Category: meat (Page 2 of 5)

A Recipe For Cheater Runzas

Rejoice with me! I found my old binder of favorite recipes.

It’s easy to misplace things when you move frequently. During our first move from the Twin Cities to Fargo, I packed away my old binder of recipes I collected from cookbooks, cooking classes, friends, and family. I have been looking for these recipes and old photos for three years. Finally, I found them at the bottom of a box underneath a stack of boxes in our garage.

I pulled out a series of handwritten recipe cards my cousin sent me when I graduated from college. She has two daughters and made little notes about how these were some of their favorites. Her recipe for runzas, little bread pockets filled with meat and cabbage, caught my eye. I’ve seen Runza Restaurant featured on television but have never encountered runzas in person. They seem to be more popular in other parts of the Midwest like Kansas and Nebraska. Jake and I love meat pies of all varieties, so I made them this weekend.

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Thoughts On RibFest 2013: Blooming Onion Redemption

RibFest is totally overpriced. It’s kind of gross, the music features throwback bands, and the food is a gamble. But we all end up going anyway. Sometimes, more than once.

The prior weekend, they started inflating the gazillions of jumping contraptions and on June 5th, RibFest opened in all of its glory. The first band to play was Sugar Ray. Need I say more? Welcome to 1998.

My husband received a couple of free RibFest tickets at work and refused to use them on a Sugar Ray concert. We compromised by sitting on lawn chairs and listening to them from our balcony over beers. For as much grief as I give Mark McGrath, we had a wonderful time. The evening was refreshingly cool and there was no wind, a eerie rarity on this windy prairie. We watched the band leap back and forth across the stage and I only remember laughing at them once. It was one of those tranquil moments you want to save for later and revisit when life feels overwhelming.

We went to RibFest on Friday evening when Blue Oyster Cult was performing. To save a few bucks, we enjoyed a beer at Buffalo Wild Wings before hawking over $6 per beer at the event.

My husband and I shared a boat of jalapeno cheese curds before searching for ribs. These would be the best thing we tasted that evening. I don’t remember the vendor’s name, but it was generic and served curds at a few stations. 

Stringy cheese. Crunchy, greaseless coating, and large slices of jalapenos. What’s not to like?

We settled into the long line at the Cowboys Barbeque and Rib Co. from Weatherford, TX. Several of us have actually eaten barbecue in Texas and our friends chose this stand assuming they’d be good. To give you an idea about pricing, they charged $7 for three ribs. These weren’t Flinstones-sized ribs but regular pork ribs.We ordered a half slab, plus a sides of macaroni and cheese and baked beans, each of which cost an additional $3.

Honestly, everything on this platter was rather unappealing.

The ribs were tough and fatty. Their smoked flavor reminded me of the smell of mothballs. The barbecue sauce was fine if bland.

The mac and cheese and baked beans were scooped in measly portions that couldn’t have amounted to more than a half cup each. The macaroni and cheese was lukewarm with a weird, plasticy aftertaste and I had to really fish through the watery, bland bean liquid to find any beans. Looking back over my 2012 RibFest posts, I notice we unintentionally returned to the same vendor we visited last year with similar results. It came as no surprise this vendor didn’t win any awards.

I didn’t leave until I got my blooming onion. Our second visit to 2012’s Ribfest was a disaster. We quickly abandoned my quest because the scary, drunk man who stood behind me at the ATM followed us to the event and tailed us as we wove through the crowd.

The onion petals were crisp and the staff actually took time to drain off most of the oil. The orange lava flow of sauce tasted sweet. I sprinkled the onion with various seasoning salts and passed it on when I began to feel sick.

I headed home as dark storm clouds formed and strong winds transformed the hot day into a bone-chilling evening. Blue Oyster Cult played on as I walked towards the exit, flinching as I stepped in a stinky, yellow puddle.

This is a Porta Potty-only event, ya’ll. It’s loud and crowded and dirty, but chances are you’ll probably return. We all do.  

I Cooked A Steak For The First Time

Believe it or not, I’ve never cooked a steak.

We found pair of porterhouse steaks in our half-share of beef from Thousand Hills Cattle Company and I didn’t know how to prepare them. Growing up, my family cooked proteins to the well-done state, and sometimes past. Burgers, kabobs and Omaha Steaks-brand filet mignons wrapped in bacon all arrived at the same fate and I used to think I disliked them all. Now that I’m an adult, I prefer a rosy medium-rare.

My classmate mentioned her favorite steak marinade was a simple mix of soy sauce, brown sugar, and sriracha hot sauce. I added minced garlic, ground ginger, black pepper, and grated Asian pear to mine. After the steaks soaked in the marinade for a few hours, I allowed them to come to room temperature and seared them on both sides. Then, I placed the whole skillet in the oven at 325 until they were cooked to our liking.

On my first go around, the steak was too chewy so I bashed the hell out of the second with a textured meat cleaver before I tried again, later.

The steaks dripped with richly flavored juices. We even chewed the flavor from the gristle and nibbled the melting fat. I may have unwittingly committed a steak felony or two during these first attempts, but we enjoyed the steaks anyway. 
After all, cooking at home is fun because anything goes. We can all be the kings and queens of our own kitchens. 

Coming To Terms With The Pioneer Woman: Dr. Pepper In My Pot Roast

I was a hesitant Pioneer Woman fan.

There was just something about her television show that annoyed me. Everything about Ree Drummond seemed too perky and too pristine. Her delivery was oh so deliberate. I much preferred the other new Food Network babe, Trisha Yearwood. She seemed like she’d be fun to grab a beer with and tell an occasional dirty joke.

Then I saw the hand cookies.

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, I watched the Pioneer Woman prepare refreshments for her daughter’s sleepover party. Together, they traced shapes of their own hands onto sugar cookie dough. When the cookies finished baking, they showered them with icing and sparkles.

Damn it. I felt a sudden longing to make hand cookies with my mom. I made a mental note to make them with my daughter someday. And then, the Pioneer Woman didn’t seem so bad. In fact, I kind of liked her.

My husband and I recently picked up part of a beef share that came with a few roasts. The last time I attempted to make pot roast was in college and the result was dismal. Since then, I’ve also ruined a few other roasts and have been hesitant to cook large pieces of meat. I shared my pot roast woes with a coworker who recommended her foolproof crock-pot method. It involved Dr. Pepper, chipotle peppers, and The Pioneer Woman.

I stayed true to her recipe for Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork, keeping the chipotle peppers and soda. However, I added my own twists by substituting beef for pork and perching it on top of a full mess of mirepoix in a crock-pot. Finally, I turned the braising liquid into a silky, red winey gravy lightly thickened with roux.

Crock-Pot Pot Roast In Dr. Pepper, Chipotle & Red Wine Gravy

Beef roast with plenty of marbling. I used a blade roast that weighed about three pounds.
Black pepper
Mirepoix: Roughly chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Enough to cover the bottom of the crock pot.
Dr. Pepper, about half an inch or 12 oz.
Chipotle peppers and sauce. I used about 2/3 of a small can. I have a high heat tolerance and would use the whole can next time.

Braising liquid
Roux: Butter and flour
Red Wine
Soy sauce or tamari
1 garlic clove, minced

Place roughly chopped vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Brown all sides of the roast in a hot pan with some vegetable oil. Place the roast on top of the vegetables. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Pour Dr. Pepper and chipotle peppers and sauce over the roast. Cover and cook on low. My roast cooked for seven hours while I was at school.
Remove the roast from the pot and set aside. Strain the drippings into a small sauce pan. Press the cooked vegetables to collect all of the braising liquid. Skim the fat from the top of the liquid with a ladle, or let sit it in a cold place for a little while. The fat will congeal near the top and can easily be scraped away.
Add enough red wine to balance the sweet and spiciness of the soda and peppers. Season with herbs or spices, salt, and pepper. I added a little soy sauce for some umami and more of the chipotle pepper sauce. Reduce a little.

To make the roux, melt about half a stick of butter in a small pan. Gradually whisk in flour until the texture resembles wet sand. Try to coat every grain of flour with the fat. Cook until the roux smells toasty but do not burn. Set aside.

Once the sauce is heated, slowly whisk in one spoonful of roux at a time. Give the sauce time to thicken between spoonfuls of roux. Once you like the texture, stop. Add a little garlic. Check the sauce for seasoning and return to the crock-pot.
Roughly pull the beef into large pieces and return to the sauce. Set crock-pot to warm or low if the roast needs more tenderness. I served our pot roast along with leftover mashed potatoes from culinary school, sauteed mushrooms, and cabbage steamed in chicken stock.

From Our Beef Share: Stuffed & Baked Pasta Shells

Last month, we received a share of a beef share.

Our Fargo friends invited us into a greater beef share in which their friend had coordinated the distribution of an entire, grassfed cow from Thousand Hills Cattle Company, located in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The meat cost much less than it would have been to purchase the same cuts from a store. Especially considering that single-pound packages of Thousand Hills beef typically sell for eight dollars a pound in Fargo-Moorhead stores.

The half share included ground beef and a few other cuts including stew meat, blade roast, and roundsteak. Just the right amount to fit into our small freezer a leave enough room for ice cream and a frozen pizza or two.

I got home early from school one afternoon and whipped up an easy version of pasta shells stuffed with our Thousand Hills beef, and topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. I served the pasta with a side of mushrooms and cabbage sauteed in a little butter and olive oil until caramelized and de-glazed with sherry.

Stuffed Pasta Shells
One pound of ground beef created enough stuffing to fill a 9 X 13 baking dish of pasta shells. This equalled about half a box of pasta shells. Add whatever vegetables are in your pantry to the meat stuffing. If I had ricotta or marscapone cheese, I would have mixed a couple spoonfuls into the meat stuffing. I often purchase cheap jars of tomato-basil sauce and boost them with fresh ingredients like sauteed onion, garlic, and red wine. The Bertolli brand is particularly decent. Semi-homemade and so what 😉

Large pasta shells (I used about half a box)
1 lb of ground beef
A few large button mushrooms
1 small onion, finely diced
Black pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 handfuls of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed until dry (can substitute fresh spinach)
Soy sauce
Drizzle of honey
Grated Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Herbs, fresh or dried

1 jar of tomato sauce (I use whatever is on sale)
1/2 onion diced
1 clove of garlic minced
Splash of red wine

To prepare the pasta, cook in salted, boiling water until pliable. They should be a slightly firmer than al dente. Rinse in cool water and set aside.

Brown the ground beef. Remove excess fat. When the beef is partially cooked, add the diced vegetables and cook until tender. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. You could also cook the meat and vegetables separately. Place in a bowl.

Add spinach, and cheeses. Season the meat stuffing with soy sauce, more black pepper, and your choice of herbs. I sprinkled in dried basil, marjoram and thyme. Add a little honey to round out the flavor.

Add enough sauce to the baking dish to cover the bottom.

Using a spoon, stuff the pasta shells with meat filling. Place in the baking dish.

Top shells with the remaining tomato sauce.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place a little mozzarella on each pasta shell.

Cover and bake until heated through and the cheese is melted. Covering will help steam the pasta shells. Uncover and bake or broil until the cheese is as bubbly as you wish.

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