I’ve always wanted to like 100%-grass-fed beef, but it always made me a little sad.  With the first bite, there’s promise but I always find it ultimately lacking the flavor and succulence of beef finished on grain. Having bought in wholly to Michael Pollan’s argument in favor of the natural elegance of beef grown on green grass and clover, being devoted to people who farm for a living the best way they can and wanting to support them, and simply liking eating food raised near my home, I so wanted beef that wasn’t grown wading in CAFO waste, slaughtered en masse, and packaged in plastic and Styrofoam before it reached the grocers, that I held out hope.  But ultimately I couldn’t justify paying so much more for it. I’d all but given up when I Read On »

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Photos by Donna [I'm on a blog break from 5/17 through 5/31, so I'm putting up favorite food posts from the archives.] It began with pickles. I’d bought a quart of small cukes to pickle with tarragon but I wasn’t thinking as I made the brine.  I wanted some spice in there so I added black peppercorns.  Then, here is the not thinking part, I put in a load of coriander seed, then the tarragon, but as I smelled the brine coming up to heat, it was clear that pepper and coriander would completely overpower the tarragon, and simply don’t belong together.  So I removed the tarragon.  Donna arrived just then and said, “Mmm, smells good in here. Like corned beef.” Having ruined the brine for the pickles (using the standard 5% brine ratio from Read On »

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I needed a dinner that was easy and delicious, would please everyone, one that also reheated well in case my daughter’s track meet ran late, and I had to be able to make it long before serving so it would be just a matter of reheating come dinnertime.  There are of course a thousand options that fit these criteria, but last week, I was in a nostalgic mood and thought back to school lunches, one of my favorites, macaroni and beef.  We were always famished by lunchtime and this dish was dependable and impossible to screw up by a 1970′s school kitchen. For a midweek meal I went as simple as could be.  The only way I’d change it, I decided would be to pile a monstrous amount of cheddar and mozzarella on top at Read On »

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This was dinner last night, moments before it was consumed.  Donna said, “This is the best cabbage I’ve ever had,” and, back at the stove, looking for thirds on the corned beef, “This is all you made?” All in all, a success.  I’ve used this particular preparation several times and it can’t be beat, a really smart strategy for cooking and serving and making use of all the flavors and juices and soft textures. First cook your corned beef (simmered for a few hours, braised, wrapped in foil with sliced onions for 4 hours at 250—how I did it—or even cooked sous vide). Only way not to cook this is slow roasting (a perfectly fine strategy but won’t give you the liquid you need to finish the cabbage here). To complete the meal.  Saute 4 Read On »

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With the approach of St. Paddy’s day I got a brisket into the brine Friday, in time to make my wife the corned beef she loves. And I realized I’ve never blogged about it.  Everyone who cooks should corn their own beef.  It’s easy as brining a chicken. And when you make your own pickling spice (brine photo above, recipe below), you can really pump up the flavor. Any cut of beef can be “corned” (corn was originally a generic term for grain, deriving from the same root as kernel and grain; corning beef referred to curing beef with grains of salt, McGee, page 477, thanks to Patrick for his corrective comment).  But the best cuts are the tougher, less-expensive cuts such as brisket. The only uncommon ingredient is the sodium nitrite, pink salt, available Read On »

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