Posts Tagged ‘beef’

Skirt Steak

The 91st episode of Good Eats strives to provide recipes that elevate lesser cuts of meat to higher levels, starting with skirt steak. When purchasing skirt steak, it is ideal to get an “inside skirt steak,” though I could not find a steak labeled this way. In fact, I had to visit three grocery stores to find any skirt steak.

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My skirt steak.

Since Alton uses his skirt steak to make fajitas (my grandma used to pronounce fajitas “fa-jy-tas,” which I always thought sounded like a venereal disease), a 2 1/2 pound steak will serve eight people. Skirt steak is ideal for marinades, and it really only needs to marinate for an hour or so. For Alton’s skirt steak marinade, combine in a blender 1/2 C olive oil, 1/3 C soy sauce, 4 scallions, 2 big cloves of garlic, the juice of two limes, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1/2 t cumin, and 3 T dark brown sugar.

Place your steak in a large ziplock bag and add the marinade, massaging it into the meat. Place the steak in the refrigerator for an hour.

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Steak and marinade in plastic bag for an hour.

To cook a skirt steak, Alton recommends using a charcoal grill, but the odd part of his cooking method is that he has you cook the steak directly on the charcoal for 60 seconds per side (he recommends using a hair dryer to blow off any ash prior to grilling). Once cooked, wrap your steak in a double layer of heavy foil and let it rest.

Meanwhile, place a cast iron skillet on your charcoal, allowing it to heat up.

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Cast iron skillet placed on coals to heat.

While your skillet heats, chop one red bell pepper, one green bell pepper, and one white onion, tossing them in vegetable oil. Add the oiled vegetables to the heated skillet, cooking them until soft and slightly charred.

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Sautéed veggies.

Next, slice your steak across the grain, as thinly as possible; skirt steak can be chewy and this will help to break up the meat fibers. Place the sliced meat back in the foil packet with its juices, tossing to coat.

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Steak after cooking more in the oven and resting again.

Finally, serve the sliced steak in warmed flour tortillas, along with the sautéed vegetables.

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Steak and veggies in tortillas for fajitas.

I have a few things to say about this recipe. First off, I cooked my steak directly on the charcoal for a minute on each side, and it was completely raw in the center, even after resting. I had to finish my steak in the oven.

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Steak after resting – RAW.

My second criticism is that a fair amount of ash stuck to my steak, which you could somewhat taste (and added a gritty texture). I will say that I did not use high-quality charcoal, which was probably part of the problem. If I did this again, I would use natural, high-quality charcoal. Finally, I still found my skirt steak to be extremely chewy, which was really disappointing. I’m not sure I would try this again, though I will say the marinade was fantastic, imparting the meat with really good flavor. Still, the raw steak, ashy flavor, and chewy meat outweigh the good marinade. Maybe I will try this marinade on a different cut of meat.

Sirloin Steak

After feeling like Alton’s skirt steak was sort of a flop, I was hopeful that his take on sirloin steak would be a bit better. When purchasing sirloin steak, look for cuts that are labeled as “top sirloin,” “top butt steak,” “center cut sirloin,” or “hip sirloin steak.” Essentially, as Alton puts it, the best sirloin steaks are the furthest away from the hooves and horns. For this recipe, you want a steak that is about 1 1/2 pounds. My steak actually came in two pieces.

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My sirloin steak. It came in two separate pieces.

The key with cooking sirloin steak is to start with low heat and finish with high heat. Begin by positioning two oven racks in the lowest two positions, placing a layer of foil, or a sheet pan, on the bottom rack to catch anything that drips. Preheat your broiler. As Alton says, a broiler is nothing but an upside-down grill. While your oven preheats, oil your steak and season it with salt and pepper.

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Steak, oiled and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Once your oven is hot, place your steak directly on the second lowest oven rack, and place a piece of foil in the oven door to keep it slightly ajar; this will keep the broiler from cycling off. Cook the steak for five minutes.

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Steaks, placed directly on second lowest rack for 5 minutes.

After five minutes, flip the steak, place the foil back in the door, and cook it for five more minutes.

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Steaks, flipped over after five minutes. Left to broil for 5 more minutes before moving up to second highest rack position.

Next, flip the steak again, moving its rack up to the second highest position (be sure to move the drip tray up also). Place the foil in the door and cook the steak for three minutes. After three minutes, flip the steak again, place the foil in the door, and cook the steak for a final three minutes. *I failed to get photos of my steak after I moved it to the second highest rack because my dog gets scared whenever the broiler is on, and especially when I open the oven door. Why? I have no idea. Anyway, remove the steak from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.

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Finished steak, resting.

Slice the steak on the bias and serve.

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Finished steak, sliced on the bias.

I served my steak over a green salad and we were quite happy with this one.

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Finished steak, served over salad.

Alton’s cooking method for this is pretty spot-on, though you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly for your steak size and broiler. My resulting steak was pink in the center and tender. This is about as easy as it gets for cooking a decent, fairly inexpensive, weeknight steak. Alton redeemed himself with this one.

When I think of a standing rib roast, I think of Christmas or another special occasion. When your spouse has cancer, you find yourself creating special occasions to celebrate, whether they be great or small. So, on a random Friday evening in March I cooked Alton’s standing rib roast… just because.

Dry-Aged Standing Rib Roast with Sage Jus

For Alton’s standing rib roast, you will only need a few ingredients:  canola oil, Kosher salt, black pepper, water, red wine, fresh sage, and a standing rib roast. Alton used a 4-bone-in roast, which was about 10.5 pounds. I opted for a smaller, 3-bone-in roast that was about 7 pounds. Our roast came from Costco, and they also had 2-bone-in roasts.

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My 3-bone-in standing rib roast.

Note:  for this recipe, you will need to start prepping 72 hours in advance. In the episode, Alton explains that a standing rib roast is different from prime rib simply because prime rib is from prime beef, while a standing rib roast is not from prime beef. When purchasing a standing rib roast, it is best to get one from the loin end, as the loin end has less bone and connective tissue.

The first step of Alton’s recipe is aging the beef. Place your roast, lightly covered (I used paper towels) in your refrigerator for 72 hours. This aging process will intensify the flavor of the meat.

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My roast, getting ready to age for 72 hours.

After the aging period is complete, remove your roast from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for an hour, covered. Your roast will look quite leathery from the aging; Alton says you can trim off any super leathery portions, but I just left my roast as it was.

Now, to cook your roast the Good Eats way, you will need a large, domed terra cotta planter. Place the base of the planter in your cold oven, along with a vessel to hold the roast; I used a glass pie plate. Place the dome of the planter on top and heat your oven to 200 degrees. While the oven is preheating, rub your roast all over with canola oil, and sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper.

Insert a probe thermometer into the center of the top of the top of the roast, place the roast inside the vessel, and cover with the dome.

Set the probe thermometer alarm to go off when the internal temperature of the roast hits 118 degrees.

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Probe thermometer, set to go off at an internal temperature of 118 degrees.

It took my roast 4 hours and 25 minutes to hit 118 degrees. When your alarm goes off, remove the roast from the oven and let it rest on a rack, covered with foil. Leave the probe thermometer in the roast.

Keeping the dome and vessel in the oven, increase the oven’s temperature to 500 degrees. This is where the online recipe differs from the recipe in the episode:  the online recipe tells you to let the roast rest until it reaches 130 degrees, while Alton simply let his roast rest until its temperature plateaued. Since I prepare everything as done in the episode, I allowed my roast to rest until its temperature was steady at 121 degrees, which took about 25 minutes. Once your roast has rested, remove the foil and place the roast back in the vessel/dome.

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My roast, going back into a 500 degree oven to “sear” for 15 minutes.

Cook the roast for 15 minutes. This 15 minute cook at 500 degrees essentially serves to sear the roast, giving it a crusty exterior. When the 15 minutes are up, remove the roast from the oven, cover it with foil, and let it rest on a cutting board while you prepare the sauce. This is where the cooking vessel comes into play. Discard any excess grease from the vessel – I forgot to do this, so had to skim the grease off my sauce later. If you have a vessel that can go on a burner, place the vessel on a burner over high heat and deglaze the vessel with 1 C water and 1 C red wine.

I did not have a stove-safe vessel, so I had to deglaze with the residual heat of the vessel before transferring to a pot. Bring the liquid to a boil and scrape the pan with a spatula. Cook the sauce until it has reduced by half. Finally, add 3-4 bruised sage leaves to the sauce for 60 seconds and strain.

Carve your roast with an electric knife, first removing the slab of bones. Cut off any large pieces of fat and slice the meat into 1/2-inch or larger slices. Serve the meat with the sage jus.

We ate this for dinner, along with some side dishes and a good bottle of wine. The meat was delicious and tender with a nice crust on the outside, and we both thought we could really taste the aging of the meat.

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Alton’s standing rib roast.

The sauce, in my opinion, was just okay. I think I would have preferred a nice horseradish sauce. Still, if you are looking to celebrate a special occasion, Alton’s standing rib roast is an excellent choice. Follow his protocol and you will not be disappointed. Oh, and if you have leftovers, you can slice them thinly and make fantastic sandwiches!

This post is quite overdue, but at least I’m getting to it now, right? The recipe in this episode of Good Eats involves the use of a pressure cooker. Thankfully, my parents had given me a pressure cooker for Christmas years ago when I was trying to start a personal chef service. Note:  personal chef services do not tend to do well in very small college towns.

I have loved my pressure cooker when I have used it, and I surely have not used it enough. My mother-in-law tells the story of her pressure cooker exploding years ago when she was cooking beets. Red beet juice was everywhere. Modern pressure cookers are safe and efficient, and work wonderfully for fast cooking of otherwise slow-cooking foods.

AB’s Beefy Broth

In this episode of Good Eats, Alton’s TV sister has a nasty case of the flu and asks him to make some broth for her. I figured the timing of this recipe was perfect as my husband was in his second week of chemo and radiation. To start, Alton clarifies the difference between a stock and a broth. A stock, you see, only requires water and bones. A broth, on the other hand, is water with meat or vegetables, and the meat and veggies are strained out. If the meat and vegetables are left in, you have a soup.

To make Alton’s recipe for beef broth, you will need a total of three pounds of beef shank and oxtail, ideally in equal proportions. I tried to find beef shank in numerous stores and at the butcher shop, but with no luck, so I ended up using all oxtail pieces.

Ingredients for Alton's beef broth:  Kosher salt, canola oil, onions, black peppercorns, garlic, carrots, parsley, and celery. Not pictured:  beef pieces and water.

Ingredients for Alton’s beef broth: Kosher salt, canola oil, onions, black peppercorns, garlic, carrots, parsley, and celery. Not pictured: beef pieces and water.

To start, heat your pressure cooker over high heat.

Pressure cooker heating. Dog waiting.

Pressure cooker heating. Dog waiting.

While the pressure cooker heats, put the meat pieces in a bowl and drizzle them with canola oil. Sprinkle them with 1/4 t Kosher salt and toss them to coat.

Three pounds of oxtail pieces in a bowl.

Three pounds of oxtail pieces in a bowl.

Meat pieces tossed with canola oil and Kosher salt.

Meat pieces tossed with canola oil and Kosher salt.

Alton explains that the oil acts as a conductor, while the salt serves to add flavor and pull out “protein-laden juices.” Once the pressure cooker is hot, add the meat pieces, leaving an inch between them. You will want to do this in a couple of batches, as you don’t want to overcrowd the pan.

Meat pieces into the pressure cooker.

Meat pieces into the pressure cooker.

Turn the meat pieces with tongs, letting them sear on all sides before removing them from the pan.

Searing the meat on all sides.

Searing the meat on all sides.

Remove any excess fat from the pan with a wad of paper towels.

Excess fat to be removed with paper towels.

Excess fat to be removed with paper towels.

Next, add the meat back to the cooker, along with two quartered onions, two celery ribs, two carrots, a handful of parsley stems, two cloves of garlic, and 1 t black peppercorns.

Meat, onions, celery, carrots, parsley stems, garlic, and peppercorns added to cooker.

Meat, onions, celery, carrots, parsley stems, garlic, and peppercorns added to cooker.

Also add two quarts of water, making sure your pressure cooker is filled no higher than 2/3 full.

Two quarts of water added to cooker.

Two quarts of water added to cooker.

Bring the liquid to a boil and skim the protein foam off of the top.

Protein foam to be skimmed off of the top.

Protein foam to be skimmed off of the top.

Lock the lid on your cooker and bring it to full pressure. Cook for 50 minutes.

Lid on the cooker. Other dog waiting.

Lid on the cooker. Other dog waiting.

Pressure cooker at full pressure for 50 minutes.

Pressure cooker at full pressure for 50 minutes.

Once cooked, release the pressure from your cooker and strain the broth through cheesecloth.

Pressure released after 50 minutes.

Pressure released after 50 minutes.

The broth after cooking.

The broth after cooking.

Straining the broth through cheesecloth.

Straining the broth through cheesecloth.

Using an oven mitt wrapped with a plastic bag, squeeze the meat to get all of the juices out.

Squeezing the juice out of the meat pieces.

Squeezing the juice out of the meat pieces.

Alton told you to strain your broth a second time, but my broth looked very clear and I skipped the second straining.

The strained broth.

The strained broth.

The broth will have a fair amount of fat on the top. You can get rid of the fat by transporting the broth to a new container, using a gravy separator and discarding the fat.

Using a gravy separator to discard the fat from the broth.

Using a gravy separator to discard the fat from the broth.

At this point, taste your broth and season as necessary. Alton recommends salt and sherry for seasonings, or you could add lemon juice. My broth needed quite a bit of salt, and I added a few dashes of sherry.

Sherry for seasoning.

Sherry for seasoning.

You can eat the broth as it is, or you can use it as a base for soups. We both had a mug of broth as soon as it was ready, and it was delicious. It had loads of meaty flavor, a rich mouthfeel, and really tasted of umami. The sherry really served to enhance the beefy flavor. We froze the rest of our broth for later use; I anticipate that some of it will be consumed plain and some will be used to make soup. If someone you know is sick or looking for good old-fashioned comfort food, Alton’s beef broth should be on your list.