Posts Tagged ‘beef’

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Winners. (BELCAMPO MEAT CO.)

May 4, 2015
ucc_belcampo

On November 3 2014, The New Yorker released it’s annual food issue, thick with articles about how we react to, and with, food. An especially inspiring piece by Dana Goodyear featured California’s farm to fork Belcampo Meat Company, a series of pastures, slaughterhouses, butcher shops and restaurants with an impressively high standard. The article recently won the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award (category: Profile), and really put into perspective the way a company can choose its methods to support its ideals, if creatively run.

Last fall was my first visit to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles and, in a taco frenzy, I almost dismissed another butcher counter full of mustaches, muscles and beautiful fonts. But the meat was too gorgeous to ignore. I admired the cuts (pictured above), purchased some jerky, contemplated a tote bag and moved on to more tacos, unaware of the fascinating back story.
Upon return to NYC, I sat down with the food issue that was meant for in-flight reading and, coincidentally, read all about the meat I was gazing upon so lovingly. As it turns out, the most fascinating thing about Belcampo, the focus of Dana Goodyear‘s article, is the company’s CEO Anya Fernald. The story goes on to detail her fierce dedication to teaching consumers the value of eating well-raised animals, despite the significantly higher prices. There are no plans of compromising the pristine practices of Belcampo, which are outlined in depth on their own site. Instead, she and the company will wait for the rest of the country to catch up, hopefully rejecting factory farming for good.

 
Belcampo supports the idea of raising animals in a pre-industrial fashion. Allowing them to graze a variety of plants, and letting them live a bit longer (over two years), benefits the animal, the farmland and the taste of the product. Consumers also reap the benefits of a more nourishing meal on the plate.
Nutritional advantages of grass-fed beef include increased levels of Vitamin E, antioxidant-rich carotenoids and conjugated linolenic acid with fewer calories and less fat. And although beef can’t compare to salmon in its level of essential fatty acid Omega 3, it’s still 5 times higher in sustainably raised animals than in cows from the feedlot, as reported by Ms. Goodyear.
 
To navigate the soaring costs of beef, especially in the midst of the devastating drought California is facing, Anya Fernald suggests eating smaller portions, (another pre-industrial concept) or by trying other animals such as sheep, rabbit or “drought resistant” goat.
Better consideration for the origins of the food we eat is the way of the near future, for the health of the planet and every body that inhabits it. Sustainable butcher shops are starting to be more prominent and grocery stores are beginning to offer better choices in sustainably raised meat and poultry. But it is obvious that Belcampo is in the lead. They hold themselves responsible for the whole supply chain, consciously making every decision for the greater good. They are determined to put meat back on the table, making a hearty, well-raised steak something good for your health, as opposed to the stigma of the last decade or two when red meat was, as recalled by Anya Fernald, “like smoking a cigarette –a guilty pleasure”.
 
*Lucky for us east coasters we can have a Belcampo experience via their webstore. Gorgeous selection of frozen meats and dry goods.
** yes, my vacation photos include a meat counter. yes.
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Handed down. (EMPANADAS)

March 18, 2015

IMG_8186

I was introduced to empanadas as a late night drunken treat in the deepest depths of Queens. The version we ate were greasy and deep fried, stuffed with ground up meat and some questionable, grizzly bits. Perfect drinking food. I will confess that Janine and I called them “Keebleros” because, in our boozy haze, we couldn’t remember what they were really called. We thought this was hilarious.

Empanadas vary greatly from country to country and are interpreted further still, by region. Colombia and Venezula deep fry their stuffed creations while Chile and Argentina bake theirs in the oven. In general, empanadas can be cooked either way and filled with anything; meat, cheese, egg, spinach, fruit, shrimp or squash, in infinite combinations. A basic (if not totally traditional) empanada is anything that tastes good wrapped in dough, which is almost anything. The key to success is pretty simple. As long as the filling you have created tastes great, your empanadas will be voraciously devoured by anyone you offer them to. Take into consideration, the doughy exterior will tone down the filling, so it’s important that whatever you are stuffing in is seasoned well.

Years after my experience with Keebleros, I befriended the lovely Erica and became close with her family, who relocated to New York from the San Juan province of Argentina. As a result of this friendship, I am introduced to a whole new genre of amazing tastes. Chimichurri! Alfajores! Maté! Malbec! When Christmas rolls around, among the many delicious foods served, one of the family’s traditions is a heaping platter of freshly baked empanadas; stuffed with beef (picadillo), a green olive and a small chunk of hard-boiled egg. Guests are encouraged to eat as many as they possibly can …and to compete while doing it! I couldn’t quite beat out brother, but I held my own, foregoing other dishes so that more empanadas could fit.

Then the learning began. There were years that we helped punch the homemade dough* into submission, years that we browned kilo after kilo of beef, and many lessons about twisting the edges just right. Often times, Erica would arrive at my family’s holiday party with a heaping platter just for us, and it quickly became a ritual anticipated by all.

Because of these awesome memories –and sheer deliciousness– I have adapted the very same empanadas sanjuaninas as one of my favorite celebrational foods too. They are a perfect self-contained party dish. Easy to transport (I should know, I used to fill my pockets with them), and effortless to serve. Heat them if you have the means, but I have never seen empanadas refused neither cold nor at room temp. It is obvious, just by looking, that they are made with love. And so, the excitement continues to generate.

EMPANADAS DE PICADILLO

(Makes about 10 empanadas using 5-inch dough circles)

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

a few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped

10 small pimento-stuffed green olives

10 Goya Discos para empanadas (1 package), thawed

1 egg, whisked in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Start warming a skillet over medium heat, add half of the oil and the beef. Wait for some sizzling sounds and occasionally break up the beef with a spoon as it cooks. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. When the meat is thoroughly browned, lift it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and put aside in a big bowl.
  • Wipe out the skillet and warm the second tablespoon of oil. Brown the onions (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic and the next five spices until toasted and fragrant, another 5 minutes. Add a small splash of oil if dry.
  • Stir the onion mixture into the ground beef, combining well. Add hot sauce, if using. This is picadillo! Taste for seasoning. If needed add salt, pepper, etc.
  • Lay the dough circles on a work surface and brush half of each with the raw egg mixture.
  • Place a mound of picadillo (about three heaping tablespoons) on each circle. Put one olive and a piece of egg with the meat on each round.
  • Fold the dough into a half-moon shape over the meat-olive-egg pile and press to seal. Gather up small sections from the edge where the two sides meet and pinch them together in one-inch intervals, further sealing the dough. Another option is to push the two sides together by pressing down to ‘crimp’ them with a fork. Repeat with all meat/circles.
  • Place finished empanadas on a baking sheet and brush the tops with the remaining raw egg mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the exterior is golden and crisped.

* I am a busy lady, (frozen) Goya discos are my secret weapon, and puff pastry could be a last-resort substitute. But pleeease feel free to make your own dough.

Here lies post from way back, it talks about a sweet-savory experiment:

RICOTTA AND FIG EMPANADAS

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100% bueno. (SPANISH MEATS + TOMATO BREAD)

December 23, 2012

spain_meats

I need to share this photo. It is the most exquisite plate of cured meats eaten in one of Barcelona’s cute little xampanyerias. We sampled the house cava, meats and cheeses accompanied by lots of the tomato bread pa amb tomaquet  found all over the place in Catalonia. Cured meats are a big deal in Spain, so we did our best to really treat them like the special deal that they are, eating them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snack. It was the perfect thing to obsess over because eating a plate of charcuterie left some room so that we could stop short at any other good looking tapas we saw along the way to wherever we were going… which was usually to eat tapas.

Starting with the top right you are looking at chorizo, moving clockwise next is lomo, which is made from the loin of the pig and is therefore significantly leaner than the others but no less delicious. Lomo is followed by traditional Iberico (swoon), then salami-like salchichon, and in the center is cecina or ‘dried’ beef which was knockout.

Variations of these meats are available in the States but it’s just not the same. Sure when you are eating something local in a foreign place, it is the atmosphere and the sounds, the smell of the fabric softener, the sky color and all the other details that amplify the experience but I have a theory about a number of delicious European foodstuffs that are also exported to the U.S. and it is simply… they send us the good stuff but not the best. This is why I have my own personal French calvados dealers.

Adéu!

Be real Spanish and serve this bread with your next meat and/or cheese platter.

PA AMB TOMAQUET

1 loaf of your favorite bread

2 cloves garlic

2 ripe tomatoes

your best olive oil

salt

  • Slice the bread lengthwise and toast it lightly (optional). 
  • Slice each clove of garlic in half and rub it on the cut side of the bread. 
  • Slice each tomato through its equator and rub each half all over the bread until it is just skin. 
  • Arrange the bread on a platter and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

spain_bread

Together forever.

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Let’s have a roast. (TOP SIRLOIN AND MARCHAND DE VIN )

February 28, 2010

These days we see a renewed respect for humanely produced food, animal and vegetable alike. The questions of when, how and where did this come from are no longer smudged lines in a product’s history. And though it may seem like extra work to find out such details, I have full faith that some day soon it will become as commonplace as checking the date on milk. Whole, organic, grass fed, hormone free, non-antibiotic milk, of course.

So sometimes when I want the skinny on what I am putting in the oven, I wind up making fingerprints on the glass cases at Dickson’s Farmstand, located in the Chelsea Market. I started out as a neighbor, working a few doors down from these serious meat men and now we are friends, taking time to discuss dishes, the best cuts for the job as well as the various methods of getting a great product to the table. But this is not special treatment. When the lines queue up at Dickson’s, everyone is regarded as a friend and all of these fine points are regularly discussed with great care.

That is how I ended up with these two lovely top sirloin roasts, I needed a well-priced and flavorful cut of beef for an event I was catering. The beef was to be sliced, sauced (recipe below) and served over a bit of leek veloute, a roasted potato cake by its side. For portioning, I allow at least 1/2 pound per person, especially for a fancier dinner where not every slice is going to be gorgeous and plate-worthy (but definitely perfectly mouth-worthy). Several steps go into cooking a great roast. They are not complicated but should be followed well, decisions are best made in advance so there is no second guessing when time is precious.

It is important to take the meat from the fridge at least one hour before cooking to come  to room temp. This helps it cook faster, more evenly and more precisely but don’t sweat it if there isn’t time for that to happen, especially if you have a meat thermometer. That will really keep you from going wrong even if the timing is a little off. It’s the ticket.

Then sear. Do not be timid, get hot, get smoky and brown it up on all sides. After browning I use a spice rub, since the best method for this cut is a ‘dry roast’ and you want to get all the flavor you can onto the meat. I never remember exactly what I use but I am pretty sure it was a mild mixture of garlic powder, mustard, thyme, cumin, ancho powder, salt and pepper. That is my loose outline for a basic rub in addition to whatever is laying around and/or catches my fancy. Maybe a drop of cayenne, a dash of  Tony’s? Use your creative license.

From there, the following irreverant method works out great! A simple trick of cooking the roast high and mightily at 500F for 5-6 minutes per pound and then turning the oven off for two hours. Do not open the oven door, don’t even think about it. The beef will be a perfect medium rare when you take it out of the undisturbed oven two hours later. I really liked this style and it yielded buttery, tender pink beef. You can always flash cook it a little more at the end if it’s too rare but you can never un-cook it… so might as well err to the side of less-done.

More traditional methods (for medium rare boneless beef roasts) are quite varied, some cooks favor high temperatures for less time (400F / 10 minutes per pound) and others go for lower temps for longer periods of time (300F / 20-22 minutes per pound). The most important step is to consult an instant read thermometer after the first 45 minutes of cooking and every 20 or so thereafter to get the temperature spot on. There are so many variations to be had, it really is best to use the thermometer in combination with your intuition because who knows how wacky your oven is, how the shape of the meat cooks, the starting temp…etcetera. The following chart from themeatsource.com is very helpful for getting it right, an excerpt from a post dedicated to top sirloin. Dickson’s offers this chart representing a variety of animals.

Below is a cooking chart for top sirloin roast recipe. Remember you should always use an instant-read thermometer to check the doneness of a roast. The internal temperature will rise about 5-10 degrees during resting time, remove the roast 5-10 degrees before desired doneness. themeatsource.com

Doneness Description Meat Thermometer Reading
Rare Red with cold, soft center 125-130 degrees
Medium-Rare Red with warm, somewhat firm center 135-140 degrees
Medium Pink and firm throughout 140-150 degrees
Medium-well Pink line in center, quite firm 150-155 degrees
Well-done Gray-brown throughout and completely firm 160-165 degrees

When cooked to desired doneness (accounting for the 5-10 degrees of carryover cooking), it is mandatory to let the meat rest for about 15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed and redistributed into the meat and not be lost with the first cut. Ok! Now you have the earned the right to slice up your materpiece and enjoy. The following recipe is an awesome and easy sauce. Marchand de Vin (Winemerchant’s Sauce) goes exceptionally well almost any grilled or roasted beef, a great acidic kick to cut through the rich flavors of well-raised meat.

SAUCE MARCHAND DE VIN

(adapted from The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander)

1/2 cup shallots, minced

1 tablespoon sherry or sherry vinegar

1/2 cup red wine

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

juice of 1 lemon

pan juices from cooked meat (optional)

6 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces

salt and cracked black pepper

  • Place first four ingredients in a pan and reduce liquids until the almost gone, but shallots are still moist.
  • Add parsley, lemon juice and meat juices, if using. And stir in butter until just melted.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

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Food as big as Texas. (AUSTIN)

February 24, 2010

During a recent quick and spontaneous trip to Austin, Texas, we managed to amp up to a 4 meal a day regiment. The time we had there was scarce, our mission serious. Here are some of the biggest things we fit in:

Sam’s BBQ. 2000 E 12th St (Poquito Street) Austin, TX

Straight from the airport, we are welcomed by Brian the proud proprietor, a mac-and-cheese rectangular-table discussion and this plate of ribs, sausage and brisket (hiding underneath). Chef makes all the desserts to… in fact Brian is too formal. Call him Sweetie.

Polvos. 2004 South 1st Street Austin, TX

A jovial Austin staple, Polvos is ready for you at brunch with giant bloody marys and music on full blast for a total sensory overload in the best way possible. I sat next to this burrito (above), but ordered an enchilada (below). I wanted to learn what is the hype about the unassuming Tex Mex enchilada. It was damn fine, but fonder still is the memory of the amazing salsa bar with escabeche pickles.

Casino El Camino. 517 East 6th Street Austin, TX

Stylistically it reminded me of New Orleans. Casino El Camino serves big, big burgers and foot long hot dogs covered in all kinds of cheese, chili, bacon, hot peppers, etc. in fantastically raunchy combos. It was a perfect way to end the debauching weekend. After all the sunny friendliness, it’s kinda nice to pig out in a dark cave. I think they make some kind of chicken sandwich or something too.

Go.

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Dear Dokebi,

May 12, 2009

 

dokebi

199 Grand St • Williamsburg, Brooklyn (front door/restaurant + back door/bar)

One can say I’m on the rebound after leaving my last steady Korean restaurant back in Queens. Now that I am a Brooklyn resident, all is well! Yet I search for a meal to fill the void where Tofu and Noodles once was, a cozy neighborhood place I can turn to when the need to eat Korean food arises, which is often. I am always saying that if I feel a little ‘off’ or sort of run down spicy, effervescing Korean food without fail cures what ails. And anyway I crave it voraciously every couple of weeks. That is why I keep coming back, that is why I can’t stay away.

I feel lucky just having you close by! You too have excellent banchan, some items very reminiscent of the ex- and some brand new ones to enjoy. Those little blocks of egg you serve, more like a custard than the usual omelette-like manifestation, are so light and silky they almost disappear upon the palate. And what was in that spinach? Garlic and miso? Also delicious. Yes, and thank you for your fabulous kimchi, fish cake and sprouts, too. They help me long for my former go-to place a little less with every bite.

Since your menu is much bigger, it is difficult to know you intimately (as of yet), but I plan on getting to know you better. It seems that one of your specialties is Korean BBQ, which I have not tried, but I do spy on others boisterously digging in on any given visit. So far, I concentrate on the stews and I am a big fan of the whole grain rice you offer alongside. The tiny cubes of sweet potato hidden in there are a nice textural change to all that bitey rice. I am also really into the bibimbap. I don’t mind paying the extra $2 for the stone bowl, though I don’t see how it could be eaten from any other vessel. But I know that I have had to accept the higher price point of the neighborhood in general and especially in my frequent Korean food fests. I do appreciate the saving grace… with $8 lunch specials I make my way through the menu without feeling too jaded.

Dear sweet Dokebi, you are a great bar + grill with a great happy hour and alot of heartfelt food to give. After a 5-year relationship with the last place, please forgive me, it is a little hard to get over the super-low prices, the strictly authentic, hearty fare, the unassuming atmosphere I found there… But our relationship is new and exiting and I trust that it will grow.
Yours truly,
Ori

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Dear Tofu and Noodles,

February 4, 2009

tofu+noodles

40-06 Queens Blvd • Sunnyside, Queens

I know that’s not your real name, but can I call you that? Book Chang Dong sounds so formal. To me you are ‘Tofu and Noodles’, my special friend and neighbor, and that is how I have come to love you. There, I’ve said it finally. I love you! And now I am going to take my sweet time telling you all of the reasons why.

You have the best banchan in the whole city and you hand it over quickly and generously. I usually show up ravenous. As soon as the order is placed (which I sometimes do before even taking my jacket off), the banchan arrives without a moment’s delay. Little round bowls are heaped with hot, sweet, salty, briny bites of seaweed salad, fish cake, marinated cucumbers or bean sprouts, potato salad, shredded daikon, those little crunchy fish with the heads on and/or, of course, the housemade kimchi, which is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. All of these things are ingeniously designed to make you want more food as you eat them and they are always fresh and super-delicious. I usually clear my little plates systematically, leaving the chilled spicy garlic soup banchan for last. That one gets eaten when the main course is served in a feeble attempt buy some valuable cooling time, since most dishes arrive on sizzling platters or in hot stone bowls. I have suffered many burned tongues and would suffer many more.

You take good care of me! I don’t think I’ve had a single cold or flu since making your acquaintance! If ever I feel a little vulnerable to catching something, I march immediately to your door to have a meal that arms me to fight it off. I think Korean cuisine in general has these special powers but you are like a secret weapon. It is the perfect combination of intense spice which is very cleansing, the fermented items (like kimchi) which help balance out the system and fresh veggies, sprouts and seaweed that are packed with nutrients. It seems to kick start the immune system and knocks out any trace of a bug. Every dish comes with soft, shiny rice which is soothing to the insides and the hearty warmth of the meal certainly helps to restore a person back to optimum health.

And while I am here counting the ways, I have to praise your soon dubu chigae*, a dish that you make so well, I crave it in my sleep. I will not eat it in Flushing and have no use for it in K-town. It is the specialty which takes up one-half of your menu with its varieties (most of which I have sampled) and it always impresses Korean friends I have brought in who grew up eating the stuff. It also turns people who have never even thought of eating bubbling, boiling soft tofu stew into chigae-junkies. It is mandatory to eat it slowly. It makes a person sweat and sniffle with joy. I have noticed that as it cools, its flavor gets better and better and by the end of the bowl I am completely stuffed and completely happy, which is not only good for the body but also the soul.

I just thought you should know how wonderful you are.
Sincerely,
Ori

tofu+dubu

*Soon dubu chigae = Soft tofu stew.

tofu+banchan

Banchan are like snowflakes, no two are alike.