Chimichurri Sauce and Grilled Flank Steak

July 14, 2015

I made a version of Chris Kimball’s Chimichurri sauce a few years ago, while delicious, it really felt more like just any old herb sauce; it was watered down and lacked zest. Today’s Chimichurri uses cilantro instead of parsley, adds some mint, and uses fresh oregano instead of dried. But the main difference in the outcome came from marinating the steak in the chimichurri sauce. The result was delicious; the steak had lots of flavor and the marinade added to the nice char of the steak. 4-1/2 stars.

Marinade on sauce makes a huge difference

Using the sauce as a marinade makes a huge difference

While I used the same base for both the marinade and as a sauce, I added the vinegar to the sauce at the last-minute to avoid denaturing the meat.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $15.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 6:00 PM.  Ready:  6:45 PM.

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

Chimichurri Sauce Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups roughly chopped cilantro leaves (1 bunch)
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 Tablespoons fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint
8 medium garlic cloves
1 shallot
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Tomorrow: 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

  1. If you are using dried oregano or mint, allow to soak in 1 tablespoon of water for 5 minutes to soften.
  2. To make the chimichurri, roughly chop the cilantro, oregano, mint, garlic cloves
    and shallot; adding to the food processor or blender. Ass kosher salt, red pepper flakes and 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Process for 1 minutes until smooth.
  3. Do not add vinegar to the marinade; add only to sauce just prior to serving.

Steak Ingredients:
1 flank steak, about 3 lb.
1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt

  1. Use paper towels to pat the steak dry and put in a large baking dish. Sprinkle steak with 1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt, and evenly coat steak with 1/2 cup of chimichurri sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate overnight (a minimum of 4 hours).  Cover and refrigerate remaining sauce.
  2. With about 45 minutes until dinner, remove the sauce from refrigerator to allow to come up to room temperature.
  3. Completely open up the top and bottom vents of your charcoal grill, and ignite a chimney starter filled with 6 quarts of charcoal. Allow to ignite for 20 minutes until the top-most coals are partially covered with fine gray ash. Create a 2-level fire, by emptying all the coals over one half of the grill, and the other side of the grill will remain without any coals.
  4. Put the cooking grate in place, cover and pre-heat for 5 minutes. Clean the grill, and dip paper towels in vegetable oil and wipe.
  5. Cook steak over the hot part of the grill for 5 minutes without moving, until the meat has. Flip the meat and grill for 5 to 6 minutes for medium rare.  After both sides are nicely charred, move the steak to the cool side of the grill (with the fat part towards the coals), cover, and cook until it reaches the desired level of doneness.
  6. Put steak on a cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir in the 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar into the sauce. Also warm the individual serving plates.
  7. Cut the steak diagonally across the grain into 1/4″-thick slices. Divide the meat onto individual places and spoon chimichurri over steak. Pass the rest of the sauce at the table.

My 500th recipe: Pot-Au-Feu

May 20, 2015

Wow, my 500th recipe; five years in the making. For such a momentous occasion I wanted to make something special;  so I picked Pot-au-feu (“pot on fire”) from the May/June issue. Chris Kimball calls this recipe “Simple Pot-Au-Feu“, because it uses only one cut of meat, plus it’s made entirely in one day. Instead of cooling overnight and peeling the hardened fat, this recipe calls for skimming the fat using a ladle. I used a fat separator; as there was a lot of fat. As with many of Chris Kimball’s recent recipes, instead of brown meat on the stove-top, this recipe uses his technique of “browning” in the oven.

Best meal of the year; so far.

Best meal of the year; so far.

The dinner was fantastic; my first 5-star meal of 2015. The flavors were well-balanced; the bone-marrow infused parsley sauce was powerful, and the soup bones made for the most delicious broth I’ve ever tried. The staggered cooking time for the vegetables in the final steps meant that everything was perfectly tender, without anything being overcooked. Next time I might try to brown the beef on the stove-top, because I think the “caramelization” is a little muted as written in today’s recipe. I would also recommend serving with crusty bread; a little crunch was the only thing this meal was lacking.

Additional Comments:

  1. One traditional suggestion for the extra bone marrow is to spread it on toasted bread as an accompaniment.
  2. Pot-au-feu (“pot on fire”) refers to the traditional cooking method of putting inexpensive cuts of meat and root vegetable into a pot and into the fire.
  3. I have three kinds of salt, but didn’t buy flake sea salt. My regular sea salt was in grains, so I used flaky kosher salt in lieu of sea salt for the final dish (in step 14)

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $38.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start: 1:00 PM. End time: 6:00 PM.

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

Meat Ingredients:
3-1/2 to 4-lbs beef chuck-eye roast, boneless
1-1/2-lbs marrow bones
Kosher salt
1 onion
1 celery rib
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Parsley Sauce Ingredients:
2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
10 cornichons, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Vegetables:
1-lb small red potatoes, between 1″-to-2″.
6 carrots
1-lb asparagus
Kosher salt and pepper
Flake sea salt

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Pull your chuck roast into two pieces, which should naturally come (mostly) apart at the seam. Trim away any large knobs of fat. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, then use 3 pieces of kitchen twine per piece to tie into two separate loaf shapes.
  3. Peel and quarter onion and thinly slice celery stalk crosswise (not lengthwise).
  4. Put tied beef, bones, onion, celery, bay leaves, and peppercorns into Dutch oven. Add cold water until it comes up halfway the sides of roasts; about 4 cups. Set over high burner until simmering. Partially cover the Dutch oven and put into 300-degree oven for 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 hours, flipping beef over halfway through cooking time.
  5. Meanwhile prepare the parsley sauce, by combining all ingredients into small bowl, cover and set aside at room temperature.
  6. Towards the end of cooking time; prepare your vegetables. Cut your potatoes in half (or quarter any potatoes that are larger than 2″). Cut carrots in half cross-wise; then quarter the thick halves length-wise, and cut the thin halves into two lengthwise (sounds confusing; each carrot should yield 6 pieces).  Trim asparagus by snapping off the cut end; wherever the asparagus naturally breaks is where each individual stalk needs to be trimmed (as if the asparagus knows).
  7. When the meat is fully tender, a sharp knife can easily slips into meat, but it should not be shreddable, remove the pot and turn off oven. Use tongs to remove beef loaves and set on large platter and tightly cover with aluminum foil. Return to turned-off oven to keep the meat warm while you finish cooking.
  8. Set bones on cutting board and use the end of a spoon to remove the marrow. Mince marrow until it is paste-like and add 2 tablespoons to parsley sauce.  Save any remaining marrow for another day.
  9. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl. Use a ladle to skim and discard the fat from the broth (I used a fat separator). Measure out broth (I had just under 2 cups), and augment with cold water to make 6 cups; adding back to Dutch Oven.
  10. With the Dutch oven over high burner, add potatoes and bring up to a simmer. Reduce burner and continue to simmer for 6 more minutes. Add carrot sticks and cook for 10 minutes. Finally, ass asparagus and continue to cook all vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes; until everything is tender.
  11. Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables to large bowl, and toss them with 3 tablespoons of the parsley sauce; sprinkling with salt and pepper.
  12. Taste broth and adjust salt; leaving in pot.
  13. Remove beef from oven and set of cutting board. Cut away twine and slice against the grain into 1/2″ thick pieces.
  14. Arrange large, shallow bowls into individual servings. Arrange vegetables, slices of beef, and drizzle with 1/3 cup broth. Top with a dollop of parsley sauce, and sprinkle meat with flaky sea salt. Serve, passing the extra parsley sauce separately.

Ropa Vieja (Cuban Braised Shredded Beef)

March 28, 2015

I’ve made one of Chris Kimball’s older recipe for Ropa Vieja which used a slow-cooker, but today’s recipe uses a more traditional technique of browning the beef and cooking for 2 hours in the oven. It was much more flavorful and is a definite improvement over the older recipe. The recipe calls for brisket, which naturally has a very distinctive grain that lends itself perfectly towards shredding. The recipe was very well seasoned, though not at all “hot”. Next time I may add a Jalapeno or two. Overall, a delicious recipe; 4-stars.

Traditional cooking method is best

Traditional cooking method is best

In my experience Ropa Vieja is always served with white rice, but Chris Kimball has a recipe for beans and rice here.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $26.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 2:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

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

2-pound beef brisket
Table salt and pepper
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, halved and sliced thin
2 red bell peppers
2 anchovy fillets
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped coarse
3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning

  1. Set a rack to lower/middle of your oven and pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Trim the fat on your brisket down to 1/4-inch. Slice the brisket against the grain into 2″-wide strips. The precise length isn’t that important, but cut any strips that are longer than 5″ in half to reduce their length. Pat beef dry using paper towels and season all sides with salt and pepper. Set a Dutch Oven over medium-high burner and pre-heat 4 tablespoons (1/4-cup) vegetable oil until it just begins to smoke. Brown all sides of the beef for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a large plate at set aside until Step 7.
  3. While the meat browns, prepare the vegetables by slicing the onions in half, peel and sliced thin. Remove the stem and seeds from your bell peppers, and slice into 1/4″-wide strips.
  4. When the pot is empty, add the onions and bell peppers and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the pan bottom develops a fond. Empty the vegetables to bowl and set aside.
  5. While the onions and peppers cook, rinse your anchovies, pat them dry using paper towels and mince. Also peel and mince your garlic.
  6. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to now-empty pot, Add minced anchovies, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook for 30 seconds until they become fragrant. Stir in wine, and de-glaze the bottom of the pan. Cook for 1 minute until mostly evaporated. Add broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaves.
  7. Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot and bring up to a simmer over high burner. Move pot to 300-degree oven and cook, covered, for 2 to 2-1/4 hours until the beef is just tender; flipping meat after 1 hour.
  8. Remove beef to cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes until cool enough to handle.  Pull apart into 1/4″-thick pieces.
  9. Fish out bay leaves from pot and discard. Chop olives and add to pot along with the onions/peppers reserved in Step 4. Bring up to a boil over medium-high burner and allow to thicken for 5 minutes. Mix in the shredded beef and add vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste.

Tuscan-Style Beef Stew

March 6, 2015

It’s early March and I’m feeling that I’ve allowed circumstances to permit the stew-making season to slip by. So I used this “snow day” to cook today’s recipe as I work from home. Throughout the day the wonderful aromas filled my house and made everybody’s mode much better. While Chris Kimball calls this recipe for Peposo a “Tuscan-style beef stew”, the end result was not so much like a stew. A better description would be wine-braised beef (with lots of peppercorn and garlic). The sauce was too thin to be a stew, and there were no vegetables. Overall, the meal was very good. My sons and I enjoyed the beef. While it was delicious, still I feel it falls significantly short when compared to other stews. 4-stars.

More like braised beef than stew

More like braised beef than stew

Chris Kimball’s main trick in this recipe is; instead of adding all the wine at the beginning; to add it at 3 points during the cooking process. This is supposed to boost the fresh wine flavor. I am not sure if this was one of the contributing factor to the overly runny-sauce. The recipe calls for boneless beef short ribs, which add about $5 to the cost of the recipe when compared to a chuck roast. However, my butcher prepares all his boneless ribs from the chuck, so there is no difference in flavor. The main advantage is that it makes for easier preparation and more consistent cube size. But as I was looking for the specific pieces of meat to buy, I saw that the butcher just cut the meat into cubes regardless of the large veins of hardened fat running through the middle of the cubes. I knew that fat would never break down. I ended up with a 5-pound chuck roast with took an extra 15 minutes to cut into cubes.

Comments / Issues:

  1. As I mentioned above, the recipe calls for boneless short ribs. Chris Kimball also mentions my substitute of a 5-lb chuck roast. I am not sure if I cut away a full pound of fat and sinew; maybe more like half pound.
  2. Cook’s illustrated tried a variety of wine at various price points. They conclude that a $5 to $12 Chianti works best, but you could also substitute and inexpensive Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $35.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 1:45 PM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated link to the original recipe is here. The recipe as I prepared it today is given below:

4 pounds boneless beef short ribs
Table Salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (750-ml) bottle Chianti
1 cup water
4 shallots
2 carrots
1 garlic head
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch

  1. Trimmed the short ribs, and cut into 2″-pieces. Add the beef to a bowl, and toss to combine with 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven. Pre-heat oven to 300-degrees. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner. Add 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil and pre-heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Brown the beef on all sides in two batches; a total of 8 minutes per batch. Adjust the burner as necessary to prevent the fond from burning. Remove first batch to a clean plate and repeat browning with second batch.
  3. While the beef cooks peel your 4 shallots and cut in half length-wise. Peel your 2 carrots, again cutting in half length-wise. Separate the cloves of your head of garlic (do not peel) and crush the cloves. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons peppercorns to a plastic bag and crush using bottom of a skillet (only 1 tablespoon of which is added to the pot in step 4).
  4. Add together 2 cups of wine, 1 cup water, shallots, carrots, garlic, 4 sprigs rosemary, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon cracked peppercorns, 1 tablespoon gelatin, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 teaspoon anchovy paste. Add back the beef from the first batch.
  5. Bring the pot up to a simmer, cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil, and the lid of Dutch oven. Move to 300-degree oven and cook for 2 to 2-1/4 hours, stirring after 1 hour. The beef will be ready when it is tender.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces of beef to a serving bowl, and lightly cover with aluminum foil, setting aside until Step 9.
  7. Strain what remains in the pot through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Allow the liquid to settle for 5 minutes. Use paper towels to wipe of the pot, and return the de-fatted juices back to the Dutch oven.
  8. Turn on burner to medium-high, add 1 additional cup of wine and 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper. Reduce burner to as to maintain a brisk simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of heavy cream.
  9. Reduce burner to medium-low. In a small bowl, combine the remaining wine and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, add to pot. Return the beef to the pot, cover, and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes so as to heat the beef. Adjust seasoning to salt according to taste.
  10. Serve, passing the extra cracked peppercorns separately.
Ready to go into the oven

Ready to go into the oven


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.

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