Category: Beef

Chili Cook-Off

chiliOn Sunday I attended the 3rd Annual Fireplace Chili Cook-Off at the Squantz Engine Company, the fire department in New Fairfield, CT. The proceeds from the event will not contribute towards the company’s goal of purchasing a new engine to replace an engine they have now, but that’s not why I went specifically. My friend, Matt Lucero, A firefighter in Darien CT who is known all over Fairfield County for his cooking skills was a participant in the event. While it seems unfair to all the other firefighters that he be allowed to participate, he nevertheless agreed to attend as it is for a great cause. I’m thinking she allowed himself some sort of handicap to keep things fair.

If there one thing that firefighters are known for (other than fighting fires and rescuing cats from trees) it is their cooking. In fact, they are a competitive lot, fiercely proud of their cooking (with good reason), and love to show off their culinary skills with events like this one. You could probably find a firefighter cook-off every weekend of the year near you if you wanted. And you should, the food is amazing. Am I biased because Matt is a friend of mine? Of course not. When the laws of the universe say that Matt’s chili is the best in the world, there is no bias, it is just a simple fact, and you can’t argue against universal laws.

Chili master Matt Lucero

Chili master Matt Lucero

There were a fair amount of entrants, and to be honest, all the chili was pretty good, with styles ranging from the smokey and savory, to the sweet and tangy. While my taste leans towards the savory, there wasn’t a chili there that I didn’t enjoy tasting. With meats ranging from venison to beef, tastes from barbecue sweet to robust and savory, even traditional and off the wall, the turn out was very good and the chili better. As much as I tried, I couldn’t pry Matt’s recipe from him, but I have to say that I was quite impressed with his as it had a nice meaty flavor, and, above all, the best texture I have found in a chili… It held together without being too watery, a fault I saw in every other entrant.

While Matt didn’t win, and I didn’t expect the non-local to win anyway, I felt that his chili was the best simply due to it’s meeting all the classic ‘chili’ standards while holding together in a great chili way. I may have to resort to darker measures to find his recipe. But whether I do or don’t, it was a fun day at the Squantz Engine Company, and we left there quite content. We’re on to find one more local now, hopefully one in our own backyard.

Garlic Scapes and Steak Stir Fry

Garlic scapes and steak stir fry
Spring is the season of garlic scapes. It is a short season, so take advantage of it while you can as these tender stalks of allium ether will be gone before you know it. Eating garlic scapes is like playing hide and seek with garlic, you know it’s there, but you are not sure exactly where.

This was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. And likely the simplest to make. You can really use any cut of meat, particularly if you are cutting it thinly. But the combined flavors of the three simple ingredients are enough to make me want to emulate a Roman feast, but those are details I won’t get into here. Garlic and beef go together exceptionally well. And the shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) adds that additional level of umami (the contentious sixth flavor, meatiness) to the dish. My dinner mates were blown away by this and we are actively seeking more garlic scapes tomorrow.

While some people like to cut the garlic scapes into small pieces, I prefer long ones, that look and feel like string beans, but unlike string beans they are not string beans, they are garlic scapes. Let’s move on. If cooked quickly at a high heat, they retain their moisture and flavor, and impart the perfect counter texture to the steak. During preparation, you should cut the tips off the garlic scapes as they are tough and don’t soften when they cook. The stem of the garlic scape is tender, juicy, and lightly redolent of garlic without that garlicky bite. They add a tremendous amount of flavor without a lot of punch, which is perfect for most people. As a side note, if you have a lot of garlic scapes, garlic scape pesto is a treat, and that will be a follow up post.

The steak is most easily cut when slightly frozen. I can cut perfect, almost comically rectangular slices of beef when I leave the steak in the freezer for about 30 – 45 minutes (depending on the size) and then start cutting while the steak is slightly frozen. Or mostly thawing a frozen steak. This is not necessary, of course, it’s just fun and makes slicing steak easier. This dish was honestly the best I have had in a long time, and if you have access to garlic scapes, I highly recommend trying this recipe. But you may have to share more than you would like. I often serve it with brown rice, by the way, as the sauce is too good not to be soaked up.

Garlic scapes

Garlic scapes

Steak sliced thinly

Steak geometric perfection!

Garlic scapes cooked

Garlic scapes cooked

Garlic Scapes and Steak Stir Fry
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This simple dish has tremendous flavor, with the beef mingling with the garlic scapes unlike anything else.
Ingredients
  • 1¾ lbs steak (I like sirloin for this)
  • 1 bunch garlic scapes (about 7oz)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
Instructions
  1. Remove the flowery tips of the garlic scapes and slice the stalks into the desired length.
  2. Slice the steak into strips and set aside.
  3. Heat a deep pan (I like a wok) with the oil and sear the garlic scapes for about five minutes, long enough to soften them a bit.
  4. Remove the garlic scapes and set aside.
  5. Cook the steak until it is almost done in the oil left in the pan.
  6. Drain the liquid that leeches from the steak (there will be a lot).
  7. Place the garlic scapes back in the pan, pour in the soy sauce and toss for a few minutes until everything is coated.
  8. Serve.
Notes
- Very low in sugar - High in phosphorus - Very high in selenium - High in vitamin B6 - High in vitamin B12 - High in zinc - High in cholesterol
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 255g | Calories: 475g | Fat: 15.9g | Saturated fat: 5,3g | Unsaturated fat: 10.6g | Carbohydrates: 16.7g | Sugar: 0.6g | Fiber: 1.1g | Protein: 63.7g | Cholesterol: 177mg

 

Tourtiere – Quebec Meat Pie

Tortiere

Tortiere

A “Tourtière” is a meat pie from Quebec, and is a classic part of the Christmas/Christmas Eve réveillon and New Year’s Eve meal (It’s also great when you are having a bunch of people over for dinner and you are sick of making “bangers in a cloud”, another great recipe that I will post soon). While meat pies are found in many cultures and parts of the world, the tourtiere gets its name from the the creature from which it was traditionally made, the “tourte,” or passenger pigeon. These days there is no one filling that makes a tourtiere what it is, it may be made from any type of meat, though the most common ones are made with pork, veal, beef, or a combination of meats (if you hunt dove, it might be an interesting way to prepare the bird, similar to the original recipe). In Quebec, serving this won’t turn heads, but in the US, tourtiere is not so common, and you may get some “what the… Meat pie?” type of comments. Ignore them, and remember… Knives are for threatening, too. This dish has a lot of flavor, and this is one of my favorite touriere recipes. When you try this, you will see why this is so popular up north.

Ingredients:
Pastry dough for a bottom and top crust (store-bought is fine)
1 tablespoon light olive or canola oil
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2/3 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
1/16 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Roll out your pastry dough and cut into two equal circles, enough to fit a 9-inch pie pan, and line the bottom of the pan with one piece of the dough.

3. In a pan, heat the oil and saute onion, garlic, celery, and carrot briefly. Add the meat and cook until done.

4. Drain the excess oil and add the stock, herbs, spices, and cognac to the pan and simmer over a low to medium heat for about 15 minutes.

5. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes and then spoon the mixture into the pastry crust in the pie pan and cover with the remaining dough.

6. Seal the pie crust, cut a few vents in the top, and design however you please (if you please).

7. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake the tourtiere for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top turns a golden brown.

8. Let cool for a bit and serve while still warm.

This will easily serve 6 to 8 people and the proportions can be increased to be made in a larger pie mold (or pan).

Garlic Lime Skirt Steak

Garlic lime skirt steak

Garlic lime skirt steak

Inspired by my love of Cuban foods, I make this steak often, and its robust flavor is like a predator with your tongue as its prey. I don’t mean to imply that it is overpowering, but the strong lime flavor blends with the beefiness of the skirt steak, and the combination announces itself clearly upon arrival. Skirt steak is a particularly fatty and flavorful cut, so it holds up well to the lime, and remains juicy even after an assault on the grill and then the pan (if you choose to finish the steak the way I do). This is perhaps the best way to serve this cut of meat and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably a vegetarian.

Ingredients
1 lb skirt steak
3 limes
3 garlic cloves, pressed or grated

N.B. Limes can be difficult to juice so one thing I have been known to do is buy bottled lime juice and use 6 tablespoons of that instead. With the garlic and meatiness of the steak, no one will notice the difference.

Directions
1. Cut the skirt steak into pieces small enough to easily fit in a bowl or plastic bag.

2. Combine all ingredients in a covered bowl or plastic bag and allow the steak to marinate for at least 2 hours (I marinate as long as 8 hours with no problems), moving the pieces around occasionally to ensure that the lime juice gets to all the sides of the steak.

3. Remove the pieces of steak, however there is no need to scrape any of the garlic pieces that stick to them, they are very flavorful when cooked. The meat is then preferably cooked on a grill for maximum flavor, however I just as easily broil the meat in the oven. For those who are not interested in adding to the work load, the cooked meat can be served. However I like to take one additional step.

4. (Optional) Cut the steak into strips and quickly fry them in a pan with a little bit of oil to make them nice and crispy on the edges and then serve.

Serves 2 and goes really well with yuca, garlic mashed potatoes, or plantains (sweet or savory).

This dish goes so well with a Cuban Mojo sauce that it’s just mean not to try it. It’s so good, I sometimes pretend we’re related.

Mild or Wild Chili con Carne

chili con carne

Chili con carne

This is my favorite chili as it is simple to make yet has a varied mix of flavors that keep my brain busy. Prodigious use of tomatoes makes this a subtly sweet chili, though not so much as to overwhelm, and the combination of peppers adds layers of complexity to the dish. Personally, I prefer chili without beans, but they are easily added to this chili if you so choose. The same applies to the hot peppers, some prefer a milder chili and some a spicier, I like mine in the middle, hence just the few chili peppers. Whatever your choice, this is a rich, meaty chili with a lot of flavor, and I usually serve over rice with some grated cheddar and sour cream on top. Every day is a chili day for me.

Ingredients
1 1/4 pounds hamburger (give or take)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 medium onion
3 chili peppers (e.g.  jalapeno peppers for light heat, habanero for heavy heat) – optional
4 garlic cloves
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
5 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable)

Directions

peppers and onion

Peppers and onion

1. Roughly chop the peppers, onion, and garlic and heat in a large pot with the oil. If you want a little heat (spicy heat) include the chili/jalapeno peppers with the white pith (the ribs inside the pepper).  Choose your chili peppers wisely, as jalapenos will give a moderate heat, while some types, such as habanero or scotch bonnet will make your chili very spicy. Did you know that botanically, peppers are berries? Yep, they are, although for culinary use they are considered vegetables. I’ll stop that kind of talk now.

2. When the vegetables have softened a little and the onions are translucent, add the ground beef. Break apart the beef while it is cooking to ensure it falls apart into pieces.

3. When the beef has cooked, add the tomatoes and tomato paste and thoroughly stir in. Once the tomatoes are incorporated add the chili powder and stir.

jalapeno

Jalapeno

4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The key is to allow the chili to simmer for as long as you can to bring out the flavor of the chili powder. I cook my chili for a few hours, but if you are in a hurry, you may cook for as short a period of time as 30 minutes.

Serve with anything you like, grated cheese, sour cream, chopped parsley or cilantro.