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31-recipe challenge Day 22 (the final day!): Beef Pho and Chocolate chip cookie Bailey’s milkshake

This is it, the LAST day of my 31-recipe challenge! It officially took me 22 days to cook 31 30 recipes. And I’m exhausted. Later this week I’ll put together a recap post that looks over everything I made last month and what I took away from it, much like I did at the halfway point.

And, to go out with a bang (well, a shake), I FINALLY nailed a dessert!

It seems as long as a stove isn’t involved, I can make a dessert. (Ironic, really, since I can cook but can’t really bake…Cookies! I can make cookies.)

But I want to go out on a high note, so I’m going to save the shake for last and start with my last-night-of-the-challenge dinner: Beef Pho from Zen Can Cook. The broth was easy enough to make, if not pricey–star anise, cinnamon sticks and fennel seeds don’t come cheap, and I couldn’t even find a black cardamom pod–but they impart a really exotic, interesting flavor. It did make my place smell preeetty weird the first night, though.

beef pho

The only slightly “off” thing about this dish was the beef itself–I used a top round to make the broth, and despite the fact that it literally sat in liquid all night, it was pretty dry when I took it out and sliced it up. It came back to life a bit once the slices were re-added to the heated broth, but it wasn’t the tender, juicy meat I was expecting. It was actually the low point of the dish.

Otherwise, though, the pho was quite tasty–lots of fresh herbs, peppers and rice noodles in the warm, beefy broth. Much like the soba, this was a total comfort food. I wish I had this around when I was sick.

I had to make a couple of slight substitutions based on what was available. I couldn’t find any Thai basil, so I subbed in regular basil even though there’s a flavor difference. It was better than nothing. I also used a regular green long hot (seeds scraped out) in place of a Thai bird chili, which my local grocery store also didn’t sell.

Nonetheless, the flavor was still bright and vibrant, and I highly recommend this. It seems so much more complicated than it really is. Once the broth’s made, it’s really just cooking the noodles and slicing up some veggies, herbs and beef. Done and done. My only recommendation? I used only one cut of meat in my broth, because it was available and exactly the amount I needed. I would recommend mixing it up, and next time, I’d use oxtail. I almost went with it this time but opted not to. I think it would add even more depth and meatiness to the broth.

But now, for what we’ve all been waiting for…dessert!

Let’s just put this out there: Chocolate chip cookie Bailey’s milkshakes. You can screw this up nine ways to Sunday, and it would still taste fantastic. Because you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, Bailey’s and coffee ice cream.

milkshake

And, it’s a cinch! Add ice cream, Bailey’s, cookies and ice to a blender, blend, drink. If you actually do screw that up nine ways to Sunday, I might worry.

But in all seriousness, this tastes as fantastic (and fantastically bad for you!) as it sounds. (It was hard to even get a decent picture…Kevin was way too excited and impatient to drink this to wait for a photo.)

Now, I could’ve gone ahead and really pulled out all the stops and baked my own cookies to put in the milkshake (and that had been my original plan), but time became an issue, so I bought a few chewy, yummy cookies from the Wegman’s bakery department. And, frankly, they were probably more delicious than whatever I would have baked. So win-win.

And there you have it. Thirty recipes in 22 days, all capped off with the ultimate of nightcaps. It was a whirlwind month, and now, because I’m me, I’m jumping into another whirlwind month, but this time because of rehearsals. (What can I say? I thrive when I’m busy.)

Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll regain the strength to lift a pot or light a stove. Until then, I’m reveling in the beauty that is takeout (sushi!) and leftovers.

31-recipe challenge Day 19: Oscars and short ribs

What better, swankier dish to serve on Oscars Sunday than red-wine braised short ribs? There isn’t one, really.

These braised short ribs, courtesy of Diane, A Broad (love the blog name!) might be hands-down one of the best things I have ever cooked, ever. After just three hours in the oven, these were the richest, most fall-apart ribs I’ve ever had. (Enough so that two days post-surgery I was even able to eat them!). They seem scary and complicated and oh-so-fancy, but really it’s just a lot of throwing stuff in a pot and letting it go.

short ribs 1

There are several steps, between searing, slow-roasting, separating and reducing, but no one step is particularly intimidating on its own. It’s the sum of its parts that’s so seemingly overwhelming, really, but once you break it down you realize it’s really not all that bad. It’s downright doable! And I would totally do this again.

Also, I’m not sure I’ll ever eat a cooked carrot that’s not braised in red wine again. Even the carrots were melt-in-your-mouth.

I served these over some instant polenta, much like Diane, though I pumped mine up with pecorino romano and little light cream. Add a ton of chives and more sauce and dig in and don’t look back. Thank me later.

Despite the fact that I’m going home to cook dinner tonight (duh), all I want to do right now is eat leftover short ribs straight out of the fridge. Short rib appetizer, anyone?

short ribs 2

Short ribs, Seth MacFarlane, Les Miserables…it’s like everything I love just came together to make me the happiest girl in the world. Add in Jennifer Lawrence being adorable as ever while winning Best Actress (and HOW sweet was it when both Hugh Jackman AND Bradley Cooper ran up to help her when she fell?? Such gentlemen!) and it was a pretty great Sunday. The only thing that would’ve made it better would have been a big glass of the malbec I used to braise the ribs. Curse you, amoxycillin! I thought we were over.

 

31-recipe challenge Day 14: The day I ate a beet and roasted beef

I did two things I’d never thought I’d do on Saturday: I made a roast and I ate a beet.

OK, so maybe that first one wasn’t so out there, but it wasn’t something I foresaw for the near future. There’s something about pulling a big roast of meat out of the oven that makes me feel like I should be wearing heels and pearls with a lace apron and a beehive. Instead I’m pretty sure I was wearing Converse. But the roast was still good.

I pulled out all the stops for a super-fancy (ish) dinner that night, complete with Cesar-crusted roast beef and a blood orange, beet and fennel salad, both courtesy of Bon Appétit.

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Although I ate beets, I’m still not going to be running out to buy them again anytime soon. I discovered I like golden beets more than red beets, but they still have that distinctly “beet” flavor that turns me off. It’s kind of weird, my distaste for beets, seeing as I have a MAJOR sweet tooth and beets are nature’s candy. But I just don’t care for them. I actually ended up tossing the last of the red beet that was leftover after I finished the rest of my salad. The best part was the blood orange, which is just so sweet and citrusy and flavorful.

The only “modification” that I made to this salad, though, was that I halved it. (This doesn’t really even count anymore) and I, in a very uncharacteristic move, forgot the cilantro. Ugh. That probably would’ve made it better, because cilantro makes everything better.

And for those wondering, no, this is NOT the recipe which prompted my disdain for the mandolin. That was the next day…

Now here’s the part where I make a big confession: I didn’t make a roast beef tenderloin, like the recipe says. I made a rib roast. Yes, I know those are VASTLY different. Here’s the (quick) story:

Beef tenderloin (aka chateaubriand) is, apparently, super expensive. (I really should’ve done more research before I dove into this challenge.) I’m talking $50 for a two-pound cut expensive.

Now, I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again: I don’t make that much money! I’m not exactly in a financial position to spend $50 on one roast. So, after some iPhone research and a discussi0n with the butcher, I went with a much more reasonable rib roast instead. It was much fattier, and a different shape, but it was good in the end. Would the tenderloin have been better? Duh, that’s where filet mignon comes from, but I’m not exactly capable of shelling out for four filets.

Another, far more minor tweak, is that I made this gluten-free. Instead of using fresh bread crumbs, I used gluten-free cornflake crumbs so everyone could eat it. I also (surprise, surprise) halved the recipe, because I don’t have eight people to feed. As it is we have about half a roast left over.

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Because of the change in the meat, I had to play around with the cooking time a bit, and just keep watch–and temperature. This taught me the unfortunate lesson that my oven does not cook things evenly. When the roast finally seemed to come to temperature, I took it out of the oven and let it rest a while, but when we finally cut into it, one end was red, nearly rare, while the other was almost all brown, a solid medium at least. Lesson learned: always, ALWAYS rotate things in this oven. (For the record, I was shooting for a nice medium-rare.)

We sliced up the whole thing and seared off the pieces that were on the undercooked side to finish them up.

Now, I’m not a big roast/steak eater, but I must say, this was a pretty lovely piece of meat. It was juicy and still quite tender, considering I used a lesser cut of meat. It got the stamp of approval from the two carnivores, so that’s always good!

I felt like such a big girl, and a classy one at that, pulling off not one, but TWO Bon Appétit recipes and making such a sophisticated meal! Don’t expect it to last.

31-recipe challenge Day 12: Swedish Meatballs

I promise mine turned out better than that.  They didn’t bounce, for one thing. I’m also pretty sure those aren’t actually Swedish meatballs–regular meatballs made by a Swedish chef don’t count! But he’s a Muppet, so we’ll let it slide!

Anyway, clearly what that guy was trying to tell you is that for my 12th day and 14th recipe of the challenge (almost at the halfway point!), I made Swedish meatballs from Jo Cooks!

All in all, they’re pretty simple (and pretty not-so-good for you…fried meatballs in a butter and sour cream sauce!). I’d certainly make these again, but I think next time I’ll bake the meatballs instead of fry them (save where I can.)

I pretty much followed this recipe exactly, except I used wheat bread instead of white bread (because it’s what I had), and I lost my allspice (seriously, I have NO idea where it went…not happy), so I omitted it.

Meatballs cooking

I had these for lunch the next day along with leftover cauliflower curry.  It was quite the diverse lunch, yet they went together oddly well.

I have a ton of these leftover now, but I have a hunch they will freeze well, and who doesn’t love homemade Swedish meatballs on a whim?

Confession: my first Swedish meatball experience was the frozen, Lean Cuisine version. These are way better than that.  Freeze them in individual portions, and I have my very own homemade version! (Though more cuisine, less lean.)

Swedish meatballs

When I made these and had them for lunch the next day, I ate them on their own, but they would be FANTASTIC over some buttery egg noodles. Granted, anything would be fantastic over buttery egg noodles.

And these are a *tad* more authentic than the Swedish chef’s. Except there’s no possibility that Kermit will come be my sous chef…bummer.

 

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