Saturday, September 10, 2011

Great Beef, for the Great Recession

See, here's the thing.

I love beef.

In fact, if one had to compel me to narrow down my foodstuff preferences to one species, "cow*" would be it.

But there's a problem.

It's rather pricy. And I'm a cheapskate**.

This is how that problem has been historically solved. You simply rummage around the butcher's for a different cut than those that occupy the Board Walk & Park Place of the bovine real estate. That was all fine. For example, skirt steak. Prepare it properly and it hit the beefy spot and all was good.

But then someone discovered fajitas, and the price of skirt steak, once a throwaway, went through the roof. So we migrated to flank steak. But then someone discovered satay, and the price of flank steak, once a throwaway also, went through the roof. So we migrated to hanger steak. But then Tony Bourdain became a big hit on TV talking about his restaurant (Les Halles) and "onglet" and then...you see where I'm going with this, yes?

So basically, whatever is one's steak refuge one day, becomes a king's ransom on the next. (The latest is the steak formerly known as Top Blade, now called "flatiron" steak by all the chi-chi restaurants. This may not have yet happened where you live, in which case enjoy the lull.)

Fine.

So I sat down to examine my options. And last night, I hit it. So, for YOU, I will buy another similar hunk of cow, tale pictures and show you how to get this stellar beefy excellentness for chump change. And I mean CHUMP CHANGE.

So here is the secret, in pictures.

Get the correct implements: 5" boning knife (make sure it is crazy sharp) and a plastic cutting board cover.


I have no idea what this cut might be called in other parts. But there ya go. (These come 2 to a pkg. We'll only deal w. one today, for purposes of illustration.)

Kindly note the $2.99/lb price. By far my cheapest beef option, as the "next available" costs $3.99/lb.


Here is the hunk o' cow in question. Throwing this on a grill would be madness. Normally you'd cube it and braise it for hours. But me? I have a cunning plan.


The slab o' cow weighs in at a pound-eight. Remember that.


As daunting as the breaking-down process is, it actually isn't, because we're only "seaming out" (a little butcher jargon for ya) this cut, meaning we separate -- often only by hand -- the individual steaks along the natural lines of fat and connective tissue.

We start off with the outside "cap," making sure you take as little beef off as possible.


Once trimmed, all you do is start cutting along the natural divisions. I got excited and the focus was blurry. Sorry.


...a-a-a-and that's the first steak off.


As you break this cut down into smaller components, you may start noticing the individual steaks are resembling other, pricier segments of cow. This is good.

Give yourself some points if you noticed this looks like a single-serving ($6.99/lb) skirt or flap steak***. (This is important, remember it, as you will see it again.)


Start "seaming out" the rest of the cut. (Again, my hands trembled with boyish glee.)


The trick to dealing with the "silverskin" connective tissue is to slide the knife JUST underneath it and angling the blade UP (i.e., towards the connective tissue and away from the beef) saw gently as you proceed to slide the knife down the length of a given patch of connective tissue. It takes a bit of practice, yes, but better on a cheap cut like this than on a $180.99/lb Kobe beef tenderloin.

Here's the two main sections separated. Now, trim the steak on the lower left...


...like so. Looks like a miniature flank ($7.99/lb) steak, doesn't it?


Then trim the remaining beef. You'll have a mini-Chateaubriand ($18.99/lb., at center right) and some excellent shish kabob bits (top right)


Scraps trimmed away...+/-4oz. At $2.99/lb, that's only 84¢ of waste. Nice.


Now, all you have to do is season with your favorite rub and let it rest (longer is better, overnight is ideal). I like salt and tons of fresh cracked pepper, homemade garlic powder and onion powder.

The way to grill is the "reverse sear" which means you cook it low and slow to your desired doneness and then let it rest and THEN you sear off the outside to get that crazy crust. Why? Because the enzymes that tenderize beef work from +/-100F to +/-120F so you want your beef to spend as much time at this range as possible.

Grilled -- perfectly, to medium rare, TYVM -- and carved. Kindly note the medium-rareness extend almost totally throughout the cross-section, with none of that overdone layer underneath the crust.


...and sauced w. Argentine-style cilantro chimichurri steak sauce. GLORIOUS.


* I can respect those who pick lobster or pig or lamb, etc.

** We'll set aside my occasional dalliances w. "Kobe" beef.

*** In Spanish/Portuguese this is called "churrasco" and it's a big $eller in those "gaucho steakhouses" now littering the landscape.

Posted by Joke at 9:11 AM 7 comments

Friday, September 09, 2011

Bacon Jam

It's trendy. Here's my version:

1 lb smoked ("streaky") bacon, cut into lardons
1 lg yellow sweet onion, sliced as thin as your patience will allow
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
¾ c apple juice
½ c water
⅓ c apple cider vinegar
⅓ c maple syrup
2 T dark brown sugar
1 T honey
¼-½ t ground clove or allspice (or less, to taste)
1 t chili powder of choice

1. Put the bacon in a Dutch oven and cook on med-high until crisp, (+/- 20 minutes). Transfer crisp bacon to paper towel, leaving drippings in pot.

2. Drop heat to medium, add onion, garlic, and shallot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent (+/-10 minutes). Return bacon to pot, and stir in juice, water, vinegar, maple syrup, sugar, honey, allspice/cloves, and chili powder. Simmer and stir to prevent catching, until it gets to a jammy consistency, about 1½ hours.

3. Let jam cool for 15 minutes. Then, transfer mixture to food processor, leaving behind excess drippings. Pulse until finely chopped (5 pulses on mine), or until mixture has reached desired consistency. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Posted by JMG at 6:57 PM 0 comments