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.