Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beef Recipes

I cooked a pot roast today following the most basic set of instructions I could find, and then I turned most of it into a pot of basic, simple chili. I managed to overcook the pot roast a little by attempting to eyeball its done-ness, but it still made a lovely chili. Two more recipes for the book! Here is the start of the beef section:


Greasy, charred beef in excess is not very good for your health, but small amounts of lean beef are a good source of protein, vitamins B2, B3, B6, and B12, iron, phosphorous, selenium, zinc, and tryptophan.

Beef, in whole pieces, does not have the same contamination risks as pork, poultry, or ground beef. As long as the beef is cooked well on the outside, it should be safe to eat. Whole pieces of beef can also be stored longer in the refrigerator before cooking than any of those other types of meats, from a couple of days for small cuts of meat, to longer for large roasts. However, it is advised that you cook your beef within a few days of purchase or thawing, unless you are following instructions for properly aging beef.

But even though it is generally safe to eat whole cuts of beef that are undercooked on the inside, it is still good practice to use a meat thermometer. The minimum safe temperature, “rare”, for whole beef is 145 degrees. For “medium”, 160 degrees; for “well done”, 170.

Pot Roast
(cook in advance)

Pot roast takes several hours to cook, but is very easy to make. This method takes a tough piece of meat, such as a chuck roast, and slowly cooks in a little liquid until it is tender, moist, and flavorful. This is a great recipe for cooking in advance on a weekend. Not only is pot roast good with side dishes like mashed potatoes or broccoli, but leftover pot roast can be frozen and reheated, or used to make chili, sliced for sandwiches, or added to soup or other dishes.

Pot roast requires a large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. It can be cooked on the stove top, or, if the pot is oven-proof (made entirely of metal) in the oven. If your pot is thin, the oven method may still work.

The larger the piece of meat, the longer it will take to cook.

You will not need a meat thermometer for this recipe. The meat is done when it comes apart with a fork - which means it is well in the safe temperature range. However, a meat thermometer can help prevent the meat from being overcooked. If the meat is cooked for too long, or at too high a temperature, it will be dry.

4 pounds of chuck roast, or other tough piece of meat.
1 tbsp oil
1 onion
½ to1 cup of a liquid (or a combination of liquids), such as tomato juice or sauce, the liquid reserved from canned tomato, red wine, beef stock or broth, etc.
4 cloves of garlic
(optional) chopped vegetables, such as carrot, potato, or parsnip. Canned tomatoes work well, too.

Sprinkle all sides of the meat with salt and pepper. If you like garlic, cut the garlic into quarters, poke some holes in each side of the roast with a knife, and insert the garlic into the holes. If you are using the oven rather than the stove top, preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

On the stove, heat the oil in the pot on medium to medium-high heat. Brown each side of the meat in the oil - this will take about three minutes per side. This makes the roast more flavorful. If you are in a hurry to get the meat in the oven, you can skip this step. While the roast is browning, chop the onion into large pieces.

Take the roast out of the pot, and put the chopped onion in. Then place the roast back in the pot, on top of the onions. The onions keep the meat from resting against the bottom of the pot, to ensure that it cooks more evenly. They also add flavor to the meat.

Pour the liquid over the meat, and heat on the stove top until the liquid boils. Then, place the lid on the pot, and (if you are cooking this on the stove top) turn down the temperature to low. (You may have difficulties getting the temperature low enough if you are using a gas stove. If this is the case, you can try using a ring of aluminum foil to raise the pot higher from the flame.)

If you are using the oven, then transfer the pot to the stove.

The roast will take about 4 to 5 hours to cook.

Optional: when the meat is done, remove it from the pot and add the chopped vegetables to the liquid remaining in the pot, and continue to cook for another ten or 15 minutes. This makes a nice side-dish to be served with the meat.

Pot roast can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. The cooking liquid can be used as a sauce as-is, or can be used for making a thicker gravy, or can be reserved for use in chili or soup. If you put the liquid in the refrigerator, by the following day all the fat will have formed a hard crust at the surface that you can easily skim off. Reserve that fat for use in gravy or to cook other foods in, such as potatoes. If you wish to freeze the meat for later, let it cool, and then freeze it in slices.

Pot Roast Chili (Also Meat Loaf Chili)
(quick meal)

If you make pot roast or meat loaf on the weekend and have leftovers, you can use it to make chili later in the week, for variety. This is a particularly good way to get rid of overcooked pot roast or mediocre meat loaf. You can also pull out frozen pot roast or frozen meat loaf slices from the freezer to make quick chili any time.

You don’t need to measure ingredients for this dish. Just start with your leftover meat, and add frozen or canned beans, and tomato, until you have a pot of chili big enough for everyone.

Leftover pot roast or meat loaf
Canned or frozen beans
Canned or fresh tomato
Salt and pepper
(optional) reserved liquid from Pot Roast
(optional) tomato paste
(optional) chili powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, garlic,
(optional) onion, green or red bell pepper, chopped carrot

Chop the meat into small pieces. Or, if the meat is frozen, just put it in the pot whole, and take it out and cut it up once it has thawed. Add beans (drain and rinse if they are canned) and tomato (with or without the can liquid). If you made pot roast and reserved the liquid, you can add that to your chili. Add some tomato paste if you like. Add other vegetables if you like. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Add seasonings and spices to taste.

Serve as-is, or topped with cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, or green onions. Or serve as a taco salad, on top of lettuce, with any of the above toppings.

Chili keeps for a few days in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen and reheated later.

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