Archive for Beef

You’re so cheeky! Tacos con carne mejillas – respect for your ingredients

A few sprigs of cilantro garnish your taco

A few sprigs of cilantro garnish your taco

Today, cooking is often filled with one-upmanship. Better – or more unusual – spicings. Less common, more technical or just plain cooler preparation methods. Exotic ingredients. Recipes that read like a novel.

Know what I mean?

And that’s. . .OK! I love seeing all the different things brilliant, creative chefs come up with to transform simple ingredients into astonishing dishes.

But sometimes, just cooking a great ingredient simply, with a lot of respect and maybe even a little love,  is all you need to do to create an amazing dish. So it was with my beef cheeks.

I had about 2 lbs. of beautiful beef cheek – a bit of ultra lean muscle from a grass fed organically raised cow.  Beef cheeks are a pretty unusual cut for your average American supermarket, so I didn’t try to get them there. I found them at our local Farmers’ Market, straight from a happy, grass-fed mostly-organic cow. You can also find them – or order them – at most butcher shops.

When confronted by an unusual ingredient or a cut that’s not often used, chefs often succumb to the urge to tart things up a bit. With beef cheeks, you can marinate them. Dry rub and refrigerate them overnight in plastic wrap. Or without plastic wrap. Create an exotic sauce with multiple dried peppers that’s also a marinade. Cook them sous vide with a ton of spices and aromatics. Sear them, slice them, poach them – the methods are endless.

All these things – don’t get me wrong – are good and some of them are very good indeed. When great chefs get creative, they can fashion extraordinary dishes from simple ingredients.

But I wanted to go for a simple preparation method as well. Something that wasn’t fussy, but that was as good as anything you could get by fussing.

Here’s what I came up with – a method that blends utter simplicity and foolproof cookery with a few reasonable seasonings for a rich, totally delicious  dish that will disappear so fast it’ll make your head spin. Read on for recipe and a bonus recipe too. Here at Calorie Factory, we aim to please! Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment

Carpe Pepper! Tuscan Peposo – The Other Beef Stew

Peposo – A Fiery Love Story

Peposo simmering in the pot

Peposo simmering in the pot


I love simple dishes. Many simple dishes come to us from medieval times – though they may sometimes use ingredients that are no longer easy to find, most dishes in the 12th century used bread, meat, fish, veggies – just as we do today, only differently, because – half a millennium and more!! And they were often quite simple, particularly if they were dishes of the people.

People learned clever ways to make inexpensive cuts of meat tender and delicious and ways to use spices to enhance that flavor.

One of my favorite old dishes is peposo – Tuscan pepper stew. Peposo is sometimes called Tuscany’s answer to chili. It’s a rich, savory stew that emphasizes simplicity of preparation and long slow cooking. This particular dish also emphasizes lots and lots and lots of black pepper, both cracked and ground.  Sometimes, it is said, pepper was used so liberally to disguise a cut of meat that may have gone off a bit.

That’s not what we’re doing here.

The dish originated in the 13th century and is documented as having fed the laborers working to create tiles – an incredible-for-the-time 4,000,000 terracotta tiles – for the dome, or Duomo, of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence (1420-1436).

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral - the Duomo

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral – the Duomo – Home of “The Original” Peposa

These workers were not wealthy, and used a cheap cut of meat that – I *think* – is today known as the shank. I didn’t have a shank when I made this dish, so I cut up a piece of chuck roast and it worked beautifully. I think any cut of beef like the shank or beef short ribs, boned, or skirt steak, or shin, would work just beautifully in this dish. It is definitely fun to experiment!

The first time I made Peposo, I followed the recipe closely and was pretty sure I was going to fry everybody’s esophagus. Except, of course, mine, as I am immune (gasp, wheeze!).

I was delighted to find that the large quantities of black pepper called for in the recipe just melted into the dish, which ended up peppery but not overly so, and entirely delicious.

So, of course, I tried using a bit more pepper – particularly the cracked pepper – and it was wonderful.

I’ve made a few other modifications to this dish so check out the recipe below – this is a different kind of beef stew and I think you’ll like it. The Italian workers certainly did!!
Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment

Factory Pot Roast and Roasted Root Vegetables

Pot roast gets a bad rap in some circles. “Diner Food”, “Boring”, “Old Fashioned”, “Gramma’s Dinner Choice”, and other, equally vile epithets. I’m here to tell you that properly done, a good pot roast is a sublime thing of joy. The aroma alone makes the house sing “Dinner is cooking and you’re gonna Love It!” and the simplicity and accessibility of the dish means most eaters will dive right in with no qualms.

I’ve made pot roast perhaps two dozen times in the past decade – about twice a year is my average. Last night my audience of critical eaters was kind enough to let me know that this pot roast was the best to date. Doncha love that “to date” thing – you could probably do better, improvement is always possible, but so far, this is the one!” But I digress. . .point being, they really really liked it.

And I know why.

I’ve tried searing the meat, not searing the meat, cutting the roast into pieces, leaving it whole, using flour to dredge the meat, leaving the meat undredged, using no seasoning other than salt and pepper, using a variety of different seasonings, using boiling water, using boiling beef broth, adding tomato, not adding tomato, cooking in the oven, cooking on the stovetop, cooking with X-ray lasers. OK, I’m lying about the X-ray lasers, but wouldn’t it be cool?? Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment