Tag Archives: beef

Taco time

Taco station, ready to go!

Taco station, ready to go!

A veritable feast tonight! Some friends came over and decided they were in the mood for tacos, we we put together a taco night with all the fixin’s: taco meat (obviously), home-made salsa, bell peppers, home-made guacamole, some left-over rice, yogurt (to use instead of sour cream). Colorful¬†and delicious! What more can a girl ask for?

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Pan-fried steak, roast vegetables, and tomato sauce

Another long day of cooking, courtesy of my Rouxbe course. I was going to do a long write-up of the stuff I did today (sweating practice using garlic cloves, tomato sauce, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, and pan-fried steak), but I’m tired and don’t really think I have anything deep and meaningful to contribute. It’s all techniques I’ve done before, for the most part, and just a matter of refining and practicing. I only have a few notes:

– As an exercise to demonstrate why sweating ingredients is important and distinct from browning, the course has us sweat a single minced garlic clove on low heat until softened, add a half-cup of water, simmer for 30 seconds, and then pour into a container. Repeat, but instead of sweating, brown the garlic. I will say this: pushing around a single minced clove of garlic on low heat for 15-20 minutes is probably someone’s textbook definition of hell. It might even be mine. So… boring…

– I have a very hard time figuring out when the beef is done properly. I aimed at 6-7 minutes a side, which seems to have lead to about medium-well, but I honestly have no idea how I’d know the done-ness before I cut into it and eat. Any suggestions?

– I still have not achieved “flow.” I’m calmer in the kitchen now, which is good, but things still take a very long time. All the food I mentioned above — which really isn’t all that much, in the end — took about four and a half hours. I don’t mind the long time, as I was home and not doing anything else anyway, but I’m really hoping it starts getting shorter as I gain more experience and know what I can multitask on and what requires singular focus. I’m still looking at my cooking practice the way I would a university class in which I get to eat my homework. And a 4-hour class a week is quite reasonable.

– I’m finding more and more that cooking is very holistic. Whereas I used to be very focused on timing (“It says cook for 5 minutes and it’s been 7! Oh, no!”), the Rouxbe course is helping me identify cues in the cooking process so that I don’t need to focus on the precise time. I’m now focusing more on the look of the food, how it sounds in the pan, what it smells like (admittedly difficult for me with my hyposmia, but I’m trying), etc. It’s very multi-sensory and immersive, and I now understand how people with more experience can get into a zen-like state while cooking.

– Dishes. Oh, my god, the dishes. I’m so glad I clean as I go, because I used a lot of dishes today.

– I was quite tired from my four-and-a-half-hour sojourn into the world of cooking. So what did I do? Made cream biscuits. Yes, in Julie’s brain, the way you relax after a long day of cooking is to do some baking. Sigh.

Freezer meals: cranberry chicken and beef stew

One failure and one success! (Eh, can’t win ’em all.) To start with the failure…

Cranberry chicken

Cranberry chicken

1. Cranberry Chicken

I admit, I was worried about the cranberry chicken pretty much as soon as I put it in the bag. It’s little more than chicken, apples, cranberry sauce, an onion, and some flavoring agents (lemon, honey, etc.). It made a lot less than the other recipes, only enough for dinner for me and Marc and a half-serving of leftovers. But that’s okay, because it wasn’t very good.

It might be that we cooked it too long. The directions are for 8 hours on low, and we probably had it in the crock pot around 10, but this was clearly Much Too Long. Despite being in a slow cooker all day, the meat was tough (i.e. overcooked) and the taste was… meh. Tart and sweet, but not in a good way. We ate our portions for dinner (reluctantly), but neither of us touched the leftovers. So this one — not so much a keeper.

 

Beef stew

Beef stew

2. Beef Stew

This one, on the other hand, went quite well. It’s admittedly kind of hard to screw up beef stew (recipe here), but still. It’s always nice when things come together, especially after the cranberry chicken disaster. The taste is good, it’s very hearty, and it makes enough for dinner plus another 2-3 servings. Putting it from the freezer to the fridge last night wasn’t quite enough time to defrost it, but it’s okay. Ten hours in a crock pot means that it was fine.

The one change I’d make next time is to add some barley. There’s a lot of liquid in this recipe, and I think adding in a 1/2-cup of barley when I toss everything into the crock pot (not in the freezer bag — I don’t think barley freezes that well) would do just the trick.

In any case, we had this with some baguette for dinner, and… yum! Just what we needed on a cold day like today. This one’s a keeper.

So we’re now halfway through the recipes I made for the first batch. Still to go: fajitas, taco soup, cilantro-lime chicken, and BBQ chicken. Clearly, our meals are gonna be somewhat Mexican-inspired for the next few weeks…

Batch cooking #2

After last week’s batch cooking success, I decided to try again. The plan for this week: some sort of tagine, some sort of chili or meat sauce, and some sort of baked good. My plan was to have everything done by Sunday afternoon. But we all know how it goes with plans…

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Meatloaf

Friends, I have a confession: I’m 29 years old and I’ve never made a meatloaf.

I decided that that situation needed to change. Tonight. Marc started a new, physically demanding job this week and he’s been coming home very tired. And while my normal meals tend to run semi-vegetarian (mostly to save money), I decided that tonight my man deserved meat. And since we don’t have a barbeque, I’d try something else.

After hunting around some of my favorite food blogs, I found this recipe from The Kitchn. It looked promising, and moreover it looked pretty simple. I decided to try it.

But oh, nothing that be that simple, can it?

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Improvised beef stew and roasted potatoes

For the past two weeks, and continuing for the next month and a half or so, my weekly D&D group has been meeting at my house. Last week, I was inspired to cook up a batch of chili and cornbread for the game. This week, I wanted to do pot roast in the slow cooker.

Enter problem #1: I couldn’t find any affordable pot roast. In fact, I really couldn’t find much of anything at the first grocery store I went to, and was forced to brave the -30 C wind chills yesterday morning to go to my local store and pick up five pounds of stewing beef. (Yes, five pounds. This is what happens when you’re serving ten people.)

Problem #2: I overestimated the size of my crock pot. My initial plan was to have the stew contain onions, baby carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes along with the beef. Instead, I had just enough place for the beef, a couple of onions and 3/4 of the baby carrots I picked up. Absolutely no room for potatoes! So I decided to leave them out and do a side of roasted potatoes instead.

Problem #3: I overestimated the size of my baking sheet. So I only got to roast two of the three sweet potatoes and about 3/4 of the regular potatoes. Thankfully, it was enough that everyone got a serving.

In the end, both the stew and the potatoes were extremely tasty. The sweet potatoes browned much faster than the regular potatoes, but I caught them before too many were burnt. And roasted potatoes in the stew worked out wonderfully. Given that I wound up serving seven people instead of the expected ten, I’ve got a few leftovers for today, which makes me happy.

Anyway, no recipe this time because it was mostly improvised. (Though loosely based on this pot roast recipe. Very loosely.) Now I have to figure out what I want to cook for next week!

Cholent

I’ve been puttering around in my comfort zone for a while in the kitchen, so it’s about time for another capital-A Adventure: cholent! I used to love my bubby’s cholent, and sadly never got the recipe from her, so I’m working from scratch. I’m actually working from two different recipes, one from Second Helpings, Please (a quintessential Montreal Jewish cookbook) and from this recipe, which was the highest-ranked cholent recipe I could find online.

For those who don’t know, cholent is a Jewish stew typically eaten as a Sabbath lunch. It’s a stew made with meat, beans, potatoes, barley, and whatever else you’ve got handy. Start it up Friday night, leave it in a warm oven (200 degrees) until noon Saturday, and voila! Lunch!

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