Ethics and Pot Roast

This summer I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I picked it up because I was fascinated with the idea of living off the land for a whole year, not that I could ever imagine doing it myself. As I read more and more I had this odd sense that Barbara was preaching to me, nagging me and admonishing me for not being like her and her family. Her tone carried this “I am better than you”  attitude and I began to resent her condescending words.

I find myself in the unique position of having many opportunities to provide myself with healthy and local sources of food. I realize that not everyone can have backyard chickens, or plant their own garden, or visit their local famers market. But I can only tell my story as it unfolds and the choices I make, and hope that I always come across as grateful and humble.

Whew, now that is out of the way…. J. used to work for a big “beef company-who-must-not-be-named” here in Colorado. He worked in their corporate offices. We had a first-hand look into the world of meat processing and packaging. It totally changed the way I felt about beef and my relationship to it. I couldn’t continue to buy into this corporation that produced such mediocre product and filled the cows with corn, hormones and anitbiotics (neither of which are good for the cows or you and I).

So we made a choice that I recognize is not available to everyone. We bought a 1/4 of a cow from a ranch located just 15 miles from our house. In the late spring we drove out to the ranch to meet the people who were raising the cows in their pasture. The cows were peacefully roaming the through the grass, a beautiful stream with spring run-off rushed by the cotton wood trees. No feed lots, no cows crammed into small spaces with manure and mud. When the time came the cows would be taken to slaughter and the meat would be aged for 21 days. The meat was then packaged by a USDA inspected company and hand delivered to us by the lovely people who own the ranch.

I can honestly say you can taste the difference, and not in a Boulder Hippy Organic Yoga way. The beef is richer, more tender, intense in its texture and flavor. It is a win-win situation. Not only do I help out a small family farm in my local area, but in return I get beef that has been raised humanely and tastes far superior to anything I have ever had. (To my vegetarian friends and family I understand your concerns and convictions, and I respect your choices)

If you find yourself with the opportunity, I highly recommend supporting your local rancher and community by buying locally.

This weekend I made a pot roast from an English Roast that was part of our 1/4 cow purchase. It was amazing.

Published November 1, 2010.   From Cook’s Illustrated.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1(3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast , pulled into two pieces at natural seam and trimmed of large knobs of fat
  • Kosher salt
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2medium onions , halved and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
  • 1large carrot , chopped medium (about 1 cup)
  • 1celery rib , chopped medium (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1cup beef broth , plus 1 to 2 cups for sauce (see note)
  • 1/2cup dry red wine , plus 1/4 cup for sauce
  • 1tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1bay leaf
  • 1sprig plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Sprinkle pieces of meat with 1 tablespoon salt (1½ teaspoons if using table salt), place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. 2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add carrot and celery; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, ½ cup wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme sprig; bring to simmer.
  3. 3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, tie each piece of meat into loaf shape for even cooking.
  4. 4. Nestle meat on top of vegetables. Cover pot tightly with large piece of foil and cover with lid; transfer pot to oven. Cook beef until fully tender and sharp knife easily slips in and out of meat, 3½ to 4 hours, turning halfway through cooking.
  5. 5. Transfer roasts to cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Strain liquid through mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Transfer vegetables to blender jar. Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then skim any fat off surface. Add beef broth as necessary to bring liquid amount to 3 cups. Place liquid in blender with vegetables and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer sauce to medium saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.
  6. 6. While sauce heats, remove twine from roast and slice against grain into ½-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to large serving platter. Stir chopped thyme, remaining ¼ cup wine, and vinegar into sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half of sauce over meat; pass remaining sauce separately.
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Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps

Today I went to the grocery store, and as I was picking up my receipt the coupon machine spit out a coupon just for me: Pamper Diapers. Now I have never ever bought anything close to a baby item, not even baby powder. So my nose did a scrunch as I tried to figure out just how they think they can pin me so well. We live in a strange time.
Originally this recipe calls for a pork loin that you cut into chucks and process in a food processor. But this summer J. and I bought a quarter of a cow and with it came 37lbs of ground beef. So I am always looking for interesting and fun ways to incorporate the large amount of ground beef we have. There is a tad bit of sugar and rice, but it is nominal and necessary. I also included Cellophane noodles (made from mung beans) to give it some texture . You can omit this if you want. This recipe was quick, easy and had just enough heat to spice up this cold January day.
Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
  • 1lb of ground beef (preferably grass fed organic)
  • 2 1/2tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 oz. package of dried Cellophane noodles
  • 1tablespoon white rice (see note)
  • 1/4cup low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
  • 4 scallions sliced
  • 3tablespoons juice from 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1head Romaine lettuce , washed and dried, leaves separated and left whole

Instructions

  1.  Heat a sauce pan of water until simmering. Turn off heat and drop in noodles and let set for at least 20 minutes. Drain noodles.
  2. Heat rice in small skillet over medium-high heat; cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool 5 minutes. Grind rice with spice grinder, mini food processor, blender or mortar and pestle until it resembles fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds (you should have about 1 tablespoon rice powder).
  3.  Bring broth to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring frequently, until about half of beef is no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon rice powder over beef; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until remaining beef is no longer pink, 1 to 1½ minutes longer. Transfer beef to large bowl; let cool 10 minutes.
  4.  Add remaining 1½ tablespoons fish sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons rice powder, shallots, lime juice, sugar, red pepper flakes, mint, and cilantro to beef; toss to combine. Serve with lettuce leaves.

Hungarian Goulash

Day two at school, the kids came in today. I already feel behind and overwhelmed, but I guess that is how it goes. My student won a contest, but I had to go get a W-9 and notarize my signature. But I made it home in time to make dinner. This is one of my husbands very favorite. You can serve it with a bit, and I do mean a bit, of whole wheat egg noodles but not too many if your are trying to watch your carb intake.

Hungarian Goulash (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • cup sweet paprika (we use spicy paprika, but it is REALLY spicy)
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 large onions, diced small (about 6 cups)
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick rounds (about 2 cups)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef broth, warmed
  • ¼ cup sour cream (optional, although I double it because we like the creaminess)
  • Ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle meat evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand 15 minutes. Process paprika, roasted peppers, tomato paste, and 2 teaspoons vinegar in food processor until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.

2. Combine oil, onions, and 1 teaspoon salt in large Dutch oven; cover and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften but have not yet begun to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (If onions begin to brown, reduce heat to medium-low and stir in 1 tablespoon water.)

3. Stir in paprika mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions stick to bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add beef, carrots, and bay leaf; stir until beef is well coated. Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides of pot. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat is almost tender and surface of liquid is ½ inch below top of meat, 2 to 21/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Remove pot from oven and add enough beef broth so that surface of liquid is ¼ inch from top of meat (beef should not be fully submerged). Return covered pot to oven and continue to cook until fork slips easily in and out of beef, about 30 minutes longer.

4. Skim fat off surface; stir in remaining teaspoon vinegar and sour cream, if using. Remove bay leaf, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve.