Japenese Beef Ramen

In downtown St. Paul there is a small restaurant that serves amazingly good bowls of ‘ramen’ or Japanese noodle soup. It’s called Tanpopo Noodle Shop and it’s delicious. The craving for a bowl full of Udon noodles often calls to me but Senor has never been overly excited to trek down to Tanpopo. It’s not far, really. But it’s the other side of town and a side that we have no other reason to go to. And until I made this large pot of Japanese-inspired soup, Senor had never tasted ‘real’ ramen. You know, the kind that doesn’t come out of a Styrofoam container.

This was my first time attempting to make any kind of Japanese food. I love sushi, but I don’t make it. I leave my raw fish prep up to the professionals. I love hibachi too, and Japanese udon noodles or fried rice from the local hibachi place is seriously one of my favorite things ever. I have a lot of favorite things ever, but still. Delish. And of course, I love good ramen. Oh man, do I love it. So let’s be totally honest, this is a Midwestern attempt at Japanese food. It’s delicious, but by no means would I call it completely authentic. Then again, there’s something to be said for making internationally inspired dishes out of my Minnesotan kitchen.

I realized that I might not ever convince Senor to make the trek to downtown St. Paul without first making him realize what he was missing. His world of Japanese food is pretty happily rooted in sushi and hibachi. Still, I knew he’d love ramen and would totally be on board with it. I was left with no other option. I had to make it. The other thing I knew to be true was the more unique and unusual (to us) the ingredients, the more he would love it. I set about making a beefy ramen that would be memorable.

Ramen is happily one of those dishes where nothing has to be exact. You can go out and buy all the ‘right’ ingredients or you can throw together what you’ve got. I generally prefer Udon noodles but I knew Senor had never had Soba noodles (buckwheat) so I bought a package at Whole Foods for our ramen. Don’t have either kind? Use some spaghetti noodles. Udon noodles are wheat noodles and are similar to traditional pasta. They’re not exactly the same but you know what? In a pinch they work fine. The pictures you see here feature whole-wheat spaghetti noodles. I made more soup and broth than I had noodles for.

I also got some Kombu, a dried seaweed that is commonly found in ramen. And one Daikon, a Japanese radish. Both simmered in the beef broth until they were tender. Kids, this dinner sounds fancy but let me tell you. It was easy. Just like most soups, it’s an easy process of chop, simmer, serve. No roasting required tonight. You can get all the Japanese ingredients at Whole Foods, and probably most grocery stores with an International section. If you can’t find a daikon, use a regular radish. If you can’t find Kombu, use some spinach. If you want to use miso, do it. If you want to use the traditional hard boiled egg, go for it. Personally I used two over-easy eggs and it was amazing. Customize away my friends, this is a forgiving dish and you really can’t mess it up. Oh, and I added some red bell pepper. But only because I had it on hand.

Japanese Beef Ramen
makes six servings

2 quarts beef broth

3 ounces beef, trimmed of fat and sliced or cubed

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 daikon (Japanese radish)

4 pieces of kombu, cut into small pieces

2 bell peppers, sliced into thin pieces

6 eggs

3 green onions, sliced into rounds

3 tablespoons low-sodum soy sauce

Ginger, garlic, salt, cayenne, smoked paprika, chili powder

2 packages Udon or Soba noodles, boiled and drained

Start your beef broth in a large stock pot. Add a soup bone if you have one. You can make your own broth or use a low-sodium store-bought variety. I used a soup bone with some meat on it and prepared beef broth for this soup. I had enough left in the bone and the broth to make another gallon of broth for a separate soup. However you’re doing the broth, have it all in one big pot and turn it onto high heat.

Chop up and add the kombu and daikon. The kombu will expand greatly so cut into small pieces. Add any other vegetable you want.

Add generous amounts of ginger and garlic. Add the soy sauce and vinegar. Add salt, chili powder and cayenne to taste. And just a small dash of smoked paprika. Let the flavors simmer before testing as the heat enhances their flavor.

In a separate pot, bring water to a boil for the noodles. Cook according to package directions, leaving just slightly al dente. They will finish cooking in the soup itself.

If you haven’t already, add sliced or cubed meat to the beef broth. If you were making the broth with a soup bone, take it out and trim any meat off. Add it back to the pot.

When the vegetables are soft and the broth is flavored to your liking, move it to a back burner and turn it off.

Place a serving of noodles into each bowl. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles.

Quickly prepare eggs over easy. Add them to the soup. Garnish with sliced green onions.

Enjoy with chopsticks, and if you feel like culture smashing, a grilled cheese sandwich. Or not.

The Juicy Lucy

Minnesota isn’t really famous for much when it comes to culinary feats or local foods that take the nation by storm. We don’t have the barbecue of the south east, the brisket from Texas, the seafood from the east coast, the thin pizza and skinny, toasted hot dogs of New York or the deep dish pizza and fat, stuffed hot dogs of Chicago, and we certainly don’t have the amazing wealth of produce and citrus you find in California. Or Florida. Nope, not here. And even though we have a thriving art scene, plenty of sporting events, some really awesome museums and theaters, and enough shopping to satisfy anyone, we’re not really a tourist destination. I think the food scene is the missing link. Or maybe it’s the nine months of winter.

We live in the breadbasket. We are heavily influenced by German and Nordic traditions. Local, beloved recipes include Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Tater Tot Hotdish, Breaded Walleye with Scalloped Potatoes, Fish Tacos and anything you can deep-fry and shove onto a stick at the State Fair. There are a lot of dairy farms, grain and cattle and a whole lot of people of northern European ancestry with incredibly bland pallets. I say it with love, but it’s true. If you guessed that the old stand by meals of meat and potatoes play a big part of the diets of Minnesotans, you’d be right. It’s not uncommon throughout the upper Midwest, boring thought it may be.

If you’ve ever watched Man vs. Food or Food Wars though, you’ve probably seen one Minnesota invention that fulfills both our requirement for a meaty and carby meal, along with a fair infusion of local dairy. The Juicy Lucy. A cheeseburger that wears its cheese on the inside. Nobody here really cares who invented it, Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club. Both are bars in Minneapolis and both claim the notorious invention as their own. Who invented it doesn’t really matter. The ‘Jucy Lucy’ at Matt’s is gooey, greesy, spilling with American cheese and served on nothing but wax paper. Their Lucy is by far the best in the Twin Cities and everyone knows it. At the 5-8 you can order your Lucy with a variety of cheeses and the menu is far, far more extensive than Matt’s. They offer sandwiches AND salads. But the Lucys aren’t as good. Sometimes the cheese is still solid in the middle. The ultimate Lucy let-down. So, you pick your battles when deciding where to indulge in a Lucy. If you’re smart, you’ll get a Lucy at a Twins game where they stuff the burger not only with delicious gouda cheese, but prime rib as well. Yes, prime rib and Gouda stuffed inside a burger patty. It’s as good as it sounds.

But what if you want a unique Juicy Lucy but you don’t want to run the risk of having the 5-8 undercook it? Where do you go? To whom do you turn? I say, you turn to your own craftiness and do it yourself.

There’s something insanely satisfying about biting into a burger that’s stuffed with cheese. It’s similar to the feeling of biting into a jelly doughnut. It’s so much more than just a doughnut…there’s something in there that makes it fancy and extra delicious.

A Juicy Lucy isn’t difficult to make, although you do have to use extra care when prepping the patty. You definitely want to use good beef, with plenty of fat. For our Lucys I made a mix of 1lb ground beef, 1lb ground chuck and 1lb ground round for the ultimate burger meat. Whatever you end up using, make sure you have at least 20% fat in the mix. This is a good rule for any burger. Too much fat and the burgers shrink up and turn into little grease balls. Not enough and they’re dry like sawdust. Shoot for an 80/20 ratio.

Make sure to make thin patties since each burger will have two. Leave the edges a bit thicker than the centers so pinching them together is easier.

Mound the cheese slightly in the center. As it melts and cools it will spread so it reaches to the edges of your burger patties. If you’re using cheese that came sliced, break the slice into four pieces and stack them in the middle of the patty.

Pinch the patties closed around the edges. Take extra care in doing this. You want the patties to seamlessly blend together before you cook them.

Season with garlic, salt and pepper and toss them on a skillet or on the grill. Make sure to cover them during cooking so the cheese inside melts.

Let the finished Lucys cool for at least five minutes before serving. Always bite into a Lucy with extreme caution. Molten cheese can burn your skin right off. It’s totally worth it though.

Lucys are messy in and of their nature so if you’d rather not get cheese on your face during dinner, they maybe aren’t for you. They are a bit tidier if you have a large bun to smoosh them between. Or you can stuff them into a pita and embrace the messiness wholeheartedly. American cheese is the traditional cheese for a Juicy Lucy but if you have 10lbs of blue cheese that you’re trying to work through, it’s clearly the way to go. Any cheese that melts will do, so use whatever suits your fancy.

The Juicy Lucy
Makes two Lucys

4 1/4 lb burger patties

2 oz. cheese

2 buns or pitas

1 small onion, chopped

Garlic, Salt, Pepper

Toss your chopped onion onto a skillet or griddle and fry until golden brown with slightly crisp edges.

While the onion is frying, press your beef into patties with a slightly thicker edge than center. Slightly mound 1 oz of cheese onto two of the patties.

Lay the extra patty over the top of the cheese mound and pinch the to patties together around the edge. Go back and press them together a second time. You should not be able to see a seam in the meat between the patties. If you have a seam, cheese will escape.

Cook the Lucys on a griddle or on a grill. Make sure to cover part way through cooking so the cheese melts. You can also use a thermometer to test the cheese inside. In general, you’ll want to cook them on medium-high heat and flip them after about five minutes.

ALWAYS let a Lucy cool for five minutes before serving. Advise anyone about to eat one to let it sit for another few minutes too.

Chipotle Chicken Fried Steak


If there’s one thing I am not proficient at cooking, it’s Southern food. Exhibit A: my fear of brisket. That was so well worth it though, I figured I might as well try a few more Southern recipes out in case they’re on to something. There are a few Southern foods that I continue to fear. Grits comes to mind. I had grits once and I spit them out. I don’t like cornmeal or anything in the cornmeal family so that fear, I’m pretty sure, is going to stay put. No grits. I’d like to try fried okra at some point, and could handle more Tex-Mex in my life. Still, I’m not sure how ready I am to jump into the Southern cooking genre.

A few months ago at the gym I watched Bobby Flay do the ‘throw-down’ thing at a chuck wagon in Texas. They were making chicken fried steak. I remember thinking that I had never had chicken fried steak, except maybe a taste of someone else’s at a Perkins as a teenager. So doesn’t count. The episode really stuck with me and I have no problem admitting that it was 100% because Stephanie March (i.e. Alex Cabbot from Law & Order SVU) was a guest judge on the episode. She’s also Bobby Flay’s wife and she made fun of his wimpy little chicken fried steaks which I thought was fabulous. Both Senor and I love SVU. Before we were officially dating, we’d watch SVU marathons on USA and have running Tuesday night ‘dates’ to watch the newest episode. Anyway, back to the chicken fried steak. I remember thinking I wanted to make it at some point, then I filed that away into a very long list of recipes I’d like to try my hand at. That list is ever-growing.

Fast-forward to March and what do I find in my freezer? A remaining round steak from our beef purchase from The Grass Fed Cattle Co. If you remember, the last round steak I unearthed from the freezer depths turned into Beef Stroganoff and it was delicious. This time though, I wanted to make something that didn’t require a lot of stewing. The chicken fried steak episode popped into my head and I was off and running. First things first, I had to procure a meat tenderizer for myself. The second thing was to decide, breakfast or dinner? I went with breakfast, although we ate around noon so it was definitely a brunch meal. I thought that creamy, runny egg yolks would be well paired with creamy, delicious gravy. I was not wrong. Third, I had to figure out if I was going to go with traditional seasoning, or toss caution to the wind and make up my own. Of course, I went the tossing route and ended up making a seasoning blend with plenty of chili powder and chipotle seasoning. This is a pretty heavy, calorie-dense meal so we had it on a day when we were being extra, extra active but beware, it has that ‘food coma’ effect so it’s entirely possible that after eating it all you will do is lay on your sofa. These things happen.  Also, don’t feel like you have to use a round steak to make this. Any cut of meat that is a bit tough will do. You want to be able to pound it out into a thin piece of meat and you also don’t want to bread and fry a really great cut like a tenderloin.

Chipotle Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy

Serves 4-5

1 round steak, approx. 1.5 lbs, cut into pieces and pounded flat

1-2 cups of flour for breading

2 eggs, whipped for egg wash

2 Tablespoons butter

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

1 cup milk

Garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne powder, kosher salt, black pepper, Mrs. Dash’s Chipotle Seasoning blend (optional)

Cut your steak into pieces and trim off the fat. Pound each side with the spiked side of a meat tenderizer until the meat is thin and flat. This can take some work, so if you have any aggression, the meat is a good place to take it out. 

This round steak turned into this much meat once tenderized. 

Sprinkle the meat lightly with kosher salt and black pepper. Set aside. In a bowl, whip up your two eggs for the egg wash.

Place 1-2 cups of flour into a bowl. How much breading you prepare depends on how much breading you want on your steak. If you only plan on dredging the meat through once and frying, one cup will suffice. If you plan on dredging, frying and then dredging and frying again, go with two cups. Dredging once means less breading and fewer calories. Dredging twice means a more consistent coating of breading and, according to the show I watched, a more authentic chicken fried steak experience.

Add your spices to your flour. I sprinkled in kosher salt, plenty of black pepper, a ton of chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder and a few shakes of Mrs. Dash’s chipotle seasoning blend. It felt like I used a ton of spices but the breading wasn’t overwhelming at all. The spices are so mellowed by the flour that if you want to make it spicy, you really have to use a lot of cayenne and chili powder. Once mixed, my flour had a nice reddish-orange tint to it.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil so that the pieces of meat will be covered halfway with the oil/butter mixture. As the oil heats up, place one of your pieces of meat in the egg wash. Quickly remove it from the egg and place it in the flour bowl. You can drag (dredge) it through the flour. You can lay it down and pour flour on top of it. You can add flour to both of your palms and then press them against the meat to make sure both sides have a good amount of flour. When the oil is ready, add your floured meat. 

Cook a few pieces at a time. This is red meat so as you cook it, you will see the blood coming up above the breading. Once the breading is golden on each side and you can either return the meat to the egg wash and flour for refrying, or you can move the piece onto a wire rack to cool. I actually don’t have a wire rack of any kind (it may be a sore spot) so I just use paper towels on a plate for all cooling needs. This will also work. If you are frying a lot of meat you may need to add more oil to your pan. 

After you have all of your meat properly fried and golden, it’s time to make the gravy. Keep your skillet on medium heat. Add half a cup of water to deglaze the pan and whisk lightly. At this point I know a lot of cooking pros would tell you to whisk in some flour. I didn’t do that. I added about a cup of milk and turned the heat up to high, stirring with a whisk. While it was heating up, I dissolved the remaining flour from the breading mixture in a large cup of hot water. I poured that into the skillet and brought it to a boil. This means fewer lumps and less whisking like a mad woman to avoid lumps in my gravy. I am okay with this. I added some extra chili powder and cayenne for good measure, and a final pinch of salt. Once slightly thickened, reduce the heat to low. Remember that once you let the gravy stand, it will thicken more. 

Serve with eggs over easy and a side of mashed potatoes. Cover with as much gravy as you’d like. Just watch out for the edge of the plate. 

Brisket Tacos with Gravy, Goat Cheese and Cilantro


This is the best thing I’ve ever made. EVER. I’m still thinking about it. I totally want to make it again, but I don’t have a brisket on hand to do so. I might have to get one just so I can do this again. I’ve learned a lot. And I’m proud to say this recipe came completely out of my brain…and the only instructions I followed were words of wisdom from Adam Ritchie on Man vs. Food.

Here we go. So. Brisket. How the heck do you cook a brisket? I had one from our bulk beef purchase and it sat in the freezer for a year. 3 lbs of beef, just looking at me. I was terrified of it to be honest. I didn’t know how to cook it and I knew that it was one of those things that when done wrong, will suck. I tried looking online but I have a sneaking suspicion that most brilliant brisket recipes are kept a secret. I did read a few that were many, many pages long and involved rotating charcoal on your grill for eight hours. Yeah, not gonna happen. I also read several that pretty much said, ‘Dump some beer in a crockpot and cook it on low.’ That seemed a little too simple in comparison. There had to be middle ground right? I can handle long, slow cooking, so long as I don’t have to DO something every 20 minutes. Kids, I did it. I tackled brisket and I won. Muwahahahahahaha. It wasn’t very hard, and although it does require many hours of slow cooking, cooling, soaking, etc. It’s not hard and it’s not labor intensive at all. Whew!

Crockpots are great for keeping meat tender and producing yummy flavors right? So I stuck our brisket in the crockpot on low. I knew I wanted to make a flavorful gravy to go with the brisket (I had brisket tacos in mind the entire time, I just didn’t know how mind blowing they would be) so I added spices and liquid that would assist with the gravy-making. A bottle of stout beer, tons of chili powder, garlic, black pepper, some kosher salt, and some Mrs. Dash’s chipotle seasoning blend did the trick. Oh, and a fair amount of cayenne for kick. Yum. I mixed the spices with the beer, then poured it all over the top of the brisket. Turned it onto low and went out on the town. Really, we did. It was my birthday dinner and we went to a place called Saffron. I didn’t take pictures but Senor had sea bass and I had short ribs and it was amazing. Saffron=delicious.

Anyway, we may have had some hibiscus-infused sangria at dinner…followed by pink champagne back at home and a movie on instant netflix. Around 11pm we decided the brisket smelled too amazing, we had to eat some of it right now. This wasn’t the best plan.

The sauce was yummy and the meat was okay at this point. Still gristly at certain areas though. We made nachos out of some thin strips of brisket. It was a good enough snack to accompany cheap champagne, but nothing to write home about. I knew I was only half way through the process of making the brisket, so I wasn’t super worried at this point…but maybe a little concerned. We ate our nachos and I let the brisket cool. Once cool, I trimmed most of the fat off. I left a thin layer on…you don’t want to scalp all the fat off. But there was a lot of excess that just wasn’t necessary. I put the brisket and the liquid from the crockpot into a large bowl and left it covered in the fridge. The cooked brisket was soaking in all that delicious flavor. Yum.

The next morning when I took the brisket out of the fridge, a lovely layer of fat and hardened on top of the liquid. I easily scooped most of that away. I left about a quarter of it so the gravy would form properly. You need some fat. Not an inch of fat that’s 8 inches in diameter. Ugh.

Now, I had learned from Man vs. Food that the best part of the brisket is the part that’s blackened on the edges. That you want a smoky flavor in each bite and the way to do that, is to slow cook on low heat over charcoal. Obviously I wasn’t using charcoal, but I figured there had to be a way to make it crispy and char-y on the edges without trying to forge through the snow to our grill. Enter the (toaster) oven. Well, Man vs. Food was right, and I still regret that we ate any of the brisket before it was really ready to be eaten. Delicious morsels gone to waste! Don’t eat your brisket straight out of the crockpot, it’s only a fraction of the gloriousness it should be!

I took the brisket out of the liquid and plopped it onto a foil-lined pan. At this point, it was just the right size to fit in our toaster oven. Have I mentioned how much I love our toaster oven? It’s big enough for a stoneware loaf pan, an 8”x8” baking dish, and, obviously, for a brisket. I almost always use it instead of our oven because it has a glass door AND a timer. Two things my oven does not have. It also has settings for ‘warm, bake, broil, and toast.’ The ‘toast’ setting is super helpful for when you want things browned on top and bottom. As in, golly, I’d like my brisket to have crispy bits all around. I think I’ll put it on toast!

The brisket went in the (toaster) oven around 3. I used the toast setting and set it to 275. I’m sure you could get the same effect by using an oven at 275 and flipping it half way. At 6 pm, this is what came out of the toaster oven.

Any remaining fat had browned up and turned into sizzling, crunchiness on the edges. The meat was so tender and juicy, it was addictive. Seriously. You know when you cook something that’s so good, you can’t stop tasting it long enough to make the actual meal? It’s SUCH a problem with this stuff! I let the meat cool for half an hour (so the juices could settle), then sliced it into thin strips. Each one had the delicious blackened edge and I could hardly believe how much  better the meat was compared to straight out of the crock pot. SO good. Excuse the excessive photographs…yes, it was really that delicious.

While the meat cooled, I chopped up some fresh cilantro, a tomato and a red onion…and added some fresh goat cheese. 

 Then, I made the gravy. Remember the leftover liquid from the crockpot? Into a saucepan and brought to a boil, a few tablespoons of flour dissolved in hot water and voila. Gravy. 

Now comes the exciting part. The part where eating mass quantities of brisket happens. I layered the meat in a taco-sized tortilla shell and topped it with some gravy. Added on top of that was crumbled goat cheese, chopped tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. Topped off with a bit of dijon mustard. 


This is the only thing I would change in the future. I would use straight horseradish sauce. The mustard we used had horseradish in it, but the strong stuff would be SO good in these I can’t even tell you.

Top off the finished tacos with a bit more gravy. YUM.

I know this is the longest post ever, but I had to do these tacos justice. They really are the best thing I’ve ever made. Senor loved it so much that when he was done with his, he grabbed the plate of left over meat, dumped the remaining toppings on it, added some mustard and gravy and went to town with a fork, sans tortilla. At that point, it’s really just an accessory right? There were no leftovers that night. 

Brisket tacos with gravy

1 brisket (around 3lbs) cooked with the instructions below

Chopped tomato

Chopped red onion

Chopped fresh cilantro

Dijon mustard or Horseradish sauce

Brisket gravy, cooked as instructed below

Taco-sized tortilla shells

To make the brisket and gravy:

Put your brisket, fat cap ‘up’ in a large crockpot. Turn on to low for 8 hours.

In a separate bowl, pour 12 oz of dark or stout beer. Add generous amounts of chili powder, garlic powder and black pepper. Add kosher salt and cayenne to your preferred taste. Stir the spices and let sit in the beer for approximately 10 minutes. Pour over the brisket.

After 8 hours, remove the brisket from the crockpot and let cool. Turn crockpot off. Trim fat to a thin layer over the brisket. Remove any large pieces of fat or gristle.
Pour liquid from the crockpot over the brisket and let cool until safe to move into the refrigerator. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

After 8 hours in the refrigerator, remove brisket from the liquid. Scoop any fat off the liquid and discard.

Place brisket on a foil-lined pan and bake at 275 for three hours. If using a conventional oven, flip the meat halfway through the cooking. Remove the meat from the oven when the meat looks dark and crispy but not overdone.

Allow the meat to cool, then slice into thin strips.

While the meat is cooling, pour the saved liquid into a sauce pan and heat on high. Bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, dissolve 2-3 heaping tabelspoons of flour into a cup of extremely hot water. Pour the dissolved flour/water mixture into your gravy. Let simmer until the desired thickness is achieved. Then, remove from heat and serve over brisket and over tacos.

Once your meat is ready, build your tacos with the chopped veggies and cheese, slather with mustard or horseradish and enjoy!

Seriously, if you have a chance to make these, or if you have a brisket staring you down, please please please make these. You won’t be sad until all your brisket is gone.

And, as a PSA: Yes, I am open to bribery. If you would like me to cook or bake for you, just ask! I accept money, love, plane tickets, lodging, large cuts of meat, and a variety of services (like wedding photography anyone???) in exchange for anything you want made. Just so you all know… 🙂

Braised Beef Short Ribs

>When Senor and I bought our 1/8th of a cow, we were presented with quite a few cuts of beef that were new to us. One giant slab, ‘brisket’ I still haven’t quite gotten up the courage to make. I’ve heard that done wrong, brisket and can be dry and gross so I want to make sure that I’m fully prepared when I do make it. Man vs. Food shows brisket a lot and let’s face it, I don’t have an outdoor, oak-smoking barbecue pit in which I can prepare a brisket over 48 hours. I’m going to have to improvise. Another item that confused me was a package of short ribs. I had definitely never had them before and I was nervous about them, so they sat in my freezer from May until November when I finally cooked them up.

It turns out, short ribs aren’t much different than a roast. I looked up a variety of recipes and decided that honey-dijon glazed short ribs would go well with some of our left over macaroni and cheese. I decided that the short ribs would be the perfect maiden voyage for my new 6-quart slow cooker. After looking at cooking tips, I deduced that braising the ribs in the crockpot would be the best way to cook them. They’re traditionally a tougher piece of meat and need the long, slow cooking time to tenderize. After cutting the ribs into pieces, I seared each side of the meat in a skillet with hot butter. After they were seared, I placed them on top of a bed of chopped onions, seasoned them with salt, pepper and garlic, and poured in enough beef broth so that they were almost fully submerged, but not quite.

I read that you could either cook the ribs on low for eight hours or on high for four hours. I don’t always do the best job of planning ahead, so I went with the four-hour cook time. I actually started them on high, turned them down to low for about an hour, and then finished them on high. To be completely honest, I think I probably could have cooked them on low for four hours. They literally fell off the bone. I know that’s good, it means tender, delicious meat. But I sort of wanted to keep them on the bone so I could glaze them in their honey-dijon sauce properly. What I ended up with was more a pile of shredded beef that just sort of flopped around with the onions, bones flying about as I tried to scoop everything out of the braising broth. I still mixed them in the sauce but the glazing wasn’t so much glazing as it was, heating.

I’m not sure if they would have been as delicious if they hadn’t been falling apart all over the place but despite my annoyance at the bones for flying off, I was pretty pleased with the fantastic flavor of the meat. It actually tasted a lot like a chuck roast which makes sense since the two cuts are right next to each other on the cow. Like a chuck roast, the meat also had a lot of fat to it…even though the meat came from a pastured, grass-fed cow which traditionally have A LOT less fat than a grain-feed steer. I’m not sure if there’s a way to trim the fat….I think you’d loose a lot of the tenderness if you did that. I saved the broth that was left from braising and refrigerated it after it cooled. The next day there was a layer of white fat on the top that I tossed out. I ended up using that broth for a batch of French Onion Soup. Yum!

Eventually when we have to buy our next 1/8th of a cow, I will likely try to find another way to cook the short ribs. Possibly with slow-cooking on the grill or in the oven to try out some other options. The honey-dijon glaze was pretty delicious though, and the meat accompanied the leftover mac and cheese really well.

Braised Short Ribs

1-2 lbs short ribs, cut into pieces
2 tbs butter (for searing)
1 carton low-sodium beef broth
1 large onion
Salt, pepper, garlic to taste

Sear the ribs on each side in the hot butter until nicely browned. Place the ribs in your slow cooker on top of onions. Season with salt, pepper and garlic. Pour the beef broth in so that the ribs are just visible above the liquid. Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 7 hours.

When the meat is done, remove it from the broth with a slotted spoon and let it drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

For the glaze, mix 1/2 cup of honey with 1/2 cup honey-djion mustard. Place the meat back in your skillet, pour the glaze over and turn the heat onto medium. If you can, glaze each side of the ribs, turning them to coat evenly. If your meat falls apart like mine did, just flip it around so that all of the little shreds of beef get coated in the glaze. Top the meat with freshly cut green onions.

Beef Stroganoff

>It’s officially fall. They finally turned the heat on in our building and I’ve started cooking more and more stews and heavy dishes than before. Gone are the days of grilling outside. I hate winter, although I do look forward to the holiday season. It’s the January – March time of year that I dread. As sad as I am to see winter approach, there are a handful of things that I look forward to in the winter, like knitting, Christmas decorations, baking insane amounts, stewing meats, using crock pots and watching my skin turn translucently white.

Last spring when we bought our 1/8th of a cow from the Grass Fed Cattle Co. there were a ton of roasts and big cuts of beef that I day dreamed about slow cooking but knew it would be months before we could. After all, roasting a large piece of meat in a 550-square foot condo in the summer is a terrible, terrible plan. Now that it’s chilly, I’m roasting and braising and stewing away and it’s delightful!

One of Senor’s favorite dinners is my beef stroganoff. I sort of loosely follow Mark Bittman’s recipe, although I really use it for inspiration more than anything. I really don’t know what the ‘proper’ cut of meat to use for this is. I’ve used stew meat, round steaks, chuck roasts and probably other things that I didn’t know what they were. Any meat that starts out tough and turns to butter when you cook it slowly in juices will do. Personally, I never ate the terrifying beef stroganoff, popular with cafeteria ladies around the world, so I don’t know much about the glumpy mystery substance that is mass-produced beef stroganoff. I think the recipe as I make it is pretty damn delicious though, if I do say so myself.

For this menu, I used a large round steak. I had never had a round steak before and I am delighted to say, it looks just like the cut of meat that you would see in a cartoon. Perhaps in which Tweety is pulling a large steak around and Sylvester is trying to get it? Or the kind that Garfield would eat, if he’s on an off-lasagna night? Yup, it cracked me up because it just did not look real. Luckily it was. It was also delicious.

First, I sauteed some onions and button mushrooms in butter. Then I started the meat by searing the short steak in a hot butter/olive oil mixture. Once each side was browned (about 3 minutes on each side), I turned down the heat and added a carton of beef broth. If you can, try to buy the low sodium, free range, organic stuff. The broth is totally different than the generic Swanson stuff. There’s a lot more flavor and almost no sodium. I prefer to flavor things with salt using my own tastebuds, not for packaging purposes, and I like to use a lower-sodium sea salt. More flavorful and delicious but less sodium? Win! A full sized carton is about enough to almost cover the meat. Add a cup of sour cream (*warning!* do not use Greek yogurt instead on this. You will end up with cottage cheese.), a liberal tablespoon of deli mustard (any kind will do) and season with salt and black pepper. I like to make ours a bit ‘spicy’ by adding a ton of black pepper. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover. Let the whole pan simmer for about an hour. You want to stir now and then to keep anything from sticking to the bottom.

After about an hour you can take the meat out and let it sit for a few minutes on a plate to cool. Keep the sauce simmering. It will likely need a bit more time to thicken up. Once the meat is cool enough to handle, slice it into strips or chunks. Add it back to the sauce and let it keep simmering until your sauce is a thick consistency. If it gets too thick or you think it looks dry, just add a little water and stir it in.

Occasionally I use boxed penne for the noodles in this dish, but on this night I had leftover dough from the Butternut Squash Ravioli on hand in the freezer. I let the dough thaw while I was at work and when I came home, it was room temperature. I rolled out the dough and cut it into strips about 4 inches long by half an inch wide. The dough only needs about 60 seconds in boiling water so I always do the noodles at the very last moment. Once the beef and sauce is almost done, turn a pot of water on high to boil. Roll out the dough, cut the noodles, and dump them all into the pot. You can use flour if they’re sticking, although I rarely have a problem with this dough. Let them drain in a colander for a few minutes before serving so they’re not wet. And serve with a heaping of the meat and sauce. YUM.  

Steakhouse Shephard’s Pie and Funfetti Cake


Rachael Ray is, I believe, fairly evil. She really irritates me. Actually, almost all of the cooks on the Food Network irritate me. I think she and Giada bug me the most. Let’s just say I have a first-hand source to back me up, these chicks are not fun in real life. And that abrasive voice on the television? Yeah well. My goal in life is to be the first and only host on Food Network that doesn’t make people want to jab out their ears. Unfortunately, they have pretty decent recipes. Such a conundrum!

However, the other day I discovered that if I have something else in my ears, I can actually watch Rachael Ray and maintain my sanity. This works out well at the gym, as you can imagine. So the other day I was running and watched her make a recipe called a Steakhouse Shephard’s Pie. She took everything you like about a steakhouse and put it into one dish and baked it, then had a side salad of tomatoes and shrimp. It looked delicious! I did not have the ingredients for the side salad (i.e. shrimp) but I had everything else so the next night I made the recipe with a few variations.

It’s pretty easy. Start by peeling, chopping and boiling some large yellow potatoes for mashed potatoes. When they’re going, brown up a pound of ground beef. Honestly, I think her recipe was for two pounds but I don’t need a 9×13 of this do I? No, I don’t. I browned the beef and drained it well. At this point she whipped up a gravy out of the beef fat. I had no beef fat to use so I used a packet of low-sodium gravy mix. Grass fed beef just doesn’t have the fat content. I started sauteing some baby portabella mushrooms in the skillet I’d just taken the beef out of. Then I chopped up a red onion. When the mushrooms were done, I added them, along with the onions to the beef and mixed the gravy in. My bottom layer was prepared. That’s a bottom layer of beef, onion, mushrooms and gravy. Delicious!!!!

Leave the onions raw. They cook enough in the baking portion but if you start
with them raw, they’ll still have that yummy onion flavor.

 At this point, I preheated my toaster oven. Oh yes! I baked this delicious feast in my toaster oven. Partially because I like using my toaster oven. I can see into it without opening it. Partially because I was baking a cake in my actual oven.

Once the  bottom layer was ready, the potatoes were pretty much done too. I whipped them up with my immersion blender, and some milk. Probably a little too much milk. At the same time, I had bacon frying in the pan. Once the potatoes were smooth, I added a bunch of blue cheese crumbles. And whipped a bit more. After heaping the top with mashed potatoes, I cut up the cooked bacon and sprinkled it on top, followed by more blue cheese crumbles and some cayenne. In her recipe she used paprika and I don’t think she put blue cheese on the top but whatevs. I live dangerously.


 I popped it all in the (toaster) oven for about 30 minutes and took it out when it looked like this:

The potatoes could have been a bit thicker but again, I think I used too much milk. That’s okay though, it was DELICIOUS. Damn that Rachael Ray and her delicious recipes!

At the same time Senor came home, the cake I had baked was done. It was a $1.00 box of Betty Crocker Butter Yellow….and then I added funfetti sprinkles. After stacking it together and putting it in the freezer, I frosted it with two kinds of chocolate frosting. Senor waited up well past his bed time in order to have a piece. It was pretty tasty though, so I think it was worth the wait.

And because we’re not fancy, here’s how cover and store cakes at our house. Classy.