RECIPE CARD: 3 Cheese Beef & Noodles + How To Get The Most Out Of Prep Day

I have always said, “if I am going to cook one chicken, I might as well cook two.”  It’s not really any more work.  I have come to believe the same about pot roast, pork roast, and just about anything that is braised, smoked or roasted.

In the case of this casserole you could make it anytime by using cooked ground beef but if you do as suggested and make extra pot roast for a Sunday dinner then this is the perfect way to make use of it midweek.

3 Cheese Beef & Noodles (serves 6)

1 small onion, minced

12 oz. fusilli pasta

1 lb. chuck roast, cooked and shredded

1 cup Pomi brand strained tomatoes

1 ½ cups beef broth

8 slices American cheese

5 thick slices of fresh Mozzarella

1 ½ cups of Edam or Fontina Cheese

 

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and onion then cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Drain the pasta and onions and place it back into the pot.  Stir in the tomatoes, beef broth, and chuck roast.
  4. Dump the pasta into a large casserole.  Jiggle the casserole to spread the mix out evenly.
  5. Layer the cheese on top starting with the American, then the Edam, and follow with the mozzarella.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until browned and bubbly.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (For the Slow Cooker)

I am new to slow cookers. I bought mine with the intention of immersing myself into the world of the crock pot.  My reasons are simple I need to create a few bigger blocks of time each week to immerse myself into other projects. It feels like the right thing to do.

But I have a problem, I am a helicopter cook . I need to walk by the stove and stir the stew, open the oven door to check the slow roasting ragu, or lift the damp towel to see if the bread is rising.  I have to be no more then a few steps away.  I can’t leave my babies be or they will fail.  So for the better part of two years the slow cooker sits relegated to a remote corner in the back of my pantry.  No longer.  I am going to make use of it, but it’s not easy.  After all it’s like letting a stranger into the kitchen to cook for the family.  I can’t say I am comfortable with this aspect of crock pots but I am trying.Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup-

My other issue with the slow cooker is the dump it in, stir, and set it and forget it mentality.   Don’t get me wrong.  I understand there are days when this method is the only way dinner would get to the table.  I am not above it, I have done it, and there is nothing wrong with it.   But as a chef I know there is a process, there are reactions that occur when food is put to high heat that make it taste better. Take browning or caramelizing for instance, the sugars created during the Mallard reaction adds flavor and lots of it.  Outside of Pot-au-feu, Corned Beef,  or other simmered meats,  the vast majority of recipes rely on caramelization to attain the flavors important to that particular dish.  Other simple things like hot cooking oil in the bottom of the pan.  Fat is flavor so the rule goes.   This oil absorbs the flavors of herbs, mirepoix, and animal protein.  It is this oil that transfers tons of flavor to your tastebuds as it swaddles the tongue.  Have you ever added lots of rosemary to a soup and not really been able to taste it?   Then the next time you make soup the recipe has you gently fry the rosemary in the cooking oil before you add stock.  The rosemary flavor is much more pronounced when it is emulsified with oil.

See why I have trouble with slow cookers.  I mean,  I’ll admit I hover to much and spend to much time in the kitchen,  way more then I should.  You should see it when I am depressed, worried, or problem solving.

Nevertheless I am giving slow cookers another chance and I am determined to make them work this time.  To do that I decided I wouldn’t be afraid of dirtying an extra pan for browning vegetables, meats, and deglazing.  If cleaning the pan is more then you care to be bothered with then just skip the step and add everything to the slow cooker as is.  I just can’t.

My other concern, especially when posting a recipe, and this is because I want it to be successful for anyone who bothers to cook it, is all slow cookers are not created equally.  The low temperature on mine  seems like high to me.  It starts to simmer heavily, meaning bubbles are rising at the edges as if it is getting ready to break out into a boil, long before I think it should.  If you use your slow cooker often then you understand its nuances.  Use good judgement and make the necessary adjustments.

It’s hard to believe it’s possible to braise meat until it is dry but you can.  Often times we use very lean meats when slow cooking and this becomes a problem.  To get around dryness issues and to be assured of a great dish I use chuck roast that has a good fat content.  I also like to use fresh Asian noodles.  Surprisingly I don’t have to go to a specialty grocery for them either.  I have noticed lots of groceries carrying them along with dumpling and egg roll wrappers.  The good news is any noodle works so if you have spaghetti noodles use them.  Star anise is a specialty product as is Sichuan peppercorns.  If you would like a substitute, fennel or anise seed is good exchange for star anise,  and red pepper chile flakes work in place of the Sichuan peppercorns.  Yes your soup will be different if you substitute but it won’t be any less good.

Taiwanese Slow Cooker Beef Noodle Soup (serves 4)

1 large onion, thinly sliced
canola oil
2 1/2 lb. chuck roast
1/2 cup rice wine or sake
1 qt. rich homemade beef stock or no sodium beef stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
5 star anise
1 tsp. Sichuan peppercorns (optional but recommended)
1 1/2 TBS garlic, minced
1 1/2 TBS. fresh ginger, minced
1 cinnamon 3-inches long
1 TBS. tomato paste
16 oz. wheat noodles
Green onion

  1. Place a skillet over high heat.  In the dry pan sear the onions until they char at the edges.  Remove them to the slow cooker.
  2. Let the pan cool for a minute or two, add a healthy glug of oil to coat the bottom and sear the chuck roast on both sides until it is very deeply browned.  Remove the roast to the slow cooker as well.
  3. Carefully pour out the excess oil into a heat proof container.  Set the pan back over the heat and add the rice wine or sake.  Be careful it might flame.
  4. Add the stock and deglaze the pan.  Add the liquid to the cooker.
  5. Add soup, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and tomato paste to the slow cooker.
  6. Turn the heat to low and cook for 5 hours or until the meat is tender but not falling apart.
  7. Remove the chuck roast from the pot and place it on a plate.  Using oven pads, remove the crock pot insert and strain the broth into a large bowl
  8. Pour the broth back into the cooker, add the roast, and dispose of the solids in the strainer.
  9. Cook the noodles according to the package.
  10. As the noodles are near to being done throw a couple of handfuls of spinach in with the soup broth.  Stir and cook until it has wilted.
  11. Cut the roast into thin pieces.  Strain the noodles and divide them among 4 bowls.  Top with broth and spinach.
  12. Garnish with green onion and serve.

 

 

A Very French Beef Stew

DSC_2850If you are like me, you have made what seems like hundreds of variations on beef stew; the classic tomatoey American version, a Korean version, Chinese, Irish, with beer, or with wine. It’s all done in the name of variety and the constant quest for new flavors to excite the taste buds. We do it in order to make dinner ever more interesting, because let’s be honest, if you only cook the same 5 or 6 meals and present them over and over again at some point they become lackluster and boredom sets in. This is not to say, as a cook you need to know how to cook a hundred variations on beef stew because you don’t. If you are like me though you are curious, always looking for upgrades, and it is nice to have some surprises in your back pocket when you need them.DSC_2888

While I call this a French stew it is far from a classic daube.  Daube’s make use of lots of red wine, olives, and orange peel. This stew does not. What this dish does do is keep flavors separate. By cooking the meat on its own, roasting the vegetables, then combining them only when it is time to serve the dish some very wonderful flavors only become present when everything is in the bowl.

Let me say a few things about clay pot cooking.  Clay is unique, so if you have a clay pot stored in a cabinet somewhere begging to be used then this is a great place to start and here is why.  Cooking in clay pots feels like cooking.   The smell of the clay as it heats, the aroma that reminds you of the last meal you cooked,  the cracks in the glaze, the smell of olive oil as it heats seems basic in an elemental way.  It is comforting.  It’s as if you a are connected to every cook that came before you and every meal too.

When you heat clay on the stove the culinary history of the particular pot makes itself well known very quickly. Often pots are dedicated to certain kinds of cooking like curry, or rice, or beans. They are used for meals made with similar spices.  They are the original slow cooker and you can find them being used all around the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia and throughout South America.

The recipe doesn’t require cooking in a clay pot for it to be good but it does add to its mystic. It can be cooked in a slow cooker or in an enameled Dutch oven on the stove top.

 

Clay Pot Beef Stew with Roasted Vegetables (serves 4)

2 TBS. olive oil

2 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/2 TBS all-purpose flour

3 medium yellow onions

15 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

3 cups homemade beef broth of sodium free beef broth

1 1/2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. Japanese tonkatsu sauce or Heinz 57

1 bay leaf

2 tsp. flat leaf parsley, minced

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch cylinders

7 fingerling potatoes, washed and halved

  1. Peel and trim one onion.  Halve it and dice both halves into a small dice.
  2. Place a 3 1/2 quart clay pot or enameled Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add olive oil and let it become hot.  Add half the beef and brown it on all sides.  Remove the meat to a tray.  Repeat with the remaining beef.
  3. Add the flour to the oil and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour begins to color and smells nutty (do not taste the roux it will burn your tongue off.)
  4. Add diced onions and garlic.  Stir.  The roux will stick to the vegetables and clump.  This is as it should be.  Add the hot broth while stirring. Continue to stir until the liquid comes to a boil.
  5. Add a 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, Herbes de Provence, tonkatsu, bay leaf, parsley, and a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper.  Add the brisket back to the pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let it gently bubble until the brisket is tender but not falling apart.  About 4 hours.
  6. About 1 1/2 hours before the brisket is tender heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Peel the remaining 2 onions and cut each into 6 wedges.  Place the onions, carrots, and potatoes into a bowl.  Toss with enough olive oil to coat them.  Season them with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Toss them again.
  7. Spread the vegetables out onto a sheet tray and roast them for 1 hour or until they are brown and blistered.  Remove them from the oven.
  8. To serve place a sprinkling of vegetables into the bottom 4 bowls, ladle over meat and broth over the vegetables and them top with some vegetables.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

 

Asian Spaghetti, Changing Seasons

If your weekend was anything like mine then you are comfortable having put summer to bed, tucked-in snugly with the knowledge it will sleep tight until it awakens again next year. Windows will close, doors are shut, and the nuanced smells of long simmered foods become more prevalent.

I can’t imagine a life without seasons.  Not because I like the hot and cold but because they are markers, clear delineations that it is time to get on with life, a deep breath of reflection before pushing on, no summit to conquer, no eye on a prize, just a moment to reflect on the journey.

I am back to doing what I love—cooking, my way.   This time of year I always cook Asian cuisine.  It is such a departure from what I have done all summer, cooked from the garden, be it mid-western or southern foods, or farm favorites.  Now I go to the Asian grocery and buy up bok choi, pigs liver, shiso peppers, lemon grass, and Chinese celery.  Foods that I have done without since last fall.

For a few months I will get my fill, until winter.

Asian Spaghetti (serves 4)

This is great for weeknights.  The sauce like many gets better with age and can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (you can even double the recipe and freeze half.)  Then simply make your noodles, warm the sauce, and serve.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 lb. ground beef

1 medium red onion, fine dice (about 1 cup)

3 celery stalks, trimmed, fine dice (about 1 cup)

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

1 tablespoon garlic

1/2 cup Hoisin sauce

1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes with juice

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 Fresno red pepper, chopped

3 Shiso peppers, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro

rice noodles, cooked

  1. Set a 3 quart (3l) enameled cast iron pot, or any heavy bottomed pot onto the stove.  Turn the heat to medium high.  Add oil and let it become hot.
  2. Add the ground beef, break it into small pieces and let it brown.  Add red onion, celery, ginger, and garlic.  Stir, let the vegetables soften and become fragrant.
  3. Add Hoisin sauce, tomatoes, lime juice and soy.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and let the liquid reduce until it thickens, about 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  4. Place the hot noodles onto a platter, top with sauce, and sprinkle the peppers and cilantro over the top.  Serve with a nice stir fried vegetable like bok choi in oyster sauce.

Small Batch Barbacoa Beef for Tacos

DSCF4507There is something about big hunks of meat cooked over long periods at low heat that appeals to us at a very basic level. Pit-cooking traditions like hog roasts, barbacoa, and luaus aren’t just barbecues — they’re celebrations. They conjure up visions of earthen pits and long buffet tables with folding chairs, all set up for a multitude of guests.

This kind of cooking takes judgement and practice, though, so unless you host these kinds of events on a regular basis, you’re more than likely cooking blind. After all, you probably aren’t buying a whole lamb or calf more than a couple times a year. It could take you a few years to get it right. Continue reading “Small Batch Barbacoa Beef for Tacos”