. Clean and oil cooking grate.
  7. Lay brisket slices on cool-side of grill as far away from the coals as possible. Cover the grill positioning the lid vent directly over brisket to draw the smoke over the meat. Cook without opening for 3 hours.
  8. Set and oven rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees.
  9. Remove brisket from grill and set in a rimmed baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil. Tightly cover with more aluminum foil. Roast for about 2 more hours until a fork slips easily in and out of meat. The meat should register about 210 degrees using an instant-read thermometer.
  10. Remove from oven, and allow to stand for 1 hour (while still covered with foil). Remove foil, transfer brisket to carving board, and pour accumulated juices into fat separator.
  11. Prepare the barbecue sauce by combining the ketchup, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, granulated garlic, cayenne, and 1/2 cup defatted brisket juices into a medium saucepan. Put over a medium burner, bring up to simmer and cook for 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
  12. Cut brisket slices crosswise into 1-to-2 inch chunks. Add brisket to barbecue sauce and toss to combine. Serve in a large bowl.

St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef Brisket

March 24, 2016

This year, I was looking to make my first corned beef brisket to share with my two sons on St. Patrick’s day. The recipe was just published in the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated (March/April 2016), including a 6-day brine. Unfortunately, I did not buy the special pink curing salt (sodium nitrite) in time; it needs to be purchased online. So instead, I bought one of those ubiquitous pre-packaged briskets that appear in my supermarket around St. Patrick’s day. The beef is suspiciously inexpensive; I am not sure how more than two pounds of brisket can cost a total of only $7.

Traditional St. Patrick's Date fare; at least in NYC

Traditional St. Patrick’s Date fare; at least in NYC

By starting with a pre-packaged, pre-brined brisket, I am not sure how accurate my 4-star rating can be. Of course, home-brined briskets will be far superior that my pre-packaged brisket. Never-the-less, I was happy with the overall technique used in the recipe and will try to order the curing salt well ahead of next year’s St. Patrick’s Day feast. 4-stars, but the jury is still out on the final rating of this recipe.


  1. If you do not use pink curing salt #1,  your brisket will be grey instead of pink.
  2. While not called for in Chris Kimball’s original recipe, I caramelized some of the fat cap before cooking. It added great flavor and improved the overall texture of the fat cap.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $12. (including $7 pre-packaged brisket)
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 4:00 pm  Ready:  7:30 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The general descriptions of how to prepare it are given below, but I did not brine by own brisket this year:

Brine Ingredients:
4-1/2-to-5 pound, flat-cut beef brisket
3/4 cup table salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 bay leaves
5 allspice berries
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds

  1. Trim fat on surface of brisket to 1/8 inch. Dissolve salt, brown sugar, and curing salt in 4 quarts water in large container.
  2. Add brisket, 3 garlic cloves, 4 bay leaves, 5 allspice berries, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, and 1 tablespoon coriander seeds.
  3. Weigh brisket down with plate, cover, and refrigerate for 6 days.

Cooking the Brisket:
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoons peppercorns

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees.
  2. Remove the brisket from brine and rinse under cold tap water to remove any excess salt. Use paper towels to pat dry.
  3. Brown fat-side of brisket in Dutch oven over high burner for 5 minutes until nicely caramelized.
  4. Prepare a spice bundle by cutting an 8″ square of cheesecloth. Peel 3 garlic cloves. Put garlic, 2 bay leaves and 1 tablespoon peppercorns in the center of the cheesecloth, and use kitchen twice to tie into a bundle.
  5. Add brisket, 2 quarts of water and spice bundle to a Dutch oven; it’s okay if the brisket does not lie completely flat. Cover pot and put over a high burner until it comes up to a simmer.
  6. Move to oven and bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, until you can easily insert a fork into the thickest part of the brisket.
  7. Remove Dutch oven from oven and turn off oven. Set brisket in a large oven-safe platter, and pour 1 cup of the cooking liquid over meat. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the turned-off oven.

Vegetable Ingredients:
6 carrots
1 head green cabbage (2 pounds)
1-1/2 pounds small red potatoes

  1. Peel your carrots and cut them in half cross-wise; then slice the thick-ends in half lengthwise into long, equally thick slices. Do not peel your potatoes.
  2. Set the Dutch oven over high burner and add your carrots and potatoes. Bring up to a simmer over high burner. Reduce burner to medium-low, cover, and allow to simmer for 7 to 10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Cut your cabbage through the core into 8 wedges. Add wedges to pot, and increase burner to high until the pot comes up to a simmer. Reduce burner to low and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, covered, until all the vegetables become tender.
  4. Meanwhile, set the beef on a cutting board and slice against the grain into 1/4″-thick slices, returning the slices to the platter. Use a slotted spoon to add the vegetables to the platter. Add additional broth to platter and serve.

Beef Bourguignon

March 12, 2016

I make Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon a few times a year, her 5-star recipe is here. However, I find myself making the same substitutions, time-after- time, so wanted to discuss the changes. First, I never make her recipe using the 3-pounds of beef called for in her recipe. I always buy a 5-to-5-1/2-pound roast. If I am going to expend such an effort; it is either for a larger group of friends or I want the leftovers to last me well into the week. Second, I never blanch my lardons; and usually just use thick-cut bacon. I simply cannot but “chunk bacon” but will sometimes use salt pork. And lastly, I have yielded to Chris Kimball’s approach of using frozen pearl onions. To me, they are not important enough to worry about peeling dozens of little boiler onions. But of any adjustments I make, this laziness has the biggest negative impact.

A little more liquid would have been perfect

A little more liquid would have been perfect

While I increased the liquids to try to compensate for the 5-1/2 pounds of beef; I was still lacking liquid. Next time I will try increasing the beef broth to 3-1/2 (I had used 3-cups today). I already updated the recipe below; which not-coincidentally means that I will use the full standard 32-ounce container of beef broth (while I always make my own chicken stock, I rarely make my own beef broth). Overall, this larger batch is not quite as good as Julia Child’s original recipe. Almost as good; 4-1/2 stars.


  1. Julia Child says to use a casserole pan, but I always use my 7-quart dutch oven.
  2. While not called for in the original recipe, I also wrap the lardons into cheese cloth before adding them back to the pot in Step 10. This saves me a huge effort in trying to pick out the lardons when discarding the spent carrots and onions.
  3. Be sure to choose and begin your side dish of boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, buttered egg noodles or rice; start boiling the water as you begin to braise the boiler onions.

Rating: 4-1/2-stars.
Cost: $30.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess? High.
Started: 12:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

You can see a version of Julia Child’s original recipe here.  The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below. I separated the recipe into sections so that I wouldn’t have to scroll so much while preparing the recipe.

Making the Stew:
10-oz thick-sliced bacon
5 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2″ cubes
2 carrot, sliced into 1/2″ wheels.
2 onion, sliced into rings.
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 bottle red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
3-1/2 cups brown beef stock
2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves mashed garlic
1 teaspoon thyme
2 crumbled bay leaf

  1. Cut the bacon meat into lardons (sticks 1/4″ thick and 1-1/2″ long), and sauté lardons in a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner for 5 minutes until lightly browned and has rendered much of its fat. Remove bacon to a side dish with a slotted spoon, and wrap in single layer of cheese cloth (tied closed with kitchen twine).
  2. Preheat your oven to 450-degrees, and set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven.
  3. Cut beef into 2″ cubes then pat dry using paper towels; they will not brown if damp. Heat leftover bacon fat in Dutch oven until almost smoking. Add four or five beef cubes at a time. Sauté until nicely browned on all six sides, then remove and let rest in a large bowl. It will take 4 to 5 batches, between 8 to 10 minutes per batch. While the beef browns; prepare your carrots and onions.
  4. In the same fat, saute the sliced onions and carrots until slightly browned for about 5 minutes. Pour out any excess fat; of which I had none.
  5. Return the beef to the Dutch oven and toss with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  6. Evenly sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set Dutch oven uncovered in of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
  7. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this will brown the flour and give the meat a light crust).
  8. Remove Dutch oven from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees.
  9. Stir in red wine, and 3-1/2 cups beef stock; which should barely submerge the meat.
  10. Add the 2 tablespoon tomato paste, 3 mashed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 crumbled bay leaf, and the wrapped bacon lardons (as well as the bacon rind if you have it). Bring up to a simmer on the stove-top.
  11. Cover pot and return to oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

Brown Braising the Onions:
1-1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
1+2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
1/4 cup of brandy

  1. About 1 hour before the meat is done, begin to heat your water for the accompaniment: potatoes, egg noodles or rice.
  2. About 30-minutes before the meat is done, begin preparing the onions and mushrooms. Assemble you herb bouquet, by adding 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon thyme in a small square of cheesecloth and tying with kitchen twine.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until bubbling in a skillet.
  4. Add boiler onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 6 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. They will not brown uniformly.
  5. Add 1/2-cup of beef stock, the herb bouquet, and a little salt and pepper (to taste).
  6. Cover and simmer slowly for 20 minutes; swirling occasionally; until the onions are very tender but still hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Discard the herb bouquet and set cooked onions aside.
  7. Wipe out skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat. Once the bubbling begins to subside add the quartered mushrooms. Toss and swirl pan for 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of brandy and flambe until flame subsides. Remove from burner and set aside.

Final assembly:

  1. After 3 to 4 hours in the oven you beef should be very tender. Pour the contents of the pot into a sieve set over a large bowl. Empty into a fat separator (or use a wide, shallow spoon to skim fat off) and allow to settle for 5 minutes.
  2. Wipe out the Dutch oven and return the beef; empty the lardon packet, then distribute the cooked boiler onions and mushrooms on top. Discard the spent carrots and whatever else is left in your sieve.
  3. De-fat the sauce into a saucepan, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. You should have about 4 cups of sauce; about the consistency of heavy cream. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper according to taste.
  4. Pour the thickened sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
  5. Serve, arranging stew on a platter surrounded with boiled or mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or rice. You can also decorate with chopped parsley.

Beef Stir-Fry with Bell Peppers and Black Pepper Sauce

February 29, 2016

A home run from the latest issue of Cooks Illustrated (March 2016). The beef is deliciously flavored, but the biggest news is that, while finding time to caramelize, the beef also remains tender. This is achieved through two tricks; (1) soaking mix of 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for 5 minutes. Cook’s Illustrated did some measurements and calculates that just 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda will yield meat that is 20% more tender; it does so by raising the pH on the surface of the meat, making it more difficult for the proteins to bond which keeps the meat more tender and moist. The second secret (2) is soaking the beef in a velveting mixture for 15-to-30 minutes.  This

Flavorful and tender beef

Flavorful and tender beef

Today’s recipe is similar to this 9-year-old recipe. That recipe caused me some confusion while grocery shopping and I inadvertently bought only the green pepper (not buying the red pepper as well). I bought the snow peas called for in the old recipe; but then forgot about them and did not include them in today’s recipe (not called for but would have made up for the lack of red pepper).

Chris Kimball’s guidelines for good stir fry:

  1. Prep your ingredients in advance; be prepared for quick cooking time.
  2. Our domestic stove-tops are shaped for a non-stick skillet, not for a wok.
  3. Limit stirring during cooking so that food can develop color.
  4. Sear meat in batches so that it doesn’t steam.
  5. Add aromatics last to preserve flavor and avoid scorching.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 5:45 PM.

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

Beef and Marinade Ingredients:
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound flank steak
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons dry sherry (or Chinese rice wine)
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

  1. Trim flank steak and slice into 2-1/2″ strips going with grain; then cut each strip crosswise (against the grain) into 1/4″-thick slices. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon water and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Add sliced beef and toss until coated. Allow to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar. Add soy sauce mixture to beef, tossing to coat, and allow to stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, begin to cook the steamed white rice (see basic recipe below). The vegetables (bell peppers, scallions, garlic and ginger) and aromatics should all be prepared while the beef is marinating. Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and slice into 1/4″-wide strips. Cut the scallions as follows: slice the white parts thinly on the bias, then cut the green parts into 2″-pieces.

Sauce and Vegetable Ingredients:
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry (or Chinese rice wine)
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
6 scallions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

  1. In second small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sherry, 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, and 2 teaspoons ground black pepper. Whisk until combined.
  2. Set 12″ non-stick skillet over high burner and pre-heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil  until it just begins to smoke. Add half of beef in single layer, and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Flip and continue to cook for 1 more minute until spotty brown on both sides. Empty cooked beef into a third clean bowl. Repeat this step with remaining beef and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.
  3. Return skillet to high burner, and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Pre-heat until the oil just beginning to smoke. Add bell peppers and scallion greens. Cook for 4 minutes until vegetables are spotty brown and crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Empty cooked vegetables to the bowl with the beef.
  4. Reduce burner to medium-high heat and return skillet to burner. Add 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes; stirring frequently; until becomes lightly browned.
  5. Return beef and vegetables to skillet and stir to combine.
  6. Whisk sauce to recombine the ingredients. Add sauce to skillet and cook and stir for 30 seconds until sauce has thickened. Serve immediately over a bed of rice.

Basic White Rice:

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

1-1/2 cups long grain white rice
3/4 tablespoon unsalted butter or vegetable oil
2 cups water
3/4  teaspoon table salt

  1. Put rice in colander and rinse using cold running water until the water becomes clear. Set colander over bowl and set aside.
  2. Put medium saucepan over medium burner and pre-heat butter or oil. Add rice and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until rice becomes chalky and opaque; stirring constantly.
  3. Add water and salt to pot. Increase burner to high until comes up to a boil; swirl pot to blend ingredients.
  4. Cover pot. Reduce burner to low and allow to simmer without stirring for 18 to 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Remove from heat, and place a clean kitchen towel; folded in half; over saucepan; replacing the lid. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Use a fork to fluff the rice before serving. Makes about 4-1/2 cups of rice.

Spicier Chili con Carne

December 20, 2015

I made Chris Kimball’s Best Ground Beef Chili two months ago. While I loved the flavor, I was disappointed in its utter lack of heat. Today, I added a four types of peppers to help amp up the spiciness. While still too mild for my taste (my two sons cannot handle too much heat), I was nevertheless much happier with the overall results. Grinding our own chiles makes a huge difference in this recipe; elevating the recipe into a special meal. The ingredient list is very long; you will definitely need to make a special trip to the grocery store. Sometimes my supermarket runs out of Ancho (and Guajillo chiles), so I recommend buying them in advance. 4-1/2 stars; still needs more heat.

Original recipe needed to be spiced up

Original recipe needed to be spiced up

Also it is worth noting that the Ancho chiles in the recipe are used to make home-ground chili powder. When I first made this recipe two months ago, there was a discussion about why this recipe does not re-hydrate the chiles; the answer being that we are making chili powder; not chili paste.

In the past I have been unable to find Ancho chiles, which are dried poblanos and are very, very mild. I have substituted Guajillo chiles, which are a little hotter, and can also be hard to find.  In either case, I would recommend not exceeding 1 ounce, as Chris Kimball’s original recipe was a little too earthy. I’ve reduced the Anchos in today’s recipe from 6 down to 4.

Today I added the following additional ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12. (not including garnishes).
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

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

1/2-pound dried kidney beans (or 29-oz can)
1/2-pound dried pinto beans (or 29-oz can)
2 pounds 85% ground chuck.
2 tablespoons water
3/4-teaspoon baking soda
Salt and pepper
4 dried ancho chile (1 ounce)
1 ounce tortilla chip, crushed (1/4-cup)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper.
2 medium onions, diced.
1 celery stalk, diced.
1 red bell pepper, diced.
2 Jalapeno chilies, chopped fine.
15-oz can tomato sauce
29-ounce can diced tomatoes
1-1/2 cups water (or chicken broth)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Lime, cut into wedges
Coarsely chopped cilantro
Chopped red onion
Additional garnishes: diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and/or steamed white rice.

  1. For best results, soak 1/2-pound of dried kidney beans and 1/2-pound of dried pinto beans overnight. Use 1-1/2 tablespoons salt for a 1/2-gallon of water.
  2. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, add beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4-teaspoon baking soda. Toss until thoroughly combined, and set aside for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the stems for the chiles and tear then into 1″-sized pieces. Set a Dutch oven set over medium-high burner; Add chiles and toast for 4 to 6 minutes until they become fragrant, stirring frequently. If the chiles begin to smoke, then reduce the burner. Allow to cool in the bowl of a food processor.
  4. Add tortilla chips, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper, and 2 teaspoons pepper to bowl food processor. Process for 2 minutes until it becomes finely ground. Empty spices into a small bowl.
  5. Process the tomatoes with their juice in the food processor for 30 seconds until smooth.
    Dice your onion and peel your garlic.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the empty Dutch oven, set over medium-high burner. Add diced onion and 2 teaspoons salt; at cook for 6 to 10 minutes until have given off their water; stir occasionally. Press garlic directly into pot and cook for just 1 minutes.
  7. Add beef mixture from Step 1. Cook beef for 12 to 14 minutes; breaking up meat into 1/4″-pieces as it cooks. The beef should begin to brown and a fond should begin to form on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add spice mixture from Step 3 and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes; to bloom the spices.
  8. Add 1-1/2 cups water (or chicken broth), 2 teaspoons sugar, tomato puree, and pinto beans and their liquid. Bring up to a boil, and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Cover with lid, move to pre-heated  oven. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is tender and chili has slightly thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking.
  9. Uncover chili and let it sit for 10-minutes. Meanwhile, prepare any of your garnishes.
    After 10 minutes stir to re-incorporate any fat that has risen to the top and add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste.
  10. Serve, passing separately the lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and other garnishes; sour cream, cheddar cheese, guacamole or diced avocado, julienne-fried flour tortilla, or sliced scallions.
I used a mixture of pinto and kidney beans

I used a mixture of pinto and kidney beans

French-Style Pot Roast

November 21, 2015

I made this French pot roast for a group of my closest friends. While the original recipe called for a 4-to-5-pound roast, I bought a 6-1/2 pounder; following the general guideline of 1/2-pound per person. While the roast did stretch to feed all 13 people (a majority of whom where kids), I felt that I short-changed some of my guests. I assume I underestimated the loss and shrinkage during cooking.

Delicious, but slices came apart.

Delicious, but slices fell apart.

My biggest complaint was the texture was too “fall-apart-tender”. The picture on the Cooks Illustrated website made me think that I would get tender beef while still retaining enough cohesiveness to get nice, clean slices. The presentation suffered a bit.  Next time I will be careful to cook towards the shorter end of the cooking time; and make sure that I slice it with my sharpest knife. Fortunately, the flavor made up for the “pile of meat” presentation. The flavor of the beef and sauce was well-balanced, but the carrots were not very popular. While I thought enjoyed the carrots, it seemed most people didn’t appreciate them. Overall, 4-stars.

Rating: 4.
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 (5-to-6 lbs)
1 Table 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 with a sharp, non-serrated knife. Serve beef slices with vegetables along side, sprinkled with minced parsley and sauce poured on-top of meat.
Tie your beef into two min-roasts

Tie your beef into two min-roasts

Ultimate Charcoal-Grilled Steaks

October 27, 2015

I know I almost missed the boat (the S.S. grilling season). While this recipe came out at the beginning of summer (and despite its absolute simplicity), I was not able to make the recipe until now. I have always used wooden skewers, and this recipe requires metal skewers. I ordered the $7 Norpro 12″ skewers as recommended by Cook’s Illustrated.

Nice char on the outside; beautiful medium-rare on the inside

Nice char on the outside; beautiful medium-rare on the inside

The results were very-evenly-cooked, medium-rare steaks (in 2-1/2 hours). The intense heat from the chimney starter gave a beautiful char on the outside, and an even pink all the way through. No grey band. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the perfect evenness from top to bottom of the steak. Here are other people pictures of grey band, versus an even medium rare that you can expect with this recipe. 5-stars.


  1. My steaks took 2 full hours in the oven to come up to 120-degrees. Because the oven is so low, it is easy to perfectly cook the steaks. But if you want medium steaks; be prepared to wait up to an extra 30 minutes.
  2. Kosher salt is always recommended for when sprinkling on meat, because the flakes adhere better to the mean that the granules of regular granules of table salt. Also, because it is less dense it is easier to get an even coating of salt.
  3. As you can see from my photos; I made 3 sets of steaks instead of the 2 called for in the recipe. But because the grilling time is so quick; there are no adjustments necessary.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

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

Compound Butter Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper

  1. Remove 1/2 cube of butter from refrigerator and allow to soften on counter-top for an hour; or microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Mix together the ingredients for the compound butter and refrigerate.

Steak Ingredients:
2 boneless strip steak, 1-3/4″ thick (about 2-pounds total)
Kosher salt and pepper
Chimney starter

  1. Cut away the fat cap from the steaks; to prevent flare-ups. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 200-degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) and set a wire rack on top.
  2. Cut each steak in half crosswise; creating four 8-ounce steaks. Cut 1/16″-deep slits on both sides of steaks every 1/4″; creating a crosshatch.
  3. Sprinkle both sides of each steak with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (2 teaspoons total). Lay steak halves flat on counter and pass two 12″ metal skewers horizontally through the steaks; spacing them 1-1/2″ apart, Be sure to leave 1/4″ space between steak halves. Set the steaks on the rack you prepared is Step 1. Repeat skewering process with the remaining steaks.
  4. Put steaks in 200-degree oven for between 1h30m and 2h until the center of the steaks register 120-degrees; flip steaks half-way through cooking. If one set of steaks comes up to temperature before the other; remove it (And tent with aluminum foil)
  5. Tent the skewered steaks with aluminum foil (still on wire rack); allowing to rest while you light to coals in the next step.
  6. Ignite a large chimney starter halfway filled with charcoal briquettes (3 quarts). After about 15 minutes when the top-most coals are completely covered in fine grey ash. Reserve the foil and pat the steaks dry with paper towels.
  7. Use tongs to place one set of steaks directly over chimney; resting the skewers on rim of chimney; suspending the meat over the coals (see photo below). Cook for 1 minute per side until both sides are well browned. Return the first set of steaks to wire rack in sheet, season with pepper, and tent with reserved foil. Repeat the charring process with second set of skewered steaks.
  8. Remove skewers from steaks and serve with compound butter.

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