Skirt Steak Tacos with Chipotle Marinade

My parents gave me a very wonderful hand-me-down gift while we were in Michigan for Christmas – my mom’s old meat grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid Mixer. Dad had gotten Mom a new one, since her old one has a couple cracks in it near the grinder face, but was otherwise still working just fine. I was happy to take the grinder home with me, but really didn’t think that my life had been lacking without a meat grinder in it.

Boy, was I wrong. I love this attachment. I went to the market first thing the next morning after we returned to Chicago, and bought a couple flaps of my favorite cut of beef – skirt steak. People overlook the humble skirt – it’s a cheap cut, and a real pain to remove all of the silver skin and fat. But pounded a bit and marinated for a few hours before a quick sear on the grill – skirt delivers the beefiest flavor to be found on the cow, and it’s our go-to cut for entertaining.

Since it is definitely not grilling season in Chicago, grabbing a couple nice pieces of skirt was the perfect opportunity to put my new grinder to the test. After removing the silver skin and most of the fat, I put the meat through the grinder on the largest grinding plate, and the resulting meat was a perfect chopped meat consistency that was perfect for the tacos. I like my tacos highly spiced, so I made a good chipotle marinade studded with garlic and brightened with a little vinegar and sherry. The finished tacos were definitely my favorite so far for wintertime (non-grilled) tacos.

Skirt Steak Tacos with Chipotle Marinade
Serves 6

2lbs skirt steak, untrimmed
1/3 cup chipotle puree
1 tsp ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, finely minced
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T cooking sherry
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

Garnishes: minced white onion, lime wedges and cilantro

  1. Lay the skirt steak (cold from the fridge) flat on a plastic cutting board and trim off most of the fat and all of the silver skin. I left a little fat on, to help give the tacos some flavor – the fat is easy to drain off later, once the meat is cooked. After you’ve trimmed the steak, cut it into large cubes so that it will fit through your meat grinder tube.
  2. Attach your meat grinder attachment to the Kitchen Aid mixer, and install the largest grinding plate. Turn on the mixer, and place a large bowl under the grinder. Feed the meat into the grinder, using the wooden plunger to push the meat down the tube. The grinder will do the rest of the work for you.
  3. Once all of the meat is ground, make the marinade. Combine the chipotle puree, cumin, garlic, onion, cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Stir to combine everything. Taste – it should be pretty salty to season all of the meat, and if you think it needs it – add up to 1/2 tsp salt.
  4. Pour the marinade over the meat, and get in there with your hands and mix it all up well. Stash the meat in the fridge, covered, for a couple hours until you’re ready for dinner.
  5. I made homemade tortillas for this feast, so if you’re going to make them yourself, make them before you cook the meat, and then just wrap them in a slightly damp kitchen towel, and put them on a plate in an oven on the lowest setting while you deal with the meat.
  6. Heat a couple of large non-stick skillets over medium-high heat. Sprinkle enough meat into each pan to cover the bottom in one layer – no crowding, so that you’ll be able to brown it. Let the meat cook for a minute, then stir, and cook for one more minute. Scoop the cooked steak out of the pan into a clean casserole with a slotted spoon, and pour off any remaining fat left in the pans. Stash the cooked meat into the oven (on low), in the covered casserole. Return the pans to the heat and cook another batch of steak, repeating the same procedure until all of the meat is cooked.

Serve the tacos with warm tortillas, lime wedges, cilantro, and minced white onion for garnish.

Beef Stir Fry with Delicata Squash

We have entered the season of the Winter Farm Share, and though we mourn the passing of the summer produce, the sheer volume of veggies coming into the house means that we need to step up the vegetable consumption. Last week we received the fall squash that I wait all season for – the delicata.

In my mind, the delicata is the perfect squash – it’s small enough for a dinner for one, you can eat the peel, and it roasts up very quickly. All of that is enough to achieve squash perfection, but it is the sweet butternut-like flavor and super creamy texture that put it above all other squash in my kitchen.

I had some left over skirt steak from the cabbage stir fry the other night, so I knew I wanted to pair that with the squash somehow, but indecision plagued me again. I definitely wanted to roast the squash with some more chipotle puree, but wanted to stir fry the beef with a bit of asian flare. So, I did both, and put them all in a bowl together, and it was pretty delicious – and went a long way to cleaning out the crisper.

Beef marinade:
8 oz skirt steak cut into thin strips
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T sherry
1 tsp chipotle puree
pinch of salt

Combine above ingredients in a bowl and stir to coat the beef. Let it marinade while you roast the squash

2 delicata squash, peeled and seeds removed, then cubed
1 clove garlic
1 T chipotle puree
1/4 tsp salt
olive oil spray

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a small sheet pan with olive oil. Combine the cubed squash, chipotle puree, garlic and salt in a mixing bowl and toss to coat the squash with the puree. Pour the squash onto the sheet pan and roast for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Stir fry:
1 T oil
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 onion
handful of brussels sprouts, washed and sliced in half
Beef from above

  1. During the last few minutes of squash roasting, put the stir fry together. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil, and then add the beef in one layer. Cook for 30 seconds, then stir and cook for 30 seconds more before removing the beef from the pan and setting aside in a clean bowl. Add the onion and brussel sprouts to the pan, and saute for 3-5 minutes, until the onions soften and the brussels sprouts are nearly tender. Add the garlic to the pan, then add the beef and juices back to the pan and cook for 1 more minute.
  2. Plate the dish by serving over brown rice, and serve the squash on the side.

Fiery Cabbage Stir Fry with Beef

I think I mentioned just last week how much I love cabbage, right? Well, it’s a very good thing that we do love cabbage in the Whole Kitchen, as we’re pretty flush with it – 2 heads have been lurking in the fridge since the first of our Winter Farm Share deliveries last week. 2 heads of cabbage for 2 people is a LOT of cabbage – that stuff has volume. Slice up half a head for a stir fry and – whoa – it’s suddenly 8 cups of veg! Thankfully the cabbage does lose a little volume in cooking, so even if you’ve got a small household, knocking out a head of cabbage in a week isn’t too tough. And if you only use half a head at a time, the other half will keep for a few days if wrapped tightly in saran wrap.

Yesterday, as I was enjoying a rare November bike commute, I couldn’t decide what to cook for dinner. I needed to handle the cabbage situation, but had a hard time deciding between the usual egg slurry, asian saute, or something a little fiery. In the end, I stood there at the stove, completely undecided, and came up with a smoky, Mexican flavored stir fry – and it was really the perfect dish after a hard ride home. The cumin and chipotles added wonderful flavor to the cabbage, and the stir fried beef added nice heartiness to the dish. And because I cannot pass up the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful liquid egg yolk with cabbage, I topped the bowl with an egg. It’s a little bit decadent for a stir fry, but hey – after riding 22 miles, I can indulge!

Chipotle Beef Stir Fry
serves 2

5 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1/2 onion, sliced
8 oz skirt steak, fat trimmed away, sliced cross-grain into strips
2 T safflower oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup carrot, sliced thin
3 T chipotle puree
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
cilantro for garnish

Top stir fry with an over-easy egg (optional)

  1. Take the thinly sliced skirt steak, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the chipotle puree and the 1 clove of minced garlic. Let it marinade while you chop everything else up.
  2. Once you’ve got all the veggies sliced and tossed into a big bowl together, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is very hot, add 1 tablespoon of the safflower oil. Add half of the beef to the pan in one layer. Let cook for 30 seconds, then stir and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove the beef to a clean bowl, then cook the rest of the beef in the same way, then scoop out into the same bowl. Let the beef rest while you cook the veggies.
  3. Rinse out the pan, dry it and return it to the burner, and re-heat the pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and when it’s hot and shimmering, add all the veggies, along with 1/4 tsp of the salt. Use tongs to toss the veggies with the oil. Let the veggies cook for a couple minutes, then stir. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until the cabbage begins to soften, then add in the cumin and another dollop of chipotle puree. Stir, and saute until the cabbage is nearly as done as you like it – I like my cabbage with a tiny bit of crunch left in it. Then, add in the beef and any juices in the bowl – mix the beef in with the cabbage, taste and adjust seasoning. If you want to be really decadent, serve with a perfect over-easy egg on top, and garnish with cilantro.

505 cal/serving, 280 cal from fat, 31g fat, 280mg cholesterol, 940mg sodium, 1140mg potassium, 24g carbs, 8g fiber, 13g sugars, 34.7g protein

State Secrets: Hazen’s Corned Beef

I really probably shouldn’t be sharing this recipe with you…but you’re my loyal readers, and you won’t tell anyone, right?! We’ll keep this just between the two of us. *winks* Now that we’ve got that settled, I’ll tell you about the best corned beef you’ve ever had.

This recipe comes from my dad’s former boss, Hazen. He was what you might call a “character,” renowned for his parties and hosting people at his “guest house.” But to call the “guest house” a house is a bit of a misnomer. It was a sizeable mansion, right on the St. Clair River. Some of my favorite memories from childhood were of weekends spent at the guest house, usually in the winter.

It was a magical place for us kids – we had the run of the mansion, could splash away the afternoon in a giant jacuzzi, go four-wheeling through the trails across the street, play pinball, or watch ice-cutting boats breaking ice out on the river. But perhaps our favorite pastime was snooping around the house, looking in every drawer and closet. You see, the mansion was formerly owned by a barge captain, and most of the furniture in the home was his, right down to his stationery left in the roll-top desk. We loved discovering all the odd things in the drawers – an old safety razor in the bathroom, antique lady’s face powder, or the fantastic hats in the entry hall bureau. We never tired of seeing if we could find something we’d never seen before.

Hazen would also make sure that the fridge was well stocked before guests arrived (or rather, his wonderful housekeeper did). There was always plenty of stuff for sandwiches, snacks, juice, pop….and Hazan’s corned beef. This is his family’s recipe for corned beef, a slowly braised beef more flavorful than anything boiled on the stovetop.

The recipe also boasts a fair amount of cinnamon, which adds a lovely floral note to the normal pickling spice flavors. The beef calls for 12 hours of cooking time in a 200 degree oven (you could probably use a slow cooker if you had one, too). It’s best to stay up late on a Saturday night, and pop the beef in the oven before you go to bed, and then wake up in the most delicious smelling house imagineable. I like to use a flat cut corned beef as well, as it has less fat. I also usually make 2 corned beefs, since I’m going to be running the oven for so long…you can never have too much corned beef.

I still miss family vacations at the guest house, but this beef makes the memories all the sweeter.

Hazen’s Corned Beef
Serves: not as many as you think, for it disappears quickly from the platter

1 or 2 flat cut corned beefs, about 6lbs
2 T pickling spice
2 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves (if pickling spice doesn’t already include bay)
5 cloves garlic, whole, skin on

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place corned beef in a large pot, add the rest of the ingredients and fill pot with water, enough to cover the beef. Place lid on pot, and place in the oven. Cook for 12-14 hours, then turn the oven off and let the beef rest in the oven for another two hours. Then, remove the beef, and slice. Serve with good mustard, sauteed cabbage or sauerkraut.

Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati Chili has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember. On family vacations to Kentucky or Tennessee, we always stopped in Cincinnati to visit Skyline Chili to enjoy a plate of spaghetti, and a hot dog liberally covered in chili, cheese and onion.

Later, Mom would order packets of the Skyline Chili seasonings from Ohio, and make the chili for us at home…it was always a big hit. If you’ve never had Cincinnati chili, you’ll have to adjust your idea of what chili is – this one is not very spicy, and not very tomato-y…its simply meat, onion and seasonings. And the seasonings are a balance of chili against cocoa and brown sugar…while it’s not exactly sweet per se, you can definitely detect the cocoa in the sauce.

Since becoming gluten-free, I can no longer make the chili from the little Skyline Packets – they don’t list wheat as an ingredient, but I sure got the unpleasant reaction when I made it, so, like everything else, packets are out, and cooking from scratch is in.

The recipe below is from Cook’s Illustrated, from Feb 08 – I’ve adjusted some of the proportions of seasonings to my own tastes, but as you add chili powder, sugar and cocoa and let it simmer, you may decide that the chili needs a little more of one of them to balance the flavors to your liking.

Cincinnati Chili
Serves 6 as a main course

2 tsp table salt or to taste
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 T vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
3 cloves garlic , minced
3 T chili powder
1 T dried oregano
1 1/2 Tb cocoa
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 c chicken broth
2 c water
2 T cider vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 c plain tomato sauce
hot pepper sauce

Serve with:
Pasta, grated sharp cheddar cheese, minced onion

  1. Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the ground beef, stirring vigorously to separate the meat into individual strands. As soon as the foam from the meat rises to the top (this takes about 30 seconds) and before the water returns to a boil, drain the meat into a strainer and set it aside.
  2. Rinse and dry the empty pot. Set the pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is warm, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and browned around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the chili powder, oregano, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice, black pepper, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, water, vinegar, sugar, and tomato sauce, scraping the pan bottom to remove any browned bits.
  3. Add the ground beef and increase the heat to high. As soon as the liquid boils, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chili is deep red and has thickened slightly, about 1 hour. Adjust the seasonings, adding salt and hot pepper sauce to taste, or adding more cocoa powder or chili powder if needed.
  4. Serve over pasta in individual bowls. Spoon the chili over the pasta and top with the cheese and onion. Serve immediately. Chili also freezes very well, just be sure to let it defrost in the fridge.

268 cal per 3/4 cup chili, 80 cal from fat, 10g fat, 80mg cholesterol, 910mg sodium, 760mg potassium, 13g carbs, 4g fiber, 5g sugars, 33g protein
Brown rice pasta: 100 calories per ounce

Turning up the Heat: Spicy Thai Beef & Broccoli

Here’s a meal that comes together in a hurry, healthy and packs a punch with bold flavors. Thai food is probably my favorite kind of ethnic cuisine, though I don’t often cook thai at home, since when we go out to eat, it’s probably a good bet that we go Thai, since it is easy for me to find something gluten-free and safe to eat.

This dish has the traditional flavor of much Thai food, balancing spicy, sweet, salty and sour flavors, with some shortcuts, since I don’t have palm sugar or lemongrass on hand. When mixing the marinade and sauce, just taste as you go, and balance the flavors to your liking. The only trick on this meal is that you need 2 non-stick skillets cooking at the same time – one with beef, and the other with broccoli, and then you toss them together with the sauce at the end. The sauce is pretty thin, but I don’t think it needs thickening, and rice will soak up all that lovely sauce anyway.

Spicy Thai Beef & Broccoli
Serves 3 with rice.
6 Weight Watchers points per serving
4 points per cup of brown rice

Beef and Marinade
1 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp pepper
1 1/2 T light brown sugar
1 T fish sauce
3 T sherry
1 pound steak , trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips

2 T fish sauce
2 T brown rice vinegar
2 T water
2 T brown sugar
1 T Asian chili-garlic paste
3 cloves garlic , minced
1 T vegetable oil
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cups fresh broccoli florets

Serve with: Brown Rice, wedges of lime

  1. Marinating the beef: Combine coriander, pepper, sherry, brown sugar, and fish sauce in large bowl. Add beef, toss well to combine; marinate for at least 15 minutes, but a few hours in the fridge is better.
  2. Stir-Fry: In small bowl, stir together fish sauce, vinegar, garlic, water, brown sugar, and chili-garlic paste until sugar dissolves; set aside.
  3. Heat 2 large non-stick pans over medium heat. You’ll need one pan with a lid. Heat 1.5 teaspoons oil in each skillet over medium heat until smoking; add beef to one skillet in even layer. Cook, without stirring, until well browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl.
  4. At the same time the beef is browning, add the broccoli to the pan with lid. Sear broccoli for 2 minutes, then add 1/4 cup water to pan, cover and steam for 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer beef, broccoli and sliced onion to the beef skillet. Add sauce mixture, toss to coat, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

A Bit of Cassoulet

On New Year’s Eve, our friends Larry & Erika were kind enough to not only come over for dinner, but they brought the dinner too! Larry is renowned for his French Cassoulet, and for good reason. Filled with all of the traditional meats – duck, sausage, pork, lamb, bacon…he makes a beautiful pot of stew, which we were lucky enough to share.

I’d never made a cassoulet, and I had some beautiful flageolet beans from Rancho Gordo in the pantry, some odds and ends of meat in the freezer from our farm share, so I started in on a simplified cassoulet. I looked at recipes from Mark Bittman and Cook’s Illustrated for reference, omitted the chicken/duck, and started cooking.

The recipe looks really fussy, and maybe it is, but if you take it one step at a time, split the cooking time over two nights, you’ll find this a pretty reasonable dish to put together. Nothing too difficult about the recipe, it just takes some time. I soaked the beans overnight on Wednesday, cooked the beans on Thursday, and put the cassoulet together on Friday. We shared it with friends for dinner on Saturday, with plenty of leftovers for the week ahead. Stews are always better the next day, so I highly recommend making this the day before you plan to serve it.

Serves 9
12 Weight Watchers Points per serving

1 lb Flageolet beans
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 carrot
2 stalks celery
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 fresh chicken back

3/4 lb lamb stew, fat trimmed off, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb beef stew, fat trimmed off, cut into 1″ cubes
8 oz Wellshire Farms Andouille sausage, diced
3 slices bacon, diced
2 large carrots, peeled, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 T fresh thyme
1/4 tsp ground cloves
salt & pepper to taste

Cooking the beans:
Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl, covering the beans with at least three inches of water. The next day, cook the beans in a large pot, cover the beans with at least 2 inches of water with carrot, celery, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, garlic and chicken back. Bring the beans to a boil, cook for 5 minutes at a rolling boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer the beans for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until beans are tender. If you’re going to store the beans overnight, take out the vegetables, chicken back and aromatics, and put the whole pot in the fridge.

Making the cassoulet:

  1. Heat a large (7-8 qt) dutch oven over medium heat. Add andouille sausage and saute until it begins to brown. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside in the fridge. You won’t need the sausage for awhile.
  2. While pot is still on medium heat, add diced bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon, drain on paper towel and set aside. Leave 2 T of bacon grease in the pot, and brown the beef and lamb in small batches, cooking 1-2 minutes per side. After the batches of meat are browned, reserve them in a bowl.
  3. Add the onions, garlic and carrots to the pot, and saute for 5-7 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent. Add tomato paste, ground cloves and thyme, and saute for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add white wine, bay leaves, canned tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add beef and lamb to the pot.
  4. Take the pot of white beans out, and drain in a colander, removing any lingering bits of chicken bone and vegetables from the pot. Add the beans and reserved bacon to the cassoulet pot, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until carrots are tender and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add andouille sausage, and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight and serve the next day.

Rump Roast

My mom could tell you that I am not a roast beef fan. As a kid, staring down hunks of beef at the dinner table, I employed classic dinner table tricks such as “the napkin trick” or the “may I go to the bathroom?” trick in order to get rid of half-chewed wads of beef that I really didn’t want to eat. She’s a smart lady – those tricks didn’t last all that long. So, the standby coping strategy was often employed – swallow whole pieces of meat drenched in applesauce. You avoid the taste of the beef, and only taste the applesauce.

Well, I’m not employing such tricks at the table anymore (afterall, I get to choose the menu now). And I’ve found a new way of cooking beef that I enjoy much more. I’m still not a huge fan of roast beef, but with our meat CSA, we don’t get to choose the cuts of meat we receive, which is actually pretty great, as it encourages me to cook a bit outside my comfort zone.

The roast below is a standard bottom rump roast cut, slathered in garlic, rosemary, pepper and salt, and tied up in a tidy little bundle so that it will cook more evenly. I’ve come to enjoy the occasional roast, so long as it’s cooked slowly, and to a nice medium temperature, still pink in the middle. And, since gravy grosses me out, I make a tomato/parsely compote to serve with the roast, which is very tasty.

Roast beef
serves: A lot

5 Weight Watchers points per 4oz, trimmed of fat

1 3-4lb rump roast
1 stalk celery, or 2 carrots

Meat Rub:
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp ground pepper
1 T kosher salt

Tomato compote:
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 c fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic
salt & pepper to taste

  1. 8-12 hours before cooking: Bash above ingredients in a mortar & pestle to make a paste. Rub the paste into the meat, then tie the roast up into a tidy log shape, tied snug enough so that you can sear the meat without it escaping from its tethers. Place the roast on a plate, cover the roast with saran wrap, and stash in the fridge while you go to work.
  2. When you’re ready to cook: Remove roast from fridge, and let it sit on the counter for about a half-hour. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  3. Tomato Compote: open canned tomatoes, pour in a small, ovenproof bowl. Peel garlic cloves, and place in the bowl with the tomatoes. Set aside.
  4. Searing the roast: Heat a large pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Add 1 T vegetable oil. When oil is hot and shimmering, gently place the roast in the pan, and cook for 2 minutes without touching it. Rotate the roast and sear on each side for 2 minutes. Then, place the roast in the oven in a roasting pan, propped up on a couple of stick of celery, or carrots – whatever you’ve got. Also, place the dish of tomatoes in the oven, and let it bake with the roast until it is done.
  5. Roast at 250 degrees until roast reaches an internal temperature of 110 degrees, about 45 minutes. Then, increase the oven temp to 500 degrees, and roast until the internal temperature is 135-140 degrees, approx another 15-20 minutes. Remove roast from oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. While the meat is resting, pour the hot tomatoes and garlic into a blender or small food processor. Add parsley, and puree. Season with salt & pepper, then pour compote into a dish for serving.
  7. Slice the roast and serve with the tomato compote.