Guinness Beef Stew

November 9, 2013

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

French Stews still Reign Supreme

French Stews still Reign Supreme


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

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

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

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

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

I was only able to find “extra stout”

Cuban Shredded Beef (Vaca Frita)

September 21, 2013

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

Great technique made for an amazing dinner

Great technique made for an amazing dinner

Comments and Issues:

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

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

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

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

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

A meat pounder made it look like skirt steak

Grilled Beef Kofte

July 7, 2013

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

Served as sandwiches or on a skewer.

Served as sandwiches or on a skewer.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Cuban Picadillo

April 20, 2013

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

Disappointing; but easy to make.

Disappointing; but easy to make.


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

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

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

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

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

Taco Bake

March 16, 2013

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

A step up from plain nachos

A step up from plain nachos


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

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

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

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

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

Classic Pot Roast

February 2, 2013

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Crispy Orange Beef

January 12, 2013

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

Rich and delicious Szechuan Beef

Rich and delicious Szechuan Beef


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

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

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

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

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

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

Herb-Roasted Prime Rib and Potatoes

December 29, 2012

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

It looks delicious, but only 3-star

It looks delicious, but only 3-star


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

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

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

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

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

Broiled Steaks

December 21, 2012

I haven’t eaten plain steak in 2-1/2 years, so today I went back to the same broiling technique I saw on Cook’s Country a few seasons ago. Of course, with plain steak the end result depends entirely upon the quality of the beef. I found some nicely-marbled, semi-boneless shell steaks and was rewarded with 4-1/2 stars. Next time I want to try their dry-aging technique. which wraps the meat in cheese cloth for 4-days in your refrigerator.

Plain steak with compound butter

Plain steak with compound butter

The recipe has two secrets. (1) Add 2 cups of salt to the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan; the 40-cents of salt will completely stop any smoke from filling your kitchen. (2) Before you pre-heat your oven, put a wire rack on top of the disposable pan and arrange your steaks on top of the wire rack. Use a ruler to measure the height from the counter to the top of the steaks, mine measured 3-1/2″. Then set an oven rack so that the top of the steaks will be 1-1/2″ from the broiler element. In my case the closest I could get was 2-1/2″, which added 5 minutes to the broiling time (see comments below if your like your steak medium-rare).


  1. If you like your steaks either rare or medium-rare, then you must measure out the distance to your broiler element very carefully. If your measurements mean that the tops of the steaks will be more than 1-1/2″ from the broiler element, then you must reduce that distance. For example, buy a taller disposable aluminum pan or set on an overturned rimmed backing sheet.
  2. If you like your steaks medium and the tops of the steaks will be more than 1-1/2″ from the broiler element, then bake for no more than 5 minutes in step 5.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $15
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 6:00 pm. Dinner Time:  7:00.

Compound Butter Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Steak Ingredients:
4 strip steaks, rib-eye steaks, or tenderloin steaks, 1″ to 2″ thick
2 cups table salt
3″-tall disposable aluminum pan

  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. Trim away any excess fat. Pat both sides of your steaks dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.   Add 2 cups of salt to the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan. Then put a wire rack on top of the aluminum pan and arrange your steaks on top of the wire rack. Use a ruler to measure the height from the counter to the top of the steaks, about 4″. Set an oven rack about 5-1/2″ from the broiler element; i.e. so that the top of the steaks will be 1-1/2″ away.
  3. Mix together the ingredients for the compound butter and refrigerate.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 375-degrees for 10 minutes.
  5. Put steaks on middle rack in oven. Bake, flipping twice according to the following schedule: 1″ thick steaks; 6 minutes, flipping every 2 minutes. 1-1/2″ thick steaks; 8 minutes, flipping every 3 minutes; 2″ thick steaks; 10 minutes, flipping every 4 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven flip and pat dry on both sides using paper towels .
  7. Switch from baking to broiling, by pre-heating the broiler for 10 minutes. Allow the steaks to rest while the broiler pre-heats.
  8. Put the steaks on the top rack so that they are approximately 1-1/2″ from the broiler element.
  9. Broil flipping 1″ thick steaks every 2 minutes, 1-1/2″ thick steaks every 3 minutes, or 2″ thick steaks every 4 minutes. Remove from broiler when they reach your desired doneness; 130-degrees for medium rare; 140-degrees for medium and 155-degrees for medium-well.
  10. Put steaks on serving platter, top with compound butter and tent with aluminum foil for 5 minutes before serving.
Steaks on wire rack over bed of salt

Steaks on wire rack over bed of salt

Shepherd’s Pie

November 11, 2012

I have a friend who introduced me to Shepherd’s Pie about 10 years ago. It was her signature dish, and when I saw the current issue of Cook’s Illustrated my memories flew back to those simpler years in Hoboken, New Jersey. I was surprised by the long length of the ingredient list, and while they are common enough, with such a long list you’re sure to need a special trip to the supermarket. In my case it was 4-ounces of white mushrooms, scallions, carrots and port. Overall, the pie took more effort than I had thought; making the mashed potatoes, browning the vegetables and meat in many steps, then broiling the final pie. However, it is not daunting; everything is straight-forward with no special skills or techniques. In the end Chris Kimball’s recipe was very good, I give it 3-1/2 stars; delicious, well-balanced. A solid recipe for classic Shepherd’s pie, but not so exceptional as to surpass the memory of my friend’s Shepherd’s pie.

Classic Shepherd’s pie is not as easy as you think

While I just got back power two days ago after Hurricane Sandy; I lost two 80-foot pine trees and spent 11 days without power; this recipe also reminded me how fortunately I am. The area where I lived in Hoboken was exceptionally low-lying and the damage was exceptionally devastating. My friends have virtually all moved out of Hoboken, it seems to be a transitional town, everybody staying and enjoying it for a few years before the headaches eventually become too great. But I feel for all those who have moved in, as it could have just as easily been me and my friends who were hit so hard.


  1. Chris Kimball says not to use beef that is fattier than 93%, but I tempted fate and used the 80% lean ground beef that was already in my refrigerator. I cooked it separately so that I could discard some of the extra fat, before combining the other ingredients.
  2. I didn’t have a 10″ broiler-safe skillet, so I used my 12″ skillet to cook the meat, then assembled the pie into a Pyrex pie plate.
  3. I didn’t melt the butter separately as instructed in the recipe, I just allowed the residual heat of the potatoes to do it for me.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:45 PM. Finish time 5:30 PM.

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

1-1/2 lbs 93%-lean ground beef
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons water
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2-1/2 lbs russet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg yolk
8 scallions (green parts only)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion
4-oz white mushrooms
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons Madeira or ruby port
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 carrots
2 teaspoons cornstarch

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and baking soda. Allow to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. In the mean time, Peel your potatoes and cut into approximately 1″ cubes. Put potatoes in a medium saucepan, adding just enough water to cover, then add 1 tablespoon salt. Set over high burner, cover, and bring up to a boil. Reduce to medium-low, and continue simmering for 10 to 12 minutes. The potatoes will be done when a paring knife doesn’t meet any resistance. Empty potatoes into a strainer and then return them to the same saucepan for about 1 minute until all the surface moister has dried. Remove potatoes from heat and stir in butter.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together your milk, egg yolk, then mix into the potatoes. Thinly slice the green parts of 8 scallions, add to potatoes and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Cover saucepan and set aside.
  4. Chop the onion and mushrooms. Peel your garlic cloves. Peel and chop your carrot (to be used in Step 6)
  5. Using a 10″-skillet that is safe to eventually put into the oven, pre-heat vegetable oil over medium burner until it’s shimmering. Add onion, mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; saute for 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and press garlic directly into the skillet; continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Add Madeira or Port and continue cooking for 1 minute. Mix in flour and continue cooking for 1 minute.
  6. Add 1-1/4 cups beef broth, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 2 chopped carrots. When it comes up to a boil, reduce the burner to medium-low and add ground beef in 2″ chunks. Cover the skillet and cook for 12 minutes until the beef is cooked through, using 2 forks to break up the meat half-way through cooking.
  7. Stir cornstarch and remaining 2 teaspoons water together in bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into filling and continue to simmer for 30 seconds. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Set an oven rack to be 5″ from the broiler, and pre-heat while assembling the pie. Put mashed potatoes in a large Zip-lock bag and cut of a 1″ opening in one corner, then pipe the potatoes into an even layer over the filling. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out the potatoes, ensuring that all the meat is covered. Finally use the tines of a fork to make ridges over the entire surface, in whatever pattern you like.
  9. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, put pie on-top and broil for 10 to 15 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown, rotating the pie half way through broiling to ensure even browning. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

I assembled in a pie plate, for lack of oven-safe 10″ skillet

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