Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cooking the Cow: Easy steak for a crowd

Grab a round steak and try this marinade from Dinner a Love Story.

Here are my steaks, which will defrost in the marinade over the next few days. A delicious meal, half made, in the fridge, feels like such a luxury. Even if I've done the prep myself. 

I used garlic chives because they grow like weeds in our yard. And garlic + garlic? Why not?

Because our steaks are grassfed, they can be tough. A long marinade and short cooking time can help with that. Grill until rare (we've found this is 3-4 minutes a side), rest five minutes, and then slice as thinly as you can. A serrated knife works well.

A tangle of steak slices on a big platter, just red at the hearts, will wake up the most jaded barbecue guests, as we found when three of our steaks were devoured in about as many minutes.

We serve this with grilled veggie salads and pan of crispy Greek potatoes.

Leftovers are fantastic in sandwiches or cut up into slivers for fritattas, chilequiles, omelets...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cooking the Cow: Flank Steak (or Round Steak)

We took a pre-marinated flank steak camping at Patrick's Point. Spicy meat, campfire, and cold ocean air made it sublime. But fajitas are pretty good at home.

Recipes for fajitas often call for liquid smoke in the marinade—but we grill over charcoal. Plenty of smoke flavor in the meat, in our clothes, in our hair...

I like to marinate meat by mixing the ingredients in a big plastic Ziploc and adding frozen cuts. I do this a couple days ahead, and the meat marinates as it defrosts in the fridge or (if camping) in an ice chest. Not necessarily subtle, but easy and delicious.

And I love to spend 15 minutes on the weekend to have a weeknight dinner in the bag. Literally.


1/4 cup lime juice (add some zest for more flavor)
2 T. olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 t. soy sauce
1 t. salt
1 t. taco seasoning from Trader Joe's (or chipotle pepper powder or chipotle in adobo)
1/2 t. ground black pepper

1 flank steak (or top round steak, skirt steak, or other large slicing steak)
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
olive oil

In advance:
  • Mix marinade ingredients (first 7) in a bag. Add frozen steak and defrost in the fridge.
  • Slice onions and bell peppers into another bag. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste. Store in the fridge until ready to cook.
To cook:
  • Pull the steak out of the marinade and grill over high heat. (You should be able to hold your hand over the coals for less than 3 seconds.) The timing depends on the thickness of your steak, but a flank steak goes about 4 minutes a side for medium. (Unless you try to cook over a campfire grill that is a foot away from your heat source, as pictured.)
  • Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes. This is a good time to grill your onions and peppers.
  • Slice steak thinly, against the grain. 
  • Serve with the grilled vegetables, salsa, sour cream, avocado, tortillas or lettuce for wrapping...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cooking the Cow: Chuck Roast

You have the whole beef, in an overwhelming jumble of little packets in your freezer. Now what?

This is the first second thing I cook.

Burgers always come first.

Caffe Mingo's sugo di carne. We served it on top of zucchini "noodles" and corn spaghetti.

This is a recipe for cool weekends. It comes together easily, but cooks a long time. It will serve a big family and freezes well. (We get two dinners out of this batch.) It tastes better two days later. It can be served on any kind of pasta, over sauteed greens, with rice or polenta...

Don't stress about using real espresso. Leftover breakfast coffee works fine--just double the amount.

The chuck roasts we got this year are have bones in them and are super marbled. So, hack those bones off and save them in the freezer for broth, or add them to this braise for more flavor, pulling them out at the end. They run along each side, so it is pretty easy to slice them off and have a remaining rectangle of meat.

I'm lazy, so I cut the meat into bigger chunks. More like four inches.

And when you shred the chunks of meat at the end, use your hands and chuck the extra fat in the dog bowl—if those fatty bits squick you out, as they do me.

Our roasts are 3 to 4 pounds. I halved the recipe, except for the tomatoes.

So, essentially, this:

Anna's Adapted Meat Sauce

3 T. butter
1 chuck roast, cut into 6-8 chunks (cut out bones)
1-2 onions, halved, thinly sliced
1/2 bottle cheap red wine (not sweet, Buck Chuck Cab works just fine)
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes
3/4 cup brewed coffee or 1/2 cup espresso

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Melt 1 T. butter in large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper, add to pot, and brown on all sides. Transfer beef to large bowl.
  • Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 2 T. butter to pot. Add onions and cook until soft, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
  • Dump beef and any leaky juices back into pot. Add wine, tomatoes (crushing a bit with your hands if they are whole), and coffee. Bring to boil, cover, and transfer to oven.
  • Braise beef until tender, about 2 hours. Cool.
  • Using your hands, shred beef chunks. Discard extra fatty bits. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  • (Can be refrigerated several days or frozen.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cooking the Cow: What We Got

Hello, my cow-co-consiprators. I'm hoping a series of posts will help you cook through your quarters. And help me with next year's cut sheet.

This year, I asked for more steaks and easier-to-cook-on-the-fly stuff. And wow, we got them!

I do wish we had gotten a crossrib roast, although I do love all the short ribs. I'm also missing the sirloin tip roast, which we usually use to make sauerbraten (thinking rump for this now).

I like a little more ground and stew for winter crock pots.

And no skirt steak.

But I'm getting better at figuring out what to ask for and what I like. I specifically requested short ribs, tri tip, and flatiron steaks.

Next year will be a bit different.

This is what we got this year:

One cow, 536 pounds hanging weight. 100% grass fed, dry aged 4-6 weeks. From Megan Brown.
  • 89# ground beef
  • 12 packages soup bones
  • 4 bags dog bones
  • 10 1# stew meat
  • 10 packages short ribs
  • 1 little hanger steak (there is only one per cow—Wolf and I took it as an organizers' bonus)
  • 2 tri tip
  • 4 flat iron steaks
  • 1 flank steak
  • 2 briskets
  • 9 top sirloin steaks
  • 12 sirloin tip steaks
  • 12 T-bone steaks
  • 11 rib steaks
  • 6 filet steaks
  • 17 top round steak
  • 11 bottom round steak
  • 10 chuck roast
  • 6 arm roast
  • 4 rump roast
A couple notes:
  • Ground beef is in 1# packages. 
  • Roasts are 3 to 4 pounds.
  • Some steaks (like T-bone and rib) are what you think of when you hear "steak." They are packaged in twos. Perfect for a steakhouse kind of meal.
  • Other steaks are chunks of meat (round steak) are better thinly sliced against the grain after cooking.
  • Where are the porterhouse steaks? They are labeled "T-bone." According to the Locker, you should be able to see the difference in your T-bones. But who knows who got what?
Let me know if you need help with anything. I'm no expert, but I do love to research.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The best fava beans

Like all great recipes, this one starts at the farmers' market. Go there for fava beans, scoop a generous amount of the pods into a bag.

And it's a Saturday spring morning, so pick up some incidentals: pencil-thin asparagus, a still-warm loaf of bread, Meyer lemons, strawberries you can smell an aisle away, a slice of pie and a cup of coffee. Take the dog to the park; devour your pie; sip your coffee; admire the wildflowers; let the dog swim in the lake and shake all over you until you all smell like pond.

Favas are not the kind of thing to tackle alone in the kitchen. You will find yourself hunched over the counter, festering in a stew of resentment as you painstakingly pick apart each infuriating bean as everyone else enjoys a sunny late afternoon.

Instead, get someone you like to chat with to make a couple Southsides. Having an former bartender as a husband helps. We use a modified version of Pete Wells' recipe from an old Food & Wine magazine:


Fill a shaker with ice. Add 6 oz. gin, juice of half a large or one small lemon (Meyer preferred), a spoon or two superfine sugar and two fresh mint sprig. Shake the hell out of it. Strain into two chilled martini glass and garnish with a mint sprig.

The straining is suggested most people don't want to end up with mint in the crevices between their teeth--I personally like my cocktail all rustic and green with bits of mint. But that's me...

Then, on to the favas.

Pile them on a table and get comfy. Split the pods open and strip out the beans. Then take the frosted sheath off each bean. This could be considered tedious and frustrating. Don't go there. Take a slow sip of your Southside and enjoy the chance to slow down.

You'll soon develop a system and the peeling will become a point of pride. Mine involves a thumbnail at the end of a bean and a little squeeze.

When the beans are peeled and the cocktails are sipped, toss a good amount of small-cubed pecorino cheese in with the favas and dress with olive oil and pepper.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kitchen snapshot

I love taking the macro lens, close-in shots. Not only because you can see every drop of sauce and bit of garlic.

But also because, when you zoom out a bit, you can see that I cook in the middle of this kind of chaos.

Toddler special-treat lunch of ravioli, garlic, butter, and zucchini. Homemade playdough smashed in the pestle with fennel seeds. Leftover banana in a little bowl. Crumbs. Life.

It ain't pretty, but it is beautiful.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Angst with a side of cake

I used to write a lot. A lot. All the time.

It's so hard now, thinking while a little voice upstairs calls out regularly, "Quiet time over, mama? quiet time over mama?" The 50th time, my head explodes and all my words disappear.


I had one of those "wait a second, these aren't my people" flashes this weekend. We went to a party swarming with kids and pumpkins. I made a Deborah Madison cake with pears we scrounged freegan-style from the unoccupied rental next door.

And we took most of the cake home. I guess it looked weird next to the grocery store carrot cake. I was all, "who are these people, forsaking my monochrome lump of homeliness?"

I know I sound like a bitch no one would want to invite over to dinner.

But like everyone, I suppose, I walk around feeling like an alien. Sometimes it's lonely being so different.

I mean, seriously, this cake was nothing but fucking awesome. No one got it.

And on some level I really believe that if I can find the ones who will devour a pear-almond upside down cake—not Himalayan sea salt fussy, not ultra-sweet Costco cake—I will have finally found my tribe. And we'll sit around and drink cocktails and talk dirty and knit, and I'll feel like I've come home.

Then W. and I came home, tumbled the limp sleepy kid into bed, sat in a living room heavy with the scent of white lilies left on the doorstep by a good friend, and ate cake. And rued the frugal decision not to pick up a bottle of Black Label.

And realized that I have come home.

(My tribe is small. But I really did sit around and drink wine and knit and talk occasionally dirty with a few good girlfriends last night. So I'm counting my blessings and trying to enjoy the spark of being just a tad off typical.)

Pear-Almond Upside-Down Cake
(adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison)

3 T. butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 medium-sized pears
1/4 cup almond paste

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract
3 eggs at room temp.
2/3 cup almond meal (they sell this at Trader Joe's, or you can grind blanched almonds yourself)
1 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the butter and brown sugar in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and heat on medium until the sugar is melted. Remove from heat. Peel, core, and slice the pears about 1/4 inch thick. Overlap the slices in concentric circles on top of the melty sugar/butter. Break the almond paste into pea-sized pieces and sprinkle over pears.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts, then the eggs, one at a time.

Stir in nuts and other dry ingredients. Spoon over the fruit and smooth out gently.

Bake in the center of oven until golden and springy, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan a few minutes.

Now the tricky part. Put a big round cake plate upside down over the skillet. With potholders protecting your hands, grab the plate and the skillet firmly and flip over with authority. (This is easy for me to say. W. always does this for me. I'm chicken.)

If any pears are left in the skillet, just transfer them to the top of the cake and pretend the whole thing came out perfect.