Category Archives: Beef

Beef Shanks

Beef Shanks "osso bucco"

Have you ever walked by something in the store and just thought to yourself:  gotta cook that!!  It happened to me the other day.  Beef shanks.  Just look at them:

Beef Shanks

I couldn’t walk by these babies.  Awesome, meaty, lots of marrow.  If you eat meat, what’s not to love?    I looked at similar veal shanks and comparing $16.99 a pound for veal and $5.99 a pound for beef, well, that’s a no brainer.  Beef it was.  So, it’s not really Osso Buco, but it’s not far off.

My first time having osso buco was at Chiapparelli’s in Little Italy in Baltimore.  My sister had just graduated college and my parents took her out to celebrate.   Chiapparelli’s is a very old world Italian restaurant.  Dark and cozy and dripping with Italian charm. It was an amazing meal from beginning to end, but the osso buco was unforgettable.  When I began to learn how to cook, this was among my wish list items I wanted to learn how to make.

I wanted to be gluten free and lower carb, so I omitted the flour step.  Look, meat browns without flour.  I think this is kind of an antiquated step that everyone does just because it’s always been done.  So, I just salt and peppered these babies and browned them in my dutch oven.  No change difference in flavor.

See, they can brown without flour!

See, they can brown without flour!

 I know, somehow this little bit of flour is supposed to thicken the sauce.  I never find that to be the case.  I always have to add thickener or reduce forever anyway. Frankly, I don’t care if my sauce is thin or thick, I just care how it tastes.  And with this dish, the meat is so moist and tender, the sauce is really a bonus.  

Also, you may notice a distinct lack of gremolata that some recipes add.  First of all, I’m serving a 10 year old and an 8 year old.  I’m pushing it with beef shanks.  I’m not a fan of gremolata.   It’s not cheap, it adds a room temperature taste layer to a warm comforting dish that I just don’t see as necessary.  This dish is packed with flavor.

So, for a greatly reduced price, compared to the veal, I was able to make an amazing dinner that seems so fancy!  Yet, as you will see, so easy!

“Osso Buco” (or, Braised Beef Shanks)

Serves: 4 generously
Total Cook Time: 2 hours

1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper
4 beef shanks, about 3/4 lb-1 lb each
1 medium onion, medium dice
1 small carrot, medium dice
2 ribs of celery, medium dice
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup red wine (I used a zinfandel)
3 cups chicken stock or water
1 can cannellini beans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Liberally salt and pepper the shanks. Brown in batches in the dutch oven, about 3 minutes a side. Remove and set aside.

Turn the heat to medium. Add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Sweat the vegetables until wilted, stirring the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits. Add the tomato paste and rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf to the vegetables. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the red wine, cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours. If you are using enamel cast iron, the lid should be heavy and tight enough to maintain moisture throughout cooking. If not, you may need to check the dish occasionally to make sure you have adequate liquid. 20 minutes before the end of the cook time, add the beans and stir to make sure they are submerged. Check salt and pepper levels prior to serving and adjust as needed.

NORTH Festival-Danish Meatballs

NORTH Festival

Frikadeller Smørrebrød

Sponsored Post

I was talking to one of my co-workers the other day about how easy it is for kids to research things online. When I was a kid (GET OFF MY LAWN!! warning), there was no “internet”. If you were assigned a report on the American Revolution, you had to hope that someone didn’t get to the library and check out the one or two books on the American Revolution before you did, otherwise, your “source” information was gleaned from whatever was in the reference section. Need a magazine article? Welcome to the wonderful world of microfiche and scrolling through months of other articles to get to yours. Now? Google it. Who needs patience in the age of information? I can probably get a George Washington Hologram to tell me about the American Revolution now.

This is my first sponsored post. For my first such post, I am tasked with writing about the food from the great country of Denmark. Upon learning of my assignment three food items popped into my head: the danish, Danish butter cookies, and pickled herring. I was really hoping that my first impressions could be greatly expanded to other foodstuffs. Luckily, I was right.  Thanks to the internet, I was not only able to learn that the Danes have an app for their food (for real!), but I could get access to some really great, traditional recipes.  Recipes that I probably couldn’t have found in my local library all those years ago. Lucky me!

Danish food is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, as a Danish restaurant, Noma, holds the distinction of being the best restaurant in the world. Also, Aamanns-Copenhagen, a very Danish restaurant, has opened in New York City to great fanfare. I was completely smitten by Adam Aamann when, during an interview with honestcooking.com (http://honestcooking.com/adam-aamann-and-the-reinvention-of-danish-smorrebrod/), he hit on something that I find so deeply ironic about food nowadays:

[Aamann] laughs briefly at the word “modern”, an adjective loosely used by food writers to describe anything that stands out. “It’s quite funny”, he says. “Nowadays modern means making your food from scratch; you would think it would be the other way around”.

Yes, yes you would. Aamann resuscitated the Danish standby of smørrebrød.  Smørrebrød is an open faced sandwich that you eat with a knife and fork.  Traditionally, the base is a hearty Danish rye bread and the toppings vary from cured meats, pickled fish to leftover frikadeller, or Danish meatballs.  There’s no mayonnaise on the bread, just butter.  This was definitely going to be an adventure if I’m going to do the smørrebrød.  My kids have eaten traditional French breads like Challah and brioche, but rye would be a new experience.   I realized I had a really hard sell ahead because my daughter was heartbroken to learn that the dark brown rye wasn’t really chocolate flavored.

So, I figured the easiest path would be frikadeller, a Danish meatball.  More specifically, the national dish of Denmark.   My kids LOVE meatballs.  We could have traditional Danish frikadeller for dinner with red cabbage and then used the leftovers for a smørrebrød lunch.  I’d cover traditional and new!

The meatballs were light and extremely easy to make.  They were also very traditional.    My kids LOVED them.  The adults were sort of non-plussed.  They were fine meatballs, but nothing spectacularly different.  Honestly, it’s what I loved about them.  No odd flavors.  Unpretentious presentation and great texture.  Simple, honest, clean food.  Not overly fussy and very approachable.

The red cabbage was so easy to make.  I LOVE the red cabbage sides when I go to German restaurants.  I had no idea they were so simple to make.  I am thrilled to learn how to make this dish, officially called rødkål.  It’s beautiful and remarkably good for the trace amount of effort required.  It’s also traditionally served at Christmas time and it’s so easy to see why.  The color is amazingly festive! This dish will be on my to do list for Christmas!

Repurposing the frikadeller into smørrebrød the next day was ridiculously easy, and yet really good.  Subbing the butter for the mayo made for a lighter, less gloppy lunch.  It was almost cleaner, if that makes sense.  And you can’t put an American amount of butter on the bread. You know, a bare scraping of butter.   No, you need to put a layer thick enough on there so that when you bite through it, you can see teeth marks.  My kind of butter layer!!  Add the leftover frikadeller, rødkål, and dill pickles, and you have some amazing smørrebrød.

Rødkål (Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage)
Recipe inspired by: Scandinavian Today Blogspot (http://scandinavtoday.blogspot.com/2013/01/how-to-make-danish-red-cabbage-rdkaal.html)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours

1 head of red cabbage
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon red currant jelly

Remove tough outer leaves and white core of the cabbage. Slice the remaining cabbage into thin strips.

In a preheated saute pan, place the cabbage, vinegar, water, salt, sugar and pepper over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook until tender for about 2 hours. Before serving, stir in the red currant jelly.

Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)
Recipe inspired by allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/frikadeller-danish-meatballs/)
Serves: 6-8
Prep Time: 40 minutes (mostly chilling before cooking)
Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 medium onion, grated
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup seltzer water
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
Brown gravy (optional)

Mix together the onion, pork and veal until well combined. Forget all of the admonishments about overworking the meat for similar dishes. Stir the milk, eggs, bread crumbs, and flour into the meat mixture until well incorporated. Stir in the seltzer water, allspice and salt and pepper. Mix should be moist and more wet than a traditional meatloaf, but it should not be so overly wet as to lack consistency. Additional breadcrumbs or flour may be called for if the mixture is too wet. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Heat the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet. Using a large spoon, pull oval shaped meatballs out of the mixture and fry in the butter, turning when well browned. Do not crowd the pan, or the meatballs won’t develop a nice brown crust.   Remove meatballs when cooked through and set aside.

For the optional gravy:  add 1/4 cup chopped onion to the leftover butter remains in the pan.  Sauté until translucent.  Add a tablespoon (or so) of flour and brown. When the flour reaches a nice color for gravy, add beef or chicken stock slowly, while whisking, until you get the gravy consistency you want.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

Grating an onion

The kids and I did this in rotations. The tears were flowing mightily!!

frikadeller frikadeller frikadeller rodkaal

Not color enhanced!

Not color enhanced!

Frikadeller and Rodkaal

Lagniappe

As an aside,  I received some wonderful Danish cheese from the sponsors of this post and the North Festival, Unika by Castello.   I am under no obligation to mention this in my sponsored post.  However, the cheese was amazing and why shouldn’t I say so?  From the literature that came with the cheese, it’s no entirely clear that normal folks can get this cheese at their local cheesemonger.  But, if you happen to see it, grab it.  The two types of cheeses I received were Gnalling and Krondild.  The Gnalling, a slightly harder cheese with an orange-tinged rind was very popular, especially among the kids.  It’s smooth and rich with a slight bite.  The Krondild was a really interesting, dill studded cheese.   Dill pickles are among my most favorite things in the world.  LOVE them.  This cheese combines a rich, creamy cheese with the lovely taste of dill.  Amazing with charcuterie.

Swag cheese

Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013. 

Pho

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My husband has a few signature dishes, and this is one of them.  When I first met him, he was all about meatloaf, meat and rice, and Italian Sausage dishes.  Then, one day, he tried Pho at a local restaurant and was hooked.  He discovered how to make it and will make it for me if I’m feeling under the weather. Isn’t he amazing?

I love Asian foods.  However, I’m more than a little intimidated by the cooking styles, equipment, and ingredients.  The closest I came to making any Asian food at home growing up was busting open a can of La Choy brand Chinese food, heating it up and serving with rice.    But the hubs researched Pho and it seemed very doable with no special equipment or ingredients.  I hate to say it’s pretty easy, because I love the mystique of exotic foods, but it’s pretty easy.  We’ve been making it at home ever since.

Pho is the national dish of Vietnam. There’s some speculation that the dish is derived from the French influence in the country, as the charring of some of the ingredients is not really a common technique in Vietnamese cooking. The origins are usually traced to some point in the early 20th Century and the northern part of Vietnam. Interestingly, American portions are about 30% bigger than their Vietnamese counterparts. The garnish that accompanies the Pho we know in America is likely a southern Vietnamese influence, as the northern version eschews such extravagance. (Source: http://vietworldkitchen.typepad.com/blog/2008/10/the-evolution-of-pho.html)

Let me just say, your home will smell amazing.  Anytime you have broth cooking all day is a day to sit and enjoy the aroma.  It’s intoxicating.

As an overview, you are mostly cooking a beef stock and some noodles. You are letting the stock quick cook the beef in Pho. It’s important that your bowl not really be cold when you add the stock, or your meat may not cook all the way through. In other words, the bowl should be hot, the noodles hot, your mix-ins and the broth immediately added. The beef should be submerged into hot broth to cook.

One other tip, don’t think you can, say, substitute an eye of round and cut it really thin and hope to have a decent pho. What you will have is sore jaw muscles from all the chewing!

Inspired by a recipe from the Food Network show Calling All Cooks  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/calling-all-cooks/pho-vietnamese-beef-rice-noodle-soup-recipe/index.html

Pho
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 hours

For the broth:
4 pounds Oxtails (or any beef bones) cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
3 stalks of celery, rough chop
1 large onion, halved and unpeeled
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
3-inch piece of ginger, unpeeled
1/3 cup nuoc mam (fish sauce)
8 whole star anise
5 whole cloves
3-inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 bay leaves
salt
water

For the garnish:
1 pound 1/4-inch rice noodles
2 bunches scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup basil, approximately, whole fresh plants (minus roots) if possible
3 large limes, cut into wedges and seeds removed
2 jalapeño peppers, sliced thin
Sriracha, or other chili sauce
3/4 pounds sirloin, filet mignon or any tender, higher end cut, trimmed of fat and sliced very thin

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the bones, celery, onions, garlic and ginger onto a large sheet pan and roast brown or slightly charred, about 30-40 minutes. Smaller pieces may need to be removed earlier to prevent burning.

Put roasted bones and vegetables into a large stockpot and add enough water to cover the bones by 4 inches (about 2 gallons). Add the fish sauce and spices besides salt into the stockpot. Bring to a full boil and then lower the heat to a rapid simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of salt at this point. Skim any scum that rises to the surface.

Let the broth simmer, uncovered, skimming occasionally. After 4 hours, using a slotted spoon and small strainer, remove items in the broth, setting aside the oxtails. Let the broth continue to simmer. Remove any meat from the bone and return bones to the stock pot. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the broth is rich and flavorful, an additional 1 hour. Taste the broth and add more salt or fish sauce as needed.

As the broth is simmering, soak the rice noodles in cold water for at least 20 minutes. Arrange the sliced scallions, cilantro, basil, lime wedges, and jalapeño peppers on a platter in separate piles.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the drained rice noodles. Give the noodles a quick stir and cook until tender but firm, about 1 minute. Don’t overcook the rice noodles, or you risk “gummy” noodles. Drain the noodles.

Warm 6 large bowls by rinsing them with hot water and divide the noodles among the bowls.

Just before serving, return the broth to a full boil. Arrange the slices of raw filet and pieces of cooked oxtail meat over the noodles in each bowl. Carefully ladle the boiling broth over all; the raw beef should be submerged in the broth. Serve immediately, along with the platters of garnish.

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Meatloaf

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Ah, meatloaf. Sounds gross. A loaf of meat in no way sounds appealing. It’s imperfectly shaped. But somehow, meatloaf is awesome. It’s homey. It’s moist, relatively cheap, and takes well to seasoning. I’ve seen everything from Cajun to Italian to Southwest style meatloaves. Leftovers can’t be beat. Many people swear the leftover cold meatloaf sandwich is a sublime experience. I’m not a fan of cold meatloaf, but have read that meatloaf may be related to country pate. I can totally see that. It’s a meat terrine dish that’s heavily seasoned and fairly fatty. But I like it warm. And, I must confess, with ketchup. Yup, I’m that person.

Notice that the title isn’t “beefloaf”. Yet, many people make “meatloaf” with solely beef. Tragic. An all beef meatloaf can be one dimensional, tough and dry. The addition of pork and veal add tenderness and moisture to the party. Multiple meats elevates this dish to something supremely special.

Meatloaf is a rather new dish. I’ve found a recipe from 1909, but that’s about it until later in the 1900s. Ground beef was rather unavailable, and similar recipes were in the vein of “chopped beef”, not ground. Plus, I’m imagining Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle probably made people a tad skeptical of ground meat products. Ah, short memories. Now, E. Coli contamination is rather common place. I can’t buy raw milk in Maryland because it might have microbial contaminants, but I can buy ground beef. Go figure.

When cooking with ground beef (or any raw meat, really), please be aware of cross contamination issues and cook the meat thoroughly. My days of medium rare hamburgers are gone.

Back to the meatloaf. Some recipes call for the meatloaf to be made in a loaf container. I’m not a fan of this method. Sure, you have a wonderfully neat block of meatloaf, but your meatloaf cooks and swims in the expelled fat. I like free form cooking. First, there’s less cleanup. Second, the excess fat drains away from the loaf, so you have a cleaner tasting, less greasy meatloaf. Last, well, you can make any shape you like! If you are in a hurry, make a thinner one. Tons of options.

Now, my husband and I have a running conflict. He roughly chops everything. Does a recipe call for green peppers? 1 inch dice. Ditto celery and onions. Even in gumbo. He likes a toothsome soup. For a meatloaf, I don’t want chunky veggies everywhere. If you are old enough to know Eddie Murphy’s classic comedic riff on the homemade “McDonald’s” burger, you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure it’s on You Tube, if you aren’t. I want the veggies to be subtle in the loaf, not distracting. Is my way better? No, it’s just a preference. But, come on, I’m right, right?

I took my inspiration from the country pate idea to develop this recipe. Meatloaf is easy. A great beginner dish. It’s all mixed in one bowl and cooked on a sheet pan. Done.

Meatloaf
Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 45-60 minutes

2 pounds total, split between ground pork, ground veal and ground beef (some stores call this “meatloaf mix”)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
thick bacon slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Mix all the ingredients, except the bacon, together in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands is the preferred method. Be careful the mix gently until everything is just combined. Over mixing will lead to a tough meatloaf.

Place strips of bacon on a baking sheet in the approximate size of the loaf you wish to make. Shape the meat into a loaf shape and set on the bacon strips. Cover with a few more strips of bacon.

Cook until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 45 minutes.

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Kebabs

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It’s 6 o’clock on a weekday evening.  Little ones are looking up at you like they haven’t eaten in days.  You have a couple of random vegetables (not enough for an entire side dish, of course!), an onion, and a meat.  What do you do?  What do you do?!?!

Kabab ’em.   Dinner is ready in a snap and there’s hardly any clean up.  Plus, who doesn’t like food on a spear?  Deadly weapon and food conduit?  Awesome.  Kebabs are super easy and fun. Extremely kid friendly. Except for the whole they could poke their eye out part. Take the food off the spear for children who are unable to handle sharp weapons, of course.

I could give you a huge marinade and tell you to boil it together and cool it off, then place your meat in it.  I could.  But I won’t.  I used a bottle of organic Italian dressing on my beef.  Any sirloin steak or “London Broil” will do.  The beef need not be fancy or expensive.  You could also do boneless chicken meat, or shrimp as well.

For the veg, just cut into rather substantial pieces, so that they stay on your kabob spear.

For grilling, the key is to heat the grill up before you start.  I have a propane grill (in addition to my charcoal smokers) that I use all summer.  Love it.  The lack of dishes to clean and the fact that the heat is located outside and not in the house is just so convenient.

To this simple dish, I’ve added a sauce.  The sauce is also simple, but really strong to pair with the beef, so it is purely a “dip” and not a pouring sauce, if that makes sense. In another life, the sauce could totally replace a certain steak sauce that begins with an “A” and ends with a “1”. The sauce was inspired by a recipe on the food network that looked way to vinegary to me: (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/porterhouse-with-balsamic-steak-sauce-recipe/index.html) You might ask why I used port. I’m part of a wine club and every Christmas I get a bottle of port. I have no idea what to do with the port, so I cook with it. If I think I can get away with it in a recipe, in it goes. It totally works here.

 

Beef and Vegetable Kebabs
Serves 4
Prep time: about 20 minutes
Cook time: about 20 minutes for sauce and kebabs

1 pound beef sirloin or “London Broil”, 1 inch cubes
1 cup Italian Dressing
1 zucchini, halved and thick sliced
1 red pepper, large dice (any color, really)
1 onion, large cut
4 ounces of mushrooms, halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Kebab Sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup port
2/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon allspice
salt, pepper and sugar, to taste

Marinate the beef in the Italian dressing for at least 8 hours.

Preheat Grill

Skewer the beef, zucchini, mushrooms and onions in an alternating pattern on a skewer. Combine the olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush on skewers.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the balsamic vinegar, port, ketchup, honey, onion, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and allspice. Stir until well combine. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust to your liking with salt, pepper and sugar.

Place the skewers on the grill for about 4 minutes. Turn over. Cook until the meat is at a food safe temperature, approximately 4-6 more minutes. This depends on the size of the steak cube and the temperature of the grill. Remove from grill and serve with sauce.

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Ropa Vieja

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Perfect stringy texture!

I may have mentioned in a previous post that my husband and I purchase beef by the cow. Actually, 1/2 a cow. This is the only possible way we could afford grass fed, pastured beef. It’s a lot of money up front, but it lasts a year and gives us fantastic beef from a great farmer. Per pound, it’s cheaper than the factory farm stuff. The downside? Lots and lots of roasts. Part of the reason I started this blog was to go out into the world and try to find new and exciting things to cook, especially with the roasts. I may have also mentioned that my kids cry when I say we are having pot roast. Yeah, fun. Good times.

So, one day we were exploring the local restaurant scene and came across a restaurant called Sin Frontieras. On the menu was a dish called “Ropa Vieja”. My high school Spanish kicked in and I said “old clothes”? What kind of dish is named “old clothes”? Turns out it’s a Cuban version of pot roast. It’s called “old clothes” because the cooking process makes the meat look like stringy cloth rags, or old clothes. Regardless of the name, the dish is superb. This dish would be PERFECT to recreate at home. I need something other than a regular “yankee” pot roast recipe and my wine and onion braised roast. And, as a bonus, I can repurpose the leftovers and call them something like fajitas the next night!

In the interest of authenticity, I should note that I did not use flank steak or brisket. I don’t really have a surplus of those. But I do have a crazy amount of chuck and arm roasts. So, I used 2 of my chuck roasts, about 4 pounds. I am a working mom.  I get home around the time most people are starting dinner.   I am slightly behind because I have to get the kiddos started with homework and such.  So, dinner management drives my life.  I promise my recipes to be ones that a real life working mom (me) uses. Tonight I made Ropa Vieja because my mom asked me over at the last minute for dinner. While she’s cooking dinner tonight, I am cooking also. I’ll just have it tomorrow and use the leftovers (even my family can’t put away 4 pounds of pot roast) some other time in the week. I’ll also cook something like this in the background (since it just sits in the oven) one night when I make a grilled meal or skillet meal. Then, I put it in the fridge and just warm it up the following day. Given the long cooking time, it’s not really practical to cook on a weeknight and expect to eat before 7:30. Start to finish, this is probably a 3 hour meal. I know people will put this in a slow cooker. I have done that with similar dishes. I am just not wild about the slow cooker. Things just taste better to me in the dutch oven.

As an aside, I would like to rant about some of the few cooking shows left on the Food Network on the Cooking Channel. There are more than a few shows that give the illusion of helping working moms cook. One claims to make meals in a half an hour. Those meals can be crazy expensive with one off ingredients you’ll never use again. I saw one that was Thai inspired beef noodles that included flank steak, curry paste, fish sauce, shallots and shiitake mushrooms. Does the meal sound lovely? Yes, it does. But, by the time I bought all the ingredients, I could have gone out to a restaurant. There’s another show that claims you can make things almost homemade by incorporating pre-made ingredients in the recipe. When the host suggested that I buy pre-cut onions, I was out. Really? You can’t cut your own onions? And again, pre-cut onions are expensive.

On the other end of the spectrum are the money saving shows that essentially pad out their menus with rice, pasta or bread. These are items I try to avoid because of their high calorie and carb contents and little to no nutritional value. Also, I found the valuations absurd. There was one episode of a show that claims to make all meals for $10 that called for skirt steak, baking potatoes AND kale. A pound of skirt steak runs me $8.99 minimum. To buy everything in the episode is well over $10 in my area. Lastly, there is actually a show that advises you to cook your entire week’s meals in one day. In other words, use one of the two days a week (if you are lucky) you have completely with your family to cook meals for the rest of the week. Oh, I’d love to go to the movies or for a hike with you, son, but I need to cook tonight’s meal and next week’s. Seriously? Does anyone do it? I would run out of pans and refrigerator space before I finished the week!

The family review of this recipe was overwhelmingly positive.  My son said I was allowed to make this dish whenever I wanted. It was “awesome”. So, I have found one pot roast recipe he likes! Eureka!!

Ropa Vieja

Serves 6-8

1/4 cup of lard, vegetable oil, bacon drippings, etc.
4 lb Chuck Roast, brisket or flank steak
Salt
Pepper
1 medium onion, halved, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, cut into rough strips
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 jalapeño, small dice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 cup olives, stuffed with pimentos, sliced
2 cups of beef broth (may use water)
14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a dutch oven (I used a 5 quart). Salt and pepper the beef and brown on each side. Remove and set aside.

In the dutch oven, place the onion and peppers and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, cumin and paprika. Cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the olives, sauté for another minute. Deglaze with the beef broth and scrap the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the dutch oven. The liquid should come up the sides of the beef without completely covering it. If your liquid is short, add more broth or water.

Place the lid on the dutch oven and place the pot in the preheated oven. Bake for 2 hours or until the meat pulls apart, resembling “old clothes”.

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Onion and Wine Braised Chuck Roast

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Ah, pot roast.  Few thinks provoke a rash of tears like me telling my kids we are having pot roast for dinner.  Actual tears.  “No, no pot roast!! Sob!”  My husband and I are completely stumped.  We eat it, it tastes really, really good.  They won’t touch it.

When I was a child, I remember the tears that pot roast bought to me, but my tears were different (GET OFF MY LAWN!!  Sorry, I feel compelled to say that when I sound like a old coot).  My mother made “pot roast”.  The roast went in a lovely shade of red and came out gray with a nice black bark on top.  She served it with gravy.  The gravy made is edible and helped the tough swallow factor.  That was pot roast.  Who wouldn’t cry?

One night, when I was in high school, I went to my friend’s house for dinner.  When Mrs. Gordon brought out her pot roast, it was moist and glistening with a wonderful pink center.  It was beefy tasting and really good.  You didn’t need gravy.  When I asked her what it was, she laughed and said “pot roast”.  No, it wasn’t.  Not the kind I knew.  I came home and told my mom that one could make pot roast that wasn’t gray.  I’m sure she appreciated that.  Anyway, she now does a much better pot roast.  The key is not only the “pot”, but the lid.

I’ve tried pot roast in a slow cooker and, while it’s close to being good, that’s about all I can say.  When you make it with a dutch oven, it’s just better.  Tough pieces of meat like chuck roast need long, moist cooking time.  When they get it, the results are silky, tender, and sublime.

Also, and I can’t really emphasize this enough, when you order your cow by the “half side”, you get lots of roasts.  Lots of them.  Sure you tell them “maximum ground beef”.  Doesn’t matter.  Roasts are plentiful.   Necessity is the mother of invention.  I couldn’t have a roast with potatoes, carrots and onions again.  Seriously, couldn’t.  So tired of it.  As I have to kid friendly a bunch of my meals, since they won’t eat the pot roast anyway, I went all out adult on this recipe.  Every non-kid friendly ingredient I used it.  Wine?  Check?  Lots and lots of onions?  Check.  Rosemary?  Check.  Hitting all the high marks!

Pot roast isn’t about measurements.  I’ll try my best, but if I say a 4 lb chuck roast and you have a 3 pound one, don’t sweat it.  This is definitely a “close enough” recipe.

Onion and Wine Braised Chuck Roast

2-3 tablespoons of high temperature cooking fat (lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil, etc.)
1 chuck roast (3-4 pounds)
Salt and Pepper
4-5 medium onions, sliced in half rings
2 tablespoons garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a dutch oven (I used my trusty 5 quart), heat cooking fat over medium high heat until hot. Salt and pepper the roast and sear on both sides in the dutch oven until each side is browned. Remove and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium low. Place the onions in the dutch oven and stir. Salt and pepper the onions (I used around a teaspoon of each). Try to use the liquid of the onions to draw the lovely bits of brown seared roast off the bottom of the pan. Caramelize the onions, or wilt them until they turn a light brown. This will take a long time and require patience and semi-regular stirring. You may need to add more fat if you find that the onions are sticking. You also may need to turn down the heat if they are burning. Just as the onions are reaching the light brown stage, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomato paste and cook until you can smell a slightly tomato-y smell (about a minute or so).

Add the red wine and stir well, and add the water. Simmer for a bit to get the ingredients married.  Return the roast to the pan. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until the roast is tender.

I served this with sautéed brussels sprouts. I halved the brussels sprouts and sautéed in bacon grease until caramelized. Finished with salt and pepper. Awesomely good.

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