Pink slime is so hot right now – it’s in fast food joints, at supermarkets, and even in our elementary schools. But, pink slime is so much better when it’s homemade! Once you taste a fresh pink slime hamburger, you’ll never be satisfied with the drive-through version again. Grinding our own pink slime is also a great way to tailor the ammonia content to your particular taste, whether you prefer tangy and solvent, or mild and corrosive.
For this burger, I used the left over beef trimmings that I had been saving for compost. They were aged one week at room temperature and had just started to take on the terroir of my compost bin. You can use store-bought ammonia, but if you happen to be (or know) a cat owner, I highly recommend using feline-produced ammonia. It provides a sharper, more vibrant flavor that you can only get from fresh, local sources. I recommend using cat litter that has been sitting for 30 days. Sift out the solid waste (because it would be disgusting if any fecal matter got near your burger patty) and reserve the litter granules – they contain the precious ammonium hydroxide we’re after. Blend the litter granules into a fine puree, then pass them through a chinois or coffee filter. Combine the aromatic litter liquid with the beef trimmings and feed through a masticating juicer or a pasta maker with a spaghetti die attached. Form the extruded meat into circular patties and cook on a grill, or sous vide before deep frying for a perfectly brown crust.
I like to keep the rest of my burger pretty simple – a Kaiser roll or a brioche bun, an American cheese slice, some heirloom tomato, and plenty of ketchup to mask the other flavors. Enjoy at your next backyard barbeque, or any old day of the week!
[and happy April Fool’s day.]
Did you know that you can cure meat at home using nothing more than a wine refrigerator?
This was my first attempt at meat curing, and I’d say it went fantastically well. This project was inspired by Matt Wright and his insanely beautiful blog, WrightFood. Matt has some serious curing experience under his belt, and offers detailed recipes and techniques for home curing. For this project, I followed his recipe for Duck Prosciutto (recipe is towards the bottom of the post).
The recipe calls for curing duck breasts in salt for 24 hours before hanging them up to cure at 55F with 60% relative humidity until they have lost 30% of their original mass.
Although I’ve got big plans in my head for building a high-tech curing chamber (one day), I also remembered that I had an unused wine refrigerator sitting in the basement. Nothing is sadder than an empty wine fridge, so I decided to repurpose it for a bold new mission. The fridge has an adjustable temperature setting for champagne, whites, reds and long-term storage. Luckily for me, one of those settings corresponds to 55F. I didn’t bother measuring the humidity in the wine fridge, but I reasoned that it would have to maintain a reasonable humidity level to keep wine corks from drying out. The fridge also has a small fan, which is great for circulating the air inside and a desirable condition for curing meat.
Deep frying your Thanksgiving turkey is popular for a reason – it happens to be the same reason that Lipitor is popular, but that’s beside the point. Unfortunately, every year, 10 million* Americans start house fires from attempting to fry their bird. And in addition to the arson hazard, deep frying a turkey requires a ton of oil, which, let’s face it, you’re not going to filter and reuse.
Luckily, the folks at Char-Broil have created The Big Easy Oil-Less Infrared Turkey Deep Fryer, and were kind enough to loan me a unit for testing. This cooker looks and works just like a conventional turkey fryer, except it uses no oil. Instead, a ring of gas burners heat up the inside of the cooking chamber, roasting your meat evenly and allowing the fat to drip down, with no risk of flame-ups.
Rather than test the machine with a turkey, though, I thought I’d try out a few other dishes. Check out my video review after the jump.
Sous vide strikes again! This time, we’re exploiting science for perfectly medium-rare, ultra-tender flank steak. And, since we’re throwing ethnic authenticity to the wind, why be predictable with our condiments? Salsa and Monterey Jack are out, red onion compote and chèvre (goat’s cheese) are in. If you’re not a sous vider (yet), you can cook your flank steak however you like: broiled, grilled, smoked, or fried.
Makes: 4 Tacos Scientificos
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes (+12 hours cooking time)
Special equipment: Vacuum sealer, sous vide water oven
- 1 lb. flank steak
- 1 tsp. Mexican seasoning blend
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
- 1 pinch salt
- 4 four tortillas
- 1 cup crumbled goat’s cheese
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 bunch cilantro
- Pat the steak dry and coat all sides with Mexican seasoning blend and lime juice. Vacuum seal the steak in a bag large enough that the meat lays flat (but still fits in your water oven). Cut the meat into two pieces and seal separately, if needed. (If you’re not cooking your steak sous vide, place it in a zip-top bag or a covered shallow dish and let it marinate overnight). Note: although it might be tempting to add aromatics like garlic to the marinade, don’t! Your kitchen will smell like ass by the time the meat is done.
- Set your sous vide water oven to 56°C. Add the vacuum sealed steak, making sure the meat stays submerged. Cook for a minimum of 1 hour, up to 48 hours. The picture above shows the meat after cooking for 12 hours, which was perfectly tender.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add the red onion and reduce the heat to low. Let the onion sweat 5 minutes, until it is slightly translucent, but not browned. Add the dark brown sugar, sherry vinegar and salt and stir to combine. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and making sure the mixture doesn’t boil or burn.
- Remove the bag from the water bath and let the meat rest, still in the bag, for 10 minutes before searing. Remove the meat from the bag and pat dry on all sides. Sear with a blow torch, under the broiler, or in a smoking-hot pan.
- Slice the meat perpendicular to the direction of the muscle fibers, and on a sharp bias.
- Assemble the tacos: tortilla, sour cream, steak, cheese, onion compote, cilantro. Enjoy!
Cooking the steak sous vide rather than just grilling it may sound like a pain in the ass since you have to plan 12 hours ahead. However, the hardest part of cooking flank steak is getting your timing right. Leave it on the grill 1 minute too long and it’s overcooked and tough; take it off too early and it’s raw. And, if you’re entertaining company, you may be more focused on your margarita than your steak. Cooking your meat sous vide lets you be laissez-faire with your timing – sometimes I even sear my steak before company arrives and return it to the water bath to keep it warm until we’re ready to eat.
Sous vide cooking works its magic on a lot of foods, but short ribs yield some of the most dramatic results I’ve seen. In traditional recipes, the ribs (usually cut into short 2-3” chunks by the butcher) are braised for several hours. Although the braising method adds great flavor and makes the meat extremely tender, the meat is also necessarily well-done. But, thanks to our sous vide wizardry, we’re able to maintain a perfectly-pink medium rare and have our meat come out fork-tender. Feel free to experiment with marinades in the bag, but know that some herbs, like thyme, will start to reek after 3 days in the bath.
Makes: 6-8 best-of-both-worlds short ribs
Total kitchen time: 72.5 hours (give or take)
- 6 lbs. short ribs (I used a 6 lb. uncut slab from my butcher, but you can use 6-8 pre-cut pieces)
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 tbsp. coarse smoked salt (I prefer Alder wood smoked salt)
Special equipment: sous vide heating immersion circulator, vacuum sealer and (optional) blowtorch.
- Preheat a large water bath to 56C (133F).
- If using an uncut slab of short ribs, trim off any large areas of fat on both sides.
- Coat all sides of the meat with salt and garlic cloves. Place slab (or pre-cut short ribs) into a large vacuum seal bag. If using pre-cut pieces, you may need to divide them between 2 bags, ensuring there is plenty of space between the ribs. Seal the bag.
- Fully submerge your bags in the water bath and cook, turning the bags every 12-18 hours. After 60 hours, increase the heat to 62.5C (144.5F) and cook an additional 12 hours.
- If using a blow torch: Pace a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan or jelly roll. When ready to serve, remove the ribs from the bag and drain.
- If using a slab of ribs, turn the ribs bone-side-up and slice through the meat between the bones lengthwise to separate out each bone. Cut the membrane running the length of the bone and slide the bone loose (it should give easily, with a little encouragement from your knife). Trim any access fat surrounding where the bone used to be. Cut the trimmed meat into portions.
- If using the blowtorch, place a cooling rack above a sheet pan or jelly roll pan. Place each portion of ribs on the cooling rack, allowing plenty of space in between. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Using your torch, sear all sides for a few seconds, or until golden brown.
- If you’re not using a blowtorch, give the ribs a quick fire under the broiler or in a little oil on a smoking-hot skillet to brown all sides as quickly as possible.
- Serve immediately.
After tasting these short ribs, I may never cook any type of ribs the same way again. This summer, I plan to lightly smoke a rack of spare ribs, then cook them sous vide for a few days before finishing them back on the grill. I expect pretty incredible results.
How many adjectives have you used to describe a glass of wine? Smoky, sharp, fruity, complex, perky, aggressive, balanced, lingering, refined… Now, how about coffee? Bold, rich, dark, strong, nutty… Now try beef.
Having a little more trouble with this one, huh? While you may have gone to wine tasting events, or perhaps sampled two or three different coffee blends side by side, or even done blind tastings of chocolate or olive oil, chances are that you’ve never tested your taste buds with steak. In fact, aside from a favorite cut (like T-bone, New York strip, filet and the like) most Americans have no idea what qualities they like in a steak. I know that in wine, for example, I prefer fruity reds with mild tannins and a sweet finish. But up until a few weeks ago, I was totally unaware of my own preferences for that great-American staple: steak. Learning about your own preferences is not only delicious, but also quite a bit of fun.
“But what is there to choose about a steak besides the cut?” you may be asking. Well, in the same way that two bottles of Pinot Noir don’t taste identical just because they come from the same varietal, two New York strips can vary vastly in flavor based on the breed of cattle, the terroir in which the cattle lived and grazed, what the cattle ate, and how the steaks were finished. It is a disgracefully unfortunate fact that we are have little-to-no insight into any of these particulars when we buy steaks at the grocery store. In fact, if you want to piss off the meat man at your local Safeway, pick up a steak and ask him if the cow was treated with steroids, hormones or antibiotics, and if it was fed grass, corn or some type of mystery feed before slaughter. (Note: this is part of the reason that I don’t buy formerly-living things from Safeway, at least not the one near me.) While your average $7 bottle of wine will tell you the year the grapes were harvested, the blend percentage of the varietals, the grape source, where the wine was made, and the alcohol percentage, we’re lucky if our beef packaging even makes mention of the cow’s diet. And even then, you’re rarely getting the whole story.
Luckily, I happened to meet Carrie Oliver at the International Food Bloggers Conference last summer, and get to hear her talk steak. Her company, Oliver Ranch, connects people like you and me with high-quality, traceable, hormone and antibiotic-free beef produced by independent farmers. Their website allows you to order your favorite cuts from one of four independent farms that supply to Oliver Ranch, and your steaks are shipped directly to you, vacuum sealed and flash-frozen. But, in my opinion, the best part of what they offer is the tasters pack. You can choose between filet mignon, New York strip, top sirloin or rib-eye tasting packs that include one or more steaks from each of the farms. The tasting pack comes with a tasting guide, complete background on the ranches and cattle, and even nifty little wood picks that read “medium rare” (incidentally, the only proper way to cook a steak, in my opinion).
I held a steak tasting for 8 people using the four different steaks from the tasting pack, plus one from my local (and well-renowned) butcher. Since the purpose of the tasting, other than to fill up on amazing meat, was to discover everyone’s personal preferences, we made the tasting blind – that is, nobody but me knew which type of steak they were eating until the very end of the meal. In order to ensure consistency, I cooked all of the steaks sous vide to a precise medium rare (53.5C) for two hours. Afterwards, I seasoned the meat with sea salt and seared the outside with a blow torch. So, every steak was the exact same doneness, with the exact same seasoning, with the exact same amount of char. I can say with confidence that this preparation method, as geeky as it was, would stand up to scientific scrutiny.
I cut each of the steaks into small portions and served them clockwise around the tasters’ plates. To round out the meal, a healthy dollop of garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus filled in empty plate space. As we started eating, a chorus of moans, full-mouthed expressions of surprise and delight, worked its way around the table. Not only were the steaks transcendent, but the flavor differences between them were profound. Some steaks carried a strong flavor of grass, others of nutmeg and molasses, still others of wheat and a milieu of subtle tones – just like a glass of fine wine. What’s more impressive, though, is that these differences were not at all lost on the other tasters: my family. Although they certainly appreciate good food, this was not a group of foodies looking to out-taste one another, or people with a vested interest in seeing the emperor’s clothes. These were people who, until that night, didn’t know Holstein from Angus, but now had a reason to find out.
Not surprisingly, everyone had their own opinions on which steak they liked the best. However, in general, the table preferred the two wet-aged steaks: the Holstein-Friesian from the 3 Brand Cattle Company and the Wagyu-Angus Cross from Select Kobe Beef America Ranches. We considered these to be the “steakiest” steaks with a richer, sweeter flavor than the others. There was another clear decision from the table – the expensive steaks from my local butcher came in dead-last.
Not only was this a fun and memorable way to spend a meal, but now when I’m at the butcher or ordering steak off of a restaurant menu, I’m armed with knowledge of my own personal preferences, as well as some of the right questions to ask to ensure that the beef comes from sources I want to support. If you’ve watched Food Inc. or read a Michael Pollan book, you know that the American beef industry is a clusterfuck of cost-cutting, misinformation and industrial-strength indifference to sustainable meat production. But it is important to remember that there are artisan farmers out there, raising beef responsibly and artfully. Once you connect with that delicious combination of breed, diet, finishing and cut that lights up every taste bud on your tongue and makes your mouth water in anticipation of the next bite, you’ll know you’ve found the steak for you. And after that day, you’ll never settle for less.
“When the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
OK, OK, I’ve gone a little sous vide crazy lately… but can you blame me? Perhaps the most revolutionary cooking method of our lifetimes has just poked its head into my kitchen. It’ll take more than a few weeks and a handful of medium-rare proteins before I’m over it.
We all know that the sous vide method produces flawless (and dare I say, unparalleled) steak. But, did you know that the same magic works on lamb? It’s an amazing and, frankly, jolting experience to watch an incredibly tender lamb loin chop fall off the bone, only to reveal that the interior is a perfect medium-rare. How can this be? In order to get lamb tender enough to fall apart, you have to braise the hell out of it, right? Wrong. That’s where sous vide comes in. I cooked the lamb shanks at 54.5C – a precise medium rare – for 24 hours, until they were just barely clinging to the bone. And since lamb is so flavorful and succulent on its own, a simple slice of pita bread, some feta cheese and toasted tomatoes were all that was needed to create a really memorable dinner.
Makes: 4 little lamb wraps
Total kitchen time: 15 minutes active, 24 hours cooking
Special equipment required: sous vide immersion circulator, blowtorch (optional), vacuum sealer
- 4 American lamb loin chops
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 pieces pita bread
- 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
- 1 cup roasted tomatoes (available in finer grocery stores, substitute sun dried tomatoes)
- Heat your sous vide immersion circulator to 54.5C.
- Pat the lamb chops dry and coat liberally with kosher salt. Sear all sides with a blowtorch until just browned. If you don’t have a blowtorch (you should get one if you’re gonna be sous videing) preheat a skillet over very high heat. Sear the lamb chops on all sides, just a few seconds per side.
- Place lamb chops in a vacuum sealer bag and seal. Place in the water bath and cook 24 hours, up to 32 hours.
- When ready to serve, heat the pita slices for 30 seconds in the microwave. Divide the Feta and tomatoes between the pita. Remove lamb from the water bath and pull the meat apart with your fingers or a fork. Add to the pita. Roll and serve!
It’s a little jarring at first to see shredded lamb that’s so bright pink and moist. But one bight of this dish will make you forget every lamb sandwich you’ve ever eaten. Rather than tough, dry meat that begs for the rehydrating action of mint jelly, this is lamb as it should be.
Full Disclosure: I got free stuff, but that doesn’t pay for my opinion.
I love the richness and elegance of beef wellington, particularly for fancy winter dinners. Beef wellington, if you haven’t had it before, is a medium rare slab of steak, topped with fois gras and mushrooms, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. The dish can be an expensive proposition, so I’ve transformed it into economical hors d’oeuvres.
Makes: about 30 bites
Total kitchen time: 25 minutes (longer if starting with rare tenderloin)
- 2 1 lb. fully cooked beef tenderloins (available at Trader Joe’s seasonally)
- 4 Oz. pâté (chicken or duck will work fine)
- 2 12” square sheets of puff pastry, thawed but still cold
- Toothpicks, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and set the top rack in the middle of the oven.
- If you are starting with an uncooked beef tenderloin, season it to taste and cook until rare. Allow the tenderloin to come to room temperature before carving, at least 30 minutes. If using pre-cooked tenderloin, remove from the packaging and wipe all sides dry with paper towels. Cut the tenderloin into long, 1” square strips. You should get about 3 good strips per tenderloin; the rest can be saved for excellent next-day sandwiches!
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick mat. Lay out one sheet of puff pastry and place the cut tenderloin about 1/2” from the top edge. Spread a little of the pâté on top of the tenderloin. Then, carefully fold the puff pastry over the tenderloin, rolling the meat and the dough until you’ve completely encased the tenderloin. Press the dough down at the seam to seal it. Using a sharp knife, cut the sealed portion of dough away and place on the baking sheet. Repeat for a total of three “logs” per sheet of puff pastry.
- Bake until the puff pastry is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Slice each “log” into 1” pieces, skewer with a toothpick, and serve!
We were able to save a little cash by using chicken pâté instead of expensive (and rare) fois gras. We also left out the mushroom mixture you usually find in beef wellington – for our purposes, the mushrooms would be a little messy since they’d fall out the sides of the cut pieces. Trust me, your guests won’t miss them.
Any German can tell you that wurst and and cabbage go hand in hand. Any Spaniard will say the same of chorizo and beans. But it takes a special, international inclination to make the case for kielbasa with brussels sprouts, white beans and mustard. I’ll tell you that it works wonderfully! The saltiness of the pork combined with the bitter, gentle crunch of the brussels sprouts and mildness of the beans is well-balanced perfection. Plus, its cheap, easy and looks good on a plate!
Makes: 4 Plates of European Unity
Total kitchen time: 30 mins
- 1 medium shallot
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 1.5 lbs. brussels sprouts
- 1 lb. pork kielbasa
- 1 can white kidney beans
- 2 tbsp. coarse mustard
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Peel the shallot and cut into quarters. Make a small pouch out of aluminum foil (2 layers thick) and place inside the shallot and garlic. Coat with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Seal the pouch tightly and place in the oven (I recommend the toaster oven) at 400°F for 30 minutes.
- Rinse and pick clean the brussels sprouts. Cut each sprout in half, discarding any wilted or fugly outer leaves. Steam (or boil, your choice) the brussels sprouts until tender when pierced with a fork. Set aside.
- Rinse and drain the beans. Honestly, 1 can is a little too bean-heavy. You may want to save about 1/3 of the beans for something else. I know, I’m telling you now after you’ve bought a whole can, as opposed to buying 2/3 of a can.
- Slice the kielbasa on a steep bias into 1/4” slices. Heat 1 tsp. of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed non-nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Arrange the kielbasa slices and fry until crispy on each side, about 3 minutes per side. It’ll smell like bacon, confusing your dog. Set aside (the kielbasa, not your dog) on paper towels to drain.
- If your skillet is full of porky goodness, keep it there. Add a generous tablespoon of good olive oil and keep the heat at medium high. Unwrap the garlic and shallot and smash them using the flat side of your knife. They should be very soft. Add them to the skillet and cook for about 1 minute.
- Add the mustard and cream to the skillet and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the brussels sprouts and beans (as many as you want to use). Toss everything together to coat, then season to taste with a generous amount of salt and black pepper.
- Plate the kielbasa on top of your brussels sprouts and beans in a large bowl to serve.
If you’ve been hit hard by the recession, don’t worry – you can make this recipe without the brussels sprouts or the beans (choose one). There, I just saved you like $1.50. Maybe I should invite Suze Orman over for dinner!
In my ongoing quest of creating great dishes that use loose tea as a key ingredient, I’ve come up with some killer pork chops. This recipe uses Apricot Peach Fruit Tea from the Portsmouth Tea Company to create an in-pan glaze that was born to love tender, juicy pork. Too bad this tea is decaf – I’d sprinkle it over my bacon as a pick-me-up breakfast any day.
Makes: 2 sweet chops
Total kitchen time: 15 minutes
- 2 boneless pork chops, trimmed
- 2 tbsp. Apricot Peach Fruit Tea
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pat the pork chops dry on both sides. Salt and pepper the chops on all sides.
- Coat the pork chops on both sides with the loose tea. Press the tea into the skin of the chops until it sticks.
- Place the pork chops on a room-temperature skillet (not nonstick) with at least 1” of space between them. Cover the skillet with a lid and place it over medium heat.
- After 6-7 minutes or so, the fist side should be nicely browned. Flip the chops and cook, covered, another 5 minutes or so or until cooked through.
- By this time, a thick, sweet glaze has developed in your skillet. Plate the pork chops and top with a heaping spoonful of the pan glaze.
If you’re planning on making ribs this summer, I applaud you. However, if your rib recipe involves a bottle of Hunt’s BBQ sauce, you are denying yourself a transcendent epicurean experience: garlic-curry short ribs.
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes prep, 4 hours, plus 15 minutes cooking time
Makes: 3 racks
- 3 racks baby back ribs (short ribs)
- 8 tbsp. + 2 tsp. crushed garlic
- 4 cups prepared Turmeric-Curry Dry Rub
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
- 1/4 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. lime juice
- a lot of heavy-duty aluminum foil
- Can be done 1 day ahead, refrigerate until ready to cook. Work one slab of ribs at a time. Lay out two large pieces of foil, on top of one another, big enough to cover the slab. Pat the slab dry on both sides with paper towels, and lay bone-side up in the middle of the foil.
- Spread 1 tbsp. of crushed garlic across the surface of the ribs (bone side up). Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the prepared dry rub over the bone side of the ribs and push the rub into the skin. Flip the ribs over (skin side up) and repeat – 1 tbsp. of garlic, then 1/2 cup dry rub pressed into the skin. You should have 1 cup of dry rub remaining, for the barbecue sauce.
- Lay the ribs bone-side down and seal tightly with the aluminum foil. Working with the long side first, bring the opposite edges together and fold over to form a crease. Fold over a second time to double the crease, being sure to keep the foil tight to the meat. fold the short ends up towards the skin side and seal tightly.
- Preheat your oven to 200°F and set the top rack in the middle position. Place a rimmed baking sheet or a large piece of foil in the bottom of your oven to catch any juice that drips off during cooking.
What’s a dry rub, you ask? A dry rub is mixture of spices (and sometimes dried herbs) applied to meat before cooking to add flavor. Dry rubs are most typically used for barbeque, but there’s no reason you can’t sprinkle some over your scrambled eggs in the morning. The picture above (which I will be sending to my neighborhood palm reader) shows the proportions you’re going for – its mostly brown sugar and salt.
Total kitchen time: 5 minutes
Makes: enough for 4 racks of ribs
- 4 cups light brown sugar
- 2 tsp. yellow curry powder
- 2 tsp. turmeric
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. red cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl. That’s it, you’re done. Taste a spoonful and adjust to your personal preference.
This dry rub, or a variation thereof, is also the base for my homemade barbeque sauce. In a medium saucepan, add 1 cup of dry rub, 1 cup of ketchup, some Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, honey, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and whatever else your heart desires. If you start bottling it and selling it to friends, just email me for my address (so you can start sending me checks). Enjoy!
At my home, grilling doesn’t get more perfect than a medium-rare charred piece of meat and tender, flavorfull roasted veggies. This meal is a great way to feed a hungry crowd on the cheap (and the quick!) Remember your flank steak science, though: never cook past medium rare, let the meat rest at least 15 minutes, and always slice on a steep bias.
Makes: 4 people long for margaritas
Total kitchen time: 1 hr, plus marinating time
- 1 2-2.5 lb. flank steak
- 1 large eggplant
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 2/3 cup mint, coarsely chopped
- 2 small red or yellow peppers, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. ancho chile powder (or fajita seasoning)
- 1/4 cup coarse breadcrumbs (diced day-old bread is best)
- 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup shredded jack cheese
- olive oil
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Combine half the smashed garlic, half the cilantro, half the mint and all the peppers in a small food processor and pulse until the mixture is pretty fine, but not a paste. If necessary, add a tbsp. of olive oil to help things out.
- Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the flank steak, and season with cayenne pepper and chile powder. Rub with olive oil and 2/3 of the garlic mixture you just made. Reserve the rest for after the meat has cooked. Let the meat marinate in the fridge for up to 12 hours. Let the meat rest at room temperature for 45 minutes before cooking.
- Preheat your grill on high heat and make sure your grates are nice and clean.
- Cut off the top and bottom of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 4 wedges, lengthwise. Then, score the flesh of the eggplant deeply (but not going through) with your knife at 1/4” spacing. Turn the eggplant 90° and score it again to form a crosshatch. Toss the eggplant with olive oil until lightly coated, then salt and pepper.
- In your mini food processor, pulse together the remaining garlic, cilantro, and mint along with the bread crumbs, lemon zest and 1 tsp. of olive oil. Rub the mixture into the scored flesh of the eggplant, pushing it down into the cracks.
- Grill the eggplant, flesh side down, just long enough to develop char marks, about 1 minute per side. Set the eggplant on a rack above the grilling surface, or on a cooler side of the grill.
- Grill the flank steak until medium rare, about 6 minutes per side. Let the meat rest at least 15 minutes before slicing. Slice the flank steak on a steep bias with a sharp knife.
- Arrange the sliced meat, eggplant, and whatever other good stuff you’ve got going on a large platter. Sprinkle the shredded jack cheese over the eggplant and serve to adoring fans.
If you can get comfortable grilling flank steak, you will always have a date for dinner. Throw in a cool red wine or a pitcher of sangria and it’s a party!
May is a strange month for weather, and correspondingly for food. When the temperature swings fifty degrees in a week, it’s hard to know what to cook. During a cold, rainy snap we had a few weeks ago, I decided to make one of my favorite winter dishes as sort of a farewell salute to gray skies. This is more of a personal interpretation than a traditional ossobuco, but these flavors are so kick-ass that you won’t want to quibble over technicalities.
Makes: 2 people feel the warmth of winter, year round
Total kitchen time: 3 hours
- 2 lamb shanks, bone-in
- 1 medium union, diced
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 8 oz. shitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste (tomato sauce or puree will work in a pinch)
- 2 cups wine (white for a sweeter dish, red for a more savory dish)
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- olive oil
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the polenta:
- 2 cups polenta, prepared
- if using firm polenta, you’ll need 1/2 cup of hot chicken stock
- 4 oz. dried wild mushrooms (porcini, shitake, morel, woodear)
- 2 tbsp. crumbled blue cheese (Rogue River is best, try Whole Foods)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 300°F and place the top rack in the lower part of the oven. Preheat a dutch oven or the heaviest large, ovenproof stockpot with a lid that you own. Either way, get the pot rocket hot.
- Season the lamb shanks on all sides liberally with salt and pepper. Rub lightly with olive oil to coat and to promote browning. Working one at a time, sear the lamb shanks on both sides on very high heat in your dutch oven. Place the meat in the middle of the pot and don’t touch it for 3 minutes. Flip it over and don’t touch it for another 2. Place the seared meat on a platter to rest.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery to the empty pot and reduce the heat to medium. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies have slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic (whole cloves) and mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. You should have a nice collection of brown bits at the bottom of your pot now.
- Add the tomato paste and cook another minute or so. Then, add the wine and turn the heat up to high. Scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and reduce the wine until it has thickened a little, about 8 minutes. Add the beef stock, rosemary sprig and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
- Put the meat back in the pot and submerge it under the liquid and veggies. Put the lid on your dutch oven and transfer it to the oven to cook at least 2 hours.
- When you’re about 45 minutes out from eatin’ time, place the dried wild mushrooms in a bowl of boiling water and let them soak for 30 minutes. Then, drain and coarsely chop the mushrooms.
- Warm the cooked polenta in a medium saucepan over low heat. If you’re starting with firm polenta, add a bit of hot chicken stock to thin it out. Season the polenta with salt and pepper and add the chopped wild mushrooms. When you’re almost ready to serve, crumble in the blue cheese and stir to combine.
- When the lamb is done braising, remove the pot from the oven and place it back on the stove. Let the meat rest on a plate, tented with foil. Bring the pot to a vigorous boil and reduce the liquid until you have only 1 cup or so left, 10-15 minutes.
- Spoon a serving of polenta into the bottom of a large dinner bowl and top with a lamb shank. Cover the lamb shank with a generous helping of the reduced liquid and veggies. If you like (and I’m sure you do) add a thin slice of blue cheese on top.
Well, that’s officially the season finale for winter cooking this year. This dish is one of the heartiest, most soul satisfying meals I know, so the next time you find yourself out in the cold rain, you’ll know what to make.
Inspired by the May ’08 cover of Bon Appétit, Rachel and I attempted to take a dramatic photo of one of the world’s best recipes: steak frites. I’ve already posted an entry on the topic, but this classic French dish is so important to my culinary philosophy that it deserves another visit. Anyhow, mad props to Rach for taking the winning shot, pictured above.