braising

Oven Braising 101

September always bring a pang of nostalgia for our brief and beautiful summers in Vermont, but with the cooler nights, my mind turns towards the comforting cold weather meals of autumn – steaming stews, baked casseroles and roasted or braised meats.
Of the latter, braising becomes a “go to” for feeding our a busy family of growing teenagers, so when there are several mouths to feed and not a lot of time to do, we turn to our oven, a roll of aluminum foil and a deep casserole dish or oven proof pot to give us flavorful, nutrition filled meals all season long.
Oven braising a large and tougher cut of meat requires minimal equipment, minimal prep and because the cooking is both hands off and over the course of two or three hours, it is a method that allows you time to do other things (hopefully fun things!) while the low, slow heat works its magic.

Key things to remember
Sear it:
Because meat is cooked at low temperature, I like to sear the meat in a large pan or deep pot first, giving the meat color and giving me a base to make a flavorful sauce.

Plan ahead:
Low and slow is key to making tough cuts of meat moist and meltingly tender, so make sure you give yourself at least a couple of hours to let the meat cook. If you can cook the braise a few days ahead of time, all the better! The flavors meld and mellow and the dish is even better when reheated one, two or three days later.

Keep it simple… or not:
Seasoning with a rub or soaking in a brine will do wonders to infuse the meat with flavor or to tenderize a very tough cut, but on the flipside, salt, pepper and some kind of liquid in a sealed container is really all you need to achieve big flavor and tender results.

Know the difference:
Roast = dry (tender cuts of beef, pork and lamb; whole young birds, whole fish; vegetables)

Braise = wet (less tender cuts of beef, pork and lamb; tough, older birds; vegetables)

Know your cuts:
When looking for cuts to use, looks for words like top or bottom round, shoulder, shank, butt, etc. The cuts closest to hoof and horn will be the least expensive and vice versa – cuts furthest from hoof and horn will be the most expensive. For beef, this means top and bottom rounds, chuck, shoulders, shanks and tails (yes, tails!) and for pork, we look for ham, Boston butt and picnic shoulder.

 

Beer Braised Beef with Pork Belly Onions
Serves approximately 4. See Cook’s Notes for non-alcoholic and non-pork substitutes.

Ingredients:

3 to 3 ½ pound of boneless beef round or chuck roast

1 tsp sea or kosher salt plus more to taste

1 tsp cracked/ground black pepper plus more to taste

2 tablespoons of olive or canola oil

2 slices of bacon, roughly chopped

1 medium yellow onion, sliced into half moons

1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 celery rib, finely diced

2 cloves peeled garlic, thinly sliced

12 oz bottle of favorite beer, allowed to go flat

2 cups water

Special Equipment:
4 to 5 quart oven safe pot with heavy lid or deep casserole dish and enough aluminum foil to cover snugly

Suggested Accompaniment:
creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, steamed rice or roasted root vegetables

Cook’s Notes:
Substitute an additional tablespoon of olive or canola oil for the bacon and use red wine or beef broth in place of beer.

Technique:

Sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 f.
In a deep, heavy bottomed pot or a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium high heat, until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking. Add the meat and with tongs, sear all sides until they take on a golden to dark golden color. Remove and let rest on a plate. Turn down the heat to medium low.
Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered. Add the sliced onions, stirring in the fat and cooking until just golden – approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Turn the heat back up to medium high and add the garlic, celery and carrots, continuing to cook until the vegetables are slightly soft and golden and the mixture is aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Carefully, add the beer to the pot or pan, scraping the bottom. Bring to a simmer and let reduce for about 3 to 5 minutes.
If transferring meat to an oven proof casserole, place the meat into the casserole dish and carefully pour the sauce on top. Add water to the dish. Cover tightly with two sheets of aluminum foil, pinching it around the sides to create an airtight “lid”. If using a lidded pot or dutch oven, place the meat back into the pot of sauce, add water and cover with a lid, using parchment paper to create a more airtight seal if necessary.

Place the covered meat and sauce into the preheated oven. Allow to cook in the oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender.
If possible, allow the meat to sit in the cooler for 2 or 3 days and reheat on the stove top. Serve with suggested accompaniments.

 

by Elena Gustavson, RAFFL’s Everyday Chef
Photo Credit: Elena Gustavson, Supper at the Farm, Craftsbury, VT 2013

Grilling steak!

Frozen Meat Primer

A common question I get from customers at farmers’ markets is if I have any meat that is not frozen. They are shopping for that evenings’ meal and don’t have time to thaw it. Occasionally, farmers will have fresh meat for sale, but the majority of locally raised meats are frozen, so knowing techniques for quickly and safely thawing frozen meat can be handy when shopping at your local farmers’ market or farm stand.

 

If time is not an issue, thawing meat in a refrigerator is the best option. Be sure to place the meat in a bowl or pan in case the package leaks during the defrosting process which will help keep the fridge clean and avoid limit the possibility of cross contamination. It is important that you make sure your refrigerator is less than 40 degrees F. The USDA’s Safe Food Handling Fact Sheet has valuable information about food safety including the fact that dangerous food borne bacteria can grow between the temperatures of 40-140 degrees F. It is important to limit the amount of time your thawing meat (any meat or prepared food, really) is in the ‘danger zone’. The refrigerator is the safest method, but in a pinch using a microwave or a cold water bath to speed up the process can work, if done correctly.

frozen chix

 

Cold Water Bath
Submerge your packaged meat in cold water. Unpackaged meat can attract bacteria from the air and absorb too much water, so put the meat in a ziplock bag if needed. Replace the water as it warms (about every 30 minutes) with fresh cold water. This technique will speed up the thawing process significantly.

water chix gallery

Microwave
Using the defrost mode on your microwave is another way to get the meat on the table quickly. When defrosting in a microwave it’s important to cook the meat immediately. The microwave isn’t ideal for defrosting red meats (it negatively affects the quality), but chicken and pork can be ready for cooking in no time using the microwave.

 

Grilling steak

Cooking Frozen Meats
Another option is to skip the thawing process altogether. America’s Test Kitchen  determined that the quality of beef steaks (especially grass-fed beef) improves when cooked while still frozen. For those who like a rare or medium-rare steak, cooking a frozen steak is the way to go.

This cooking technique is courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated chef Dan Souza

  • Heat skillet filled 1/8 inch deep with oil
  • Sear until browned (90 seconds per side)
  • Transfer to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet
  • Cook in 275-degree oven until desired doneness (18 to 20 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak)

Another handy tips when you are have a whole frozen chicken and need to have a meal on the table for dinner is to cook it frozen. It will take 50% more time to cook, but you can roast a whole chicken frozen and have a delicious dinner in a few hours. It is not recommended to cook frozen meats in a slow cooker because of the uncertainly about how long the meat will be in the danger temperature zone.

You can also boil frozen chicken. Boiling a whole frozen chicken has the advantage of giving you delicious chicken stock AND cooked chicken for several days worth of meals.

Thawing Frozen Meat FAQ

Can I refreeze meat that has been frozen and thawed?
Yes! If thawed in a refrigerator and packaged correctly you can refreeze meat that has been previously frozen. This is a great tip when you have a large package of meat and don’t want to cook it all at once. If frozen in an air-tight package there should be no loss of quality.

I just found a frozen chunk of meat at the bottom of my freezer – is it still good?
Hard telling, not knowing… You can find the FDA quidelines for storing foods here. Freezing (below zero) keeps food safe indefinitely, it is the quality that can be affected by length of time in the freezer and the type of packaging. Try to clean out your freezer at least once a year to be sure you use all your frozen goodies while they are still good.

Grill happy

How long is my refrigerator thawed meat good for?
Sorry, there is no one answer to this question. It depends on the type of meat (ground vs. whole, seafood vs. lamb, smoked vs. fresh), the type of packaging (vacuum packaging lasts longer), how long is was fresh before being frozen originally. The best advice is to use common sense, use your nose, and don’t take any chances.

These rules are true for all frozen meats!

IMG_0213

Classic Beef Stew

Growing up, beef stew was a staple in my mom’s cooking. I knew we were having it for dinner the moment I walked in the door. It’s one of those dishes that fills the house up with warm, comforting flavors. Often, she’d cook it in her slow cooker – allowing it to be a practical dish even on the busiest of weeknights.

But it’s also perfect for weekend cooking or entertaining. And even if it’s just yourself you’re cooking for, you’ll get several dinners out of the stew, making it worthwhile at any time.

Chuck roast, from the shoulder of the cow, is an ideal cut for stew. It’s economical and full of connective tissue that will break down during a slow cook and make the pieces of meat super tender. It’s just matter of cooking until the meat reaches that point of tenderness.

Start with a 2-3 pound piece of chuck. Trim the outer layer of fat then cut into one inch cubes.

Sear (brown) the meat in a large dutch oven or pot by heating a small amount of canola oil in the bottom of the pan over medium-high heat. For a good sear you will have to do a couple of batches. Just do one layer of meat at a time and be sure not to crowd the pan. Brown 2-3 minutes per side. You’re just looking to brown the meat, not cook it through at this point. When done, remove the meat from the pot.

Add in another small splash of oil then the vegetables. Use 3 cups of your choice of sliced veggies. Onions and carrots are the standard. I add in potatoes and mushrooms if I have them, or roots like turnips and rutabaga. Your call. Just cook until browned and almost tender. Season with minced garlic, dried thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf.

When done, return the meat to the pan. Now it’s time to deglaze the pot. That means scraping up the brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot with liquid. Red or white wine, cider or beer add some great flavor. But if you just have broth or even water – that will do the job. Just add the liquid in and gently scrape the pot with a wooden spoon.

Add in the tomatoes, broth and extra liquid, if needed, to make sure everything is covered.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let the stew stew for about an hour before checking the tenderness of the meat. If still chewy, continue cooking, checking every 15 minutes until ready.

If the stew looks too thin you can uncover the pot in the last 1/2 hour or so of cooking to let some of the liquid evaporate. Or, if you’d like to thicken it up even more, remove a cup of liquid from the pot and whisk in two tablespoons flour. When completely blended, stir back into the pot and cook another few minutes.

If making in the slow cooker: Follow steps 1-4 as written, then transfer everything to the slow cooker. Cook on low 4-6 hours.

Classic Beef Stew

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6-8

Ingredients

  • Canola oil
  • 2-3lb chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups sliced veggies such as onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, or potato
  • 1/2 cup deglazing liquid such as wine, beer, cider or broth
  • 4 cups beef stock or broth
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour (optional)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat.
  2. Sear the chuck, in a single layer, in batches, without crowding 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan when browned but not cooked through.
  3. Add in the veggies with another tablespoon oil. Brown and cook until just slightly tender, 5 minutes. In the last couple minutes of cooking, add the garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf.
  4. Return the meat to the pot and deglaze with your liquid of choice.
  5. Pour in the broth, and some water if needed, to cover everything in the pot with liquid.
  6. Bring a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low to bring the stew to a simmer. Cover and cook for about an hour.
  7. Check the tenderness of the meat. If not yet done, cover and continue cooking, checking every 15 minutes until to your liking.
  8. If you’d like to thicken the stew, remove a cup of the stew liquid and whisk in 2 tablespoons flour. Stir back into the pot and cook another 5 minutes.
  9. Taste, adding salt, if necessary, or a splash of apple cider vinegar, for some extra flavor.
  10. To serve, remove the bay leaf and top with the chopped parsley, if desired.
0441

Barbecue Sliders

Thanksgiving takes first place as the largest food consumption day of the year in the United States. That’s probably no surprise. But any guess what takes second? It’s not Christmas or New Years. It’s Superbowl Sunday.

It’s estimated that on February 2nd more than 1.25 billion chicken wings will be consumed across the country. That’s about 4 wings for every single American! Ever stop to wonder where the rest of the chicken goes? With factory farms, it’s used for other cuts and purposes, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a small or humane farm selling you a forty pack of wings. It’s just not practical. This Salon article highlights some of the concerns pretty well.

Then there are the 4.4 million take out pizzas that will be sold and the countless bags of chips, bottles of soda and cans of beer. For those who started healthy resolutions for 2014, all that hard work could be undone in one day.

Those statistics make me want to do nothing but get in the kitchen and cook – without any chicken wings in sight. I’ll have chicken another day, thanks. Instead, why not beef sliders? They’re also a good finger food and with a simple homemade barbecue sauce, you’ll get much of the same flavor as wings too.

Let’s start with the sauce. Chances are you have everything you need on hand.

You’ll need onions, garlic, tomato puree or sauce, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, hot sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, Dijon mustard and orange marmalade, if you’d like. These are common barbecue sauce ingredients and you can use my suggested amounts in the recipe below as a guide. The way it’s written will produce a mostly sweet sauce. Increase the amount of hot sauce as you see fit.

I use a combination of tomato sauce (already getting low on my canned supply) and ketchup to get to achieve the consistency I like. The onion gives the sauce some texture too, but you could always puree it if you’d like it smooth.

Barbecue Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • A few dashes hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoon orange marmalade (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a small pot over medium high heat.
  2. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.
  4. Lower the heat and keep at a low simmer 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Taste and add more seasoning as needed. Keeps for up to 1 week in the fridge.

Mixing the barbecue sauce into the ground beef (or other ground meat of your choosing) results in a moist and flavorful burger. If you’re not having a party, these work fine as normal sized burgers rather than the 2 ounce suggestion. In winter I prefer to cook them in a pan on the stove with just a little oil.

For the buns, you could use minis, if you can find them, but you could also just cut out pieces of bread. The top of a small jar makes a great sized cutter. Just toast before using, then place some greens on the bottom bun, like spinach, add your burger then top with cheese, extra sauce and even some bacon for a more unique contribution to the game day party. These would go great with rutabaga fries.

Barbecue Sliders

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: About 12 sliders

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef (or pork, chicken or turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • Olive oil
  • 6 ounces grated cheddar
  • 6 pieces cooked bacon (optional)
  • 12 mini buns

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl combine the ground beef, chili powder, cumin, salt, green onion and barbecue sauce.
  2. Lightly coat a skillet with the olive oil and heat over medium high heat.
  3. Use an ice cream scoop to portion out 2 ounce patties of the beef mix, lightly flattening with your hands before placing in the pan. Cook each patty 2-3 minutes per side, in batches.
  4. When ready to serve, place on a bun, top with cheese and melt under the broiler in the oven.
  5. Top with additional barbecue sauce, bacon, if using, and any other toppings.
kabobs-plated3

Teriyaki Beef Kebabs

Nothing says summer like food on a stick. From popsicles to corndogs, eating with your hands evokes the fun and casualness of the season. And it just wouldn’t be summer without a few kebabs on the grill – whether they’re beef, chicken, shrimp, or vegetables – almost anything goes.

However, the meat kebab is the most traditional. In particular, lamb. It’s a form of cooking that’s been around for thousands of years and varies just slightly throughout the world. But you’ll find that food skewered and cooked on or over a flame is almost always known as a kebab.

Primitive though it is, there are some key tips to a good kebab. First is a marinade.  A marinade will ensure your meat is tender and full of flavor. The longer you can let your meat sit in a marinade the better. Make it at least 30 minutes, though.

marinading-beef
Cut your meat up into pieces before sticking in the marinade, that way there is more surface area to penetrate. You don’t have to place them on the skewers until you’re ready for the grill, though. It’s up to you.

As for the skewers, wood is the way to go. The metal ones are sturdier and reusable, which is great, but they heat up fast and cause the center of your meat to cook too quickly and somewhat unevenly. I don’t see why they couldn’t work for vegetables, though.

Two other notes about the wooden skewers: First, in order to prevent the skewers catching fire, you need to soak them in water. Thirty minutes to an hour will do. Second, use two. Ignore my photo. I learned that one wooden skewer is just too flimsy.

While kebabs composed of all different items are visually appealing, I don’t think they work well. Keep the food on your kebabs consistent. In other words, keep the beef on its own skewers, the shrimp on its own and the peppers on their own. Different foods cook up differently and naturally require different cooking times. You don’t want to overcook your beef because the vegetable you paired it with needs more time. Leave mixing things up until they’re on your plate.

Teriyaki Beef Kebabs

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb beef sirloin, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 wooden skewers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Submerge the wooden skewers in water and soak for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Mix together the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar and oil until combined.
  3. Coat the meat with the marinade, reserving a portion for serving.
  4. Let the meat marinade anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.
  5. Thread the pieces of meat onto double skewers, leaving a little space in between each piece.
  6. Preheat the grill or a grill pan to medium high heat.
  7. Place the beef kebabs on the grill. Cook 2-3 minutes and turn. Repeat for each side, cooking a total of 10-12 minutes or until your desired temperature.
  8. Let rest for a few minutes then serve with remaining marinade.
basil

Parmesan Herb Meatballs

I realized earlier this summer that I needed to do some planning ahead. These meatballs were one tactic. Last month, I baked up a large batch and then popped them in the freezer for a quick protein addition for a variety of meals.

I used half ground beef and half ground sausage, which is not entirely the meatball norm, but what I think really makes these stand out is the large amount of fresh herbs.

Basil, parsley and oregano were my choice at the time. Thyme, sage, rosemary, fennel and even mint, could all be interesting though. You might just need to adjust the amount of herbs depending on what you go with. The amount I suggest in the recipe is based on larger leafy herbs like parsley and basil. Use more or less, to your liking.

I started by sauteing some onion with garlic and red pepper flakes.

meatball-mix

Then mixed that together with the ground meat, chopped herbs, plenty of grated Parmesan, an egg and breadcrumbs. Don’t be fooled by the spoon pictured here, meatballs are meant to be mixed and formed by hand. Just wash your hands well before and after handling the meat to avoid contaminating anything. Coating your hands in a little oil before rolling the meatballs could help prevent the meat from sticking to you.

meatballs

I rolled them out just larger than the size of golf balls and browned them in the oven. Once cooled, I slid the whole tray into the freezer. Freezing them separately at first, then transporting them to a freezer bag ensured they didn’t all stick together and that I could easily take just a few out as needed. After I take them out of the freezer, I make sure to cook finish cooking them through, as I was only looking to brown them at first.

How do I use the meatballs? If I remember, I transfer a few from the freezer to the fridge earlier in the day to defrost. A few times, I’ve braised a few in a little broth, thickened the broth to make a sauce, and served them with vegetables and a grain. Or, I’ve gone the traditional route and simmered them in tomato sauce to toss with pasta. I’m craving a meatball sandwich right now, so maybe that’s my next use. No matter what, I’ve saved myself some time trying to put together a balanced meal.

Parmesan Herb Meatballs

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 20 – 25 meatballs

 Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley, basil, mint and oregano
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup bread, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A splash of milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the garlic, red pepper flakes and onion. Saute until translucent, about 8 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Reserve the pan.
  3. In a large bowl combine the meat, egg, herbs, Parmesan, bread, milk, salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently, but thoroughly, combine it all together. It should be very moist. If not, add just a tiny bit more milk. Return your pan to the stove and place a small piece of the meat mixture in the pan to cook through. Taste and adjust the meat seasoning, as needed.
  4. Roll pieces of the meat into balls, just slightly larger than the size of a golf ball. Space them out on a baking sheet. If it’s lined with parchment paper, all the better. You’ll need at least two sheets. Place the sheets in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Let the pans cool, then place in the freezer until frozen through. You could place them on a large plate or platter, if that works better for you. When frozen, transfer the meatballs to freezer bags, seal, and use within 3 months for best quality. When ready to use, ensure that the meatballs are heated well and cooked through.
039

Beef, Turkey & Mushroom Meatloaf with Cider Mustard Gravy

I grew up eating meatloaf on a regular basis. It was a popular item in my mom’s dinner rotation, usually served with baked potatoes – because they could bake at the same time – and a green vegetable, like broccoli. Although I’ve knocked my mom’s cooking on occasion (sorry, mom) I actually liked her meatloaf quite a bit. And the leftovers made for a good sandwich on toasted bread with cheese and ketchup.

But not everyone has happy memories of meatloaf and there’s that association with bad cafeteria food. Just the sound of it is perceived as a bit unappetizing. A loaf of meat? Surely someone could have thought of a better name. Though isn’t it strange how no one reacts that way to meatballs, especially when a meatloaf and a meatball are so similar? Hmm.

Traditional meatloaf “mix” is packaged with beef and pork. But as I browsed around the Rutland Co-op last week, turkey caught my eye over pork.  I guess my turkey craving couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving. Mushrooms called to me as well and add an extra savory depth to the loaf. And that’s what I love about foods like meatloaf, meatballs and burgers – you can always play with the flavors.

Chopped onion, garlic, sage and thyme flavor the meat as well, while egg and breadcrumbs bind it all together. It’s really pretty simple to put together, that must have been why my mom relied on it so often. Once the meat is mixed it bakes unattended for nearly an hour.

meatloaf ingredients

The best tool for mixing meat is your hands. Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty.

You don’t need a loaf pan for a meatloaf. It bakes up fine just shaped on a baking sheet. See the large flecks of onion? Yum. But if you’re not an onion fan, chop those up a bit more than I did here.

cider gravy
A little homemade gravy cannot be overlooked when serving meatloaf.  Just save some of the onion from the loaf, cook it with tomato paste, mustard and flour, reduce with apple cider and it’s good to go well before the meatloaf comes out of the oven. Or if you’re on top of your game and have the gravy made before the meatloaf is in the oven, spoon some over top before baking.

meatloaf

Beef, Turkey & Mushroom Meatloaf with Cider Mustard Gravy

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bread crumbs (or 1 large slice of bread, chopped)
  • 2 cups broth (beef, turkey or vegetable)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 10 leaves sage, chopped
  • 8 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • A small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. In a small bowl, pour one cup of the broth over the breadcrumbs and let sit for a minute as you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Combine the beef, turkey, mushrooms, half of the chopped onion, garlic, herbs and egg in a large bowl. Mix together with your hands and fold in the breadcrumbs. Season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Form the meat mixture into one large loaf or two smaller loaves on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of your loaf.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small pot cook the onion, tomato paste and mustard in a tablespoon of the oil. When onions have softened, about 5 minutes, sprinkle over the flour. Cook another minute, then add the remaining cup of broth and the cider. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes, then add in the parsley.
  7. Slice the meatloaf and serve with the gravy.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

I was happy to see several farmers with baskets of large green bell peppers last week at market.  My garden peppers were unusually small this year for whatever reason and I had yet to have a nice stuffed pepper this summer. I grabbed a bunch of these and some ground beef, all set to go. But when it actually came time to make them, after seven one night during the week, I just didn’t have enough time to devote. I looked for similar, alternate options and came across a recipe for stuffed pepper soup. I was skeptical, but the result mirrored the flavors of a stuffed pepper almost completely and took half the time to prep. I cooked a small pot of quinoa, instead of taking the longer amount of time to cook rice, separately and added that in to my bowl before eating. I guess it proves that almost anything can be turned into a soup.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 bay leaf
1 quart stock
28 ounces crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 cup grains or small cut pasta
a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
grated Parmesan cheese for topping

If using a quick cooking grain, prepare separately in a small pot according to standard directions. Heat a medium soup pot over medium heat with the olive oil. When hot, add the beef and season with salt, pepper and the allspice. Cook the meat until browned, about 5 minutes, then add the onions, garlic, peppers and bay leaf. Cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. When boiling, add in pasta, if using, and cook until al dente. Turn off the heat and fold in the basil leaves. Remove bay leaf. Serve. If you used a grain, add in desired amount to each bowl. Top with the Parmesan. Serves 4 – 6

Taco con Carne

The final installment of Randal Smather’s Ver-Mex menu is a taco that cooks up his tomatillo salsa with pieces of cubed, pan-seared meat. He suggests pork or beef, but I actually used turkey breast and the results were excellent. I then topped it off with his salsa fresco for a fresh crunch of flavor. When put all together, this is one great summer dish that incorporates tomatoes, peppers, corn, herbs, and onion from the farm or garden.

Taco con Carne

serves 4

  • 1 pounds pork, beef or other protein
  • Tomatillo salsa
  • Flour
  • Steak spice
  • Beef stock or water
  • Oil
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Cut the meat into one-inch cubes and toss in flour seasoned liberally with steak spice. Preheat your heaviest pot; cover the bottom in oil, then brown the meat, turning and scraping the pot regularly to prevent scorching.  Add all but one cup of tomatillo salsa and simmer gently over low heat, stirring often, until the meat is tender, about 20 minutes.

You will likely need to add a cup or two of water or beef stock to replace what steams off. For serving with rice and beans as an entrée, you do not have to add any thickening. To serve as a burrito or taco, you will want to thicken the sauce to keep it from running out of the shell. For traditional salsa verde (literally, “green sauce”), this is done by stirring in a little masa (cornflour) 10 minutes before finishing. Ordinary wheat flour or corn starch also work if you don’t happen to have masa in the house. The easiest thickener to use is tomato paste, but be warned, it will turn your green salsa into brown salsa.

To serve: divide the mixture among warm tortillas, top with  salsa, cheese, veggies and whatever else you might like. Enjoy!

Thai Beef Salad

photo (1)

We’re nearing the end of the July and that means we’re also wrapping up our salad for dinner theme. You’d think with a whole month dedicated just to salads that things would get boring fast. But, as I’ve said before in Six Steps to an Awesome Dinner Salad, the key is mixing up flavors and ingredients. And as I’ve played around with those notions in the kitchen this month, I’ve realized that at some point I almost forgot that what I’m making and eating actually are salads. Not convinced? Well, I’ve got another salad for you: Thai beef. Guest Chef Yvonne Brunot, of Right Mind Farm and I, worked our way through this simple recipe at one of our farm to workplace cooking demonstrations. If you’re unfamiliar with Thai food and have always thought it sounded a little too adventurous for your cooking abilities, here’s your chance to see how wrong you are. And you probably already have most of the ingredients that constitute this salad as Thai cuisine on hand.

THAI BEEF SALAD

Of course, as a salad, this dish highlights produce you can find growing locally right now – lettuce, cilantro, garlic and onions, for instance. Though, as always, change things up to your liking. I threw in peas instead of peppers, as you can see in the picture, and chicken or tofu would be great as well.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce, or reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 head lettuce, halved, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 3/4 pound sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and thinly sliced
  • 3 jalapeno or serrano chili peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 orange, peeled and white pith removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts

Stir together fish or soy sauce and brown sugar in a small bowl. Arrange lettuce on individual plates. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Stir-fry beef, in batches, until browned on the outside and still pink inside, about 1 minute per batch. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan and cook chili peppers, onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the sauce-sugar  mixture and bring to a boil, stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in orange and cilantro. Place the beef on top of the lettuce, spoon over the sauce, top with the peanuts and serve.